Many homeowners wonder, “What’s best for my home, water softeners or a water filtration system?” The answer depends on what’s already in your water when you drink, cook, bathe, and wash laundry.
How Each Works
Water Softeners. Water softeners are responsible for removing minerals from water that cause hardness and limescale. This manifests as a wet, chalky, white substance in dishwashers and other appliances.
To start on a technicality, water softeners are a type of home water treatment system.
Water softeners use salt and ion exchange resins, which is a sticky organic substance that’s insoluble in water, exuded by trees and other plants. These resins have a sodium solution coating that forces magnesium and calcium ions to migrate out of the water.
As these mineral ions migrate out of the water, they reach an active site on the resins and are replaced with sodium ions. In short, water softeners remove magnesium and calcium from water.
Note that salt-free water softeners are available for those who don’t want to add sodium to water for dietary reasons. Salt-free softeners are a more eco-friendly option because they don’t require a rinse of water and electricity, according to APEC Water, a “leading U.S. supplier of high quality drinking water systems and information source.”
Home Water Filtration Systems. In general, filtration systems are responsible for removing a variety of organic or inorganic contaminants from water.
Filtration systems use a variety of methods to remove contaminants, including the following:
- Carbon filters
- Deionization and ion exchange filters
- Distillation filters
- Mechanical and ceramic filters
- Ozone filters
- Reverse-osmosis filters
- Sediment filters
- Ultraviolet filters
- Water softener filters
For more information about how each filter work, check out Warner Service’s Which Water Treatment System Is Right For You?
Water Softeners. As for maintenance, salt-based water softeners need regular plumbing maintenance, including restocking consumable salt. Non-salt-based water softeners need less plumbing maintenance but are often damaged by small amounts of oil.
Magnetic water softeners require the least amount of maintenance. However, they’re less effective, especially in catching metallic dissolved materials.
Water Filtration Systems. As for maintenance, filtration systems requires less maintenance than a water softener. However, they’re more expensive to install.
Which Do You Need?
Before purchasing either of these plumbing solutions, check the quality of your home’s water. See which contaminants come out of the tap before committing to a product.
For example, use a water softener if your only concern is water hardness or limescale. This is common in inner city areas and places with hot weather, low rainfall, and high mineral content in soil, according to Water Softeners & Water Filtration, a review and general information website for water quality improvement.
However, if you have other concerns, use the following list from Warner Service:
- Asbestos. Distillation filters work best for removing asbestos.
- Filtrates. Reverse-osmosis filters work best for removing filtrates.
- Halogens, including chlorine and fluorine. Carbon filters work best for removing chlorine taste and odor, while reverse-osmosis filters work best for removing fluoride.
- Heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, and mercury. Reverse-osmosis filters work best for removing arsenic, while distillation filters work best for removing mercury.
- Microorganisms, including dirt, rust, and sand. Sediment and ozone filters work best for removing larger particles of microorganisms.
- Minerals, including magnesium, copper, and calcium. Deionization and ion exchange filters work best for removing magnesium and calcium, while distillation filters work best for removing copper.
- Nitrates. Reverse-osmosis filters work best for removing nitrates.
- Pesticides and herbicides. Carbon water treatment systems work best for removing pesticides and herbicides from agricultural runoff.
- Sodium. Deionization and ion exchange filters and reverse-osmosis filters work best for removing sodium.
- Viruses and bacteria. Reverse-osmosis and ultraviolet filters work best for removing viruses and bacteria.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), including gasoline additives; formaldehyde from air fresheners, cleaning products, and nail polish remover; and dry cleaning solvents. Carbon filters work best for removing VOCs.
The choice between softeners and water treatment filters is up to you. To start, do a water audit to discover why your home’s water needs to be filtered. After that, research which filter is best for solving your home’s plumbing problem.
You can also download Warner Service’s Water Filtration Maintenance Chart by clicking on the button below: