As mentioned on other pages, water softener systems are used as hard water solutions because hard water can damage your plumbing due to the high mineral density in addition to making it harder to actually do simple tasks that require water such as cleaning dishes.
Their are multiple types of water softening systems to deal with this problem and most of these have their own ups and downs. The most used method which is the focus of this website is by using a water softener machine that uses salt. This is widely used because it is by far the cheapest solution. Another often used solution is by using a reverse osmosis water softener which will extract the minerals that cause hard water by basically using magnets. Keep in mind that none of these methods are perfect. While reverse osmosis, sometimes called an electronic water softener, produces drinkable water it is often critiqued that it has a low mineral count. It is also usually the most expensive method and wastes a lot of water while producing drinkable water. On the other hand, a water softener salt system is less expensive but keep in mind you might need a separate cold water line for drinking or cooking water since if you have to use a very hard water softener it might be hazardous to consume water with such high sodium proportions. Another alternative for your drinking water is to simply buy bottled water . Some states in the US also ban certain types of water softeners based around salt so you would have to look into getting a saltless water softener system.
The water softener system should be installed where the water line enters the home.
A water softening system that uses salt will add sodium to the water, specifically by recharging the water softener resin, and reduce/eliminate the concentration of calcium and magnesium that creates the hard water problem.
A more scientific explanation on how do water softeners work is that the calcium and magnesium ions are replaced by sodium ions. As the water passes through a bed of small plastic beads, also called the resin, the magnesium and calcium ions are attracted to these beads and “stick” to it. The sodium ions are then released by these beans and replace the calcium and magnesium as the water passes. Over time the beads will need to be replaced or regenerated by having more salt added to them and cleaning the water softener machine to get rid of all the calcium and magnesium.
Water softener systems work but keep in mind the advantages/disadvantage behind all of them, whether you choose a salt based system or one of the other salt free water softener systems. If your willing to go on the more expensive side of choices you might want to consider a system such as the kinetico water softeners which seem much more environmentally friendly and do not even require any outside electricity to run! Kinetico water softener systems can also be used with potassium chloride so you can then have a saltless water softener system. Another system for those who do not have “very hard” water is using the previously mentionned osmosis/electronic water softener that uses magnets to remove the hard water minerals.
If you think shopping for one of the many options of water softener systems is overkill than you might want to try out a calgon water softener which are not actually a “system” and more of a inexpensive product that you mix with your dishes and detergents so you can actually wash your dishes despite having hard water. The calgon water softener products are most useful if you don’t really worry about your plumbing and simply want to be able to effectively wash your dishes.