Water softener alternatives

Many homeowners have this question. Does one need a water softener? What is the difference between soft water and hard water? Does it even matter? Water is undoubtedly necessary, but the cost of softening your water may not be justified depending on where you live and how you use it.

In other words, it depends on the individual whether to soften or not. Even though it is not required, the choice you make will have a significant impact on your home life. Let’s look at what makes water hard or soft.

Hard water is the one with calcium and magnesium minerals and traces of iron in certain regions of the country. These minerals cause the hardness you find in the water, resulting in the shorter lifespan of household appliances, clogged pipes and plumbing systems, limescale deposits on faucets and fixtures, dirty spots on kitchenware, and dry skin and hair.

On the other hand, softened water ensures longer-lasting appliances, less wear and tear on clothes, and other devices, cleaner surfaces, shiny hair, and skin that retains moisture.

Now comes the question of water softeners and if you need one.

Is water softener really necessary?

Is water softener really necessary?

Whether you feel it is necessary depends on your tolerance levels of hard water in your home. But knowing the various benefits ought to make the decision easier.

Softened water will reduce limescale build-up in your plumbing and reduce corrosion and clogging. It will ensure a higher water pressure as there is no pipe obstruction. It will also bring soft water into your appliances, such as washing machines, water heaters, and other water-using devices. Therefore, your water systems will last longer.

Soft water will help you reduce your monthly bills for soaps, shampoos, and other cleaning supplies because you will get enough lather with minimal usage. Hard water tends to need more soap for lather, and you end up using a lot more of the washing supplies.

Soft water will leave your kitchen and glassware sparkling without any soapy residue that forms white or grey spots on our utensils. Soft water will also eliminate water spots on faucets and fixtures.

Soft water prevents the common ugly stains that form around drains, tiles, and sinks. Hard minerals leave your surfaces with a stain due to the calcium deposits, and if there is any iron in the water, you will find rusty stains, too.

Soft water prevents such stains from occurring, making it easier to have clean surfaces all around.

A water softener is essential for softening water, but what if you don’t have one?

A water softener is essential for softening water

Now that you know about the benefits of having a water softener, it makes sense to invest in one, doesn’t it? But what can you do if you don’t have access to a water softening system? You can practice other methods to soften water. Not having a water softener need not stop you from enjoying soft water.

Depending on the hardness levels of your water supply, you can ensure that you have softened water for your basic needs, such as cooking, drinking, and even for a shower.

There are a few reasons why people don’t wish to install a water softener in their homes.

  • Lifting bags of salt to fill the brine tanks can be cumbersome.
  • It is not environmentally friendly because the brine solution gets flushed into the ground.
  • A water softening system adds to the household appliances that need regular upkeep and maintenance.
  • It is too expensive and not affordable in their budget.

Despite the above reasons, hard water can be challenging to live in the long term. So, people look for alternative solutions to get a steady supply of softened water.

Water softeners are expensive, so what is the best alternative?

Since water softeners are expensive, not many people can afford to have one installed in their homes. The best alternative is probably the reverse osmosis system, the Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC), salt-free water conditioner, electromagnetic water treatment system, or electrochemical water treatment system.

Here are some alternatives to water softeners that you might find helpful:

Using a reverse osmosis system

Reverse Osmosis (RO) can be an excellent alternative to water softeners. You can use RO to remove 99% of the hard minerals from the water. It also helps remove impurities, including chloride and fluoride.

Using a reverse osmosis system
Reverse osmosis system

Using the RO system, you get good quality drinking water without wasting money on bottled water. You can also use water for cooking and improving food taste at home.

RO systems don’t need electricity, saving you on utility bills. They have multiple filters to trap impurities and remove the unpleasant taste of city water. It is easy to maintain, and only the filters will need to be changed once a year.

Electromagnetic water softening systems

As a water softener alternative, the electromagnetic effectively supplies clean drinking water. The unit purifies the water without dumping harmful substances into the water.

Electromagnetic water softening systems
Electromagnetic water softening systems

Overall, keeping it in working order is inexpensive, making it perfect for every budget. It can even handle limescale and prevent any future build-ups in your plumbing system. It also uses a simple mechanism to produce potable water.

The electromagnetic water system leaves calcium in the water, which is an essential mineral for our health. Moreover, it doesn’t harm the environment, removes unpleasant smells, and is a quiet water conditioning system.

The Template-Assisted Crystallization (TAC) method

Instead of installing a whole house water filter, you can use a TAC system. Unlike other treatment options, it does not need too much maintenance, electricity, or chemicals. To keep it in working order, you must install the unit properly and keep it clean.

Template-Assisted Crystallization (TAC) method
Template-Assisted Crystallization (TAC) method

TAC systems use ceramic polymer balls to handle the dissolved minerals. These balls convert the hard minerals into crystals that can be washed away. TAC systems do not remove the minerals from the water, which means the water can still be healthy as it retains the benefits of calcium and magnesium.

TAC is eco-friendly and has no electronic valves. There is also no brine discharge or backwashing, thereby needing no drain system. It is the best water-saving option, and it is long-lasting and affordable.

An electronic water conditioning system

An electronic water treatment system is also called a descaler. It uses nanotechnology and alters the nature of the water. It uses magnetism to change the dissolved minerals’ chemical composition, making the salts inactive.

An electronic water conditioning system

When hard water comes into contact with household appliances, pipes, plumbing systems, and our bodies, it causes some damage. The damage is largely due to the limescale produced by the dissolved minerals.

Limescale build-up affects all areas, from showerheads to appliances that an electronic water conditioner can handle efficiently. It reduces limescale and the chalky residue that the hard water leaves behind.

A salt-free water conditioner

A saltless water softening system is called a water conditioner. It is salt-free and, therefore, without sodium ions that would swap with the calcium and magnesium ions and produce a brine solution that needs to be flushed through the drain.

A salt-free water conditioner

Instead, it changes the chemical makeup of hardness causing minerals. It often comes with a pre-carbon filter that further filters the water and keeps it tasting better and smelling fresh.

Treating water electrochemically

The electrochemical water treatment system uses electrodes by fitting them and passing electricity through the water. It helps remove the minerals and other impurities by disinfecting the water. It also produces some ozone to clean the water.

Treating water electrochemically

These electrochemical systems are mostly organic as they come from liquid or dissolved salts. They are safe to use and are excellent alternatives to getting soft and potable water.

Could these electronic/magnetic water descalers be helpful in removing hard water deposits? What is the point of spending $200 on them?

It’s important to note that these machines have some limitations. The main issue is the presence of iron. Magnetic water descalers cannot remove iron from water. Too much iron in water interferes with the electromagnetic field and can impede operation.

They are commonly used to remove limescale build-up in water. They work over a long period and keep the mineral build-up at a very low level. If scale existed before installing the descaler, it is possible it won’t work fast enough, and it can’t keep up with the mineral build-up.

Therefore, you may think it is not worth investing in a descaler. However, if the water hardness is low or moderate, they may work well enough to prevent scale build-up.

Is there an alternative to salt pellets for water softeners?

There are different types of salt used in water softeners. You also have potassium chloride in water conditioners. When it comes to water softening units, you can find salt pellets, crystals, and block salt. While salt pellets have higher purity rates and are, therefore, more expensive, there are alternatives

Solar salt:

Solar salt
Solar salt

Evaporated salt is available as pellets and crystals. It is more soluble. They work well to treat low to moderate hardness levels in the water.

Rock salt:

Rock salt
Rock salt

Rock salt contains high levels of calcium sulfate and may not dissolve well in water, and will increase maintenance and upkeep in water softeners. But, it is a cheaper alternative to salt pellets.

Potassium chloride:

Potassium chloride
Potassium chloride

Potassium chloride is highly effective in water conditioners as they are salt-free water treatment devices. They replace sodium chloride in the brine tank to regenerate the resin beads and are very helpful to people on low-sodium diets.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Are there water softener alternatives that work as effectively as water softeners?

Water descalers work well as alternatives to water softeners. They offer the same benefits but without any downsides. A water descaler doesn’t replace calcium and magnesium with sodium but alters their shape with crystals, so they don’t stick to the pipes or appliances.

2. Is there an alternative to water softener?

There are several alternatives to water softeners, including a RO system, electromagnetic water units, TAC systems, electrochemical, and electronic water treatment systems.

3. Can you tell me what is the cheapest way to soften water?

The cheapest way to soften water is to boil water. You can boil the water for a few minutes and remove all hardness-causing minerals. You will find sediment at the bottom of the pot, the calcium deposits from the water. It is easy to separate the hard minerals and get the softened water by scooping the water out. Using baking soda in your cooking can also be an inexpensive measure to get softened water.

4. What is the effect of baking soda on water softening?

While baking soda does not chemically change the water, it will still make it soft enough to need less soap or shampoo. You can add half a teaspoon of baking soda to your bath water. It will give you enough softened water to reduce the soapy residue caused by hard minerals. You can also use baking soda in your cooking as it will adjust the pH levels of water.


It is common to find hard water across the country and at different levels. Some regions have water harder than others. It is the reason why water softeners have become popular. However, not everyone can afford to invest in a water softener.

Moreover, environmentally conscious people prefer to use alternative methods as they don’t like the idea of backwash and brine solution draining into the ground. They also don’t like adding to the other appliances and increasing electricity consumption.

We hope this article has dispelled your concerns regarding water softeners and their alternatives. You can use the information to choose between investing in a salt-based water softener and a salt-free unit or any of the other water treatment systems.

About The Author

Our Web Producer

Judith— a passionate water treatment specialist — is a waste water management enthusiast, clean drinking water advocate, and someone with deep personal experience and knowledge about various water equipments. Her work was mentioned in countless notable water associations. Previously she was an editor at Water Alliance.