Do Water Softeners Remove Chlorine? (What to Know in 2023)

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Chlorine-free water is the desire of so many folks who get their tap water from a municipal supplier. But is it possible to reduce or remove chlorine with a water softener?

In this guide, we’ve answered the common question: “Do water softeners remove chlorine?”

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • Water softeners don’t remove chlorine from drinking water – they’re only designed to remove dissolved calcium and magnesium content.
  • In fact, chlorine can actually damage the water softener resin, so you’re advised to use a pre-treatment system if your water contains this chemical.
  • The only way to remove chlorine is to use a dedicated chlorine removal system, like an activated carbon filter.

🤔 Does A Water Softener Remove Chlorine?

No, a water softener doesn’t remove chlorine. To understand why, let’s quickly recap how water softening works – known as the ion exchange process.

Hard water passes into the resin tank, where it comes into contact with the resin beads. The resin has an opposite charge to the water’s hardness minerals, and attracts the minerals, causing them to stick to the beads.

At the same time, equal amounts of sodium ions are released into the water, balancing out the water’s charge. This water, now softened, flows out of the softener.

Once the resin is saturated with hardness ions, the system regenerates with a salty solution (brine), and the sodium-inundated resin beads are ready to go again.

Chlorine, unlike calcium and magnesium minerals, isn’t a charged ion. That means it isn’t attracted to the softening resin and can’t be exchanged with sodium.

So, while it would be super convenient if a water softener addressed two of the biggest water quality issues in one, it won’t remove chlorine when it softens your water.

Chlorine in tap water

🧐 What Does Chlorine Do To A Water Softener

Beyond the fact that chlorine can’t be removed by a softener, even low concentrations of chlorine will, in time damage your water softener .

If you use chlorinated water in a softener all the time, the chlorine will start to foul the softener resin bed. Chlorine is a harsh chemical, and will oxidize the resin beads, reducing the resin’s softening abilities and cutting its lifespan in half.

When the water softener regenerates, it flushes the hard minerals out of the resin. But this flushing process can’t remove chlorine chemicals, which means these chemicals are able to build up in the resin over time.

Chlorine breaks the bonds between the beads of resin, which may cause them to eventually break off and enter your water supply. As a result, the resin’s softening capacity will decrease.

🔎 How Much Chlorine Is Safe In A Water Softener?

Wondering if you can safely soften your chlorinated tap water with a water softener?

Experts think that up to 1.0 PPM (parts per million) of chlorine in drinking water should be safe (or not noticeably damaging) to a water softener.

However, the ideal solution is to use water that contains no chlorine whatsoever.

The more chlorine your water contains, the higher the likelihood of resin fouling.

You can find out your water’s average chlorine content by reading your local utility’s most recent Water Quality Report.

Checking chlorine level of a local water supply
Staff Sgt. Eric Summers, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

📖 How To Remove Chlorine From Water

The best way to enjoy properly treated soft water throughout your water softener’s lifespan is to protect it from chlorine with a pre-filter.

There are a few different methods of reducing chlorine in your city water.

We recommend granular activated carbon filters, which use a filtration process known as adsorption to remove harmful chlorine and its chemical, “swimming pool” odor.

You can buy a whole-home GAC filter that can be installed upstream of your ion exchange softener, removing chlorine before can enter the softening tank.

There are a few other carbon filter variations, including carbon block filters and catalytic filtration systems, which also are also effective at reducing water’s chlorine levels.

Some of these filters combine activated or catalytic carbon with KDF and other filter media to enhance their chlorine reduction abilities.

📑 Final Word

Water softeners are only capable of reducing scale buildup in water supply systems by reducing calcium and magnesium minerals.

Many water treatment plants add chlorine to their public drinking water supplies. This chlorine, or other harmful chemicals used for disinfection purposes, might compromise the performance of a water softener and damage the resin permanently.

We strongly recommend installing a pre-filter to reduce the chlorine present in your water, helping to extend the lifespan of your softener, so you can get better long-term value from your investment.

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