Do Salt Free Water Softeners Work? Depends on Who You Ask

Two men holding signs, one reading yes and the other reading noIf you do a web search on salt free water softeners, you’ll get pages full of marketing materials and pure opinion. Real facts from unbiased publications like Consumer Reports are hard to come by. That’s why, if you find an article addressing the question of whether or not salt free water softeners work, you should always consider the source. It’s pretty obvious that manufacturers of salt free systems might not be the most reliable sources. However, there’s also a lot of bias on the other side of the argument that might not be so obvious.

A lot of the articles bashing saltless water conditioners come from one of two sources: 1) manufacturers of conventional (salt-using) softeners, and 2) water companies that only sell, install, and service conventional water softeners. On average, these old-school companies have been around a lot longer than saltless water softener companies. People tend to trust what they say, and based on its search results, so does Google. However, they have an obvious conflict of interest when it comes to talking about alternatives to salt based water softener systems.

Traditional Water Softener Manufacturers

The ion exchange technology that powers conventional water softening has been around for a long time, and so have many of the companies that sell it. However, water softener companies know that homeowners would love to find an alternative that doesn’t use water softener salt, which most people find highly inconvenient to buy and transport. Salt free systems offer just that, and are gradually making headway in the water softener market.

It’s not just about losing a few sales, though. Because the wastewater they produce is bad for the environment and difficult to recycle, conventional water softeners are actually banned in some parts of the country (mostly in California). There’s little doubt that the only thing stopping other areas from following suit is the lack of known alternatives to conventional water softening. Wider acceptance of saltless water conditioners could ease the way for bans of conventional softeners – threatening the very existence of the old school companies.

Companies that Sell, Install, and Service Conventional Softeners

Here again, the rise of salt free water softeners represents a real threat to existing businesses. These local companies oftentimes only sell certain brands of water softeners – and those are most often the salt-using kind. They have a vested interest in people continuing to buy those systems instead of flocking to saltless ones.

Salt free conditioners also cut into their installation and service business. Many saltless systems – particularly the electronic and magnetic ones – are so easy to install that homeowners can do it themselves. They also tend to require fewer repairs, less maintenance, and of course they don’t require regular salt delivery.

So, Do Salt Free Water Softeners Work?

There’s no simple answer to this question. While conventional water softeners all use the same technology that has been around for ages, saltless conditioners are all new and different. Some of them are doubtless of poor quality, or even based on faulty pseudoscience. But then, there are also poorly made and/or overpriced salt-using softeners. The bottom line is that you have to look at the brand and its reputation, and then decide for yourself.

None of this is meant to be a criticism of companies who go out and state the case against salt free water softeners. They have a right to make their arguments, as long as they stick with the facts – and there are some facts going against salt free conditioners. However, anyone who reads this stuff should be aware of the motivations behind it, so that they can arrive at a well-informed judgement on their own.