Answering the Most Commonly Asked Questions about Water Softeners

In the world of plumbing, the water softener can be a mysterious appliance. As a homeowner, you may not know exactly what it does or if your home needs one. That’s OK. In this article, we’re answering the most common questions we get about hard water and water softener systems.

What does “hard water” mean?

Hard water means that the water has a high level of certain minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, and zinc, just to name a few. The water picks up these materials as it seeps into the ground and travels through wells and water supply lines.

What is the test for hard water?

Testing your water hardness is fairly easy and inexpensive. You can buy your own water-testing kit at a home improvement store or have a professional plumber test the water for you.

The water hardness test will show how much calcium carbonate is in the water, typically in terms of milligrams per liter (mg/L). Here are general water hardness guidelines, provided by the United States Geological Survey:

  • Soft water: 0 to 60 mg/L
  • Moderately hard water: 61 to 120 mg/L
  • Hard water: 121 to 180 mg/L
  • Very hard water: Above 180 mg/L

Why are the negative effects of hard water?

The good news is that hard water does not pose any health risks. The negative impact is seen in other ways that are annoying and potentially costly, including:

  • Mineral deposits and damage to plumbing
  • Shorter service life of the water heater and other appliances
  • May cause dry and itchy skin and hair
  • Mineral buildup on household items such as shower doors and dishes
  • Making it hard to lather and clean with soap and shampoos
  • Excess wear to cloths

How does a water softener work?

A water softener is designed to remove excess hard minerals from water coming into the home through a process called ion exchange. The system usually adds other “soft” minerals such as sodium or potassium.

Does a water softener also filter water?

No, a water softener does not filter water. It only removes the minerals that cause water hardness. It won’t remove any other chemicals, impurities, or bacteria.

Why does a water softener use salt? And how much?

Most (but not all) water softener systems use salt in a tank. As the hard minerals are pulled out of the water, they are replaced by sodium (salt) ions. But don’t worry – the amount of salt that actually ends up in your water is so small it shouldn’t be an issue if you’re on a low-sodium diet

What maintenance does a water softener require?

The primary maintenance you’ll need to perform with a water softener is refilling the salt as necessary. The frequency depends on your water usage.

Will a water softener make my water taste better?

In some cases, a water softener can remove minerals that may cause a bad smell or taste such as iron. There are also many other causes for poor smelling and testing water besides water hardness. 

How much does a water softener cost and how long does it last?

The average water softer system lasts for about 15 years. The upfront cost varies depending on the size and quality of the system, as well as the experience level of the installer. For a general reference, systems can range from $400 to over $2,000.

At Reichelt Plumbing, we understand that water softeners aren’t the most simple and straightforward plumbing appliance. So if you have any questions or want to schedule a consultation about addressing the hard water in your home, give us a call at (219) 322-4906.


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