Culligan Blog

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.

Myth-Busting Facts about Water Softeners

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It seems like there's always new wisdom (some of it not so wise) popping up about the benefits or complications of soft water. We're used to seeing people on both sides of the discussion getting it a little wrong, so we thought it was time to clear up some of the most common forms of flawed thinking we've encountered through the years.

Myth-Busting Common Water Softener Assumptions

Myth No 1: You can filter or condition water without salt.

The Bust: While it's true that some water treatment products don't require salt, these products don't provide the same softening capability and quality you expect from a traditional water softener. It is possible to filter water without salt, but you won't get the signature soft water feel many people expect when they think of softened water.

Myth No 2: Softened water prevents access to important minerals your body needs and/or leaches essential minerals from your body.

The Bust: Many variations of this one seem to crop up all over, so let's start with why: water softeners do remove hard minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron from water.

Softened water doesn't change the way our bodies absorb these nutrients. In general, these are also minerals that most of us have plenty of regular access to in the foods we consume, which is why this would only be something to be concerned about in very rare and specific nutritional cases.

Myth No 3: Softened water leaves film behind on skin.

The Bust: Most of us are used to feeling scaly and dry after showering with hard water - thank dissolved minerals for this effect. Hard water leaves an insoluble residue behind that's responsible for skin feeling chapped or dry, and hair feeling weighed down or lifeless. Because many of us are so used to this, the switch to actually getting cleaner with soft water can sometimes feel different or unexpected. It's also common for people not to notice any difference at all depending on levels of dissolved minerals present before the switch, or if they notice, it's that skin and hair feel softer and less dried out.

Myth No 4: Softeners add too much salt to water.

The Bust: The most effective softeners use salt as the chemical means to remove hard minerals and dissolved solids, replacing magnesium and calcium ions with sodium ions. This process leaves behind trace amounts of sodium and in varying forms (certain softeners leave sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) traces in water, while others, sodium chloride (table salt). The key here is "trace." In general, the levels of either form of sodium in water are so minimal that not only would you not be able to tell from a taste perspective, there's no evidence that such minute amounts could contribute to any kind of health risk (Mayo Clinic).

From keeping your clothes softer and helping them last longer, to protecting pipes and fixtures, the benefits of soft water for you and your home are more impressive than most myths. If you have any questions about how water softening works, and whether or not it might be useful in your house, contact your Culligan Man to clear things up today.

UnderSink vs. Whole Home Water Filtration

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Is it time for better-tasting or harder-working water at home? Start by learning the differences between two of the most common types of household water filtration: point-of-use and point-of-entry.

Point-of-Use vs. Point-of-Entry

  • Point-of-Use - Commonly known as drinking water systems, point-of-use treatment refers to any under-sink filtration system installed at the tap level, or other direct water-access point.
  • Point-of-Entry - This refers to filtration systems installed at the entry point of water lines to the house. These are often referred to as whole-house systems, and other variations on whole-home filtration terms.

Now that we know what we're dealing with, there are essentially two questions to consider when evaluating what will work best for you and your home.

Step 1 - What are you filtering?

Do you need to filter out fairly benign contaminants, like chlorine, or mild dissolved solids or sediment? Is there something more sinister, like arsenic, lurking in your water? Learning what's in your water is the first and most important step in deciding what kind of water filtration system is right for you, whether it's whole-home filtration, point-of-use, or something altogether different.

Start by scheduling a free water test from your local Culligan Man. He or she will come by to sample your tap water and run tests for the most common water contaminants, so you can find out whether you need to address water issues right in the kitchen or throughout your home. Your Culligan Man is also a great resource to ask for advice once you do know what is, or isn't, in your water.

Step 2 - Why?

It's also important to isolate why you're thinking about filtering your water. It's one thing if you have a contaminant issue that's making water smell or taste bad, but if issues are more subtle there can be additional factors to consider when it comes to your drinking water quality, and its impact throughout your home.

  •   Skin conditions or allergies in the family?
  •   Low (or zero) tolerance for house cleaning?
  •   Heavy coffee or tea drinkers in the household?
  •   Hate the way laundry feels?
  •   Avid gardener?
  •   Well or municipal water?

For example, if your household hates its scratchy laundry and drinks a lot of coffee, you might want to consider whole-house filtration for the added benefits it can bring to your home (softer laundry, better-tasting coffee and tea, etc.). Similarly, families with allergies find that treating or softening water all over the house can help reduce some common allergy symptoms. On the other hand, if you're strictly interested in improving the taste of your tap water, under-sink filtration may make more sense. Talking about these issues with your Culligan Man can help you decide what will work best for you and your family.

Water Boil Alerts: What You Need to Know

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When the word comes out that your area has been affected by a boil order, it's time to take stock of affected water and manage its reach in your home. Any place in your home that uses water is affected, from the kitchen to the laundry room. Start by following these guidelines to avoid contact with contaminated water.

Stay Safe from Contaminated Water 

  • Don't drink the water, prepare food, brush your teeth, or use any materials that have been in contact with water.
  • Throw out ice cubes, coffee, tea, and any stored beverages made or used with your home's water.
  • Turn off water or block access to refrigerator water dispensers and faucets to provide a visual reminder and help curb normal habits.
  • Boil water for a minimum of three minutes and use that water to clean containers to store sanitized water.
  •   Use boiled water to clean any dishes and utensils you plan on using.
  • Wash hands and prepare food with boiled water.
  • Do not use your dishwasher.
  • Have young children take sponge baths to prevent any swallowing.&

Culligan Man Tip:Place bottled water or pre-boiled water containers in bathroom sinks as a visual reminder to brush and wash hands with clean water.

Hydration Tip:A pinch of salt can help improve the taste of "flat" boiled water for drinking.

After the Boil Order is Lifted

Keeping you and your family safe and healthy during a boil order extends beyond the duration of the order. To make sure your home is prepared to integrate safe, uncontaminated water back into your routine, ensure any remnants of contamination are addressed before you go back to business as usual.

  • Run the dishwasher through an empty bleach cycle.
  • Flush water lines.
  • Boil faucet screens.
  • Purge and sanitize water-using appliances, including the refrigerator water line, icemaker, coffeemaker, and tea kettle.
  • Change your refrigerator's water filter.

Optional but recommended:Run a bleach cycle through your washing machine.

You'll also want to make sure you sanitize any water filtration or water softening systems after a boil order has been in effect. Contact your Culligan Man to help you navigate this process, and ask any more questions you may have about bringing your home back from the boil order.

Explore Your State's Common Problem Water Issues and Solutions

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The single best way to know what's in your water is to be your own best resource. We want to help you do just that by providing tools and information to help you make smart choices about your water. There are a lot of things you can do to find out if you have problem water, the causes behind it, and what options you have for addressing it.

Diagnose Problem Water

The signs that point to problems in your water are often the most obvious, but key factors to be aware of are:

  • Appearance: Water is cloudy or discolored. Common in many states and municipalities, you can explore water problems by state to see if the water where you live is predisposed to run less than clear.
  • Odor: Water has a sulfurous, chlorinated, or other suspicious smell. Almost every water treatment plant in the country uses some amount of chlorine to treat water, so you can use our state-by-state guide to get a handle on whether your region has particularly low or high levels in the water supply.
  • Taste: Water can take on a variety of tastes for a number of reasons, the most common across the country being bitter or salty. Like the range of water itself, total dissolved solids and minerals responsible for unwelcome tastes depend largely on the geography and landscape of your particular area.
  • Side Effects: Often, the signal pointing to a water problem can be what's left behind: film, soap scum, limescale, and/or corrosion on pipes, fixtures, and appliances. Read more about the problem water in your city.


Do you need to address a water problem? This can be a matter of personal preference, especially if symptoms are severe or are causing real aggravation in the home. Consider these factors to help determine whether it may be time to call in a Culligan Man:

  •   Are symptoms getting worse?
  •   What is typical for water in my region? Learn more.
  •   Are common household fixes able to mitigate any effects? Learn more about easy ways to solve for problem water.


If water problems are getting worse, or you've determined your home's water is atypical for the area and it's beyond simple fixes like cleaning with vinegar, you can always call your local Culligan Man for a complimentary water test. He or she will be able to help you determine if a whole-house water filter or a water conditioner is right to fix appearance, taste, and odor issues in your water.

Even if water is typical for your area, or some solutions are helping, water problems can be a headache you don't have to deal with. Your Culligan Man is the perfect resource to help you determine what kind of solution is right for your water.

Looking For a Simple New Year’s Resolution? Here are 12 Reasons to Drink More Water in 2015 (courtesy of our friends at

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Water It Down

Water is the second most popular beverage in the U.S....after soft drinks. This is a scary statistic, since sugary soda is a big health hazard, increasing the risk of obesity, stroke, and other heart problems. However, these dangers can be avoided if people choose to drink water instead, which doesn't have any negative side effects. So, this new year, put the sugary stuff to the side and make water the number one drink of choice. The benefits really are endless. (Just take a read!)

  • Fluid balance. Roughly 60 percent of the body is made of water. Drinking enough H2O maintains the body's fluid balance, which helps transport nutrients in the body, regulate body temperature, digest food, and more.
  • Calorie control. Forget other diet tricks-drinking water could also help with weight loss, according to WebMD ( , Numerous studies have found a connection between water consumption and losing a few pounds.  The secret reason? Water simply helps people feel full, and as a result consume fewer calories.
  • Muscle fuel. Sweating at the gym causes muscles to lose water. And when the muscles don't have enough water, they get tired. So for extra energy, try drinking water to push through that final set of squats.
  • Clearer skin. Certain toxins in the body can cause the skin to inflame, which results in clogged pores. Water can help flush out toxins and decrease occurrence of acne.
  • Kidney function. Our kidneys process 200 quarts of blood daily, sifting out waste and transporting urine to the bladder. Yet, kidneys need enough fluids to clear away what we don't need in the body. Let's drink to that!
  • Productivity boost. In order to really focus, a glass of water could help people concentrate and stay refreshed and alert.
  • Fatigue buster. Move over coffee-water can help fight those tired eyes.  One of the most common symptoms of dehydration is tiredness. Just another reason to go for the big gulp! (Not the 7 Eleven kind.)
  • Hangover help. If alcohol has got the best of you, help a hangover with a glass of water to hydrate the body and stop that pounding headache.
  • Pain prevention. A little water can really go a long way. Aching joints and muscle cramps and strains can all occur if the body is dehydrated.
  • Keep things flowing. Nobody wants to deal with digestion issues. Luckily, drinking enough water adds fluids to the colon which helps make things, ahem, move smoothly.
  • Sickness fighter. Water may help with decongestion and dehydration, helping the body bounce back when feeling under the weather.
  • Brain boost. A study in London found a link between students bringing water into an exam room and better grades, suggesting H2O promotes clearer thinking. While it's unclear if drinking the water had anything to do with a better score, it doesn't hurt to try it out! 

So, What is Your Action Plan? 

The amount of water people need per day is up for debate, but studies suggest adults need nine to 16 cups of H2O. This number, however, varies depending on activity level, age, and how much water people are consuming in coffee, tea, or water-rich veggies and fruit.

Here's how to keep yourself hydrated: Begin by drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up, and 30 minutes before eating any big meal. (This will help control appetite, too.) Get in the habit of keeping a water bottle on hand at all times. And spice up those taste buds with a squeeze of citrus to the glass! Before you know it, all the benefits of water will be right at your fingertips…. and in your body.

Source:;, 2014