What’s the difference between a water softener and a water filter? Do you need both?

 Min read
January 9, 2023

Homeowner Jack has been looking to improve the water quality in his home. He already has a water softener and has been thinking about adding a water filter. Jack isn't sure if a water filter will provide many benefits. Right now, we’ll spend some time looking at the differences between a water softener and a water filter, and how adding a water filter to your system can in fact be very beneficial even if you already do have a softener.

To understand how a water softener and water filter can work in tandem to help improve your home’s water system, it’s important to understand what each one of them actually does. A water softener is a whole-house filtration system that removes hardness-causing magnesium and calcium minerals from your water. If you do have hard water in your home, a water softener can help address and prevent the issues that would otherwise arise if you didn’t do anything about hard water.

Hard water has the potential to cause several problems in a home if the issue isn’t addressed. Hard water will cause scale buildup in pipes. This will lead to clogs in the pipes, ultimately leading to a decrease in water pressure over time. Scale itself can also shorten the lifespan of different appliances around the home. Hard water is also known to destroy hot water appliances. As the temperature of water goes up, the more magnesium and calcium will solidify, ultimately hardening into solid deposits inside of a hot water heater. You would know if this problem exists in your hot water heater if you hear a popping sound. The scale deposits end up attaching to the heating element, and as the temperature rises in the heater, the deposits that are crusted on the element start cracking and stretching.

If a water softener isn’t present in a home that has hard water, you could find yourself needing to use extra detergent to prevent laundry from looking dingy. Dishes can also come out of a dishwasher looking streaked and stained, and filmy scum will build up on your shower curtains. A water softener will prevent these issues from arising through a process called ion exchange. According to membranechemicals.com, ion exchange softeners take an ion from the water being treated and replaces it with an ion that is in the resin. Essentially, ion exchange resin exchanges sodium for magnesium and calcium, which is what you’re trying to eliminate with a water softener.

Water Softener

Where a water softener is good for preventing hard water by removing magnesium and calcium, a water filter is also meant for removing unwanted particles from a home water system. Specifically, if we look at a Rusco Spin-down filter, while it’s capable of helping with the removal of particles such as magnesium,, for example, it’s more so meant to remove sediment like sand. These water filters also use a different method for removing unwanted particles compared to what a water softener does.

A Rusco Spin-down filter is designed with a T-body that connects right into your plumbing, as well as a polyester or stainless-steel element that comes in different mesh sizes depending on the size of the sediment that you’re trying to remove from your water. Essentially, the unclean water enters through one side of the filter, the element in the middle separates the sediment from the water as the water passes through the element, and then the clean water comes out the other side of the filter. These filters not only will help to clean up your home’s drinking water, but similar to a water softener, they are also capable of protecting the different aspects of your water system, including pipes, fixtures, etc.

Rusco Spindown Filter

One thing to keep in mind is that if you install one of these Rusco filters before your water softener, you will be helping to add to the lifespan of that softener. While a water softener is designed to remove magnesium and calcium from water, over time it will suffer wear and tear from other sediments in your water that it’s not designed to handle. While a lot of projections out there say you can get double-digit years out of a water softener before needing to replace it, it should be common sense that the more quickly it suffers wear and tear, the sooner it will need replacing. According to homeadvisor.com, the average cost in the U.S. to install a water softener is $1,500.00, so if you know your water has sediment in it that a water softener isn’t designed to handle, it would absolutely be to your benefit to install a filter before it. The cost you would pay for a Rusco filter now will be worth it, in the long run, to avoid kicking forward $1,500.00 to replace a whole water softener.

If you know you’re dealing with sediment in your home’s water and wondering if you should install a filter along with your water softener, consider the benefits of doing so and how it can add to the longevity of the different aspects of your system. If you decide to add a water filter, consider purchasing a Rusco Spin-down. Call 1-800-345-1033 where a customer service representative can help you figure out the best filter for you and offer advice on where to purchase one.

Source Notes: All information in this article relating to how water softeners work came from membranechemicals.com. Information regarding the cost of installing a water softener came from homeadvisor.com.