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What is the difference between a water softener and a water filter?

(14 Posts)
napkin Tue 07-May-13 20:36:22

I am having problems with friction on my clothes, looking worn after washed. My children have very dry skin and I have orange marks all around my shower room. Need to do something about it but not sure if I need a water softener, filter or both? What are the differences?

didireallysaythat Tue 07-May-13 21:19:00

A water softener removes lime scale which makes water hard but does thus using salt so the softened water can't be drunk. A water filter also removes lime scale but to a lesser extent, but can be drunk.

The former is what you want for skin issues. Orange marks sound more like mould. Do your taps have lime scale ?

napkin Tue 07-May-13 21:25:40

Can you install the water softener so it don't go through your drinking water? Yes my taps are covered in lime scale.

napkin Tue 07-May-13 21:26:52

Just don't want to pay out for one when I need another. Have a slight egg smell in my drinking water but it could be the drains, i'm not sure.

GuinevereOfTheRoyalCourt Tue 07-May-13 22:21:42

Softened water can usually be drunk. It depends on how hard your water is, but in most cases the rise in sodium levels won't be enough to deem it unsafe to drink.

The current recommendations are to provide a separate tap for unsoftened water for drinking, but it's guidance only and not compulsory. So you could have soft water going everywhere but the kitchen cold tap, for example. (You'll then have to fill the kettle from the hot tap if you don't want it to fur up though!)

We have both hard water & soft water pipes running to our kitchen sink, but currently only have the soft water one connected to the tap. It would be very easy to change in the future if our mains water quality changes and/or we become neurotic about our sodium intake.

Water filters remove some of the minerals from water to make it taste nicer to drink. It will take a bit of the hardness out which will prevent your kettle furring up but it's more about removing general impurities. It's probably what you'll need if your drinking water tastes unpleasant though.

You want a water softener if you want to avoid orange scum and dry skin. And I can highly recommend one.

lazydog Tue 07-May-13 22:30:14

The orange marks and the sulphur smell make me think that your water is high in iron. We get the rust stains and slight sulphur smell from our well water - the smell is produced by a certain (harmless) bacteria that thrives in a high iron environment. Are you on mains water...? We have a water softener and still drink the water. We're aware that it adds sodium, but it's actually a pretty small amount. Not saying it's good, as most diets are too high in salt anyway, but none of us have high blood pressure so don't really watch our salt intake that much. I do remember checking and being surprised to find that a cup (8 fl oz) of softened water contains on average 12.5 milligrams of sodium, while slice of bread contains anywhere between 100-200 milligrams!!

napkin Wed 08-May-13 09:05:29

Yes I am on mains water. So if I have high iron in my water will it be better to get a softener? How can I connect it so my drinking water does not get affected as worried about my children and dog drinking it. Also my husband works for British Gas and said a water softener can do damage to our combi boiler, it can corrode the boiler and rads so worried about this as well.

specialsubject Wed 08-May-13 10:07:05

have you spoken to your water company? What did they say?

napkin Wed 08-May-13 10:43:19

No, don't want to in case they stick me on a water meter.

guineapiglet Wed 08-May-13 11:03:48

Hi - we have just bought a house in SE and inherited a water softener - we have to fill it with blocks of salt every month ( £100 a year roughly) - we had no experience of this at all having moved from NW. The water here is very chalky. According to the blurb, softened water will descale pipes etc and is supposed to be more economical because you use less soap powder/washing liquid etc - but boiler/radiators do have to be power flushed apparently, so am asking local plumber for advice re central heating. Also recommend to have separate drinking water tap, so as you can see it is a faff. When we moved to NW originally our water had a yellowish tinge and you could smell it so we got the water board/united utilities to test it, which you could do just to check on it ( this is separate from the water suppliers like southern water etc - but fwiw as a family of four we have found it much cheaper to have a water meter than not to have one!).

A filter will literally filter out all the impurities in the water but it won't change it from hard to soft water if that makes sense. I miss our drinking water up north so much, and if I could would organise a regular tanker full to come and deliver to us!! smile

napkin Wed 08-May-13 14:13:34

I live in thames water area and use a lot of water so think it will cost more. Might buy a home water testing kit, if they are any good?

GuinevereOfTheRoyalCourt Wed 08-May-13 14:35:23

Depends where on the Thames you are. You can check for hardness here.

Our water is classified as "hard" and I have to add more salt about every 6 weeks. Getting rid of the limescale gets rid of most stains as they tend to stick to it. You end up with spotless teapots afterwards!

I got very confused about boilers and water softeners too. The issue is meant to be with aluminium heat exchangers corroding, although further investigation results in absolutely no evidence for it ever happening. The water softener companies all claim that it isn't a problem and in fact softened water will prolong the life of your boiler as there won't be any limescale build up.

It would be utterly pointless to have a water softener and only use it for the cold water though!

PigletJohn Wed 08-May-13 15:02:27

I posted links on the other thread www.mumsnet.com/Talk/good_housekeeping/1750070-What-is-the-difference-between-a-water-filter-and-a-water-softener

napkin Wed 08-May-13 19:48:25

Anyone had any bad experiences with a water softener?

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