How to Soften Hard Water at Home (7 Easy Steps)

Hard water contains minerals like calcium and magnesium in dissolved form- usually in a high amount compared to other minerals. While hard water isn’t a health concern, and in fact, it is beneficial to our health, there are many reasons why you should soften hard water.

Hard water can be an inconvenience because of the minerals it contains, which can clog drains, stain clothing, tiles, and leave unsightly residue on hair and skin. If you wonder how to soften hard water and save yourself the trouble of costly plumbing repairs, you will find the most effective methods for softening hard water here.

The good news is that homeowners don’t have to sweat it out when removing the sodium content in their water. There are several straightforward methods to eliminate hard water problems without incurring extra costs or requiring special skills. You can do it pretty quickly in the comfort of your home.

Let’s get right into it!

How to soften hard water

how to soften hard water at home
How to soften hard water at home

Water hardness is a major problem for many homeowners across America. According to the US Geological Survey, states such as Florida, Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona have very hard water. States such as California, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio have moderately hard water.

When we are talking about hard water, we are referring to untreated water. Most water utility facilities treat hard water to regulate the level of hardness and softness to ensure they provide you with water that is not too hard nor too soft.

If you are not sure whether your water is hard or not, several indicators show you may have hard water.

  • Less efficient soap- minerals in hard water significantly affect the lathering quality of the water. Soap and shampoo end up forming scum, which can leave ugly stains on your laundry
  • Higher energy bills- energy bills skyrocket as the appliances work harder because of the limescale.
  • Reduced water flow- since the mineral build-up easily clogs pipes and spouts, you will start to notice reduced water flow
  • Dry skin and hair- hard water causes your hair to become dry and difficult to style. Your skin also becomes dry because of the mineral deposits.

Ion exchange

Ion exchange is the most effective method for softening hard water and can be applied to your whole house. Ion exchange resins are used to soften water that has permanent hardness as well as temporary hardness. Ion exchange systems usually come with two tanks- resin tank and brine tank.

Some systems come with dual tanks to help reduce downtime during regeneration.

Hard water enters the system through the resin tank. In the resin tank, water comes in contact with salt-covered resin beads. This is where the ion exchange process begins. Magnesium and Calcium ions, which are the hard water ions, are exchanged with potassium and sodium ions, salt ions.

Essentially, salt ions and hardness ions are exchanged for one another.

In some cases where there is a large amount of water that needs to be treated with the system, the beads may become saturated with the hardness ions. This can reduce effectiveness unless the beads in the brine tank are recharged. 

Template assisted crystallization (TAC) or Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC)

Both TAC and NAC soften hard water without the use of salt. They are a safer option than ion-exchange and will not affect people with cardiovascular issues. TAC and NAC systems are salt-free softeners. This means that they don’t actually remove hard water minerals from the water but instead change the mineral form to attach to any surface. They are more like water conditioners.

Water with mineral hardness passes through the TAC system, where the minerals are transformed into a crystal. If you test the water hardness before and after the treatment, you will get the same result, albeit there will be no limescale build-up or mineral residue.

TAC and NAC systems do not require electricity or water, or salt to work. Water treated this way has magnesium and calcium, which is beneficial to your health, unlike ion-exchange, where salts replace these minerals.

Another benefit of TAC systems is that they are environmentally-friendly because they do not produce any waste and do not require water or energy to function. While the hardness will still be present, you will see less of the stains and marks caused by hard water.

Water softener

Magnetic or electronic water softeners are some of the new water softening systems. They work by plugging the softeners to an outlet connected to an indoor pipe where the water enters your house.

These softeners work by creating a magnetic field that affects the electromagnetic properties of the hard water. The carbonates repel each other and the pipe walls, which in turn prevents mineral build-up and formation of scale. Despite their simple mechanism of reducing hard water, Magnetic and electronic water softeners have received mixed reactions from homeowners regarding their effectiveness.

That said, these descalers are not meant to remove hardness ions like an ion-exchange system. They are intended to reduce mineral build-up by changing the electromagnetic properties of hard water minerals.

Chelation systems

A chelation system works in a similar way to a TAC system as a salt-free water conditioner. A chelating agent such as nitriloacetic acid is used. It causes mineral ions to be suspended in the water, resulting in less mineral build up and reduced scale formation.

This system won’t reduce hard minerals but prevent the build-up of minerals and limescale. A chelation system leaves the healthy minerals in the water while preventing clogging, scaling, and mineral build-up.

This salt-free system is ideal if you are on a low-sodium diet and will help keep you healthy. Chelation systems are not as effective as ion-exchange when it comes to water softening. You will still have some traces of hard water even after treatment.

Reverse Osmosis

While Reverse Osmosis (RO) is not explicitly a water softening method, it is still useful for removing impurities and hard water minerals. Water is passed through a series of extremely fine filters under immense pressure to filter out solid contaminants and calcium and magnesium ions at the molecular level.

Reverse osmosis is a perfect method if you want soft, pure water without chemicals and organic materials. You can only use RO systems at one point in your house unless you install multiple devices.

RO systems remove all the fine and nutritious minerals, which are vital for a healthy lifestyle. It is recommended not to use this method for a long term solution. You will also need to keep cleaning the filter at specific intervals. Remember that a dirty filter is worse than no filter at all.

How to soften hard water naturally with DIY hard water softener

If you are looking for how to soften hard water naturally without salt-free systems or ion exchange, you may want to use these DIY hard water softener methods.


The unpleasant taste of hard water can make drinking water hard to stomach. By merely boiling away the impurities, you can get rid of calcium minerals present in the water. After boiling, you will see white sediments gather at the bottom consisting of insoluble minerals. Using a drinking water filter, you can get rid of the impurities.

Using baking soda

Baking soda can soften hard water that has temporary hardness as well as permanent hardness. It doesn’t remove the minerals out of hard water, but it makes it softer to the touch. Softened water cleans and rinses better.

The bottom line: how to solve hard water problems

Many homes face the problem of hard water, which can be costly in the long run. Finding a permanent solution of how to soften hard water should not be expensive or inefficient. If it’s your first time looking for an immediate solution and wanting to get rid of hard water in your home, then ion-exchange is the most effective method.

But if you are looking for the best way to soften hard water without sacrificing the beneficial minerals, salt-free methods offer an excellent option. Installing a filter in most cases, like in your shower, will help you remove moderate water hardness at a cheaper cost.

Check out more DIY guides here.

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