The origin of the term “hard water” can be traced back to the time when detergents were invented. It was during this time that people found sometimes more detergent or soap is required to create lather and clean. It was also noted that water from certain locations or sources needed more soap and thus it was called hard water.
Basically water hardness is the result of dissolved chemicals and minerals. Mainly calcium and magnesium are responsible for the hardness of water although iron and other dissolved chemicals also alter the water to a great extent. Carbonates of calcium and magnesium as well as sulfates of these two minerals cause hardness of water. When the water contains 180 ppm of mineral concentration then it is considered as very hard water and a level of 120 ppm of mineral concentration is called moderately hard water.
As is well known hard water is undesirable for domestic and commercial use as this water forms scales. Scale is the solid form of the dissolved minerals in water. As the temperature of the water rises some of the minerals present in water cannot remain dissolved in water and they solidify and this is what causes scale formation. Scale formation is seen inside of pipes, on the coils of boilers, on bathtubs, taps, faucets and showerheads as well as utensils. To avoid this pesky problem water softeners are used to make the water soft before using it. Generally water softeners use the ion exchange principle to make the water soft. A water softener has a resin bed which has beads that has high concentration of sodium chloride or potassium chloride. When water is passed over these resin beds sodium and potassium ions are released and they take the place of calcium and magnesium ions in water. Thus calcium and magnesium ions get trapped in the resin bed and the water turns soft. This is the tried and trusted method for softening. The only draw back is that the water contains excess salt, which may prove harmful for humans.
To tide over this problem some brilliant minds have tried various methods to reduce the hardness of water using other techniques. One such method is the use of high powered magnets. One or more powerful magnets are fitted on the pipes or the place from where water passes to alter the nature of water. Another idea tried is to use electric current in coils to create a powerful electro magnet and change the nature of water.
However it is noted that the change in behavior of the water is only subjective and no hardness forming minerals like calcium and magnesium is removed from the water. Only temporary change in water’s nature is attained and the hard water behaves like soft water. Since the dissolved minerals are not removed from water and continue to be present in it, such water if stored for more than 24 hours begins to turn hard once again, thus, defeating the very purpose of all this exercise.
It has been proved conclusively that no significant savings can be made using this type of water softener. It is beneficial only to those individuals who are forbidden from consuming sodium due to certain medical conditions. Such demineralized water does not taste as good as normal water.
Most electro magnetic water softeners do not perform as advertised and hence it is safe to assume that this technology has still some way to go and prove itself before we can accept it as an alternative to conventional salt based water softeners that use the trusted ion exchange principle.