Do Saltless Water Softeners Work?

Hardness consists of calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide.  Conventional water softeners remove these. They accomplish this using a resin. The resin has an electrical charge that attracts the calcium and magnesium  That resin is replenished using a salt rinse. The rinse flushes the hardness down the drain and replaces them with sodium on the surface of the resin.

Conventional water softeners work. They remove hardness.

Saltless conditioners work differently. They use another type of media. This media works by ‘capping’ the electrical charge on calcium and magnesium ions. This is said to make them less able to stick together or to surfaces and build up on appliances. When using salt free conditioners one thing to note is that the calcium and magnesium are still in the water.

If you’re having issues with the hardness deposits, and it is all personal preference, then a water softener is the only solution.

The saltless softeners not only don’t eliminate buildup I’m not sure what they’re doing to the minerals is healthy. Keep in mind that the human body is accustomed to drinking those minerals in their natural form. I wonder if we’ll find out one day that modifying them was a bad idea.

I’d stick with the traditional methods for now or suffer through the hard water.


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About James McMahon

Studied ecology at the University of Illinois, mountain survival at Eastern Washing University, Deep Ecology at Naropa, River Ecology with The Nature Conservancy and Luna Leopold
This entry was posted in Questions from You, Water Purification, Whole House Water Filtration and Purification. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Do Saltless Water Softeners Work?

  1. Jim says:

    Here is an interesting update that runs counter to my argument above. Please note the key words used here though ‘reduces scale’. Salt based softeners eliminate scale:

    Study: No-salt water conditioning technologies effective at reducing scale formation (from Water Softening/Conditioning Magazine)
    LAS VEGAS — During the 15th Annual Water Reuse & Desalination Conference, which is set to take place May 16-17 in Las Vegas, Mara Ramos of Arizona State University will present the results of a study that analyzed the performance of no-salt water conditioning technologies.
    The presentation, titled “Evaluation of Alternatives to Domestic Ion Exchange Water Softeners,” will include research on several technologies, including template assisted crystallization, electromagnetic water treatment, electrically induced precipitation and capacitive deionization.
    According to the conference brochure, results show that the technologies tested were effective in reducing the formation of scale on a heating element — compared to no treatment, the devices were able to reduce scale formation from 42 to 96 percent.

  2. Doug says:

    Thought you’d be interested in this research on Salt-free conditioning. The TAC products look pretty enticing. This is the team that made the presentation you referred to. The work was sanctioned by the WateReuse Foundation, which is very credible.

  3. “Been reading your site and blog for a while now. I would like to compliment you on your knowledge base and advice. I tried finding information related to my question(s) but could not find it. So, I am wondering about a couple of things. First, I have heard a lot about dealing with hard water. I am leaning towards going with the traditional “water softener” for my city water. My major concern is the amount of sodium which will be circulating throughout the house and whether or not it is a legitimate concern. My water hardness is @ 11 gpg and I have heard that the amount of salt in the water needed to soften that hardness is equivalent to about 1 piece of white bread. Do you have any experience regarding this issue?

    Secondly, the “salt-less” solution to my hardness issue intrigues me. I am wondering if you have any input on this solution? I have heard that the saltless systems break down the hardness minerals so that they don’t build up inside the plumbing. That they don’t really eliminate the hardness minerals, and therefore, my family would still experience those mineral benefits in our water. Again, any experience or knowledge that you can share would be appreciated. I don’t want to make my decision based on the marketing hype of some dealer or manufacturer. I value your opinion, Jim. Thanks for responding.”

    Tom in Chicago

    Here’s my response:

    Hi Tom –

    I’ve attached information on the water softener I provide.

    My water is 12 grains and I don’t soften at all.

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