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Water Softener vs Reverse Osmosis: The Ultimate Guide

Are you tired of dealing with the pesky problems of hard water in your home? Searching for the perfect solution to safeguard your drinking water and plumbing system? Look no further! It’s time to dive into the fascinating world of water softeners and reverse osmosis systems to find the best answer for your household woes.

In general, water softeners focus on removing excess minerals like calcium and magnesium from your water, while reverse osmosis systems aim to eliminate contaminants from your water supply through pressure changes and different filters, depending on the design.

To make an informed decision, it’s crucial to compare the performance, intended outcomes, and designs of water softeners and reverse osmosis systems.

Reverse Osmosis vs Water Softener Systems: Essential Differences Overview

Before exploring the differences between the two, there are several quick points to keep in mind. They include:

The design of the two systems is very different. A water softener usually consists of two separate tanks, while a reverse osmosis system features multiple filtration systems, each of them designed to remove different contaminants.

A water softener uses ion exchange to soften the Water by removing excess minerals. A reverse osmosis system uses pressure, filters, and membranes to remove contaminants from the water supply.

The goal of a water softener is to soften your water, but a reverse osmosis system is designed to increase your water purification levels.

Here is a table to compare the two a bit more easily:

AspectReverse Osmosis SystemWater Softener System
DesignMultiple filtration systems designed to remove different contaminantsTwo separate tanks
Primary Method of OperationPressure, filters, and membrane situationIon exchange to remove excess minerals
Main GoalIncrease water purification levelsSoften water
Contaminant RemovalRemoves a wide range of contaminants, including minerals and chemicalsPrimarily removes minerals like calcium and magnesium
SuitabilityIdeal for those seeking highly purified water for drinking and cookingBest for those looking to protect appliances and plumbing systems
Complexity & MaintenanceMore complex with multiple filtration stages; may require more maintenanceSimpler design with fewer components; generally easier to maintain

With these key points in mind, it is time to take a more detailed look at the differences between the two. That way, you can decide what is best for your needs.

What Is A Water Softener?

A water softener is a system that is designed to remove excess calcium and magnesium from your water supply. It is typically installed where the water enters your home, and it can help you prevent a variety of problems.

For example, you might be interested in using a water softener to protect your faucets and plumbing fixtures, reduce limescale formation throughout your home, and ensure that your water is more comfortable when you take a shower or bath. You can even use a water softener to prevent clogs from forming in your water supply, keeping your water pressure high.

During the water softening process, calcium and magnesium minerals are drawn to the resin bed, loaded with sodium ions. Then, the sodium from the resin beads will swap with the calcium and magnesium in your water supply, helping you reduce the hardness level of your water.

What Is A Reverse Osmosis System?

Generally, an RO system is a point-of-use system. This means that it will be installed under the kitchen sink or on your kitchen counter instead of where the water enters your home. Then, it uses a multi-stage process to filter and purify your water.

Your reverse osmosis system might include a variety of elements, such as a sediment filter, a semi-permeable membrane, and activated charcoal filter, a remineralization filter, and a carbon post filter.

As water goes through the reverse osmosis process, it will go through the filtration stages in order. The pressure involved will get rid of the contaminants, helping you purify your water supply. Then, what comes out the other side will be purified water.

Key Differences Between Water Softeners And Reverse Osmosis Systems

By understanding the key distinctions between the two systems, you can more easily determine which is right for your needs.


Clearly, there are some significant differences in the designs. A water softener uses two tanks. There is a resin tank, which is where the ion exchange process happens, and a brine tank, which is responsible for holding the salt.

In contrast, there are multiple filtration stages involved in an RO system. There should be a water storage tank, which is responsible for delivering water to the faucet.


The entire purpose of a water softener is to swap calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions to help you reduce the hardness level of your water supply.

In contrast, your RO system will use physical filtration and the separation of membranes to help you remove impurities from your water supply.

You need to think about the differences between the performance of these two systems before you decide which is right for your purposes.


As long as you program your water softener properly, it should be very efficient. On the other hand, your water softener will use some excess water when it goes through it’s required regeneration cycles.

An RO system is not the most efficient design in the world. It is not unusual for a reverse osmosis system to waste several gallons of water for each gallon of water that it purifies. On the other hand, if you decide to purchase a newer unit, you may find that it is more efficient.

Maintenance Requirements

A water softener requires minimal maintenance. Every few weeks, you may need to refill the salt tank, ensuring that your water softener can function properly.

An RO system requires more maintenance. Each stage of the RO system will have to be replaced from time to time, and you should expect the filters to wear out every few months, depending on the specific filter you are looking at.

Be sure to take maintenance requirements into account when deciding which system best suits your needs.

Benefits of Water Softeners

The advantages of water softeners include:

  • Low maintenance – Once your water softener is installed, it does not require a lot of maintenance, unlike an RO system.
  • Specific soft water benefits – You can rely on a water softener to soften your water, which can protect your appliances and make you more comfortable when you shower.
  • Greater efficiency – A water softener is much more efficient, as it does not waste a lot of water during its processes..

Benefits of Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration

The advantages of a reverse osmosis filter include:

  • Higher-quality water – A reverse osmosis system will remove more contaminants from your water supply, providing you with a cleaner result.
  • Pathogen protection – You can also rely on a reverse osmosis system to help you protect your home against certain pathogens.
  • Most thorough filtration method – A reverse osmosis system should be more thorough, removing far more impurities.

Can Both Systems Be Used Together?

There are plenty of situations where you might want to use a reverse osmosis system and a whole house water softener in tandem. For example, if your water is extremely hard, or if you want to be sure your drinking water is extra pure and gets rid of some extra sodium, you might want to use both a water softener and RO system.

DROP Reverse Osmosis System

Rely on DROP for the Top Water Softeners and Reverse Osmosis Systems on the Market Today

Clearly, there are multiple options available if you are looking for a way to protect your water supply from contaminants. You need to work with experts who can help you decide if a reverse osmosis system or a water softener is right for your needs, and at DROP, we are here to help you.

We are proud to provide some of the best reverse osmosis systems, water softeners, and water filters on the market, and we can work with you to make sure your house is properly protected.

If you would like to learn more about the options we have available, take a look at our selection today. Then, contact us to speak to a member of our team. It would be our pleasure to help you find the right system for your requirements and improve your water quality.

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