Most people know that water is not only made up of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Only distilled water is truly “pure.” All the rest of the water that we drink has a variety of minerals and salts dissolved into it.
Most of the time, it’s the minerals that cause the most problems. Depending on what type of minerals are most prevalent in your tap water, you’re looking at lime scale, rust, or some other form of buildup. It’s not that drinking them is bad for you — the minerals pass right through your body. However, they can do a great deal of damage to your pipes, your fixtures, and your appliances.
Perhaps the most noticeable side-effect of minerals in the water (also known as “hard” water) is the build up on the items it passes through. Your washer and dishwasher, your pasta pot, your sink faucet and that ugly streak under your shower fixture– these are all unsightly examples of mineral buildup. A less obvious effect is that soap and dirt molecules tend to bind to these mineral and anchor them to surfaces. That’s why you get dingy clothes in the wash and soap scum in the shower. Eww.
How Can We Solve Hard Water Problems?
That is exactly what water softeners and conditioners do. Both techniques prevent mineral build up, but they do it in different ways.
A water softener adds salt to the water. The salt and the minerals bind with each other, which prevents them from binding to the pipes or appliances. Softened water often has a “slippery” feel to it.
A water conditioner is a little different. There are many kinds of conditioners on the market, but they all use the same principle. The water is passed over a “plate” made of a variety of different materials. What those materials all have in common is that they are willing to exchange electrons with the minerals in the water. Depending on how much chemistry you remember from school, this may all be Greek to you, but the exchange of electrons means that the hard water molecules “stick” to the plate, and are replaced by sodium, hydrogen or potassium molecules resulting in “conditioned” water entering the household system.
There are many positive effects from removing minerals from water. Aside from not having to deal with scale or damage to appliances, soap lathers more richly, so you can use less of it. Clothes stay whiter. Dishware doesn’t get spots in the dishwasher. Even your hair is softer and more manageable when you get rid of hard water.
Are you interested in a water softener or conditioning system for your home? Call My Plumber for more information.