Salt-Free Water Softener
Benefits and Limitations
by Nancy Hearn, CNC

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A salt-free water softener is effective at reducing scale, and the water produced is healthier to drink than the water from salt-based water softeners.

Water that is “hard” contains a high level of dissolved minerals, especially calcium and magnesium. In the United States, approximately 80 percent of homes have hard water.

The combined number of grains of calcium and magnesium in the water determines its hardness.  The higher the number of grains per gallon, the harder the water is.

A salt free-water softener is effective where water hardness levels are at 75 grains per gallon or less. By definition, salt-free water softeners are actually water conditioners, not softeners.


A quality salt-free water softener uses an ion exchange resin to target hard mineral crystals (calcium and magnesium) and changes their ionic charge. This process prevents these minerals from clumping together and creating scale.

Just a few of the many benefits of a salt-water softener include the following:

  1. Unlike salt-based water softeners, a salt free softener does not add salt, potassium or chemicals to the water. Thus the water is mineral rich, it tastes good, and it is healthy to drink (if it is also filtered of other contaminants).
  2. The reduction of scale can increase the life of your home’s plumbing system, as well as dishwashers, washing machines, water heaters, and other appliances that use water. In addition, you will not see the unsightly hard water deposits on your bath and kitchen fixtures and sinks, as well as on your dishes.
  3. Bathing in softer water is much more pleasant. Soaps and shampoos will lather better, and the mineral rich water will leave your skin softer and your hair more manageable.
  4. Clothes just don’t get clean in hard water because it limits the effectiveness of detergents. When you do laundry in soft water, your clothes come out cleaner, brighter and will last longer.


While there are few downsides to using a salt-free water softener if you have hard water, there are a few limitations:

  1. If your water hardness level is above 75 grains, you may need to use a salt-based water softener to effectively reduce hard water scale. If you do have to use a salt-based water softener, then we highly recommend that you also get a drinking water filter to remove the excess salt or whatever element is used to soften the water.
  2. Water softeners do not filter contaminants. They only reduce high levels of hard minerals. Thus, if you want clean drinking water, you will need to add on a whole house water filter system to your water softener.  The other option is to use a drinking water filter (countertop or under sink) in addition to your water softener.

Further reading . . .

You might want to check out our Water Softener Reviews and Recommendations here. 

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