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What's With Water Softeners?

By Brett Freeman
What's With Water Softeners?

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 85 percent of American homes have hard water. But what does that mean? And what can you do about it?

Take the Shower Test

Hard water is water that contains dissolved calcium and magnesium. These minerals react with soap and detergents to form a substance that won't dissolve in water, making it difficult to rinse away. If you think you may have hard water, step into your shower. Are there a lot of water spots? Does soap scum form quickly after you clean? When you shower does it take forever to rinse shampoo out of your hair? All of these symptoms typically indicate the presence of hard water.

What's the Big Deal?

Hard water does more than just make cleaning your bathroom, and your body, more difficult. It can also leave deposits inside your plumbing, inhibiting water flow and reducing the efficiency of your water heater and other appliances. The same effect that leaves soap residue in your shower can leave detergent residue in your clothes, causing them to fade and wear more quickly. It can also leave soap residue on your skin, leading to skin dryness and irritation.

A Simple Solution

Fortunately, dealing with hard water is a simple as installing a water softener system, also known as a water conditioner. There are a number of different models on the market, but most water softeners use a process that replaces dissolved calcium and magnesium with more benign minerals sodium and potassium. These systems are generally installed at the "front" of your water line, so that all of the running water in your house gets treated.

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