With more and more people suffering the effects of hard household water, water softener systems have become a near necessity. With these systems, homeowners enjoy such benefits as cleaner clothes, less scale buildup and softer skin and hair, making a home water softener an excellent investment. These systems are essential to protect the integrity of your home’s plumbing and appliances.
Unfortunately, a no-salt or salt-free water softener is a misnomer. Though these systems have benefits, they’re not truly “softeners” and don’t provide the same benefits as a conventional water softener.
If you’re looking to address hard water problems in your home and improve your water quality, learn more about the myth of no-salt water softeners and the differences between salt-based and salt-free systems to decide which of these options is appropriate for your needs.
What is Hard Water?
“Hard water” is a catch-all term that refers to groundwater that has collected minerals as its passes through the earth, such as magnesium and calcium. While this is not always harmful to your health, it can have a negative impact on your home and day-to-day life.
Over time, the minerals in hard water will clog pipes with mineral buildup and leave scale buildup on your fixtures and appliances, leading to unsightly staining. Hard water also reduces the lather of soap and shampoo and causes soap scum residue that’s difficult to rinse off your clothing, hair, skin and dishes. Because of this, hard water requires more soap and water to perform the same tasks, leading many people to install water softener systems in their homes to reduce the mineral buildup and save money on utilities and detergent.
What is a Water Softener?
A water softener is a type of home water treatment system that removes calcium and magnesium from hard water. It uses three main components to accomplish this: A mineral tank, brine tank and control valve, regardless of the size of the system.
The mineral tank is where the hard water is filtered to remove the minerals. Incoming water passes through plastic or resin beads, which carry a negative charge to attract the positively charged calcium and magnesium minerals. This removes the hard water minerals and leaves them on the plastic or resin beads.
After that, a salt brine is created and stored in the brine tank, which is then used to backwash the resin beads, releasing the charge and removing the captured calcium and magnesium.
This process is known as ion exchange, and the hard minerals are then purged from the system and flushed to a drain. Water softener salt is essentially a “detergent” which is used to clean the system of hardness buildup. With advances in technology and engineering, extremely minimal salt brine solution is introduced back into the home.
The control valve is the device that regulates the water flow in and out of the mineral and brine tanks during the process.
No-Salt Water Softeners
Because salt is used in a water softener to clean the resin of hard minerals, it is often misunderstood that this leads to high sodium levels in your home’s water. While this is not always true, “no-salt water systems” are often viewed as a popular alternative for many. Some of these systems have great benefits in cleaning water of chemicals such as chlorine however, they are ineffective in removing hard minerals from the water. In order to truly “soften” water, a salt-based water softener is the only real option.
So, salt-free water softeners aren’t really water softeners at all, but are water conditioners.
Water Softener vs. Water Conditioner
They may sound similar, but water softeners and water conditioners have quite different processes and different effects on your home’s water quality.
In water softeners, the hardness minerals are completely removed from the water following an ion-exchange process. In water conditioners, the hardness minerals aren’t removed. Instead, chemicals are removed from the water, very often through carbon filtration.
While this helps with total dissolved solids in the water, water conditioners have no effect on your water’s hardness. You’ll still experience clothes with residue, dry skin and hair, problems rinsing and water spots on glasses. Overall, you won’t get the same water-softening benefits and quality from a salt-free water conditioner as you would from a conventional water softener. Salt-free and no-salt water softeners aren’t recognized by the American Water Works Association or the Water Quality Association, either, and there’s still debate in the scientific community about their effectiveness on home water quality.
Learn More at EcoWater Systems
Though some people may see benefits from no-salt water conditioners in the home, it’s not a replacement for a true water softener system. This is the only water treatment system that’s going to improve your water quality, protect your plumbing and appliances and make your water more efficient for washing and bathing. If you’re suffering from hard water and want to learn more about the water softener systems available, EcoWater Systems can help. We offer a variety of water softeners, water filtration and purification systems for residential use, so we’re sure we can find the right option for your family’s needs. Contact us today to speak with one of our experts and to see how we can help you enjoy the cleanest, freshest water in your home!