Find The Difference Between a Water Conditioner & Water Softener

Water conditioners and softeners both work to address hard water and related scale problems in your home’s water supply. The difference is that a water softener does this by adding salt to the system, while a water conditioner uses electricity or electromagnetic waves to change the structure of hard water minerals. Continue reading to understand the difference between a water conditioner & water softener.

difference between a water conditioner & water softener

Hard water is water that has a high concentration of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and silica.

When these minerals are in high concentration, they do not cause a health effect on our lives but have a negative effect on home appliances and our bodies.

The excess hard water minerals can cause water fixtures and pipes in the home to clog. Over time they can be blocked entirely, preventing them from doing the job completely.

Hard water causes soap not to lather easily.

Hard water makes hair look dull and causes thinning and breakage of hair.

Hard water leaves your hair dry

Stain dishes and clothes.

Read more on the effects of hard water.

With all the above problems, more homeowners find a way to solve the problem by installing a water softener or conditioner.

The hardness of your water is measured by parts per million of mineral (PMM) or grains per gallon (GPG).


Anything above 3GPG is considered hard and below 3GPG is soft water. 

When your water is above 3GPG, it requires to be treated to make it soft water, and that’s where the water softener and conditioner come in.

What is the difference between a water conditioner & water softener?

What is a water softener and how does it work?

A water softener is a device that completely removes the hard water minerals in your water.

The system softens your hard water through a process called ion exchange.

That’s why you will find some people calling it an ion exchange water softener.

The system has different parts that help operate effectively, which include a control valve, brine tank, and resin tank.

The brine tanks hold salt while the resin tank holds the resin beads.

A control valve is connected at the top of the resin tank.

The hard water from your source flows into the resin tank.

The resin beads in the resin tank are negatively charged, so it attracts hard water minerals which are positively charged.

The resin beads completely remove the minerals in your hard water, and they stick firmly on the beads.

The soft water passes through the resin tank to your kitchen faucet. At this time you have soft and ready for human consumption.

When the hard water minerals stick firmly and remain in the resin beads, the beads become overcoated.

When the beads are overcoated they are not capable of attracting hard water minerals, making them ineffective and not producing soft water.

In such a case, the resin beads need to be cleaned so as remove the overcoating of hard water minerals, and this is where the brine tank comes in.

As said earlier brine tank contains salt which is mixed with water commonly known as a brine solution.

The brine solution has a high concentration of sodium.

The high concentrated brine solution is pumped into the resin tank. Since it is highly concentrated, it attracts the hard mineral that has coated resin beads, leaving them clean and effective to soften your hard water.

The process of cleaning the resin beads is called regeneration.

Use of the salt in the water softener is what makes people call this system salt-based water softener.

 A water softener removes minerals up to below 1GPG.

Shop for ion exchange water softener:

What is a water conditioner and how does it work

A water conditioner does not remove or soften your hard water.

What it does is change the structure of hard water minerals to lose the ability to form scale in your house appliances.

The minerals will remain in your water but will be weak to form scale.

This method does not use salt but uses electric or magnetic pulses to alter the structure of the hard water minerals.

The water conditioner is installed on an incoming cold water line pipe and works well on any metal, plastic, PVC, or rubber.

Types of water conditioners

Electronic water conditioner- uses electric pulses to cause hard water to lose the ability to form scale build-up

Magnetic and electromagnetic water conditioner – uses electromagnetic pulses to weaken hard water structure so as not to create scale build-up.

Salt-free water conditioner- uses a catalytic medium through a process known as Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC). The medium changes hard water into crystals, so that does not stick to the pipes or house plumbing.

Shop for the best water conditioner.

The similarity between water softeners and water conditioners

Both water treatment method is ideal solution caused by hard water.

Both require electricity to operate. The water softener control valve is connected to power in the same case as the electronic water conditioner unit except for the salt-free and magnetic water conditioner.

 What is better a water softener or a water conditioner?

If you want to remove hardness in your water completely, a water softener is the best choice. 

It will leave you with soft water that has excellent taste, lather easily, and clean dishes without leaving a stain.

In case your water hardness is above 25GPG water softener is the best option and below 25 you can use a water conditioner.

A water conditioner alters hard water minerals but does not remove them. It is applicable if you only need to protect your pipe and house appliances from scale build-up.

Water softener vs water conditioner comparisons
Water softener water conditioner
Completely removes hardness in waterdoes not remove hardness in water
uses salt to operatedoes not use salt
wastes a lot of water during regeneration processit does not go through regeneration process so no water is wasted
water feel is slipperywater feel is not slippery
soap lather easily and clothes do not fadesoap do not lather easily
has no effect on skinhas effect on skin
not good for plantGood for plant

Bonus video