A water softener is a filtering device that removes calcium and magnesium in hard water, thus lessening its hardness.The ProblemHard water is a problem for many households because it deposits lime scale in the plumbing fixtures, heating systems, dishwashers etc, resulting in them being clogged up.Some people end up having to spend a lot of money getting the affected household appliances fixed.In addition, soaps and detergents don’t lather well in hard water. They leave a white chalky scum or water spots on whatever is being rinsed. Hair shampooed in hard water becomes rougher and harder to untangle.A possible solution to this problem is to get a home water softener.How Do Water Softeners Work?They work by exchanging the hardness minerals in the water, mainly calcium and magnesium, for sodium or potassium. This exchange takes place in the mineral tank, where the water is passed over beads, effectively making the water less hard.The displaced sodium and potassium is stored in the brine tank and then passed through a drain. A control valve, which is operated by a timer or computer meter, cleans the system by controlling the flow of water through the mineral and brine tanks.Water Softener BenefitsSignificantly reduces lime scaling of pipes, taps pots, kettles and tubs.Less soap and detergent is needed to wash your clothes and dishes. These items noticeable cleaner after rinsingYour body feels smoother and cleaner after bathing.Cons:Expensive to operate. They can waste about 120 gallons of water for every 1,000 delivered.If you have hypertension/high blood pressure and have to reduce your salt intake (sodium), DO NOT drink softened water. It is much higher in salt due to the softening process.Soft water is neither healthy nor desirable for drinking. Even more so, when it is heated, it absorbs more lead and other contaminants from your pipes, than when it is hard.AlternativesThere are salt free water softeners that regenerate with a potassium chloride salt substitute rather than sodium.You could also use a reverse osmosis or a distillation system, which strips sodium and other minerals from your water.More controversial is the magnetic water softener system. This uses an electronic or magnetic field to change the condition of water to one where hardness cannot develop.However, a study commissioned by the Water Quality Association as well as statements from many respected publications reveal that these systems don’t work as claimed.WarningThirty-four states have a partial ban on the sale of regenerative house water softeners. Furthermore, regional water agencies have been putting pressure on the authorities to order the mandatory removal of softeners from people’s homes.These water agencies assert that the large amounts of salt that pass from these systems into the sewers, compromises the recycling of water and affects plant life.Therefore, before you buy any water softener, consult your local water board to see if this restriction is applicable to your area.Also, bear in mind that a softening system isn’t a drinking water filter. Therefore, it isn’t designed to remove heavy metals, chlorine and other contaminants. Get a whole house water filter or a countertop filter for this purpose.