Water from a well or the central water supply is not always clean and safe enough for drinking. It often contains chemical, physical or organic impurities that change its taste or may even make it unsafe to use at home. One of the most common problems is excessive water hardness, which negatively affects both one's health and daily life. What are the ways to make water softer and cleaner at home, we will tell you in our article.
What is "hard water"?
Hard water is water that contains high levels of mineral impurities, or hardness salts - usually calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese and other elements. Well water often contains them because it naturally leaches chemical elements from the earth and rocks. And they can appear in tap water because of insufficient primary treatment or because of old, worn out pipes.
How do I determine the hardness of my water?
More often than not, excessive stiffness is easy to spot with the naked eye. Note the following signs:
- Scale on the heating elements of household appliances;
- Plaque on plumbing fixtures, faucets, frequent clogging of pipes is difficult to clean;
- Sludge in drinking water, especially boiled water;
- Decreased foaming of household detergents, shampoos and soaps;
- A feeling of tightness in the skin after washing, flaking, dryness;
- Unpleasant metallic or bitter taste.
You can use test strips to quickly determine hardness, but they will only give an approximate result. To get more accurate information, you should have a laboratory physical-chemical analysis that will show the exact level of hardness and help you choose a water softener filter.
Why do I need to soften my water?
Extend the life of your appliances
Hard water causes limescale to build up on the walls and heating elements of household appliances (kettles, washing machines and dishwashers), resulting in overconsumption of electricity and premature breakdowns. The resulting sludge can also clog pipes, reducing their flow capacity. Cleaning and supplemental water softening helps plumbing fixtures and appliances last longer, keeps scale out, and reduces detergent consumption.
Avoid health problems
Increased hardness can lead to unpleasant health consequences. Without preliminary softening hard drinking water can provoke formation of sand and kidney stones, lead to diseases of joints and bones, disrupt functioning of internal organs. Softened treated water in its characteristics meets all the recommended standards and becomes absolutely safe for domestic work and for drinking.
Improve the condition of your skin and hair
Among other things, not softened water impairs the quality of hair, making it drier, brittle and unruly, as well as negatively affects the skin, provoking dryness, tightness and irritation. Softening allows you to remove harmful impurities and neutralize their effects on the skin and hair.
Ways to soften water
There are different methods of softening - some of them can only be used in industry, while others are suitable for the most ordinary home conditions. Let's look at the most common methods that can be used at home.
The cheapest and easiest method is heat treatment, in other words, normal boiling. When a liquid is heated to boiling temperature or higher, some of the salts it contains break down into their constituent components, forming an insoluble precipitate and gas. During thermal treatment, the gas volatilizes, and the insoluble part can then be removed by sedimentation or simple filtration.
- requires a large amount of electricity;
- partially removes only calcium compounds, leaving other elements and compounds in water, so it reduces its hardness only slightly;
- allows softening water only in small quantities - for example, for drinking, so it is not suitable for use in the household (for washing or washing);
- leaves residue behind.
In this method, special chemical reagents are added to the water, such as water softeners based on lime, soda, sodium hydroxide or other chemicals. They interact with the salts dissolved in the liquid, "binding" them and turning them into insoluble compounds. The result is that the salts turn into a sludge that remains at the bottom of the filter, thereby reducing the hardness of the water.
This method is suitable for the treatment of process water to be used for industrial or domestic purposes - for example, for washing or washing. However, for drinking water softening this solution is usually not suitable because the reagents used can be harmful to health. For this reason, the use of the chemical method in the home is rather limited and not always justified. At the same time, softening with chemicals can be used as one of the filtration steps in combined water treatment systems.
The method works by using a permanent magnetic field, which changes the structure of hardness salts. As a result, their molecules crystallize not on the walls of pipes or in household appliances, but directly in the water. The resulting sediment is easily removed from the water supply into a special settling tank or directly into the sewer system, so the water is softened without scale formation.
- Magnetic and electromagnetic methods are almost identical to each other, the second is simply a more modern and advanced version of the first. These methods are good because they significantly reduce the amount of scale, protect the pipes from the buildup of sediment and are even able to soften the scale already present in the pipes.
- The magnetic filter has a compact size and is installed directly in the water supply, so it is suitable for everyday household use in dishwashers and washing machines, for washing and other household chores. For food and beverage preparation, it is better to use other, more powerful purifying and softening systems - such as ion-exchange filters or reverse osmosis systems.
The ion exchange method is one of the most common and effective ways to soften water. Water is softened by passing it through special ion exchange resins in which calcium and magnesium ions dissolved in water are replaced by sodium and hydrogen ions. The resulting compounds are safe for humans and household appliances, do not form scale and do not leave a sediment behind. As a result of this process, the hardness is reduced and the water becomes suitable for daily use and food consumption.
The spent ion exchange resin can be easily regenerated by simply passing a special salt solution through it, which restores the concentration of sodium ions. After regeneration, the resin regains its softening properties and can be used again for the next cycle. Full replacement of the filtering component is not required before 3-4 years.
With the membrane method softening is carried out by thorough filtration: hard water under pressure passes through molecular membranes capable of capturing up to 98% of harmful impurities. The filtration process includes the removal of not only hardness salts, but also many other impurities. Therefore, the membrane shower filter is capable not only of reducing hardness, but also of eliminating other types of impurities - both chemical and organic.
- Reverse osmosis systems work according to this principle, which completely cleans the liquid of all impurities and almost distill it, and then further mineralize it to give it a pleasant taste and useful qualities.
- Membrane water purification systems are some of the most technologically advanced and efficient, but they also happen to be some of the most expensive. In addition, such filters usually require additional auxiliary systems - deep cleaning pre-filter and post-filter-mineralizer.
This method can combine several other methods at once, which allows it not only to make the water used less hard, but also, for example, to disinfect it or get rid of organic pollutants. Its use is appropriate in situations where you need not only softening, but also deep cleaning of water from other types of impurities.
If necessary, you can assemble an individual combined system of several different filters, some of which will prepare water for technical use in an apartment or country house, and others - for drinking and cooking.
How to choose a water softener filter?
The choice of a particular mitigation system depends on many different factors. It is influenced by:
- The original quality of the water, its source;
- Exact hardness, which can be determined by laboratory chemical analysis;
- The required quality of the water and whether it is to be used for drinking or domestic/technical purposes;
- The amount of budget allocated for the filter.
Also on the choice of filter affects the number of consumers - that is, the number of people living in an apartment or country house. This factor will determine whether to install a flow-through purification system with a continuous flow or for everyday use, a standard tank will suffice.
To choose the type and model of softening system, order a laboratory analysis of the water that will show its general characteristics and the exact concentration of salts. This will help you save money on the purchase of the system and not to make the wrong choice of filtering equipment. Based on the analysis data, AquaHomeGroup brand specialists will help you determine the desired softening method and select the filter of necessary capacity.