Salt Based vs. Salt Free Water Softeners

Salt Based vs. Salt Free Water Softeners
5 (100%) 6 vote[s]

Water softeners come in different types and sizes, and when you go shop looking for one, you might get confused between the different types of softeners, brands and models they have. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered – check out our Water Softener Reviews for more detailed information. Also, there is a common debate as to which one you should use – Salt based water softeners or salt free water softeners. Generally, people believe both of them to be the same, but there are quite many differences between them. Without going in to the technical differences, here are a few basic differences you must understand about the two systems as a consumer. This will definitely help you make a more informed and better solution for your family.


Salt Based Water Softeners

Fleck 5600SXT Review

The basic idea between water softeners is to remove the minerals in water that cause hardness, mainly calcium and magnesium ions. This is done through a process called ion exchange, and it uses a polymer resin bed that gives off sodium particles to exchange the hardness ions.

Salt based systems generally use a metered valve. This is mounted on top of a fiber glass resin tank. It meters water by gallons and cleans up the system when the ion resin bed has reached a certain saturation point. A series of back flushes are cycled during the cleaning cycle. This is done to purge the hardness particles and flush them out of the system. The cycle also takes care of replenishing sodium in the resin bed. Once the cycle completes, the system can be used again.

Salt based water softeners generally need such “recharge” systems. Salt pellets and a defined regeneration period are necessary. The taste of the water after softening is not that great. It may even be a problem if you are watching your sodium levels due to any health issues. But, you can use a bypass valve to bypass this situation. By turning off a knob, the system is disarmed. Another option is to install the filter on a certain tap to filter your drinking water. You may also want to bypass the system to a single supply point in your house.



  • Salt based water softening systems ensure that all calcium and magnesium ions are completely removed from the water before you use it.
  • The water based appliances in your home will have a longer life as it is no longer used with hard water. Even your plumbing will thank you for this.
  • You will no longer have to deal with lime scale build ups that stick to everything that uses water.
  • The water gets a more “slick” feel, and it will feel soft and smooth when you use.



  • A salt based water softener is generally more expensive.
  • It needs more maintenance, regular refilling of salt pellets, and frequent regeneration.
  • Since you will need to buy salt, there will be added expenses even after installation.


Our Recommendation for the Best Salt Based Water Softener: FLECK 5600SXT Salt Based Water Softening System


Salt Free Water Softeners

In the salt free water softeners, the hardness minerals are not removed from the water. They are retained in water, but the form is changed so that they do not stick to the surfaces and cause lime scale build up.

A catalytic media is used to process the water using a physical process. This is known as Template Assisted Crystallisation (TAC). The hardness minerals are converted to a sort of hardness crystal which is no longer able to bind to surfaces. In short, water is actually conditioned in the process.

Since the whole system works as a conditioner and does not purge any hardness minerals, you do not need an electrical valve for this system.

The salt free method is not as effective as the salt based method. Moreover, it will not work well if the hardness level of water is too high. Some of these systems come with an internal filter that filters the hard water minerals after the conditioning is done.

Since the salt free system does not reduce the hardness at all, most people do not even consider it to be a water softening system.



  • They are less expensive than the salt based water softeners.
  • Calcium and magnesium ions are not removed from the water. They are only changed to be unable to stick to the surfaces. This is a pro because both these minerals have their health benefits. As such, the nutrients in water are retained by the salt free water softeners.
  • The salt free water softening method is free of chemicals of any type. So, it is safer.
  • Installation is very easy. You just need to get wrap the wires around your pipes and plug it in.
  • There are almost no maintenance costs attached to such types of water softeners that use magnets or electricity to soften the water. You do not need to refill salt pellets or replace cartridges.



  • The salt free systems are not as effective as the salt based water softening systems. This is because the elements causing the lime scale build up are still present in water and not removed. Your body still gets exposed to them. Moreover, the water may not remain in the state for long. After some time, the hardness minerals may get back to normal and start causing the hardness issues again.
  • Salt free systems are slower than salt based systems with respect to the time taken to show results. This is because filtration for the salt based systems starts at the source as soon as you start using the water. Since electricity is used in salt free systems. It takes longer.


WaterSoftenerGuide’s Recommendation for the Best Salt Free Water SoftenerThe Eddy Electric Water Descaler and The Nuvo H2O Manor


Choosing the best water softening system depends on you. No one can tell you which one is good and which one is not. You see that both salt based water softeners and salt free water softeners have their own pros and cons. Before you buy one, you need to understand what your requirements are. Based on that, you have to select which one to install so that you get soft water for all your purposes.

Also check out: Salt Free Water Softeners

Leave a comment:

Read previous post:
Water Softener Installation
Water Softener Installation Guide and Cost

Hard water is a major trouble in almost all households. It could make it difficult for you, and may also...