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8 Water Softener Alternatives

Photo collage of different water softener alternatives.

Clogged showerheads, scale buildup in sinks and appliances, and dry, itchy skin are just some of the problems caused by hard water. As a solution, many households use water softeners to deal with this problem. Water softeners use a process called ion exchange which refers to the exchange of calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions.

Most water softening systems are salt-based which requires a regular maintenance and replenishment schedule. This can also mean a setback of about $686 or more per year for a family of four. So if you want to prevent hard water in your home but don’t want to spend a costly amount on water softeners, you need to scroll down for a list of alternatives to water softeners.

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1. Reverse Osmosis System

iSpring 6-Stage Superb Taste High Capacity Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System with Alkaline Remineralization - Healthier pH+ WQA Gold Seal Certified (NSF/ANSI 58) - RCC7AK

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It has the ability to remove up to 99% of all dissolved solids in the water. This means that the water that you drink that has been passed through these systems will be incredibly clean and pure.

Reverse osmosis systems are also able to remove impurities from the water, including fluoride and chlorine so that you always know exactly what is in the water that you and your family are drinking.

There’s no reason to buy bottled water anymore, as you can quickly filter your water, remove contaminants, and enjoy the fresh water for a fraction of the cost of what you would have to pay for it in a store.

The food that you make in your home will taste significantly better, thanks to the pure water that you will be using.

There is no energy consumed when you use a reverse osmosis system. This means that you don’t have to worry about an increase in your power bills or the monthly cost of running this system. Additionally, if you were to lose power or live in an area where you didn’t have power, such as a cabin, you can still enjoy clean and pure water with a reverse osmosis system.

Because of the way that these systems can remove so many of the impurities from your water, you will find that your family will drink more water, therefore becoming healthier than they were before you had this system in place.

Some systems rely on more than one filter, and they are able to catch any of the impurities in your water. While these are going to be a bit more expensive than other models on the market, they will also provide you with the cleanest water.

By removing most of the impurities from your water, these systems can actually improve the appearance, taste, and odor of your water, which is great if you live in an area where the water doesn’t smell or taste very good.

Maintenance of these systems is incredibly fast and easy, and you don’t have to worry about it taking a long time. While models may vary, most need to have the filter replaced once or twice a year and the membrane itself only replaced every two to three years. Of course, this depends on the quality of water in your area and how often the reverse osmosis system is actually used.


Too much chlorine in the water can actually damage the system and cause the homeowners to have to make expensive repairs or replace parts to ensure that it is working again properly. Reverse osmosis is not a speedy process and can take some time to work. If you use all of the filtered water at once that was stored in your holding tank, then you will have to wait for a while until it has filled back up.

The tank will fill up slowly, as the water pressure from your home is what pushes the water through the semipermeable membrane to filter it and remove any of the impurities that are in your water. There are tiny pores in a reverse osmosis system that can become clogged if you are not careful and don’t perform proper maintenance. This means that you will have to pay more to repair your system and have it working properly again.

It’s important that you take time every year to sterilize and clean out your reverse osmosis system so that you don’t have to worry about mold or mildew growing in the system and negatively affecting the health of anyone who drinks your water.

Filter replacements can be costly, and since they are an expense that you have to pay on a regular basis, it is important that you plan ahead for this cost and are prepared for it.

The more filters that your reverse osmosis system uses, the more expensive your regular upkeep is going to be when you have to replace all of the filters at once.

2. Electromagnetic Water Treatment


Electromagnetic Water Treatment

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The output of any water from this treatment is going to be perfect for drinking. Since there aren’t any dangerous chemicals added to the water, you don’t need to worry about the safety of the water and whether or not you can give it to your family.

There are no extra systems that need to be installed to treat your drinking water. Calcium stays in the water instead of being removed. While other treatment options remove calcium and replace it with sodium, electromagnetic water treatment devices leave the calcium in the water.

There isn’t any waste when you use these systems, which is very beneficial for the environment. Unlike salt-based softeners that require the salt to be refilled on a regular basis, there are very few running costs associated with this type of water treatment.

Most units are able to reduce or eliminate the smell and taste of sulfur. While other softeners can be loud, this type of softener is very quiet. Your household appliances and clothes will last a lot longer and your soap and shampoo will be more effective when used for cleaning.

All limescale will be removed from your pipes and will be unable to form again in the future. Perfect for use on a very large property, unlike some salt-free softeners that are not effective if the water hardness level is over 25 grains/gallon. There are no added chemicals or salt put into the water, and since there’s no backflush, these units are fast and easy to install and have running in no time.


Any electrical items near your system can affect how effective it is. That’s because magnetism is easily affected by any sort of electrical charge that is in the area.

Water has to be in contact with the magnetic area in order to be softened. If it is removed from the magnetic area for more than 48 hours then it will return to its hard state. This means that you can not treat your water and then store it for an extended period of time and expect it to have the same benefits.

There is a huge lack of documented studies, explanations, and data that can be used to back up the claims of these units. You do have to have these systems hooked up electronically, although they use very little electricity. Because they are so new to the market these systems tend to be rather expensive.

Your new system has to be perfectly matched with your water flow rate, chemical composition, and temperature. Models can vary in how effective they are based on these factors, which may make them seem like they are not nearly as efficient as traditional water softeners are.

3. Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC)

Tier1 Compatible Whole House Salt Free Water Softener System for 3-6 Bathrooms with 20 Inch, 5 Micron Pre-Filter Water Filtration System

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Do not require any maintenance, electricity, or salt to work. Once the unit is set up and operating correctly, then there isn’t any cleaning that has to happen on a regular basis, and chemicals do not need to be added to the unit to ensure that it is working properly.

The treatment medium that is chosen will actually soften the water. This medium is generally ceramic-polymer beads, and the resin will transform any minerals in the water to their crystal form instead of their ionic form, which means that they are washed away in the water as opposed to attaching to pipes or appliances.

Both magnesium and calcium aren’t removed from the water. This means that these beneficial elements will still be present in your home water supply. Unlike other types of water softeners which do remove these beneficial elements, you won’t have to worry about the health and safety of your family when you choose this option.

This is an incredibly environmentally friendly option that is great if you are concerned about the impact that your water softener has on the world around you. There aren’t any electronic control valves. Because these valves tend to be incredibly expensive, they can add a lot to the cost of your softener when they break and you have to replace them, which can be difficult for people who are on a budget.

Since there isn’t any backwashing, this doesn’t have to be connected to your drain. There isn’t any brine discharge or backwash from the unit, which means that you will save a lot of money each year on your water bills thanks to this option. The life expectancy of the tank is very long, which will decrease the amount of money that you have to spend treating your water.

No sodium is added to the water, ensuring that the taste and quality of your water is not affected.


There haven’t been a lot of independent tests to show exactly how effective these units are in the long run. Generally, they are somewhat chlorine tolerant, however, your medium will last for a lot longer before needing to be replaced if you use a carbon filter to remove any chlorine before it passes through the medium.

Many units need to be protected from iron so that it does not build up and harm the unit and the medium. Using a filter or other device to remove any iron before it passes through the medium is advisable for the best possible result.

4. Electronic Water Conditioning System

Electronic Water Conditioning System

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An electronic water conditioning system is cheaper than a traditional water softener. It removes existing hard water and prevents it from coming back in any type of pipe. It’s also a limescale remover and can be installed by yourself.

5. Salt-Free Water Softener

Salt-Free Water Softener

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It’s a maintenance-free system that’s eco-friendly and does not require electricity to operate. It’s eco-friendly, zero waste water, and naturally softens water without salt.

6. Electrochemical Water Treatment

This technology is also known as continuous electrolytic deionization, capacitive deionization or electrically regenerated ion exchange. It uses electricity to dissolve hardness minerals and contaminants.

7. Electronic Descaler

Scalewatcher 3 Original Electronic Descaler | USA Made & Patented Hard Water Softener/Conditioner Alternative | 600mA Chemical-Free and Salt-Free Electric Limescale Preventer and Remover

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This option prevents and removes hard water effects at a very minimal cost. It also improves water heater efficiency and doesn’t require any plumbing changes or hassle-free installation.

8. Electronic Water Descaler

Eddy Electronic Water Descaler - Water Softener Alternative

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This prevents the build-up of limescale and dissolves existing deposits while also retaining healthy minerals in the water supply. It’s environment-friendly and maintenance-free.

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