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A Brief History Of The Water Softener

In Manitoba, water softeners are very common because of the level of hardness in our water. Although most rural homes on well water today have a water softener, this was not always the case. So the question is when were water softeners invented?.

How & When Were Water Softeners Invented?

Where did we come up with the terms “hard” & “soft” water and why?

Somewhere in around the middle of the 19th century, it was discovered that when fertiliser passed through certain soil, a calcium sulphate solution formed. The Agricultural Society of England reported that the soil must have minerals in it to cause this to happen. It was later determined that calcium along with magnesium were the main minerals that made water “hard”.

You don’t hear too much more about softening water until the turn of the century.

Royal Agricultural Society of England

20th century

The first water softeners were big and clumsy by today’s standards, and really expensive. They had to be regenerated sometimes two or three times a day, and most people didn’t understand the technology. As a result, they were mostly for commercial use, and only the very rich bought them.

Finally in the 1920s things began to change, and the first water softener company opened its doors in 1924 in North America. Water softeners were usually rented, and the media tank had to be replaced monthly with a new recharged media tank supplied by the company to keep you in soft water.

This went on till about 1936 when it was discovered that water could be softened through ion exchange using synthetic resins. (learn more about synthetic resins in this article) Research into this method of softening water continued into the 1940s until it finally came to the point as it is understood today.

By the time the 1950s had arrived they were already using electric timers to regenerate the media tank, and the Mom and Pop consumer had access to softened water at a reasonable price.

Old Water Softener Ad

Clean Water Act of 1972

The next big change in our industry came about as a result of the “Clean Water Act of 1972”, which was brought about to make sure all Americans had access to safe clean drinking water. Of course, this affected Canada as most of the softener designs and parts came from the States. It was also in the 1970s that they first started to explore Carbon and Aeration, to take out other minerals such as IronManganese , and manmade chemicals such as pesticides. The majority of which is taken out before the water was allowed to enter the softener, the idea being to protect it from getting a fouled resin bed.

Reverse Osmosis was brought into the mainstream in the 1980s, and block salt was introduced in the 1990s to help out with regeneration.

Clean Water Act 1972

Present Day

Let’s skip from the 90s to the present and see what’s happening now in our industry. Water softeners are smaller, and far more efficient than they were even 15 years ago. They still use electric timers for the most part and are now “on demand”, which means they regenerate only when their media has to be cleaned.

It now takes a Technician just a few moments to test your water, and check your plumbing, to know exactly what size system you need, and the best place to install it.

The Water Treatment Industry has tried and proven methods, which have been thoroughly researched and refined over the last century. Today we can say with confidence that with the level of testing, and with the advanced tools we now have to work with, we can give you the best water possible.

We hope you enjoyed this brief history of the water softener and if you would like to learn more or just set up an appointment to see one of our consultants.

Softener Timers