Salt vs Salt-Free Water Softening: What’s the big deal?

Hard water is a problem for many homeowners. Reversing the problem, or creating soft water, can improve the taste of your water along with relief from other issues such as scaling and dingy laundry. It may even lengthen the life of appliances that use water. When deciding on the best system for treating hard water you have options. Including using a salt-based water treatment system or a salt-free conditioning system. Read on to learn about which option is best.

salt-free conditioning
Soft water benefits your skin, laundry, appliances and more!

What is soft water?

Softened water, according to the Water Quality Association is “any water which has been processed in some manner to reduce the total hardness to 17.1 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or parts per million (ppm) (1.0 grain per gallon) or less expressed as calcium carbonate equivalent.” That’s quite a scientific explanation! In common terminology, water softening is altering or removing Calcium and Magnesium to improve water quality.

Salt-based Conditioning

In the salt-based conditioning process, hardness minerals are actually removed from the water. Calcium (Ca2+) and Magnesium (Mg2+) are removed from the water through a process called ion exchange using a polymer resin bed which gives off a sodium particle in exchange for hardness minerals. In cases where water hardness is very high, a salt-based system is almost always recommended.

Salt based systems remove the calcium hardness that causes soap to stick to your body and create the “squeaky clean” feeling. With the soap no longer drying out your skin your natural body oils are able to moisturize you, leaving your skin feeling great without the need for extra moisturizers. Additional benefits include:

  • Spot-free glasses and dishes
  • Whiter, brighter and softer clothes
  • Reduced soap usage

An alternative for using a salt-based system is to bypass one point of use in your home for drinking water and supply the softened water every place else. If you are very sensitive to sodium, Reverse Osmosis filtration is a great way to ensure your drinking water is the highest quality.

Salt-free Conditioning

In contrast, salt-free conditioning systems do not remove the Calcium and Magnesium minerals causing hard water. In the salt-free process, minerals remain in the water but their form changes. What happens is the hardness minerals convert to a hardness crystal that is not able to bind to surfaces.

You may see less soap usage and possibly brighter laundry, but the results are not always up to par. Salt-free systems do not remove the hardness molecules and it is possible for the hardness crystal to revert back and cause scale. This is especially true in water heaters, where heat causes changes in the molecules. While most salt-free systems are less expensive to operate, it is important to weigh this against the costs of damage to appliances from build up over time.

With the use of salt-free systems, you will see a reduction in scale build up. Additional benefits include:

  • No chemicals used in the conditioning process.
  • No additional sodium intake.
  • Smaller in physical size.

Which System is the Best?

So, now you are asking yourself, “Now I know the difference in the technology and how it works…but what system will I be happiest with?” The overriding opinion is in favor of salt-based systems. Salt-based systems will outperform salt-free for overall water softening. Always perform your due diligence when selecting water treatment options. Water softening systems that certified by the Water Quality Association, a leading voice in the water treatment industry, will give you peace of mind for your purchase.

At Hague Quality Water of Maryland, our water treatment technicians prefer salt-based systems to provide the highest quality water treatment. The Hague WaterMax is a high performing water softening system. It monitors your water consumption and only uses the necessary water and salt in the regeneration phase, saving you money.

Hague offers a salt-free system that is effective at Chlorine removal. It meets the requirements of brine-restricted areas and carries a Made-in-the-USA seal. If you require Iron removal, we offer another chemical-free treatment option called the Iron Breaker to remove Iron and Sulfur.

Contact the water experts at Hague Quality Water of Maryland for a free in-home demonstration. Get started on the path to better water today!