Reverse Osmosis Vs. Water Softener: What’s the Difference?

Most people assume that water that comes from their taps is clean and safe to drink. But do you know that although it appears so, this water is usually full of contaminants and minerals?

And although the levels of these contaminants aren’t so high to pose hazardous health risks, they still need to be removed. You also don’t want to expose your toddler to these contaminants, right?

So, how do you remove contaminants from the water? With the help of a water filtration system.

But now, here comes the challenge. There’s a wide range of water filtration systems available hence quite difficult for you to make the right choice.

Choosing the best water filtration system ensures that you get a constant supply of clean, safe and pure water at all times.

If looking for the best water filtration system, how about trying out reverse osmosis or water softeners to treat your water?

In this post, we’ll help you understand the 2 water treatment methods so that you can choose the right option for your home. Tag along!

Reverse Osmosis Vs. Water Softener

What is Reverse Osmosis?

Reverse osmosis refers to a water treatment process that uses multiple filtration phases to filter out various contamination agents present in the water and mineral ions.

As aforementioned, reverse osmosis filters water. It does this by removing minerals and contaminants in the water using a filter. These contaminants alter the taste of drinking water and can have adverse effects on our health.

Some of the impurities that RO filters remove include chlorine, fluoride, detergents, lead, pesticides, nitrates and sulfates.

RO provides better tasting water since it’s the only water purification method capable of removing total dissolved solids (TDS).

When is RO Needed?

If your tap water has high TDS levels, you need an RO system. Total dissolved solids can cause your water to have a bad/strange taste and discourage your family from drinking it.

Reverse osmosis is the only purification method that removes TDS by up to 95%. Therefore, you will need it if living in areas where tap water has high TDS levels – 200ppm and more.

How Does an RO System Work?

Reverse osmosis works using a pressure pump that pushes water through several filters, including sediment or carbon filter, reverse osmosis membrane and an activated carbon post-filter.

During the RO process, water goes first through a sediment filter that removes dirt and sediment. It then passes via a carbon filter, which not only removes chlorine from the water but also improves its taste.

The water then reaches the RO membrane, which filters out 95-97% of all contaminants.

RO is considered the best purification method to reduce harmful contaminants effectively, including lead, arsenic and copper.

RO systems have low production costs, consume less energy than other purifiers and are easy to clean and maintain.

Advantages of an RO System

Improves the taste of water

The taste of water gets affected by the chemicals in it. And since RO can remove 90% of chemicals present in your water, it eliminates the odors from these chemicals.

If your water has a nasty taste, an RO system is what you need. It eradicates contaminants such as lead, bacteria and chlorine.

The RO filter improves the quality of the water you use to cook and drink.

Frees your water from pathogens

Due to a large number of microorganisms underneath, water is plagued by all sorts of microbes. And due to their miniature size, they are invisible to the eye.

Drinking this water exposes you to bacteria and viruses that can be dangerous to your health. RO removes the pathogens, ensuring that you get safe drinking water at all times.

Comprehensive and easy to maintain

RO systems leave no stone unturned in the quest to provide you with safe, clean and pure water for your household. It is actually one of the best water treatment systems available today, known to remove almost every impurity from the water.

The system is also extremely easy to maintain. To keep it running and in good condition, you only need to replace the filters and membranes when the time is right.

Most membranes require replacement after every 2 years and filters after every 6 to 12 months.


Waste a lot of water

RO systems produce a lot of wastewater during the filtration process. This speaks of the high volume of hard water you need to get an adequate amount of softened water for your household. 25% to 50% of the water is rejected and goes down the drain.


RO systems come with a high price tag. At the very least, you’ll have to part with a few hundred dollars if you want to install one for your household.

The high price cuts out many potential buyers.

What is a Water Softener?

Just like the name implies, the main function of a water softener is to soften hard water. Water softening is a process that extracts minerals like calcium and magnesium from water.

Although hard water may be safe to drink, it’s unkind to the skin, hair and water pipes.

And why is this so?

Hard water clogs up pipes and affects the water’s ability to lather in sinks, washing machines and showers. It also leaves a filmy residue on your hair and skin.

When is a Water Softener Needed?

If you’ve started seeing stains on your clothes or faucets. There’s a high chance that you’re dealing with hard water. It’s the same case if your dishes tend to have spotty films after they’ve been through your dishwasher.

You need a water softener!

How does a Water Softener Work?

Water softeners contain polystyrene beads with positively charged sodium ions. When tap water passes through the water softener, the mineral ions present swap with the sodium ions from the beads.

The result is soft water that lathers with ease. This water can’t clog your water pipes as well. Eventually, the beads lose all the sodium and are left with mineral ions only.

To maintain the function of the water softener, you’ll have to add water softener salt to it from time to time. The practice helps to recharge the beads with sodium chloride.

Advantages of a Water Softener

Enhances Water Quality

Water supplied in your household is meant for drinking, cooking, laundry, among other uses, right? However, hard water makes it difficult to carry out these functions.

Getting a water softener installed in your home helps to solve these issues. This is because water softeners do more than just soften water. They amplify the quality of the water as well.

Water softeners make water easy to consume and enhance the mineral content of the water.

Less wastewater

Water softeners waste very little water during the regeneration process. You can never compare the wastewater to that from reverse osmosis.

Saves you money

Soft water doesn’t have the minerals that cause buildup in your appliances and pipes. This saves you from costly repair bills.

A water softener prevents the harmful effects of hard water on your laundry machines and dishwasher. Hard water not only lowers the efficiency and quality of these appliances but also makes them have a shorter lifespan.

Cleaner hair and softer skin

Bathing in hard water can have adverse effects on your skin. The minerals present in hard water remove your skin’s natural oils, making it dry out. To some, it even causes skin irritation.

Since soft water contains less minerals, your skin picks and holds up moisture easily. It keeps your hair’s pH level in check.

Brighter clothes

A water softener reduces the adverse effects of hard water on your clothes. It not only makes them soft to touch but also preserves a fresh, new look in them.

Cleaner dishes

If you live in a locality with only with hard water, you know how difficult keeping your dishes clean can be. It doesn’t matter the many times you clean them, they are still left with a cloudy appearance.

A water softener helps to fix this problem. It removes all minerals that can build up on your dishes. And since soft water lathers well, it makes the dishwashing process easy.


Expensive to install and maintain

Water softeners can cost you at least $2000 to install. You also need to carry out routine maintenance since the resin beads eventually run out of sodium ions. You, therefore, need to add the sodium ions from time to time to counter the magnesium and calcium ions.

Can make your water salty

Soft water contains sodium ions, which can be too much if not well managed. Therefore, you may end up consuming more mg of sodium than the daily recommended intake (2300 mg).

Not suitable for irrigation

Since soft water lacks calcium and magnesium, it’s not suitable for irrigation. It leads to the development of alkali soils, which usually have a poor structure and can’t support irrigation.

Which one is Better? RO or Water Softeners?

Each of these processes has its benefits. However, the best water treatment is one that addresses your household’s needs best.

For instance, an RO system will suit you best if using well water with high ppm levels. If having problems with corrosion in your water pipes, a water softener will help you address this problem.

Actually, if possible, get both. Yes, you’ll enjoy more benefits if you incorporate the 2 water treatment systems in your home.

Having a water softener take out magnesium and chloride will take off the pressure on the RO filter, allowing it to have a longer lifespan. Also, while the water softener softens the water, the RO system filters and purifies it.

If you have the water softener only, your water will still have a lot of contaminants. With the RO system only, your hard water will have no improvement.

Having both in your household is, therefore, a very big win.


Reverse osmosis systems and water softeners help treat water and ensure that you always have clean water that is safe for use. Whether to go for a water softener or an RO system will depend on the state of your household’s water and how you intend to improve it.

Also, if you can afford both systems, go for them. You’ll enjoy all the benefits they bring along.


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