Does a Water Softener Remove Chlorine? The Definitive Answer

Water softeners are a popular solution for homeowners dealing with hard water, which can cause various issues ranging from unpleasant taste and odor to scaling and damage to appliances. A common concern amongst users is the effectiveness of these systems in removing chlorine, a widely used disinfectant in public water supplies. Chlorine is known to cause its own set of issues, including aggravating skin and respiratory conditions, altering the taste and smell of drinking water, and reacting with certain compounds to form potentially harmful byproducts.

In understanding the capabilities of water softeners to remove chlorine, it’s essential to grasp their primary function and the mechanism behind it. Water softeners operate using the ion exchange process, which aims to remove hard water minerals like calcium and magnesium. This process involves passing hard water through a resin tank filled with resin beads charged with sodium ions. These ions attract and exchange with the hardness minerals, effectively softening the water.

Contrary to some claims, water softeners generally do not remove chlorine. Their primary focus is on eliminating hardness minerals, and therefore, a separate filtration solution is recommended for effectively tackling chlorine in the water supply. This distinction is crucial for homeowners considering a water softening system and looking for the best method to improve their water quality on multiple fronts.

Understanding Water Softeners and Chlorine

How Water Softeners Work

Water softeners are designed to remove hard water minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can cause scale buildup in pipes and appliances. These systems typically use a process called ion exchange, wherein sodium ions replace the hard water minerals in the water supply.

To do this, water softeners contain a tank filled with resin beads that are saturated with sodium. As water passes through the tank, the resin beads attract and hold onto the hard water minerals, allowing the sodium ions to be released into the water. This process makes the water ‘soft,’ preventing scale buildup and making it gentler on pipes, appliances, and skin.

How Chlorine Enters Water Supply

Chlorine is a potent disinfectant that is commonly added to public water supplies to kill harmful bacteria and other pathogens. It plays a crucial role in ensuring that our water is safe to drink by eliminating disease-causing microorganisms.

However, chlorine can also cause some unwanted side effects. It can react with organic materials in water, producing potentially harmful byproducts, such as chloramines. Additionally, some people find the taste and smell of chlorine in their water to be unpalatable or irritating to their skin.

Given the importance of chlorine for ensuring a safe water supply, it is crucial to understand whether water softeners effectively remove chlorine from our water.

Water softeners alone do not effectively remove chlorine from water. Their primary function is to soften water by removing hard water minerals, not to address chlorine levels. While some water softeners may claim to remove some chlorine, it is generally not their primary function.

To effectively remove chlorine from your water, you should consider using a separate water filter or a specialized water refining system that combines softening and chlorine removal capabilities.

Here is a quick comparison of the entities mentioned:

Water SoftenerRemoves hard water minerals (calcium, magnesium) using sodium ions exchange
ChlorineDisinfectant added to water supply to kill bacteria and other pathogens
Water SupplyPublic source of drinking water, often contains hard water minerals & chlorine
Hard WaterWater with high levels of calcium and magnesium, can cause scale buildup
Sodium IonsReplace hard water minerals in water softeners, making water softer
DisinfectantSubstance used to kill bacteria and other pathogens in water
BacteriaMicroorganisms that can cause illness, targeted by disinfectants like chlorine

Chlorine Removal Methods

There are several methods to remove chlorine from water, each with its own unique features and benefits. In this section, we will explore different chlorine removal methods, including Activated Carbon Filtration, Reverse Osmosis, Catalytic, and Carbon Filtration.

Activated Carbon Filtration

Activated carbon filtration is a widely used and effective method for removing chlorine from water. It utilizes activated carbon, a porous material with a large surface area, to attract and hold onto chlorine molecules, as well as other contaminants.

There are two main types of activated carbon used in filtration systems:

  • Granular Activated Carbon (GAC): Composed of small, loosely packed particles, GAC filters water as it flows through the carbon bed. GAC is particularly effective at removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), taste, and odor issues.
  • Block Activated Carbon (BAC): A solid block of carbon, BAC provides a larger surface area and a higher contaminant removal capacity compared to GAC, making it more effective in removing chlorine and other contaminants.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis (RO) is a powerful water filtration method that can remove a wide range of contaminants, including chlorine. RO systems use a semi-permeable membrane to filter water under pressure, separating impurities and leaving behind purified water. RO systems can effectively remove chlorine as well as salts, chemicals, and microorganisms.

While reverse osmosis is a comprehensive filtration solution, it also removes some beneficial minerals from water, which may affect its taste. Some RO systems come equipped with a re-mineralization cartridge to address this issue.

Catalytic Filtration

Catalytic filtration is a method that softens water by removing dissolved calcium, magnesium, and iron, and can also assist in removing chlorine. This method involves the use of catalytic filter media, which act as a catalyst for chemical reactions to either break down or transform contaminants in the water, including chlorine.

Catalytic filtration has the advantage of producing minimal waste and working at a wide range of water temperatures and pH levels. However, it is important to note that catalytic filtration may not be adequate as a standalone solution for chlorine removal and is often used in combination with other filtration methods.

Carbon Filtration

Carbon filtration is another popular method for removing chlorine from water. Like activated carbon filtration, carbon filtration uses carbon-based filter media to remove contaminants from water. Both granular activated carbon (GAC) and block activated carbon (BAC) can be used in carbon filtration systems.

Carbon filtration is especially effective in removing chlorine, chloramines, and their by-products. It works by a process called adsorption, where contaminants are attracted to the carbon surface and held in place, ultimately being removed from the water.

It’s important to note that while water softeners can improve the taste and smell of water, they are not specifically designed to remove chlorine. Utilizing one of the above-mentioned chlorine removal methods in conjunction with a water softener may provide the best results for both water quality and overall health.

Impact of Chlorinated Water on Health

Health Concerns Related to Drinking Chlorinated Water

While chlorine is an effective disinfectant used to kill pathogens in drinking water and prevent waterborne diseases, it can also have negative effects on human health:

  • Prolonged exposure may potentially lead to an increased risk of certain cancers, such as bladder and colorectal cancers. However, more research is needed to establish a definite link between chlorine and these health issues.
  • Chlorine in drinking water can sometimes interact with organic matter and produce disinfection byproducts (DBPs) like trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs). These byproducts have been associated with potential increased cancer risk.
  • If the water contains lead, chlorine can corrode the lead pipes, causing lead contamination.
  • Iron in water can react with chlorine, creating harmful substances called iron chlorides that may contribute to organ damage.

It is important to note that the risks associated with chlorinated water are generally low, and the benefits of disinfection far outweigh these potential concerns.

Impact on Hair and Skin

Chlorinated water can also affect hair and skin, causing various issues:

  • Hair
    • Chlorine can strip away natural oils from hair, leading to dryness, split ends, and breakage.
    • Dyed or colored hair may experience fading and discoloration due to chlorine exposure.
  • Skin
    • Chlorine can remove natural oils from the skin, resulting in dryness and irritation.
    • Some individuals may experience skin reactions or allergies to chlorine, characterized by redness, itchiness, and rashes.

To minimize these effects, you can consider using special hair and skin products that protect against chlorine exposure or install a water filter to remove chlorine from your water supply.

Water Softener Solutions for Chlorine Removal

When it comes to water softening, it is important to note that traditional water softeners are primarily designed to eliminate hardness minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, which can cause scale buildup in pipes and fixtures. They utilize sodium-inundated resin beads and ion exchange processes to replace these hardness minerals with sodium ions, softening the water. However, these systems do not directly address chlorine removal. To effectively remove chlorine from your water supply, additional methods should be considered.

All-in-One Softeners and Filters

One option to address both hard water minerals and chlorine removal is an all-in-one softeners and filters system. These systems combine softening resin with an additional layer of filtration media that specifically targets chlorine removal. The filtration media guard within these systems typically contains activated carbon, which is highly effective at adsorbing and neutralizing chlorine.

By incorporating both ion exchange for hardness minerals and filtration for chlorine removal, these combined systems provide comprehensive water treatment solutions. With this approach, the water softening process effectively reduces calcium and magnesium levels while the built-in filtration media helps eliminate unwanted chlorine.

Adding a Pre-Filter to Water Softeners

Another method to address the chlorine issue is by adding a pre-filter to your existing water softener system. This entails installing a separate filtration unit, typically a carbon block or granular activated carbon (GAC) filter, ahead of your water softener. The pre-filter serves to remove the chlorine from the water before it enters the water softener system.

Having a pre-filter not only helps in removing chlorine but also protects the softening resin from potential damage that can be caused by low concentrations of chlorine. Chlorine can oxidize and reduce the effectiveness of the resin beads over time.

In summary, while traditional water softeners address the concerns of hardness minerals like calcium and magnesium, they do not inherently remove chlorine. To tackle the problem of chlorine removal, consider investing in an all-in-one softeners and filters system or adding a pre-filter to your existing water softener setup. These solutions will ensure your water is not only free from hardness minerals but also chlorine, providing you with clean, healthy water.

Maintaining a Chlorine-Free Water Supply

Regular Water Filter Maintenance

To ensure a clean and chlorine-free water supply, regular maintenance of your water filter is essential. As water softeners do not effectively remove chlorine, incorporating a water filtration system designed to remove chlorine is crucial. The most common and effective system for eliminating chlorine is a carbon-based filter‚ like a granular activated carbon (GAC) filter or a carbon block filter.

These filters function to remove chlorine and its byproducts by adsorbing them, resulting in cleaner and purer tap water. Regularly changing the filter cartridge according to the manufacturer’s recommendations is necessary to maintain optimal performance. Additionally, periodically inspecting the filter housing for any signs of wear or leakage and promptly addressing these issues can help prolong the filter’s lifespan and maintain the quality of your water supply.

Monitoring Chlorine Levels

Keeping an eye on your water’s chlorine concentration is vital for maintaining a chlorine-free water supply. To do this, you can use simple chlorine testing kits or digital water testing devices. Regularly testing your water ensures that your filtration system is functioning effectively and alerts you to any significant changes in chlorine levels.

If you find persistent high chlorine levels, it might be an indication that your water filter requires maintenance or replacement. Furthermore, maintaining open communication with your local water treatment facility is helpful in staying informed about any changes in water quality or treatment methods.

In summary, while water softeners effectively remove hard water minerals, they are not designed to effectively eliminate chlorine from your water supply. Therefore, it is essential to incorporate a carbon-based water filtration system and regularly maintain it. Monitoring the chlorine levels in your tap water and staying informed about any changes in the water treatment process will help ensure you have a clean, pure and chlorine-free water supply.


In summary, water softeners are not designed to remove chlorine from the water. They primarily focus on removing hard water minerals like calcium and magnesium through the ion exchange process.

To effectively remove chlorine from your water supply, it is advisable to use a water filter specifically designed for this purpose. Combining a water softener with a proper filtration system will ensure that your household receives water that is both soft and free of harmful chemicals like chlorine.