Do I Need a Sediment Filter with a Water Softener?

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You might have noticed that most popular water softeners today come with their own sediment pre-filter.

But are sediment filters essential for water softeners? And are there any occasions when you should buy your own more complex sediment water filtration system to install upstream of your softener?

We’ve shared what you need to know in this guide.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • A sediment pre-filter is a type of filter that removes sediment particles from a whole house water supply.
  • You need a sediment water filter if you want to protect your water softener’s resin bed and extend its lifespan.
  • You might need additional water filters to remove contaminants like chlorine and iron, which also damage a water softener’s resin.

🤔 What Are Water Softener Sediment Filters?

To know whether or not you need a sediment filter for your softener, you need to understand what a sediment filter is, and how it works.

A sediment filter is a type of whole house water filter that’s designed to trap particles of sediment, like sand, dust, and other debris, in water.

The sediment pre-filter commonly included with a water softener is a cartridge filter, meaning that it traps contaminants in filter media, gradually becoming more and more clogged over time.

The typical micron size for a water softener’s sediment filter is 5 microns, meaning that it filters contaminants down to 5 microns in size, but it won’t trap impurities smaller than this.

Sediment pre-filter for water softener

🚰 Should I Use A Sediment Filter For A Water Softener?

👨‍🔧 We strongly recommend using a sediment pre-filter upstream of your water softener system.

Even if you have city water, it may still contain impurities that could damage the water softener’s resin beads. The sediment pre-filter installed upstream of a water softener will trap sediment before it can enter the softening system, preventing them from clogging the resin bed.

In short, you need a sediment filter with a water softener if you want to protect the water softening resin from sediment buildup and you’re keen to extend the resin’s lifespan for as long as possible.

A sediment pre-filter won’t only protect your water softener from sediment damage – it’ll also keep your pipes and water-using appliances sediment-free.

🔎 What Happens If You Don’t Use A Water Softener Pre-Filter?

If you don’t use the included sediment pre-filter for your water softener, the resin may become damaged, affecting its ability to soften water and shortening its lifespan.

Sediment like dirt, sand, and rust could clog your softener resin as water flows through the resin tank. The sediment will take up space where sodium ions could be, reducing the system’s softening capacity.

Water softeners are unable to let go of sediment as easily as hardness minerals when the resin is flushed. As a result, some of the sediment may remain in the resin bed.

If you continue to allow sediment into the softener, it could build up significantly in the resin, greatly reducing its softening capacity.

This means the softener will be unable to produce soft water right up until the next regeneration cycle, and you’ll eventually have to replace the resin.

This is a worst-case scenario, which is especially likely for people on a private well water supply. Well water is higher in sediment than city water because well aquifers often contain silt, sand, and clay, which are drawn into the pump along with water.

Limescale in home

🧐 Do Sediment Filters Offer Complete Protection For Water Softeners?

No. Unfortunately, sediment filters don’t offer complete protection against all the contaminants that could damage a water softener’s resin.

They’re only designed to reduce sediment – they can’t reduce total dissolved solids and other damaging impurities. Plus, they only remove sediment particles down to 5 microns.

Water Filters To Use Alongside Water Softener Sediment Filters

For Chlorine: Carbon Water Filters

If your water contains chlorine or similar disinfection chemicals, consider buying a carbon whole house filter system to use alongside your sediment filter. Carbon water filters use a chemical process called adsorption to trap chlorine, which is known to damage the bonds between the resin beads and reduce their softening abilities.

For Iron: Air Injection/Oxidation Water Filters

If your water contains iron, look at a whole house filter system that removes iron, manganese, and sulfur. Air injection/oxidation systems are popular for this purpose. They oxidize minerals, then trap them in a media bed, pulling them out of your home’s water supply. Iron fouling causes permanent damage in a water softener resin bed, limiting the resin’s capacity to remove minerals and reducing its softening effectiveness.

Springwell WS well water filter system app and sediment filter

For Visible Sediment: Spin-Down Sediment Water Filters

If your water contains very large sediment particles, like visible sand or rust particles, consider installing a dedicated spin-down sediment filter alongside the cartridge-based filter included with your water softener. Large sediment particles will quickly clog a typical water softener sediment pre-filter, which is designed to remove relatively small particles. This clogging will reduce your flow rate and quickly make the softener’s sediment filter ineffective. A spin-down filter is designed to remove much larger sediment particles (usually 50 microns upwards).

🏪 Where To Buy A Water Softener Sediment Pre-Filter

There are a few places where you can buy a sediment pre-filter for your water softener:

From The Water Softener Manufacturer

Many manufacturers of water softeners and water conditioners supply a sediment pre-filter with the initial softener purchase, and sell replacement filters on their websites.

Futuresoft FS1 components with sediment filter

From Other Water Filter Manufacturers

Perhaps you want a more complex sediment pre-filter for your softener, or you want a multi-stage system that can filter water more thoroughly, improving your water quality by removing numerous damaging contaminants and chemicals. In this case, you can look anywhere for a suitable water filter system – just make sure it’s designed for point-of-entry installation.

❔ Do I Need A Sediment Water Filter With A Water Softener? FAQ

Is sediment filter required?

No, a sediment water filter isn’t required for water softeners. If your main water quality issue is hard water, and you’re on a relatively clean water supply, you might not need a filter for sediment. However, we recommend installing a pre-filter for your softening system to protect the resin and ensure it continues to offer the most effective hard water treatment throughout its lifespan.

Should sediment filter go before or after water softener?

Since a sediment pre-filter is a solution to prevent sediment damage in the resin, it should always be installed upstream of the softener system. In fact, a sediment filter should be installed upstream of any other system used to treat or filter water in your home, to prevent clogging and damage to any of these filter media.

Can I install a water softener sediment pre-filter?

Yes. If you’re able to install the water softening system yourself, you should also be able to install the pre-filter. Most water softener sediment filters are designed for easy installation since there’s a dedicated spot for them in the softener’s plumbing. Changing the filter is easy, too – you just take out the old cartridge and replace it with a new one.

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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