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Salt Vs. Salt-Free Water Softeners: What You Need To Know

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

Salt-free water softeners are gaining popularity because they don’t require salt. They also save energy and reduce maintenance costs. But are these claims true?

Water softening (see also ‘What Is The Best Water Softener Salt’) systems remove calcium and magnesium ions from tap water using ion exchange resin. Salt-based water softeners are effective at removing hardness minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, from water.

Salt-free water softeners rely on other methods to soften water, such as ion exchange resins or carbon filtration. They crystallize instead of removing the minerals.

There are pros and cons to both types of water softeners. We look at salt vs salt-free water softeners , comparing the two and figuring out which one might be best for you. 

Salt Vs. Salt-Free Water Softeners

What Is Water Softener?

water softener removes hard minerals like calcium and magnesium from your home’s water supply. These minerals can cause soap scum buildup in tubs and sinks, and make it difficult to clean dishes and clothes. The most common type of water softener uses an ion exchange resin that removes calcium and magnesium from tap water.

If you have hard water, you may notice that your showers and dishwasher take longer to get clean. Also, your skin feels dry after washing with regular water. Using a water softener can help solve those problems.

If you live in an area with high levels of naturally occurring minerals, like California, you may need to use a water softener.

Hard water contains higher amounts of calcium and magnesium than normal tap water. Calcium and magnesium buildup in pipes and plumbing fixtures over time, causing them to rust and corrode.

You may also choose to use a water softener if you are concerned about lead contamination in your drinking water. Lead poisoning can occur when lead leaches from old pipes and plumbing fixtures.

The process of water softening begins when the water enters the water softener tank. A brine solution (a salty liquid) sits inside the tank. When the water flows through the tank, it picks up some of the salt in the brine solution.

This causes the water to become slightly saltier than before entering the tank. As the water leaves the tank, any remaining salt is removed by the brine solution.

The next step involves passing the softened water through a filter. In this case, the filter is made of activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is porous and will absorb unwanted chemicals, including chlorine, from the water. After the water passes through the filter, it goes into a holding tank where it remains until it needs to be used again.

Method: Salt-Based System

A salt-based softener uses sodium to reduce the mineral count that could damage your plumbing, boiler, and even skin or hair, it even helps your liquid fabric softener work better.

If you have a salt-based water softener, you use salt to soften your water. When you add salt to your water, it dissolves into tiny particles called ions. These ions then attach themselves to the calcium and magnesium in your water, making them easier to flush away. This process is called “ion exchange.”

If you use a salt-based water softener, you’ll need to buy salt every month. Some people think this is too expensive. However, when you consider how much time and effort it takes to scrub your pipes, sinks, and tubs, buying salt may end up saving you money over the long run.

A salt-based water softener does not increase the sodium content of your drinking water. It will only prevent scale buildup in pipes. Your sodium intake will still come primarily from foods you eat, not from the water softener.

The water will not become harmful. There is a much greater risk of Americans overconsuming sodium through diet. The amount of sodium added to water is only about 12.5g per 8oz glass.

Why Is A Salt-Water Softener Good?

Salt-based softeners remove calcium and magnesium from the water but do not remove minerals such as potassium. Salt-free softeners also use chemicals to soften the water, but these chemicals are less effective than those used by salt-based softeners.

They have increased effectiveness and you can usually buy them in bulk in most grocery stores.

The Problem With Extra Salt Intake

Sodium reduction is a necessity in most peoples diets, that said, the food and nutrition board discovered that high sodium intake can lead to health issues such as:

chronic kidney disease

High blood pressure

Cardiovascular disease, just to name a few.

Too much sodium intake wreaks havoc on the human body, The National academies press listed excess salt intake “A serious issue” with African Americans, Pregnant women as well as older adults.

Consuming natural water as a drink that’s not salted or doesn’t have salt added will help with disease control…who knew!

Why Is A Salt-Water Softener Good?

Salt-based softeners remove calcium and magnesium from the water but do not remove minerals such as potassium. Salt-free softeners also use chemicals to soften the water, but these chemicals are less effective than those used by salt-based softeners.

They have increased effectiveness and you can usually buy them in bulk in most grocery stores.

Method: Salt-Free System

No-salt water softeners (see also ‘When Should You Replace A Water Softener?‘) use potassium instead of sodium. Potassium causes minerals to crystalize, making them less likely to clog pipes. A no-salt water conditioner isn’t a water softener because it doesn’t soften water directly. It crystallizes minerals in the water.

This is useful as it prevents the minerals from sticking to the sides of your plumbing, laundry, or surfaces that hard water can grow scale on.

Why Is A Salt-Free Softener Not So Good?

Why Is A Salt-Free Softener Not So Good?

A salt-free water softener may seem like a good idea at first. They do not add extra sodium to your diet and appear to have the same effects as a salt-based water softener. Moreover, some might find a saltless softener better suited due to its carefree usage. What we mean by this is that you don’t have to refill the system with salt regularly.

A salt-free water softening system is more expensive than a regular salt-based system, however. The potassium pellets used by a salt-free water softener need to be replaced every 2 years or so.

Salt-free water softeners do not provide the benefits of a salt-based water softener and though they are expensive, are less effective.

A salt-based water softener reduces scale buildup in equipment where the water rests for long periods, but a non-salt-based water softener doesn’t do any such thing. Salt-based water softeners work harder than non-salt-based ones, so the systems in your house that aren’t equipped to handle minerals don’t have to be serviced as often.

Magnet-Based Softeners

Potassium-based water softeners (see also ‘Best Salt For Water Softener?‘) aren’t a scam, and though they are less effective than salt-based, are completely trustworthy and will get the job done.

Magnetic water softeners on the other hand are a scam and you should be aware of this. There is no proof that Magnetic Water Softener (MWS)  works. Many other methods work better than MWS. Often, with these systems, you will need to replace them regularly and they will not be installed by any reputable company.

Magnetic water softeners are supposed to reduce hard water’s effects using a magnetic field, however, they do no such thing. They don’t do anything but cost you lots of money and any effectiveness has only been seen in infomercial-type advertisements.

These advertisements often include vague before and after images and unverified testimonials.

The truth about magnet-based water softeners is that they are a scam and if you want to save yourself time and money, you should avoid them.

Salt-based and salt-free potassium-based water softeners have scientific evidence backing results that MWS does not have. They produce results that you can trust. The water that travels through either one of them will not test the same as hard water.

On the other hand, if the same travels through a magnetic water softener, it will usually test no different at all.

Water Softener Repair: How To Fix It Quickly?

How Do I Install A Water Softener System?

You’ll need to install a water softener system yourself. Most systems come preassembled and ready to install. Follow these steps to set up a new water softener (see also ‘Water Filter Vs. Water Softener’) system:

1. Turn off all power to the house.

2. Remove the existing faucet assembly.

3. Disconnect the hot and cold water lines coming from the main shutoff valve.

4. Unscrew the top of the water softener tank and remove it.

5. Place the new water softener tank in its place. Make sure the drain hose is connected properly to the drain pipe.

6. Screw the top back onto the water softener tank using the included screws.

7. Connect the hot and cold water line connections to the main shutoff valve using the provided hoses.

8. Turn on the main shutoff valve and test the water for hardness (see also ‘How To Test Water Hardness’). If the water is still too hard, repeat the installation procedure.

Electric Water Heater Installation

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Salt-Based Water Softener?

As written above, a salt water softener uses sodium to get rid of a section of the mineral count (usual calcium with magnesium for the most part) that could damage your plumbing system, boiler, skin, and hair.

What Is The Impact Of Softeners On Drinking Water?

The sodium content that a salt-based softener adds to your drinking water is negligible; normally about 12.5mg of sodium per 8oz glass.

What Are The Benefits Of A Water Softener With No Salt?

For starters, they don’t add any sodium to your diet and they are geared toward someone searching for a carefree way of softening their water. However, they are more of a conditioner than a softener. They require less attention, but they don’t work as hard.


Humanity has long been dependent on salt for survival. The first town in Europe where people were able to extract this mineral was Solnitsata, Bulgaria and it is thought that they did so around 5400 BC – over 3 thousand years before your grandmother’s time!

Salt intake increaszed because it became the best way to preserve food without refrigeration.

Edible salt

We all know that salt is an essential ingredient for cooking; it brings out the flavors and makes food more flavorful. But did you also realize just how important table salts are?

One type of this mineral, sodium chloride (or what’s usually found in table salt) can be extracted from multiple sources such as rocks or sea water in order to create different grades with varying salinity – each having their own unique purpose.

Non-dietary uses

Salt is best known for its role in flavoring food, but this isn’t the only way that this versatile compound can be used. In fact, salt has a wide range of non-dietary uses, from water treatment to chemical manufacturing. Here are just a few of the ways that salt can be put to work:

– Water treatment: Salt is often added to water to help break down impurities. This process is known as reverse osmosis and is used to purify both fresh and salt water.

– Chemical manufacturing: Salt is an important component in the production of soda ash, chlorine, and other chemicals.

– Deicing: During winter months, salt is commonly used to melt ice on roads and sidewalks. This helps to improve traction and prevent accidents.

– Tanning: A solution of salt and water can be used to tan leather, giving it a more durable finish.

As you can see, salt has a wide range of non-dietary uses. So next time you reach for the shaker, remember that this humble compound can do much more than just flavor your food!


Table salt, also known as sodium chloride, is an ionic compound with the chemical formula NaCl. The atoms are arranged in a cubic lattice structure, and each sodium atom is surrounded by six chloride atoms.

Sodium chloride is found naturally in the sea and in underground deposits. It is also produced by the evaporation of brine (salt water). When sodium chloride is heated, it decomposes into sodium metal and chlorine gas.

The melting point of sodium chloride is 801°C, and the boiling point is 1413°C. Sodium chloride is a white crystalline solid that has a salty taste. It is used to season food and as a deicing agent for roads and sidewalks.


Who knew that such a small, seemingly insignificant molecule could be so important? Salt, or sodium chloride, is a mineral that is essential for human life.

In fact, our bodies need salt to maintain a proper fluid balance, and it plays a role in nerve and muscle function. However, salt is not just an important part of our diet – it is also critical for food production. Salt is used to preserve food and prevent spoiling, and it is also a key ingredient in many processed foods.

In fact, the average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of salt per day – more than twice the recommended amount.

While most of the salt we consume comes from food, a significant portion also comes from the production of chlorine and caustic soda. These two chemicals are used in a variety of industries, including paper production, water treatment, and food processing. In addition, they are used to make many common household products, such as bleach, detergent, and soap.

Chlorine and caustic soda are produced by electrolysis – a process that uses electricity to break down salt water into its component parts. This process takes place in large facilities called chloralkali plants.

image 59

The vast majority of salt produced in the world comes from sea water. Every year, millions of cubic kilometers of seawater are evaporated to produce salt.

This process takes place in huge evaporator ponds, which are often located in warm, arid climates. The high concentrations of salt make it possible for the water to evaporate quickly under the hot sun. Once the water has evaporated, the salt is collected and transported to processing facilities where it is refined and packaged for sale.

While most people think of table salt when they think of sodium chloride, this mineral has a wide range of other uses.

For example, it is used in de-icing products that help keep roads and sidewalks safe during winter weather. It is also used in oil drilling operations to maintain the proper density of drilling fluid. In addition, sodium chloride is an essential ingredient in many industrial processes, such as steel production and glass manufacturing.

Go beyond coffee and bottled water

Using tap water for your coffee & drinking water is fine but you need to be aware of what’s in it. Every water municipality differs in exact drinking water standards but the chlorine, heavy metals & other particulates vary.

Utilizing a water softener & water filter are your best bet to having a clean water source for all your needs.

Brew it your way

If you’re a coffee drinker, you know that the quality of your cup of Joe is only as good as the water used to brew it. That’s why many coffee aficionados invest in water softeners to improve the taste of their beverages.

The calcium and magnesium ions in hard water can alter the taste of coffee, making it taste metallic or soapy. In contrast, softened water results in a smoother, more balanced cup of coffee.

The lack of minerals also means that there’s less risk of buildup in your coffee maker, which can lead to a bitter-tasting cup of coffee. So if you’re looking for a way to improve the taste of your favorite beverage, consider investing in a water softener.

It’s convenient

If you’re like most people, you’re probably tired of lugging around bottles of water everywhere you go. Not only is it a hassle, but it’s also expensive. bottled water can cost anywhere from $0.50 to $2.00 per bottle, and if you’re drinking multiple bottles per day, the cost can really add up.

But what if I told you there was a way to get the same quality water without having to buy bottled water? Enter: the water softener. Water softeners remove minerals from hard water, making it softer and more palatable.

In fact, many people say that softened water tastes better than bottled water. So not only will you save money by switching to softened water, but you may also find that you prefer the taste!

Final Thoughts

We hope after reading this article you have learned a little more about water softeners and how a salt-based compares to a salt-free water softener. We also hope that you now know which type of water softener is right for you!

Remember, water softeners are a great investment if you live somewhere with hard water, so why not take a look at some systems today!

author avatar
Anthony Barnes
Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age


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