Water softener alternatives: What You Need to Know
Many people worldwide have trouble with hard water. From chalk damaging their washing machines to limestone clogging up their pipes, hard water has caused a lot of stress to these people’s lives. Today, we will discuss water softener alternatives, because the conventional softeners prove more and more every day that they are not as good in real life as they are on paper.
Hard Water, Hard Problems
Statistically, about 8 out of 10 households face the issue of hard water. If you’re one of them, stick till the end of this article to find out how to solve this problem.
You might have heard about water softeners. They do a good job eliminating problems caused by hard water. However, they have their flaws.
- They work by replacing calcium and magnesium in hard water with sodium. This makes the water risky to drink.
- You can’t water plants, fill an aquarium, or give it to children, people with diabetes, and people with high blood pressure.
- This and their negative ecological impact even got them banned or heavily regulated in some states.
Fortunately, other alternatives can solve these issues. They give you the same benefits as water softeners without the downsides.
We’ve looked at 5 of the best substitutes and analyzed their strengths and weaknesses. And we made the information easy to understand for any English-speaking human out there. So you won’t get confused by technical fluff.
5 Water Softener Alternatives You Can Enjoy Right Now
These products can accommodate any type of household. It doesn’t matter if you live in the countryside or one of the most crowded cities on the planet. You can install most of these fairly quickly. And you don’t need to be a plumbing expert to see their benefits.
1. Water descalers
As we discussed already, water descalers work using electric impulses. They create an electromagnetic field inside the water supply pipe. This changes the shape of mineral crystals inside the water, making them less adherent. This method also works on still water. As an example, unlike water softening, this method doesn’t leave salt or sodium in your water heater.
- They soften the water without taking out essential minerals like calcium and magnesium. Instead, they change the shape of mineral crystals to make them less sticky.
- Water descalers reduce the formation of limestone in your pipes. As such, your entire plumbing system will become easier to clean. And it will need cleaning far less often.
- No sodium or other added chemicals in your water. You can water your plants, give water to your kids and pets without worrying about their health.
- Using a water descaler prevents the chances of your pipes getting clogged by excessive hard minerals.
- Very versatile, ideal for most homes. You can install it without the help of a plumber or any other outside help.
- They’re eco-friendly because they don’t waste any water.
- Depending on how hard your water is, it can take up some time to notice visible improvements.
- It requires electricity. If the power goes out, it stops working.
2. Reverse Osmosis Systems
RO systems remove the vast majority of contaminants found in drinking water. They use a membrane that rejects particles based on size and charge. The higher the ionic charge of a particular contaminant, the harder it is for it to pass through the reverse osmosis system’s membrane.
- The system can remove up to 99% of salts, particles, and bacteria, making it a very good alternative to a filter.
- Great for homes that use traditional salt-based water softeners because it greatly reduces the amount of salt and sodium in the softened water.
- Many restaurants use reverse osmosis systems to filter the water because it makes food taste slightly better.
- The reverse osmosis process doesn’t consume any energy. So you’ll have no extra costs on your electricity bill.
- A reverse osmosis system operates by pushing tap water through its membrane using your plumbing’s water pressure. This process takes time, so if you use a lot of water at once, you’ll have to wait a while before it refills.
- If maintenance is not done properly, the tiny pores of its membrane can get clogged. And filters can add up a lot to the cost over time.
- Some RO systems waste a lot of water.
3. Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC)
TAC has seen vast acceptance in a short time frame. Unlike traditional salt-based water softeners, it doesn’t need to connect to a drain.
It uses a treatment medium contained in a standard mineral tank. The water gets treated by passing through the granular medium inside of it. Although it uses a tank to function properly, the size of the tank is a lot smaller than the ones used in traditional salt-based water softeners.
- It doesn’t require maintenance or electricity to work.
- It requires no chemicals, and it doesn’t need cleaning regularly.
- No brine discharge or backwash, which means that you’ll save money on water bills.
- It doesn’t remove calcium, magnesium and other precious minerals from your water.
- It needs protection against iron, manganese, and excessive sediment. These elements will damage the unit easily. So if your water has them, this method won’t help you at all.
- There haven’t been many tests to see if this unit is reliable long-term. Keep that in mind if you want to commit to it.
4. Electronic Water Conditioners
These devices work by generating inaudible sonar signals directly into the main water pipe. The signals cause ions to collide. As a result, calcium crystals grow until surface charges are eliminated. This prevents the calcium from sticking to your pipes. The process also works the same for limescale build-up.
- Costs less to install than your average water softener.
- The device reduces minerals and rust deposits around faucets and drains.
- Environmentally friendly, doesn’t waste any water.
- It doesn’t require much maintenance aside from checking the frequency when necessary.
- It doesn’t solve the lathering problem, so you’ll still be stuck with soap scum.
- Since the calcium crystals are bigger, they won’t stick to pipes, but they’ll stick harder on your skin and hair.
- Turns off if the electricity goes out and resets to the default frequency when the power comes back on.
5. Liquid water softeners
These units have mostly the same properties as traditional water softeners but without the need to add salt. Instead, they use liquid polyphosphate, a non-toxic food grade solution that can prevent limescale buildup and eliminate minerals in the water. The same polyphosphates have been used for years in the food and drink with no reported cases of toxicity.
- The liquid water softener doesn’t require electricity, so it will continue doing its thing if the power goes out.
- Environmentally friendly, no toxic chemicals pour into your drain.
- The component takes up very little space on your main pipe. The liquid pouch is also relatively small.
- It doesn’t waste any water.
- Depending on how much water you use, you might need to change the pouch quite frequently, which adds up a lot to the cost over time. And replacement liquid isn’t cheap.
- Although no salt is added, the water still gets depleted of precious minerals that might be essential to a healthy diet.
Soft Water Alternatives: The Rundown
All the solutions shown here are commercially available to typical consumers. There are other water softener alternatives out there, but those are made specifically for industrial use. Hence why we chose to show you only these devices. So, what should you pick as a water softener substitute for your own home?
While all these products have their pros and cons, they are not created equal. Some of them require maintenance, while others will require you to spend a lot of money over time. It is worth noting all of these things to balance out the good and the bad. Which one offers the most advantages while negatively impacting you the least?
We think that water descalers are by far the best choice. First of all, they provide the same benefits as a water softener without the downsides. Instead of replacing calcium and magnesium with sodium, a water descaler simply reshapes the crystals to make them less adherent. That way, you don’t lose any of your water’s nutritional value.
Secondly, it’s easy to install and requires no maintenance. All you need to do is wrap the two coils on your main pipe, as shown in the manual. Then plug it in a power outlet and let it do its job.
Why choose a water descaler instead of the other options?
Water treated by descalers gets rid of soap scum, unlike the one that goes through electronic water conditioners. That’s because the descaler reshapes the mineral crystals instead of making them bigger.
Unlike Template Assisted Crystallization, a water descaler doesn’t get damaged by elements found in the water. Since the unit itself doesn’t connect directly to the water stream, iron, manganese, or other sediments can’t break it.
Water descalers don’t require you to buy additional filters or liquid pouches, unlike liquid water softeners or a reverse osmosis system. As long as you keep the unit connected to an electric outlet, it will continue working.
You don’t have to worry about cleaning, maintenance, or any other stressful stuff when it comes to water descalers. As you can see, out of all the water softener alternatives, the water descaler has the most pros and least cons.