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Reverse Osmosis VS Water Softener: 5 Key Differences (2024)

Reverse Osmosis VS Water Softener

Do you need reverse osmosis (RO) or a water softener system for your home?

An RO system is better if you are mainly concerned about removing impurities like chemicals and heavy metals. On the other hand, if you are more concerned about reducing the hardness of your tap water, a water softener may be the best choice.

Continue reading for a detailed reverse osmosis vs water softener comparison to decide which water treatment system is right for you.

⚖️5 Differences Between Water Softener And Reverse Osmosis

BasisWater Softener Reverse Osmosis
What do they do?Reduces the hardness of waterRemoves impurities from water
How do they do?By removing minerals like magnesium and calcium ions through ion exchange.By forcing water through a semi permeable membrane that traps contaminants.
When do you need them?When your water has high levels of hardness minerals, like magnesium and calcium.When your water has high levels of impurities and other contaminants.
Advantages Prevents scale buildup and extends the lifespan of appliances.Removes a wide range of impurities, providing better tasting water and safety.
Disadvantages The brine solution adds sodium to the water.Wastes a lot of water; tricky to maintain 

🌀What Is A Water Softener, And How Does It Work? 

water softener

If you are tired of:

  • Constantly battling with hard water stains on your dishes, 
  • Dry and itchy skin after showers,
  • Stubborn soap scum on your bathroom fixtures,
  • Unable to save money on purchased bottled water 

Then a water softener might be the solution you are looking for.

A water softener removes calcium, magnesium, and other minerals that make water “hard.” It works through an ion exchange process, in which the hard water passes through a resin tank containing negatively charged resin beads.

The beads attract and trap positively charged minerals. The soft water then passes through a separate tank and is distributed throughout the home.

Also Read: How Often Should You Add Salt In Water Softener?

💧What Is a Reverse Osmosis System, And How Does It Work?

If you are concerned about the quality of your drinking water, a reverse osmosis system might be the solution you need.

Reverse osmosis (RO) uses a semipermeable membrane to filter out impurities, allowing only water molecules to pass through while blocking contaminants like bacteria, viruses, and dissolved minerals.


As a result, RO filters effectively remove harmful water contaminants like lead, arsenic, chlorine, and fluoride, improving the water’s taste, odor, and appearance by removing impurities that cause unpleasant smells or tastes.

Installing an RO system ensures you and your family drink clean, safe, and healthier water. With a wide range of RO systems, you can choose one that fits your budget and specific water treatment needs.

👉When Do You Need a Water Softener?

A water softening system is needed when your water has high levels of hardness minerals, such as calcium and magnesium.

This can cause scale buildup in plumbing and appliances (like water heaters) and make cleaning more difficult.

Signs that you may need a water softener include:

  • Dry skin
  • Soap scum buildup, and 
  • Difficulty lathering soap.

They can also remove up to 1 ppm of iron and manganese.

👉When Do You Need Reverse Osmosis?

Reverse osmosis (RO) is needed when your water has high levels of impurities or contaminants, such as chemicals, heavy metals, or bacteria, that can affect the taste and safety of your drinking water. Signs that you may need an RO system include:

  • A strange taste or odor to your water, 
  • Visible particles or sediment, or 
  • Concerns about the safety of your water supply.

📝Reverse Osmosis And Water Softener Advantages And Disadvantages 

Reverse Osmosis Advantages And Disadvantages 


  • Removes a wide range of contaminants, including bacteria, viruses, dissolved solids, and minerals.
  • It can improve the taste, odor, and appearance of water.
  • It does not require the use of chemicals.


  • It can be expensive to install and maintain.
  • It can produce wastewater, which may not be environmentally friendly.

Water Softener Advantages And Disadvantages


  • Reduces hard water buildup and associated issues (stains, scale, etc.).
  • It can extend the lifespan of appliances by reducing buildup and corrosion.
  • Improves the effectiveness of soaps and detergents.


  • It does not remove any harmful microbes, like bacteria and viruses.
  • Adds salt to the water supply from the brine tank (containing sodium chloride pellets), which can be concerning for individuals on a low-sodium diet.
  • Wastes water during the regeneration process.

🤔Do You Need a Water Softener With Reverse Osmosis?

Yes, opting for a water softener with reverse osmosis is better if you’re facing water hardness problems or a contaminated water supply.

The softening process will soften hard water and protect your RO system from the high levels of hardness minerals found in hard water, which can clog up the RO membrane and reduce efficiency.

With such higher efficiency, your RO system can effectively remove contaminants in your home water. The softener-RO partnership will ensure ultimate safety and prolong the life of your appliances. 

To know the exact contaminants you want your RO to remove, opt for a comprehensive water analysis from Tapscore.

Then, with the right combination of filtration systems, you can have soft, safe, and purified water for your family.

💡Reverse Osmosis VS Water Softener: FAQs

Does reverse osmosis soften water?

No, reverse osmosis systems are not designed to handle the hard water minerals and soften water. It can only remove impurities and reduce total dissolved solids from your water.

So, if you have hard water, using a water softener in addition to an RO system is recommended for optimal water quality.

Can you drink softened water?

Yes, you can drink soft water, but it may contain high sodium levels, which can concern individuals on a low-sodium diet. In such cases, it’s recommended to use a reverse osmosis filter to purify the water further.

Should I use a water softener before reverse osmosis?

Yes, you should use a water softener before a reverse osmosis (RO) system. Hard water minerals can damage the RO membrane, reducing efficiency and potentially causing costly repairs.

Good quality water softening systems can help remove minerals, protecting your RO system and ensuring it operates efficiently to provide pure water.

Does reverse osmosis remove sodium from softened water?

Yes, reverse osmosis filters can effectively remove sodium ions from soft water. The reverse osmosis membrane is designed to filter out dissolved minerals and impurities, including sodium.

This makes it an effective solution for individuals on a low-sodium diet who still want to drink soft water.

Which is easier to maintain, a water softener or reverse osmosis?

Both a water softener and reverse osmosis water filter require some maintenance, but water softeners generally require less frequent maintenance than RO units, which may need more frequent filter changes.

Ultimately, the ease of maintenance depends on the specific system, usage, and cost savings.

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