What Is A Salt-Free Water Softener? Pros And Cons

Hard water isn’t only useless, it can also lead to faded clothes, clogged drains, and bad health & skin that’s drier than a desert. This is why a water softener installation is a must. Here is everything you need to know about salt-free water softeners and how they work.

Salt-Free Water Softener

You came here to know about salt-free water softeners, but here’s the deal: There’s no such thing as a salt-free water softener. It’s a marketing gimmick and essentially a play on words for a water conditioner. When people say “salt-free water softeners” they usually mean “water conditioners”. There is only one type of softener available and that’s a salt-based water softener.

So, what exactly is a water conditioner, anyway? A salt-free water conditioner is essentially a device that doesn’t remove the calcium and magnesium ions from hard water, but it crystallizes the ions and lets them stay in the water. This also inhibits these pesky minerals from making scale on the surface of the water or even on the walls of pipes, taps, and faucets. Hence, a salt-free water conditioner is also known as a scale inhibitor.

A traditional salt-based water softener works by exchanging the hardness-causing ions of calcium and magnesium with either neutral ions or salt ions, usually sodium chloride. This is because salt is a major regenerative material used in these water softeners, but it does leave a salty taste in the water, which can be bad for health, especially if the consumer is someone who suffers from hypertension. This is why a salt-free option is preferred.

Pros And Cons Of A Salt-Free Water Softener

Here are some amazing and not-so-amazing things about a salt-free water softener or a water conditioner.

They Don’t Use Electricity

Traditional water softeners use a sizable amount of electricity to run and soften the water. Even though they only use power when the softening cycle is occurring, it’s still enough to make your bill generously high. On the other hand, a water conditioner doesn’t use electricity. So, it will be relieving to use it instead of a traditional salt-based water softener.

A water conditioner uses a mechanical and chemical approach to crystallize the calcium and magnesium ions. Salt-free water conditioners use a process called Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC). It’s very similar, in mechanism, to a water softener because there’s also a TAC medium through which the water passes.

The TAC bed has tiny holes or craters where polymers are present. This area is known as the nucleation site and this is the place where the crystallization of calcium and magnesium ions occurs. This process reduces the chances of scale formation, which is a huge problem for drains, pipes, and plumbing.

So, save yourself the trouble of changing your entire plumbing network and use for a salt-free water conditioner that operates on good ole chemistry and not on precious electricity.

Can Cause Scale Buildup

Even though salt-free water softeners promise that there will be no scale formation, this does not mean that the fact can be held at all times. Regardless, the magnesium and calcium ions are crystallized but are still present in the water.

At some point, when the hardness of the water exceeds, it can lead to scale deposition on the walls of the pipes, surrounding the taps, and even the sink. Scale can also ultimately ruin appliances like coffee machines, refrigerators with water dispensing options, and more.

They Don’t Need Salt

Using a salt-free water conditioner means that you don’t need to keep on buying bags upon bags of water softener salt. In traditional water softeners, the main agent is salt, which is stored in a brine tank. So, you need to replenish it now and then depending on how much softening the hard water needs. Buying salt can also add up over time. However, with salt-free water conditioners, this won’t be a problem.

Not As Effective

A salt-free water conditioner doesn’t essentially remove calcium and magnesium from the hard water. It doesn’t do anything to alter the levels of hardness in the water and that can pretty much throw you in uncertainty.

Even though the minerals are “crystallized” and “stable”, it doesn’t mean that the hardness of the water is altered. It might still be hard to produce lather at certain times, especially if the initial hardness was too much. Scale can ruin your dishes and clothes by staining them and that’s a whole nightmare in itself.

So, is a salt-free water conditioner doing its job or not? Based on the results, a salt-based water softener is much more effective, even though both systems have some problems of their own.

They Aren’t Banned

Salt-based water softeners are very controversial. They are banned in a lot of states that have brine and salt restrictions. There are many health hazards associated with drinking salty water. So, if you’re living in an area where there’s brine restriction, but the problem of hard water persists, then you might feel like you’ve hit a dead end. That’s where a salt-free water conditioner will save the day.

These devices aren’t banned and even though they’re not the same as water softeners, they can still get the job done if the hardness is minimal and the main problem you’re facing is hard water deposits.

Salt-Free Water Softeners Are Low Maintenance

A great thing about a salt-free water softener is the fact that it doesn’t need to be maintained a lot. With traditional water softeners that operate by using salt, there are a handful of things that you need to take care of. For instance, you have to remove the salty sludge that sits at the bottom of the brine tank, you have to check the pipes and valves for maintenance and the list goes on. With a salt-free water conditioner, there’s no need to worry about anything.

They Remove Chlorine

As a bonus, a salt-free water conditioner also removes excess chlorine from the water. If your water has that bleachy and pungent taste and smell, then a water softener will not be able to remove it. However, a salt-free water conditioner will do the trick.

A salt-free water conditioner comes with a built-in carbon filter that’s an amazing way to remove the smell and taste of chlorine from the water. So, say goodbye to the bleachy taste as well as scale.

Are Salt-Free Water Softeners Worth It?

The answer to this question depends on your needs and what problem you’re primarily facing. If the main issue is scale buildup, then a salt-free water conditioner will be the best option for you.

However, if there are tremendous levels of calcium and magnesium in the water and the hardness value exceeds the normal minimal range, then a salt-free water conditioner will be a futile investment. You may want to invest in a system that removes the hardness-causing ions from the water, and that’s the job of a salt-based water softener.


Salt-free water softeners have completely changed the game of water treatment and these systems are way easier to maintain and look after. However, it’s best for low levels of water hardness. If the hardness level of the water is high, consider a traditional water softener system Erie.