Salt Free Water Softener: TRUTH or SCAM?

Article Last Updated: May 2021

In this article, I will warn you about the biggest dangers linked to buying and using a “saltless or salt free water softener”.

Whole House Softener Filter ComboNow let’s face it, the appeal of getting a saltless water softener makes complete sense. I don’t imagine there is anyone that likes the idea of buying or hauling around large bags of softener salt.

Enter the “no salt water softener”, the answer to all our problems. But “no-salt” really? Salt is essential to the softening process as oxygen is to keeping human beings alive.

So how exactly do you remove salt from the equation? Does it do as good a job as traditional water softeners?

I am asked about the quality of no salt or saltless water softeners all the time so let’s go ahead and get some answers.

What Is A Salt Free Water Softener?

They are normally called “descalers or “water conditioners”.

The idea is to dissolve pre-existing calcium scales while also reducing the chances of new ones forming. Since they don’t use salt (the active ingredient for water softening), they only reduce and delay the effects of hard water.

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Red Cross - Salt Free Water Softener LiesFacts (& DANGERS) About “Salt Free Water Softeners”

  • The name is slightly deceiving because a “water softener” is a machine that removes hard water by definition. However, a saltless water softener does not completely remove water hardness. (Read: Water Softener: Secrets Only A Handful Of People Know).
  • Salt free water softeners are sometimes designed to look like regular water softeners. However, they can only reduce odor, sediment and perhaps some chemicals like chlorine. Yes, these devices can greatly improve the quality of your drinking water. But it will not create the “soft water” you’re expecting.Standalone Salt Free Aquasana
  • Technologies that are incorrectly marketed as a salt free water softener can prevent scale build up but wont give you soft water. So if your main concern is preventing hard water from “scaling” then this is a good option for you. For instance, if you want to use it to prevent hard water damage to expensive equipment.
  • Companies can sometimes call a “salt free water softener” a “descaler” or “water conditioner”.
  • Some companies will call a water softener “salt free” because it uses potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride (salt). Yes, it is true that this version of “saltless water softeners” WILL REMOVE hard water minerals. But be careful because potassium is about 5x more expensive than regular softener salt and about 30% less efficient!
  • If you have severe hard water issues then the only appliance that will 100% effectively protect your plumbing, expensive appliances, clothes, hair and skin is a traditional water softener machine that uses salt like one of my favorites, the Nuvo.

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Green Plus ArrowBenefits of Using A Salt Free Water Softener

  • One of the biggest benefits you get from a saltless water softener is that it is maintenance free.Mr Water Geek Thinking
  • It is also a chemical free alternative to using a salt-based water softener.
  • A salt free water softener will very often use no electricity, create no waste water and, of course you won’t need to continuously buy softener salt. All of this saves you a lot of money in the long run.
  • Saltless softeners are much cheaper than buying a full water softener.
  • Ideal if you simply want to maintain expensive equipment. E.g. you are a dentist and rent your space. So can’t tamper too much with plumbing to install a water softener but need to keep scale away from your expensive equipment.mrwatergeek winner badge
  • If you only have mild hard water and want a hassle free option to keep your pipes descaled and make your appliances last longer, the saltless water softener is perfect for you.

Salt Based Vs. Salt Free Water Softener?Aquasana Whole House Features List

Salt based water softeners will completely eliminate hard water. This will leave you with a more “slick” feeling in your water. You will notice the soap creating more bubbles etc.

The reason soft water has a “clean feeling” is because of all the removed minerals that are no longer present to dry your skin.

Salt Free Water Softener

Salt Based Water Softener

A salt free water softener will lightly descale your pipes and reduce the "hard" minerals present in your water.Salt based water softeners will completely eliminate hard water. This will leave you with a more “slick” feeling in your water. You will notice that soap creates more bubbles etc.
The salt free water softener captures some of the minerals by creating "hardness crystals". However, the crystals won’t stick to the surface so there is less scale build up.The reason soft water has a "clean feeling” is because of all the removed minerals. In other words, they are not present to dry your skin.
You may get brighter looking clothes after laundry and see less soap usage.Soft water makes bright colors keep better in your clothes.

Example: Aquasana Salt Free Softener and Filter

Example: SpringWell Salt Based Softener Filter

Aquasana Whole House Filter
Whole House Softener Filter Combo
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  1. What would you recommend for my house. I’m on a well with some evidence of iron and calcium deposits. Also on a septic. Interested in salt free design if possible. Have not had a test of my water yet.

  2. Question: I know it’s redundant, but would this crazy idea work or is it a boneheaded idea? Thinking of using a whole house water filtration system, then going into a salt free water conditioning system to feed that into my cold water side for drinking, landscaping etc. I was considering then routing water from my salt free conditioning system into a traditional saltwater softener to feed my tankless hot water heaters. I know my showers, taps etc will then just be a blend of the two waters, but will the softener actually soften water that has been pre-conditioned or is there something in the science that will not allow the traditional water softener to function as it should. Budget is not really the issue.

    1. Hi Richard

      It sounds very complicated but assuming you have enough space and the right access to your plumbing all of that checks out to me.

      A traditional salt based softener will just produce soft water irrespective of what type of water you feed into it (pre-conditioned or not).

      Stay hydrated,

  3. You mention that the saltless water system only works well for descaling of moderately hard water, and not severe hard water. My water sample test gave a number of 376 for hardness. I assume that this is too high for a saltless system to be effective. Is this true. I am, mostly interested in protecting an on demand hot water heater.
    thank you

    1. Hi Gail

      Is that GPG (grains per gallons) or PPM (parts per million)?

      It is most likely PPM because 376 sounds crazy high for GPG, so I calculate 376ppm to be 21.94gpg.

      A salt free softener like this can reportedly deal with up to 75gpg so this might be worth looking into.

      Stay hydrated,

  4. Hi Luke,
    I was happy to come across your website. Just like a prior comment, I am interested in the Flow Tech water softener system because I don’t have a lot of space for a traditional water softener in the room where the main water line comes into the house. However, I’m feeling skeptical about the Flow Tech as I can’t find any good reviews on it that are from a neutral source. However, I have found reviews claiming that it is a scam. Your unbiased opinion is greatly appreciate here. Thanks for any feedback you can provide. Best, Maria

    1. Hi Maria
      It’s difficult for me to comment on Flow Tech as I’ve never used it personally.
      However, I’m very skeptical of so called “magnetic” or “electronic” water conditioners like Flow Tech. I once tried a magnetic system and it was a total waste of money.
      Go for something like the Eddy Electronic Water Descaler if you really want to save money and space because this system has a lot more verified customer reviews and places like Amazon will provide you with a reliable customer satisfaction guarantee and option to refund (without hassle) if it doesn’t work properly.
      But if you have extremely hard water then you will really need one of the more powerful whole house options mentioned in this article.
      Best wishes,

  5. I’ve always owned a salt water softener so it was good reading about the pros and cons of the non salt ones. I don’t have a problem hauling salt bags and I love my water softener so I won’t be switching anytime soon!

    1. Hi Mollly,
      I think the Flow Tech salt free water softener is as good as any of them. Personally, however, I prefer Aquasana’s Rhino Whole House Water Filter with a Salt-Free Softener, UV Filtration, Professional Installation Kit
      and lasts for 10 years or treats one million gallons.

      Slightly expensive but worth it because it’s a high performance machine that both filters and softens without salt.
      Hope this helps!

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