As our planet becomes increasingly overpopulated, having access to clean, safe drinking water is essential if we are to keep as healthy as possible.

reverse osmosis vs water softener

In this article, we compare two techniques that can be used to provide us with pure, clean drinking water without adding to the problem of plastic pollution. These are reverse osmosis and water softener. Let’s take a look at each one in turn.

Reverse Osmosis System

What is a Reverse Osmosis System

If you paid attention in science lessons at school, you may remember the term osmosis- as the movement of water passively from an area of high to low concentration. Reverse Osmosis works in the opposite way to this principle by moving water out of an area where it is in low concentration to one where it is high.

How does the Reverse Osmosis System work?

A high-pressure pump is applied to remove salt ions and molecules by increasing pressure on the salt side of the membrane. This forces the water out, keeping the dissolved salts and pollutants on one side of the membrane and pure water on the other.

The negative aspect and positive aspect of RO System

On the plus side, RO units give a simple, cost-effective solution for providing clean, pollutant-free water for the family to enjoy. It can be relied upon as a thorough filtering method as it removes a lot of harmful microbes, sediment, and salts that could otherwise enter the body. Not to mention clog up plumbing and appliances with limescale.

However, there are concerns amongst some experts that as it removes all salt ions from water then our bodies may become deficient in levels of salt ions such as sodium and potassium which are needed for healthy functioning of the heart and muscles.

Water Softener System

What is a Water Softener?

A water softener is a product that removes the ions that make water hard from it. These are usually calcium and magnesium.

How Does Water Softener Work?

Water softeners are based upon a system called ion-exchange. They involve passing hard water which is high in calcium and magnesium ions through an ion-exchange resin. As the water flows through the tank, the calcium and magnesium ions are replaced by sodium chloride (brine).

The Negative and Positive Aspects of Water Softener

The advantage of this system is that the calcium and magnesium ions that can wreak havoc on your washing machine and water pipes are removed. Thus, saving you money by extending the lifecycle of your appliances.

The disadvantage is that these processes can be expensive and ion levels need to be monitored to make sure that you don’t end up with too high levels of other unwanted compounds in the water.

What’s the Difference Between a Water Softener and Reverse Osmosis?

So, to sum up- the key difference between reverse osmosis and water softener techniques is that in reverse osmosis, everything is removed from the water leaving you with just H20. Whereas water softeners involve replacing hard water ions such as calcium and magnesium with ones such as sodium that don’t form the annoying limescale that clogs up your water pipes.

Do I Need a Water Softener and a Reverse Osmosis System?

For the best quality drinking water, many people recommend installing both systems. The RO system will remove impurities and some salts from the water. Removing hard ions with the water softener helps to prolong the life of the reverse osmosis membrane system (RO) and protect it from damage.

Best Water Softener with Reverse Osmosis

1. Aquasure Whole House Water Softener/Reverse Osmosis

How does Aquasure Whole House Water Softener work?

This system comes in three parts:


Stage 1- an SCP Sediment/ GAC Whole house water filter

The outer layer removes suspended particles while the inner carbon core absorbs chlorine, odours and chemicals. It can treat 50,000 gallons of water. Its unique dual, radial flow design produces a high flow rate. This enables the system to maintain pressure and effectively reduces water contaminants.

Stage 2- 48,000 grains Whole House Water Softener

This is constructed from a high strength corrosion resistant fiberglass line polyethylene tank. It is designed to treat up to 48,000 grains of hardness by removing hard ions such as calcium and magnesium. Its advanced digital control valve calculates the amount of water treated – providing a cost-effective solution to giving you spa quality water and increasing the longevity of your pipes and plumbing fixtures.

Stage 3: 75 GDP Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System

This amazingly simple, yet powerful system removes 99% of water contaminants such as fluoride, arsenic, lead, bacteria and viruses. This allows you to enjoy healthy, clean, crisp drinking tater water from the comfort of your own home. Its next-generation quick twist cartridge design is compact and easy to install and maintain, even in the tightest of spaces. For added peace of mind, it comes with a SHOkBLOK flow leak prevention system.

Our Test Results:

What We Like:

  • A 0.0001-micron membrane to remove heavy metals and unwanted particles. This will reduce water bills and improve the lifespan of appliances such as your washing machine and dishwasher.
  • Efficient, high-performing Aquatrol control head and RO membrane help save water and maintenance costs.
  • Constructed from high-strength premium quality materials.
  • Built-in safety features that protect your home in down-time.
  • Improve your skin’s health by removing hard ions that can clog up your skin and cause irritations.

What We Didn’t Like:

  • May need a plumber to help install if pipework doesn’t match up.
  • If installing outside, will need protection against the elements.

2. Tier1 Essential Series 48,000 Grain Water Softener with RO System

How Does Tier1 Essential Series work?


This complete package uses 4 stages to deliver up to 50 gallons of water a day. The first stage uses sediment and activated Carbon to remove large particles and chlorine, in a backwash phase- preventing them from reaching the main filter.

The next step is the RO membrane where dissolved metals and salt contaminants such as barium, cadmium, copper, fluoride and nitrates are removed from the water and sent down a separate wastewater drain. The water enters a recharge phase- it passes through a brine tank where calcium and magnesium ions are exchanged for sodium.

Lastly, the mineral tank is flushed or regenerated to remove excess brine and the tank is refilled. This system operates on an electric timer in which it is flushed and recharged on a regular schedule.


  • Operating pressure of 20-120 PSI and temperature of 40-120 F
  • Flow rate- 11.2 GPM
  • Mineral tank measures:15″ X 34″ with 1.5 cubic feet of resin in the mineral tank. The tank holds 130L square of brine with a grid and well.

Our Test Results:

  • Reliable, precise, easy to use
  • Good value for money
  • Straightforward to install- can be installed without needing a plumber.
  • Some issues over the quality of parts and operation have been raised
  • The regeneration cycle can take two hours.

What We Like:

  • Removes problems caused by scale- this protects your plumbing, water heater and saves you time and money repairing these devices
  • Having soft water gives you better skin and shiny hair by removing the minerals that cause soap scum which makes your skin itchy and hair lifeless
  • Soft water also makes for easier cleaning- extending the life of your laundry and using less soap
  • Fully adjustable cycle times which can be adjusted manually for ease of operation.
  • User-friendly LCD display- making it reliable, precise, and easy to use.

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Regeneration takes two hours which may disrupt the water service. Users avoid this issue by scheduling the regeneration for overnight.
  • There is not an indicator to notify you of low salt levels

3. iSpring RCC7 Under Sink 5-Stage Reverse Osmosis System and Ultimate Water Softener

How Does iSpring RCC7 work?


This economical water filter and water softener system is America’s favorite brand of water filtration system. It is based on a 5-stage reverse osmosis system and mounted under the sink for ease of storage and fitting.

It removes up to 99 % of contaminants including lead, chloride, arsenic, asbestos etc. The system can easily be installed by yourself with all parts included and clear, easy to follow instructions and videos.

To fit, simply attach the tubing to quick-fitting connectors and lock. No threading pipes are needed. Water enters the system through a series of filters. The first is a PP sediment filter. Next is the Carbon KDF (GAC) filter and finally a carbon block (CTO) filter.

These remove large contaminants and protect the RO membrane from chlorine and other chemicals. Next, is the RO filter which removes particles down to 0.0001 microns, ensuring that your water is as pure as possible. Water then passes through a final GAC filter before arriving at the faucet. This gives you bottled quality water with no hardness and no sodium.

Our Test Results:

  • iSpring RCC7 meets recognized industry standards
  • Noticeable improvement in the quality of drinking water.
  • Filters are very reasonably priced, unlike those of competitors.
  • Prices haven’t noticeably changed over the last 6 years.
  • Filters can be used longer than 6 months if needed without sacrificing quality.
  • Great customer service with professional, speedy resolution of issues.
  • Filters require maintenance and attention, particularly if you live in an area of high chlorine levels

What We Like:

  • Certified to NSF/ANSI 58- The system goes through rigorous testing for air leaks, pressure, and cycle resistance to maintain premium quality and high-performance standards.
  • Rated for up to 75 gallons per day giving you plenty of clean drinking water on demand
  • Premium quality components for a reliable, low maintenance service
  • Specialist support just a phone call away
  • Clear see-through 1st stage housing so you can easily inspect the filter
  • Made from beautiful European designed brushed nickel

What We Didn’t Like:

  • A few issues with parts have been reported but these were quickly resolved by customer services.
  • Filters require maintenance and attention and changing more often than recommended by the manufacturer if you live in an area with high chlorine levels.


What is better- reverse osmosis or water softener?

To answer this question, you need to decide on what outcome you are looking for. Reverse osmosis purifies water by removing microbes and impurities so it looks, smells, and tastes better than water supplied by the municipality.

A water softener removes calcium and magnesium so your hair and skin will appear shinier and it will extend the lifespan of your appliances.

What is not removed by reverse osmosis?

Reverse osmosis does remove many salts, microbes, and impurities. However, smaller molecules may pass through the membrane such as herbicides and chlorine.

Does reverse osmosis remove salt from a water softener?

Reverse osmosis will generally remove salt and other smaller molecules such as manganese, iron, fluoride, and lead from water that has been treated with a water softener.


If you are looking for fresh, pure, clean drinking water, a combination reverse osmosis and water softener system appears to be the best solution- not just to your health but to your appliances also. There are lots of water purification systems on the market which are simple to install and use and have good customer service to back them up.

The cost of purchasing a reverse osmosis and water softener system may well be paid back several times over in terms of the benefits to your health and prolongation of the lifespan of your plumbing and appliances.

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