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The water industry has been actively working on improving the water we consume daily. For that purpose, a lot of different products have been introduced to the market, but in this article, we’re gonna focus on water conditioner vs water softener and what each of them does.

Water is an essential part of everyday life. If you’ve come across this article it’s probably because you understand the importance of keeping it clean and healthy and you’re researching water treatment systems. A number of households have issues with hard or contaminated water, which can cause problems with home appliances and even more so, your own health. 

I personally have had a lot of problems concerning hard water, with scale forming on faucets, clogged washing machine filters, spots on washed dishes, etc. I know it’s a pain and a big-time and money consumer.

So, how do you choose between a water conditioner and a water softener?

Let’s find out.

Water Conditioner vs. Water Softener

What Is A Water Conditioner?

The first water treatment we’re gonna introduce is water conditioning. A water conditioner is primarily used to treat water that contains substances that give a bad taste or smell to it. It’s an innovative solution that doesn’t remove the minerals from the water, but rather changes how they behave. To summarize, a water conditioner keeps healthy minerals in the water but makes them work in a way that doesn’t cause scale on pipes and faucets in your home.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), minerals like calcium and magnesium that are present in drinking water can greatly help our health, so it is important that we keep them in the water.

How Does A Water Conditioner Work?

There are different types of water conditioners and they use various methods to change the composition of water. Although the approach to cleaner water is different, they all have some things in common. Let’s look at some of the methods used:


Although its effectiveness isn’t proven, some water conditioners use magnets to form a type of magnetic field that breaks ion clusters and stops them from sticking to different surfaces.

Carbon filtration

As the title suggests, this method uses activated carbon that once released in the water, absorbs some of the chemicals. Carbon filtration-based water conditioners are mostly used for removing bad odors from drinking water.

Salt-free (catalytic)

Salt-free water conditioners use template-assisted crystallization (TAC) that changes the composition of water in a way that reduces the hardness and stops scale forming.

For better understanding, here are some products available on the market:

  1. Hardless NG3 Whole House Water Filter and Water Conditioner Bundle
  2. iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler
  3. Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner

What Is A Water Softener?

As mentioned before, calcium and magnesium are healthy minerals for the human body and drinking water helps us get the amount we need for better function. But how much is too much?

To help us understand better, water specialists have made a Water Hardness Classification that says soft water contains less than 1 grain per gallon (GBP) of calcium carbonate, and very hard water contains more than 10.5 grains per gallon. (source

A water softener is a treatment system that actually removes magnesium and replaces them with ions of potassium and sodium, making water better for drinking and reducing scale forming on surfaces. 

How Does A Water Softener Work?

The water is filtered through a resin ( a material that is coated with positively charged sodium ions). The water flows through the resin, and as the calcium and magnesium dissolve into it, the resin releases it’s sodium ions, making a type of mineral exchange. The end result is water that feels softer on the skin and stops scale buildup.

What the market offers:

  1. FutureSoft Salt-Free Softener & Salt-Based Softener
  2. SoftPro Elite Basic High-Efficiency 
  3. Fleck 5600SXT

Similarities And Differences

Before you choose which system suits your need better, let’s talk a little more about the things they each have or don’t have in common. The similarity between water softeners and water conditioners is that they both are used for treating hard water and improving its quality, so we may say the thing they have in common is cleaner, healthier water. As for the differences, there are many. Let’s review some of them.

Water Conditioner

  • Removes chlorine and volatile organic compounds keep magnesium and calcium
  • Energy-efficient
  • In the salt-based system, salt must be added periodically

Water Softener

  • Removes calcium and magnesium, replaces them with sodium
  • Requires electricity
  • Salt-free

Costs And Maintenance

When choosing the right system, it is important that you understand what it exactly does so you have the most use from it. But another important piece of information to have is which system is really worth the money?

Water conditioners are the cheaper variant because they rely on water pressure and don’t require electricity. They use the water running through to push contaminants in the filters which absorb them. As for maintenance, apart from the annual change of filters, water conditioners don’t need any other type of repair and upkeep.

Water softeners, as mentioned above, use ion exchange to clean the water and for this, they require electricity, which means bigger energy bills. They need more maintenance and also waste a lot of water in the process, so water bills will be bigger too.

Which System Is Right For You?

Now that you have the basic information about both water softeners and water conditioners, which one should you choose? There is no one simple answer to this question. You need to factor in the type of water you have at your home, the time and money you can spend investing in water treatment, and the overall quality of water that you want to achieve in the end. 

There are a lot of consumer reviews and testimonies on the internet that can help you make your decision faster. It’s also a good idea to consult with professional water companies because they can help you choose the perfect product for you. I know it takes a little investment and work but in the long run, you will probably be happy that you decided on improving your water quality, preserving your health, and also your home’s appliances in the process.


To summarize, the best product for you specifically depends mostly on the level of water hardness in your home. It’s a good idea to get it tested and then make a choice that suits you best.