Water Filters vs Water Softeners for Home Use

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If you're searching about how to improve your water supply, you may have come across two confusingly similarly named devices: water filters and water softeners. Both claim to improve the quality of water, so what’s the difference between them?

And should you get either one? Both? Neither? Don't worry, we'll guide you so that you can make an informed decision as a consumer.

What is a Water Filter?


A water filter's basic purpose is to filter and remove all contaminants from your home's water supply. These contaminants can include excessive chromium 6, nitrates, chlorine and pesticides.

Different types of water filters use different filtration techniques like KDF, sediment filtration and activated carbon. The most advanced water filters use reverse osmosis technology.

Why Do People Buy Water Filters?


There are two major reasons for purchasing a water filter: health and aesthetics. Removing contaminants from your water supply and makes it much safer for consumption. Whole house water filters also improve water for bathing and showering – filtering contaminants reduces skin irritation.

Benefits of Water Filters


There are numerous health benefits associated with water filters. They reduce odor and taste from water, making it easier to consume for people who have trouble drinking enough water throughout their days.

Water filters also help keep your kitchen appliances and plumbing in order. In contrast, unfiltered water will often have minerals and nitrates that deposit over time and cause damage to your pipes, dishwasher, water heater...

Overall, water filters are very versatile and provide a range of benefits.

What is a Water Softener?


As their name implies, the purpose of a water softener is to remove hardness from water which basically means removing all those minerals that contribute to limescale in your pipes.

Put simply, water softeners are used to treat hard water.

What is Hard Water?


Hard water refers to any body of water with a high proportion of minerals like calcium and magnesium. Hard water causes significant damage to your plumbing, through limescale buildup, and even to your skin if you bath or shower with it.

How do Water Softeners Work?


Typically, water softeners use ion exchange to remove calcium and magnesium from water. They achieve this by using a resin bed that's charged with sodium ions. The resin beads attract magnesium and calcium ions and simultaneously replace them with sodium ones.

Some water softeners, known as water conditioners, use salt-free techniques to soften water. Or rather: They don't actually remove hard minerals, but reduce the scaling impact that they have on your plumbing.

So, What's the Difference Between Water Filters and Water Softeners?


Water Filter Applications


Basically, water filters improve the potability of water: making it safer to drink and use in the kitchen or bathroom. So, their primary purpose is to improve the health of each and every resident in a household. But, they also contribute some improvement to your plumbing by removing sediments and rust.

You would get a water filter primarily for improving your drinking water quality or improving its aesthetic, improvements to your plumbing are secondary.

Water Softener Applications


A water softener is used for reducing the possibility of limescale buildup in your pipes resulting from high quantities of calcium and magnesium present in your water. The primary purpose of a water softener is to decrease the chances of any problems in your plumbing system.

Still, they can also contribute to an overall improvement in drinking water, albeit to a small extent.

You would get a water softener if you're concerned with your water supply being unusually high in hardness minerals. Its primary purpose is plumbing improvement, with any health-related benefits being secondary and comparatively minor.

Which One Should You Get?


If you're concerned with the overall quality of your water supply and want to make sure that it is as healthy for dinking and safe for your plumbing as possible, you could get both. Having a water filter and a water softener installed would maximize the quality of your water supply.

Both devices could work in tandem with the water softener contributing to improving your plumbing. In contrast, the water filter makes your water much healthier to consume. Both devices could provide extra certainty that your water is as free from contaminants as possible.

As for which to install first, it depends on your individual plumbing setup and water quality. The water filter should go first if your water supply is laden with sediment or chlorine. If that’s not the case, the water softener should be installed first in line.

In Summary


In conclusion, water softeners and water filters are two somewhat similar devices. Water filters make water much safer to drink, while water softeners prevent limescale buildup and improve your plumbing. To maximize benefits, it would be best to install both devices.