Unlike a reverse osmosis system, a water softener does not filter harmful contaminants from water. It removes calcium and magnesium to soften hard water and make washing clothes and showering easier.
Water is softened during reverse osmosis. However, using a reverse osmosis system to treat hard water (above 7 grains) shortens the life of the RO membrane. This will lead to more frequent membrane replacements. If you have hard water, use a water softener to treat it instead.
Reverse osmosis systems and water softeners benefit each other. A water softener installed before the RO system removes iron from the water that can stain your shower, clothes, and toilet orange and clog the RO membrane. An RO system removes sodium added by the water softener.