Trying to decide between a water softener and a water filter for your home? Want to know the main differences between the two?

It’s good to know which of these two would be the most helpful.

These are the kinds of questions you need to ask when deciding on buying a water softener vs a water filter. Having a general understanding of how each system’s mechanics work is a must to make an informed decision on which one to purchase.

A water softener and a water filter are similar in how they work and yet are quite different in what they do.

Water filters are generally used to remove bad smells and odors from your water. Whereas water softeners remove mineral deposits and scale buildup.

Making a decision on the two is based purely on what your needs are. I have prepared this in-depth comparison guide between the two to help you reach that decision with ease.

If that sounds good, then let’s dive in.

What Is A Water Softener and How Does It Work?

Water softeners, as their name suggests, are a type of water filter. They take hard mineralized water with high concentrations of calcium and magnesium and separate the hard water ions. This provides you with soft water for the taps and showers in your home.

Now you might be asking yourself: why do I need to do that? Well to put it simply, these hard minerals have a tendency to bond with metal, which does not bode well for your pipes.

If you’ve ever experienced a kind of crusty residue inside your shower head or your taps, then that means the water running throughout your house is hard water.

These hard-mineral deposits can cause corrosion and clogging to your pipes, leading to major plumbing issues!

Water softeners work a lot like magnets and clear up your water of any unwanted hard water ions. They use a media bed filled with resin to separate minerals and other hard ions from water.

Since the hard water ions are positively charged and the resin beads are negatively charged, opposites attract.

This way the hard water ions get trapped between the resin beads. The water is sent back out but this time with sodium ions instead, making it “softer” than before.

Of course, there are limitations to how much a water softener can remove.

Small levels of iron of up to 5 mg/L can be removed by water softeners. However, any more than that and the iron will start clinging on to your water softener’s resin beads. This will lead to your unit not being able to perform its basic function correctly.

Alternatives to salt-based water softeners are also available for those who do not want to apply salt or additives to their water.

These salt-free systems work by attracting and neutralizing hard water scaling properties without the use of regeneration, backwashing, or electricity.

What is a Water Filter and How Does it Work?

“Water filters” is a broad and general term referring to any and all systems capable of removing and filtering any sort of contaminants in your water.

In fact, water softeners themselves can also be considered as water filters. After all, their main function is to filter out and remove hard water ions.

A few other types of water filters are:

  • Iron filters
  • Carbon filters
  • Sulfur filters
  • Fluoride filters
  • Sediment filters

All these are different from each other. They perform completely different water filtering functions entirely.

To extract pollutants and purify water, water filters employ a range of methods and techniques:

These are just a few of the processes used to remove the impurities.

Unlike water softeners which only use resin beads as a type of media bed, water filters utilize different types of advanced media beds.

Water filters have an advantage when it comes to flexibility because they can handle a variety of contaminants. From man-made substances to trace elements, they have different types of media.

The majority of these catch and then turn contaminants into a safer material by using their daily dewatering cleansing processes, media beds, and container substitutes.

Ultraviolet lamps are also used in some water filters to sterilize water for microbial problems. They do this by targeting the Genetic code of bacteria pollutants with UV rays, which essentially kills these kinds of pathogens.

Pollutants may be extracted as well using a variety of filtration methods, including screen, sieve, and membrane filtration.

Do You Need a Water Filter with a Water Softener?

Water softeners are efficient water purification devices that shield your home from harmful effects of hard water scale in your pipes.

If you are concerned about too much chlorine, iron or bacterium, you should consider investing in a water filter. It can solve those concerns as well.

To properly handle their incoming water, it is normal for homeowners to have a set up of both a water softener and a home-wide water filter. These setups provide a more comprehensive filtration coverage.

Home-wide water filters are highly reliable, long-lasting, and cost-effective. This makes them an excellent investment in home renovation that will safeguard your wellbeing and property for many years.

What Type of Water Filter Do You Need?

To determine which water filter or water softener is right for you, you need to identify the cause of the problem at your home:

Home-wide Water Filter System

If you smell Chlorine, chemical scents or a rotten egg-like smell, then it is likely that your water has been contaminated. This can be Chlorine, dissolved salts, hydrogen sulphide, chemicals, volatile organic compounds, and trihalomethanes.

These can cause you serious health effects such as dry flaky skin, weak brittle hair, asthma, allergies and eczema. So it’s important to treat your water as soon as possible by purifying it.

The best removal method for these contaminants is to use a General home-wide water filter system. Treating these pollutants can provide benefits such as softer skin and hair, and healthier lungs.

Salt Free and Salt-based Water Softeners

If you detect scaly buildup in your pipes and mineral reserves of rough water in your taps and showers, chances are your water has been contaminated with grease buildup as well as minerals and other hard elements.

If the grease buildup is mild then there is no need to be alarmed. It won’t have any serious health effects, however, the earlier you can rid your water of these contaminants, the better.

Grease buildup overtime can become a serious cause for concern. This will require high sodium content to treat.

To treat mild levels of sodium buildup, I would recommend using a salt free water softener.

For higher levels of scale buildup, a salt-based water softener is recommended. Using water softeners benefits you by removing scale buildup to protect pipes and sanitary fittings.

UV Light Filters (Sterilizers)

If bacteria, viruses and microbes are detected in your water supply, then you must have the water sterilized right away.

These can lead to serious illnesses and health conditions such as issues of the gastrointestinal tract, stomach pain, fever, and infections.

UV light filter diagram
UV light filter can remove bacteria present in water.

To get these contaminants treated a UV light filter is required.

Treating water that has been contaminated by bacteria, viruses and microbes can provide you with relief. This results in an improved wellbeing with less gas, soreness, gastro, and ailments.

Iron and Hydrogen Sulfide Filter Systems

If you detect red iron stains, rotten odor and rust particles then your water is contaminated with iron, Hydrogen Sulfide, Manganese.

There are no health risks associated with these contaminants. But, you should definitely filter them out of your water supply as soon as possible.

They can cause rust on your pipes, faucets and shower heads. An iron filter or a hydrogen sulfide removal system (or a combination of both) will work.

Filtering your water from Iron and Hydrogen Sulfide can lead to bathroom faucets, showers and toilets being free from any red stains. This will also give you clean and odor-free water.

Fluoride Filter System

If you detect fluoride in your water supply then you should get a filter to specifically remove it.

Fluoride can cause diseases if it builds up in the mouth, can cause toxicity of the nervous system, and is even capable of putting you at risk of cancer.

Water contaminated with Fluoride should be treated without any delays. This is done using a Fluoride removal system. It’s a type of water filter specifically designed to decontaminate water polluted with Fluoride.

Fluoride is toxic and removing it from your water can protect you from Fluoride consumption and inhalation.

Sediment and Turbidity Filter System

If your water is looking cloudy and has sediment particles, then it is highly likely it has been contaminated with sand, dirt or gravel particles.

These can lead to some uncomfortable gastrointestinal diseases.

A sediment and turbidity filter system is required to remove and decontaminate water polluted with the aforementioned.

Filtering out these contaminants can lead to clean, clear and fresh water from every faucet and shower. You can also feel safe drinking this water knowing that the likelihood of getting more gastrointestinal diseases is low.


I hope this article has been helpful. It has all the necessary information on water softeners and the wide variety of water filters out there.

Hopefully, now you have enough information based on your personal needs at home to make a decision.

Remember, the term “water filter” is a general term and can mean a lot of things. Knowing which contaminant you want to filter out is the key to knowing which system is best suited for you.

If you enjoyed this post, you can find more similar articles on our website.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and have a wonderful day!

– Craig