by Gabe Ergler
What is a Water Conditioner?
April 11, 2016
Water Conditioner

What is a Water Conditioner?

The answer is so simple it might surprise you – A water conditioner is any piece of equipment, device or even a process that changes your water in some way. That’s it, it’s really that simple, a water conditioner changes your water some way.

Examples of familiar water conditioners are:

  • Softener
  • Iron filter
  • Activated carbon filters
  • Sediment filters
  • Aeration systems
  • Disinfection systems
  • Chemical treatments

So, as you can imagine from this short list a water conditioner is a very broad descriptor covering anything that changes the water. A conditioner could be as simple as paper towel. When water has sediment and is poured through a paper towel the paper towel acts as a filter, granted not a very good filter but none the less because the paper towel changes the water by filtering particles it is, by definition, a water conditioner.

Water conditioners can be sorted and organized by functional groups or by how they condition or by the water quality problems they solve. For instance, a Separating Filter is a functional group that conditions water by removing physical substances from the water. Separating filters may be further sorted by the technology or process they use to separate and by the material or contaminant they separate.

Major functional groups of conditioners:

  • Ion exchange
    • Hard water softeners
    • Nitrate
    • Lead
    • Fluoride
  • Adsorption
    • Activated carbon
    • Specialty media
  • Separating
    • Membrane
      • Reverse Osmosis
      • Nano-filtration
      • Ultra-filtration
      • Micro-filtration
    • Sediment and suspended solids
      • Pressure – depth
      • Slow sand – depth
    • Cartridges
      • Pleated
      • Depth
      • String Wound
  • Physical
    • Electro magnetic
    • Crystallization
    • Magnets
    • Electronic or capacitive deionization
  • Chemical
    • Chlorine
    • Hydrogen peroxide
    • Polyphosphate
    • Coagulants
    • Acids
    • Bases
  • Disinfection
    • Ultraviolet
    • Ozone
    • Cartridges
  • Processes
    • Aeration
    • Settling
    • Degassing
    • Distillation

Another way to sort and organized conditioners is by their purpose, what quality problem(s) they solve or what it is they are intended to do to the water.

Major categories of problems conditioners address include:

  • Hardness
    • Spotting and scale control
    • Soap curd and scum
  • Staining
    • Iron and manganese
    • Calcium and magnesium
    • Copper
  • Taste and odor
    • Chlorine
    • Hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg)
    • Metals
    • Organics
  • Sediment
    • Sand, debris and other suspended particles
  • Dissolved solids
  • EPA regulated primary (health related) contaminants
    • Arsenic
    • Lead
    • Nitrate
    • Bacteria, Cysts and viruses

The above list is by no means meant to be all inclusive but to be representative of the variety of conditioners.

Water Treatment is More Thank “Putting in a Softener”

Now that you know what a water conditioner is and you’ve got some idea as to the different types of conditioners you can begin to understand there may be several conditioners that will solve a specific water problem and that water treatment can be much more than “putting in a softener”.

Considering the variety of conditioners and their fit for specific problems in specific situations one gains an appreciation of the often complex world of water treatment. A solid understanding of different conditioners, what they are designed to do, their limitations, required maintenance, how multiple conditioners in a treatment system work together and whether the end product will meet the needs of the customer takes commitment to learning, time and experience. This is one of the primary reasons it is recommended you involve water treatment professionals with training, experience and support from their suppliers to help you identify and solve your water quality problems.

Check around for help identifying your water quality problems and finding the right solutions. Feel free to contact us, we are here to help no matter the water quality problem.


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