The Difference Between Water Softening and Reverse Osmosis

If you’re trying to decide whether you should install an RO system as well as a water softener in your Traverse City, Clare, Gaylord or Northern Michigan home, look no further. We know that trying to understand exactly what reverse osmosis and water softening, and other water treatment services do for you can be tricky, as many websites use complex language that only people already familiar with water treatment will understand. That’s why we created this easy-to-understand guide so whether you know little about water treatment or nothing at all, you can understand what these products and services do, the differences between them, and how they can benefit you.

What’s the Difference Between Water Softening and Reverse Osmosis?

Water softeners condition the water, while reverse osmosis filters the water. Water softeners use ionization to replace magnesium and calcium ions in the water with sodium or salt ions. Hard water has high levels of magnesium and calcium ions, which can cause dry skin, water spots on glasses and silverware, faded laundry and scale buildup in pipes. Having a soft water system can benefit you by providing you with:

  • Natural tasting water
  • Brighter laundry
  • Spotless, shiny dishes
  • Fewer clogs in pipes
  • Longer-lasting appliances
  • Softer skin and hair

As previously mentioned, reverse osmosis (RO) filters the water. RO does this by removing contaminants and minerals in the water by using a filter. Impurities found in water that can be removed by RO filters include fluoride, chlorine, detergents, salt, lead, pesticides, nitrates, and sulfates. Whole-house reverse osmosis means that you’re getting filtered water all over your home, in all of your sinks, in your showers, and in household appliances. The benefits of having a reverse osmosis water treatment system include:

  • Better tasting water – Water that has not been through reverse osmosis can have a funny taste or be tasteless.
  • No chemicals – Reverse osmosis does not use any chemicals, making it more environmentally friendly.
  • Soft water – Reverse osmosis removes the sodium ions that cause hard water problems.
  • Removes odors and colors – Reverse osmosis removes the impurities that cause odors and colors in your water.

Do I Need a Water Softener and Reverse Osmosis System?

Whether you need water softening and reverse osmosis depends on your home’s needs. Here are some benefits of having both an RO system and water softener so you can decide what your house needs.

  1. Water softeners protect reverse osmosis systems – Having a water softener to take out the magnesium and chloride will take off some of the pressure on the reverse osmosis filter, allowing it to have a longer life.
  2. Different Functions – While water softeners “soften” the water, reverse osmosis water systems filter it. If you just have a water softener, then many impurities will still be present in your water. If you just have a reverse osmosis system, your hard water will only have little improvement.
  3. Cost – Water softeners save energy and house appliance lifespan, while customers with reverse osmosis systems save hundreds of dollars per year after they stop buying water bottles, which is great for the environment as well. Both Dasani, which is a registered trademark of Coca Cola Company, and Aquafina, which is a registered trademark of Pepsi Co Inc., use reverse osmosis to purify their bottled water. Just take a look at the label.

Contact a water treatment company in Northern Michigan to get a free water analysis or a free quote for your water treatment services to see whether a water softener or RO system is right for you.


Central Michigan Office
8964 South Clare Avenue
Clare, MI 48617
Toll-Free: 800.444.1387
Mon-Fri: 8AM-5PM
For Saturday hours, view calendar
Sun: Closed

Northwestern Michigan Office
4543 US-31
Traverse City, MI 49685
Toll-Free: 800.444.1387
Mon-Fri: 8AM-5PM,
CLOSED daily from 12PM - 1PM 
For Saturday hours, view calendar
Sun: Closed

North & Northeastern Michigan Office
1137 Gornick Avenue
Gaylord, MI 49735
Toll-Free: 800.444.1387
Mon-Fri: 8AM - 5PM,
CLOSED daily 1PM - 2PM

Sat & Sun: CLOSED