Hard water in your home can cause more problems than it’s worth. From skin irritation to shower build-up, the effects of untreated tap water are a hassle to deal with. Water descalers and softeners are both valuable tools in combating this problem, but which one should you choose?
A water softener removes 100% of minerals in hard water, delivering soft water through your home. Water descalers prevent build-up on surfaces, but do not soften the water coming through your faucets. Descalers are more cost-effective at $200, but they offer less features than water softeners, at an average $1,000-$6,000 price point.
If you’re looking for a solution to hard water in your household, you may be weighing the pros and cons of a water descaler vs softener. While the two appliances are similar, they are not interchangeable terms. Read on to learn the key differences between a water softener and water descaler, and which one is right for you.
A water descaler is a device used to minimize limescale on surfaces due to hardness in tap water. Hard water contains traces of calcium, manganese, and magnesium compounds that build up over time in areas where water is constantly running.
You may notice limescale collecting on your sinks or in the shower. It has a slightly green tint and is hard to remove. In addition to being an eyesore, lime build up from hard water can affect the functioning of your furnace or water heater and other important appliances in your home.
When you install a descaler, it alters the compounded minerals from the water using a magnetic field. As a result, water that comes in contact with sink, faucet, and shower surfaces over time will have less of an impact. After successful installation and consistent use of a water descaler, limescale build up is eliminated.
A water softener is an appliance that filters out calcium and other hard minerals from tap and drinking water. If you live in an area with especially hard water, you may notice foggy shower glass, faucet residue, or stains inside the toilet.
Aside from the visual appearance, hard water has more extensive long-term effects. When high levels of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals travel through the pipes, they can cause costly damages that require repair or replacement.
In addition, hard water can slow down household chores like doing laundry or washing dishes. When you employ a water softener in your home, you can enjoy less buildup on shiny surfaces and more efficient cleaning processes.
Descaler vs. Water Softener (Key Difference & Pricing)
When deciding between a descaler vs water softener for your home, there are plenty of factors to consider. The main differences are mineral removal, taste, skin and hair health, dishwashing, price, installation and space, maintenance, and overall health benefits. This section will provide you with an overview of all of these key points, helping you decide which option is the best in each category.
Water softeners remove magnesium and calcium minerals from tap and drinking water with resin beads. The beads are located inside the tank, consuming the impurities as water passes through.
When the calcium and magnesium particles are captured, a water softener replaces them with a beneficial element, usually potassium or sodium. The softening process removes 100% of unwanted minerals before the water comes out of your faucets.
Water descalers do not filter or remove any minerals found in water naturally. Instead of capturing impurities, a descaler uses a magnetic field to alter the water.
When the particles are charged by the magnetic field, they essentially “stick” to the water. This means that all minerals travel down the drain with the water, rather than leaving build up behind on sinks and showers. A descaler’s job is to control the damage caused by hard water minerals instead of actually softening the water.
Overall, water softeners provide the best mineral removal. They fully extract the excess compounds, while descalers only minimize build-up on surfaces. If you are looking for ideal water hardness, then water softeners are your go-to.
While a water filter is still required for safe drinking water in tandem with a softener or descaler, there is a difference in taste between the two. When a water softener removes hardness, it also deposits additional minerals into the water that can alter the taste.
Many water softeners use salt to get rid of any impurities, which is noticeable when consumed. Since descalers do not remove any minerals from the water, it will taste the same even after treatment. In terms of water taste, descalers do the job the best.
Skin and hair health
Your skin and hair are directly affected by hard water when washing your hands, bathing, and showering. When hard water comes in contact with your body, harmful minerals penetrate your skin and cause dryness.
Softened water, on the other hand, lathers soap well and has a moisturizing quality. After rinsing your hands or taking a shower with soft water, you will not feel any residue left on your skin or hair.
Since water softeners remove minerals from water completely, this is the safest option for skin and hair health. Descalers do not remove any of these minerals, exposing you to the negative effects of hard water.
Similar to hand-washing and bathing, dishwashing is much easier with soft water. Soap is able to lather easily and doesn’t leave behind any residue after rinsing. When your dishes are washed with soft water, you can enjoy cleaner and shinier results.
A water softener is best for dishwashing and cleaning windows, because it releases soft water without minerals into your home. A descaler will minimize the impact of water that touches different surfaces and prevent limescale, but the water is still hard.
When you wash dishes or windows with water that has been through the descaling process, you will still see hard water residue on the surfaces that are supposed to be shiny.
The average cost of a water softener can be anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000, depending on the make and model. In some instances, you may be able to find a water softener unit for as low as $500.
A water descaler is much more cost-efficient, with an average price of $200. However, a descaler has much less features than a full water softener.
The benefits you get out of each appliance should be a huge factor in your purchasing decision. While water softeners have a four-figure price tag, they effectively remove all unwanted minerals from your water source, generating clean and soft water for showers, drinking, and chores.
Water descalers are very specific in their functions, only eliminating build up from hard water on surfaces. Therefore, the low price is warranted, but you may still be seeking the additional features a water softener can provide. With all things considered, a water softener is most worth it for the price based on how effective it is in eliminating hard water.
Installation and space
A water descaler is a small device added on to your water pipe near the meter. In addition to the compact unit, this option is great for limited space in your garage or basement, as it can be split between the distributor and water pipes.
Water softeners are much larger units that usually require professional installation. They are installed near the main water line. Salt is used in the tank to start the process.
Overall, a water descaler is much easier to install and takes up less space. You can complete both installations on your own, but it’s best to consult with a professional for water softener installation.
Regular maintenance is required for water softeners to prevent damage to your unit, extend its lifespan, and improve the quality of your home’s soft water. Fortunately, this only needs to be done once a year. The resin tank and salt brine must be cleaned thoroughly by opening the tank, removing all components, and adding a cleaning solution before flushing it out manually.
Since water descalers don’t have tanks of salt or hold any water inside, they also don’t require any maintenance. They simply treat passing water with a magnetic field, so no particular cleaning processes are necessary. This makes a water descaler the best option in this category.
The health benefits provided by a water softener mostly have to do with skin and hair. When washing your hands or submerging yourself into soft water in the bath or shower, you won’t experience any drying effects or irritating build up.
Although water softeners effectively remove minerals that are harmful to human skin and shiny surfaces, they also eliminate beneficial minerals from the water. Essential nutrients are taken out of drinking water that has been treated by a softener.
Water descalers, on the other hand, are not the best for showers and hand-washing. They eliminate lime build up on surfaces, but don’t filter any of these harsh compounds out of the water that passes through the faucet. When hard water comes in contact with your skin, you can experience dryness and discomfort.
While descalers are not ideal for skin and hair health, they allow beneficial minerals to remain in a home’s water supply. The magnetic treatment effectively cleans harmful bacteria, making filtered water safe and nutritious to drink.
Which one is the best?
Based on all of the above-listed features and comparisons, water softeners are the best overall. With a single unit, you can fully eliminate all harsh minerals from your home’s water system, improving your showers, dishwashing, and laundry.
Water descalers are best for homes in locations that don’t allow water softeners. In this case, a descaler is the next-best thing. However, it should be noted that descalers do not soften water at all, so you will still experience the negative effects of hard water.
How long before you feel the difference with a water softener?
The amount of time it takes to feel the difference with a new water softener will depend on the original hardness of the water. If you live in an area with extremely hard water, you can expect this process to take up to two weeks. In other cases where the build up wasn’t as severe to begin with, this timeline can decrease from several days to a week.
Does a descaler purify water for drinking?
No. A water descaler does not effectively filter or purify water on its own. The magnetic fields get rid of toxins and bacteria, but a separate water filter is necessary for safe drinking. You should not attempt to consume descaled water without additional treatment.
Is it OK to drink softened water?
Softener water is technically OK to drink, but the use of a filter is recommended for drinking. You should take extra caution in areas with extremely hard water to begin with, as there will likely be higher sodium levels.
Are water softeners still allowed?
In general, water softeners are still allowed in most places across the United States. However, some areas, like California, have banned the use of traditional softeners. Connecticut, Michigan, Texas, and Massachusetts also have limitations on how salt can get distributed to the sewer system. Check your local regulations before installing a new water softener.
In summary, the key differences between water softeners and descalers are mineral removal, taste, skin and hair health, dishwashing, price, installation and space, maintenance, and overall health benefits. Water descalers use a magnetic field to make minerals “stick” to the water instead of leaving behind residue on nearby surfaces. Water softeners, on the other hand, completely remove those minerals and “soften” the water.
Each appliance has its own set of benefits. For instance, water softeners are better for hair, skin, and cleaning, while descalers retain helpful minerals in drinking water. It’s important to note that both options still require a water filter for safe consumption.
The best decision for your home between a water descaler vs softener will depend on which of these features are most important and practical for your everyday life. All in all, a water softener provides the most bang for your buck.
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.