A water softener has many benefits. As ground water travels, it picks up bits of minerals including calcium and magnesium. These minerals cause our water to be hard. Hard water has several negative effects, one of which involves laundry detergent and soaps. The minerals in the water decrease the detergents' effectiveness as they combine with the soap, forming a coagulated mess - which can stick around. Because the soap doesn't totally dissolve, you'll find more detergent is needed and clothes, hair, etc. don't seem completely clean. Additionally, these soap deposits can leave spots on a washed car, windows, dishes, glasses, showers, tubs - you name it. The buildup is difficult to remove. The buildup can also affect the plumbing in your home. The deposits form in pipes, and these minerals create a scale build up in water heaters, reducing their efficiency and life span.
A water softener is a solution to this problem. Plumbed into the water supply of your home, the softener's process is an ion exchange. It essentially "trades" the minerals for something else - sodium. Most of the systems flush and regenerate the water on a timed schedule - generally during the night, when water is used the least. Salt is added to the system generally every few months, although usage rate also affects the frequency. You'll find softened water provides a silkier feel to skin and hair. Your pipes will thank you too!