The main purpose of a water softener is to prevent scale formation by turning hard water into soft water – but can water softeners remove existing scale?
You’ll find the answer to this question below.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- A water softener can prevent scale formation and remove existing calcium buildup from pipes and fixtures.
- It may take up to 50% of the time you didn’t have a softener for all scale to be lifted from your pipes and water heater after installing a water softener. So if you have not had a softener for 2 years, it could take about 1 year to remove calcium buildup.
- Factors that affect a water softener’s ability to remove limescale buildup include the heaviness of the scaling and the effectiveness of the water softener.
Table of Contents
- 🤔 Do Water Softeners Remove Calcium Buildup In Pipes?
- 🔎 How Do Water Softeners Remove Calcium From Pipes?
- 📅 How Long Does A Water Softener Take To Remove Existing Scale?
- 📋 Factors Affecting A Water Softener’s Ability To Remove Scale
- 🆚 Are Water Softeners Or Water Conditioners Better At Removing Calcium Buildup?
- 📑 Final Word
🤔 Do Water Softeners Remove Calcium Buildup In Pipes?
Yes, water softeners (also called ion exchange units) remove calcium carbonate buildup in pipes.
Softened water doesn’t only prevent new mineral deposits; it also helps to lift existing hard water scale over time.
The water softening process itself doesn’t eliminate existing scale – it just softens the water flowing into your home.
However, this softened water flowing through your pipes should gradually cause the deposited minerals to dissolve back into the water supply.
🔎 How Do Water Softeners Remove Calcium From Pipes?
How exactly does soft water lift scale deposits from your plumbing?
We’ve read through numerous articles by a variety of sources online, but none point to a specific reason why soft water can remove limescale.
Only one source said that soft water eliminates scale build-up that’s similar to when water goes underground to create cave networks. We couldn’t find any more information about this natural process.
From what we know about water quality and parameters, we think that because softened water is free from hard water minerals, it’s more likely to pick these minerals up as it travels through your mineral-rich pipes, in the same way that water would pick up calcium and magnesium minerals as it travels through mineral-rich rocks in the ground.
By gradually dissolving these minerals as it passes through your pipes, and by not depositing any new scale in your pipes, softened water should eventually (probably within a few years) remove all the calcium buildup from your plumbing.
📅 How Long Does A Water Softener Take To Remove Existing Scale?
So, when can you expect to see a reduction in scale build-up in your pipes and fixtures?
On average, after installing a water softener it takes an average of 50% of the time you didn’t have a softener to lift the pre-existing lime scale in your home.
The time frame is pretty big because you’ll see certain changes faster than you’ll see others:
- The scale in your kettles and coffee makers should clear within 6 weeks.
- The scale in your hot water heater and hot water cylinder should be significantly reduced within 4-6 months.
- The scale in the rest of your plumbing may take up to 2 years to completely disappear depending on how long you did not have a softener in place.
Why doesn’t a water softener work immediately to eliminate hardness build-up? The reason is that scale often builds gradually over time as dissolved minerals form layer upon layer on a surface. It can take a long time for these mineral deposits to break down, even after you’ve had a water softener installed and only soft water is flowing through your home.
So, don’t expect a water softener system to offer instant results and immediately clear the scale from your pipes, but with time, the scale build-up will gradually decrease.
📋 Factors Affecting A Water Softener’s Ability To Remove Scale
There are a couple of factors that affect the effectiveness of a water softener system in removing scale:
The Severity Of The Scaling
If you have particularly clogged pipes that have heavy scaling, it’ll take longer for the scale to be eliminated than in pipes that have mild-to-moderate scaling.
That’s because there’s thicker scaling to cut through, so the process of removing all of this scale will be slower and more gradual.
The Softener Performance
Not all water softeners are created equal. The very best water softener system will provide a complete water softening solution, eliminating hard minerals and preventing any new scale formation – and also speeding up the lifting of existing scale.
On the other hand, a poorer-performing softener may not fully soften your water. If there are still some hard water minerals present, this may affect the water’s ability to remove existing calcium from your pipes and water-fed appliances.
🆚 Are Water Softeners Or Water Conditioners Better At Removing Calcium Buildup?
You might have heard of water conditioners, which condition water using a salt-free process like template-assisted crystallization (TAC). These salt-free systems crystallize calcium and magnesium minerals, preventing them from leaving deposits on surfaces while still retaining them in water.
Many manufacturers of water conditioners claim that these softener alternatives are better at water softeners at removing existing scale. The reason for this, according to the manufacturers, is that calcium and magnesium in their crystallized form interact with hard mineral deposits and cause them to gradually lift away.
However, we couldn’t find any studies or scientific research to support these claims. Plus, conventional salt-based water softener manufacturers claim that water conditioners can’t lift existing scale at all since their role is only to inhibit further scale formation, without actually removing hard water minerals.
From our own research and experience using both types of water treatment systems, we think that a well-made water conditioner may be just as effective as a water softener at removing existing scale – but the quality of the water will likely affect its performance.
📑 Final Word
Installing a water softener should prevent new scale formation and lift existing limescale deposits – but be aware that this process won’t happen overnight.
In homes where calcium deposits have built up over decades, a water softener isn’t a quick-fix solution. It takes time for this limescale to break down, and you may notice bits of floating scale in your water during the process.
Be patient! The scaling in your pipes and appliances should decrease gradually over the years that follow your water softener installation.
Related: Do water softeners treat sulfur smell?