If you’re thinking about purchasing a salt-free water softener, you’ve probably seen a lot of different opinions on how well they work. Critics say their claims are exaggerated, or even go so far as to say they’re a scam. Other people swear by them. The truth is, there’s not a lot of definitive information on how well saltless systems work, and much of what we have to go on are opinions.
The criticism of saltless water softeners breaks down to two arguments: 1) they aren’t technically water softeners, and 2) they don’t do what they claim to do.
Are They Really Water Softeners?
Critics argue that water hardness isn’t a subjective thing – in other words, it’s not a matter of how the water feels or even whether it causes scaling. Rather, it’s an objective matter of how many grains of dissolved minerals are in water. Since saltless systems don’t remove calcium or magnesium, the measured hardness of the water is the same before and after treatment. The critics say that because they’re not removing hardness, they’re not softening the water.
For this reason, critics often argue that salt-free water softeners should really be called water conditioners to avoid misleading customers. And in fact, some saltless systems do avoid calling themselves water softeners to escape being dragged into the controversy over the so-called salt free water softener scam.
But from a customer perspective, does this debate over wording really matter? Probably not. As long as the no-salt system is doing everything a conventional water softener does, I can’t imagine anyone would quibble.
Do They Work As Advertised?
The real debate is not whether salt-free water softeners are correctly labeled, but whether they do what they claim. Do they actually stop scaling? Unfortunately, without a reliable measure like the water hardness test, we can’t answer definitively.
It is true that, so far, electromagnetic water softeners have come up short in scientific testing. But even if you could dismiss those systems, there are plenty of other saltless water softener technologies to consider. Many of the most popular systems use a filter media to alter mineral ions and prevent them from forming scale.
The best advice is to do your homework, consider each brand individually, and look at the customer feedback. To help you with this, we’ve compiled a table of saltless water softener reviews.