Descale the washing machine – so that the machine will run for years

Have you ever been annoyed because the new washing machine broke after a few years? Lime is often to blame for defective machines. How quickly deposits form depends on the hardness of the water  together. Soft water is ideal for washing. If medium-hard or hard water comes out of the pipes in your home, you must be prepared for problems with calcification.

 

Descaling extends the life of the washing machine

The washing machine washes constantly. That is why many believe in some kind of automatic self-cleaning. However, detergent residues, hair or dirt accumulate and must be cleaned away regularly. Limescale deposits are usually less visible. They can be noticed by white stains on the laundry or in the drum. However, the fastest parts of the machine that you normally cannot see are usually calcified.

The heating rod in the washing machine is most susceptible to limescale. Lime has the property of primarily settling where water is heated. With every heating, a little lime is deposited on the heating element. If you have your kettle  If you use it regularly, you can observe how a layer of lime also settles here. The deposits on the heating element of the washing machine grow just as quickly or slowly – provided, of course, that you also fill the kettle with tap water.

The problem with calcified heating rods is that they can no longer transfer the heat directly to the water. On the one hand, this increases energy consumption – you need more electricity to bring the washing machine to operating temperature. On the other hand, the heating element can be broken. If he can no longer give off the heat, he himself will get hotter and overheated at some point. A new heating element is needed.

 

Descaling the washing machine – what you should keep in mind

As a rule of thumb, the washing machine should be descaled twice a year. With soft water, once a year is probably enough; with hard water, limescale should be removed from the machine every few months. If the power consumption increases or the washing machine no longer heats properly, these are signs of a very calcified heating element. You may be able to save the device with intensive descaling.

Regular descaling makes sense even with soft water. Even small amounts of limescale deposits on the heating rod increase power consumption. Descaling is cheap and quick. This will save you heating or repair costs in any case.

For fear of limescale deposits, many consumers turn to water softeners for the washing machine. Such softeners can delay the calcification of the machine, but do not stop them. Most commercial detergents, however, already contain softening substances. With hard water, you can either use a higher dose of detergent according to the manufacturer’s instructions or use a water softener and only use the amount of detergent for soft water.

 

This is how descaling the washing machine works

Before you descale the washing machine, you need to decide on a suitable descaler. Washing machine cleaners are available in stores that also descale. If you only want to descale, agents are also sold for this.

But home remedies are just as effective. The advantage is that they are usually cheaper and you may already have them at home. Acetic acid or citric acid are often used to descale the washing machine. But be careful – the use of home remedies is always at your own risk. Some washing machine manufacturers state that they can attack sensitive rubber seals. In the worst case scenario, if there is any real damage, the guarantee may expire. One way to cover yourself is to simply ask. Call customer service and find out about using home remedies to descale your washing machine.

To descale, simply run a wash cycle without laundry. As a rule, the cooking program is selected for this, i.e. at 90 or 95 degrees Celsius. It is different when using citric acid. If you heat it, it can combine with the deposited lime and form even harder deposits. You probably can’t get rid of them at all. Therefore, when descaling with citric acid, the cold program should be selected. Play it safe when the temperature is below 40 degrees Celsius.

Simply put the selected descaler in the dispenser and start the program. A good tip is to interrupt the program for about 30 minutes in between. This allows the descaling solution to take effect.

 

Prevent limescale – reduce deposits

Descaling the washing machine is not difficult. With hard water, however, constant descaling takes away your nerves and time. A simple way to prevent limescale build-up is to use the right amount of detergent. To do this, you should know your water hardness level. You can achieve a similar effect by adding a water softener. However, a softener is not a descaler. So with such a means you cannot remove existing calcifications.

If your hard water bothers you in other areas of the household, you should purchase a water softener  worth considering. This is how you get soft water. It is also possible to set up a service water system for your house. Such systems are mostly used to collect rainwater that can be used for irrigation, toilet flushing and washing machines. Rainwater has a hardness level of almost zero. In any case, you should be careful with this: Water that is so soft can quickly attack pipes and metal parts because it is slightly acidic.

Even with these means and methods, you will not be able to completely avoid descaling. With a washing machine that is regularly descaled, you will definitely enjoy it longer.

Treating water – this is how you prepare for outdoor adventures

Water is treated for a variety of purposes. For example as part of the normal drinking water supply. In the technical area, water often has to meet special purity requirements. Or in the outdoor and camping area, where not always enough water supplies can be carried along. This is especially the case on multi-day trekking tours – apart from civilization, it is part of the daily ritual to treat water.

 

Looking for water in nature

Before you can treat water, you have to obtain it first. In some areas it is easy. You can skim water from rivers or lakes and simply collect rainwater. However, arid areas present a challenge. Your creativity and thirst for adventure are required here. If dew forms in the morning, you can collect it with a clean piece of cloth and wring it out into the water container. The cool water is also hidden in the ground. With a simple device, you can condense the soil moisture and collect water.

Regardless of which method you choose – you should definitely treat the water obtained.

 

Visible and invisible problems

Dangers can lurk in the water. The most obvious signs of pollution are Suspended solids . They make the water cloudy and float as soon as they are stirred up. They can usually be found in natural groundwater and spring water. Specifically, it is dust or whirled up mud, even the finest particles from the air can float in the water. Such pollution is not necessarily healthy, but usually does not cause any serious health problems.

bacteria and Viruses are a lot more dangerous. They can cause various diseases and should be removed carefully. Other microorganisms, so-called Protozoa . They often come from sewage and are also responsible for diseases. You can only rule out any health risk with careful disinfection.

Also Chemicals are among the most common problems. These are often drug residues or residues of cleaning agents and fertilizers. Such substances can get directly into the groundwater – be it through wastewater from companies or from waterworks. Not all reprocessing options are effective against chemical pollution. You should pay attention to this when purchasing a product or, at best, seek out secluded natural sources.

 

The four ways of water treatment

In principle, water can be treated in four different ways. All of them have their advantages and disadvantages, and a combination of different routes often makes the most sense.

Boil

Heat is an easy way to kill microorganisms. There is not much you can go wrong with using this method. You will need suitable fuel and a heat-resistant container for this. Let the water boil for about 10 minutes, longer in higher areas. Because of the high air pressure, water boils at lower temperatures, the method is only safe up to about 1,000 meters altitude.

Boiling the water renders all microorganisms harmless, but not solids. This means that minerals, metals or suspended matter remain in the water. However, these substances sink to the ground over time, so that clean water can be skimmed off. In any case, you have to let some time pass before the water can be drunk, and when it is boiling there is also some time to cool down. The main disadvantage is the high fuel consumption. In addition, the water quickly germinates again after boiling, so it is not intended for storage.

Disinfect

Disinfectant tablets for water treatment are even easier to use. You can buy them in sports and outdoor stores. The tablets kill both bacteria, protozoa and viruses. Make sure to use the correct dosage – too low a dosage may not kill all pathogens, too high a dosage you consume unnecessarily many chemicals.

The tablets are characterized by a long shelf life, they work either with iodine or chlorine. You can taste that too. Chemically treated water does not necessarily taste good, but the method is reliable. However, if there are suspended particles in the water, you should remove them beforehand, as otherwise the chemicals cannot work properly. You have to be patient for the tablets to take effect. The chemicals require around two hours of work. They usually work optimally at a water temperature of 21 degrees Celsius. Very cold water can reduce its effectiveness.

You should be careful with tablets that state silver ions as the active ingredient. It is often assumed that such disinfect. In truth, you cannot sterilize, but are only suitable for preserving water that has already been treated.

Filter

Several manufacturers now offer water filters for outdoor use. Clear advantage: filtering is the only method that works against suspended matter. Not all microorganisms are always removed for this. However, this is very different from model to model. Outdoor water filters are available in a wide variety of designs for a wide variety of needs. The lightest variants look like thick permanent markers and are straws that you can use to drink directly from polluted waters. Drinking bottles with built-in filters are also popular. For larger camping projects, there are large models that can easily supply several caravans.

With outdoor water filters, you should definitely pay attention to the service life.

If the filter is used beyond that, it threatens to germinate and the substances that have already been filtered out can get concentrated in the water. It is therefore essential to follow the instructions for use, also with regard to cleaning and maintenance. For your stay in nature we recommend that you only use special outdoor filters. If you’ve already thought about packing your normal household filter, you’d better forget about it. Such filters are made for other conditions and are generally not effective against pathogens in natural waters.

UV light

One method that has become more and more handy in recent years is exposure to UV light. This variant is based on a physical principle. UV rays have the property of killing microorganisms quickly and effectively. Bacteria, viruses and protozoa can no longer multiply or cause infections. UV light is also used for disinfection in hospitals and sewage treatment plants.

There are handy models for the outdoor area. These are often made in pen form and have to be immersed in water. The application time depends on the amount that you want to prepare. But it doesn’t take long. Your daily need for drinking water  you can disinfect most models within one to two minutes. Water treatment using UV light works relatively quickly and easily. In addition, you do not pollute yourself or the environment with chemicals. Make sure, however, that you have enough batteries in your luggage!

 

This is how it works: Instructions for treating water

So much for theory – now it’s time to put it into practice. Once you have found water, you need to find a suitable way of treating it. At the beginning you make the distinction between cloudy and clear water. There are suspended particles in cloudy water, which must be filtered out.

If your camping equipment already includes a water filter, you are already well prepared against suspended matter. Alternatively, it doesn’t hurt to pack a couple of coffee filters in case you just find cloudy water. In an emergency, a piece of fabric also filters. Make sure you only use clean fabric. True to the motto “twice is better”, it is advisable to let the water run through several layers. After filtering, the water should be clear.

However, clear water is not yet drinking water. You can only drink the filtered water if you use an outdoor water filter. Otherwise there are still numerous microorganisms in it. Which method you choose for sterilizing depends on your personal preferences. In warm water and away from the mountains, boiling, chemical disinfection and UV light are about equally effective. On long tours you will ask yourself questions about weight, waiting time, reliability and many other factors.

Our conclusion: which option is the best for treating water cannot be said across the board. Usually it depends on the right combination. If you follow our tips, hopefully nothing will stand in the way of correct processing!

This is how water softeners work for the washing machine

We all know them: the pictures of calcified heating rods from advertising. What looks unsavory in the first place also increases energy consumption and detergent costs. Calcareous water can also clog pipes. When faced with such problems, many think of water softeners. These are available in liquid form, as tabs or as a powder. Read here what limescale does in the washing machine and how well a water softener works.

 

How calcareous water affects washing

Before deciding for or against a water softener, it is important to understand what the limescale is doing in the washing machine. Lime comes from the tap water  in your home. However, not all water is equally calcareous; a distinction is made between different degrees of water hardness. With hard water  Far greater problems are to be expected than with soft water.

The lime affects the washing machine in two ways. Firstly, it is deposited on the heating rod, in pipes or in the washing drum. Lime is dissolved in the water in the form of calcium and magnesium. If water is heated, the lime precipitates and then settles on surfaces. It works the same way when the water evaporates. In any case, limescale deposits shorten the service life of the washing machine. The quality of the device and how often it is in use have the same effect. A second unpleasant effect unfolds with the detergent dosage. Hard water makes water solubility more difficult. This means that the limescale “neutralizes” the detergent and with hard water you will have to use a lot more of it to get the laundry clean.

 

Problems with the calcified heating element

If limescale is deposited on the heating element, this increases energy consumption. It works like the down jacket in winter. The lime or the jacket prevent heat from being transferred directly to the environment. If the calcified heating rod is heated up, it gets hotter itself, but the water only heats up slowly. This means that more energy is used to bring the washing machine to operating temperature. At some point, however, the heat will become too much for the heating element – it will break.

How long a heating element survives depends on several factors. This primarily includes the hardness of the water, but also how energy efficient the machine is and how often it is used. Do you live in a region with soft water, have high-quality equipment and wash twice a week? Then your machine will likely survive for a long time. To protect against calcification, special water softeners are advertised. Very few consumers know, however, that most heavy-duty detergents already contain such substances. However, they can only delay calcification. After a certain service life, the machine simply cannot withstand the lime.

 

Does a water softener for the washing machine pay off?

One thing is certain: from a certain degree of water hardness, your washing machine suffers with every wash. Even with moderately hard water, you have to increase the amount of detergent to achieve the same washing performance. If you rely on high-quality detergent, you are probably already working with a water softener. Alternatively, you can also use a softener for each wash and dose your detergent for soft water. It’s not cheap in either case. Some calculation examples can be found on the Internet. If you use a softener for every wash, you could pay for a washing machine repair for the same money after a few years.

But even if you use a softener, the inside of the washing machine calcifies. Lime stubbornly sticks to the heating element in particular, as it burns in from the heat. The heating rod is hidden inside the machine, so you cannot reach it for cleaning. Unlike in advertising, you can only delay decalcification with a softener, not prevent it completely.

Another option is to use a water softener. This is installed for the entire house or apartment and only allows soft water to flow through your own four walls. This significantly extends the service life of the washing machine. Less detergent is required and there is no need for water softening additives. But also here the lime settles after the time. A water softener is an expensive business, but by reducing the amount of detergent and softener additives you protect the environment.

A somewhat curious approach is the use of rainwater. Some specialist blogs recommend this. Rainwater would actually be perfect for washing clothes as it has almost a degree of hardness  of zero. How practicable and hygienic this access is remains to be seen.

Magnetic lime conversion – innovation with tradition

Limescale deposits in the household are a nuisance. Whether in the coffee machine, in the shower or at the sink – descaling and cleaning are part of it. A centuries-old tradition to combat such problems is magnetic water treatment. The first patent for it was issued as early as 1890. The principle behind this is clear from an example. If you want to shape a snowball, cardboard snow is suitable because it sticks together well. It won’t work with powder snow. Even though both are chemically the same – frozen water. Lime also comes in very different forms; from a chemical point of view, there is no difference between soft chalk and hard marble. This lies in the crystal structure.

 

Magnetism changes lime crystals

Calcium carbonate is the name of the substance that forms lime, chalk and marble. When dissolved in water, one speaks of calcium hydrogen carbonate. It only forms limescale deposits when the water is heated or evaporates. Magentism affects the shape of the calcium hydrogen carbonate crystals. In untreated water there are crystals with almost right-angled structures. These can connect well with each other and easily stick to bathroom fittings or in the kettle.

Magnetically treated water has less coarse structures. The crystals become blunted, can barely combine and are simply rinsed out with the water. So the lime is not removed. Due to the changed structure, however, there are no more solid deposits, limescale stains can simply be wiped off with a soft cloth like chalk dust. Existing deposits – for example in the kettle or boiler – slowly dissolve. Satisfied users of these devices also report that the water feels softer and the tea and coffee taste better.

It doesn’t work equally well with every magnet. Several factors are responsible for efficiency. For example, several magnets should be built into the device so that the effect lasts for years, they have to be of high quality. The correct arrangement and strength of the magnets must be found through numerous tests. If the magnetic field is too weak or too strong, the effect cannot develop optimally. So there is a lot of research going into good equipment.

 

No running costs

The handling of magnetic lime neutralizers is usually easy. The devices are plugged onto the water pipe; you can usually do this yourself. Complex maintenance as with other water softening systems  there is not any. The magnet only needs to be taken off the line for a few hours twice a year. Due to the force of attraction, small particles – made of iron, for example – can get stuck in the pipe, and when it is removed it can flush out the water. There are also no operating costs or wear parts. The magnet works without electricity or chemicals. This protects the environment and the wallet.

In these systems, the lime remains in the water. It is made up of the important minerals calcium and magnesium. These are not only essential for the human body, they also give the water a good taste. Magnets cannot filter substances out of the water. This means that all pollutants are retained. In contrast to other systems, there is no risk of contamination from the devices. The magnetic calcium conversion only lasts for about 48 hours. Usually this is not a problem, as we use enough water anyway. If you use a large boiler that you will not use in its entirety during this period, you will need a second device. However, the technology is not suitable for some areas of application. Some aquarium fish need particularly soft water. If you don’t want to change it every two days, it has to be processed in a different way.

 

Effectiveness constantly under criticism

No other type of water treatment is so much criticized. The reasons for this are partly obvious. Most advertising uses the term magnetic water softening, but it is misleading. The lime is not removed, so the water is not softened. A water test  shows the same result with and without the device. The test is carried out in a chemical way, a physical principle cannot of course be proven in this way. If one examines physical parameters such as electrical conductivity or the pH value, changes can be clearly identified. Most clearly, however, are the microscopic images of the lime crystals. Even if skeptics still claim the opposite – scientific test institutes have now clearly confirmed the effectiveness of some devices.

Descaling the steam oven – instructions for better food quality

For lovers of gently steamed vegetables or tender fish dishes, the steamer is indispensable in the household. In modern kitchens, the devices are often part of the standard equipment. Limescale is deposited inside just like in kettles and coffee machines. Descaling is part of proper care, extends the life of the appliance and improves the quality of the food. If the process is carried out correctly and then a rinsing process is started, food safety is also guaranteed.

 

Descale the steamer step by step

If the steamer wants to be descaled, it will draw your attention to this. There are devices with a lock mode that can no longer be used if they have to be descaled. Most cookers have a descaling program. How to start this can be found in the instructions for use. Some devices guide you step-by-step through the program with instructions on the display, and the dosage of the descaling agent is sometimes specified here. It is important to let the descaling process run completely. If it is canceled, it usually has to be restarted completely.

Even devices without a descaling function want to be freed of deposits on a regular basis. Usually these are smaller table-top devices. Here it is advisable to simply clean the interior with a lime cleaner. If it is very dirty, let the cleaner soak a little and use a soft cloth. The rough side of a cleaning sponge, for example, can damage surfaces. However, sensitive parts and the outside of the device should not come into contact with the cleaner. In addition, only cooled devices should be descaled – regardless of whether they are built-in or tabletop devices. If the steamer is still hot, caustic vapors can form. Individual parts of the cooker can often also be cleaned in the dishwasher. This makes general cleaning easier, but does not replace regular descaling.

 

The right decalcifying agent – purely a matter of taste

Many manufacturers recommend a specific descaler. These remedies are available in tablet or powder form and are often anything but cheap. Various home remedies are just as effective. Vinegar or diluted citric acid are often used to descale the steamer. But you do this at your own risk. If the manufacturer does not expressly recommend such home remedies, they can damage the hoses or rubber seals in the device. Vinegar can also leave traces of taste. Chemical descaler from the trade are more expensive, but also safer.

 

Avoid limescale from the start

Limescale deposits can be prevented with a few simple steps. Simply wipe the interior dry after each use. The condensation can easily be wiped away with kitchen paper, then leave the door open until the interior is completely dry. Lime remains when the water evaporates. Careful dry wiping prevents deposits or stains from forming in the first place. Another option is to use a water softener in the home. This will increase the water hardness  regulated, limescale deposits can generally be avoided.

The various water softening systems at a glance

For many, it is particularly worth considering when building a house. Anyone who installs a water softener in their own four walls protects all installations at the same time. A household without lime sounds tempting. Cleaning the shower for hours, coffee machine  Descaling or buying spare parts for the washing machine is a thing of the past. Various water softening systems promise such effects. Of course, everyone claims to be the best – after all, the product has to be sold. From a factual point of view, however, there are certain advantages and disadvantages to each method. We have summarized the most important things for you.

 

Ion exchanger: the classic method

If you search for “water softener” on the Internet, the first results are ion exchangers. The two terms are also often used synonymously. As the name of this system suggests, something is being exchanged. Lime consists of the two minerals calcium and magnesium, which the ion exchanger can remove from the water. The inside of the device is filled with synthetic resin balls containing sodium. If water flows through, the calcium and magnesium particles penetrate the balls and displace sodium particles. Thus calcium and magnesium are simply exchanged for sodium. After this process, the water has a hardness level of almost zero. This is bad for water pipes – water this soft acts like an acid and eats away at home installations. This is why the softened water is then mixed again with “normal” water. The hardness you ultimately want can be set on the device.

So only soft water flows through your own home. The lime in the water is not bad in every respect, because it gives tap water its good taste. A fine palate will recognize the increased sodium. Thanks to our modern diet, we already consume far more sodium than the body needs. You should clarify with your doctor whether the increased sodium content can be a problem for you.

 

Reverse osmosis: no chance for foreign matter

Reverse osmosis is not a water softening system in the classic sense. The devices not only remove the hardness builders, but all foreign substances. Water treated in this way is not primarily drinking water. It is usually used for medical purposes, for example for laboratory equipment, or for technical equipment such as glass washers and humidifiers. The functionality of reverse osmosis devices is easily explained. They work with what is known as a semi-permeable membrane, which only lets water molecules through.  It works in a similar way to a coffee filter, except that the pores are much smaller and the water is much smaller after the filtering process  is really completely cleaned. If you want to drink this water, you have to enrich it with minerals first.

The problem with reverse osmosis devices is the high energy consumption. It takes a lot of force to push the water through the fine membrane. If you want to decalcify all the water in the household in this way, it has a significant impact on the electricity bill. The wastewater consumption also increases, as the filtered out substances have to be flushed out with a lot of water and then migrate into the drain. A liter of this filtered water is very expensive in comparison.

 

Dosage: Beat the lime with its own weapons

A somewhat unusual option is the dosage. Usually it is used precisely for the opposite of softening. Very soft water is bad for water pipes because it has a low pH and can aggressively eat into metals. Polyphosphates can be added to such water; these form a protective layer and seal the pipe from the inside. With hard water, another effect occurs: the phosphates are deposited on the surface of calcium and magnesium and thus stabilize them. Lime crystals can no longer grow together and are not deposited.

This is particularly useful where solid deposits quickly form due to heating, for example in boilers. However, the dosage is not softening in the classic sense. The water does not change its degree of hardness, but is stabilized.

 

Magnetic water treatment: preserve the good properties

Softening using permanent magnets is an “alternative” option for water treatment. It is not a softening in the classic sense. Magnets do not remove the hardness builders calcium and magnesium, but transform their structure. New angular structures are created so that the particles can no longer be linked or firmly deposited. The lime is rinsed out with the water. This no longer has to be scrubbed away with acidic cleaning agents, but can be easily removed with a soft cloth. The advantage of this method is that the healthy minerals and the wholesome taste are retained in the water. No chemicals are required, the system works without electricity and maintenance is also free of costs.

Magnetic water softeners are often criticized because classic tests cannot prove their effectiveness. Because the lime stays in the water, a chemical analysis cannot of course show any results. Using microscope images and physical parameters such as pH value or electrical conductivity, however, a clear change in the water can be detected.

 

Electrolysis: Separate lime from water

The word “electrolysis” comes from the Greek and means “to separate by means of electricity”. This process normally splits water into its components hydrogen and oxygen. If you want to get the lime out of the water, you work with less tension. Two electrodes are placed in the water, the polarity of which is constantly reversed – this releases lime crystals. These work as so-called seed crystals. This means that they have a rough surface on which more lime particles are deposited. But they can no longer get stuck in the pipe system. When they are big enough, they are simply rinsed out with the water.

Similar to magnetic treatment, electrolysis does not remove the lime from the water. Endurance tests lead to the same result as before. This type of water softener is not used very often.

Filtering questions and answers on the subject of water

Why do we filter water at all?

Water has been filtered for thousands of years. Some believe that the first water filters appear in the Bible. Many nomadic tribes in the Stone Age also filtered their water. In our modern western society the starting point is of course different. Tap water should be of the best drinking quality. For many consumers, however, the official requirements are not enough.

 

Is it necessary to filter water?

That must be clarified individually. If you suspect that something may be wrong with your water, it is best to do a water test.  This is the only way to get a sufficient analysis. Because even if everything is in order according to the water supplier, contaminated water can flow out of the pipe. The water quality is only checked directly at the waterworks. The water supplier cannot guarantee the pipe network to your home. If the water exceeds limit values, filtering is advisable. For some problems, however, this is only useful as a temporary solution. Lead in drinking water can come from old pipes, for example, which you should definitely replace for health reasons.

Particular caution is required in households with children – children react to certain substances more extreme than adults. For this reason, there are also special water tests for babies  and toddlers. The limit values in the Drinking Water Ordinance  are also aimed at adults. Before your child drinks tap water, it is best to test it.

Aside from contaminants, there is a second major reason for filtering water – its taste. Drinking water is healthy. In order to drink it with pleasure and in sufficient quantities, however, it has to taste good. If the taste bothers you, filtering is advisable and cheaper than buying bottled water.

 

How does it work?

There are many ways of treating water, two of which are basically considered water filters. The best known are probably table water filters – mostly jugs. If you have never seen them from friends, you may know them from American films or series. If you believe Hollywood, nobody on the other side of the Atlantic can do without such a filter.

Filter jugs usually work with activated carbon. This is porous carbon that can absorb and bind toxins. For example, chlorine, pesticides and drug residues are removed from the water. What activated carbon cannot, however, filter out lime or heavy metals such as lead. For this reason, some jugs have built in an ion exchanger that also removes the lime from the water. Care should be taken when using such filters. You should definitely change activated charcoal cartridges regularly. If the filter is full, the filtered out substances can be washed out again into the water. Since the activated carbon remains moist and is full of holes most of the time, it offers an ideal environment for germs and bacteria. This is another reason why it is important to replace the filter regularly. Sometimes the cartridges contain germicidal silver as a preventive measure. But that wears off. Regular changing is also essential with such filter cartridges.

The second filter method is reverse osmosis  known. These systems are usually installed under the washbasin, and there are often two draw-off points – one for purified water and one for “normal” water. Reverse osmosis can be thought of as a coffee filter, only with much smaller pores. Even the smallest bacteria or toxins can be retained. The problem with this is that this method takes a lot of energy. The pores are so small that water can only get through very slowly and with great effort. But after filtering it is really pure water. In order to be able to drink this water, however, you must first add minerals to it.  Filtering water in this way is time-consuming, and regular maintenance of the system is also important.

 

Which substances can be filtered out?

It depends on the method chosen. In principle, a filter eliminates bad smells and bad taste, as well as chlorine and other chemical substances. Bacteria, pathogens and drug residues are also removed. If you want to reduce the lime content and get rid of heavy metals at the same time, a reverse osmosis system can help. Such a system is often too cumbersome. If the primary aim is to get the lime on the collar, there are also other practicable methods.

But not only “bad” substances are filtered out. Our drinking water is full of minerals that are vital for the human body. Experts are of the opinion that these do not necessarily have to be absorbed through our drinking water, but a little more of it can never hurt.

Descaling system: advantages and disadvantages at a glance

Are you considering installing a descaling system in your home? Then you are bound to have the most stubborn effects of hard water  got to know. To help you with your purchase decision, we have compiled the most important advantages and disadvantages of decalcifying systems here. You should note that these systems operate on different principles. In the article on the different types of water softeners  you get an overview of the common methods. So you can find the system that suits you best.

The term “decalcifying system” is rather colloquial. The term “water softener” is technically correct. In fact, water can only be softened; lime is actually only spoken of when it is deposited. Devices such as kettles are descaled in this sense  or coffee maker  but also bathroom fittings or tiles.

 

Advantages of a descaling system

  1. Less cleaning effort

A decalcifying system ensures soft water. This means that the calcifying minerals calcium and magnesium are either removed or can no longer be deposited. So you have to struggle with far fewer limescale deposits or they can be removed much more easily than before. In the bathroom in particular, you’ll be happy that you don’t have to scrub away those annoying edges as often.

  1. Save detergent and cleaning agent

Calcareous water also affects detergents. The hardness of the water is related to the washing power of detergents etc. Hard water can partially neutralize soap-like solutions, so much more of it is needed. With a descaling system, you only need the amount of detergent recommended for soft water, and you will also notice savings with dishwashing detergent or shower gel.

  1. Devices don’t break anytime soon

Limescale quickly settles in devices. A white crust forms particularly quickly when water is heated. Coffee machines, kettles  or washing machines  suffer. Soft water not only makes it easier to care for the devices, it also reduces the risk of damage.

  1. Save electricity

Limescale deposits cause increased electricity costs. A lime layer of just one millimeter increases energy consumption when heating by 10 percent. If, for example, the heating rod in the hot water boiler is calcified, this is quickly reflected in the electricity bill. The lime partially insulates, so that the heating element needs far more energy to heat the water.

  1. Comfortable for the skin

Lime dries the skin  out and clogs pores. According to a British study, calcareous water can even be the cause of irritations such as eczema or skin blemishes. After showering with soft water, the skin is less tense and feels more well-groomed. Even showering or bathing itself becomes a new experience. Soft water is more comfortable for the skin.

 

Disadvantages of a descaling system

  1. The cost item

Even if there are very different types of descaling systems, they have one thing in common. None of them are cheap. The high price is justified by the amount of research that goes into the devices. If you decide to use a descaling system, you should definitely choose a higher quality model. Most of the cheap systems have clearly saved in production.

  1. Conscientious maintenance

Few devices can operate without regular maintenance. Systems that work with a chemical principle must be continuously maintained by specialist staff. So you have to expect additional costs and time. If you neglect maintenance, in the worst case scenario this can lead to contamination.

  1. High running costs

Mainly ion exchangers, reverse osmosis systems  and filter systems  cause high running costs. Descaling cartridges and filters have to be constantly replaced. In some cases, decalcifying systems must also have plenty of drinking water  because they would otherwise quickly become germinated. Treated water is therefore not always cheap overall.

  1. Minerals removed from the water

Lime is healthy in and of itself. Calcium and magnesium are important minerals for the human body. From a nutritional point of view, there is no benefit in removing the lime. Only a few systems work with a principle that preserves the minerals in the water.

  1. Taste compromises

With the lime, the wholesome taste of the water disappears. This is noticeable even without a particularly pronounced sense of taste. Many swear by soft water when making tea and coffee, but hard water tastes better “pure”. So many people turn to expensive bottled water.

Interesting facts about water supply

Drinking water  Directly from the line is a matter of course in Austria. We use it for drinking, cooking and washing without really worrying about it. A water connection is mandatory in buildings with common rooms. In domestic agriculture and industry, too, water is an irreplaceable resource. It is obtained almost exclusively from groundwater and spring water, which is rare in international comparison. Many countries in Europe have to resort to the treatment of surface or even sea water.

Austria is a water-rich country. Domestic households do not even use one percent of the available water. Regardless of whether it is publicly or privately supplied, everyone can find their connection. The water supply network in our country could go around the equator almost twice – 77,300 kilometers supply Austria with drinking water.

Around 90 percent of the population get their water centrally from one of the 5,500 water supply companies. These companies must ensure that water is always available in sufficient quantities, with sufficient pressure and of perfect quality. They get the water from springs, for example, store it and distribute it to the consumers. The rest of the time they use water from their own well. In principle, the landowner has the right to use the groundwater. Of course, this involves a lot of effort, and the ongoing monitoring of water quality is particularly important.

 

Different ways of water supply for different needs

When building a house, sooner or later you will deal with the water supply. There are a few options depending on where you live. Information is available from the district administration or the magistrate. The water supply is part of the respective state legislation. So there are certain differences within Austria. In Lower Austria, for example, there is a compulsory connection to the public water supply, and certain criteria must be met for domestic wells.

Anyone who would like to connect their property to the water network should contact the municipality. If there is a public water pipe nearby, the connection can be requested. The regulations stipulate that, for a fee, the municipality provides the water supply up to the property line. The owner himself takes care of the line up to the house. The advantage is that in this case the costs can be clearly calculated. In very sparsely populated areas, however, the public water supply is sometimes expensive – long connection lines or pressure increase systems in higher areas increase the costs.

The alternative to this is a home well. Often there is already a well on the property, some even build one themselves. As a rule, wells are built where the public water pipe is too far away. The district administration or the magistrate can provide information on the legal regulations relating to well construction. In some cases, a permit under water law is necessary, for example if there is a separate apartment in the house and a third party is also supplied. By the way, a protected area can be applied for around the well or the spring. So the water quality can be preserved.

Another option is to use a domestic water well. The water can be used for watering flowers or washing cars, and it can also be used to flush toilets. The water quality does not have to be checked here. The water from the custom well must never come into contact with the drinking water pipe, there are no other requirements. Since the service water is usually used cold, no bacteria or germs can spread. Many also like to use rainwater for watering in the garden, which is collected in a barrel or cistern. There are also systems that make it possible to use rainwater for flushing toilets or washing machines. Rainwater has zero degrees of water hardness. With such an installation, limescale deposits can be avoided.

 

The water cooperative – it’s easier together

A remote settlement, dependent on its own house well, but the water quality has not been right for a long time. In such situations it makes sense to found a water cooperative. The aim of the cooperative is to create the central water supply for an area. It is organized together, the costs are shared. As a rule, there are good grants for such projects, the members tackle together and thus keep the individual costs low. Cooperatives are also ideal for projects such as water regulation or wastewater disposal.

 

Saving water does not relieve the supply systems

We usually become aware of the importance of cool water when it is missing. If, for example, no water flows out of our tap for a few hours because of important repairs, this is quite a limitation. Lately there have been increasing reports of water scarcity, forest fires and crop failures. Southern Europe in particular suffers in summer. However, saving water is not necessarily the right course of action. Car washing and full baths should only be avoided if the water supplier advises this. If not enough sewage flows through our pipes, they clog and start to stink. The only solution: to pump large amounts of drinking water through the pipes to clean them. The economy mode therefore leads to far greater water consumption. In nature, the raw material is in a cycle anyway. In contrast to resources such as oil or gas, the water on earth cannot be used up.

The Austrian water suppliers know how to deal with dry periods. The water supply is guaranteed even in particularly hot summers. Small, local failures could occur if the entire settlement decides at the same time to fill their swimming pools in the garden.

Sodium instead of lime – water softening using ion exchangers

The principle of the ion exchanger is a chemical one: one substance is removed from the water and another is added. Lime in water consists of calcium and magnesium. Ion exchangers work in such a way that they replace calcium in the water with sodium. We looked at exactly how this works.

 

The technical principle behind the ion exchange process

An ion exchanger can exchange particles with the same charge with one another. Calcium and magnesium are positively charged and can therefore be replaced by another positively charged substance. In the ion exchanger, the water flows through a container with tiny synthetic resin balls. These globules are full of sodium ions. The exchange takes place when the water flows through: One calcium and one magnesium ion each get into the spheres and at the same time displace two sodium ions. The sodium gets into the water, but the hardness components calcium and magnesium are gone.

The water that flows out of the pipe after the ion exchanger has about zero degrees of German hardness. No wonder – it no longer contains any calcium or magnesium. Such soft water is also problematic as it quickly damages pipes and soap is almost impossible to wash off. Therefore, the softened water must be mixed with non-softened water. For water as food  a degree of hardness of 8.4 degrees German hardness is intended, this value can be easily adjusted via a valve. However, the hardness of the tap water can change over the years – this setting must also be checked continuously. Sometimes phosphates are added to the softened water. These protect galvanized pipes.

 

Wastewater, salt and maintenance – running costs for ion exchangers

If water flows out of the pipe without calcium and magnesium, these minerals must of course end up somewhere. This is regulated via the wastewater, the unwanted substances are simply flushed out. The amount of wastewater required for this depends on how hard the water was originally. How expensive this is in the long run cannot be said in general terms, but these costs are not negligible.

The regeneration of the ion exchanger is an important cost item. At some point all the sodium is flushed out of the synthetic resin balls and these no longer absorb any more calcium and magnesium. Then table salt must be refilled. This is made up of sodium and chloride. If the synthetic resin is rinsed with it, the calcium and magnesium are displaced from the balls. These are enriched again with sodium. You cannot drink the water from the ion exchanger during regeneration; normal, non-softened water then flows out of the pipe through a second valve. Most water softening systems automatically rinse the synthetic resin with the salt solution, you just have to make sure that you constantly refill enough table salt.

Once a year, qualified personnel should service the ion exchanger. Contact your installer or the company from whom you purchased the device. You should also keep an eye out for impurities or fungal growth when refilling the regeneration salt.

 

What speaks for and against an ion exchanger?

Ion exchangers work efficiently. The water hardness can be precisely regulated and problems in the household such as calcified shower heads or high detergent consumption are skillfully counteracted.

The sodium that is added to the water can be problematic with ion exchangers. Sodium is in and of itself a vital substance for the human body. However, we already consume far too much of it. Through our food alone, we consume an average of thirty times the amount we need – every day. How bad the extra sodium really is is a matter of opinion. Anyone who has to pay attention to a low-sodium diet should clarify the use of such a device with a doctor.

Compared to other water softening systems, the running costs are relatively high. However, maintenance and refilling of the salt are very important. If you do not act carefully here, you run the risk of contamination. This is also favored when the device is in a warm place, for example in the boiler room. So it doesn’t hurt to have the water quality and bacteria count tested from time to time.