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

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Reverse osmosis systems and water softeners are two of the most effective methods of treating hard water. And although both produce clean and healthy water, each is unique with positives and negatives to consider.

So the big question is, which one is better?

If considering getting a water treatment system but torn between the two, we’ll help you reach the best decision. In this post, we’ll, share all the information you need and make everything simple for you.

Thinking about getting both? It’s a good thing too. Go through this guideline and know why you might require both the water softener and the RO system for your home.

But before that,

What’s a Water Softener, and What’s an RO System?

Water Softeners

Water softeners soften hard water. They remove hard water minerals, calcium, and magnesium or crystallizes the minerals and prevents them from sticking to surfaces.

Water softeners help prevent the buildup of scale in your pipes, plumbing, and appliances. So your appliances have buildup already? No need to worry; these softeners not only get rid of the existing scale but also prevent new scale from forming.

Your appliances like dishwashers and washing machines can now work more efficiently should you use a softening system to soften your water.

Water softeners come in a variety of sizes. The size of a softener affects the capacity and level of water hardness that it can remove from your water. The higher the capacity, the higher the levels of water hardness that get removed and vice versa.

Benefits of Water Softeners

Listed below are some of the benefits you’ll enjoy if you install a water softener in your water line’s point of entry:

Less Maintenance

After installing a water softener in your home, you don’t have to worry much about maintenance. Actually, only when you have a salt-based softener will you have to keep the system stocked with sodium ions by topping up the salt.

Should you opt for a salt-free water softener, you’ll never have to worry about maintenance at all. All you’ll have to do is change the filter once in a while (6 months or so).

Less Waste Water

When comparing water softeners and RO systems, water softeners are by far more efficient for less water wastage.RO systems waste water constantly, while water softeners only waste a small amount when the system regenerates.

Natural Water Taste

Water softeners help to remove most dissolved minerals from the water. These minerals significantly contribute to the metal taste in your tap water.

Installing water softeners in your water line will not only enable you to enjoy every cup of water you take but also make you healthier.

Less Clogging

Hard minerals can cause buildup in the pipes or appliances in your home. Using a water softener will ease the buildup and ensure that your washing machine or dishwasher has a longer life span.

Brighter Laundry

Did you know that the stains in your clothes might have been caused by the hard water you used to clean them? The good news is that installing water softeners in your home will help make your laundry long-lasting and help with color fading.

Cleaner Dishes

Just with the laundry, hard water can stain your dishes. Using water softeners will prevent stains from appearing on your dishes. These softeners will even make them look newer and cleaner.


Don’t Purify Water

Although highly effective in softening hard water, water softeners don’t remove pollutants from the water. They, therefore, won’t make your water any cleaner.

High Operating Costs

Salt-based water softeners need salt and water for brine production. They also require the two for rinsing and backwashing their resin bed at additional costs.

Another you need to note is that the waste water discharged during regeneration gets into the sewer, meaning that your sewer bill will rise.

Environmental Impact

The waste water produced when using water softening systems can add up to thousands in a year, especially for persons living in areas with exceptionally hard water.

Also, if you live near a stream or lake, the excess chloride ends up there (streams or lakes) and can threaten the lives of freshwater fish and other aquatic life.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis systems remove contaminants and minerals from water. They do this through several filtration stages, and each stage is designed for a different purpose.

Reverse osmosis systems also come with a semi-permeable RO membrane, making RO more capable than other filtration methods.

During the process (RO), water passes through several filtration stages, which remove all contaminants commonly found in drinking water. It’s then forced through the semi-permeable membrane at high pressure.

This semi-permeable membrane features a very dense layer that allows only water to pass. As a result, salts and other impurities are left behind (separated from the now pure water).

Actually, RO can remove more than 99.9% of contaminants from your water. However, a lot of water is wasted during the process, typically about 4 gallons per 1 gallon purified.

Benefits of RO

Better Tasting Water

RO systems remove contaminants like bacteria, lead, and chlorine from the water. This makes it taste better for drinking and cooking.

They improve the quality of the water all around.

Odorless Water

Reverse osmosis systems remove strange smells and colors in the water. Cooking with water that is free of foul smell will affect the flavor of your soup, tea, coffee, and other items made with the water.

Saves Money

Investing in an RO system means that you won’t have to spend your money on bottled water. You also won’t have to use the cash to fill up water jugs or pay for water bottle delivery services.

Simple Maintenance

While some water, purification, and filtration methods are time-consuming to maintain, it’s not the same with RO systems. Just like with water softeners, all you need to do is replace the filters and membranes according to the manual.

Most filters are replaced after every 6 to 12 months and the membrane after every 2 years.


RO Filters Can Clog

RO filters have tiny pores, which can clog if not well maintained. Actually, even standard chlorine can cause damage to your home’s RO system.

Therefore, you need to follow the system’s maintenance and service guidelines to protect the system from clogging.

Waste Water

When using an RO system, a lot of water goes down the drain. It can only return 5-15% of the water. This means that installing them in your entire house can get quite expensive.

Do You Need Both? – Is one Better than the Other?

In theory, both the water softeners and RO systems work great. However, if confused about the filtration system to go for, check out the needs for your home and select the one that will work best.

For instance, if having problems with plumbing corrosion, a water softener is the best choice. It can get rid of the hard minerals in the water causing the problem. If using well water in your home, go for an RO system.

And yes, you can have both and get to enjoy the benefits that the 2 bring along when used together. Some of these benefits include:

Financial Gain

If you buy both systems at the same time, you’ll actually have financial gain in the long run. And how is this possible?

Water softeners will save energy and give your appliances a longer life span. This translates to fewer expenses for professional visits and the purchase of new products. On the other hand, should you buy an RO system, you won’t buy bottled water anymore.

RO Systems Get Protected by Water Softeners

When you have both, the water softener will take out the bigger hard minerals. This will, in return, benefit the RO system by protecting it from hard water ions and give it a longer life span.

Thorough Filtration and Water Softening Benefits

If living in an area with high levels of hard water, getting both the RO and Water softening systems is a great idea. The water softeners will get rid of hardness, and the RO will remove impurities from the water. The result will be pure, healthy, and soft water for your household needs.


Whether to get an RO system or water softeners for your home will depend on your needs. If your tap water isn’t up to the mark, get an RO system. However, if you have a good water system, consider purchasing water softeners.

If you can afford both, get them for your home. It’s the only way to ensure that your water is pure, clean, and healthy for your family to use every day.