When I was younger, if someone called their water either hard or soft, I laughed. I mean, how could different water have a different hardness? It was a silly and preposterous concept to me.
But, what water hardness actually refers to is the amount of hard minerals in a given batch of water - usually calcium and magnesium. When you remove these minerals, or "switch" them with soft minerals - such as sodium - you, in effect and name, soften the water. It's exactly how a water softener works.
Now, before we get into specific products, you may be asking:
"Why the heck do I want soft water?"
There are three main reasons:
1. Hard water has a tendency to facilitate the build-up of unwanted solids on the interior surfaces of your pipes and fixtures - making it harder (pardon the pun!) for water to get through them. Harder water contributes to water marks or lime build up on the interior and exterior of fixtures.
2. Hard water doesn't react well with soaps and detergents, which create fewer bubbles than when mixed with soft water. Hence, it makes cleaning yourself and your dishes more difficult. It also contributes to water marks and spots on dishes and glassware.
3. Soft water is healthier.
If any of these reasons appeal to you, then it may be time to look into buying a water softener. It's a lot more convenient than any filtration system (reverse osmosis, for example) which, naturally enough, requires replaceable filters. And, while there aren't a ton options to choose from, you should always explore them all. To help you out, here are some of the more popular water softener brands:
This is the water softener brand I first encountered, and still the one I most associate with the term. They currently stock a handful of different water softening options, but your best bet is to go with their Gold Series, which will get the job done without breaking the bank.
Water Conditioning Systems, as RainSoft calls them, come in two series: the Apollo and the Amazon. The latter is cheaper and smaller, the former more robust and expensive. As a bonus, both also do more than just soften water; they also filter and condition.
A third option -available at Sears -is Kenmore, a brand probably more known for appliances other than water softeners. But don't let that discourage you. Give them a look, too. Their water softener systems run from about $500 USD to just under $800 USD.
Buying a water softener is an important decision, and can affect many areas of your daily life. Make sure you spend as much time doing research as those stakes demand. Because the field isn't huge, get to know it before you buy.
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