Your Cart ()


🚚 ALWAYS FREE SHIPPING TO USA 🇺🇸 on System Purchases (excludes AK, HI, & PR)

What Are the Drawbacks of Using a Salt-free Water Softener?

By Craig Phillips January 30, 2024 0 comments

What Are the Drawbacks of Using a Salt-free Water Softener?

Saltless water softeners are a temptation for those who wish to soften their water without using salt. However, it is important to be aware of the potential drawbacks of salt-free water softeners before making a decision to purchase one.

Drawbacks of Salt Free Water Softeners

Reduced Softening Capacity

  • Salt-free water softeners are typically less effective at softening water than their salt-based counterparts, as their softening mechanism relies on a chemical reaction that is dependent on dissolved minerals in the water.
  • The maximum hardness removal capacity of salt-free water softeners is typically only around 10 grains per gallon (gpg), compared to 30-50 gpg for salt-based softeners.
  • As a result, they may not be able to adequately reduce the hardness of water in areas with high levels of hardness, causing issues such as scale buildup, hard water stains, and reduced soap and detergent performance.

Higher Initial and Maintenance Costs

  • Salt-free water softeners generally come with a higher initial purchase price and require more frequent maintenance compared to salt-based softeners.
  • Some salt-free water softeners require regular cleaning or replacement of filter media, while others need periodic regeneration using a chemical solution.
  • The cost of replacing filter media or purchasing regeneration chemicals can add up over time, potentially outweighing any savings from not having to purchase salt.

Lower Effective Lifespan

  • Salt-free water softeners often have a shorter lifespan than salt-based softeners.
  • The lifespan of a salt-free water softener can be as short as 3-5 years, compared to 10-15 years for salt-based softeners.
  • This can make salt-free water softeners a less cost-effective option over the long term.

Prone to Clogging and Fouling

  • Salt-free water softeners can be more susceptible to clogging and fouling due to the accumulation of scale and sediment.
  • Without regular cleaning and maintenance, the performance of the softener may decline, and it may even become ineffective in softening the water.

Potential Aesthetic and Functional Issues

  • Some salt-free water softeners can cause aesthetic issues such as staining or discoloration of plumbing fixtures and appliances.
  • Additionally, they may not be able to remove certain contaminants, such as iron and manganese, which can lead to the formation of orange or black stains on fixtures and laundry.

Unstable Water Treatment

  • Salt-free water softeners may struggle to maintain consistent water treatment due to changes in water quality and flow rate.
  • This can lead to fluctuations in water hardness, resulting in inconsistent performance and potentially causing issues with appliances that are sensitive to water quality.

Inability to Remove Dissolved Minerals

  • Salt-free water softeners cannot remove dissolved minerals that cause hardness, such as calcium and magnesium.
  • While they can reduce the amount of scale formation by preventing the precipitation of these minerals, they cannot eliminate them entirely.

Ineffective Against High Levels of Iron and Copper

  • These delicate systems are unable to handle high levels of iron or copper that may be present in certain water sources, potentially leading to the deterioration of the internal components of the water softener.

Risk of Bacterial Growth

  • Salt-free water softeners may lead to an increased risk of bacterial growth within the water supply, due to the lack of salt, a natural disinfectant.

Limited Suitability for High Water Flows

  • Salt-free water softeners may struggle to keep up with high water flows, resulting in reduced softening efficiency and potentially allowing hard water to pass through untreated.

Lack of Data and Research

  • There is a lack of long-term data and research comparing salt-based softeners to salt-free softeners.
  • The available data may be biased toward salt-based softeners, which have been more widely studied and used for longer periods.

Absence of Precise Water Softening Measurement

  • Most salt-free water softeners do not offer precise measurements of the water hardness level, making it difficult to assess their effectiveness accurately.

water softener sizing calculator


Salt-free water softeners can be a convenient option for those who want to avoid the use of salt, but it's important to weigh the potential drawbacks before making a final decision. These drawbacks include reduced softening capacity, higher initial and maintenance costs, lower effective lifespan, susceptibility to clogging and fouling, potential aesthetic and functional issues, unstable water treatment, inability to remove dissolved minerals, ineffectiveness against high levels of iron and copper, increased risk of bacterial growth, limited suitability for high water flows, and the lack of data and research.

Older Post Newer Post