As you look through our list of the best water softeners, you might asking yourself, ‘Which is better – salt based or salt free?‘ The truth is not that one is better than the other because they work and function in slightly different ways. Basically, the best one is the one that meets your water softening needs. Let me explain the differences between the two and how they work so that you will see what I mean.
About Salt-based Water Softeners
As you can tell by the name, this type of water softener uses salt to turn the hard water into soft water. Specifically, this type of system using an ion exchange process to strip calcium and magnesium from the water. The process uses a polymer resin bed, which gives off a sodium particle in exchange for the calcium and magnesium (those are the hardness minerals in your water).
What all that means is the system takes out the hard minerals by replacing them with the salt.
Typically, salt pellets are used in these systems, though a few do use regular table salt. One thing to keep in mind when using a salt-based water softener is that it can (and often does) leave your water tasting a little salty. For most people, this is no big deal but if you need to keep an eye on your sodium intake, then you might have some health concerns here. Of course, you can just use a water filter on one sink or a water filter pitcher to strip the excess sodium out of your drinking water.
A salt-based system is the only way to fully remove the hard minerals your water. It actually changes your hard water to soft water.
About Salt-free Water Softeners
If you are concerned about salt levels in your water or just don’t want to have to deal with buying salt pellets regularly, then a salt-free system is a good alternative for you. This type of system works more as a descaling treatment as it doesn’t remove the hard minerals from the water. Instead, it sort of neutralizes them by crystallizing the minerals so that they don’t stick to your pipes and such.
Obviously, salt-free systems are not as robust as the salt-based ones. Since they just change the condition of the minerals in the water, they are often referred to as water conditioners.
This type of system is ideal for someone who wants to leave the minerals in the water (there is data to suggest some health benefits), but not have to deal with limescale buildup and deposits in the pipes, sinks and other places in the home. This is also the more eco-friendly option since it doesn’t require any electricity and there is no waste water. Another important thing to know is that there is no maintenance required with this type of system.
Now that you know which type of system you need, why not get started by reading some our water softener system reviews.
For more information on water softeners and hard water, take a look at our resources.
And for easy comparison shopping, check our list of the top home water softener systems for the money.