How to Soften Water by Removing Calcium


Eliminating excessive amounts of calcium in your water supply can reduce clogging in water pipes, and the appearance of water spots. In large amounts, calcium affects how laundry detergents and cleaners work. Systems can vary in price from $60 to more than $3000, depending on household needs. The overall savings from plumbing repairs and cleaning products alone make a water-softener system an attractive home improvement project.

Things You'll Need

  • Water hardness test kit
  • Washing soda
  • Activated charcoal filter system (if needed)
  • Mechanical water softener system (if needed)
  • Reverse osmosis water filtration system (if needed)
  • Screwdrivers
  • Drill and various bits
  • Small adjustable wrenches
  • Plumbers cement
  • PVC pipe
  • Hacksaw

Testing Water Hardness

  • Purchase a water hardness testing kit. They can be found at any retail outlet that sells hot water heaters, such as Sears and Lowe's.

  • Fill the test vial with water from the tap. Do not pass the fill line on the side of the vial.

  • Add a drop of soap solution from the test package into the vial and shake it vigorously. If no soap suds are produced, continue testing. Add soap one drop at a time, stopping to shake vial between each drop. Take note of the number of soap drops needed to produce a decent amount of suds in the water vial.

  • Examine the chart included in the testing kit that compares the number of soap drops used with a water hardness number. Match the number of soap drops it took for your test vial to suds up with the equivalent number on the chart. The number of drops will correspond to a given hardness number. Ten and more grains-per-gallon is considered very hard water.

Using an Alkaline Laundry Additive

  • Load your washer normally and start the machine. Add half of the recommended amount of laundry detergent.

  • Mix 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of washing soda or borax. Reduce the amount to 1/4 cup for small loads.

  • Pour the mixture evenly over the laundry after the machine has filled completely. The rise in alkalinity will soften the water with less affect on the clothes.

  • Run clothes through the normal rinse and dry cycles. There should be a noticeable difference in their brightness and softness.

Installing an Activated Charcoal Water Filter

  • Shut off house water main. It is normally located in the basement, or at the outside rear of the house.

  • Locate a workable spot for the filter unit. They are often placed under the kitchen sink. Carefully follow instructions for the model of filter unit purchased; most will require hacksawing a portion of the water line for filter placement. Run a hose from the open water line to the entrance port of the filter unit. Run a second hose from the exit port of the unit to the other open end of the water line. The goal is to have the untreated water running through the filter and on to the faucet.

  • Place the filter cartridge into the top of unit and close the lid.

  • Turn the water main on and let the water run for a few minutes. This will get all air out of the lines.

Installing a Permanent Mechanical Water Softener

  • Find a location to install the water softener that is dry, has drain access, an electrical outlet and maintains a constant temperature. Do not place the water softener where there will be direct sunlight or a chance of freezing temperatures.

  • Turn off the home water main.

  • Place the tank in what will be its permanent position and fill it with salt or potassium pellets (if not pre-filled).

  • Install the bypass valve and inlet/outlet water connection according to the instruction manual for the model of softener being installed. This will require cutting a section of the water line free with a hacksaw, or similar tool. Add the hoses for inlet and outlet lines using clamps and plumbing sealant. Inlet/outlet lines and a bypass valve are included with the softener unit.

  • Connect the water softener control valve and the brine tank using the included brine tubing. Different models can vary slightly in installation. Follow instruction guide carefully.

  • Connect the brine overflow to the drain using the included 5/8-inch tubing. If there is a measurable distance from the location of the overflow and the drain, simply purchase the needed length of 1 1/2-inch PVC pipe. Slide in the 5/8-inch brine tubing onto the 1 1/2-inch PVC drain pipe.

  • Turn on the water, plug the water softener into an electrical outlet and program the control. Run the softener unit through a backwash cycle and check for leaks. Monitor a full cycle to be sure it is operating properly.

Installing a Reverse-Osmosis Water Filter System

  • Turn off the home water main.

  • Locate or drill a hole in the sink area to place the treated water dispenser. The installation instructions for the reverse-osmosis system will provide exact dimensions for the hole.

  • Use a saddle valve to tap into the cold water line under the sink. Drill a superficial starting hole in the water line and attach the saddle valve, which screws on. Tap the pipe by twisting the valve into the water line in a clockwise motion.

  • Check the clearance from the cabinet, disposal and filter unit before attaching to the wall with screws. Make sure there is enough room to change filters when needed.

  • Measure a length of plastic tubing that will run from the saddle valve to the inlet port of the filter unit. Screw the end onto the saddle valve and tighten it with a small wrench. Press the other end into the compression fitting. Hand tighten and go another one and a half turns clockwise with a small wrench.

  • Measure another piece of plastic tubing to run from the outlet port of the filter unit to the dispenser. Insert both ends into compression fittings and thread nuts onto both the dispenser and system outlet port.

  • Turn on the water and let it run for a few minutes. This will flush air out of the water lines.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep replacement filters and salts on hand to keep the system up and running.
  • Find suitable systems that you can install yourself to save on plumbing fees.
  • Do not use treated water on plants, gardens and lawns because the sodium from an ion exchange filter will kill them.
  • Sodium ion softened water can also ruin septic systems.
  • Follow label instructions when using laundry additives.

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  • Photo Credit Images courtesy of Photobucket photo pool.
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