How is a water softener constructed?

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Water softeners have become a key component of many domestic and industrial water systems. Their role in eliminating excessive water hardness is undeniable, but how exactly do these devices work? It is impossible to answer this question without understanding their complex but ingenious structure. In this article, we will examine how a water softener is built, breaking it down into its smallest components. From the pressure cylinder and ion exchange resin, through the control head and distribution pipe, to the floats and overflow elbows, you will learn about every important component of this device. The purpose of this article is to provide readers with technical knowledge that will help them understand how exactly water softeners function.

Pressure cylinder

The pressure cylinder, also called the pressure tank, is one of the key elements in a water softener. Its main function is to store water under pressure, enabling effective and even distribution of water through the softening bed. The cylinder usually contains ion exchange resins, which are responsible for the ion exchange process. The pressure in the cylinder is kept constant, ensuring that every molecule of water flowing through the softener is effectively purified. Pressure cylinders are usually made of durable materials such as stainless steel or fiberglass, which are resistant to corrosion and other forms of wear. It is also worth noting that the dimensions and capacity of the pressure cylinder may vary depending on the needs and size of the installation, which means that they can be used both in single-family homes and in large industrial installations.

Distribution pipe

The distribution pipe is a key element of every water softener. This is usually a narrow pipe placed inside a pressurized cylinder that is used to guide water through the softening bed. Its task is to evenly distribute water over the entire surface of the bed to ensure an effective ion exchange process. Improper operation of the distribution pipe may result in improper water softening and increased salt consumption.

Lower basket and upper basket

The upper and lower baskets, mounted on the distribution pipe in the water softener, play an important role in maintaining proper water flow through the system. The upper basket allows proper distribution of water to the softening bed, protecting the ion exchange resins against movement and possible damage. The lower basket, in turn, ensures a constant and even flow of water during the regeneration process, enabling effective removal of contaminants from the bed. Both of these parts are usually made of corrosion- and chemical-resistant plastics, which guarantees their long life. Their proper operation is crucial to maintaining the efficiency of the softener, and improper installation or damage to one of the baskets can negatively affect the entire system. Therefore, it is recommended to check and clean the baskets regularly as part of routine service.

Ion exchange resin

Ion exchange resin is the main ingredient of a water softener, responsible for removing hard water-forming ions, such as calcium and magnesium, replacing them with sodium ions. There are two main types of resins: polyspherical and monospherical. Polyspherical resin, as the name suggests, consists of unevenly shaped granules of various sizes. It is usually cheaper and more common, but its uneven structure can lead to lower efficiency and shorter service life.

In turn, monospherical resin is a more technologically advanced product, containing granules of uniform size and shape. Thanks to this, it offers higher efficiency and longer service life because it minimizes the risk of blockages and mechanical damage. It also tends to be more resistant to chemicals, making it more sustainable through the ion exchange process. Choosing between these two options depends on your specific needs and budget, but both types of resins are effective at softening water.

Control head

The control head is one of the most important elements in a water softener, acting as the brain of the entire system. It controls the flow of water through the softener, initiates regeneration cycles and ensures proper distribution of water in the resin bed. Modern control heads are often equipped with advanced programming functions, allowing you to adjust the softener's operation to the individual needs of your home or facility. They may also include different operating modes, such as salt or water saving mode, and diagnostic functions. Thanks to them, the softener works not only more effectively, but also economically, which is an additional advantage for the user. Choosing the right control head is crucial for the optimal operation of the device, so it is worth paying attention to its functionality and compatibility with other system elements.


The float is located in the brine chamber (brine tank) and acts as a brine level sensor, controlling the amount of brine during the regeneration process. As the brine level drops during this cycle, the float activates the mechanism for feeding water into the chamber, allowing the appropriate amount of salt to dissolve, creating the brine needed to regenerate the resin. Thanks to this, the softener is able to effectively remove unwanted calcium and magnesium ions from the water. If the float fails or becomes blocked, brine or water may overflow, emphasizing its importance in the entire system.

Overflow elbow

The overflow elbow is a small component in the water softening system that protects against overfilling the brine chamber. It is usually a simple piece made of plastic, placed at a strategic point in the brine chamber. Its main function is to allow excess water or brine to be discharged into the sewage system when control mechanisms such as the float fail. Thanks to this, the overflow elbow protects not only the softener, but also the room in which it is installed against possible flooding. This protection is typically designed to operate automatically, requires no user intervention, and minimizes the risk of failure due to mechanical or human error.

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