Reverse osmosis vs water softener

It is a common question to ask what is the difference between reverse osmosis and water softener. The answer: they are not the same thing at all! Despite common beliefs, one is a water filtration system while the other is meant to prevent plumping corrosion.  Don’t buy the wrong appliance for your home use!

Reverse osmosis vs water softener


How  reverse osmosis works

Reverse osmosis works via pumping the water through a series of filters. Each is meant to remove different undesired elements in the water. Currently, the state of the art is a 5 filter filtration process. If you want to know which model is the best, check out my review of the best 2015 reverse osmosis system.

The purpose of a RO system to reduce the minerals in your water to less than 10 ppm such that it is clean and tastes great. Installing such a system for your whole home will ensure that every part of your house can have access to high quality water.


How water softening works

Water softening works in a entirely different way. It uses a ‘replacement’ process called ionization. Specifically, it replaced high concentration of magnesium and calcium with sodium, i.e. it softens it. The intention of doing so is to reduce the problems in your house due to the so called hard water.  Water with concentrated magnesium and calcium can lead to corrosion, reduction in the lifespan of your appliance, reduction in the water’s ability to clean dishes etc.  However, this process does not remove any stuff from the water at all. Hence, it is not a filtration process meant to produce clean drinking water.


Do you need water softener if you have reverse osmosis

The answer is no. The filters in a RO system will have already removed the concentrated magnesium and calcium in the hard water, thereby making them soft. The downside however of using a reverse osmosis system as a water softener is the efficiency in water usage. On average, you will need around 3 galleons of water to produce one galleon of filtered. To some, that might seem wasteful.

However, if your house already needs a RO system due to the water tasting funny or there is too much unwanted minerals in it, then you can do away with the water softener. It is just a waste of money to buy both in this scenario.

The reverse, unfortunately, is not true. You can replace a RO with a water softener as the latter is simply not a water filter.  If you already have a water softener but still needs better drinking water, I am afraid you still need to buy a 5 stage reverse osmosis water filtration system.


With the explanations out of the way,  you should be in a better position to understand the differences when you compare reverse osmosis vs water softener.  If any sales person try to convince you that they serve the same functions, please correct him politely and take your leave.

Leave a Reply