Do Salt-Free Water Softeners Actually Work? (Fully Explained)

Water filtration systems are an important part of every household. And the proper water filtration systems make all the difference in the quality of your water. However, most of the time, homeowners don’t even give a second thought to their water filtration systems. Here, we will be discussing the best water softeners, salt-based vs. salt-free water softeners. How do these water softeners differ from water filters? Why you should consider investing in salt-free water softeners for your home?

Water Softeners vs Water Filters: Key Differences

difference between water softener and water filter

The key difference between water softeners and water filters is that a water softener is a type of water filter.

With that being said, a water softener is a water filtration system that uses a process called ion exchange in order to soften hard water. Hard water is water with an overabundance of minerals such as magnesium and calcium. 

Why Do You Need One?

If hard water is just water with extra minerals and no harsh contaminants, is a water softener really necessary? Hard water may not be directly harmful, but there are many noticeable outcomes that come with the consistent use of hard water. 

For one, since hard water is rich in minerals, this allows for the mineral build-up and scaling in your pipes. When there is such build-up in the pipes, water may not flow as smoothly. Eventually, measures will need to be taken in order to fix these problems which causes both time and money.

Water is used at home on a daily basis for cleaning, cooking, etc. With the constant use of hard water, there may be noticeable inconveniences. For one, soap has a more difficult time dissolving in hard water, this can lead to things such as dullness in clothing after water, rough skin and hair, and even dull dishes.

Using softened water provided by a water softener can easily fix the problems mentioned above.

The Differences Explained

There are two different types of water softeners. There are salt-based water softeners and salt-free water softeners. Both have different benefits and work in different ways.

How Do Salt-Based Work?

salt-based water softeners

Salt-based water softeners are traditional water softeners that use a process called ion exchange to remove harsh minerals from the water. Salt-based water softeners use resin beads as a medium to remove magnesium and calcium.

Since resin is negatively charged, when water passes through the beads, the magnesium and calcium ions are removed.  

What the salt does in these softeners is that the salt is added to the water. Not only does this clean the resin beads, but as hard water contaminants are removed, the sodium from the salt replaces them.

How Do Salt-Free Work?

salt-free water softeners

As the name implies, a salt-free water softener does not use salt. In fact, a salt-free water softener does not remove magnesium and calcium at all. Rather, it neutralizes the charges in the minerals through a process called Template Assisted Crystallization.

Since this process does not remove and filter out magnesium, calcium, and other minerals as a filter would, salt-free water softeners are considered water conditioners.

Do They Actually Work?

do salt free water softeners work


There are many benefits to choosing a salt-free water softener for your home over a salt-based one.


For starters, salt-free water softeners are generally less expensive than salt-based ones, while still performing and giving the same benefits that a salt-based water softener would. Salt-free softeners still soften water and help prevent build-up in pipes.

Maintenance Cost

Another feature of salt-free water filters is that they can operate without electricity. So, not only do salt-free water softeners cost less, but they also cost less to maintain over time since they do not need to be connected to a power source.


Salt-free water filters are generally smaller in size in comparison to salt-based water filters. This means that these filters can be stored anywhere.

Since salt-free water filters don’t actually remove anything from the water, there is no discharge or filters that need to be changed which means that they can be stored anywhere without much maintenance.

Final Conclusion

Now that we have discussed the different types of water softeners, how they work, and the different benefits of salt-free water softeners, we can answer the question of whether or not salt-free water softeners are effective. 

Technically, salt-free water softeners are considered water conditioners rather than water softeners. Nonetheless, they get the job done. The sole purpose of a water softener is to soften water so as to avoid mineral build-up and prevent harsh outcomes on household items such as dull clothes and dishes. While considered a water conditioner, a salt-free water softener is still able to carry out these functions.

All in all, salt-free water softeners carry out the basic functions of a water softener and are able to do so in units that are more compact, use little to no electricity, and produce less waste and discharge. All these added benefits make salt-free softeners a great option for those looking for a water softener for their home.