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How do water softeners work

Water hardness is removed by a non-electric process called ion-exchange

Ion exchange is a well established technology that was first discovered in 1850 by English scientists Thompson and Way. The process used a natural material called zeolite. Today the modern successor to zeolite is used throughout industry worldwide. In recent times products using the ion exchange process have entered domestic life in homes across the United Kingdom.

how water softeners work

Essentially, water is simply passed through a bed of plastic beads known as ion exchange resin, rather like a jug filter. Softening is instantaneous and it emerges as artificially softened water, that mimics the properties of natural soft water.

This continues until just before the resin bed is exhausted and need recharging. Typically the resin bed will be automatically recharged 2 or 3 times a week using a brine solution. This will occur @ 2:00am but only on the days it actually needs to.

It is important to note that brine made from salt does not soften the water, it is just used to recharge the ion-exchange resin bed media inside the water softener that does the actual softening and then ends up down the drain.

Unlike naturally occurring soft water, softened water has exactly the same amount of dissolved solids as hard water. All we have done is exchanged calcium and magnesium metal ions that cause scale and soap scum for sodium metal ions that do not.

Salt is added to the water softener about once per month and the Ensign water softener will alert the user when the salt is running low and requires refilling within about 7 days with the auto salt monitor.

Most modern installations typically have a third hard water mini tap or a new 3-way sink tap fitted as part of the installation.


All water softening is non-electric. No electricity is used to soften water. Only the electronic controller and salt monitor systems use electricity and then with a very safe plug-in 12v transformer like your mobile phone. That costs about 24p per month in April 2022.

Water Softener Demonstration

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