What Is Water Softener Resin?

If a water softener fails to soften water, it's usually not the fault of the resin, unless it hasn't been changed for several years.
Water softener resin eliminates calcium and magnesium ions, making water softer.
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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 15 December 2014
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A water softener system often is an integral part to homes that have particularly hard water that can stain sinks and break appliances over time. It typically is not necessary, but it is preferable to many who do not want to risk water stains and possibly clogged pipes. There are a few main parts to this type of system, and water softener resin is one of the most important. In fact, it is the main component of the system and largely is responsible for softening the water. It works by filtering out certain unwanted impurities.

Water softener resin makes hard water softer by eliminating magnesium and calcium ions from the water that is piped into the tank. It has a major role in each of the three processes that help make soft water. The resin typically is in the form of beads that carries a negative charge, and they are stored in the mineral tank in most water softeners.

To start the process, the resin is saturated with sodium ions. Water from the pipes then passes through the resin inside the mineral tank, and the magnesium and calcium ions stick to the resin. Meanwhile, the sodium from the water softener resin mixes with the hydrogen in the water.


The next phase also involves resin in a major role, except this time it is reversed. The job of the resin in this phase is to eliminate the magnesium and calcium ions that it previously captured, and hold onto the sodium ions that it eliminated in the first phase. Finally, in the third phase, some of the water is transferred to a different tank, called the brine tank, where it is rinsed and mixed with salt.

There are two main kinds of water softener resin. The fine mesh resin can trap myriad minerals like iron, which often evade other types of resin. This kind usually is used by those pulling their water from wells. On the other hand, hi-cap resin usually is best for typical homes in the city, which is why it can be found in most water softener systems.

Water softener resin usually lasts about 20 years. If a water softener fails to soften water, it typically is not the resin that is at fault unless it has not been changed in years. Often, the salt and general softener mechanism should be examined first to determine the issue. If neither of those is the problem, then it could be time to see if the water softener resin needs to be replaced.


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