Exploring Different Types of Water Softeners – Which One is Right for You?

Exploring Different Types of Water Softeners – Which One is Right for You?

There are several different types of water softeners available to homeowners. The most popular is a salt-based system, which uses resin to attract hard minerals and replace them with sodium ions.

Other types of systems include magnetic or electronic, which use a magnet or electrical field to change the structure of the minerals to prevent them from sticking. There are also portable and whole-house models that can be moved to a new home.

Ion Exchange

Ion exchange water softeners use ion-exchange resin to bind and swap magnesium and calcium (cations) with sodium ions in the resin. This removes hard water elements that create negative effects like soap scum, mineral buildup and stains, dry skin, dull hair and scale in plumbing pipes, water heaters and home appliances.

Ion-exchange systems feature a valve controller that controls how much water moves in and out of the resin tank. These valves can either be volume-controlled or timer-controlled. Volume-controlled water softeners Tampa recharge the resin when the reservoir is filled to a specific water volume setting. In contrast, timer-controlled water softeners regenerate at set intervals regardless of how much water has been used.

Ion-exchange systems require regular recharging using a brine solution that typically contains salt. The more cations or anions a resin can hold before recharging, the less often it will need to be restored. This is why choosing a high-rated ion-exchange water softener with a rated capacity in grains is important.


Traditional salt-based water softeners rely on ion exchange to remove hardness-causing minerals. Household water passes through a tank with a bed of resin beads saturated with sodium (or potassium). As the household water passes over the resin, it “exchanges” calcium and magnesium ions for sodium. The resulting softened water is then distributed to the household.

Salt-based systems require recharging with salt regularly. This is typically done weekly and takes about 40 to 80 pounds of salt monthly.

This water treatment system eliminates harmful calcium and magnesium ions, leaving healthy minerals in the water. This allows for the same slippery feel to the water that traditional methods deliver and can extend the life of appliances, reduce clogs and improve skin and hair. This type of water treatment system requires a sizing calculation considering your daily water use and the hardness of your home’s water.

Reverse Osmosis

Purchasing a reverse osmosis system will not only give you access to high-quality, better-tasting water, but it will also cut back on the number of plastic bottles that are tossed out each year. This is good environmental news since more than 10 million tons of plastic are in the oceans yearly.

Reverse Osmosis systems utilize a semi-permeable membrane to filter contaminants out of the water. As the water passes through the membrane, it draws hard minerals out by replacing them with less destructive mineral ions, such as sodium.

The water then passes through a resin tank, which holds sodium, provided by the salt used to regenerate the system (nightly). As the water goes through this process, it exchanges the magnesium and calcium ions for the sodium ions and produces softened water. This water will not only be better for your body, but it will be healthier for your plumbing system and household appliances, too.


Zeolite is a naturally occurring mineral that can absorb minerals with a positive charge, including calcium and magnesium. This is why it makes a great choice for home water softeners. Unlike other softeners, a zeolite water system does not use ion exchange. Instead, it uses a synthetic form of zeolite called sodium aluminosilicate. This resin is similar to other ion exchange resins but can hold twice as much calcium and magnesium and helps correct mildly acidic water.

The resin inside a zeolite softener is positively charged and attracts hardness minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron. The minerals are exchanged for sodium ions held by the resin beads. Once the hardness minerals are exchanged for sodium ions, they will not re-harden the water. As a result, the water will remain soft, and your appliances and pipes will last longer. This is a great alternative to other types of water softeners, especially those that use ion exchange technology.