A traditional water softener relies on a media called resin which is usually made from a polystyrene material with very unique properties. They come in little beads about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen but don’t be fooled by their small size. Resin beads are tough! They are a very hard ball that might not even crack if you hit it with a hammer.
Remember in our blog post, ‘How Water Softeners Function’, we mentioned the ion exchange process? That is the main function of a resin bead. The ion exchange occurs as the unconditioned water flows through the resin beads inside a water softener. The negative-charged hardness minerals in the water, calcium, and magnesium, are attracted to the positive charge of the resin, like a magnet. The hard ions in the water simply cling onto the resin beads and stay trapped there, making the water “soft” that continues into your home.
Eventually, the resin beads will come to the point where they can’t hold any more calcium and need to get rid of it so they can start capturing more again. The process in which a water softener “cleans” its resin beads is called regeneration. During the regeneration cycles, the salt water that is stored in the brine tank will take a turn to flow past the resin beads. If you remember from school, the compound for traditional salt is Sodium Chloride (NaCl). This time, the positively charged resin beads attract the negatively charged sodium ion from the salt, in lieu of the calcium it was just holding. The resin literally exchanges one for another!
Once all of the resin has been refilled with sodium ions instead of the hardness minerals, the regeneration is complete and your water softener can go back to collect the calcium and magnesium instead. This process of switching between collecting hardness and then collecting sodium is the reason a water softener can function for years, if not decades, with little maintenance. As long as you keep adding the salt to your brine tank, you will be able to enjoy all the benefits of life with soft water.
Hague Water is committed to providing families with good quality water. That is why Hague Water offers a FREE in-home water test! If you are concerned about the water in your home, be sure to reach out to one of our authorized dealers for your complimentary consultation. Our team of experts is waiting to hear from you and ready to answer your questions!
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