Culligan Blog

Salt Free Water Conditioning Process

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What's in a Name?

As it turns out, quite a lot. Salt-free water softeners have been walking a line between vaguely misleading and downright confusing since their emergence into the water treatment market. Where the confusion starts is the "softener" portion of their name. By definition, softeners remove hardness from water, which typically includes minerals like calcium and iron that give water its hard qualities. So, if we follow this definition and understanding of what a water softener is, a salt-free softener is a bit of a contradiction.

What Do Salt-free Softeners Do, Then?

Most salt-free softeners rely on the process of ion exchange to reduce sediment, odor, and chemicals from water, so the taste and smell of treated water ends up being much more agreeable, but won't actually provide the benefits most people are looking for from a water treatment system, like removing scale buildup or increasing the efficiency of washing machines and dishwashers.

In salt-free processes, the actual minerals remain in the water; their chemical form is simply manipulated so that it is less likely to adhere to surfaces. Technically, this process falls under the category of water treatment referred to as "water conditioning." This solution may also provide some results in terms of scale reduction and softer laundry, but not to the extent most people think of when they think about water softening.

Benefits of Salt-free Softeners

While salt-based systems will generally outperform their salt-less counterparts when it comes down to salt conditioning, there are some advantages to a salt-less system:

  •  Relatively maintenance-free
  •  Some reduction in scale buildup

The best way to know which type of system will be right for you and your home is to talk with your Culligan Man after he or she tests your water. Once you know what kinds of minerals you'll need to address, you can discuss the most optimal options for your water.

Hydration Celebration Starts Soon

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It's that time of year again! Starting May 1 we'll be celebrating Drinking Water Month by kicking off our first ever Hydration Celebration promotion.

Spring is the perfect time of year to make, or remake, some healthful resolutions, and what you drink can be one of the simplest changes you can make. We know the health and personal benefits of drinking more water are many, and as it turns out, there are even more advantages that come in the form of creating more economically and environmentally friendly drinking water choices. Rather than spending more on single-use plastic water bottles, an under-sink system or Culligan water cooler is an easy way to get bottled-water taste, sans the price and the recycling hassle that comes with them.

Drink More Water, Easily

With our upcoming promotions around drinking water systems, water delivery, whole-house systems, and bottle-free coolers, we're helping make it easier than ever to access cleaner, fresher, and better-tasting drinking water. Now that's a change we could stick to.

We're committed to helping residences and offices alike make accessing better water easier, so you can benefit from drinking water solutions at your workplace as well as at home. During Hydration Celebration, find deals on everything we provide that makes it easier to drink better water - from discounts on whole-house systems to reverse osmosis drinking water systems and deals on water delivery service and bottle-free coolers. Your boss can thank us later.

Your local Culligan Man will be able to fill you in on all the specific offers and promotions available in your area, so be sure to take advantage while you can and set up an appointment or call today - hurry, Hydration Celebration ends June 30!

Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water

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RO Filtration with Aqua-CleerLike most filtration systems, reverse osmosis works by funneling contaminated water through a semi-permeable membrane that removes a specific set of impurities. Unlike some other solutions, the system applies pressure to the water as it flows through the membrane, using the natural tendency toward chemical equilibrium to trap offending ions (like salt) in order to achieve the desired state of contaminant-free water. The membrane traps impurities, usually around .001 microns or larger, so that what exits the membrane to your faucet is purer, potable water.

Reverse osmosis technology was developed during the 1970s, and is most commonly used to desalinate water in areas where fresh drinking water may be hard to access. RO is also common in industrial applications, like our very own Culligan Matrix Solutions Reverse Osmosis, where it can be used to treat water for facilities and recycle commercial wastewater.

How does reverse osmosis work to treat my water?

Residential systems use the same pressure membrane technology to separate contaminants from municipal water, and may include additional filtration steps like sediment filtration or UV sterilization. Our residential reverse osmosis systems, for example, include pretreatment as a matter of course, and post treatment as needed. If water quality is especially concerning in your area, you'll want to make sure your RO system is used in conjunction with a sterilizing filter to ensure water is not only free from saline and other particles, but any harmful contaminants like E. coli or arsenic. These features are always included in Culligan reverse osmosis products to ensure the highest-quality result for your water.

What types of water problems does it work best for?

RO works best for water with high saline content and relatively few other impurities. Beyond salt-water fixes, reverse osmosis can also be used to remove chlorine and fluoride from drinking water, and in general, be used to remove a variety of:

  •   Metals
  •   Minerals
  •   Microorganisms

It can be challenging to know exactly what type of filtration product is right for your home and your water supply. Whether you're considering reverse osmosis, or any other type of filtration, it's helpful to have your local Culligan Man test your water in order to make the best recommendation based on the unique needs of your tap.

Ultraviolet Water Filtration

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Ever wondered if there was a way to filter water, no nasty chemicals or salt hassle required? Culligan has been on the front lines of breakthrough technology like UV filtration for generations, and we're hard at work expanding on the technology that allows us to provide effective filtration for every kind of need.

How UV Systems Work

UV disinfection has been used for decades in various capacities after the germicidal properties of sunlight were discovered. It wasn't long before this naturally occurring phenomenon was harnessed to focus specific spectrums of ultra violet light toward eliminating harmful microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and certain pathogens from water.

In general, UV light is applied through a combination of gas applied with a voltage that creates the desired disinfecting wavelength. This is all contained in, typically, a quartz sleeve that water passes through during the disinfection process. Ultra violet light can, when properly applied, eliminate most of the leading causes of waterborne illness like:

  •   Cryptosporidium
  •   Giardia,
  •   Salmonella
  •   E.Coli

Benefits of UV Treatment

Using ultra violet treatment can come with a variety of benefits.

  •   Low maintenance,
  •   Reduced carbon footprint
  •   No treatment by products like salt
  •   No chemicals (chlorine etc.)
  •   No change to taste, smell, or appearance of water

Will it Work for My Water?

Well water generally has the highest risk for carrying or containing protozoa like giardia because of the availability for ground water contamination and/or runoff, so while it may be useful for those using municipal water, there's generally more need for those served by wells.

What's also important to understand about UV water treatment is that it is only effective in water that is already mostly pure. For example, dissolved sediment and minerals like iron, manganese, and sulfur can impact how effectively ultra violet exposure renders microorganisms inert. If water is hard to begin with, pathogens can essentially hide behind iron or sulfur particles, making the treatment ineffective. In many cases, ultra violet applications are used as the last in a series of treatments.

This in mind, if your water is already soft but you're concerned about contaminants, UV treatment may be a perfect solution. In order to know for certain, it's easy to have a Culligan Man test your water and evaluate flow rate to see if a UV filter makes sense, or if it should be used in conjunction with another type of filtration like a softener.

What’s wrong with my water? A three-sense guide to sorting out something amiss.

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We probably all have a general sense of what water should look, smell, taste, and feel like, but sometimes it's not always obvious when there's something wrong with your water.

Self-Diagnosing Problem Water

While some contaminants are better at hiding than others, there are a few telltale signs that something is causing a problem with your water.

  • Odor: If something smells suspicious, it probably is. Common pause-giving smells you might come across in tap water include:
    • The Pool Smell: Easily identifiable from our associations with swimming pools, high chlorine levels in water are usually to blame for this olfactory affront.
    • Something's Fishy: This you-know-it-when-you-smell-it water scent (also often associated with rotten eggs) is perhaps the most unpleasant one, and is typically the nose-wrinkling result of dissolved sulfur not so subtly stowing away in your water supply.
    • A Little Too Natural: We all want our water to be fresh from the source, but sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. If water smells earthy, grassy, musty, or moldy, there's a good chance bacteria could be to blame.
    • Anything but Nothing: A good rule of thumb is that if water smells like anything - organic, chemical, or otherwise - it's time to call in a Culligan Man to test it and ensure it's safe to drink.
  • Taste: Not unlike the smell situation, you want water to taste like water. If it doesn't, it's likely you've got a problem - how big or small can sometimes be determined by what exactly you taste.
    • The Metal Head: If you've ever come across the singular tinge of iron in water, it's likely you'll remember it. Other causes for metallic tastes can include dissolved mercury, lead, copper, manganese, zinc, or arsenic.
    • Essence of Ocean: There's a reason we react negatively to consuming salt water, so if your water has that beachy tang, it's a possibility there may be certain kinds of bacteria and/or sulfates affecting the supply.
  • Appearance: We also have certain expectations of our water's visual quality. You should be able to see through it, for instance.
    • Cloudy with a Chance of Contamination: This particular visual distraction also masquerades under the guise of turbidity. Essentially, any time your water is cloudier than you expect, and/or lingers after water is allowed to settle, that's a sign of problem water.
    • Off-Color: This may be a bit harder to tell, but if water has any sort of hue to it, you'll want to get a water test. You might also notice colors left behind by water in the form of rust-colored stains around drains and fixtures.

The way water looks, tastes, and smells is often a product of location and geography. To read more about the qualities of water near where you live, explore our state-by-state problemwater resources.

Water Softening vs. Water Filtration

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They're common questions we hear:

  •   What's the difference between a water softener and a water filter?
  •   Which one is better for my home?

Maybe you've had the same questions. Let's start by looking closely at what each of these solutions does, and how they can help out around the house.

Water Softeners

As you might guess from the name, water softeners generally only refer to products that remove hardness-causing minerals and contaminants from water, like magnesium and calcium. While this still covers a variety of products, it's generally fewer than those considered "water filters." Softeners also typically use salt as the primary chemical agent in modifying the properties of water, while filtration can encompass many more methods to alter water, like reverse osmosis.

Water Filtration

Filters generally refer to any methods or systems that remove contaminants from water, including:

  •   Metals such as arsenic, iron, or copper
  •   Industrial and pharmaceutical byproducts like pesticides or hormones
  •   Sediment and other organic troublemakers

As such, the term "water filter" can refer almost equally to systems that filter water throughout your home, smaller products that filter at the point-of-use, reverse osmosis filtration systems, and others in between.

How Can I Tell Which One To Use?

Since each of these solutions focuses on different water-related issues, deciding on a softener or a filter should largely depend on what's in your water. For example, if limescale buildup is a constant headache for you, that's usually a sign that water is hard and a softener will alleviate some of those frustrations. If your water tastes or smells strange, a filter might be the more effective choice to remove culprit contaminants from your supply.

A good way to find out, if you don't already know or suspect what's in your water, is to have a Culligan Man test it for you. The results will help you and your Culligan Man evaluate the best solutions, whether it's softening, filtration, or a combination of both.

Culligan House Calls – Explained

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Whether you're on a municipal water supply, your own well, or you're not quite sure where your water comes from, the best way to find out what's in it is for a Culligan Man to evaluate it in person. This is key because of the nature of infrastructure and other factors, water quality within the same neighborhood can vary widely, and even differ from house to house.

To make sure we're providing the best possible service and support, it's important for us to know exactly what kind of water we're dealing with before we make any kind of recommendations.

Before The Visit

There's really nothing you need to do in advance of a Culligan Man visit. Schedule your appointment online, or call to set up a time that works for you. Then, just plan on being at home during that time to meet your local Culligan Man or Woman.


Expect your Culligan Man to show up promptly and be kind and courteous, as we'd expect of any guest in any one of our homes. As part of the standard water test, he'll take a sample of your tap water ­- probably from the kitchen sink - and use the Culligan testing kit to see how hard or soft your water is, as well as look for any impurities, like iron or dissolved solids.

The whole process is free and usually takes less than 10 minutes. Once he's tested the water, he'll discuss the results with you. If water is hard, for example, he may be able to tell you what's causing it (minerals like dissolved calcium or magnesium) and ways to fix it.

He'll also want to know if you have any concerns about your water, and if there's anything in particular you're looking to get out of the visit. Additionally, he'll be able to recommend more advanced lab testing if the standard test comes back without conclusive results, or if it looks like it will need further clarification.

What Happens After

Based on the outcome of your Culligan Man visit, he or she will follow up with you to set a time to come back and install any of the solutions discussed. If you're still in the process of deciding how to deal with water concerns, he'll set up a time for a follow up call or visit to answer any additional questions you have in order to get all the information you need to make the most of your home's water.