Water Softeners & How They Impact Ice Makers

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If you’ve noticed limescale and hard water damage in your home’s plumbing and appliances, you might consider installing a water softener.

But how can a water softener affect an ice maker? Is soft water good or bad for ice makers?

Here, we’ve shared everything you should know about the impact of water softeners on ice makers.

πŸ“Œ Key Takeaways:

  • Hard water forms limescale deposits that could damage your ice maker and prevent it from making ice.
  • Some of the benefits of water softeners for ice makers are that they prevent clogging, improve ice making efficiency, and extend your ice machine’s lifespan.
  • Soft water contains only low levels of sodium and shouldn’t make your ice salty.

🚰 What Are Water Softeners?

To understand how water softeners impact ice machines, we need to know what a water softener is and how it works.

A water softener is a hard water treatment system that’s installed at the main water line in your home’s plumbing.

Water softeners deliver soft water to all appliances and fixtures on your home’s plumbing system, including ice machines and refrigerators with built-in ice makers.

The conventional water softening process involves exchanging calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions. This eliminates issues associated with hard water, like limescale formation and soap scum, because the hardness minerals have been removed.

Water softener impact on ice maker

πŸ”Ž How Do Water Softeners Affect Ice Machines?

Water softeners affect ice machines by removing the two minerals that cause hard water damage: calcium and magnesium.

Water softeners add small amounts of sodium to water, preventing the water from forming mineral buildup in appliances and fixtures, including ice machines. That means your ice machine will be able to function properly without clogging and reduced flow caused by scale formation.

Will a water softener affect water’s freezing and melting temperatures? Potentially in a small way – but there isn’t enough salt in softened water to prevent it from freezing at all.

βœ… Benefits Of A Water Softener For Ice Makers

Here are some of the top benefits of using a water softener for the water in your ice dispenser.

Maintains Water Flow

Ice machines are supplied with water, which they freeze into ice cubes.

If you have hard water, mineral build-up in the tubes connecting the ice maker to your water supply will reduce the flow of water, affecting your ice machine’s ability to access water.

This could reduce the speed at which ice can be produced and limit how much ice is available at any time in your ice dispenser.

Installing a water softener means you’ll provide a softened water supply to your ice maker. Soft water is mineral-free, so it can’t form mineral deposits. That means your water pipes will remain free from scale, and your ice maker will have access to all the water it needs.

Ice maker machine connected to main water line

Reduces Clogging Of Components

The scale caused by water hardness minerals may eventually build up to a point where it clogs the components of your ice maker, including the floats, switches, tubes, and evaporator plates.

This clogging could reduce your ice machine’s efficiency or prevent it from producing ice at all, depending on the type and severity of the problem.

For instance, if your ice maker’s water pipes become clogged, its access to water will be cut off, and you’ll need to clean or replace the pipes in order to use your machine again.

Softened water, on the other hand, won’t cause your ice machine’s components to clog as a result of mineral deposits. So, you can enjoy a better performance from your ice and water dispenser without the need for troubleshooting or repairs.

Extends Ice Machine Lifespan

Avoiding the serious problems caused by hard water in your ice maker should help you to extend your machine’s lifespan and eliminate the unnecessary expense of buying a new or replacement unit.

That means you get more value from your initial investment in an ice machine, knowing that hard water won’t hinder its lifespan.

You can also spend less money and time cleaning out your ice dispenser and replacing various components, which in turn reduces its lifetime expense.

Getting ice from ice maker machine

πŸ€” Does Soft Water Make Ice Salty?

One of your possible concerns about using soft water in an ice machine is the potential for your ice to taste salty.

It’s true that soft water contains more salt than hard water. The ion exchange softening process involves exchanging calcium and magnesium ions with sodium chloride, so soft water contains low levels of salt.

However, soft water doesn’t contain enough sodium to taste salty (and if your water does taste salty, it suggests your water softener settings are incorrect).

So, using soft water in your ice maker shouldn’t result in salty or mushy ice cubes. And there certainly isn’t enough salt in soft water to cause your ice to melt instantly!

πŸ”€ Alternatives To Water Softeners For Ice Machines

Water softeners are the best solution to hard water.

But what if you don’t want to add salt to your water or ice, or you’re concerned about sodium in softened water altering the freezing and melting temperatures of your ice?

Consider a salt-free water conditioner. Salt-free conditioners use a scale-prevention method, like template-assisted crystallization, which prevents hardness minerals from forming scale without actually removing these minerals or exchanging them with sodium.

A water conditioner is also a good alternative to consider if you want to prevent hardness damage to your ice machine but you have a health condition, like high blood pressure, that means you have to restrict your sodium intake. In this case, even the low levels of sodium in frozen soft water could be dangerous, and using a salt-free conditioner is the safe alternative.

This type of water treatment system won’t negatively impact beverage quality, and it definitely won’t cause the contents of your ice tray to melt faster because the water from a conditioner doesn’t contain added sodium.

πŸ‘¨β€πŸ”§ Explore our comprehensive guide outlining the differences between water softeners and water conditioners.

Salt-free water conditioner installed ij basement

πŸ“‘ Final Word

Water softeners have a range of potential benefits for your ice maker.

Essentially, if you want your ice machine to last longer, and you’re keen to avoid damage to vital ice machine components caused by limescale formation, installing a water softener is the best solution.

❔ FAQ

Should you use softened water in ice maker?

Yes, you should use softened water in an ice maker because it doesn’t contain hardness minerals, which form scale deposits on your ice machine’s components and reduces its ice making capacity. Soft water contains a small amount of sodium, but it shouldn’t affect ice’s freezing and melting temperatures – and it shouldn’t result in mushy ice cubes.

Is soft water harder to freeze?

No, soft water isn’t harder to freeze than hard water. In fact, hard water has a slower rate of cooling than soft water because of its dissolved bicarbonates of calcium and magnesium. However, softened water from an ion exchange softener may be harder to freeze because of its sodium content.

What kind of water is best for home ice maker?

The best kind of water for a home ice maker is filtered, softened water that’s free from sediment, hardness minerals, heavy metals, chlorine, and any chemicals or debris that could clog the ice machine, damage its components, or affect its performance.

Does soft water make better ice cubes?

There’s little evidence to suggest that soft water makes any better ice cubes than hard water does. However, soft water will prevent your ice machine from getting clogged with mineral deposits, so the machine will be able to produce ice more effectively.

Will a fridge water filter soften water?

No, a refrigerator water filter won’t soften the water that’s used in the built-in ice machine or water dispenser. Fridge filters only typically remove chlorine, some chemicals, and a handful of contaminants affecting taste and odor. The only way to soften the water supply to your ice machine is to install a whole-home water softening system – Explore our comprehensive selection of top-rated water softeners.

  • Laura Shallcross
    Senior Editor

    Laura is a passionate residential water treatment journalist who holds an undergraduate degree in Print Journalism and a master’s degree in Creative Writing. Over a span of 5 years she's written on a range of topics including water softening, well water treatment, and purification processes.

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