If you’ve got hard water running through your pipes – and over 60 percent of people in the UK live in hard water areas – it can cause a variety of problems.

These include limescale buildup in appliances such as your kettle and damage to your pipes.

What is soft water?

Soft water has had chemicals such as magnesium and calcium removed from it, which makes it gentler on your skin while also kinder to your pipes and appliances.

If you’re interested in making use of a water softener, chances are you’ll have some questions about it. One of the most important is, “How does a water softener work?” Here’s everything you need to know about water softeners.

Why You Should Get A Water Softener In Your Home

A water softener can be described as a filtration system for your home so that the water that enters it is free of minerals that can cause a variety of problems in your water, such as limescale buildup and pipe damage we mentioned earlier, but also decreased water pressure, which is a problem you might have on your hands if you’ve got hard water.

Having a water softener system in place will prevent all those problems – and ensure that your appliances can have a longer lifespan because they’re not afflicted with limescale.

There are other ways in which water softeners can be beneficial to you. While hard water isn’t particularly dangerous to consume, it can lead to other problems.

Let’s view some of them.

  • Hard water doesn’t properly dissolve cleansing products, such as soap. This is a result of its large quantities of calcium. When you use soap in the shower, for example, it will leave a film on your skin, which can become a breeding ground for bacteria. When people switch over to soft water, it’s often said that it feels slippery on their skin.
  • Hard water dries out the skin. If you suffer from a health condition such as eczema or dermatitis, the hard water in your home could be contributing to, or worsening it.
  • Hard water dries out your hair. This can lead to dandruff. It can also make your hair dry and dull.

How A Water Softener Works

How a Water Softener Works

A water softener makes use of a process known as ion exchange. This is a process that removes magnesium and calcium from the water. In a water softening system, hard water moves into a mineral tank and flows through resin beads.

These are polystyrene beads that have been charged with the sodium ion. Since they have a negative charge and the minerals in the hard water contain a positive charge, they will be attracted to each other.

When the mineral-rich water moves through the resin, the beads attach themselves to the minerals, effectively removing them from the water.

In order for the above process to work, a water softener system needs the right components. There are three main parts to this system: a mineral tank, a control valve, and a brine tank.

Let’s see what each of these does.

  • Mineral tank: this is the tank where the hard water is turned into soft water, thanks to the presence of the resin beads. Once the beads have removed the minerals from the water, it has become soft and can leave the tank before entering your pipes.
  • Control valve: this is the part of the water softening system that determines how much water is passing through the mineral tank and into your home. It contains a meter to do this. It also maintains the quality of the beads to ensure that they’re working as well as they should. When hard water moves through the mineral tank and the resin beads remove its minerals, over a period of time the resin starts to lose its effectiveness at softening the water. Before this happens, the control valve will activate what’s known as a regeneration cycle. The valve will jumpstart this cycle based on pre-programmed factors, such as how large your house is and how many people live in it, as well as the hardness of the water in the home, to ensure that the beads work optimally.
  • Brine tank: this is the second tank that’s part of the water softening system. It’s a smaller tank than the water tank, and it contains a concentration of salt or potassium that regenerates the resin beads’ positive charge. The salt, which usually takes the form of pellets, dissolves in the water and when the control valve picks up that the resin beads aren’t working as effectively as they should, the brine will be used to flush the resin beads in the mineral tank.

How To Install A Water Softener

Water Softener Installation

If you want to install a water-softener system, you’ll have to ensure that you do so in close proximity to the water’s entry point in your home. This will make your life easier because most of your plumbing and appliances will be able to run on soft water.

Make sure the water softener system is installed in a level and dry place, such as a garage or your basement. It needs to be positioned close to your water’s main line, and make sure that you have an electrical outlet so that you’ll be able to power up the system.

Finally, you should have a drain nearby for the brine solution to be disposed of.

Important Installation Steps To Follow

When installing your water softener, you will have to bear in mind these points:

  1. You will have to connect the water softener’s inlet to your home’s water supply. The outlet should be facing the direction of your hot water appliances.
  2. Once that’s done, turn off your home’s water supply. This will prevent water leaks and spills when you’re setting up your water softener. You also need to ensure that the electricity that goes to the unit is also switched off.
  3. Remove water from the pipes by opening faucets that are in close proximity to where you’re installing the water softener.
  4. With the use of pipe cutters, you will now enter the water main that leads to the supply line. This is essential to connect your inlet and outlet lines to the main water lines.
  5. After measuring and cutting your pipes, you will connect them. If you have copper pipes, you should solder on their fittings before you go ahead and connect the unit to the bypass valve. This is important to prevent the plastic from melting. Finish off by sealing threads with the use of plumber’s tape.
  6. Now you will need to clamp the drain hose so that the brine solution will drain after it’s been through the regeneration cycle. Make sure you direct the drain hose into the dedicated drain, like a floor drain that you’re going to be using.
  7. Finally, connect your overflow tube. This is an important step to prevent the brine tank from overflowing.

How Much Does A Water Softener Cost?

Water Softener Costs

Before you go ahead and install a water softener, you’ll obviously want to know how much it costs. You’re looking at paying between £400 and £2,000. This price can go up based on where you need to install the water softener.

For example, you will need a large space – sometimes an entire cupboard – in order to install the water softener in your home. To buy and fit this cupboard built, it could cost you an extra £550 to £1,000.

While it might sound expensive to install a water softener in your home, it’s useful in many ways.

Related Questions

How long do water softeners last?

Once you’ve installed a water softening system in your home, it will last up to 15 years.

Can you drink soft water?

Soft water is safe to drink. Even though resin beads release sodium into the water when they attach themselves to the minerals, this amount is very low. If you’re worried about your sodium intake, there is potassium chloride salt instead, but it’s more expensive than regular sodium chloride salt.


Having soft water in your home has many benefits, from being kinder to your skin to ensuring a longer lifespan for your appliances that won’t be affected by dreaded limescale.

If you want to make use of a water softener in your home, you’ll need to know how it works and how to go about installing it. We’ve covered both in this guide so that you can ensure softer water in your pipes and home appliances – and on your skin.


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