Salt Based Vs Salt Free (Saltless) Water Softener

It’s an ongoing debate in the world of hard water: which is better, salt-based water softeners, or salt-free water softeners?

In order to answer this question, let’s take a look at how each type of system works, the pros and cons for each, and which situations each is best suited for.

Salt-Based Water Softeners

These systems actually remove the hard water minerals from your water, and so you are left with soft water.

These systems remove magnesium and calcium minerals (hard minerals) through a process called ‘Ion exchange’ and replace them with sodium (also known as salt). Salt-based systems require the use of salt pellets and regeneration periods, which in simple terms, is like a ‘recharge’ of the system.

The downside? You may not like the taste of the water you end up with after using these systems (or you may be watching your sodium levels due to health issues).

There are three simple solutions for this:

  • Install a by-pass valve. Then you can disarm your water softener with the turn of a knob.
  • Install a water filter onto a certain tap in your household to filter your water for drinking and improve the taste.
  • Bypass the system to one supply point in your house (your plumber can do this for you) and drink water that hasn’t been through the water softening system.

Best situations to use salt-based system

This method of water softening is an effective way to remove hard water, so if your hard water levels are high, you should be using a salt based system.

Salt Free (Saltless) Water Softeners

Also known as ‘water conditioners’, or water descalers, these systems do not remove the hard water minerals. Instead, they stop the minerals from adhering to your pipes.

Hard water undergoes a process whereby the hard water minerals are ‘crystallized’. After that they can no long stick to surfaces like the inside of your pipes or your dishes. This method is not as effective as using a salt-based system, and will not work as well when exposed to high levels of hard water.

Some of the salt-free systems on the market include an internal filter, which will filter the hard water minerals as well while it ‘conditions’ your hard water

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are salt water softeners banned in certain areas?

Water softeners are being banned because of the negative effects they have on agriculture.

When water softeners regenerate, they flush the salt-filled solution into the sewage system.

Water treatment plants don’t have the resources to treat this kind of water. As a result the wastewater stream becomes salty.

Is softened water bad for the garden?

Most plants cannot tolerate high amounts of salt.

The sodium in softened water actually interferes with the water balance in the plants and can kill plants by “fooling” them into thinking they have taken up more water than they have. Softened water essentially causes the plants in your garden to die of thirst!

Is softened water bad for dogs?

Yes, softened water with sodium in it can be dangerous for dogs.

The ideal refreshment your dog is spring water, or water that only has beneficial minerals and no added salt whatsoever.

Can you water house plants with soft water?

No, we don’t recommend doing so. Most plants can’t tolerate high amounts of salt. The sodium in softened water can cause problems with plant growth in your home just like it does with general agriculture.

Use tap water or reverse osmosis treated water for house plants.

Final Thoughts

We’d go for a water conditioner or water descaler when it comes to drinking water in order to retain the beneficial minerals inside of it.

For everything else, a water softener tends to be better because it drastically reduces overall hardness.

That said, you’ll also need to consider the fact that salt-based water softeners require maintenance, a drain, and you’ll need to constantly buy salt packs for it to function. A water descaler requires basically zero maintenance and only electricity to function as intended.