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It's my basic understanding that a water softener removes dissolved calcium and magnesium and replaces it with sodium. It's not clear to me, however, which is worse for the reverse osmosis filter, hard water or salty water. The RO system is all plastic, so I'm not worried about corrosion, I'm just curious of the impact on the life of the membrane and the quailty of the water. It's a 3-stage filter system.

My kitchen cold water is not softened (which is typical). I guess people prefer the taste of hard water to softened water. But the rest of the water in the house (except exterior spigots) is softened. I intend to use the RO-filtered water in the kitchen. I will install a separate drinking water faucet for the kitchen sink and use RO-treated water for the refrigerator/ice-cube maker.

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    Not adding unwanted salt to the cooking/drinking water is another reason for the "unsoftened water to kitchen sink" install. – Ecnerwal Apr 8 '15 at 21:20
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Both sources are going to carry mineral deposits which may cause scaling. The pre-filters will remove anything that will clog the membrane, reducing maintenance intervals.

Bottom line is if you want to extend the life of your membranes as much as possible, don't add a process to the supply water that's going to increase mineral deposits on the pre-filtered side and slowly obstruct flow over time.

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