Close-up view of a compact water softening and filtration system. Universal home water softening system.

How to Soften Water in Shower

Hard water deposits cause a build-up of calcium, lime, and rust. Typically these are very difficult to remove and can cause clogs and stains in water systems such as showers and toilets. Today, I will explain how to make shower water soft.

Overall, a water softener, or water conditioner should be installed before the hot water cylinder and the shower. A water softener is a special tank that removes hard water deposits from water. A water conditioner stops hard water deposits from sticking to surfaces but does not remove them.

Below, I will explain what a water softener is, how it works, and why it’s the only good option to soften water in a shower.

How a Water Softener for a Shower Works

Hard water is typically supplied directly from the municipal water supply. Whether your water is hard or soft is simply a matter of luck, and is determined by the geography of the region where you live. 

There are two very good options for hard water. These are a water conditioner, and a water softener. Another option is a large reverse osmosis machine. They do also work well, however, they are much more expensive than the other options so aren’t recommended.

A water softener works well but is reasonably expensive. It costs around $2,000 to $5,000. Whereas, a water conditioner is much cheaper. Therefore, overall typically a water conditioner is the best option. With that said, a water softener is an OK option. Here’s how a water softener works.

How a water softener works

It’s possible to remove the hard water deposits from water for a shower, and for any other areas of your home. This is done with a machine called a water softer.

Here’s a really good video that explains it:

The long and short of it is that it has special plastic particles in the water softener tank. It’s hooked up before the fixture where the water will go. For example, it’s installed so that the water enters the water softener before the water goes into a shower or toilet.

In the water softener tank are special plastic beads. These have been designed to have a specific electrostatic charge. The electrostatic charge attracts the particles that make water ‘hard’. 

The plastic particles are then cleaned by the water softener so that the hard water deposits fall to the bottom of the water softener, and are taken out with the wastewater. The softened water flows from the water softener into the water supply lines.

Softened water enters the hot water cylinder

Therefore, when the hot water enters the hot water tank, it will be already softened. It will then go from the hot water tank to the shower. 

The same is true for the cold water supply lines. Exactly how the water connects to your shower depends on the type of shower valve you have. But, typically requires a plumber to connect up a water softener for your home.

Water softeners come in different sizes. They can be large ones that will soften water for your whole home. Small ones for just one part of the house such as a toilet or hot water cylinder/shower. And medium-sized ones that can soften enough water for a few different fixtures such as a toilet AND a shower/hot water cylinder.

Issues with a water softener:

  • Expensive
  • Produces salt in the water, so you need an additional reverse osmosis machine

How a water conditioner works and why it’s better than a water softener

A water conditioner is a device that is installed into the plumbing. It has many different magnets along its length that have positive and negative charges. These alter the chemical charge of the hard water molecules in the water. This causes the hard water molecules such as calcium to not stick to each other and cause a build-up.

As you may know in chemistry, two atoms will bond together if they have opposing charges, a positive, and negative charge. If the charges are the same, they repel each other. Because the charge on hard water molecules in the water is changed they no longer stick together and cause hard water deposits.

The main benefits of a water conditioner over a water softener are:

  • It’s less expensive – under $500 rather than many thousands of dollars
  • It works perfectly well and doesn’t produce salt in the water

How Do You Convert Hard Water to Soft Water for Bathing

Many people love to take a bath because it’s good not only for cleaning the body but also for stress relief, and feeling relaxed. Hard water in a bath can build up, and some people are concerned hard water is bad for the skin. So, here’s how you convert hard water to soft water for bathing.

As a general rule, you need to use a water-softer machine or a water conditioner attachment for your pipes. Conventional water filters are ineffective at removing hard water. Reverse osmosis can also work, however, it’s the most expensive, and doesn’t offer any additional benefits.

These are installed before the faucet for a bath. Therefore, you can simply fill the bath as you normally would, and it will contain dramatically less hard water deposits.

How To Remove Hard Water Deposits From a Shower

Hard water deposits will continue to come back over and over again if your water is hard. While it is easy to clean off with the right products, it can eventually clog pipes and fixtures. This is what works to remove hard water deposits from a shower.

Overall, vinegar works very well to remove hard water deposits from a shower. Often hard water deposits can be mixed with soap residue. Soap residue comes off easiest with isopropyl alcohol. So, a liquid mixture of vinegar and isopropyl alcohol works very well for showers.

A mixture of that is about 20% vinegar will work well to remove hard water deposits. Here’s a video that shows how well this vinegar and isopropyl alcohol work:

For the shower head itself, you can soak it in vinegar. There are also well-known products like CLR, that can work to unclog a shower head that has hard water deposits.

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