Get Started with a Free Water Consultation

Water Softening vs. Water Filtration: Which Do You Need?

Point of view shot of a man pouring a glass of fresh water from a kitchen faucet


You want cleaner, high-quality, great-tasting water for your family’s health and your own peace of mind. But you may have more questions than answers about water quality issues and whether or how they could be affecting your home. You’re likely wondering:

  • How can I tell if I have hard water?
  • What are the differences between water softeners and water filters?
  • How can I tell what kind of solution will work best for my home?

Let’s tackle these in order as your first step toward ensuring that water quality isn’t something you’re worrying or wondering about day to day.

What is Hard Water?

Hard water is water that has a high concentration of calcium and magnesium. Have you noticed water spots on your glasses or utensils, soap scum in your tub and on shower doors, or a filmy residue after you wash your hands? Hard water is likely the culprit.

Soap reacts with the high level of calcium and magnesium in hard water to produce the water spots and residue you can see and feel. When your home has hard water, you need more soap or detergent to get things clean. And while hard water isn’t dangerous, it can create frustrating inefficiency with whatever you’re trying to get clean—and that can prove costly.

Mineral deposits also can form when hard water is heated, as with your home water heater. This can “reduce the life of equipment, raise the costs of heating the water, lower the efficiency of electric water heaters, and clog pipes,” the U.S. Geological Survey notes.

What Do Water Softeners Do?

Water softeners remove the calcium and magnesium minerals that are the causes of hard water. Because of that focus, they don’t target the contaminants than water filters do, since water softening uses a different treatment process than filtration systems do.

By eliminating excess calcium and magnesium from water, softeners can boost the efficiency of your water-using appliances and help you save on cleaning supplies. Not only are you likely to see cleaner dishes and coffee pots, but your whole family could see less-irritated, more-hydrated skin and hair as well.

How do they work? Water softeners use salt to modify the properties of water. (If you live in a brine-restricted area, you can explore salt-free alternatives.) In contrast, water filtration systems—whether whole-house systems or smaller products that filter products at the point of use—can use any of several methods to make water cleaner and safer depending on the contaminants being filtered.

What Do Water Filtration Systems Do?

While water softeners target issues like spots on dishes and buildup on appliances, water filters aim to supply better-tasting, cleaner water by removing a wider array of contaminants. These can include:

  • Metals such as arsenic, lead, copper, iron, cadmium and hexavalent chromium
  • Industrial and pharmaceutical byproducts such as pesticides or hormones
  • Chlorine and chloramine
  • PFOS and PFOA (Perfluorooctane Sulfonate and Perfluorooctanoic Acid)
  • Sediments and particulates

Let’s consider a couple of leading water filtration options.

A whole-home filtration system addresses water quality and flow throughout your entire home. These systems are designed to reduce sediment, chlorine and other contaminants, leaving you with cleaner, safer, fresher-tasting water. Whole-home filter systems also can neutralize acidity in water, which can reduce costly corrosion of plumbing fixtures and appliances.

A drinking-water filtration system reduces contaminants in your drinking water. Under-sink options as well as countertop systems are available, depending on filtration preferences and space needs. Many drinking-water filters use multi-stage filtration to first remove sediment and then filter out other contaminants, including chlorine, that affect water taste and quality.

You may have heard about reverse-osmosis water filtration, an advanced, multistage process that can remove up to 99% of total dissolved solids in water. Reverse osmosis (RO) filtration relies upon a semi-permeable membrane that removes dissolved salts and other unwanted materials such as lead and fluoride from water.

Which Water Treatment Option is Right for Me?

Deciding whether water softening or water filtration is best for you depends largely on what’s in your water and the problems you want to address. If spotty dishes or dry, irritated skin are chief complaints in your household, you’re likely dealing with hard water, and a softener can alleviate your frustrations. If your water (or coffee, or tea) tastes or smells strange, or if you have concerns about the chemical contamination in your drinking water supply, a filter will likely be the more effective choice.

Want Better Water in Your Home?

For a free water system analysis and further guidance on water softening vs. filtration options, schedule an appointment now with your Culligan of Santa Clara dealer. Your Culligan expert will help guide you through your home’s water test results so you can select with confidence the right softening and/or filtration solutions for you and your family.

Find A Location Near Me


Schedule Your Free
In-Home Water Test

Get better water in your home by scheduling an appointment with your local Culligan Water Expert.

Our Products

blue wave
Water Softeners

Water Softeners

With any of our soft water systems, get more out of your water-using appliances while spending less on energy and detergent.

View Products

Water Delivery

Water Delivery

There’s never been a better time to enjoy the convenience of scheduled bottled water deliveries from the Culligan® Water Experts

View Products

Water Filtration Systems

Water Filtration Systems

Culligan's water filtration systems have improved water quality for thousands of families worldwide.

View Products