If you want your warewashing equipment to last and its warranty to be valid it is essential that you fit a commercial water softener to its water supply. All commercial warewashing equipment, even in areas with soft water must be supplied with a softened water supply.

Allowing hard water to enter your machine will not only reduce its life significantly, it will also affect the washing results as components such as heater elements and pumps scale up but also the effectiveness of detergents will be compromised.

There are 2 main factors to consider when choosing a water softener, the hardness of the water supply and how much water the machine is going to use which tends to be based on the type and size of your dishwasher or glasswasher.

Water hardness is caused by naturally occurring minerals being dissolved into the water at it source, normally underground. Hard water is generally not harmful to human health, but can serious damage the health of any catering equipment that uses water in its process. So not only should warewashing equipment have a water softener fitted but combination cookers, water boilers etc. need to be considered.

There are a number of different ways of measuring water hardness, the easiest probably being Soft, Moderate & Hard. Details of the hardness of your water supply can be obtained from your water supply company most of these have an online search facility based on your post code.

All water softeners basically work in the same manner, which without getting too technical involves replacing the harmful dissolve salts with none harmful ones. To do this they use salt, and it is important to remember this point, as other water treatment systems, such as scale inhibitors, are available, but if they do not use salt then they are not softening your water.

There are 3 main types of water softener available, these are:

1. Internal

2. Manual

3. Automatic

Internal Water Softener

Internal water softeners operate in the same way as those found in domestic dishwashers however will need to be topped up with salt far more regularly than a domestic appliance. Not all internal water softeners operate automatically and you may have to remember to press a button to operate the softening mechanism. In some cases machine may have a light that will come on to warn you that the salt needs to be topped.

If your water supply is rated as hard or very hard it is wise to check with the equipment supplier that than internal water softener is suitable as they have a limited capacity and in some cases cannot treat high throughput of very hard water.

Manual Water Softeners

Manual water softeners are very similar to a fire extinguisher in appearance and have an upper inlet and lower outlet port for water. As the name suggests a manual water softener needs some help to operate, but this is limited to having to re- generate it once or twice a week depending on water hardness and usage. This process can take up to about 45 minutes but is essential for the water softener to continue to function correctly. See our article on Regeneration.

This type of water softener is available in a variety of sizes from an 8 litre model which will soften approx. 1,000 litres of water up to a 20 litre model which will soften approx. 3,000 litre of water.

Manual water softeners whilst taking up space do offer the convenience of not having to constantly top up the salt as with an integral softener.

As a guide with average use and a weekly regeneration cycle the following sizes of softener should cope:

Under counter machine – 350-450 mm basket – 8 litre softener

Under counter machine – 500 mm basket – 12 litre softener

Pass through – 16 litre softener

Once again it is always wise to check with your supplier as to the recommended size of water softener you require, not only for your machine but to cope with the hardness of your water supply.

Automatic Water Softener

For catering establishments where the management of regenerating their manual water softener or guaranteeing the correct use of an internal water softener is a problem, an automatic water softener offers a solution, albeit at a higher price.

Automatic water softeners tend to be graded either as hot or cold feed or by maximum water feed temperature. As the name suggests they operate with the minimum of human intervention and simply require, once set up, the topping up of salt. One other consideration that needs to be given is this type of softener needs to be installed close to the equipment it is protecting and will require a separate power supply which is normally 13 amps.