Water Conditioner vs Water Softener: What Is The Difference

water conditioner vs water softener

Water conditioners and water softeners are two popular water treatment solutions. While both are used to improve home water quality, they work differently. Water conditioners treat water by removing minerals and other contaminants. While water softeners use salt to soften the water and make it easier to use. What’s the difference between a water conditioner vs water softener?

Water conditioners and softeners can be beneficial for various reasons. So, homeowners need to understand the differences between the two systems to make the best decision for their needs. 

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between water conditioner vs water softener, their working, and their comparison.

Water Conditioner vs Water Softener: Basics

A water conditioner is often inaccurately referred to as a “salt-free water softener.” It can help resolve some of the hardships of hard water but doesn’t make it soft.

A water conditioner influences the chemical structure of hardness particles. It diminishes the accumulation of scale in plumbing over a certain period. 

In addition, a water conditioner eliminates any additional chemicals, including chlorine, from the water. It uses less water when compared to a water softener.

Contrarily, a water softener eliminates the hardness of debris present in your water. This subsequently leads to a decline in the accumulation of scale on fixtures and appliances, smoother skin and hair, and a decrease in the consumption of soap and detergent.

This is the basics of water conditioner vs water softener. Now, let us see how they both work.

Water Conditioner vs Water Softener: How Does Work

water conditioner vs water softener

Here is how water conditioner vs water softener works: 

How Does a Water Softener Work?

In the process of water softening, an ion exchange eliminates hardness particles, like calcium, magnesium, and limestone, from the water. As hard water flows through the softener resin bed, the hardness minerals are drawn to the resin and taken away from the water.

As time passes, the resin accumulates the minerals and requires clearing out. This activity is regeneration. During the regeneration, the water softener is filled with water from the brine tank. 

The saltwater washes away the mineral deposits from the resin material and sends them out down the drain, which leaves the resin clean and capable of softening the water again.

How Does a Water Conditioner Work?

A water conditioner alters the chemical composition of the hardness particles in water over a given period. There are numerous types of water conditioners, which all depend on different techniques. Here are examples of different types of water conditioners: 

  • Electrochemical water purification utilizes electricity to break down calcium and other pollutants from the water supply.
  • Hard water is exposed to a magnetic field while undergoing magnetic water treatment. This leads to the formation of submicroscopic crystals that prevents the accumulation of limescale around piping & fixtures. There is not a unified opinion on how successful this process is.
  • Electric stimulation causes precipitation of water’s components that cause hardness. This precipitate accumulates around an electrode & forms a soft slurry that needs cleaning periodically.
  • Template-assisted crystallization utilizes resin beads that have been treated on the surface to change dissolved hardness ions into tiny scale-resistant crystals. This process does not take away the hardness.

This is how water conditioner vs water softener works.

Water Conditioner vs Water Softener: How Do They Compare?

water conditioner vs water softener

Even though water conditioner vs water softener is employed to improve water quality, they are dissimilar. To determine which system is more suitable for you, assess your requirements against the following three standards: 

Water Quality

The primary distinction between water conditioners and softeners is the water’s caliber. Water softeners do not effectively purify tap water. They are responsible only for trading hardening ions with sodium ions.

In contrast, water conditioners filter the liquid and extract undesirable substances, yet they don’t remove minerals that cause the water to become hard, like calcium and magnesium.

Since the two systems have almost nothing in common, you should make your selection carefully based on your objective.

If your priority is only to lessen the hardness of your water and you don’t have any worries about its quality, a water softener is your most suitable choice.

Whereas, if you prioritize the purity of water over its hardness, then a water conditioner is the better choice.

This system eliminates pollutants such as chlorine, fluorine, sulfur, carcinogenic disinfection byproducts, pesticides, herbicides, and other hazardous chemicals from the water you drink and cook.

Chlorine is the most hazardous chemical in municipal tap water, as it purifies it. In addition to its hazardous effects, it can also settle in pipes and cause them to corrode, resulting in leaks.

If you want to ensure your drinking water is free from contaminants and easy on the hardness, then a home water refiner is the solution for you. Although they are a bit pricier than water conditioners and softeners, they give you both advantages, providing you with safe and smooth water.

Running Costs and Maintenance

When purchasing a water filter, it is essential to factor in the initial expense and the subsequent costs necessary to operate the system and keep it up to standard.

Water conditioners are the most cost-effective to operate as they only utilize water pressure. As the tap water passes through them, it pushes the pollutants against the filter media, which absorb them.

These systems do not require electricity and will not generate any wastewater, which means you can enjoy savings on your energy and water expenses.

Looking after the system is simple; you must substitute the filters once a year or earlier if you surpass the suggested quantity. Other than that, no additional maintenance is necessary.

Water conditioners don’t take up much room, so you can put them on a countertop or tuck them away beneath the sink.

Water softeners involve ion exchange, which is dependent on electricity. In addition, salt is added to the water to increase the presence of sodium ions, thus, requiring regular replacement of cartridges.

In summary, water softeners have higher operation and upkeep expenses. All in all, the yearly costs of running one can exceed $200.

Water softeners are notorious for consuming a lot of water during the softening process, thus increasing the water bill. Not only is it more expensive, but research has also shown that the wastewater released from water softeners may hurt the quality of all water sources in the vicinity.

In certain cities in California, the use of salt in water softeners is not allowed. If you reside in one of these places but are still looking to enjoy softened water, consider a salt-free water softener.

The cost of operating a home water refiner may vary depending on the type of system. However, it is typically less expensive than a water softener. Nevertheless, these systems require more upkeep, generate some liquid waste, and are more substantial than water-softening or conditioning devices.


The cost is the most critical factor when purchasing a water filtration system. Taking advantage of people’s ingenuity, many companies justify ridiculous costs with claims that they’ll get you the purest water.

But what does a water softener vs. a water conditioner cost?

Generally speaking, water softeners are more costly than water conditioners. The latter may cost anywhere from a few dollars to around fifty dollars. On the other hand, softeners typically have price tags of one hundred dollars or more.

The cost of water purification machines can differ significantly depending on the technologies used, and it’s usually not difficult to come across systems at all expense levels.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) On Water Conditioner Vs Water Softener

1. What is better, a water softener or water conditioner?

I suggest investing in a water softener instead of a water conditioner because it eliminates the harshness of the water and is much more effective. An additional advantage of utilizing a water softener is that it keeps calcium and magnesium particles away from your appliances, your garments, and your body, as well as decreasing the amount of soap and washing detergent needed.

2. Do water conditioners actually work?

Most water softeners eliminate pollutants that change the odor of your water, like chlorine, chloramines, volatile organic compounds, and other natural gases. Certain water conditioners provide the advantage of softened water without getting rid of any of the hard minerals in the water.

3. What is the downside of a water softener?

A significant drawback of treating water is the possibility of putting people with restricted salt intake in danger. When swapping out hardness minerals for sodium, the homeowner will see an increase of 7.5 milligrams of sodium per quart for each gpg of hardness extracted. Moreover, the diet of the homeowner will no longer contain calcium or magnesium.

4. Do I really need a water conditioner?

If the amount of calcium and magnesium in your water is more than 7 grains per gallon or 120 milligrams per liter, you might want to get a water softener. This can ensure your appliances work properly and enhance your water’s appearance, scent, and flavor.

Summary: Water Conditioner vs Water Softener

water conditioner vs water softener

Are you wondering which is the best, a water conditioner vs water softener? Considering the distinctive natures of the two items, it’s tough to determine which is superior. Both can accomplish their respective objectives efficiently, so you should select the one that suits your requirements.

If you are worried about tap or well water caliber, getting a water conditioning system for either type of water is your ideal solution. However, if you already have pure water but you are concerned about the presence of mineral deposits, you should get a water softener.

No matter what type of system you are looking for, the market has plenty of options. You can purchase a conventional, electromagnetic, or digital water conditioner or opt for one of the multiple water softeners that best meets your requirements.

I hope this article on water conditioner vs water softener sounds helpful!

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