If you want your water to be healthier and taste better, you are probably looking into water filters and softeners. While they may sound similar, they are very different, so it is critical to understand the difference to decide what is better for your situation. For instance, if you have a softener and are thinking about a filter, learning about the difference is detrimental to deciding what will work with your system. So, here is everything you must know about these products. 

What Is a Filter?

A filter removes contaminants from your water. That means anything that would make your water unsafe to drink, such as lead, plastic particles, and chemicals. This device improves the smell and taste of your water and makes it safe to drink. You can find any filter to fit your needs, including whole house systems, under-the-sink systems, countertop pitchers, and shower filters. The method of filtration depends on what design and brand you purchase. 

What Is a Softener?

A water softener is a system that removes the minerals that make your water hard. They use ion exchanges to act similarly to a chemical magnet. Water flows through a bed of sodium ion-covered beads. The ions in the minerals are exchanged with the ones in the sodium. That removes the minerals from your water, eliminating the shower ring, scale lines, and pipe issues. While this process fixes hard water, it does not make it cleaner or safer to drink. 

What Are Salt-Free Conditioners?

A salt-free conditioner might be a good idea when you’re not concerned about contaminants in your water but would like an environmentally safe way to eliminate scale buildup. These products do not demineralize water using salt, so they don’t put harmful chemicals into the environment. Instead, they reduce scale buildup on pipes naturally. However, you’ll still want to consider purchasing and maintaining a softener if you have an extreme concentration of minerals in your water. 

Do You Need a Filter If You Have a Softener?

Having hard water means having a softener, whether or not you have a filter. Salt-based softeners are the best option when you have water with a lot of minerals. However, a salt-free conditioner could be a better solution if you have mildly hard water because it requires little maintenance and leaves healthy minerals in your water. People with very few minerals in their water can even install reverse osmosis filtration systems. 

However, a softener is not a filter and does not make your water safe to drink. That is a common misconception. Although softeners make the water softer, they do not make them cleaner. Instead of filtering water, they remove the minerals that make water hard. If you need to remove contaminants, you’ll need to install a filter, even when you have a softener. 

Are Filters Better Than Softeners?

Your goal determines which option is better. For example, a filter is better than a softener if you want to reduce dangerous contaminants. A filter can remove various pollutants, including chlorine, chloramines, and VOCs. By removing these, you make your water safe to drink. That is not something that softeners can do. 

Whole house systems are available when you want to purify your water and countertop, and under-the-sink options are available when you only need to clean some water sources. These options are all better at reducing contaminants than softeners, and some systems, such as reverse osmosis filtration systems, can even remove some of the minerals that make water hard. 

If your water is hard, you need to address it. When you have mildly hard water, you can consider a salt-free conditioner instead of a softener to protect your water quality and the environment. However, neither softeners nor conditions make your water genuinely safe to drink. If you are trying to remove contaminants, you’ll need a filter. Use this information to help you decide what to purchase for your home.