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Hard water enters your home via the mains water pipe and travels to the water softener where it passes through a tank filled with specially formulated resin beads which are permanently sealed inside the tank.
This tank is where the actual process of softening occurs. The resin beads are coated with sodium ions, as the hard water passes through, the limescale is attracted to the sodium ions and exchanges places with it. As the limescale clings to the resin, the now softened water exits the tank and flows throughout the plumbing in your home.
Eventually the resin beads become saturated with limescale and cannot attract any more limescale; it is at this point that the tank of resin must be cleaned out ‘regenerated’ (rinsed clean).
In addition to the sealed tank of resin beads, a water softener will also have a brine tank, this is a tank which holds the salt along with a pre-determined amount of water.
When a water softener regenerates, brine (salt solution) from the brine tank is passed through the tank of resin beads which releases the limescale clinging to them; this is then flushed out of the system down your drain and it is then ready to start softening the incoming water again.
The regeneration process slowly dissolves the salt in the brine tank which will need replenishing regularly depending on how much water you use.