There is a big difference between water softening systems that use salt and those that do not. Both systems have benefits and drawbacks; choosing one over the other will depend on your preferences.
The biggest problem that most homeowners have with hard (containing high percentages of metal cations such as calcium and magnesium) water is scaling. Hard water tends to deposit mineral residue on glassware (hence, spots!) and other surfaces such as bathroom tiles. These deposits also tend to build up in pipes, causing clogging and poor water flow. Furthermore, minerals in the wash results in dull colors and causes a yellowish cast in laundry, eventually damaging clothes. The obvious solution is to remove these destructive minerals.
Well, yes and no. Salt-based water softeners make use of sodium to replace calcium and magnesium in the water using an ion exchange process, effectively eliminating them and preventing the formation of scales. A water test would show that these hardness minerals are no longer present, making the water soft. In a salt-free system, the water is subjected to a catalytic system that converts the calcium and magnesium. Technically, the minerals are still there but they no longer form scales, so the water is said to be “conditioned.”
In terms of water composition, the only viable way to remove hard minerals in the water is by exchanging them for sodium ions to produce soft water. Moreover, you will use less soap for bathing as well as the laundry because soft water makes it easier to work up a lather, giving a feeling of cleanliness. Colored clothes will also look brighter and the water tastes and smells purer. The Austin water filter experts at American Water attribute this improvement to the removal of calcium and magnesium.
Some advocates of salt-free water treatment systems believe that it is better than the ion exchange system because they use no electricity, use less water as there is no need to purge anything as nothing is removed from the water, and no salt. Salt-free water treatment systems are virtually maintenance-free. However, the continued presence of these minerals still inhibits lather formation and there will still be spots on dishes. On the upside, scale formation is no longer a problem, there is no slick texture associated with “soft” water, and white fabric tends to be whiter.Read More