Yes. Distilled water is water that has had minerals and contaminants removed. Water is distilled by being boiled, and then having the steam condensed into another container, leaving behind any particles that could not be converted to a gaseous state.
Yes. When water is referred to as hard, it means that there are a lot of minerals in the water, specifically calcium and magnesium.
The process of water softening is in effect, removing the minerals from the water so that it is no longer hard. Water softeners work by exchanging ions that are designed to remove positively charged ions (calcium and magnesium). Sometimes, the water softener is applied to remove iron from the water as well. Typical softener units collect the hard minerals in external chambers and then flush them out so they’re no longer in the original water source. In order to replace what has been taken out, water softeners typically deposit other ions into the water such as sodium and potassium.
Yes, it is possible to remove minerals from water–it is called reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis–also known as hyperfiltration–was invented in the 1950’s as a method of desalinating sea water. Hyperfiltration is the process by which water molecules are forced through a 0.0001 micron semi-permeable membrane, allowing only microscopic water molecules to pass through and keeping out 90-99% of all contaminates, more than any standard carbon filter is capable of.
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