Water Softeners: How They Work & Their Main Types

Image of a Reynolds Water Twinstream Water Conditioning System.

A water softener is a valuable tool for homes affected by varying levels of hard water, offering a multitude of benefits. It works by removing minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium, which are primarily responsible for hard water issues. The use of a water softener helps avoid problems like mineral deposits, scale buildup that can lead to leaky faucets and clogged pipes, damage to appliances using water, residues on dishes cleaned in dishwashers, dry skin and hair post-showering, and the fading of clothes washed in hard water.

By eliminating these heavy minerals, softened water enhances the quality of life in several ways:

  • improved skin and hair health
  • brighter and softer laundry
  • cleaner dishes and glasses
  • reduced cleaning effort
  • long-term cost savings
  • improved taste and clarity of drinking water.

How a Water Softener Works

The core technology behind most water softeners is the ion exchange process, which replaces hard minerals with sodium (or sometimes potassium). This process occurs as water flows through a tank filled with resin beads that are pre-saturated with sodium. The hard minerals swap places with sodium ions, which then dissolve into the water, leaving it softened. Eventually, the resin beads get saturated with the removed minerals and need to be regenerated with sodium-rich water to restore their softening capability, allowing the system to continue providing softened water to the household.

Types of Water Softeners

Water softeners are designed to address hard water issues through two primary methods: ion exchange, which removes heavy minerals from the water, and neutralization, which prevents these minerals from clustering and keeps them dissolved in the water. The two main categories of water softeners, each functioning differently, include:

  • Salt-based systems, which may also include dual-tank configurations
  • Salt-free systems, which include magnetic variants

Salt-Based Water Softeners

Salt-based water softeners are widely used for their effectiveness in removing minerals like calcium and magnesium from water and exchanging them for sodium. This process turns hard water soft, making it healthier for use. Despite their efficiency, these systems require weekly salt recharges and are larger, which may not suit smaller spaces. However, portable versions are available, ideal for RVs, boats, and small homes, offering an affordable solution for on-the-go soft water needs. These portable softeners are less expensive but need frequent recharging. While salt-based softeners slightly increase the water’s sodium content, they remain within a safe range for most people, though those on low-sodium diets might prefer alternatives.

Dual-Tank Water Softeners

Dual-tank water softeners feature two resin tanks, ensuring a constant supply of soft water, even during one tank’s regeneration phase. They’re especially beneficial for well water, capable of filtering heavy minerals more effectively. However, dual-tank systems are larger, more expensive, and not necessary for most households, but they excel in high-demand situations without the risk of running out of softened water.

Salt-Free Water Softeners

Salt-free water softeners, unlike their salt-based counterparts, do not remove hard minerals from water but instead, condition the water to prevent these minerals from forming scale on fixtures and appliances. They are an initial costlier option that operates without salt or electricity, suitable for small to large homes. However, they may not perform as well in areas with extremely hard water or high water usage.

Electromagnetic and Magnetic

Electromagnetic and magnetic water softeners are compact, making them ideal for small spaces. They work by altering the charge of mineral ions with a magnetic field, preventing them from sticking to surfaces. Electromagnetic models require an electrical outlet, while magnetic ones do not, offering a maintenance-free solution albeit with limited effectiveness for smaller homes.

Polyphosphates

Polyphosphate softeners use a filtration cartridge to condition water, preventing scale formation, and are commonly used in commercial settings to protect equipment. Full filtration systems not only prevent scaling but also remove a wide range of contaminants, making water safer but requiring periodic and costly filter replacements.

Full Filtration

Full filtration systems offer a dual benefit: they soften water and eliminate a variety of drinking water contaminants. Operating without salt, these systems utilize a filtration process that transforms minerals into a crystalline form to prevent scale buildup on pipes and appliances. Additionally, they effectively filter out harmful substances such as herbicides, bacteria, viruses, pesticides, and chlorine. While offering significant advantages, the filters in these systems come with a higher cost and need replacement approximately every six months to a year.

It’s crucial to recognize the distinction between water softeners and purifiers. Water softeners are safe for treating water with hardening minerals, either by removing or neutralizing them to prevent them from causing scale. However, they do not function as water filters and are incapable of eliminating other harmful substances from the water. Therefore, their use should be limited to softening water. For concerns about the overall safety of your drinking water, especially regarding contaminants other than hardening minerals, it’s advisable to consult your local health department, conduct personal tests, or have the water professionally analyzed.

Not sure what’s right for your home or business? Contact the experts at Reynolds Water Conditioning; we’ll walk you through the process to determine the best solution for your water type.

Reynolds Water Conditioning was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in providing the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing team at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com

The Unseen Consequences of Road Deicing: How Salt is Impacting Our Waterways

As winter envelops many parts of the world, the familiar sight of trucks scattering salt on icy roads becomes a common occurrence. This practice, aimed at ensuring safer driving conditions, uses sodium chloride, a compound similar to table salt, for deicing roadways. While the immediate benefits of this method are clear, its long-term environmental impact, especially on our water systems, is a growing concern.

The Scale of Road Salt Usage

The use of road salt, or sodium chloride, has become an integral part of winter road maintenance in cold climates. According to research from The University of Toledo, approximately 25 million metric tons of this deicing salt are applied annually across various regions. The quantity varies by state but can range from 3 to 18 pounds per square meter, roughly the area of a small kitchen table.

The Dual-Edged Sword of Road Deicing

The primary goal of road deicing is to prevent vehicle accidents during snowy conditions. Indeed, studies show that road deicers can reduce car accidents by over 78%. However, the environmental trade-off of this safety measure is significant, particularly regarding the salinity of freshwater sources.

Rising Salinity in Freshwater Sources

Research titled “Road Salts, Human Safety and the Rising Salinity of Our Fresh Waters” highlights a worrying trend: an increase in the salinity of freshwater bodies due to road salt. This phenomenon leads to the contamination of local drinking water supplies, pushing the salt concentration levels in some local streams to be 20 to 30 times higher than the chronic chloride threshold set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Ripple Effect on Water Quality

The impact of sodium chloride goes beyond just increasing salinity. It can mobilize harmful chemicals like radon, mercury, and lead, contaminating water supplies. A notable example of this was observed in Flint, Michigan, where excessive road salt use increased chloride levels, resulting in lead contamination from water pipes.

The Inadequacy of Current Safeguards

Current EPA guidelines on salt pollution appear to be insufficient in protecting water supplies. Researchers, including Bill Hintz from The University of Toledo, argue that the impacts of deicing salts can be lethal, even at current threshold levels, and call for a revision of these standards.

Exploring Alternative Solutions to Road Salt

To combat the negative effects of road salt, experts propose several strategies. These include creating covered salt storage facilities to prevent runoff, utilizing anti-icing liquids before storms to reduce salt dependency, and employing more efficient snowplows that conform better to road surfaces. Additionally, there is a call for public awareness and a shift in expectations regarding winter weather management to lessen the ecological footprint.

Balancing Safety and Environmental Health

As we navigate the challenges of maintaining safe roads in winter, it’s crucial to balance human safety with environmental responsibility. Understanding the consequences of road salt on our waterways is the first step toward adopting more sustainable deicing methods. It’s a delicate balance, but one that is essential for the health of our planet and future generations.

If you’re concerned about chemicals in your drinking water, contact Reynolds Water Conditioning today for testing and viable treatment solutions.  

Reynolds Water Conditioning was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in providing the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing team at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com

Signs of Dehydration

Water is an essential aspect of our lives; we drink, bathe, cleanse, and use water daily. The chemistry of life is based on water; over 60 percent of the human body is made up of water.

In the human body, water is necessary for vital functions, including:

  • Manufacturing hormones
  • Creating saliva
  • Keeping mucus membranes moist
  • Allowing the body’s cells to grow and reproduce
  • Regulating body temperature
  • Acting as a shock absorber for the spinal cord and brain
  • Flushing body waste
  • Maintaining a sufficient electrolyte balance
  • Lubricating joints
  • Digesting food
  • Delivering oxygen and nutrients throughout the body
  • Running most body parts

Despite being made up of so much water, the human body can only produce about eight percent of the water necessary for survival, meaning 92 percent has to be ingested through food and beverages. Moreover, we lose an average of three liters of water every day by sweating, breathing, and using the restroom. Therefore, we need to constantly replenish our water supply throughout the day.

There are various recommendations for water intake, ranging from 68 to 91 fluid ounces per day for women and 85 to 125 fluid ounces for adult males. A hydration calculator by Hydration for Health takes different factors into account to ensure your water intake is accurate.

Unfortunately, many people throughout the United States fall below the recommended daily intake. Sugary beverages (pop, fruit juice, energy drinks, coffee, tea, alcohol, etc.) are all diuretics, which deplete water from the body.

Consequently, symptoms of dehydration are rampant throughout the country, and most people do not even realize it. Signs of dehydration include:

  • Brain fog
  • Mood swings
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Sleepiness
  • Lack of energy
  • Headaches
  • Constipation

Effects of dehydration can persist despite replenishing water, so it’s important to stay adequately hydrated at all times.

To improve the water quality in your home or business, contact the experts at Reynolds Water today.

Reynolds Water Conditioning was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in providing the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at www.reynoldswater.com or call 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com.

Another ‘Forever Chemical’ Called 1,4 Dioxane Found in Ann Arbor

Popular in the second half of the 20th century, 1,4-dioxane was used in pharmaceutical ingredients, filters, metal degreasers, and more. In toxicity studies, laboratory rodents given the chemical in their drinking water developed liver cancer. The United States National Toxicology Program classifies 1,4,-dioxane as a human carcinogen. The United States Environmental Protection Agency also deemed the synthetic chemical a likely carcinogen.

In the United States, production of 1,4-dioxane has diminished, though certain companies import it from Germany to supply customers. Even as the use of 1,4 dioxane declines, the chemical is not disappearing. Water monitoring data collected from 2010 to 2015 shows that more than seven million people in the United States in 27 different states had utility-supplied tap water with detectible levels of 1,4-dioxane according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

There is currently no federal limit on 1,4 dioxane in drinking water, and removing it is challenging. When released into the air, the chemical poses a cancer risk. However, it doesn’t float through the air often or evaporate easily. It dissolves completely in water, even at high concentrations, making it difficult to remove.

Traditional groundwater treatments filter water through granulated activated carbon to remove chlorine and other contaminants. This technology is not applicable to 1,4-dioxane. Many communities have water tainted with worrisome levels of 1,4-dioxane. After leaking out of landfills or as a result of unregulated industrial practices, 1,4-dioxane may infiltrate public aquifers.

In Ann Arbor, between 1966 and 1986, 1,4-dioxane was filtered into groundwater through lagoons that held wastewater from the manufacture of medical and industrial filtration equipment at Gelman Sciences, which has since closed. There is currently litigation regarding the underground plume of 1,4-dioxane headed for the Huron River, Ann Arbor’s main source of drinking water.

Cleaning products, laundry detergents, and shampoos still contain 1,4-dioxane as an unintentional impurity from surfactants, typically rinsed down the drain.

To learn more about the chemicals that might be in your water or gain solutions to these issues, contact the water experts at Reynolds Water today.

Reynolds Water Conditioning was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in providing the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at www.reynoldswater.com or call 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com.

Erin Brockovich Claims the US is in an Unimaginable Water Crisis

In 2000, Erin Brockovich became the subject of an Academy-award winning feature film, which depicted her role in a lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric. Portrayed by Julia Roberts, Brockovich is known for almost single-handedly bringing down the California-based power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply. Through the years, she has continued to raise awareness concerning pollution and other environmental threats.

In an opinion article for The Guardian, Brockovich wrote, “We are in a water crisis beyond anything you can imagine. Pollution and toxins are everywhere, stemming from the hazardous wastes of industry and agriculture. We’ve got more than 40,000 chemicals on the market today with only a few hundred regulated. We’ve had industrial byproducts discarded into the ground and into our water supply for years. This crisis affects everyone – rich or poor, black or white, Republican or Democrat. Communities everywhere think they are safe when they are not.”

“These issues start with tiny seeds of deception that add up over months and years to become major problems. Our resources are exhausted. Corruption is rampant. Officials are trying to cover their tracks. People are not putting the pieces together when it comes to the severity of this crisis. I’ve got senators and doctors calling me, asking me what to do,” Brockovich stated.

Brockovich stressed the importance of not succumbing to despair. No single person or entity can correct the issues solo; communities must work in tandem to remedy this issue.  In response to the countless calls and community outreach she has experienced, Brockovich created the Community Healthbook to allow individuals and community groups to “report and view health-related concerns and community environmental issues by geographic area and health-related topic.”

For more information or to read the entire article, check out The Guardian. Want to know what’s in your water? Call the water purification experts at Reynolds Water Conditioning Co. at 800-572-9575. We test water quality and purification, install filters, and much more.

Reynolds Water Conditioning Co. was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in offering the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at www.reynoldswater.com or call 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com.

State of Michigan to Pay Victims of Flint Water Crisis $600M

Flint residents affected by the toxic lead water crisis will be eligible to receive payments from a $600 million preliminary settlement. A court-monitored victim compensation fund will allow Flint water crisis victims to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in payments. The parties involved in the settlement include the state of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and all individual state defendants, including former governor Rick Snyder.

Almost 80 percent of the settlement fund will be divvied out to children who were under 18 when the crisis began in April 2014. The effects of lead are especially poignant in children, as the mineral impacts brain development. An earmarked $12-million fund will be created in escrow to offer special education and other services for children who suffer chronic health/behavioral impacts as a direct result of lead poisoning. Another $35 million will be placed in a trust for “forgotten children” who cannot file claims within the required time frame and will be eligible to do so when they reach adult age.

“The residents of Flint were victims of horrendous decisions by the state, its employees, and other defendants that have resulted in tragic and devastating consequences,” said Florida attorney Ted Leopold. He was appointed by a federal judge along with Royal Oak attorney Michael Pitt, to lead a class-action litigation combining scores of individual lawsuits. “While we can never undo the damage that occurred to the citizens and community of Flint, we are pleased that today we were able to secure a measure of justice for the Flint community,’ Leopold stated.

As for the US Environmental Protection Agency and other private organizations involved in the shift of Flint’s drinking water source from (safe) Lake Huron to the (toxic) Flint River, litigation will continue.

Concerned about toxins, minerals, and/or contaminants in your drinking water? The experts at Reynolds Water Conditioning are committed to solving your water needs. We offer several services to ensure your water is the best it has ever been…chemical-free. For more information about the Flint Water Crisis, read the full Detroit Free Press article.

Reynolds Water Conditioning was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in providing the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at www.reynoldswater.com or call 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com.

Rust from Irrigation Systems: Causes, Treatments, & Prevention

If you have an irrigation system, you probably have rust spots appearing on the side of your home, on patio furniture, paved ways, landscaping, and other areas. The iron within your water causes these reddish-brown spots, particularly for those who have well water. Rust can also form in a standard municipal water system but in considerably fewer amounts. In this article, we discuss how you can treat and prevent rust from forming around your property. 

Removing Rust & Iron Stains  

Before tackling the main problem – removing the rust from your water supply – you should remove the stains that have built up over time that have formed around your property. You can do this with many cleaners, but Magica is a renowned product for removing spotty rust stains and is safe for any surface, including concrete, wood, fabric, and metal. Even after you remove these stains, they will come back, and you will need to find a more permanent solution to tackle the root of the issue by fixing the iron levels in your water supply.

Your water must be oxidized and then filtered out to remove the iron, and you can only do this with a filter that uses manganese dioxide or a form of catalytic media that will react with the iron. Depending on your water’s characteristics, you may need to use an oxidizer like chlorine, oxygen, or hydrogen peroxide. Removing rust is important as it is aesthetically unpleasant and does damage to your plants and surfaces, sometimes killing vegetation entirely.

The Reynolds Irrigation Stain Control System

The Reynolds Irrigation Stain Control System is a preventative maintenance process that prevents rust from forming on all surfaces of your home, including your white linens and the bathtub. This system has an RC solution; a clear blue concentrated non-toxic neutral phosphate that will prevent mineral and iron stains. The solution is 100% bio-degradable and is injected into the irrigation stream as it enters your water supply. 

The feed system includes a solution tank, industrial-grade flow switch, and a high-performance solid-state injection pump, which is adjustable so solutions can be appropriately proportioned for any water quality. This product is one of the best treatments for preventing rust formation occurring with your irrigation system. 

Reynolds Water Conditioning Co. was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, Reynolds Water Conditioning takes pride in offering the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. https://www.reynoldswater.com | 1-800-572-9575

5 Trends That Will Affect the Water Industry in the Next Decade

The water industry is posed to have several new changes that happen within the next decade due to rapid urbanization, climate change, consumer demands, and emerging digital technologies. Complex business challenges will arise, and companies can turn these changes into opportunities that could benefit both businesses and consumers and the environment. Below, are five trends that will have an impact on the water industry within the next decade:

1. Extreme Weather

It is anticipated that we will have more extreme weather in the next decade than ever recorded before. Most of the climate change is attributed to water, and these changes will influence agricultural production, rises in sea levels, and wildfires leading to droughts and floods. 

Hard engineering structures such as dikes, seawalls, and levees can be built to protect coastal communities against severe flooding. The use of intricate water modeling technologies can help determine current vulnerabilities and offer better solutions to address these coastal challenges.

2. Agricultural Changes

The UN has projected that the world’s population will reach more than nine billion by 2050 and making sure that there is enough food for everyone will be essential. It is estimated that global food production needs to be increased by at least 70% to maintain enough food. To keep up with these demands, there needs to be enough arable land for crop production and more efficient irrigation technology to handle the requests. Precision farming systems, coupled with emerging technologies to improve agricultural production, will help in using less water for more crops. 

3. Reusing Wastewater

Wastewater is made up of many valuable elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and other resources that can be used for energy and be reused instead of letting them be discarded back into the environment. The current water consumption model is liner in nature, meaning that water is extracted from a source, checked for quality, consumed, treated, and discharged in a receiving body of water. In the next decade, we will see the emergence of a more circular model, one of which focuses on reusing wastewater and utilizing its properties we are currently discarding. To do this, we will need to rethink and redesign the current infrastructure. 

4. Customer-Led Revolution

Digital technologies are used by consumers nearly every moment of the day, empowering them more than ever. People expect more personalized products and services to improve every aspect of their life, which will only increase as time goes on. Businesses must accept that the new paradigm of the empowered customer adapts their mindsets to service this expectation. Technologies for smart water softeners, filtration systems, and other consumer products will give homeowners more control over bills, utilization, and overall maintenance. The water industry will be challenged to examine how to work with businesses, consumers, and technologies to achieve the desired goals for all. 

5. Smart Network and Technologies

As we progress into a more tech-driven world, smart water network solutions will increase in use and improve the reliability of physical water operations by gathering and analyzing data more effectively. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term coined to describe all devices connected to the internet and speak with each other, sending data, automatic process, and analytics. IoT will help better manage the water industry infrastructure and reduce non-revenue water losses; it will also support essential changes to how utility companies operate and function. This will allow the opportunity to improve productivity and ROI, all while enhancing customer experience and expectations. 

Reynolds Water Conditioning Co. was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Reynolds Water is delighted to provide the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. www.reynoldswater.com

The Benefits of Reverse Osmosis

Most homeowners choose a reverse osmosis system for their water filtration needs. Reverse osmosis works by forcing water across several layers of a semi-permeable membrane to catch contaminants. Particles that are caught are then flushed out of the system. This is a process in which dissolved inorganic solids (such as salts) are removed from a solution (such as water).

Key Benefits of a Reverse Osmosis System:

  • Improves Taste. When water is filtered with reverse osmosis (RO), it removes contaminants that could alter the taste and odor. Another benefit is texture and softness. Your water should look, taste, and feel refreshing. 
  • Saves Money. With a RO system, you can stop purchasing cases of bottled water and discontinue water delivery. This will save you a lot of money and cost you only pennies per gallon for better tasting water.
  • Helps the Environment. Drinking water from your own kitchen facet cuts down on plastic bottles that can end up in landfills. For every six bottles of water purchased, Americans on average, only recycle one of them.   
  • Easy Maintenance. The simplicity of RO systems cannot be underestimated. Surprisingly, these systems are straightforward to clean, fix, and service. There are very few moving parts; thus, identifying and replacing parts is relativity easy.
  • Removes Impurities. Reverse osmosis removes a plethora of pollutants from water. The common contaminants that a RO can eliminate are nitrates, pesticides, sulfates, fluoride, bacteria, pharmaceuticals, arsenic, and much more. The carbon filter within the RO system will also remove chlorine and chloramines. 

Reverse osmosis is an effective and affordable way to improve the health, taste, odor, and overall quality of your water. Read more about reverse osmosis here

Tips on Keeping Your Water Softener Running Efficiently

There are plenty of things that can go wrong with your water softener over time, and regular maintenance is a must if you want to ensure that your unit works consistently. Below are a few common issues with water softeners and some tips that will help you make your softener work more efficiently and last longer.

Avoid Salt Bridges and Salt Mushing: 

A salt bridge occurs when a hard crust forms in the brine tank and creates a space between the water and the salt. This prevents the salt from dissolving into the water to make the brine. You may notice an issue if your salt tank appears full, but your water seems hard. The best way to tell if you have a salt bridge is to take the end of a broom handle and press against the top of the salt wall. If the top of the salt collapses inwards, then you have a salt bridge.

Salt Mushing:

This is the more serious of the two issues and happens when dissolved salt recrystallizes to form sludge at the bottom of the tank. The thick layer of salt at the bottom keeps the water softener from properly cycling through the regeneration process and leaves the water hard and blocking the rest of the tank filtration. Salt mushing is probably the cause of hard water if you already tested for bridging. 

Be Selective with Your Salt Choice:

There are three basic types of water softener salts available for softeners: rock, solar, and evaporated. Rock salt, the least expensive of the three, contains higher levels of insoluble minerals or impurities and can muddy your tank over time, decreasing the softening elements. The second option is solar salt, which is more soluble than rock salt, is obtained by the evaporation of seawater, and is found in both pellet and crystal form. The last option is evaporated salt and is obtained through a combination of mining and evaporation and is the purest form of salt at 99.99% sodium chloride. 

By periodically checking your water softener, you can keep it running smoothly with little to no hard water occurring. Read more on other tips to ensure you have a fully functional water softener system here