Does the Berkey Soften Hard Water?
The Black Berkey filter, used in Berkey Systems, is not a water softener. Black Berkey filters are designed to purify drinking water while leaving beneficial minerals behind. The result is clean drinking water that is healthier and tastier than the entirely demineralized water that comes from reverse osmosis and distillation.
Although it is not a water softener, the Berkey can sometimes reduce the hardness of water. We do not recommend using your Berkey with a water softener, as it may prematurely clog the Black Berkey elements and reduce the lifespan of them. Berkey purification reduces acidity, so that the water cannot hold as many mineral ions in solution. The minerals then precipitate out of the water and form visible particles, in the bottom of your kettle, for example. A periodic rinse solves the issue.
For the same reason, you may occasionally find some mineral buildup in the lower chamber of the Berkey filter system. Rinsing in a mild vinegar solution eliminates any buildup. If you use the Water View spigot, you may notice some clouding of the sight-glass due to calcium accumulation. Simply empty the lower chamber and unscrew the aluminum housing that holds the sight-glass. Take care not to let the glass tube fall out and break. A soak in white vinegar will restore it to perfect clarity. Then you can rinse the sight-glass reinstall it in the tap.
Are you looking to soften your hard water? Learn more about removing minerals from your water (and why you might not want to).
As universal and essential as water is in our lives, we rarely interact with it in its most elemental state. Small variations on the universal theme of “Two Hydrogens and One Oxygen,” make every water source on earth unique. Water, it seems, is anything but Just Water.
The most talked-about difference between domestic water sources is what is known as its hardness. At first, it sounds like a bit of an oxymoron to use a word like, “hard,”for such a quintessentially formless and yielding substance, but hardness refers to a basic property of most water sources on earth. Below, you can read some more in-depth discussion of hard water, how it is managed, and what the Berkey Water Filter can do to make great drinking water.
The Basics of Water Hardness
When water falls to the earth as rain, it percolates through soil and rock on its way to our groundwater. As it flows, it dissolves and picks up small amounts of minerals. If these minerals happen to be calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, the water is referred to as, “Hard.” In fact, these minerals are so common that 85% of American homes have hard water. Water that is very low in mineral content is called, “Soft.” In general, hard water has very little noticeable effect, but there are some key differences between hard and soft water in terms of its taste, its utility for washing, and, possibly, its health benefits.
Hard Water Vs. Soft Water
As mentioned above, hard water contains calcium and magnesium. Sometimes, you can see the effects of these minerals when they leave behind a residue on plumbing, known as limescale or calcium scale.
Perhaps the most important difference between hard and soft water is its efficacy in cleaning with traditional soaps. Soap has the power to clean because it is a surfactant. Basically, a surfactant takes something that is not water soluble, like the grease and grime in your clothes or on your skin, and makes it water soluble. It can do this because it contains long, stringy molecules that have one end that is hydrophilic (it wants to bond with water) and another end that is hydrophobic (it wants to bond with oil and grease). The hydrophobic end grabs onto the greasy stuff and the hydrophilic end bonds with water. The grease is now water soluble and easily washes away.
Unfortunately, traditional soaps have a tendency to react with the calcium in hard water, producing calcium stearate- basically soap scum. For every molecule of soap that is wasted reacting with the calcium in hard water, there is one less molecule available to lather up and do its duty as a surfactant.
Soft water, on the other hand, tends to make a more satisfying lather and is somewhat more effective in washing clothes and skin. Some people even report that soap does its job too well in soft water, creating the slippery sensation of the soap never having washed off completely. This is probably due to the surface of the skin being totally purged of natural oil.
The good news is that modern soaps and detergents are formulated to work great no matter how hard your water is. With today’s cleaning products, hard water has been reduced to practically a non-issue.