Reviews of the Best Water Softeners of 2020

The harsh truth is that not all water is equal — and you’ll know this if you live in an area where hard water is common. If you live in an area with this water (water with various minerals and other contaminants), chances are that you will want to invest in a water softener system to treat it. After all, by definition, a water softener removes minerals like calcium and magnesium ions from hard water.

That said, identifying the best water softener system for your family can be a daunting task. This is not a device you want to make a rash decision over, as it has a serious impact on the running water in your home.

There are countless softening systems on the market, but at the end of the day, it’s about finding the one that will suit you, your family and your home’s unique needs. Fortunately, our best water softener reviews and buying guide will help make an educated decision.

IMAGE PRODUCT
  • An installation kit containing a hardness test strip
  • A black 10-inch mineral tank pre-loaded with resin
  • A black 36-inch brine
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  • High-density polyethylene salt tank
  • 48,000-grain capacity
  • WQA gold seal
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  • Complete brine tank, including brine well and a float assembly
  • LCD display plus touchpad control
  • 1-inch stainless steel bypass valve
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  • Permanent stainless steel filter
  • 5 oz. of polyphosphate siliphos crystals
  • Salt-free water softener
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  • Mineral tank comes pre-loaded with resin
  • Digital metered valve
  • High flow water softener
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  • Pre-grade installation kit
  • High-performance filtration and softening for 1 million gallons or 10 years
  • Uv Sterilight filtration system
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  • Compact design; takes up 1.3 sq. ft. floor space
  • Deluxe single disk rotary valve
  • Installation items fit ¾-inch copper plumbing pipes
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  • No salt, or any other chemical additive
  • Life time repair and replace warranty
  • Standard cables for pipes with 1.5-inch diameters
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  • Installation kit
  • Bypass valve which fits a 1-inch male pipe thread
  • Auto sense technology
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  • A carbon block filtration system (which is rated at 5 microns)
  • Non-salt additive (Siliphos)
  • A cartridge with 40,000 gallon usage
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10 Best Water Softener Reviews of 2020

Main Features

  • An installation kit containing a hardness test strip, amongst other items
  • A black 10-inch mineral tank pre-loaded with resin
  • A black 36-inch brine tank
  • Upgraded 10% cross-linked resin system
  • Fleck 5600 SXT digital valve with a 5-year warranty
  • 48,000 grain maximum capacity
  • 12 GPM flow rate
  • The two tanks have a 10-year warranty​


ABCwaters has credited the Fleck 5600 sxt water softener as their best product — and this isn’t a marketing ploy. There is a lot to love about this model that includes a unique custom made Fleck 5600 sxt digital valve. In simple terms, the Fleck 5600 sxt lives up to expectation.

Typical softeners with resin have the standard 8% resin system — resin being the bed through which water flows through to soften. The popular Fleck 5600 sxt model, however, is in a league of its own. In place of the standard 8% resin system, this softener instead comes with an upgraded 10% cross-linked resin system. This extends the lifespan of the top rated water softener system, making it that much more of a worthy investment.

ABCwaters adds further value to the model by including an installation kit in the Fleck 5600 sxt product package! This kit contains a variety of useful items like a sanitizer packet, a small parts kit, a 4ft. 3/8- inch brine line and silicone lube. It also comes with a guide and hardness test strips.

If you are looking for a softener that comes with its own kit, then the Fleck 5600 sxt is perfect for you.

 

Video Review: 


Pros
  • It comes with an installation kit so you don’t have to make a trip to the store to get one.
  • The upgraded 10% cross-linked resin system extends the softener’s life.
  • The Fleck 5600 SXT is WQA certified

Cons
  • A bit pricey for those on a budget

Main Features

  • High-density polyethylene salt tank
  • 48,000 grain capacity
  • WQA gold seal
  • User-friendly LCD display
  • Digital meter control valve
  • Adjustable cycle times
  • Installation kit comes with two tanks, an adapter and a bypass valve.
  • Brine safety valve

The Tier1 Digital Water Softener is touted as a top rated water softener system largely because of how efficiently the electric system softens water. The popular Tier1 is fitted with user-friendly electronic features including an LCD display that shows time, regeneration mode and how many gallons of water are left.

Tier1’s digital water softener also comes with a WQA gold seal – this means that it’s been tested and certified to industry standards by the Water Quality Association [1].

Thanks to its easy-to-use electronic features, this product is ideal for homeowners who want an electronic water softener system that can be easily operated


Pros

  • The LCD display and its many features makes this softener very easy to operate.

  • It comes with a digital metered valve. This lets you regulate the softener operation based on your water needs.

Cons
  • Users may encounter a minor difficulty while attaching the adapter.

Main Features

  • Complete brine tank, including brine well and a float assembly
  • LCD display plus touchpad control
  • 1-inch stainless steel bypass valve
  • Digital metered valve
  • 64,000 maximum grain capacity
  • 5-year warranty on control head and a 10-year warranty on tank

The Fleck Iron Pro 2 combination water softener iron filter does more than soften water — it’s the best water softener system for iron removal  on the market. Fleck, the manufacturers of Iron Pro 2, integrated an iron filter into this product to make it that much more efficient and helpful in softening and filtering water. Thanks to its water filter, the softener Iron Pro2 is able to remove hardness minerals, while also eradicating ferrous iron.

This softener removes sediments, rust and sulfur up to 2ppm, with the exception of iron, calcium and magnesium. It is the perfect solution for any household with hardness contaminants and iron impurities in their water.

Additionally, this Fleck model is fitted with a digital metered valve, which helps to regulate the regeneration process. In other words, it regenerates water only when it needs to.

If a household’s water usage increases, the product regenerates more to keep up. In the same way, if water usage decreases, it regenerates less to save it. This not only conserves energy but will help you cut down your utility bills!

The Fleck Iron Pro 2 performs two functions at the same time, and looks great while doing so! In addition to its incredible capabilities, it is also sleek in design.

It sports an LCD display coupled with touchpad controls and comes with a 1-inch stainless steel bypass valve. This means that it can be easily removed and reconnected during installation and maintenance. This combination water softener iron is an efficient package deal that is a win-win solution for your family.


Pros
  • Iron Pro 2 softens your water, while also removing iron impurities.
  • Regulates regeneration so get just as much water as you need whenever you need it.
  • LCD display and touchpads make the Iron Pro2 easy to operate.
  • Plumbers can easily remove and replace the stainless steel bypass valve.

Cons
  • The installation manual is a little hard to grasp.
  • Homeowners who like to get hands-on may have some difficulty.

Main Features

  • Permanent stainless steel filter
  • 5 oz. of polyphosphate siliphos crystals
  • Salt-free water softener
  • High impact rust-resistant poly filter housing
  • 30 GPM flow rate

As the name implies, the Bullet Triple Action Poly water softener performs three functions. It acts as a water conditioner, a water softener system and a water filtering appliance.

The Triple Action Poly first filters water, and then breaks down the calcium in it to form aragonite crystals. The third and last step occurs when siliphos poly-phosphates crystals are added to the water. Siliphos helps to keep the aragonite crystals suspended.

This model goes through a specific three-way process for filtering, softening and conditioning your water:

  1. Water Filtering: The Bullet Triple Action Poly is fitted with a stainless steel 50-micron filter. When your water passes through this filter, it removes the impurities. After the water filtering stage, it moves on to the second stage.
  2. Water Conditioner: The Bullet Triple Poly Action’sn electro-mechanical water conditioning core breaks down the calcium in your water to form aragonite crystals. Aragonite is a much milder form of calcium which won’t accumulate in your pipes or cause corrosion. Now, your conditioned water is ready for softening.
  3. Water Softening System: The Triple Poly Action contains 10.5 ounces of Polyphosphate Siliphos crystals. These siliphos crystals complete the purification and softening process by suspending the aragonite crystals in the conditioned water. Put simply, siliphos rounds up all the aragonite crystals in your water, and keeps them in perpetual suspension. Now, your water has been filtered, conditioned and softened.

The Triple Poly Action is the perfect home water softener and filter.


Pros
  • The Bullet Triple Poly Action takes care of all your water filtration and softening needs. It eliminates the need to buy separate products.
  • The Permanent stainless steel filter is, well, permanent. This means you don’t have to keep buying filters.
  • The stainless steel filter can also be removed at any time for cleaning.

Cons

  • You might experience a bit of a struggle while putting the pieces together.

  • This happens because all the fixtures are close together.

Main Features

  • Four separate regeneration modes (Day of the Week, meter delayed, meter Immediate, time clock delayed)
  • Control to trigger regeneration when full grains capacity is reached.
  • Double backwashing capabilities so saltwater rinses the resin twice.
  • Backup Power Capacitor maintains the regeneration cycle and your settings

You don’t want mineral build up in your water to impact your family. If your house has hard water, you need a device that can service your entire home. The Fleck 7000 SXT whole house water softener is ideal if you have a full house of people who need access to a large amount of water.’

This model comes with a comprehensive kit so that you have everything you need for installation. It also helps that its parts are readily available and fairly priced if they are needed.

The best part? The model is poly-lined and reinforced with fibreglass for durability — this model may be on the pricier side, but you can rest easy knowing it’s expected to last anywhere between 20 to 30 years if maintained properly.

This isn’t like other home water softeners, as it comes complete with unique functionalities that many others don’t have. For example, this Fleck model is demand initiated — this means that you get to control when water is regenerated. Most regeneration programs are timed and scheduled, but with this model, you can choose when you want to refill the water — which will mean only good things for your bill.

This Fleck grain home water softener system is easy to set up and maintain and boasts features that leave you in control. It may be on the pricier side, but its capabilities to soften all the water in your house makes it worth the investment!


Pros
  • Mineral tank comes pre-loaded with resin
  • Digital metered valve
  • High flow rate water softener
  • poly-lined and reinforced with fibreglass for durability
  • Fleck Robust warranty

Cons
  • Users may encounter a minor difficulty while attaching the adapter.

Main Features

  • UV Sterilight filtration system
  • Pre-grade installation kit with items like the filtration tank, Aquasana SimplySoft, brass fittings, 20-inch pre-filter and bend supports
  • Installation kit including the sub-micron post filter and shut-off valves fit a 0.75-inch pipe
  • High-performance filtering and softening for 1 million gallons or 10 years

There’s a lot to love about this combo product from Aquasana. Aquasana combines both a filtration system and a salt free water softener system with their whole house water softener and water filter. This model is able to prevent the build-up of scale through purely natural means., Aquasana leaves behind all the important minerals.

Aquasana’s water filter system uses a UV Sterilight filtration which kills off all bacteria and viruses in your water. The UV Sterilight filtration system kills off bacteria like giardia, E.coli, and cryptosporidium.

The product also comes with the option of an upgrade to an Aquasana SimplySoft water descaler. The Aquasana SimplySoft utilizes SCM technology to avoid the formation of scale and corrosion.

This combination water filtering and water softener system is particularly ideal for homeowners with large households and a preference for naturally purified and salt-free water.


Pros
  • Aquasana demineralizes your water without eliminating the important minerals.
  • Since it’s sodium-free, anyone can consume the water.
  • Easy access to upgrade parts like the Aquasana SimplySoft
  • It takes care of all your water filtration and softening needs simultaneously.

Cons
  • Aquasana is the most expensive product on our list. This is due to the fact that it also acts as a filtration system.

Main Features

  • Compact design; takes up 1.3 sq. ft. floor space
  • Deluxe single disk rotary valve
  • Installation kits include washers, copper connectors and bypass valve step down conversion nuts
  • Installation items fit ¾-inch copper plumbing pipes
  • Immediate regeneration button
  • Electronic “look-see” technology to monitor water usage


This Morton model stands out particularly because of its compact design. This grain water softener promises all the functionalities of a conventional softening product but is a little different. Most softeners come with two tanks, whereas Morton’s comes with one.

Morton, the producers of this model, assures users that this doesn’t impact efficiency. In fact, this unit reports a flow rate of over 11 gallons per minute. Morton’s home water softener system also uses 50% less salt than other salt-based softeners.

This softener is perfect for homeowners with small and compact-sized houses.


Pros
  • It takes up just 1.3 square feet of floor space. It is the best option for homeowners with small houses.

  • Due to its compact size, this softener uses 50% less salt than others. This means you don’t have to worry about excessive salt in your water!

Cons
  • Morton has a limited handling capacity.

  • Replacement parts are expensive.

Main Features

  • No salt, or any other chemical additive
  • Lifetime repair and replace warranty
  • Standard cables for pipes with 1.5-inch diameters

Water softeners are on the expensive side, which is why it’s important to us to have a more affordable option on our list. If you are considering a water softener but are apprehensive about the price, try the Eddy Electronic Water Descaler.

While a water softener changes your water’s chemical composition by removing its ferrous materials, a descaler like the Eddy Electronic Descaler charges water and instead reduces the impacts of these minerals. A descaler won’t remove these materials but will make them easier to deal with.

Unlike other devices like it, this water descaler doesn’t use any additives at all — salt or otherwise. Instead, it emits electromagnetic waves to soften your water.

The waves are applied by way of two cords attached to your incoming water supply pipe. The water that passes through the pipe gets subjected to a dynamic magnetic field. This field changes the adhesion structure of limescale so that they don’t stick to your fixtures.

Eddy works on all types of water pipes except those crafted from lead and iron.


Pros

  • Eddy is extremely cheap compared to alike products. In fact, it might well be the cheapest available on the market
  • It’s quite low maintenance since it doesn’t require any kind of additive
  • It is compact and easy to install.


Cons
  • Eddy stops being effective after about 6 months.

  • After 6 months, the limescale starts to build up again but becomes easier to remove.

Main Features

  • Installation kit
  • Bypass valve which fits a 1-inch male pipe thread
  • Auto sense technology
  • Low salt indicator light
  • 30,000-grain capacity
  • 1-year warranty on manufacturer’s parts, 3 years on electronic parts, and 10 years on the tanks.
  • NSF certified

EcoPure EP7130 is another stand-out item on our list of best water softeners — particularly because it is NSF-certified.

This grain water softener system is unique because of its initiated regeneration system. According to EcoPure, this product will regenerate your water based on its hardness and when you need it to be softened. Water regeneration will take place only when you initiate it, thereby leading to considerable water and salt savings.

EcoPure also comes equipped with simple electronic features like its low salt indicator light which tells you when you need to replenish your softener.

This model is ideal for households that contain between 1 and 5 members.


Pros
  • EcoPure water softener is certified by NSF
  • The initiated regeneration system helps you save on maintenance and energy costs.
  • Helps you conserve.
  • The low salt indicator reminds you every time you need to add more.

Cons
  • Homeowners may find the manual a little challenging to understand.

Main Features

  • A carbon block filtration system (which is rated at 5 microns)
  • Non-salt additive (Siliphos)
  • A cartridge with 40,000 gallon usage
  • 20- Year warranty on both valve and housing
  • Flow rate of 12 GPM

The Aquios FS220 Water Softener is the perfect product for homeowners who need a product that acts both as a water softener system and a water filter. Aquios’s new salt free water softener effectively combines these two functionalities.

This model will both remove impurities like chlorine and sediment from your water and prevent hardness. After all, this causes minerals like manganese and calcium to cause limescale build up and stick to pipes and other surfaces.

Salt-free water softeners may not remove these contaminants, but they do prevent them from accumulating in your pipes and other plumbing fixtures.

Aquios is able to prevent the build-up of scale using an additive known as Siliphos, which impedes mineral build-up in pipes.

Over time, these will simply flow through your fixtures instead of sticking to them. In addition to softening your water, the model also acts as a filtering device.

Aquios also assures users that they won’t experience pressure loss or decline in flow rate with the addition of this water softener system.


Pros
  • Aquios FS-220 is both a filtration and softening tool
  • Uses Siliphos
  • It has the best warranty (20 years!!) we have seen on any product.

Cons
  • It isn’t so effective for large households.

Water Softening Buying Guide

clear blue soft water

Hard water is the main reason for investing in water softener systems— and it’s more common than you think. In fact, 85 percent of American households — including homes that utilize well or city water — have hard water [2].

This is water that is high in minerals that can damage appliances, affect your laundry and clothes, wreak havoc on your hair and, of course, impact the taste of your water.

Water softener systems are engineered to remove the contaminants and leave with you crisp, clean water that won’t leave your laundry with stains and your hair feeling brittle — it will also leave you with drinking water that tastes refreshing.

If you are dealing with hard water, you will need a tool to soften it — but you can’t just buy any softening device. Here is everything you need to know about the state of your house’s water, and how to find and maintain the best water softener that will provide you with the water quality that you deserve:

The Importance of Softening Your Water

It’s essential to understand the implications of hard water — because if you don’t, what’s pushing you to soften your water? Because it isn’t detrimental to one’s health, many people suffer from this water for all of their life — when they don’t have to.

To soften your water, it’s important to invest in the best water softener system for your house. These appliances dilute or completely get rid of the contaminants in your water.

Just because hard water doesn’t have health effects, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have negative impacts. Water is important for day to day living; you use it to clean dishes, wash clothing, and of course bathing – so a tool that will free it of ferrous materials is well worth the investment.

What’s In Hard Water?

Hard water is contaminated with minerals like calcium, magnesium, and manganese that have various negative effects. For instance, magnesium and calcium can accumulate in your pipes and clog them — but more on that later. These are the contaminants you’ll find in your hard water:

Mineral Ions: Hard water primarily contains calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+). These are water-soluble metals like bicarbonates, chlorides and sulfates that dissolve and create scum when they come into contact with soap. This scum also makes it challenging to lather soap [3].

Iron: The EPA classifies iron in drinking water as a secondary contaminant, this is because it contains bacteria that can be harmful [4]. It can also negatively affect your skin, which is why it’s not healthy to shower in hard water. The iron in it can damage your healthy skin cells, and cause wrinkles.

Aluminum: The presence of aluminum is particularly concerning due to the connection between aluminum and Alzheimers. While this correlation has never been proven, in past years it was found that the risk of Alzheimer’s was 1.5 times higher in districts where the mean aluminum concentration exceeded 0.11 mg/l than in districts with a concentration under 0.01 mg/l [5].

woman showering on hard water

Effects of Hard Water

What exactly do these minerals mean for you? A lot of things, unfortunately. Hard water makes washing and cleaning very activities; it leaves spots on every surface you wash and traps dirt in fabrics. Fortunately, however, there are ways to get rid of hard water stains around your home.

If you start to see the signs of hard water, it’s time to take action and check out water softener reviews — because it wreaks havoc in various ways:

Laundry: When doing laundry with hard water, the ingredients in yoru detergent attach themselves to the aforementioned harmful minerals, instead of cleaning your clothing. This results in stains like white or gray streaks, stiff material, soil build up, dinginess, and other less than desirable spots. 


Dishes: The calcium and magnesium ions in this water tends to result in scum that stains your dishes and makes them a lot more challenging to clean — and render your dishwasher useless [6].

Hair: Hard water makes hair challenging to style because the mineral build-up makes it less pliable. It also fades coloured hair and leaves hair feeling rougher altogether [7].

Skin: Can the quality of the h2o in your house impact your skin? Unfortunately, yes. The calcium in hard water may be good for your bones, but it’s not great for your skin. In fact, paired with the other minerals, it can cause redness, dry skin, larger pores, acne, rashes, itching and even rosacea in extreme cases [8].

Rotten Egg Smell (Sulfur Water): This water isn’t toxic, but it sure smells like it. It actually smells like rotten eggs, or “sulfur water” as sometimes it contains hydrogen sulfide.

Limescale: Hard water is also responsible for the build up of limescale on your appliances — i.e. that white chalky substance that builds up on surfaces like the bottom of your bathtub or even the inside of your kettle.

Limescale is a result of the soluble calcium bicarbonate found in hard water [9]. For this reason, limescale will build up any surface that comes into contact with this water.

In addition to just being unpleasant to look at, it can seriously harm your appliances. When limescale builds up in areas you can’t see and clogs appliances, it makes them less energy efficient, and subsequently more expensive to maintain.

Fortunately, when you used softened water, you can greatly reduce this limescale. Additionally, softened water will help remove any existing limescale on your pipes.



gears indicating how water softeners work


How it Works: Water Softener Tanks

To the naked eye, whole water softener systems look like a couple of big tanks in your laundry room.

These units may not look like much from the outside, but what they achieve due to their inside components is almost magical! They improve your drinking water, protect your appliances and help you say goodbye to stains.
A water softener is installed into your water supply source.

Although there are different types, all water softeners do basically one thing – they take out the minerals in the water, and replace them with other things. This process of removing and replacing these materials with other substances is known as “ion exchange .”

diagram showing how tier1 water softener works

At the core of every water softening system is a mineral tank. This is filled with resin or zeolite beads, which carry negative charges. Calcium and magnesium, for example, both carry positive charges. So, when water flows through, the positively charged minerals will cling to the resin beads – this is the ion exchange process.

When the beads reach their maximum capacity and can’t attract any more of these ions, they are regenerated or flushed clean to go through the process again — this is done using the brine tank.

Sodium ions are positively charged too, though not as strongly as calcium and magnesium. The brine tank creates a strong brine solution that goes through the mineral tank, so that the sodium ions can displace the magnesium and calcium ions on the resin.

A water softener uses this ion exchange process to soften water in three phases:

1: The backwash phase
As hard water passes through a mineral tank, the calcium and magnesium ions in it stick to resin beads. Once this happens, the backwash reverses the flow rate of water to remove dirt.

2: The recharge phase:
The recharge phase is initiated when the resin in the mineral tank becomes saturated with magnesium and calcium ions. The brine tank then releases the brine solution to the mineral tank, which allows the sodium ions to displace the calcium and magnesium ions on the resin beads.

3: The rinse/flush phase:
Once the recharge phase is done, excess brine is flushed and refilled.

washing dishes with hard water

The Benefits of Buying a Water Softener System

There’s no reason to stick with the hard water running through your tap if it is harmful — although it is considered safe for general use, it has various negative effects on both humans and appliances.

A water softener is not only good for reversing the negative effects of this water on your laundry, skin and nails. In fact, soft water packs a lot of benefits for homeowners including the following:

1. Longer Lasting Appliances

Calcium, manganese, magnesium carbonate and other minerals in this water tend to accumulate on the insides of appliances. This reduces their efficiency and leads to shorter overall lifespans. Water softeners, on the other hand, produce soft and generally harmless water. 

When you use soft water, you extend the lifespan of your appliances like tankless water heaters, dishwashers, and washing machines. This extended lifespan means that you’ll spend less money repairing or replacing faulty appliances! It’s a win all around.

2. Faster Water-Heating Times

Hard water takes a relatively long time to boil. Water heaters are able to heat softened water much quicker than hard water. With a water softener system, you can access hot water quicker wherever you need it. Water softening systems have been found to boost the efficiency of both electric and gas-powered electric water heaters.

In fact, The Virginia Cooperative Extension estimates that water softening systems increases the energy efficiency of electric water heaters by 22 percent and gas-powered units by 29 percent [10].

Faster water-heating times mean lower energy consumption, and by extension, lower utility bills. So not only is your hard water harming you physically, it’s also burning a hole in your pocket!

3. Better Water Flow

Hard water deposits minerals and scales in your pipes. These deposits accumulate over time and cause blockages and corrosion, which ultimately leads to reduced water pressure and flow. Conversely, soft water dilutes or dissolves mineral deposits in your pipes, which improves the GPM flow rate.

4. Stress-free Cleaning

When you use hard water to wash your dishes or clothes, you may end up with soap residue or stains — which is the opposite of what is intended.

Softened water leaves less soap curd behind, and leaves dishes, clothes and other washed items look and feel cleaner. Clothes rinsed with soft water feel soft because there are no minerals trapped in them.

With soft water, you can also cut down on the quantity of soap you use for cleaning and washing, considering that hard water makes lathering close to impossible.

What Type of Water Softener Should You Buy?

Homeowners must install the right water softening unit to enjoy the benefits of softened water. If you are not sure what is the best water softener for you, don’t fret — our water softener reviews and buying guide will make the experience a lot easier for you.

Homeowners who are on the market for a water softening device should know that they typically fall into two categories:

1: Traditional salt-based water softeners

Salt-based systems soften water by removing hard minerals in a process known as “ion exchange.” This is when these are removed and replaced with sodium.

Some individuals may not like the taste of their water after using a salt-based system. If you are one of these people, you can do a few things to fix this.
You can add a water filter to the particular tap in your house you take drinking water from or install a by-pass valve installed so that you can control the device yourself. This makes filtering water easy!

Pros

  • Salt-based softeners are more effective than salt free systems when hard water levels are really high.

Cons

  • They are more high maintenance than salt free systems since they have to be replenished regularly.
  • The high sodium content might cause different reactions with certain people.

2: Salt-free water softeners

Salt-free water softeners are also called “water conditioners.” These water softening systems don’t actually eliminate hard minerals from your water, but instead, stop them from sticking to the surfaces of materials.

In salt free water softeners, these materials go through a process of crystallization which causes them to lose their ability to stick to different surfaces.

Pros

  • They are more low maintenance than salt-based systems as you don’t have to replenish them monthly.
  • They are environmentally friendly. Salt-free systems are particularly suitable for people with heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Salt-free softeners don’t require salt, electricity or chemicals to operate.

Cons

  • They are not really as effective as salt-based systems. They don’t work so well, especially when hard water levels are high.

Find the Best Water Softener System

While water softeners fall under two categories — salt-free or salt-based — there are a variety of models from portable softeners to magnetic water softeners to consider when choosing the best water softener.

For example, you can get a whole house water softener in your entire house, or a water softener for your shower head if you are just looking to protect your hair. There are many options to suit different needs and preferences, and it’s up to you to decide the best water softening tool that suits your unique requirements:

Portable Water Softener: This compact product uses the same process as a traditional softener, but just helps save space! As one would expect, these portable water softener systems hold less and are ideal for smaller spaces like an RV!

Magnetic Water Softeners: Magnetic water softeners remove harmful materials by running them through a magnetic field – this will put or alter the irons in the water before it’s used. People tend to use magnetic water softeners as it is the option that utilizes fewer chemicals. They are also less expensive, and tend to last longer. Magnetic water softeners also won’t add any sodium to your water

Combination Water Softener: A combination water softener doubles as a water filter, because soft water isn’t necessarily filtered water! This is an efficient system to have if you require both of these functions.

Electronic Water Softeners: Electronic water softeners have the same functionality as your traditional water softener, except they regenerate on an electric timer. Unlike traditional ones that have two tanks, you can purchase an electronic water softener that only has one. In some cases, this will make the regeneration process longer.

Whole House Water Softener: As its name implies, this type is used for a large amount of water — i.e. your whole house, opposed to a room or small space.

Dual Tank Water Softener: Also known as a twin tank water softener, a dual tank water softener is — you guessed it — a softener with two tanks. The functionality is that when one is being regenerated, the other one kicks in to soften your water.

Shower Head Water Softener: Hard water isn’t unhealthy to drink, but it does wreak havoc on your hair which is why there are shower head water softeners available if you are looking to soften the water out of that one source.

Factors to Consider Before Buying Your Water Softener

water quality platinum seal

The impacts of hard water and different water softening systems aren’t the only thing to take into consideration when determining the best water softener system for your home. After all, every home is different and every homeowner has different preferences.

Technology Type​: Your choice will be heavily influenced by which softening technology you prefer. While some softeners use an ion-exchange system, others use a magnetic one.

An ion-exchange tool can remove harmful minerals from your water while also regenerating useful content for your use. These are also low maintenance and relatively cheaper than other types.

Size & Holding Capacity: Another important factor to consider when you are selecting the best water softener for your home is size and holding capacity. Water softeners are available in different sizes, and you want to choose the one that best suits your water needs. To do this, you need to have an idea of the quantity of water your family uses daily.

This is quite easy to calculate. First, multiply the number of people in your household by the number of gallons of water each person uses daily. Then, take this figure to multiply the number of grains of hardness in your water [11].

This will give you an idea how main grains need to be removed every day to soften your water. You can choose the right softener based on that figure, as most are sold by grains!

Installation & Maintenance Costs​: Generally, you want to opt for a water softening system with low installation and maintenance costs. Do your research and seek a professional opinion on the costs of maintenance and repair of different models. If you invest in the best water softener on the market, you want to make sure you can maintain it regularly at a fair price.

Certification​: Generally, you want to opt for a soft water system that is certified for energy efficiency. Look for energy efficient systems that will help you cut costs and be less wasteful.

Company Services​: Approach as many companies as possible and request information on the kind of services they offer and the costs. We advise that you go for a company that’s well established, so you can be sure you’re getting quality service.

clean vials with blue liquid testing for hard water

How To Test For Hardness In Your Water

Before making your big purchase, you also need to make sure that you do in fact, have water that needs softening — which means you have to test for it!

Have a sneaking suspicion that your water is hard because your dishes have spot stains — or because your skin doesn’t feel so clean after a bath? These methods will help you make conclusive assessment:

1. In-house Soapsuds Test

A soapsuds test is one of the easiest ways to test for hardness in your water. To conduct this test, follow these simple steps:

  1. Look around for a plastic bottle or clean glass with a cap.
  2. Next, fill a third (1/3) of the container with water from your faucet. It should weigh between 8 and 10 oz.
  3. Add in 10 drops of liquid soap (do not use detergent). Shake well for about 10 seconds.
  4. Observe to determine your water quality

If the mixture lathers quickly, and the water beneath the lather is clear, then your water is fairly soft. If instead the mixture doesn’t lather quickly, and the water beneath it is cloudy, your water is likely hard.

This test isn’t foolproof, if you are still a little confused, check out our next method!

2. DIY Test Kit

The in-house soapsuds test is a little crude. To achieve more accurate results, simply purchase a kit for water quality test.  Hard water kits typically include a number of test strips and a color chart. Once you get a strip, follow the instructions on the pack. Alternatively, you can follow the steps below:

  1. Fill a glass with water from a faucet in your house. (Do not place the strip under running water.)
  2. Stick your hard test strip in the water and hold for a few seconds.
  3. The strip’s color will change after a while. Compare your strip’s color to the color chart provided to determine the level of hardness. Results are usually measured in Grains per Gallon (GPG).

Make sure to get your test kit from a trusted manufacturer.

3. Check Your Numbers

If your house is connected to the city water supply, you can simply make a request for their water quality report. This report may not exactly show the quality of water flowing directly from your taps, but it can give you a general idea of the level of water hardness in your area.

Once you have determined that your water is hard, your next concern is how to get rid of the hardness. For that, you need a water softener.

Installing Your Water Softener

A good number of homeowners like to get their hands dirty. They prefer to do things themselves instead of calling in, say, a plumber or an electrician.
We understand this DIY spirit, which is we’ve put together a guide to help you install your water softener. 

What to Consider

Before you go on to install the appliance, however, there are a few things you must consider first:

Where to Place Your Water Softener: Are you replacing an old model with a new one? If yes, you can simply place the new appliance in the spot the old one occupied.

For first time installers, the important thing to note is that your softener should be placed out of the way. Find a spot that’s close to your plumbing, so that you can easily link in the softener. In most houses, areas that fit these criteria include the basement, garage, and utility room.

Avoid placing your softener in a location where freezing is likely or where extreme heat is likely (i.e. outdoors). appliance outside. Ensure that it is placed in a location with enough room for servicing and maintenance.

What your softener requires: Your home water softener will require a utility sink or a floor drain. Some other needs include a close electrical receptacle unit which can conveniently handle the energy needs of the softener. Usually, it is installed close to a water heater.

Where to connect to your supply system: Homeowners who want to soften their house’s entire water supply should install their softener just before the water heater. Doing this also helps to prevent the accumulation of dirt in your water heater.

In houses where sodium counts as a health risk, homeowners may need to bypass the faucets that bring their drinking water (i.e. the one in the kitchen sink.) Alternatively, you can go for a salt-free water softener.

The Installation Process

Now that you have selected a good spot based on these considerations, it’s time for the installation process.

Read the manual:

First, read the product’s instruction manual. This step is important if you are to avoid any mistakes because different products come with slight variations in their processes.

Keep the site clean:

Sweep and clean the installation site. You should also note here that positioning is important. Most water softeners have a dual-tank set up so you want to make sure that the are set in the proper places.

Turn off your house’s water supply:

It’s vital that you exercise caution during the process. One way to do this is to shut off your water supply. You should particularly turn off the water flow and the electricity supply to your heater. Again, safety is paramount.

Drain leftover water:

Once your water supply is shut off, the next step is to drain all the water left in your pipes. Open a number of faucets around your house to do this.

Cut into your waterline with a pipe cutter and fix in elbow fittings:

This will allow you to run lines to the inlet and outlet openings of the bypass valve. Remember to position your tanks well so that the water will flow into the softener’s tank for softening. Then, softened water will flow out through the outlet to the fixtures and faucets in your home.

Connect the pipes leading to the bypass valve:

We should mention at this point that this process requires soldering work, so If you don’t know how to solder, you should call in a professional. This is plastic, so it is advised that you solder the fittings separately before attaching them to the valve. Your softener comes with compression fittings that you use to attach the pipe.

Attach the drain hose:

Securely clamp the drain hose to your softener and run it to a draining sink. You need to be careful here or the drain hose won’t work properly. Ensure that you read the instruction manual before doing anything.

Install the overflow tube:

Fit the overflow tube to the side of the brine tank. Again, be faithful to the manufacturer’s instructions – don’t deviate.

Set the bypass valve to “bypass”:

Once that is done, turn on your water supply. Let the water flow through the softener to remove dirt and air trapped in the pipes. You can now turn your water heater back on!

Plug it in:

Plug in your softener and set the valve to “backwash”. Press the “regenerate” button so it reaches backwash. Unplug the unit to prevent it from going beyond backwash.

Open the valve’s inlet control about halfway:

Open about halfway and let the water flow in slowly, as it may sputter due to the air trapped in the pipes. Once the sputtering stops, open the inlet and outlet controls fully. Add salt and water as directed in the instruction manual.

Plug your unit again:

Plug your unit again. Push “regenerate” and then wait for the unit to run to the next stage. Repeat this until the unit reaches “service” setting. Watch out for leaks – if you spot any, turn off the softener and re-solder the leaking point. If everything works fine, go ahead and program your desired controls.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to follow the product’s instruction manual. In addition, don’t hesitate to call in a professional if you experience any problems.

How to Maintain Your Water Softener

assortment of tools to maintain your water softener system

Congratulations, you’ve found the best water softener for your home and installed it! It’s running well and your family is enjoying its benefits.
That said, you want to keep it running efficiently so your family can continue enjoying its access to clean, soft water.

You can do this by regularly replenishing the salt (or other additives) once in a while, among other things.

While the top water softeners do not generally require as much care as other appliances, there are certain steps you can take to keep yours from breaking down:

Replenish once every month:

Most homeowners do this already, but you can do one better. Do not wait for the salt level to deplete before adding more. Form a habit of regularly checking your tank every 4-6 weeks. Set a reminder if necessary!

You can avoid a lot of problems by taking this little precaution. We recommend that you keep your salt level at half full so that you can easily tell when the level is dropping.

Inspect every few months:

Doing a monthly check of your softener’s salt level isn’t enough. Regularly checking is important if you want to prevent bridging.

Bridging happens when salt builds up in the brine tank. When this happens, the flow of salt is restricted. This leaves your resin beads unclean, and by extension, your water hard.

Get the right salt type:

Water softeners don’t use just any type of salt — especially not the one you use in the kitchen.

They use two types — crystal or cube. Read through your equipment’s manual to see which one is appropriate for your model. If you can’t access the manual, do an online search or speak to a professional.

Use a pre-filter:

Water flowing from the city supply to your house may accumulate sediments and particles along the way. These particles may get into ports or seals of your softener, thereby causing harm. You can extend the life of your equipment by simply adding a pre-filtration system. Doing this benefits you as well as it helps you ensure that your water is purified and softened.

Remove bridges:

Bridges are the results of salt buildup in your water softener’s brine tank. If you notice a bridge, simply use a stick to break it up. The thing is though, once a bridge forms, there’s a high likelihood that it will keep showing up again.

Clean out your equipment:

Consult the product’s manual to find the safest way to clean your softener’s brine tank. You can do this once or twice a year.

If you still require expert help, call in a professional to do a regular check every few months.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Water Softeners

white question mark on chalk board for FAQ

Where do I install a water softener?

Water softeners should be installed near your house’s water supply line. If you have the right knowledge and tools, you can simply install yours yourself. If not, you can always call in a professional!

When you install a water softener, you can set up different lines for cooking and drinking — which is especially useful if you have family members who can’t tolerate sodium.

Will my water bill increase if I use a water softener?

Because a softener requires about 55 to 400 litres of water every time it regenerates, it will increase your water bill. That said, these costs will likely be offset by the benefits that soft water provides.

To cut down on your water bills, make sure to go for a unit that’s exactly right for your water needs. There are also water softeners which are relatively more water-efficient!

How much sodium does a salt-based water softener add to water?

The quantity of sodium your softener adds to your water is determined by your water’s hardness level. The harder your water, the more salt you need for the softening process.

If sodium is a health concern for you, opt for a salt-free water softener. Just keep in mind that if your water is really hard, salt-free systems may not work as well salt-based systems.

When should I not use softened water?

Do not use softened water for outdoor activities like watering plants or grass — it’s a waste, and the high sodium content can be unhealthy for plants.

It’s also worth noting that the more soft water you use, the more the unit will have to regenerate water — which leads to more water consumption and higher water bills.

Is potassium chloride better than sodium chloride for water softeners?

You can use both potassium and sodium chloride for softening water. The difference is that sodium chloride is stronger, so you require less sodium chloride than you would potassium chloride to soften water.

What is the difference between a water descaler and softener?

The difference between a water descaler and softener is that a descaler prevents minerals from entering your water and being deposited inside on pipes or fixtures, whereas a softener removes them completely.

A salt-free water softener is more like a water descaler as it won’t remove these materials but instead acts as a preventative measure. A water descaler is typically less expensive than a softener device and use less electricity, which means reduced utility bills! [12]

Why does my water softener smell?

If your water softener smells like rotten eggs — kind of like your hard water — that’s likely because sulfur has built up in the system. Unfortunately, the sodium in the tanks attracts this sulfur bacteria that starts to smell. Fortunately, you can get rid of this smell caused by the sulfur bacteria by regularly cleaning and sanitizing the tanks [13].

The reality is that this sulfur doesn’t only smell bad, it also hinders the effectiveness and efficiency of your softener.

Will a water softener make my water safe for drinking?

No, it won’t — your water must be clean and safe for drinking before it is softened. If you are concerned that your water has impurities in it, buy a filtering device like a reverse osmosis system to purify it.

Alternatively, you can buy a product that combines both filtering and softening. If you are still concerned about the state of your water after filtration, contact your area’s local health department. You can also have a test conducted in a laboratory.

Is Alkaline water the same as softened water?

These two types of water are inherently different. The main difference between soft and alkaline water is that if water is alkaline, that means it contains a healthy amount of magnesium and calcium – soft water, by definition, is free of these minerals.

Hard water is more alkaline actually! Alkaline water is typically created using an ionizer, but you can also make it at home using lemon juice and baking soda you won’t be sorry. Alkaline water is higher in pH it averages a pH of 8 or 9 while tap water has an average pH of 7 [14].

What is the difference between a reverse osmosis system and a softener system?’

The main difference between a reverse osmosis system and a softener is that a reverse osmosis system is a water filter system, while the other is a softening device.

During the reverse osmosis process, contaminants like magnesium and calcium are physically removed by forcing water through a filter. A softener, on the other hand, removes hard minerals from water through an ionic process [15].

Reverse osmosis is typically utilized alongside other purification systems, because it acts as a water filter while another device is used to soften the purified water. A reverse osmosis system will also help your water taste more neutral.

How do I know how many grains my water softener should be?

Water softeners are measured by their daily grain capacity — or size in grains [16]. This means you should know how many grains you need before making your purchase.

You can find out how many grains you need in your water softener system by multiplying the amount of people in your home times 70 — this is how many gallons of water are used on a national average.

Another way to calculate your gran capacity required is to get the numbers from your water department.

Can softeners use potassium chloride in place of salt?

Yes, any softener can use potassium chloride as a substitute. It’s important to note, however, that potassium chloride costs considerably more than sodium. It also tends to melt when wet, which typically results in a bridge in the brine tank.

It is advised that you only fill your salt tank halfway with potassium chloride so that you can keep an eye on its level.

Final Words: Water Softening Systems

filling glass of soft water

Hard water, despite its poor taste, doesn’t have any health effects — but there is no denying the negative impacts it has on humans and appliances. It may be considered safe for general use, but it’s essential to soften this water to protect your hair, body, appliances and more. To do this, however, you need to do your research and read water softener reviews to find the right one for your home.

We understand that there are so many softeners on the market that finding the right one for your home can be intimidating, which is why we’ve put together reviews of the best water softeners and a thorough buying guide to help make your process that much easier.

After all, to find the right softener for your home you need to not only know the top water softeners and best ones available, but you need to truly grasp their function and why th ey are needed.

Our guide is the perfect source for all things water softener related; we’ve included DIY steps for installing your softener, FAQs, comprehensive information of the impacts on hard water, the best water softener reviews and more. With the help of our guide, you’ll be able to make educated decisions when it comes to buying a home water softener.

References

[1] Find WQA-Certified Water Treatment Products (Water Quality Association)

[2] How a Water Softener Works (And Why You Might Want One) (Popular Mechanics)

[3] Water Hardness: Inorganic Reactions Experiment (Washington University)

[4] Drinking Water Regulations and Contaminants (United States Environmental Protection Agency)

[5] Geographical relation between Alzheimer’s disease and aluminum in drinking water (US National Library of Medicine)

[6] Hard water can affect how well your dishwasher cleans (Consumer Reports)

[7] Can Hard Water Damage Your Hair? Here’s How it May Affect Your Strandsn (Allure)

[8] Is The Water Where You Live Wreaking Havoc On Your Skin?​ (Refinery29)

[9] The Chemistry of Limescale (Compound Interest)

[10] What Are the Benefits of Water Softeners? (OurEverydayLife)

[11] What Size Water Softener Do I Need?​ (AngiesList)

[12] Pros and Cons of a Salt Free Water Softener​ (DoItYourself)

[13] How to Get Rid of Rotten-Egg Smell in Soft Water​ (Hunker)

[14] Does alkaline water live up to the hype? (CNN)​

[15] How Reverse Osmosis Works​ (How Stuff Works)

[16] How To Choose A Water Softener (Direct Energy