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Table of Contents

Understanding Water Softeners

Why Do Homes’ Plumbing Systems Bypass the Water Softener for Outside Faucets?

Components of a Water Softener

Benefits of Water Softeners

Installation and Maintenance

When Should You Replace Your Water Softener?

How Do I Get My Water Softener Repaired?

Schedule your kitchen appliance repair now!

Call (213) 596-2538
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What Do Water Softeners Do?

8 min readUpdated Mar. 18, 2024Lyle WeischwillKitchen Appliances
What do water softeners do?

Water softeners treat an invisible condition in your home’s water that can eventually lead to problems with plumbing and appliances. Understanding how water softeners work and their benefits can help you make informed decisions about water treatment for your household needs.

Water softeners work by removing minerals like calcium and magnesium from hard water through a process called ion exchange. This process helps prevent mineral buildup in your pipes, appliances, and fixtures, which can extend their lifespan and reduce maintenance costs.


  • Water softeners remove hard salts such as magnesium and calcium salts from your home’s water supply.
  • Contrary to some popular explanations, water softeners don’t “exchange” or add sodium chloride salt to your home’s water.
  • Learn the truth about how a water softener works and get answers to frequently asked questions about water softeners in this article.

The benefits of water softeners include softer and smoother skin and hair, brighter and longer-lasting laundry, reduced soap scum and scale buildup, and improved efficiency of water-using appliances. Additionally, soft water can save you money on energy bills and reduce the need for excessive cleaning or repairs.

When it comes to installation and maintenance, it's important to consult a professional to ensure proper setup and optimal performance. Regular maintenance, such as recharging the resin bed and adding salt, is necessary to keep your water softener functioning effectively.

While water softeners are a popular choice, there are alternative options available, such as electronic water conditioners or magnetic water softeners. It's essential to research and consider your specific needs and budget before making a decision.

Understanding Water Softeners

A water softener is a device used to remove minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, from hard water. Hard water contains high levels of these minerals, which can cause various issues in your home, including scale buildup in pipes, appliances, and fixtures, as well as reduced efficiency of soaps and detergents.

Removing Hard Salts

So, how does a water softener work? The process involves routing your home’s water through a cation ion resin bed in the water softener tank. The cation resin beads attract the hard salt minerals ions (magnesium and calcium) and those hard salts stick to the resin beads and are removed from your home’s water.

Many explanations of how the water softener works leads readers to believe that hard salts are “replaced” or “exchanged” with sodium salt. This explanation is incorrect.


Sodium salt is added to the brine tank inside the water softer and is used to create a sodium salt brine to rinse the hard salt minerals off the resin bead – a process called regeneration.

During the regeneration process, the water softener fill the brine tank with water and sodium salt inside the brine tank creates a salt water brine. The house water supply bypasses the resin tank during the regeneration process. The brine is routed through the resin tank and rinses the hard salts off of the resin beads. The water softener then flushes the brine out of the resin tank and rinses the resin with plain water. Virtually all of the sodium salt brine is rinsed out of the resin tank.

Rinsing of the resin bed with plain water prevents any sodium salt from entering your home’s water supply.

Why Do Homes’ Plumbing Systems Bypass the Water Softener for Outside Faucets?

Many homeowner’s have come to believe that the water supply going to outside faucets bypass the water softer because the water softener adds salt to the water that will harm grass and plants. This is untrue as demonstrated in the explanation of water softener operations above.

Outside water doesn’t need to be softened because the hard minerals won’t harm the grass and flowers. Softening outside water will waste resin bed capacity and cause the need for more frequent regeneration that isn’t necessary. This is an accurate explanation of why home plumbing systems bypass the water supply going to outside faucets.

If you do water plants or grass with soft water, no harm will occur.

Components of a Water Softener

A typical water softener system consists of several components. The main ones include:

  • Resin tank. It contains the resin beads that attract and remove the calcium and magnesium ions.
  • Brine tank. This tank holds the salt and where the salt solution, also known as brine, is created. The brine is used to regenerate the resin beads. During the regeneration process, the brine is flushed through the resin tank to rinse hard salts off the resin beads.
  • Control valve. The control valve is routes the flow of water through the resin tank and controls water flow during the regeneration process.
  • Electronic control. The electronic control has a timer and circuitry that governs the control valve and initiates the regeneration cycle when necessary. A water flow sensor provides the electronic control with water usage data to help determine the need for regeneration. The electronic control allows you to set the timing and frequency of regeneration based on your specific needs.
  • Manual bypass valve. This valve allows you to completely bypass water going through the water softener.

By understanding how water softeners components work, you can make an informed decision about whether installing a water softener is the right choice for your home.

Benefits of Water Softeners

Water softeners offer several benefits that make them a valuable addition to any home. Here are some reasons why you should consider having a water softener:

1.Improved water quality: One of the primary benefits of water softeners is their ability to improve the quality of your water. Hard water contains high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can cause various issues such as dry skin, dull hair, and soap scum buildup. By removing these minerals, water softeners ensure that your water is softer and gentler on your skin and hair.
2. Extended lifespan of appliances: Hard water can be harsh on your appliances, leading to mineral deposits and clogs in pipes and fixtures. Over time, this can reduce the efficiency and lifespan of your appliances, resulting in costly repairs or replacements. Water softeners help prevent mineral buildup, protecting your appliances and extending their lifespan.
3. Cost savings: By using a water softener, you can save money in the long run. Soft water requires less soap and detergent to create lather, meaning you'll use less of these products over time. Additionally, soft water reduces the formation of limescale, which can clog pipes and decrease water flow, leading to increased energy consumption and higher utility bills. With a water softener, you'll save on soap and energy costs.
4. Cleaner and spot-free surfaces: Hard water can leave behind mineral deposits and spots on your dishes, glassware, and bathroom fixtures. Water softeners eliminate these issues by removing the minerals that cause spots and stains, leaving your surfaces cleaner and spot-free.
5. Softer and brighter laundry: Soft water is gentler on fabrics and helps laundry detergents work more effectively. By using a water softener, you can enjoy softer and brighter clothes while also reducing the wear and tear on your garments.

Overall, water softeners provide numerous benefits that enhance the quality of your water, protect your appliances, save you money, and improve various aspects of your daily life. Consider installing a water softener to enjoy these advantages and ensure a better water experience in your home.

Installation and Maintenance

Proper installation and regular maintenance are essential for ensuring the optimal performance and longevity of your water softener. Here's what you need to know.

How Do you Install a Water Softener?

Installing a water softener may seem like a daunting task, but with the right guidance, it can be a straightforward process. It is recommended to consult with a professional plumber or water treatment specialist to ensure proper installation.

The installation process typically involves locating the ideal spot for your water softener, connecting it to the main water supply line, and creating a drain line for the brine tank. Additionally, the system may require an electrical connection.

Many new homes have a water supply pipe loop inside the garage for installation of a water softener. A drain for the brine and resin tank rinse water are also provided.

In some areas, a permit is needed for installing a water softener.

Can I Install a Water Softener Myself?

While professional installation is typically recommended, advanced DIY’ers can install their own water softener when local codes permit you to complete that task. Follow the guidelines in the installation guide to install the water softener.

Here’s a video that shows how to install a Kenmore water softener yourself:

When Should You Replace Your Water Softener?

Resin beads in a water softener typically last 10 to 15 years depending on your water usage, water supply quality and frequency of regeneration. Cleaning the resin with a water softener cleaner will help extend the life of your water softener.

Signs that your water softener may need replacement include decreased efficiency in removing hardness minerals and frequent breakdowns. If you're unsure, it's best to consult a professional to assess the condition of your water softener.

When you need a new water softener, visit our Kenmore Water Softener page to find the right water softener for your home.

How Do I Get My Water Softener Repaired?

When your water softener malfunctions, you’ll want to get it repaired fast. Sears Home Services has technicians in your area to fix your water softener fast. Schedule service online and we’ll send a technician out to your home right away.

You can bypass the water softener using the manual bypass valve and still supply your home with water until the technician arrives.

Schedule your kitchen appliance repair now!

From refrigerators to dishwashers, our experienced technicians are equipped to repair all your kitchen appliances, providing fast and reliable service.

Call (213) 596-2538 or schedule online now.

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