Which is better water softener or water conditioner

Last updated on: April 1, 2024.

The most basic need for human survival is access to water. The problem of declining water quality impacts numerous households and may need water treatment systems. Hard water is a significant issue for homes despite going through several rounds of treatment before reaching your pipes and appliances. In essence, hard water is water that has dissolved minerals in it, primarily magnesium and calcium.

These minerals can ruin your plumbing and appliances, even though they are not particularly detrimental to your health. Scaling in your pipes from mineral accumulation can lower the pressure of water flow. This scale build-up shortens the longevity of your appliances and plumbing system. If not addressed, this could cost you money.

Mineral build-up on your skin and hair can also dry them out, depriving you of their natural shine and gloss. Although the hard water in your home is not entirely dangerous, over time, it does cause some damage.

Most households decide to prevent long-term damage and find ways to soften their water.

How do water softeners work?

How do water softeners work?
Water Softener

Water softeners are devices installed in homes or businesses to remove minerals from the water supply. The softened water can make a big difference in the overall quality of life. The most common type of water softener uses ion exchange to remove minerals from the water.

This type will have a tank with a bed of resin beads. These resin beads are covered in sodium ions. As the hard water passes through the tank, the calcium and magnesium ions are attracted to the sodium ions. This exchange process removes the minerals from the water and leaves behind sodium ions in their place. 

Reverse Osmosis is another type of water softening process to remove minerals from the water. This type has a membrane that the water passes through. The membrane’s pores are tiny, so only water molecules can pass through. The calcium and magnesium ions are too large to pass through the membrane, so they are left behind.

Suppose you are considering installing a water softener in your home or business. In that case, you should consult a water treatment professional to determine which type suits your needs.

How do water conditioners work?

How do water conditioners work?
Water Conditioner

Water conditioners are devices used to treat water to be more suitable for a specific purpose. There are many different water conditioners; the most common is a whole-house water conditioner, which is used to treat all the water in a home. 

Other types of water conditioners include point-of-use units, which are used to treat water at a specific location, and portable water conditioners, which are used to treat water that will be used when traveling or using RVs.

Water conditioners work by removing impurities from water. The most common type of impurity that water conditioners remove is hardness, which is caused by dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium. 

Hard water is not a problem for health, but it can cause issues such as scale build-up in plumbing and decreased water pressure. Water conditioners remove this hardness by exchanging the calcium and magnesium ions in hard water for sodium ions.

This process is called ion exchange. In addition to eliminating hardness, water conditioners can also remove other impurities such as iron, manganese, and sulfur. These impurities can cause problems such as staining of plumbing fixtures and clothing.

Water conditioners remove these impurities by oxidizing them, which causes them to bind to the conditioner’s media. The media is then flushed from the system, taking the pollutants with it.

Water conditioners can also be used to adjust the pH of water. Water with a high pH is basic, while water with a low pH is acidic. Water too acidic or too basic can be corrosive and cause leaks in plumbing. Water conditioners can adjust the pH of water by adding or removing acidic or basic compounds.

Water conditioners can also remove dissolved solids from water. Dissolved solids are suspended in water. These particles can come from various sources, including sewage, industrial waste, and even household cleaners. Dissolved solids can cause problems such as cloudy water and decreased water pressure.

Water conditioners remove dissolved solids by passing the water through a filter that removes the particles. Water conditioners improve the taste and smell of water by removing chlorine. Chlorine is generally added to municipal water supplies to kill bacteria. 

However, chlorine can also give water an unpleasant taste and smell. Water conditioners absorb the chlorine onto a media that is eventually flushed from the system. They can also remove heavy metals from water. Heavy metals, such as lead and copper, can be present in water due to industrial pollution. These metals can cause health problems if they are consumed in large quantities. 

Water conditioners remove heavy metals by passing the water through a media that binds to the metals. The media is then flushed from the system, taking the metals with it. Another thing that water conditioners remove is radon. Radon is a radioactive gas present in water due to the breakdown of uranium in the ground. Radon can cause health problems if inhaled. Water conditioners remove radon by passing the water through a media that binds to the gas. The media is then flushed from the system, taking the radon with it.

Water Conditioner vs. Water Softener: Which One Do You Really Need?

Water Conditioner vs. Water Softener

Most homes have hard water, which contains a high mineral content. This can cause many problems, from soap scum build-up to clogged pipes. A water conditioner or water softener can help to reduce these problems. But which one do you need? 

The difference between a water softener and a water conditioner is that the conditioner will alter hard minerals but doesn’t eliminate them. A water conditioner will reduce scale, but a water softener will eliminate scale from calcium and magnesium by using salt in the regeneration cycle.

Some water conditioners improve the scent of your water by filtering away undesirable elements as the water flows through. By changing the structure of the minerals in the water, some water conditioners provide certain benefits associated with soft water. These systems rely on a particular substance known as template-assisted crystallization (TAC) media.

Small quantities of hard minerals react with the TAC media as hardened water flows over it, combining to produce crystals roughly the size of a nanometer. Nucleation is the term for this action. This procedure has crystals that are frequently referred to as “seed crystals.”

Once these crystals of nanoscale size have grown on the TAC media, they re-enter the water flow. In the water, not all of the hard mineral ions become crystallized. These seed crystals are enough to stop scaling, though. The leftover hardness ions in the water will gravitate toward the seed crystals rather than other surfaces like the interior of your plumbing or bathroom fixtures.

It’s helpful to assess the qualities of each system and consider how they apply to your life while deciding between a water softener and a water conditioner. Both systems are pretty good at lessening the effects of hard water, but they also operate differently and should be remembered.

Water softeners

  • Removes water’s abrasive minerals
  • Small amounts of salt are present in softened water
  • The apparatus needs a drainage pipe and electricity
  • The system requires the frequent addition of salt. 

Water conditioners

  • Removes pollutants that would otherwise change the flavor and smell of your water, such as chlorine, chloramines, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs);
  • Does not need a drain pipe and is energy-efficient;
  • No brine or salt is necessary

Which water conditioner is best?

After much deliberation, our verdict on the best water conditioner is the iSpring ED2000.

Which water conditioner is best?

iSpring ED2000 Whole House Water Descaler is an excellent alternative to water softeners. It is a salt-free water softener and is a highly efficient descaler. It solves water hardness problems without using chemicals or salt and is low-maintenance while keeping the healthy minerals in the water. It prevents scale build-up in pipes, descaling your entire water system. It also reduces energy consumption with an average one-year payback period.

The iSpring ED2000 is excellent for your home and the environment and does wonders for individuals on salt-restricted diets and those looking for healthier skin and hair. It is designed for very hard water areas (10-19 grains per gallon), saves energy, and extends the life of your appliances.

Additionally, it doesn’t require any plumbing modifications. It works on any pipe, even PEX and PVC, and comes with a 1-year money-back and lifetime tech support from iSpring.

Which water softener is best?

The best water softener is the Aquasure Harmony Series 48,000 Grains Water Softener with a high-efficiency Digital Metered control head. It reduces hardness and eliminates scale and scale build-up. It can treat 48,000 grains of hardness by removing hard minerals like iron and magnesium, clogging up the skin pore, and irritating.

Which water softener is best?

It comes with Aquatrol Advanced Digital On-Demand Meter Control Head, in and out bypass, 1″ NPT male adapter, and pre-filled premium quality resin. It is featured, time delayed, metered, and has a manual double backwash for optimum cleaning, performance, and regeneration.

The device is corrosion resistant with a fiberglass-lined polyethylene tank and pre-filled premium grade resin. It also comes with a five-year manufacturer warranty.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How does water feel with water conditioner vs. water softener?

The water conditioner does not change the feel of the water. On the other hand, a water softener makes the water feel slippery or silky.

2. Can you use a water conditioner and water softener at the same time?

You can use a water conditioner and water softener simultaneously, but it is not necessary. A water conditioner will remove chlorine, chloramines, and other chemicals from the water, while a water softener will remove hardness-causing minerals.

3. How long does a water conditioner last?

They can last between ten and twenty years, depending on the type and grade of water conditioner you choose. They are designed to be long-term water treatment systems and can run for many years without upkeep.

The life expectancy of an electric water conditioner is between two and ten years. You can receive treated water from a well-maintained water conditioner for up to twenty years.

4. Does water conditioner remove chlorine?

Chlorine and other impurities can be removed from water using a reverse osmosis system with sufficient carbon filters. It does this by putting water through several filters and membranes under pressure.

 Reverse osmosis systems can filter chlorine from your water before it reaches your softener, which is one of their many benefits.

5. Does water conditioner reduce ammonia?

Water conditioners do not remove the ammonia from water, but they can neutralize it. They detoxify ammonia by changing its chemical structure from NH3 to NH4. This form is safer than free ammonia. So, water conditioners can counteract ammonia’s ill effects while not removing it entirely.

6. How much does it cost to put in a water softener?

Generally, installation ranges anywhere from as low as $400 – $4000. This variation in price includes labor and material, size of the house, softener capacity, and complexity of the installation.

7. How can you soften water at home without softener/ conditioner?

  • Use bottled water instead of tap water, although it is not recommended as it can impact the environment. 
  • Soften your drinking water by boiling: Boiling will make the salts in the water sink to the bottom and can be scooped out.  
  • Install an ion-exchange filter on your faucets or use a water filter for the pitcher.
  • Install a showerhead with a built-in shower filter.


There are several ways to improve water quality at home. Even those accustomed to drinking hard water take to softened water quickly when they see the numerous benefits. Hard water can be a nuisance over time, and any means of removing hardness-causing minerals is a worthwhile investment.

Who would not want long-lasting household appliances or clothes that last longer without looking faded or frayed?

Moreover, hard water means using more soap and cleaning supplies, constant wiping or white spots in fixtures, and removing limescale build-up, costing much more for cleaning and maintenance. You can pick either a water softener or a conditioner based on your needs and budget and can enjoy an uninterrupted softened water supply. 

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.