WATER QUALITYSalt Based vs. Salt Free Water Softeners

April 28, 2022

What’s a Salt Based Water Softener?

A salt-based water conditioner makes use of a process called ion exchange to remove the minerals that cause hard water. These minerals mostly consist of calcium and magnesium. Here’s how salt based softeners work.
A regular salt based conditioner includes two storage tanks. One container has a metered shutoff valve and resin beads. This tank is called the resin tank. The other tank includes a brine mix of salt and water. This tank is called the brine tank.
Hard water flows into the resin tank. Resin beads soften the water by getting rid of the water’s minerals. The newly softened water is then sent out into your home for everything you use it for.
The resin beads can collect a set amount of calcium and magnesium before they are effectively used up and need to be cleaned. This is why the system has a brine tank. Every couple of days, the salt water mix from the brine tank is sent into the resin tank, where the salt cleans the resin and then gets removed.

What’s a Salt Free Water Softener?

The phrase salt free water softener is sort of a misnomer. This is since salt free water softeners do not technically soften the water. Rather, they condition the water by crystalizing the calcium and magnesium ions to stop them from creating scale within plumbing or fixtures. So, salt free water softeners ought to more exactly be called salt free water conditioners.
Unlike a salt based system, a salt free water conditioner includes one container having small pieces of potassium. When the hard water streams through the potassium, a chain reaction crystalizes the calcium and magnesium particles. Then the water is sent back into your plumbing system, where it will not be able to develop any kind of scale.
The issue is when the water exits your pipes and combines with oxygen, the calcium and magnesium particles separate from the water droplets and can still create problems. So a number of the problems associated with hard water may still take place.

Which is Better?

Pros of a Salt Based Water Softening System

Salt based water conditioners completely remove hard water minerals. Therefore, they eliminate many of the issues related to hard water.
To put it simply, soft water from a salt based system will give you these helpful qualities in your home’s water.

  • Far fewer clogs in plumbing from mineral buildup
  • Cleaner fixtures, sinks, showers, toilets and plumbing overall
  • Cleaner dishes and glasses from dishwashing, in a machine or by hand
  • Cleaner, better results from showering or bathing
  • Healthier skin and hair
  • Better results and smells with your laundry
  • It helps the condition and longevity of water heaters and appliances such as a dishwasher
  • Can decrease home heating bills by 30%.

Salt based water softeners are known to be dependable and very consistent. For instance, the best salt systems on the market are NSF/ANSI 44 certified. This means they have had a complete examination procedure to ensure they will do what they say they’ll do.
NSF/ANSI 44 systems can also eliminate cancer-causing radium-226 and radium-228 from the water. This benefit is especially beneficial for individuals in some cities or areas of the U.S. NSF/ANSI 44 certified softeners also have a tendency to have a much longer lifespan than other systems without that testing and rating.

Salt Based vs Salt Free Water Softeners
Salt based water conditioners completely remove hard water minerals.

Disadvantages of a Salt Based Water Softener

The primary cons of using a salt based system for your water supply is from the salt itself. With some systems, you need to buy and keep a steady supply of salt for the system, specifically for the brine tank. Before starting with a salt based system, it’s helpful to know about having a steady supply of salt, which may come in heavy bags, if you will have regular assistance delivering, then using, the salt and other simple, but necessary questions about keeping the system going properly.

Pros of a Salt Free Water System

The top benefit of a salt free water conditioning system is it cuts out the issues of buying, handling and refilling salt. There are no trips to a store, deliveries, heavy bags or regular jobs to do to keep the system running.

Salt free conditioning can help your water supply by keeping the scale, buildup and mess from forming on fixtures and plumbing. It will also give you better results and cleanliness in a shower or bath. One more benefit is space in a home or apartment. A salt free system takes up less space than a two-tank salt based one.

Disadvantages of a Salt Free Conditioner

The overall problem with a salt free system is it is not actually giving you soft water. If you’re experiencing numerous issues due to hard water – in bathrooms, in the kitchen, on clothing – some or all of them might continue.

In addition to these downsides, salt free water softeners do not get the NSF ASNI 44 testing or rating. These systems can’t remove radium-226 and radium-228 from water. Some salt free systems do have NSF ASNI 61 accreditation ratings. It’s recommended to get a conditioner system with this rating if you choose this option for your home.
Salt free systems can have a tendency to need more upkeep than salt based equivalents. The reason for this is they fail to take out the minerals in the water so minerals in water may still cause deposits, buildup and scaling which will reduce the quality and efficiency of the system over time.


South End Water Filtration specializes in HALO Water Filter products including the HALO H2 Zero Whole Home Water Filter. HALO systems solve hard water problems, give your family clear, great-tasting water and are totally maintenance free. We’re just a click away to help and answer any questions. South End Plumbing and South End Water Filtration will give you a free estimate. Call us at 704-486-1988 or contact us online to schedule a visit.