Water softeners are a popular home feature that many homeowners choose to add on. If you’re from an area that naturally has soft water, moving to a place like Houston with its hard surface water can present some unexpected issues. For others, the housekeeping problems hard water presents can be a nuisance that they wish to avoid. Water softeners can solve issues for both.
The term “hard water” refers to water that has a high mineral content. This water is safe to use, drink and bathe in, but it leaves behind a residue that you can actually feel. You’ve heard the term “squeaky clean?” Well, that comes from the noise that your fingers make when rubbing against your skin or the dishes you’re washing – it’s the minerals in the water that cause that sound. “Soft water” or water that is very low in minerals feels slippery and you cannot make that squeaky sound.
Hard water can cause lots of cosmetic issues, such as stains on your tile in pools, bathrooms, kitchen sinks and other areas. Lime scale can also build up on your faucets and inside of your pipes (which is more than a cosmetic issue!). Additionally, mineral buildup in your hot water heater can shorten its lifespan and cause leaks. Other issues include your laundry feeling stiff, dry, itchy skin, and cloudy, streaky glassware.
Softeners work by passing water through a tank that removes the minerals before that water enters your house. With annual maintenance, your softener can last about ten years. The only thing the homeowner has to do to maintain the system is to put special salt in about once every six weeks. This can be purchased at any home improvement store or even Costco. Most systems can be installed by your home builder or can be added at any time after construction.
The benefits of having a softener, in addition to eliminating the issues discussed above, include extending the life of your washing machine and dishwasher and saving money on laundry detergent, dish, and bathing soaps (a little goes a much longer way with soft water). Your dishes will be spot-free, your clothes and skin softer. Your plumbing will have less buildup and therefore fewer issues.
So while not a necessity, having a water softener can be a very nice convenience in your home.