Which is Better? Salt or No Salt Water Softener?

Updated: June 10, 2021 by Zac Harding

When you’re using water softeners, the two most common methods include saltwater and salt-free water.

You maybe in the market for a water softener because the benefits from using these appliances have become more widespread throughout recent years.

Many states experience hard water. This means that the water supply includes a high calcium carbonate content. This isn’t only more unhealthy for you but it can lead to a build-up of limescale in certain appliances affecting clothes’ quality after they have been washed.

Furthermore, hardened water can be detrimental to your boiler’s efficiency leading to huge costs in repairs.

This can be remedied with the use of a water softener system. There are three main systems to choose from; salt-based, salt-free, and electro-magnetic.

Each system has its own unique qualities that reduce limescale to an absolute minimum. If you have decided to purchase a water softener device, it is important to know which system is best suited to you.

Today, we are going to focus on whether salt or non-salt water softeners are better. We will discuss the pros and cons of both as well as their differences so you can decide which one you prefer.

Which is Better? Salt or No Salt Water Softener?

Salt-Based Systems

Salt-based water softeners use sodium in a way to replace hard water ions and this softens the water. They reduce mineral concentrations such as calcium and magnesium to prevent any damage to your plumbing, water boiler, and even skin or hair.

After this process takes place, these minerals are replaced with beneficial minerals such as sodium or potassium. Salt-water units require a tank for resin beads and a salt chamber or brine tank which need to be continuously topped up to work effectively.

The resin beads become refreshed through a process known as “regeneration”. This is what turns the water softer.

These salt-based systems are generally low-maintenance with a timer or meter-based system. Most salt-based units are quite large in size and need to be installed close to a drain so the salt tank waste can drain off effectively.

Salt-water softener systems tend to be the most expensive, especially when compared to salt-free units. Nonetheless, this water softener ensures that your water is free of harmful elements.

The way in which these systems work is by recycling household water through two tanks. One tank has resin beads while the other contains brine.

The system then uses a process called “ion exchange” by softening the water by substituting salt/sodium for hard water minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron.

During the cleaning cycle, an electronic valve runs a range of back flashes, removing the hardness minerals captured in the system. These are then flushed through a drain line.

Salt-based water softeners are very effective at reducing limescale but it is not recommended to drink this water long term as it is believed to remain unhealthy for consumption. However, when handling water at a residential level, salt-based units are regarded as the best choice.

Salt-Free Systems

These salt-free systems use nano-technology in order to change the water’s atomic structure and, therefore, soften it using slightly hard water areas.

If you have already experienced a build-up of limescale in your plumbing system, salt-free water softeners are very effective in removing it and ensure the plumbing situation doesn’t become worse.

Salt-free units are typically cheaper to use than salt-based units meaning many people prefer to use this type. These are usually very easy to use too and there is no need for the unit to be installed near a drain because of a lack of salt deposits.

Salt-free units tend to be the most eco-friendly system too but aren’t always as effective when removing hardness from the water.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Salt-Based System

Advantages

  • Reduces mineral deposits – Prevents scale build-up that can damage home appliances (dishwashers, washing machines, water heaters, etc) and the plumbing system
  • Improves personal hygiene – Prevents hard water leaving your skin dry and hair brittle
  • Ideal for household use – Prevents minerals from corroding sinks, faucets, shower stalls, and bathtubs
  • Helps increase your clothes’ quality – Inhibits the wear and tear in clothes that can occur through hard water washing helping materials maintain their colors and smoothness

Disadvantages

  • Increases sodium content – Adds sodium to water to replace hard minerals so can be unsuitable for those on salt-restricted diets
  • Removes all traces of minerals – During the ion exchange process, all minerals are removed that can create a mineral imbalance if drank

Salt-Free System

Advantages

  • Eco-friendly – Because these systems don’t need regeneration cycles, no wastewater is produced and no chlorides are deposited
  • Economical – Much more affordable than salt-based units
  • Reduces maintenance costs – Typically are easy to set up or cheap to have a plumber install and there is no need for a drain connection. Also don’t require electricity reducing energy costs
  • Contains no chemicals – Completely safe to use and ideal if you don’t like the idea of using chemically enhanced water

Disadvantages

  • Reduces benefits of saltwater – Doesn’t soften water but, instead, conditions hard water. Has a low efficiency against tougher water
  • Unsuitable for well water – Well water typically has high levels of iron and manganese and salt-free softener won’t be as effective against these minerals

Which is Better — Salt or No Salt Water Softener

If your main goal is to soften your home’s water supply, then the best choice would be a salt-based softener.

Due to salt-free systems using potassium in place of sodium, mineral deposits become crystallized instead of entirely removed. Salt-based systems will completely remove minerals from the water and are overall more efficient.

A no-salt water softener is not as capable of softening water as its salt counterpart. The main aim of these systems is to descale and reduce the build-up of most, but not all, limescale in plumbing systems.

In Conclusion

Both salt-based and no-salt water softeners have their pros and cons. Both systems have unique capabilities that the other doesn’t possess. However, when deciding which is better, a salt or a no-salt water softener, you need to ask yourself what you intend to use it for.

If you are having trouble with a build-up of limescale in your plumbing system, then salt-free water softeners are the best choice. These are outstandingly effective at removing scale and protecting your household pipes for the future.

On the other hand, if your goal is to soften hard water in your house, there is no doubt that a salt-based system is the best. These unit’s benefits outweigh salt-free units and should effectively soften your water every time.

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