Hard water is a problem in many communities throughout the United States as well as in other parts of the world. This is actually a type of water contamination, but since the contaminants aren’t dangerous it doesn’t usually lead to pollution. When groundwater percolates through chalk and limestone before it reaches water treatment facilities, it gets contaminated with high levels of calcium and magnesium. These excess minerals lead to hard water, which can be very difficult to treat without the proper machinery.
Hard water is very bad for factories and agricultural use because it can cause a lot of damage to machines and slow down processes across the board. While drinking hard water doesn’t usually cause a lot of health risks, coming into contact with it regularly can dry out skin and damage hair and fingernails. Hard water buildup can also cause damage to pipelines, faucets, and showerheads, and these may require descaling to remove the minerals that cake onto their surfaces over time.
The type of water softener you choose for your home depends a lot on what you need for your own personal situation and your budget as well as on the size of your home. Whole-house water softeners are readily available in both reverse osmosis and ion-exchange options. You can choose a water softener that works for only your kitchen or one that can handle several bathrooms and even outdoor uses like gardening. If you live in an apartment, you may be able to treat the water in both your kitchen and your bathroom with a smaller softener, but if you live in a large home with a big family, you’ll need to budget for a more expensive model.
Ion-exchange – This process is the most common method of softening water for household use. It works by replacing the calcium and magnesium ions responsible for hardness with potassium and sodium ions, which will soften the water. However, some people prefer not to use this method because it can cause tap water to become too salty over time. Wastewater from this type of water softener is washed into the sewage system, which can in turn cause groundwater pollution in the area if your sewage system is very leaky.
Reverse osmosis – This is another popular method for softening water at home, but it is more expensive than ion-exchange. In this process, water is forced through a special membrane that basically filters away the minerals responsible for hardness and leaves behind only clean, pure water. These membranes must be replaced very regularly, which leads to an added cost for this method.
Chelation – This method is usually used for commercially produced products and isn’t a home softening option. Through chelation, chelating agents are added to water to soften them. These agents may be natural, like citric acid, but they are often inorganic chemicals. When chemicals are used for softening water, environmental issues may arise.