Water Softener vs Water Filter: Should You Choose One or Both?

Water Softener vs Water Filter featured photo

Looking for the best treatment to achieve clean and safe drinking water at home? We know the agony of not knowing whether your water is safe to consume. In this case, you will benefit from either a water filter or softener or a combination of both.

In the debate between water softeners vs water filters, the right treatment depends on your water source and intended use. If you have hard water, softeners are great for removing excess minerals. But if you’re looking to have safe drinking water, you may want to incorporate a filter.

That said, these two water purification methods work differently. And the right choice boils down to your household needs.

Below, we’ll go over the differences between water softeners and water filters. We’ll also provide you with a range of filtration methods to use based on your budget and requirements.

What Is Hard Water?

Hard water is tough on everything that requires water. It contains high amounts of total dissolved solids, such as calcium and magnesium, which happens when water flows over limestone or chalk deposits that are rich in these minerals.

Such minerals can accumulate in your pipeworks and water-using appliances, which can cause damage if not treated. And if they restrict water flow in your pipes, it may be costly to repair.

The mineral deposits can also form on your sinks and bathtubs. And since limescale and deposits solidify over time, they can be hard to remove. Such an eyesore if you don’t address it sooner.

Besides that, hard water can also reduce the efficiency of your soaps and detergents, which is why sometimes, they are hard to lather up. This also means you need more soap to really create a good lather, so you’ll wind up spending more money on detergent.

And the problem doesn’t end there. Hard water can also make your hair and skin dry and itchy. This is because hard water makes it hard to rinse soap.

Plus, have you seen any fog or spotty patches on your clothes, or white residues on your utensils and dishes lately? Hard water is most likely to blame.

When it comes to the question of whether or not hard water is safe to drink, the answer is yes. It can be safe as drinking water. However, it tends to lend a metallic taste, which isn’t exactly pleasant.

So, what function do water softeners and water filters play in dealing with such problems?

Read on.

Water Softener vs Water Filter

Both water treatment techniques can help with tackling issues related to hard water. However, each is designed for specific use or purpose.

Water softeners or water conditioners are specifically designed to remove hardening minerals that are in your water, which cause limescale. A water filter, on the other hand, eliminates harmful contaminants and impurities from water.

One thing to note, though, is that water softeners are technically filters. But only for a specific treatment since water filtration involves different techniques. Even so, you can use both a water softener and certain filters to give you the best water treatment at home.

How Do Water Softeners Work?

How Do Water Softeners Work

Water softeners get rid of magnesium and calcium from hard water. From the term itself, it “softens” the water by allowing it to pass through tiny resin beads charged with sodium chloride ions.

It is a common misconception that salt in water softeners softens hard water. But it’s the thousands of beads within the tank that do. The salt content only cleans the resin beads throughout a regeneration cycle. It allows the system to eliminate hardness from your water source, consistently.

As the water passes through those beads, there’s an exchange between the mineral ions and the sodium chloride ions, which removes hard water chemicals. Softened water will then flow from the tank to a set of pipes that supplies water throughout your home.

However, unlike filters, which remove a range of impurities and pollutants from water, softeners only remove hardness. This may be a sensible solution if you simply want to use the water for laundry and dishwashing. But, for healthy drinking water, it is always recommended to use a filter.

How Do Water Filters Work?

How Do Water Filters Work

Reverse Osmosis (RO)

A reverse osmosis system is a water filtration method that uses pressure to force water through a semi permeable membrane. It traps a large portion of contaminants from your water source. This includes particulates or sediments, dirt, salt, chlorine, and other forms of impurities.

Carbon Filters

These filters come in blocks and granular activated carbons (GAC). They absorb odors through absorption, which happens when molecules adhere to the exterior of a filter media surface instead of being soaked into it. 

GAC filter, in particular, is a tried and tested technique for removing specific pollutants from water. They are especially helpful for removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Activated carbons also improve the taste of water. Plus, they are the cheapest filter you could install in your home.

Sediment Filters

As the name implies, these filters work like a sieve to remove any suspended particles in the water including clay, algae, sand, silt, and other organic materials. It uses a filter media, which varies from coarse to fine ones. These filters catch suspended particles on the surface or inside the filter.

It’s not the most effective type of filtration technique. But it can be a good primary treatment to protect the next filtration stage.

UV Filters

Ultraviolet light filters are a great, affordable filter that kills viruses and removes microorganisms from water. The downside is that they can only be used when the water is clear. And they don’t improve taste and quality.

Salt-Free Alternatives to Water Softeners

If you’re concerned about the sodium content of your water, a salt-free water conditioner will be a great alternative. These treatments will soften your water without using chemicals. They use some sort of advanced ceramic filter media with a porous surface. This filtering medium attracts minerals and neutralizes hard water.

However, if you have excessively hard water, a traditional water softener may be the better solution. After all, a salt-based treatment is more environmentally friendly.

And the best thing about it is that it doesn’t eliminate essential nutrients and minerals from water. But only if you don’t mind a bit of saltiness.


Can You Have Both a Water Softener and a Water Filter?

A water softener system eliminates hard minerals like calcium and magnesium from water, however, they cannot remove pollutants like bacteria and sediments. But installing both distillers and water filtration systems can enhance the quality of your home’s water by eliminating a wide range of impurities.

Is a Water Filter the Same as a Water Softener?

They are not the same. A water filter is designed to remove pollutants including chlorine, sediments, and bacteria from water. Certain types of water filters like a house water filtration system can even remove heavy metals and other pollutants.

A water softener, on the other hand, removes hard minerals from water, like calcium and magnesium. These minerals create hard water scale buildup and can decrease the efficiency of cleaning chemicals used in the filtration process. In addition, water softeners replace these hard minerals with sodium or potassium ions, “softening” the water.

We can say that both systems can improve water quality in your home, but they serve distinct purposes and work in different ways.

What Is the Downside of a Water Softener?

The main downside of using water softeners is that they may increase the salt levels in your drinking water. If you consume a high-sodium diet, this might be an issue. Not only that, but it also depletes vital minerals such as calcium and magnesium.

Water softeners also require routine maintenance. This may include applying salt to the brine tank and cleaning the resin tank regularly. If you fail to maintain your equipment, it may not perform effectively and may cause damage to your pipework.

Are Water Softeners Healthy?

Water softening systems generate safe drinking water. Most people have no problems drinking soft water. But if you’re worried about the salt content in your H20, a water softener may not be the ideal choice.


Running your water through a filter will give you the highest quality of water that is safe for consumption. But if you’re only going to use water to do your regular household chores, a drinking water filtration system might be unnecessary. You may want to opt for water softener treatments instead.

We get it—hard water is difficult to work with and it’s extra tough on your pipes. In this case, combining the best of both worlds may be a wise decision. This way, you’ll be at peace that your water is safe to drink and is free from hard minerals.

We hope you find this post helpful in tackling hard water issues at home. If you have more questions, feel free to reach out to us.

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