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What is the Difference between Water Filters, Water Purifiers and Water Softeners?

Many consumers are confused about the differences between water filters and water purifiers as well as the differences between water filters and water softeners. Some industries, mistakenly, use the terms interchangeably and think that the process behind each is similar.

Obviously, consumers who are in the market for cleaner drinking water, free of impurities like chlorine and lead that filters remove, would do well to know that a water softener would not meet their goals as these products are intended for something completely different – for one, removing minerals from their water that cause scale buildup. Similarly, those consumers who were looking for a method to remove potential viruses would be better off with some type of water purification solution.

Below we will take a closer look at what you can expect from a water filter versus a water purifier versus a water softener. You may learn that your water treating needs dictate that you only need one of these options, two of them, or all three.

What’s in Water that We Want Out?

Perhaps the most important place to start in terms of comparing filters, purifiers and softeners is learning what is in our water that we want to remove. As you well know, the purest form of water is simply hydrogen and oxygen or H20. But this pure form of water doesn’t occur naturally [1], it picks up other chemical compounds, minerals and impurities along the way. Some of these mineral sediments are desirable – such as calcium and magnesium – while other items picked up by water in the cycle of municipal and ground water collection, are undesirable. For example, the source of most of our water, municipalities, can contain traces of chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, industrial waste and sometimes bacteria and viruses as well.

The impurities mentioned above can be filtered or removed by filters and purifiers and we will get into the specifics of each below. However, there may be additional items that you wish to remove from your water that are unrelated to your health but are important for reducing scale build-up and increasing the lifespan of your appliances. These mineral-preventing systems are referred to as water softeners, and get their name because they remove the amount of hard minerals that pass through your home’s water supply and into your pipes and appliances.

Water Filters, Water Purifiers and Water Softeners Compared

Water Filters

Water filters such as Filter Butler’s Whole Home Water Filter help to remove or reduce impurities such as chlorine, lead, mercury, magnesium, chromium, copper, nickel, iron, hydrogen sulfide and more. They also inhibit further development of bacteria, algae and fungi but should not be considered the end-solution in the removal of bacteria and viruses. That claim is reserved for water purifiers. However, Filter Butler’s Whole House Water Filter does offer optional systems – the Sub-Micron Post-Filter and UV filter – that will effectively eliminate or reduce bacteria and viruses that are present in some water supplies. These options are not included in the standard product because, put simply, your water supply may not be at risk for these types of contaminants.

Water Purifiers

By most definitions, water purification means that water is free from bacterial contaminants and viruses. However, this definition does not include chemical contaminants such as the ones water filters remove (as mentioned above). This is why water filtration and water purification systems are often used in conjunction with one another – water filters are effective at removing unwanted chemical components like chlorine and fluoride whereas as water filters are effective at removing bacteria and viruses.

Water Softeners

Water softeners, such as Filter Butler’s Salt Free Water Softener, are completely different products than water filters or purification systems, although all three systems can be used together for the cleanest, purest water possible. Water softeners can also be used as stand-alone products, as they are strictly used to remove scale from building up in your pipes as well as in your appliances. The benefits of removing scale from your water are evident in cleaner glassware and silverware, scale-free shower heads and faucets, and more effective bathing and laundry products. Again, these water softeners don’t target impurities in your drinking water or make it any safer to drink, they just filter out minerals that result in inefficient appliances and help to prolong the life of your homes’ assets.

Water Filters VS Water Purifiers VS Water Softeners Overview

Difference between Water Filters
Learn more about Water filters, water purifiers and water softeners in previous articles.

Choosing a Water Treatment Option

When it comes to cleaner, healthier water it is easy to see why many homeowners choose systems that include the capability to filter chemical impurities, remove bacteria and viruses as well as prevent scale build-up in their appliances. At the most basic level, a water filtration system such as Filter Butler’s Whole House Water Filter is a great option for most homeowners who are concerned with the water they drink and cook with. In areas where bacteria and viruses may be present or for homeowners who want the ultimate peace of mind, adding Filter Butler’s optional Sub-Micron Post-Filter and UV filter will help to protect free your water from these undesirable components. If scale build-up is your primary concern, a Salt Free Water Softener is your best option and this system can also be combined with the filtration and purification systems mentioned above for the cleanest water possible.


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Filter Butler
Filter Butler offers whole Home Filters, Whole home Salt Free Softeners, and other drinking water solutions for residential and commercial customers.