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 co nfusing 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:
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.