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Water Softening vs. Water Filtration: What’s the Difference?

Hand under a water showerWater softeners and water filters are both commonly used to improve tap water, and some water treatment providers may use the terms interchangeably. Technically, though, water softening systems—which are installed to remedy the problems caused by hard water—are not water filtration systems. The difference lies in how these systems do their jobs.

What Does It Mean to ‘Soften’ Water?

The term “hard water” may seem a little odd, as water is a liquid that easily flows over your hand, not a solid substance that’s firm and rigid. However, when it comes to water, hardness is measured by the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium that’s in it. These are minerals that the water picks up as it flows through underground aquifers, and water hardness can vary a great deal depending on the geology of the regional water source. The Central Texas region, for example, has some of the highest water hardness levels in the nation.

Why is hard water a problem? Because it creates a scaly residue that can leave dishes looking dirty after multiple washings and cause stubborn soap scum buildup in showers and tubs. Even worse, the limescale can accumulate in plumbing and water-using appliances, leading to the need for premature repairs or replacement.

A home water filter is not the right solution for softening hard water. Instead, the most effective water softening systems use a process called “ion exchange” to tackle the problem. During this process, the problem minerals in hard water are replaced by harmless minerals like sodium or potassium.

When Is a Water Filtration System the Best Choice?

Water filters strain out impurities that cause problems like poor taste and odor. There are simple water filters, like the ones found in drinking water filter pitchers, as well as highly advanced filtration systems that can remove a variety of contaminants from all the water that flows through your home. In fact, professionally installed water filtration systems provide the most convenient and reliable solution to many types of residential water quality problems.

If you live in Austin, San Antonio, or the Rio Grande Valley, you can turn to Sweetwater Home Services for expert assistance in choosing the best water treatments for your home. Our services start with a free in-home water test. Contact us today for more information.

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