What is water softening?
What is water softening?
Water softening is the removal of calcium and a few other minerals that can cause our working water to
damage household property. When it deposits as scale, calcium carbonate (limestone) is an abrasive
rock like mineral.
Why soften your water?
Calcium that is dissolved in water forms deposits that:
- Abrade and fray the threads in clothing
- Stick to clothing and other household products and appliances (You can feel the difference between towels that are new and those that have been repeatedly laundered in hard water. Those laundered in hard water ones are rough, the result of rock encrustations embedded in the fibers.)
- Spot dishes, faucets, sinks, toilets, cars, in fact all surfaces, with a microscopic film of limestone.
- Deposits buildup inside water pipes, heaters, and bathroom and kitchen fixtures.
- Gas water heaters used 29% less energy to heat water and electric water heaters used 21% less energy when operated on softened water according to a study done by New Mexico State University.
How can water be softened?
Presently there is only one practical way for homeowners to soften their water and that is through an ion exchange water softener, including portable exchange devices. Briefly here is how it works:
Ion exchange water softeners are filled with millions of tiny resin beads that attract and hold on to calcium. As the water passes through this resin “bed” the calcium is removed so it cannot harm your household goods.
What happens when the resin beads are full of calcium?
The resin bed is rinsed with dissolved salt, usually table salt. The dissolved salt scours the
calcium from the beads which prepares them to remove more calcium. This rinsing process takes place every few days, usually at night.
Are there other alternatives that remove calcium from the water?
Not that we are aware of at this time. Some other technologies can remove calcium but at a very high cost in energy or wasted water. Ion exchange water softening is the most cost efficient method to remove calcium.
What is product certification?
• Product certification is usually referred to as Conformity Assessment. This term is used to describe
steps taken by both manufacturers and independent third parties to determine fulfillment of
standards requirements. It involves testing products in a laboratory according to a standard
procedure and it also involves periodic audit inspections of the manufacturing facility to insure that
the product that was tested conforms to the ones currently being manufactured. The Water
Quality Association is an organization that is certified by the American National Standards Institute
for conformity assessment.
What is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and what is its role?
• The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has served in its capacity as administrator and
coordinator of the United States private sector voluntary standardization system for more than 90
• The Institute recognizes the competence of bodies to carry out product or personnel certification in
accordance with requirements defined in International Standards. ANSI’s accreditation programs
operate in accordance with international guidelines and have been verified by government and
peer review assessments.
• ANSI’s program for accrediting third‐party product certification have experienced significant growth
in recent years, and the Institute continues its efforts to obtain worldwide acceptance of accredited
certifications performed in the U.S.
• One of the best indicators of the strength of the U.S. system is the government’s extensive reliance
on, and use of, private sector voluntary standards. Pursuant to OMB Circular A119, federal
government agencies are required to use voluntary standards for regulatory and procurement
purposes when appropriate. State and local governments and agencies have formally adopted
thousands of voluntary standards produced by ANSI, and the process appears to be accelerating.
What is the Water Quality Association’s Gold Seal and what does it mean to consumers?
• The WQA Gold Seal is awarded only to products that have passed laboratory tests, literature
review, materials assessment, and have been submitted to periodic audits according to ANSI NSF
Standards (NSF stands for the National Sanitation Foundation, a standards writing body the
conforms with ANSI standards.)
What do the seals mean?
• Each technology is tested according to a different standard. Look at the seal to see which standard
the product was tested for. (See the picture of the seal with the references to the different
• To avoid confusion here are the basic standards with some clarifying notes:
o Standard 42 Drinking Water Treatment Units Aesthetic Effects. These products are certified
only for taste or odor or staining. No health claims have been certified for products tested
according to this standard.
o Standard 44 Cation exchange water softeners. These products are certified for the removal
of hardness (calcium). Some manufacturers have also had their softeners certified for the
removal of barium and radium.
o Standard 53 Drinking Water Treatment Units Health Effects.
These products are certified for the removal of specific health
contaminants. Look for the manufacturer’s listing of the
contaminants that were tested. Certified contaminant removal
claims can only be made for the listed contaminants on the
o Standard 55 Ultraviolet Microbiological Water Treatment Systems
o Standard 58 Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment Systems
o Standard 61 Drinking Water Treatment Components Health Effects. This standard insures
that the product itself does not impart health contaminants to the drinking water that
comes in contact with it. The other standards all require this kind of testing as part of their
certification. These are 42, 44, 53, 55, 58, and 62. Standard 61 testing does not include any
o Standard 62 Drinking Water Distillation Systems
o Standard 171 Shower Filtration Systems Aesthetic Effects
A full listing of all products that have been certified by WQA can be found on the WQA web site –