Water Softeners vs. Salt-Free Water Conditioners and Descalers

Salt-Free Water Conditioners are maintenance free and eco-friendly.

By: Alyssa Scavetta

Living with scale build-up means dealing with a multitude of small annoyances that add up to big problems. From build-up that flecks the shower door and dishes, to perpetually dry skin, there are a million reasons to say goodbye to scale buildup — but not all water softeners are created equal, in fact, there are two completely distinct ways to treat scale buildup and hard water issues. Let’s break them down.

Salt-based water softeners

The more common method for treating scale buildup and hard water is to utilize the ion exchange process, commonly called water softening. This is a process where water is pumped through a brine solution into a resin tank where resin beads trap the hard water minerals in exchange for sodium. The beads are then flushed out.

This process does a great job of solving scale buildup. It removes excess minerals, making your water feel softer, too. Practically speaking, this means your skin will have that silky feel after a shower, soap will lather better, and you’ll reduce stains on your wine glasses. A Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) meter reading will reflect this, too. Once the minerals are removed, the TDS measurement decreases.

Those considering a salt-based softener should be aware, however, that there are a few things to consider before purchasing.

Salt softeners require some hands-on maintenance. They require the user to purchase bags of salt and replenish the tank regularly. The amount of salt needed will depend on a specific water source and how many people are using water in the home. This does sometimes affect the taste and the functionality of your water. For example, you may not want to use your newly-softened water on your plants as the sodium levels may be too high.

Salt-free softening: water conditioner or descaler

A Salt-Free Water Conditioner, also known as a “salt-free softener”, “descaler” or “scale reducer”, binds minerals rather than removing the excess hard minerals, literally stripping your water of scale.

Some hard minerals are actually good for our bodies. So, Salt-Free Water Conditioners aim at resolving the annoying problems caused by scale build-up without detracting from the healthy contents of your water. This is achieved by passing water over a special template which is made to encourage particles to form harmless crystals.

These crystals do not stick to the insides of pipes or appliances like your regular hard minerals do. With a Whole House Salt-Free Water Conditioner in place, gone are the days of hopelessly scrubbing at that build up around the tub — cleaning scale build-up will be as simple as wiping away a loose powder.

Salt-Free Water Conditioners are maintenance free and eco-friendly. They address the problems associated with scale buildup without using electricity or wasting water in the process.

"Some hard minerals are actually good for our bodies. So, Salt-Free Water Conditioners aim at resolving the annoying problems caused by scale build-up without detracting from the healthy contents of your water."

So, which one wins?

It all just depends on what’s right for you. If the water hardness in your home is below 25 GPG (grains-per-gallon) hardness levels, a Salt-Free Water Conditioner may take care of most of your problems. With a water hardness above 25 GPG, a salt-based softener may be best.

If water that “feels soft”, makes soap extra lathery, and reduces scale buildup seems worth the extra maintenance — then a salt-based softener is a good choice.

If a low maintenance, eco-friendly product sounds better, then a Salt-Free Water Conditioner is the perfect solution. A Salt-Free Water Conditioner might mean giving up that “slick” soft water feel and still having spots on the dishes, but it will address the scale build up when it comes to pipes and appliances.

Whatever you choose, you’ll get the best results if your softener is added to a filtration system. While softening your water could help with everything from soap lather to the life of your appliances, it won’t eliminate harmful contaminants such as harsh chemicals or dangerous microbes.

At Aquasana, we offer several Whole House Filters for those on municipal water, as well as well water users, that configure seamlessly with the Aquasana Whole House Salt-free Water Conditioner. Water is routed first through the Salt-Free Water Conditioner and then into a second tank for filtration. A combination of a water filter with a water conditioner is also possible. Contact one of our Water Experts to make sure you have the best set-up and configuration for your needs.


Salt-Free Water Conditioner

Protect your home's pipes, plumbing, and appliances from scale buildup without the use of harsh chemicals or salt. New and improved system lasts for 10 years.