WATER SOFTENER vs. WATER FILTER – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

ionized water in a glass

What’s the difference between a water filter and a water softener?  A water softener and a water filter are two very different devices.

A water softener reduces the hardness of water by removing dissolved calcium and magnesium. While a water filter purifies water by removing contaminants such as microbes and heavy metals.


IS A WATER SOFTENER THE SAME AS A WATER FILTER?

lady drinking ionized water

No, a water softener and water filter are two different devices that perform two different roles. A water softener is used to soften hard water – and a water filter is used to purify water by removing contaminants.

So, what’s the Difference Between a Water Softener & a Water Filter?


WHAT IS A WATER SOFTENER?

water ionization

A water softener is a device that reduces the hardness of water. Water hardness is caused by the presence of dissolved calcium and magnesium in your water source.

A water softener removes these dissolved minerals as the water passes through it and ‘softens’ the hard water.

Water becomes hard naturally as it passes through the earth and comes into contact with rocks. As it brushes against the rocks it absorbs calcium and magnesium. It is the accumulation of these materials that makes water hard.

Hard water has no negative impact on your health. Drinking it is not bad for you. In fact, it may be healthier than soft water due to its high mineral content.

However, it causes difficulty around the house – negatively affecting plumbing, kitchen appliances, and even laundry.

This is why some people choose to use a water softener to reduce the hardness of their water source.


HOW DOES A WATER SOFTENER WORK?

A water softener uses a mechanical process called ‘ion exchange’ to soften hard water. Hard water is funneled through an ion exchange chamber and emerges the other end as softened water.

So, what exactly is an ‘ion exchange’ and how does it work?

An ion exchange is simply a chamber that has been tightly packed with specially designed resin beads that hold an electrical charge.

When hard water flows through the chamber it brushes up against these beads making physical contact. The electrical charge of the beads attracts dissolved calcium and magnesium towards them and then locks them in place.

The water then emerges from the softener with a reduced level of calcium and magnesium. By reducing the level of calcium and magnesium minerals the water is softened.

The process uses sodium to create the electrical charge and remove the dissolved minerals. So, the downside to using a water softener is increased levels of sodium in your water.


WHAT IS A WATER FILTER?

glass of ionized water sitting on a rock

A water filter is a device that improves the purity of water by removing contaminants such as particles, microbes, heavy metals, pesticides, and other chemicals.

Water filters are used to provide clean water for many uses, including – agriculture, commercial industry, and public drinking water.

They can use any combination of four methods to remove contaminants from a water source – sieving, adsorption, ion exchanges, and biofilms.

In the home setting, there are four main types of filters to choose from – mechanical filters, absorption filters, reverse osmosis filters, and sequestration filters.

The most popular type is an absorption filter called an activated carbon filter. Activated carbon filters are great for removing chemical pollutants, particulates, and microbes.

The best water ionizing machines and alkaline water pitchers come with an activated carbon filter installed.  Check out the best ionized water filters of 2022 – click here.


HOW DOES A WATER FILTER WORK?

young family enjoying fresh filtered water

Each of the five domestic water filter types work in a different way.

MECHANICAL FILTERS

Mechanical water filters are the simplest of all. They use a physical barrier to remove sediment and suspended particles. They take the form of a mesh or a ceramic structure that physically blocks objects as the water passes through.

ABSORPTION FILTERS

Absorption filters work differently. They usually use activated carbon – a substance that has an enormous surface area. As water passes through the absorption filter it moves through a maze of contact areas.

Contaminants bind to the carbon and are held in place as the water moves through. Most domestic absorption water filters use granular activated carbon, ‘GAC’. It is an excellent filter choice for removing unwanted tastes and odors.

REVERSE OSMOSIS FILTERS

Reverse osmosis filters are used to remove dissolved inorganic solids from a water source. It uses a semipermeable membrane to remove contaminants.

Reverse osmosis is a highly efficient method of filtering water and achieves great results. It is often used in combination with other filter types to achieve the highest level of water purity.

SEQUESTRATION FILTERS

These filters work by chemically isolating a substance. They are not as popular as absorption filters and rarely seen in domestic appliances. They use polyphosphate to sequester calcium and magnesium minerals to reduce limescale and corrosion.

However, they do not reduce the ‘hardness of the water. To reduce water hardness a water softening device should be used.


CHECK OUT:

• BEST ALKALINE WATER MACHINE 2022More Here
• WHAT IS ALKALINE WATERMore Here
• HOW TO TEST WATER HARDNESSMore Here
• IONIZED WATER vs. DEIONIZED WATERMore Here
• WHAT IS TOTAL DISSOLVED SOLIDS?More Here
• COFFEE & ALKALINE WATERMore Here
HOW TO USE A PH TEST STRIPMore Here
• ALKALINE WATER & FILTERED WATERMore Here


frequently asked questions

Which Is Better – A Water Softener Or A Water Filter?

It depends on what you are trying to do. If you have hard water and want to soften it – use a water softener. If you are concerned about the purity of your water source and want to purify it to remove contaminants – use a water filter.

Does a Water Softener Filter Water?

No, a water softener does not filter water. It is used to soften water, that is – to reduce the hardness of water. To achieve this it removes dissolved calcium and magnesium but it does not filter out harmful contaminants such as microbes, chemicals, or suspended particles.

Does A Water Filter Soften Hard Water?

No, a water filter does not soften hard water. A water filter cleanses water by removing harmful pollutants such as microbes, chemicals, and suspended particles. Water filters are used to create clean safe water for industry, agriculture, and public use.

CHECK OUT:

• HEAVY METALS IN YOUR DRINKING WATERmore here

• TOP UNDER SINK RO WATER FILTERSmore here

• COUNTERTOP REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER FILTERSmore here

• ARE THERE MINERALS IN WATER?more here

BENEFITS & DISADVANTAGES OF REVERSE OSMOSIS WATERmore here

 

 

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HOW TO TEST WATER HARDNESS AT HOME

glass of ionized water sitting on a rock

Testing water hardness at home is easy. You can use the simple ‘bottle and soap’ method or buy a hard water test strip kit online. Both methods are very easy to perform and take just seconds to show results. If you’d prefer a professional analysis you can send a water sample to a test lab.


TESTING WATER HARDNESS AT HOME

water in a glass with ice

There are several methods you can use to test the level of hardness of your water supply. The first two methods we will look at are DIY tests you can do at home.

They are easy to perform and will give you a good indication of the level of hardness of your water. The final method involves getting an accurate reading from a professional water testing lab.

1: BOTTLE & SOAP TEST

This is a really simple and cheap method to test for hard water at home. All you need is a clean transparent bottle – like a plastic water bottle.

Fill the bottle two-thirds with water. Then, add some liquid hand soap. It has to be regular soap – don’t use detergent or dish washing liquid.

Then, put the cap back on the bottle and shake it vigorously for 10 seconds. After shaking place the bottle on your countertop and take a look at the solution.

If a large amount of suds formed at the top and the water below remains clear – you have soft water. If little to no suds formed and you have cloudy water below – then you have hard water.

2: HARD WATER TEST STRIPS

A more accurate way to test your water is to use a hard water test strip kit. These kits are inexpensive and can be easily picked up online.

The testing process is simple. First up, remove one of the test strips from the pack. Then either immerse it in a glass of water or hold it under a running tap for a few seconds.

The test strip will then change color as a chemical reaction takes effect. All you need to do is compare the color against the color chart provided for your result.

This will give you a clear result and tell you if you have a hard or soft water supply in your home.

3: WATER TESTING LABORATORY

woman testing water in a lab

The most comprehensive and accurate method is to take a water sample and send it to a water testing laboratory for professional analysis. This method will take time to process and cost quite a bit more money.

Your best bet is to try the home DIY methods mentioned above first. Then, if you feel your water needs more comprehensive analysis – send it to a testing lab. They can also test for chlorine, nitrates, pH, heavy metals, and microbes.


WHAT IS WATER HARDNESS?

glass of alkaline water sitting on a table

Water hardness is the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in your water. Hard water has a high level of dissolved calcium and magnesium. And, soft water has a low level.

Hard water and soft water both look the same – so you won’t be able to tell them apart just by looking at them.

CALCIUM & MAGNESIUM

Water becomes hard when it absorbs calcium and magnesium minerals as it passes through rocks. It is a natural process and is very common across the United States.

Hard water is not bad for your health. In fact, it may even have some health benefits due to its high mineral content.

Water hardness is expressed in ‘grains per gallon’ or ‘milligrams per liter’. Hard water contains 7.0-10.5 grains per gallon.


CHECK OUT

• THE BEST ALKALINE WATER MACHINE 2022 – click here
• HOW TO USE A PH TEST STRIP – click here
• IONIZED WATER vs. DEIONIZED WATER – click here
• WATER SOFTENER vs. WATER FILTER – click here
• BEST RO UNDER SINK WATER FILTERS – click here
• DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ALKALINE WATER & FILTERED WATER – click here


SIGNS OF WATER HARDNESS

a drop of water falling into a pool of water

While hard water is not bad for your health it can lead to several problems throughout the house. The mineral high water can damage home appliances, clog your plumbing, and leave unwanted residues.

When hard water is heated it forms a white-colored deposit called limescale. You may notice limescale build-up in your kettle or dishwasher if you have a hard water supply.

Hard water also causes problems with your laundry. The minerals in the water interact with the detergent and stop it from working effectively. It can leave clothes feeling stiff and weaken fabrics – meaning clothes get worn out more quickly.


HARD WATER SOLUTIONS

a glass of water

So, now that we know what hard water is and the damage it can cause we need to know how to resolve the problem. How do you fix hard water?

For most people removing water hardness is not a priority. It does not damage our health and the minerals it contains may actually help us. And, it tastes better than soft water.

There are several hard water treatments you can use at home. The most effective option is to use an ion exchange water softener.

ION EXCHANGE WATER SOFTENER

This device uses a mechanical process where the hard water is feed through a collection of tiny plastic resin beads.

As the hard water flows through the beads an electric charge is used to attract the calcium and magnesium ions and then hold them in place. This way they are removed from the water.

The downside of using an ion exchange softener is that it adds sodium to your supply. As the hardness ions are trapped inside the device, sodium is released and added to the water.


WATER HARDNESS BY AREA AND ZIP CODE USA

water pouring from a bottle

If you are interested in reviewing your water hardness by location – the good people over at flixwater have created an online tool that allows you to do just that. Check it out – over here.

Interestingly, over 30% of cities in the US have a very hard water supply. while just 4% benefit from soft water. The city with the hardest water supply is Bullhead City on the banks of the Colorado River in Arizona.


frequently asked questions

How Can You Tell If Your Water Is Hard or Soft?

The easiest way to tell if your water is hard or soft is to perform the ‘soap and bottle’ test. Just put some water in a transparent bottle, add some hand soap and give it a good shake.

If very little or no suds form and the water looks a little cloudy – you’ve got hard water. If you’ve got lots of suds and clear water – you have soft water.

What Is A Good Number For Water Hardness?

Water hardness can be measured in grains/gallon, milligrams/liter, or parts per million. See the figures below for details on water hardness based on these values.

water hardness defined by measurement numbers

What Is The Unit of Water Hardness?

Water hardness can be measured in grains/gallon, milligrams/liter, or parts per million. In the US the unit used is grains/gallon (grains/gal), while in Europe milligrams/liter (mg/l) is the preferred unit of measurement.

What Is The Main Cause Of Hard Water?

Water hardness occurs naturally as water passes through rock formations in the earth. It collects calcium and magnesium mineral deposits as it comes into contact with rocks. And, it is the presence of these dissolved minerals in the water that causes hardness.

At What Hardness Do You Need To Use A Water Softener?

Most people do not treat water to remove hardness. Water hardness is not detrimental to your health. In fact, the presence of high levels of minerals might be good for you.

If you feel hard water is causing you problems you can choose to treat it at any stage. The most common way to treat a home water supply is to use an ion exchange water softener device.

How Do I Know If I’m In A Hard Water Area?

If you live in the United States you can check online to see if you live in a hard water area. There are several free tools you can use to check the city you live in or use your zip code. A quick google search will take you to one of these sites.


CHECK OUT:

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• THE HEAVY METALS IN YOUR DRINKING WATERclick here
PROS & CONS OF REVERSE OSMOSIS WATERclick here
• MINERALS IN TAP WATERclick here


 

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