Water Softening vs. Water Filtration – How to Treat Your Water at Home

There are many good reasons to be concerned about the (well) water quality in your home. One of the scariest things about water-borne contaminants is the fact that most of them are invisible. Until someone does a scientific analysis, you never really know what’s in there.

Thankfully, many practical solutions exist for the treatment of water at home. It will be up to you to determine which of these methods you need to use, but you do need to understand the basic principles behind them. Today, we want to help you understand one of these basic principles…

Water Softening vs. Water Filtration

It is important to understand the difference between water softening and water filtration so that you can design your home water treatment system accordingly.

Water filtration is just the simple act of passing water through some kind of filter screen or filter media with the goal to remove one or more contaminants. This can be something as simple as a cloth or as complex as the specialized reverse osmosis membranes used to filter salt from seawater. The idea of passing water through a filter to remove contaminants is as old as civilization itself.

To give you an example: The purpose of sediment filtration is the removal of solid contaminants. If the filter material is fine enough it can be adequate to deal with many common water contamination issues. Many solid particles are only microscopic in size, but still large-enough so that a sediment filter can remove them.

Water softening is another story altogether…

Water softening was invented as a response to “hard water” problems which many well owners have to deal with. Hard water is water that contains large amounts of dissolved minerals. Because they are dissolved in the water, they cannot be removed by most types of filtration.

These minerals are usually composed of calcium and magnesium carbonates, although many other substances may be present. Over time, they accumulate in water pipes, various plumbing fixtures, and appliances like water heaters and, as we will see in the next section, possibly cause a lot of damage.

Damage Caused By Hard Water

Let’s start by discussing how the name “hard water” came to be:

Most people think that the name has to do with the hard deposits the water leaves behind. And although this would make sense, it isn’t true. Back in the day, hard well water was named hard well water because it is very hard to wash anything with it.

You see, soap works by means of a chemical reaction, but all those dissolved hard water minerals tend to inhibit the reaction. Thus, soap and hard water does not produce suds. What’s more, hard water makes it much harder to rinse away all of the soap. Often the consequence is soap scum that can irrigated sensible skin.

On a more serious note, hard water can absolutely ruin most plumbing systems. Plugged pipes and fixtures will constrict the flow of water and thus, the pressure inside the pipes will increase. The water pump will probably have to work harder as well. All will lead to eventual failure causing leaks. A pipe that becomes completely plugged with scale is likely to burst quickly.

A few smaller problems that go along with hard water are:

  • Dishes tend to have spots and/or a dull white film when dry
  • Your water heater will experience a reduction in efficiency and service life. As the scale builds up on the heating element, it becomes harder for the unit to heat water effectively. Over time, this is what causes the demise of many hot water heaters.
  • Hard water residues can be difficult to clean.

Risks of Drinking Unfiltered Water

It is impossible to list all of the problems that can result from drinking unfiltered water, especially when it’s well water. Simply put: Unfiltered water can contain many different types of contaminants that can have many different health effects.

What’s important is to be aware of the fact that all sorts of health problems can result from the unwise practice of drinking unfiltered water. Here is a partial list based on this article:

  • Immune system damage
  • Reproductive system damage
  • Hormone disruption
  • Kidney problems
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Rashes
  • Hepatitis
  • Giardia
  • Diarrhea/stomach upset

How to Treat Your Well Water or City Water at Home

We’ve talked about water filtration and water softening for everyday home use.

Now let’s find out how you can perform implement both in the comfort of your home.

Water Filtration

Water filtration is generally a very simple procedure. Theoretically, you could run your water through several layers of cloth. However, cloth alone won’t do much. Certainly better than fabric would be charcoal or coconut-based carbon filter media. Copper-zinc alloy and ion exchange resin can also be great for removing heavy metals among other impurities.

You can find out which type of water filter is ideal for your home through testing – testing your water that is. Then, choose a filter suited for your situation accordingly.

This is where websites like BOS and others come in. They go into much more detail about home water filtration (and softening) than we did in this article. They can help you find your ideal whole house well water filter and other water treatment equipment.

Water Softening

The easiest way to soften your water is through a water softener system. These use a combination of salt and negatively-charged ion exchange resin to attract any calcium and magnesium.

All minerals that stick to the softening resin need to be flushed out and removed on a regular basis during regeneration cycles.

Water Treatment Isn’t Difficult…

It is safe to conclude that treating your water for contaminants is really not that difficult. Once you understand a few basic principles everything else is just common sense. And with a little bit of interest in chemistry you will find this to be an amazingly easy and interesting subject.

Water softening vs. water filtration – how to treat your water at home? Choose one or the other (or both) depending on your water conditions!