top of page

The Difference Between Water Softeners and Conditioners

Water softeners remove hardness minerals while conditioners prevent scale buildup without affecting mineral content. Learn which system is right for treating Tampa's hard water.
Water softeners remove hardness minerals while conditioners prevent scale buildup without affecting mineral content. Learn which system is right for treating Tampa's hard water.

Hard water is a common issue for homeowners in Tampa Bay who get their water from the Floridan Aquifer. Hard water contains high levels of calcium, magnesium and other minerals that can lead to limescale buildup, dry skin, dull hair and other problems. To combat hard water, many Tampa residents install water softening or conditioning systems. But what's the difference between a water softener and a conditioner?

How Water Softeners Work

Water softeners are whole-house systems that remove minerals like calcium and magnesium ions from the water through a process called ion exchange. Water softeners have a resin bed that attracts and binds to the hard mineral ions. Sodium ions from dissolved salt are released to take the place of the hard ions, leaving your water soft.

Water softeners like the AquaLux Water Softener reduce the hardness minerals throughout your whole plumbing system. By eliminating the minerals that cause scale buildup, water softeners prevent limescale on fixtures, glassware and appliances. They also make water feel smooth for washing and bathing.

The softening process does increase the sodium content of water. For those on low-sodium diets, whole house water filters are an alternative to remove scale-causing hardness while retaining healthy minerals like calcium and magnesium.

How Water Conditioners Work

Water conditioners, like the AquaCarbonGuard Catalytic Carbon Filter, do not remove hardness minerals from water. Instead, they use ingredients like salts and polymers to bind to the minerals and prevent them from forming scale. This keeps your pipes and fixtures free of limescale buildup while retaining the calcium, magnesium and other healthy minerals in your water.

Water conditioners use different approaches to prevent scale without removing hardness:

  • Polyphosphates bind to hardness minerals and keep them suspended in water instead of sticking to pipes and fixtures.

  • Sodium hexametaphosphate interrupts the crystal formation process that leads to limescale buildup.

  • Chelating agents like EDTA grab ahold of hardness mineral ions and prevent them from binding together into scale.

Unlike sodium-based softeners, water conditioners do not increase the sodium content of water. This makes them a good option for homes on low-sodium diets. Their scale prevention abilities also protect plumbing and appliances without stripping healthy minerals from the water.

Comparing Softener and Conditioner Benefits

Water Softeners:

  • Remove hardness minerals throughout whole home

  • Prevent buildup of limescale

  • Make water feel smooth and slippery

  • Reduce soap scum buildup

  • Improve lathering of soaps and shampoos

Water Conditioners:

  • Prevent limescale without removing healthy minerals

  • Retain calcium, magnesium and other essential minerals

  • Don't increase sodium levels

  • Offer scale protection for households on low-sodium diets

Which System Does Your Home Need?

Tampa's water is very hard, with an average hardness around 12-18 grains per gallon (gpg) according to the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County. The ideal hardness level is less than 7 gpg.

Softeners are the most thorough solution for extremely hard water above 10-15 gpg. They will bring the hardness level down to zero and provide whole-home scale and scum prevention.

For medium hardness levels of 7-10 gpg, either a softener or conditioner can be effective. Conditioners provide scale prevention while retaining some hardness and minerals.

Homes with copper pipes prone to pinhole leaks may benefit from a softener to reduce mineral buildup. Soft water also helps households with sensitive skin that’s easily dried out and irritated by hard water minerals.

Consider a conditioner if your priority is retaining minerals for health reasons. These systems provide scale prevention without affecting the water's nutritional profile.

No matter your priorities, analyzing your water first is crucial. A free water test from Aqua-Wise checks hardness levels plus other contaminants affecting water quality and helps determine the best system for your home.

Other Water Treatment Solutions

While softeners and conditioners address water hardness, homes in the Tampa area may also need additional filtration for issues like:

  • Iron - An AquaCarbonGuard Catalytic Carbon Filter removes metallic iron that causes rusty stains and dirty odor.

  • Sulfur & manganese - These elements cause rotten egg odor and black precipitate. An ozone generator like the HydroClear oxidizes sulfur and filters manganese.

  • Sediment - A whole house filter like the AquaBlue removes silt, sand and particulates that abrade plumbing and clog fixtures.

  • Bacteria & parasites - A UV system like the AquaGuard disinfects pathogens without chemicals.

  • Chlorine - A carbon filter reduces chlorine for better tasting water and protects hair/skin.

  • Heavy metals & chemicals - Reverse osmosis systems like AquaRevive or the HydroClear ozone generator remove lead, arsenic, radon, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and more.

For whole-home protection, combining a water softener or conditioner with systems like filtration, UV sanitation and reverse osmosis can address multiple water quality issues.

Water Treatment for Businesses

In addition to residential water solutions, Aqua-Wise provides commercial-grade systems for Tampa Bay businesses through the HydroTech Pro and AquaPurity lines. These heavy-duty systems soften water and remove contaminants for restaurants, hotels, medical facilities and more.

For companies using well water, the WellFusion line provides customized treatment for issues like iron, sulfur, sediments and hardness. Keeping well water clean protects commercial equipment against scale, corrosion, clogs and bacterial growth.

Reliable Water Treatment in Tampa

With over 10 years of experience, Aqua-Wise is Tampa Bay's trusted provider of water softeners, conditioners and filtration systems. Our water treatment experts will test your water, identify issues and engineer the right solutions for your home or business.

Schedule a complimentary water test today by calling 727-236-7161 or request an appointment online for full analysis and honest recommendations:

Take advantage of limited-time promotions like discounts, financing options and bundled system packages. Investing in clean, healthy water improves your home life and benefits your business. Aqua-Wise makes it easy and affordable to treat Tampa's hard water.


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page