In many places, water contains minerals such as calcium and magnesium. The presence of these positively-charged ions makes it harder for other materials with like charges (including soap) to dissolve in the water. This produces unpleasant effects such as scum, scaling on the inside of the pipes (and which could lead to clogging), and even corrosion. To address this problem, water softeners are used. In simplest terms, water softeners work by displacing the calcium and magnesium with sodium ions. However, there may be times when your water softener breaks down or starts to lose efficiency: how can you tell if your water softener is still working properly?
- Test for the hardness of the water. You can buy a kit for this at any local hardware store. Just follow instructions carefully, but one such test will have you placing a small amount of water in a vial. Then, you will apply chemical onto the water; if the water is “soft” then the water should turn blue; if it’s hard it should turn a particular shade of pink. If the water turned pink, you will then apply drops of another chemical to the water until it turns blue. The number of drops you have to apply before it turns blue will tell you the degree of hardness of your water (or more accurately, each drop represents one grain of hardness). One such test that you could purchase is the Pro-Lab Water Quality Do-It-Yourself test kit.
- Try out an easy test with household materials. An alternative to commercial water testing kits is to make your own test. First, get a bottle with a cap and fill it up with a half cup of water. Add about 10 drops of liquid dish washing detergent and shake it well. Observe whether the solution foams up quickly; if it does, this means that your water is soft; however, if it creates a soapy film then this means that the water is hard and your water softener may not be working properly.
- Look for tell-tale signs. There are little clues that will let you know if your water softener is still doing its job. You’d know that your water is turning hard once again if your soap doesn’t lather well, if you have rust-colored stains on your clothes, your white clothes begin to look dingy, and there is crusty sediment on your bathroom fixtures. Other tell-tale signs include the following: if your skin feels dry after bathing, if the water leaves spots on glasses and if you find that your hair is still sticky even after you rinse it.
- Know some of the common reasons why a water softener isn’t working. One of these common reasons is that the salt may have been encrusted in the brine tank, or in the area between the resin tank and mineral tank. If this is the case, simply wash these parts with soap and water, rinse well, and dry thoroughly. You may also need to use a brush in order to thoroughly get rid of the salt encrustation.
- Have your water checked by a certified water testing laboratory. To be absolutely sure about the level of hardness of your water, you could have a sample checked by a water testing lab in your area. Check out this listing of some water testing laboratories.
You could also have your water softener checked by a technician. Check to see if your water softener is still under warranty, and have it checked to see if it is still performing under maximum efficiency.
Remember, it really pays to make sure that your water softener is working properly, so that you could avoid major problems in the future. Good luck, and hope this helped!