800-732-6202

Reading, PA

800-525-6464

Gilbertsville, PA

Mon-Fri: 8AM-5PM

Online store always open

800-732-6202

Reading, PA

800-525-6464

Gilbertsville, PA

Mon-Fri: 8AM-5PM

Online store always open

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What is a Water Softener System & How Does it Work?

You may have noticed small issues around your home that have led you to believe you have hard water. Some tell-tale signs you have hard water can include: mineral build-up on faucet heads, your soap does not lather properly, you have dry or irritated skin after showering, and your clothes look dingy or feel stiff. These recurring issues can understandably be very frustrating to homeowners.

Nearly 85% of homes across the U.S. have hard water, so you’re not alone. If hard water is your only water quality problem, a water softener will quickly fix many of the issues you’re facing in your home. This is a great treatment option for residential and commercial properties that have hard water. Many homes have more than one filtration system in their home. It is common for homes to have a water softener and a reverse osmosis unit to filter out other impurities in your water besides calcium and magnesium. Before exploring those options, let’s explain how a water softener works and how you can maintain yours once installed.

85 percent of the United States has hard water problems

How Does a Water Softener System Work?

A water softener is a whole-house filtration system that removes excess hard minerals from your water such as calcium and magnesium. The process by which these are removed is called ion exchange. When the hard water enters the minerals tank of your water softener, it flows through a bed of resin beads. 

These beads are charged with sodium ions that have a negative charge. The excess calcium and magnesium have a positive charge. Since they’re opposite charges, as the hard water is passed through the resin, the beads grab the mineral ions and remove them from the water. This strips the hardness out of your water, providing soft water to your home and appliances. It is a common misconception that the salt by itself does all of the softening.

How Long Does a Water Softener System Last?

Like most home appliances, water softeners can only last so long. Inevitable problems can occur. Luckily, your water softener has a typical lifespan of 10-15 years. They can last much longer if well maintained. There are also other factors that can contribute to your water softeners lifespan, such as how often it is used and your home’s water quality.

You may feel like your water softener isn’t performing like it used to. This doesn’t mean that it needs a complete replacement, it may just need servicing. A water softener is made up of three parts: a control valve, mineral tank, and a brine tank.

Valves can become jammed or your softener could need a good cleaning. If you’re unsure, you can always call the water treatment experts that installed your softener. Here are four signs that your water softener may need servicing:

eco water water softener systems
  1. Your soap is not lathering. Hard water reduces your soap lather, so if you notice you’re using more soap and shampoo than usual, it may be time to check your softener for any issues.
  2. Your clothing feels stiff or scratchy. Hard water can damage appliances such as a washing machine. 
  3. You’re noticing mineral build-up on faucets or shower heads. The minerals that the water softener removes can cause a crusty buildup. You may have had this issue prior to your water softener being installed. 
  4. Your water tastes different. Your tap water will taste differently when you have hard versus soft water. Pay attention to any taste differences.


Visit our other blog, Hard Water vs. Soft Water, to learn about other signs your hard water is making a return.

water dripping from a sink

Tips to Maintain Your Water Softener System

Water softeners are a low maintenance solution to treating hard water. We want to provide you with a few tips to ensure you get the most out of your water softener, and to make it last as long as possible.

  • Avoid salt bridges. A salt bridge occurs when a hard crust forms in the brine tank. This creates an empty space between the water and the salt. This will prevent the salt from dissolving in the water to make your brine. Without the brine, the resins beads cannot do their job, so you will have hard water until the bridge is cleaned and removed.
  • We recommend using solar salt crystals to maintain your salt tank. These will reduce the potential of any future problems such as a salt bridge. Salt pellets tend to cause build-up at the bottom of your tank and will cause it to clog eventually if not cleaned properly. 
  • Purchase a resin bed cleaner. The resin beads are recharged by the salt, but you can flush the resin beads every few months to maintain their performance. The cleaner is dispersed through the regular flushing process of the water softening cycle.
  • Clean your nozzle twice a year to keep the water softening process smooth and efficient. You won’t need any special tools for this – you unscrew the valve cover and remove the internal parts. Clean them in soapy water and reassemble. This will remove any plugged sand, sediment, and dirt from the valve.
man pouring salt crystals into a water softener

If you’re having issues with your home’s water quality, it can be more than just hard water. These water softening systems are designed to only remove hard minerals. Other problems may require additional filtration systems. 


Always get your home’s water tested before starting your treatment journey to ensure you have the right equipment. The experts at Suburban Water Technology can always test your water and make the proper recommendations. We can treat both residential and commercial facilities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey! Visit our website to learn more or give us a call at 800-525-6464.

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