Indy Soft Water Explains: Water Filtration Words

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Freshen up your Indianapolis water knowledge with our handy water word glossary! Understand these 12 water words, and you’ll master the soft water and water filtration lingo like a pro.

Activated Carbon

This is the main ingredient of basic water filters. Pitcher filters use activated carbon to adsorb—or chemically attract—certain substances into the carbon’s tiny pores. These simple filters work well enough on chlorine (if you remember to replace them) but let sodium, nitrates, and other impurities pass through into your drinking water. Stronger water filters might use activated carbon as just one step in a more intensive filtration process.


In water filtration, breakthrough occurs when the filter becomes so backlogged with contaminants that the impurities leach back into the water. When this happens, the filter is basically useless, and might even being doing more harm than good. Monitoring filters for replacement helps prevent breakthrough and keeps your drinking water clean.

Calcium Scale

Calcium is one of the minerals in our municipal tap water that make water “hard.” With excessive amounts of calcium, water creates a scale that causes spots on dishes. If left untreated, hard water and calcium scale can build up inside appliances and pipes, wearing down their efficiency.


These compounds form when water treatment plants use chlorine and ammonia to disinfect our water. Chloramines are meant to be a longer-lasting treatment option as water travels through the pipes to our homes.


Tap water contains amounts of chlorine left over from the disinfection stage of our plants’ water treatment process. Chlorine is the disinfectant of choice because it’s inexpensive and powerful, but it comes with some health concerns. Chlorine often has an off-putting taste and strong smell at the faucet, and chlorinated tap water can also interfere with your laundry.

Filtered Water

A whole home system helps address your drinking water concerns. True filtered water is free from chlorine, bacteria, cysts, lead, and other harmful chemicals. Simple systems, like pitcher filters, rely only on quick carbon layers to remove impurities. A stronger home filter treats your water with up to five distinct stages, which all happen right at the tap.

Hard Water

Water with high amounts of dissolved minerals is called “hard” because it’s hard or difficult to clean with it. The calcium and magnesium compounds found in hard water keep soap from lathering properly. They also damage your hair and leave curd or scale around bathtubs and sinks. Untreated tap water is typically very hard and can benefit from a water softener.

Lime Scale

These deposits are the result of hard water. High percentages of calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate in water make silver or chrome faucets dull and can clog pipes and damage other fixtures. Vinegar can help clean these mineral build-ups, but softening your water is the only real way to prevent scale from forming.

Reverse Osmosis (RO) Water

This water treatment process forces water to flow in the opposite direction inside the filter. As water passes through a special membrane, nearly all dissolved solids are removed. Reverse Osmosis offers an extreme method of filtration because it can remove fluoride in water by up to 95% and TDS by up to 93%.

Soft Water

Water is considered “soft” when it has less than 17 milligrams of calcium carbonate per liter. Put another way—water is “hard,” if the mineral grain of calcium carbonate exceeds 1.0 per gallon. Soft water works better for cleaning and doesn’t create scale buildup around your home.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

When all of the dissolved solids in water are extracted and weighed, the measurement is referred to in terms of TDS. Calcium, magnesium, sulfates, sodium, chlorides, and other organic matter all contribute to water’s dissolved solids. A high TDS rating in your water can damage appliances, cause scale formation, and give your water a brackish taste.

Water Softener

A softener system works to remove the “hard” minerals in tap water through a process called ion exchange. When water is treated with a water softener, the calcium and magnesium ions are usually traded with sodium. Softeners work for utility water, but they’re also combined with drinking water filters for a whole-home water treatment setup.

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