Water Softener or Water Conditioner?

This is a question we get many times a day.  Water softeners are one of the following:

  1. systems that use the ion exchange process with salt;
  2. reverse osmosis systems;
  3. deionization systems; or
  4. distillation systems

to produce water that is below 1 grain of hardness per gallon (GPG).

In the interests of full disclosure, I am not talking about companies that falsely call their products “salt-free water softeners” when in fact, they are not .  For this discussion, I am talking about products that will actually produce “soft” water.  As I mentioned, soft water is water that is free of minerals to below 1 GPG.   So when a company says that theirs is a salt-free water softener which leaves the beneficial minerals, they are preying upon your lack of understanding as to what “soft” means.   In simpler terms, they are giving you false information.

A salt-free water conditioner, does not make the water soft – it simply causes the hardness minerals to lose their ability to form scale.  Some salt-free or saltless water softeners work better than others, but for the sake of comparing what they are capable of, I have made this comparison chart:


What is right for you?  There is no simple answer to that question – much of it depends upon where you live and your lifestyle. For example, some counties (especially in California) have banned water softeners, so you are limited to a salt-free conditioner, even if you don’t want one. However, in most parts of the country you are free to choose what you want. The answer to that question depends upon you. We would caution you that when deciding which one is right for you, you should deal with a water treatment company that sells more than just one type of product.

At US Water Systems, we sell both, but we are very careful to explain the difference.  We sell Green Wave Salt-Free Water Conditioners as well as Water Softeners that are regenerated with salt and Whole House Reverse Osmosis Systems.

This article has 2 Comments

  1. i have very hard water from my own well deep in rock, no municipal water avaible.what do i use with a septic tank.was told salt bad for septic.dish washer wont clean,tankless coil in boiler went bad.real problem. thanks,mike

  2. There are many studies that show salt is not as bad for a septic tank all the chemicals, phosphates and detergents you have to use with hard water. In fact, they show that it can actually stimulate bacterial reactions. Get a water softener.

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