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The ion exchange material (usually resin beads or granules) consists of permanent insoluble anions, kept electrically neutral by replaceable sodium cations. Hard water contaminated with calcium and magnesium ions enters the exchange column or bed. As it flows through it, the magnesium and calcium cations in the water are drawn to the anions of the ion exchanger. The ion exchanger has a greater affinity for the calcium and magnesium ions than for the sodium ions. Therefore, the calcium and magnesium ions are absorbed, and a chemically equivalent number of sodium ions is released into the water. Thus, a water containing the ions of calcium bicarbonate when it enters, contains the ions of sodium bicarbonate as it leaves the ion exchanger bed. In brief, harmless sodium ions have replaced the trouble producing hardness ions.

Ion exchange occurs literally billions of times between the material in the exchange column and the minerals in the water as softening proceeds. Water softening is one option for the homeowner to treat water problems. Calcium and magnesium decreases the effectiveness of water appliances by causing a film-like scale buildup. For example, have you ever noticed white scale build up on the insides of your water kettle? This layer is a buildup of calcium and magnesium, which will actually cause the kettle to use more energy to heat the water because of the thickened layer. This similar buildup occurs on the insides of your other home appliances, water pipes, washing machine, etc.

Water softening is an effective method to reduce calcium and magnesium from the water. When selecting a water softener it should be based on water analysis and assessment of the individual homeowner’s need. This is mainly determined by the levels of hardness in your water as well as the average amount of water consumption in your household. Contact your local city water source to receive more info on the quality of your water. If you are on a well, you may have to pay for your own individualized water report.

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