The Difference between Softening and Filtering

It is fairly simple to understand the difference between water filtration and water softening. Determining which method is best for your situation requires a water test. Here is an overview of what happens when you filter or soften water.

Filtering water involves separating “suspended” particles, like manganese, iron, hydrogen sulfide or other organic matter from the source water. By passing water through a “filter/media pack,” these small particles are trapped–and cleaner “filtered” water flows through.  As a filter traps more and more particles it allows less and less filtered water to pass through.  Eventually it becomes saturated with trapped contaminants and must be replaced – a sure sign that your filter needs replaced is substantially reduced water flow.  When we recommend a filter or a combination of filters as part of the solution to your water problems we set up a filter replacement schedule.  This schedule is based on the quality of the source water and estimated gallons used per month to insure that the filters never become completely saturated.  Waiting until the filter is clogged to replace it may allow contaminants through the system, fouling other equipment down line or even jeopardizing the health of your family.

Softening water involves a process called “ion exchange” to remove dissolved minerals like, calcium and magnesium, that can’t be trapped by a filter pack. Softeners use polymer resin beads with sodium ions attached to them by an electrical charge. As water enters the tank, dissolved  calcium and magnesium ions with a similar charge are attracted to the resin. The resin “trades” the sodium ions in exchange for the dissolved mineral ions, effectively removing these impurities.  The resin in the ion exchange process can be “recharged” with sodium ions over and over, so in theory they never need replaced.

So essentially, whether you use a filter or a softener for the treatment of your water depends on whether the contaminates are suspended particles or dissolved minerals.  The water we test in many homes, especially those on private wells, have a combination of suspended and dissolved contaminants.  At Culligan we know that the only way to treat a water problem is to understand the underlying cause.  Once that is correctly determined an effective method or methods can be implemented to remove the problem particles.  The best way to get started is with a no obligation in home water analysis.  Start today!