What Is A Water Softener?

A Water Softener is a filtration system that works to remove high concentrations of calcium and magnesium that cause hard water. When water flows through a Water Softener, the system filters out these hard water minerals, and the softened water then leaves the water softening system to flow through plumbing.

What Is Hardness In Water?

Hard water contains high concentrations of minerals, namely calcium and magnesium. Because of their chemical structure, both calcium and magnesium bond easily with other types of metals. Over time these bonds build up into something you can actually see, for example, the crusty residue on your shower head!

In fact, that’s how “hard water” got its name, from the hardened mineral deposits this kind of water leaves behind. Over time these deposits can accumulate, clog, or even corrode pipes and cause major plumbing problems. Hard water deposits can build up in boilers and hot water heaters, making them less efficient and more expensive to use.

To make a long story short, hard water can leave lasting, negative effects on every surface it runs on, over or through.

How Does A Water Softener Work?

Believe it or not, Water Softeners are a lot like magnets. In a traditional bar magnet, one end is “positive” and the other is “negative.” So, let’s say you have two bar magnets and try to make both positive ends connect. What happens? They repel each other. No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to get them to connect. But, what happens when you try connecting the positive end of one with the negative end of the other? They immediately connect, SNAP!

The fact that positive and negative things attract is the basic idea of how Water Softeners work.

Calcium and magnesium, the two key culprits of hard water, are both positively charged molecules. And, as the hard water pumps through the softening system, it passes through a filter filled with negatively charged resin beads. Just like with the magnets, as the hard water moves through the resin beads—opposites attract. SNAP!

And, this idea also applies when the system regenerates (aka, cleans) itself. During regeneration, water and salt (positively charged) flushes through the resin beads. Thinking back to the magnet example, the positive charges in the salt, calcium, and magnesium all repel each other. The calcium and magnesium detach from the resin beads and drain out along with all the salty water.

How Do You Know If You Need A Water Softener?

Look around your home for some of the most common hard water signs:

There are also ways to professionally test for hard water. Contact your local Culligan dealer to find out more.

What Is Reverse Osmosis (RO)?

Reverse osmosis is a process that removes foreign contaminants, solid substances, large molecules and minerals from water by using pressure to push it through specialized membranes. It is a water purification system used to improve water for drinking, cooking and other important uses.

How Does Reversed Osmosis (RO) Work?

As its name implies, RO takes osmosis, a natural process that occurs in every cell-based organism—plants, animals and even people—and reverses it.

To understand reverse osmosis, you first need to know – what is osmosis? During regular osmosis, a diluted solution passes through a semipermeable membrane and flows into a more concentrated one. Example: When your fingers become “prune-y” after swimming in the ocean. Through osmosis, the water in our bodies passes through our skin, out to the water around us.

Now, here’s how reverse osmosis works:

How Does A Reverse Osmosis (RO) System Work?

Reverse osmosis is a method that can be applied to water filtration to help remove other minerals, substances, molecules and impurities from the water that runs throughout your house. RO systems vary depending on brand and design, but in general, they perform the following functions: pre-filtration, reverse osmosis, drainage and storage.

Here are the steps of water filtration through a reverse osmosis drinking water system:

Step 1: Pre-Filtration

The system connects to drinking water lines and uses a high-pressure pump to propel feed water through. Feed water passes through a series of filters, usually carbon-based, designed to “catch” sediment and mineral deposits before flowing into the reverse osmosis chamber.

Step 2: Reverse Osmosis

Here, the feed water is pushed through the semipermeable membrane.

Think of the membrane as a tightly woven piece of fabric—one that looks virtually impermeable to the naked eye. To give you an idea of how stringent the membrane is, the diameter of a strand of human hair is roughly 100 microns wide. But, in Culligan RO Systems, the spaces in the membrane are approximately ONE micron wide.

Step 3 + 4: Drainage & Storage

The system drains out all contaminants not caught in filters at each stage, and treated water is stored in a small tank until used.

What Are Common Contaminants Removed By Reverse Osmosis (RO)?

A high-performing RO system can remove up to 99% of dissolved contaminants found in feed water. These common water contaminants include:

  • Salts
  • Particles
  • Colloids: oil and fat-based molecules
  • Organic bacteria
  • Pyrogens: protein-based substances produced by bacteria that cause fevers when introduced into the human body

What Are PFAS?

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that include Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA). These elements have a negative effect on the health of those exposed to them. Used as early as the 1940s, PFAS were once thought of as beneficial because of their ability to repel fire, water, oil and stains. Since PFAS functioned as great repellents, companies used them to produce a variety of products, including:

  • Stain- and water-resistant fabrics
  • Non-stick products
  • Polishes
  • Waxes
  • Paints
  • Cleaning products
  • Fire-fighting foams

Many companies began phasing out the production of PFAS in 2000. However, these chemicals continue to have a residual impact on the environment today as they have polluted the air, soil and water. PFAS contamination is still found in water supplies across North America. Learn more about PFAS, how you could be exposed to them and what you can do to help protect your family below.

How Are We Exposed To PFAS?

There are three major ways in which you can still be exposed to PFAS today, including:

Household Products Containing PFAS

Using or disposing of products that contain PFAS can lead to exposure. PFAS sources can include:

  • Non-stick cookware
  • Stain-resistant apparel, textiles, leather or carpets
  • Paper and packaging materials

PFAS In Food Packaging

You can be exposed to small amounts of PFAS by ingesting food that has been contaminated by being:

  • Packaged in material containing PFAS
  • Processed with equipment that used PFAS
  • Grown in contaminated water or soil

PFAS In Water

Small amounts of PFAS can accumulate in your body over time. PFAS water contamination is typically associated with areas in close proximity to a specific facility, for example:

  • An industrial site where PFAS were used to manufacture other products
  • Locations used for firefighting, such as oil refineries and airfields, often have contaminated water supplies, since PFAS were heavily used in fire-fighting foams

How do PFAs affect your health?

According to the EPA, PFAS health effects may include:

  • Developmental delays
  • Reproductive health issues
  • Neuroendocrine issues affecting the kidneys and liver
  • Cancer
  • Thyroid imbalances
  • Cardiovascular concerns

If you’re concerned about PFAS in your water supply, request information from your water board and ask for a Consumer Confidence Report for your records.

Environmental Risks

How has the creation of these chemicals affected our environment? PFAS were released into the air, soil, and water. Consequently, the chemicals also leaked into water supplies, which has led the United States Health Department and Health Canada to release health advisories for PFOS and PFOA.

The maker of Post-Its, 3M, a primary manufacturer of PFOS, voluntarily began phasing out the use of the chemical in 2000. Eight additional product manufacturers followed suit in 2008, agreeing to completely eliminate using PFOS and PFOA by 2015.

In 2006, Canada made moves to address the issues of PFOS and PFOA in the environment. HealthCanada created a risk-management strategy which prohibited the production, use, sale and import of PFOS. The federal institution also encouraged the country’s major international trading partners to eliminate the use of PFOS in their products. By 2012, PFOS and PFOA were added to the Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations.

However, since these chemicals do not easily break down, their long-lasting effects are still a concern for homes, the environment and water supplies in North America today.