How Does a Water Softener Work?


Water softeners have two tanks, one with a control valve at the top, which is called the media tank. The other tank (that looks like a garbage can) with a lid that you open, holding the salt, is called the brine tank. Sometimes the smaller tank is actually inside the larger tank, like on this Aquamaster water softener. All of the water in the house runs through a bed of small plastic beads that look like Honey Comb cereal but are a lot smaller. These beads fill most of the media tank. As water passes over the beads, the hardness (calcium and magnesium) and iron sticks to the beads and is removed from your water. Eventually, the beads are covered with calcium and magnesium and needs to be regenerated, or cleaned so they can continue to soften the water. The water softener automatically triggers the regeneration process, which typically happens at night, or anytime there is very little water usage in the home. Regeneration starts by automatically backwashing all of the media and flushing the debris to the drain while fluffing up the media. Next, the salty water from the brine tank is sucked up into the media tank. As the salty water or brine runs over the resin beads it releases the hardness and recharges the beads while flushing the calcium, magnesium, iron, dirt and sediment to the drain. Next the beads are fully rinsed to remove all of the brine and settle the media beads back into place. The last step of regeneration consists of the water softener valve putting the correct amount of water (based on the hardness settings) into the brine tank to make brine so it’s ready when the next regeneration is needed. 


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  • Gary Beutler