Salt vs. Salt-Free Water Softeners

Professional Plumbing Services Explain the Difference

If you’ve gone shopping for a water softening in Texas or a multi stage water filter, you’ve probably seen that there are also salt-free soft water systems available on the market. If you haven’t read up on how water systems work, that might have been a bit weird. Where does the salt come in? What is it for? If you can have a system function without it, why do you need it in the first place? Those are all fair questions. The answer’s related to what you need from your water system in the first place. We’ll explain below what each system does and, more importantly, what problems each system addresses or doesn’t address. That way, you’ll have a clear idea of which one benefits you more.

The Classic Salt-Based Water Softening System

Your typical water softener usually involves two or more tanks; at least one includes a resin bed, and one tank is always filled with brine, or salty water. Your system might have one resin tank or more, depending on what you’ve purchased.

The salt-based system uses the resin beds in the resin tank to pull minerals out of your hard water. See, hard water is hard because it contains too many mineral particles, especially calcium and magnesium. The resin bed is full of particles that have an opposite electrical charge to the calcium and magnesium; those particles pull the minerals out the same way one magnet pulls another. Those excess minerals are then accumulated in the resin beds of the resin tanks over time. Eventually, the system self-cleans using the salty water in the brine tank. The salt in the water cleans the resin beds, and the system can go right back to work without any issues. If you have a single resin tank system, then the system will be temporarily down to clean itself, usually at night. That means you’ll occasionally have hard water while the system is cleaning. If yours is a multi-tank system, then you have one resin tank working at all times even if the other is being cleaned.

With a salt-based water softener, the question isn’t “what problems does it solve?” It’s more about asking which problems it doesn’t solve, to which the answer is, “We can’t think of any.” The salt-based system doesn’t just eliminate limescale deposits—it eliminates staining on clothes and sinks, issues with dry hair or skin, murky glasses and dishes, deposit buildup in your pipes, and more.

The only downside to a salt-based system is that it needs regular refills of salt to work properly. That means buying large, bulky, heavy bags of salt and refilling the system yourself most of the time.

What About the No-Salt Soft Water System?

Strictly speaking, any salt-free systems are actually not softening systems. Softeners remove the hardening minerals from the water; your typical salt-free water softener in San Antonio simply stops those minerals from being annoying instead. The system uses potassium particles to change the behavior of the calcium and magnesium; that way, they don’t turn into limescale inside your pipes or on frequently touched surfaces. The minerals are still there, however.

If your only hard water issues are limescale and pipe damage, then a salt-free system will fix all your problems for you. In addition, they don’t need salt refills, which makes them ideal for elderly or disabled homeowners who might struggle with the bags of salt. These salt free soft water systems are also smaller, which makes them ideal for smaller houses with limited installation space.

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