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Water that has come in contact with limestone and other sediments often becomes ionized. It absorbs calcium and magnesium minerals, which react with soap, hindering its ability to lather and causing the formation of unsightly bathtub rings. This type of water is referred to as "hard water." In addition to buildup on bathroom fixtures and sinks, calcium and magnesium carbonates also build up in pipes, especially in heat exchangers. This phenomenon not only results in higher domestic heating costs, but it gradually destroys pipes and household machinery such as laundry machines as well.
Water softeners can remove the calcium and magnesium from water, and they are used in various industries, as well as in many homes. Conventional water softeners for home use consist of zeolite or an iron exchanging resin in a tank in which "hardness" ions trade places with sodium and chloride ions. When the zeolite or resin becomes exhausted, washing with a strong salt water solution may regenerate it. A water softener can last for many years, and it is often a worthwhile investment for protecting water pipes and machinery.
Water softeners should be installed by a water treatment systems professional, and they should be located in an easy-to-reach area where salt can be added without difficulty.
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