Do Salt-Free Water Softeners Really Work?

I talk to many people each day, inside and outside the water industry, and the claims by many companies who are trying to sell salt-free, saltless or no-salt (call them what you will) are really confusing. Many are also not rooted in fact. I try to keep an open mind and I am receptive to new and improved technology, but it first has to pass the “smell” test. Devices that “cure” a plethora of water problems and “one size fits all” are dead give-aways to false claims. Let the buyer beware. Frankly, most do not do what they say. However, there is no reason to be confused. The German Technical and Scientific Association for Gas and Water (DVGW) has developed protocol for testing scale prevention properties of these types of devices. This testing protocol is called DVGW Standard W 512.

In order to be certified by this agency, a device must reach the threshold of being at least 80% efficient. There are several devices throughout the world which are certified as being at least 80% efficient, but to my knowledge, there is only one such device in the USA that achieves this level of efficiency, that being nextScaleStop manufactured by next Filtration Technologies, Inc. of Incline Village, Nevada and that is the salt free water conditioner US Water Systems handles, and it is sold under the brand name “Green Wave.”

Remember this: Only a salt-based water softener “softens” water. If you like the “slick” feeling of soft water, you won’t like salt-free systems . Systems that really work without salt, “condition” the water by preventing it from sticking to any surface and one more thing that I think should be done that no magnetic or electronic water conditioning device can do, is to remove or reduce the hazardous chemicals like chlorine, THM’s, PCB’s, pesticides, tastes and odors – while leaving the beneficial minerals. This would be the “greenest” system on the market!

I would not be comfortable selling a product that wasn’t nearly 100% efficient at reducing scale and had the certification to prove it! No electronic or electro-magnetic process does that, but there is a process called Template Assisted Crystallization that does.

This would be a good time to review some blogs and discussions about salt free-systems. Here are some links:




next-scale stop media

To date, the only Salt-Free System in the USA that has passed the Stringent German Standard (DVGW-W512) is nextScaleStop media, used in Watts One-Flow and US WATER’s GreenWave systems.


Q. Do salt-free water softeners really work? – David M., Greenville, Ohio

A. Well, I am going to have to assume that you are referring to electronic, magnetic or media devices that are purported to “condition” water. Notice, I did not say “soften” water. In my opinion, the only way you can “soften” water is by removing a “hard mineral” (calcium, magnesium) and replacing it with a “soft mineral” (sodium, potassium). Conditioning can be accomplished in a number of ways:

  1. Filtration – by removing sediment, silt and other contaminants the water is boing “conditioned.”
  2. Carbon Filtration – by passing the water through a media containing carbon to remove chemicals and chlorine.
  3. Seed Crystalization – by using either electrical current, magnetic or media crystalization to form “seed crystals.”
  4. Oxidation – by using chlorine, potassium permanagante, hrdrogen peroxide, ozone or oxygen to oxidize contaminants in the water.

Filtration, carbon filtration and oxidation are well-established methods of conditioning or treating water, so I will further assume that you are referring to the plethora of companies who are promoting “salt-free water conditioners.” I will say that there is some validity to most of these methods, however companies or websites who say that they “soften” water without salt or make other prespoterous claims like “salt can be absorbed through the skin” or that electronic devices increase sudzing are not dealing in reality and should not be trusted. I always refer people to The BunkHouse – Gallery of water-Related Pseudoscience – Junk Science in the Marketplace – Check it out! While there are some fine products in this category of “water conditioning,” there are also plenty of outright frauds and other companies selling products which have limited validity and application.

How do you tell the difference? There’s the rub… I can rely on my 36 plus years in the water conditioning industry and tell you that while I have always felt that electronic or magnetic water conditioning has some validity, no one can truly articulate or prove how. There is a protocal for testing and validating these types of water treatment devices and to date, no ecectronic or magnetic device in the United States has passed that certification. By the way, to be certified, the developer of ths protocal, called DVGW-12, has established that in order to meet the requirements, the device must be at least 80% efficient in preventing scale. Ask to see the certification of any device which claims to condition the water by any mechanical, electronic or magnetic means. To date, I know of no magnetic or electronic device that mets that criteria in the USA. My guess is that it means they cannot meet that minimum threshold of 80% efficiency in preventing scale. I never cease to be amazed by the claims that many of these companies make. Most of their claims have little basis in reality.

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  1. Mark,

    I have a home with a dug or shallow well. I had a water softener that used salt but my water always had a smell and I had to change filters very frequently. My salt-based system sprung a leak in the water tank and I’m now looking to replace it. What is your best recommendation? Should I stick with salt-based or do you have another suggestion? I do plan to have a new well drilled at some point but it will rely totally on finances.

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