Water Softeners Vs Water Filters – What’s the Difference?

Are you looking for a water softener or a water filter? Is there a difference, or are they interchangeable?

This question must be bothering you as you decide which is best suited for you. Though both of these appliances aim to provide you with better water quality, the question remains, how can they achieve this?

The simple answer is, they are not interchangeable. They are designed for different purposes, which are further elaborated in detail as follows.

Water Softener

Water softeners are designed for reducing the amount of hard minerals that are present in your water supply. These systems are designed to remove scale and protect you from the negative consequences of hard water. Before we move forward, we need to understand what exactly forms hard water.

What is Hard Water?

Hard water refers to water that contains chemical impurities. The most common of these impurities are calcium and magnesium. However, they can also include iron, rust, limescale, sulfide, chlorine, and so on. Despite this, hard water does not actually pose a high health risk.

The hard minerals can largely react with your soap and leave a soap film on your hands as well as deposits on your glassware. This water can also cause dryness to your skin or hair and damage your water appliances. So the main purpose of softening hard water is to prevent any limescale build-up and prolong the life of your plumbing system.

How do Water Softeners Work?


A water softener helps turn your hard water into soft water. This process can be better simplified if you think of a chemical magnet. The water supply is pressurized through a system that is equipped with beads. These beads are generally full of positively charged sodium ions.

The calcium, as well as other mineral ions present in your hard water, reacts with these sodium ions. In the end, the water softener works by replacing the negative ions with sodium ions. However, this process does not remove any contaminants but simply targets the minerals that cause the hardness in the water.

Benefits of Water Softeners

Water softeners come with the following benefits:

  1. Complete removal of calcium, magnesium, and other hard materials from your water supply.
  2. Prolong life as well as increase the efficiency of your plumbing system.
  3. No more soap deposits on your glass and silverware.
  4. Makes soap more effective and helps you save on soap, detergent, and shampoo costs
  5. Save on maintenance and replacement costs of water appliances like water heaters, dishwaters, coffee machines, and so on.
  6. Makes clothes brighter and longer-lasting.

Water Filter

Water filters aim to remove the impurities present in the water. These filters help deliver pure water and prevent waterborne diseases. Water filters can also remove the hardness of water to some extent. These are available in many forms such as an under-sink filter, countertop water filter, or a whole house water filter. You can select which of these will best suit you depending on your needs and the amount of impurities in your water system.

How do Water Filters Work?

Water filters work in two forms physical filtration and chemical filtration. Physical filtration helps target the larger sediments, whereas chemical filtration targets smaller impurities. Most water filters combine both these methods to deliver pure water.

There are two main methods by which water filtration can take place. They are reverse osmosis and activated carbon filters. Reverse osmosis removes 99% of contaminants with the use of a semipermeable membrane. Similarly, activated carbon filters are one of the most common methods of water filtration. It utilizes the highly porous properties of carbon to remove impurities.

Water filters are designed in order to remove a wide range of impurities. This means that they offer a variety of filters for you to choose from, depending on which contaminants are your top concerns. These filters include sediment filters, carbon filters, iron and sulfur filters, fluoride filters, and so on.

These days water filters have become very efficient. As such, they can effectively remove or reduce contaminants such as lead, copper, chlorine, iron, fluoride, mercury, and so on. They can also prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms to a certain extent. However, if it is a larger concern, then you should look into adding a water purifier.

Benefits of Water Filters

Water filters come with the following benefits:

  1. Eliminates most impurities
  2. Reduces harmful components like arsenic and fluoride
  3. Removes all bad-odor
  4. Prevents diseases caused by contaminated water
  5. Good for the environment by reducing bottled water usage

So, What is the difference?

A water filter works much harder than a water softener. A water softener provides you with soft water that has many benefits for your skin, laundry, and wallet. However, this water is no safer for consumption than your tap water. A whole house water filter, in turn, provides you pure water that is free from a large variety of contaminants.

In case you are debating which of these appliances would best suit your household, it depends on your purpose. A water softener should be enough if you want calcium and magnesium-free soft water, without any filtration concerns. It is important to remember that each of these appliances aims to target different water issues.

To Conclude

Generally, water softeners and water filters are used together to deliver clean and soft water. You can decide on one or the other depending on your water supply. If you only want to prevent scale build-up, then a water softener should be more than sufficient. However, if your problems include iron stains, excessive chlorine, or other pollutants in your water supply, then you will need to purchase a water filter.