When water is referred to as hard this means it contains more minerals, greater than 4 GPG (grains per gallon) of dissolved minerals (usually calcium, magnesium carbonate, and/or manganese), the degree of hardness of the water increases with more dissolved minerals. Magnesium and calcium are positively charged ions; due to their presence other positively charged ions will dissolve less easily in hard water than in water that does not contain calcium and magnesium. This is the cause of the fact that soap doesn't really dissolve in hard water.
Hard water is usually measured in either PPM (parts per million) or GPG (grains per gallon). 17.1 PPM or Mg/L = 1 GPG or PPM or Mg/L divided by 17.1 = GPG (grains per gallon)
Softening your water greatly reduces the scaling of pipes, faucets, pots, glasses, tubs, etc. Less laundry soap, dishwashing soap, hand soap and soaps in general are required because they lather so much better in soft water. The water is more pleasant to wash with and there is less soap scum.
Yes. A household water softener removes the hardness minerals from water and replaces them with a minimal amount of sodium.
No. Salt's sole purpose in your water softener is to regenerate the resin beads that actually take the hardness out of your water. This exchange does not make your water taste salty or significantly increase your sodium intake.
The answer to this question really depends on how much hardness is in the water to begin with. The softener will add about two times the initial measurement of the water hardness in mg of sodium to the water, therefore the harder the water, the more sodium you'll have added to the final product. GPG hardness x 2 = mg of sodium in an 8 oz glass of water, more or less. In other words, if your water test tells you that you have 18 grains per gallon hardness, installing a water softener will add about 35 milligrams of sodium to each 8 oz. glass of water you drink. To put this in perspective, a tablespoon of Ketchup has 204 mg. of sodium and a slice of whole wheat bread has 211. FYI: Filters don't remove sodium from water, but reverse osmosis units do
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