Tired of sifting through irrelevant reviews? Let us make it easy for you. We’ve interviewed experts, analyzed user feedback, and tested the waters ourselves. Our research has led us to a list of NSF-certified water softeners that actually work.
Say goodbye to hard water troubles! It may not be harmful, but those mineral-rich droplets can wreak havoc on your skin, clothes, and appliances.
Our guide showcases the latest in water softening technology – these systems are a breeze to install and operate. Some even have smartphone apps for ultimate convenience. Don’t let hard water ruin your life – we’ve got you covered.
…In a hurry?
Our Favorite is #1 however, #3 and #4 are solid overall budget friendly choices.
Our Expert Picks:
- Best Salt-based: SpringWell SS1
- Best Salt-free: SpringWell Futuresoft Salt-free
- Best for well water: Whirlpool WHES40E
- Best Salt-based runner-up: SoftPro Elite
- Best Budget: fleck 5600 STX
- Best Electronic: Yarna Electronic Descaler
#1 SpringWell SS1 – Best Salt Based Water Softener
If you’re frustrated with the effects of hard water but don’t want a cure that’s worse than the problem, SpringWell’s salt-based water softening system is the lifestyle-friendly solution you’ve been waiting for.
Bluetooth-enabled, it puts complete system control in the palm of your hand — programming it is easier than making a phone call.
- Works for both city and well water
- Three tank sizes to choose from
- NSF Certified components for peace of mind
- Automatic regeneration when the system detects buildup
- Bluetooth enabled – conveniently monitor water usage and make adjustments to your systems valve settings from your phone/tablet
- Lifetime warranty with a 6 month money back guarantee.
Get 5% Off! User Code: QWL5
Best for: SpringWell’s salt based water softeners are engineered to handle the hardest possible city or well water. If minerals are making you miserable, this is the system for you.
Not best for: Salt-based water softeners aren’t welcomed in ecologically sensitive areas. If they’re banned in yours, we recommend SpringWell’s FutureSoft water conditioner.
- Not only is the SpringWell among the most innovative and effective models on the market, but the convenience and security of smartphone control take peace of mind to the next level.
- Setting up the system is pretty simple to run and can be completely controlled by a phone or tablet.
- This system will NOT decrease water pressure.
- Maintenance is pretty minimal aside from topping off the brine tank when the system notifies you.
- The digital metered system saves you money by only regenerating when necessary – money saver.
- Make adjustments to your system even when you’re not home.
- Get your average water usage so that you can calculate how much salt you will need for the year.
- Monitor Peak and current water flow – these are all very beneficial features to make your life easy.
- Wish they would include reducer fittings
- This isn’t DIY friendly
What buyers are saying
“On June 23, 2020 Jeffrey B. stated that the System is working great so far (30 days). Installation was straightforward, the only trouble I had was adapting the softener’s 1 inch piping to my house 3/4 piping. After solving that, easy peasy. Being a computer dork, I also am very happy with the Bluetooth head and app, which was a selling point for me.”
SpringWell SS1 Product Updates
- Premium UV water purification system
Read Full Review: Springwell SS1 Review
#2 SoftPro Elite – Best in Salt Efficiency
Want an all-inclusive salt-based water softener that doesn’t nickel and dime you? You’ve found it with the SoftPro Elite.
Upflow regeneration and precision brining improve efficiency for cost-effective performance. Feature-packed, it saves you up to 68% percent annually in operational costs.
- Low annual operating costs
- Excellent for hard city water
- Short regeneration cycles
- Uses 75% less salt to comparable models
- Multiple quick connect features on bypass valve
Best For: The SoftPro Elite is a premium water softener designed for the cost-conscious buyer with hard to very hard city water. If you’re on a tight budget, DIY setup is the easiest in the industry with their handy installation videos and guides.
Not Best For: Tech-savvy homeowners who want smartphone control will have to wait for full functionality. SoftPro is working on it, but the remote app is a year or more away.
- The SoftPro Elite’s salt-saving technology lowers your costs and limits maintenance chores — less salt use means fewer brine tank refills and fewer backaches.
- Perks include a vacation mode, quick recharge capability and a fully programmable digital head with battery back-up. SoftPro thought of everything so that you don’t have to.
- Our research confirms what thousands of happy customers already know. The SoftPro Elite was designed, engineered and built for savings.
- Although I can’t operate this system from my phone or tablet, this is still a pretty good system overall.
- This salt-based water softener system utilizes salt the best in our list and will save your back on adding salt to the brine tank.
- SoftPro only requires a full backwash every 5th regeneration
- Overall, for the price of this model you can’t go wrong — you also have 6 months to send it back for a full refund — you got nothing to lose.
- Requires electrical hookup to run
- Doesn’t have bluetooth capabilities
What other buyers have said:
“1/6/2022 John C. stated: Night and day improvement vs 11 yr Whirlpool. Hardness and alkalinity reduced substantially. Water pressure increased. Installation quite easy, < 3 hrs, though a few steps were a bit unclear.”
SoftPro Elite Product Updates:
- Free, quick connect hoses — other’s charge for this!
- Upgraded 1″ plumbing ports — this is a huge improvement in water flow.
Read Full Review: SoftPro Elite Water Softener
#3 Fleck 5600 STX – Best Budget Water Softener
Fleck water softeners are a rare value. Affordable upfront pricing plus low maintenance costs equal a winning combination. A national best-seller, the 5600 STX has a solid reputation and a loyal following.
If you’re fed up with hard water but don’t want to break the bank on bells and whistles, you won’t be disappointed. We’ve researched the Fleck’s track record, and it shines.
- User-friendly back-lit LCD display
- High-durability resin bed resists chlorine degradation
- Protects settings against power loss
- Five-year warranty
- Internal power backup
Best For: Fleck 5600 is a workhorse for small to medium-sized homes with moderately hard to very hard water city water. High chlorine levels won’t damage its 10% cross-link resin bed.
Not Best For: What the Fleck does, it does well. But it has fewer programming options than similar systems, and the largest unit available is too small for large homes. If you have more than three bathrooms, choose the SpringWell or SoftPro Elite.
- Fleck water softeners arent the most advanced in every category, but they have features that count.
- Quality resin bed, certified parts and an on-demand digital meter mean you’re getting an ultra-reliable unit without overspending.
- If you want a tried-and-true softener with proven technology — look no further than the STX 5600.
- This unit uses a state-of-the-art SXT controller with a back-lit LCD display showing you the systems status at a glance.
- Step-by-step programming is a cinch to use, and the advanced options help maximize system efficiency and save you $$$.
- Multiple size options to choose from helps you from overpaying for what you don’t need.
- More maintenance required
- Won’t remove Iron
- Fewer programming options
Fleck STX 5600 Product Updates
- Free quick connect hoses – this makes it a lot easier to get your system up and running without soldering pipes and elbows.
Read our Full Review: Fleck STX 5600 Water Softener Review
#4 Whirlpool WHES40E – Perfect For Well Water
This 40,000-grain water softener suits 1 to 6-person households and excels with well water containing iron.
It’s demand-based, conserving water and salt, regenerating only when necessary.
An indicator alerts low salt levels, and it’s NSF-certified for reliability. We feel It’s cost-effective for larger households and utility savings.
- Competitive price
- NSF certified
- On-demand regeneration
- Low-salt warning indicator
- Straightforward installation
Best for: This is a perfect for those looking for a trusted brand name that takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation.
Not best for: Those looking for remote blue-tooth capabilities and monitoring will want to consider Springwell SS1.
- Whirlpool’s 40,000-grain softener bestows the luxuries of soft water.
- Perfect for larger families, it banishes up to 125 ppm of hardness and 10 ppm of ferrous iron, gifting you sparkling dishes, vibrant clothes, and the vanishing act of limescale stains.
- This softener ingeniously combines resin and salt tanks within one cabinet, sparing you up to 25% of floor space compared to traditional counterparts.
- The user-friendly digital control panel proudly flaunts a low-salt indicator light, abolishing any guesswork.
- Whirlpool’s revolutionary salt-saving regeneration technology translates to cost savings and reduced utility bills, as it regenerates only when necessity beckons.
- The integrated bypass valve grants you the power to divert water around the softener for outdoor pursuits, safeguarding the longevity of the resin and preserving your precious salt.
- Crafted for simplicity, top-notch performance, and unwavering reliability, this system is your antidote if conventional water softeners have left you disappointed.
- Its sleek aesthetics render it a splendid fit, even in basement living spaces.
- While the initial cost may be a tad higher, the savings on salt and energy will whittle down long-term ownership expenses, and its robust construction guarantees lasting durability.
- From installation to daily use, this purchase promises to be hassle-free and offers unmatched value.
- The bypass valve can be challenging to access in some installations, potentially affecting outdoor water use.
- Some users report issues with the low-salt indicator not always functioning accurately.
Read Our Full Review: Whirlpool WHES40E Review
#5 SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free – Best For City Water
If you want softer water without the hassle of a water softener, get off the fence and on the phone with SpringWell.
Salt-free, their FutureSoft water conditioner eliminates needless appliance repairs and ugly hard water stains without the never-ending maintenance associated with salt-based softeners.
- Salt-free system won’t damage the environment
- Retains healthy calcium and magnesium
- Budget-friendly design requires no electricity and produces no wastewater
- DIY-friendly installation
- Money-back performance guarantee
Best for: FutureSoft is ideal for homeowners with moderately hard to hard city water who want a low-maintenance, self-cleaning system that protects their home and budget without high ongoing costs or environmental effects. With no salt to buy or media to change — ever — it’s the ultimate fix-it-and-forget-it system.
Not best for: Designed for city water, common well water contaminants including iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide can damage the FutureSoft media. Pretreatment solves the problem, but a better choice for well owners is SpringWell’s salt based water softener system or the Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler.
- We put it through its paces, and our testing shows — SpringWells FutureSoft water conditioner is the most advanced hard-water solution that money can buy.
- SpringWells research-proven Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) technology eliminates 99.6% of limescale, extending the life of your appliances and water heater without maintenance or ecological headaches.
- As effective as a water softener, it requires no salt, uses no electricity, produces no wastewater, and the media lasts forever — yes, forever.
- We really like the option to install this system without hiring a plumber and not have to think about voiding a warranty.
- ActivFlo — don’t ever worry about a drop in water pressure as this system is built to tackle all of your daily usage.
- Septic tank safe – no chemicals or waste water to worry about.
- No waste water is a huge benefit to septic tank owners.
- If you pair this with a Springwell filtration system, you can have full control using their mobile app.
- Futuresoft also doesn’t need electricity to run like other comparable models.
- Higher initial price than comparable systems
What other buyer’s have said:
“Terry J. stated: We have always had a traditional water softener but felt we were wasting way too much water. I wasn’t sure how this Salt-Free System was going to work. We have had for over 2 months now and are pleasantly surprised.”
Read Full Review: Springwell Futuresoft Salt-free Review
SpringWell FS1 Product Updates:
- Improved UV filter purification add-on that is capable of 15 GPM and a 30mj/cm2 that’s the highest ratings we have seen for UV filters.
- Free installation kit
#6 Yarna Capacitive – Best Electronic Water Descaler
Kiss hard water woes goodbye with Yarna’s Capacitive Electronic Descaler. A patented system that controls limescale using electrical impulses, it eliminates mineral buildup and lowers your utility bills without salt, maintenance or water waste.
- No GPM limit on Yarna
- Not dependent on water speed
- Works with all types of plumbing
- Easy DIY installation – You don’t need a plumber to install
Best For: Descalers don’t require alterations to the plumbing system, so they’re a great option for renters. If you’re struggling with hard water stains and sky-high power bills, it’s a convenient alternative that most landlords will allow.
Not Best For: If very hard water is causing dry skin and unmanageable hair, only a salt-based softening system will remove the offending minerals. Consider the SpringWell, Fleck or Crystal Quest.
- Descalers don’t make water feel softer, but they control limescale almost as well as salt-free water conditioners for a fraction of the cost.
- Unlike magnetic descalers, capacitive technology is both cheap and effective. We reviewed the studies, and it works.
- Low-profile, all the Yarna requires is 10 inches of space along a 1-inch pipe near an electrical outlet.
- It takes minutes to install and works without stripping the beneficial minerals from drinking water.
- The Yarna is a cost-effective alternative that gives similar benefits as a salt-free water conditioner, without the expensive price tag or complicated installation process. With just $300, you can enjoy the luxury of softer water.
- Costs more than other electronic descalers
Yarna Capacitive Product Updates
- Now offers multiple descaler configurations to accommodate pipe sizes ranging from 3/8″ – to 4″ pipe diameter
Compare All 6 Water Softener Systems
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Compare Brands & Models
#1 SpringWell SS System
#2 SoftPro Elite System
#3 Fleck 5600 STX System
#4 Whirlpool WHES40E
#5 SpringWell FutureSoft System
#6 Yarna Descaler System
|32k, 48k and 80k
|32k – 110k
|32k – 110k
Didn’t find what you’re looking for? See our other water softener reviews:
How We Chose
Our selection process was meticulous, we made sure to include crucial elements to ensure we found the perfect water softener systems. Here’s how we did it:
- Water Softening Capacity: We evaluated each system’s ability to combat varying degrees of water hardness, catering to households of all sizes.
- Regeneration Efficiency: Priority was given to systems with efficient regeneration methods like demand-initiated or metered regeneration. This minimizes water and salt consumption while maintaining optimal performance.
- Water Quality Enhancement: We scrutinized the systems’ impact on water quality. We assess their proficiency in reducing hardness minerals, iron, and other impurities based on user reviews.
- Ease of Use: User-friendliness played a pivotal role in our decision-making process. From installation to programming and maintenance, we ensured a seamless experience for homeowners.
- Footprint and Design: Systems were rated based on physical dimensions and aesthetics, favoring compact options that fit diverse installation spaces while looking visually appealing.
- Warranty and Certifications: We considered warranties and certifications from trusted sources like NSF International, leveraging insights from user reviews to confirm reliability and quality.
- Customer Support: By reading user reviews, we assessed customer feedback on support experiences ensuring prompt assistance and guidance were readily available.
- Value for Money: Our analysis factored in long-term costs including upfront expenses, salt usage, energy efficiency – all informed by real user feedback.
We carefully considered real user reviews to ensure we selected the best water softener systems. These systems have received positive feedback from homeowners, guaranteeing a trustworthy choice!
Buyer’s Guide To Hard Water Treatment
When it comes to tackling hard water, the benefits of a water softening system are crystal clear. But the real question is, which one suits you best? Let’s dive in.
Why Soften Your Water?
Hard water isn’t a health hazard, but it’s a troublemaker. You don’t have to soften it (those minerals aren’t villains), but dealing with hard water’s aftermath can be a real headache.
A water softening system, like ion exchange softeners, is your trusted ally if you seek:
- Crisp, clean water for sipping and washing
- Peak performance from your appliances
- Protection against mineral chaos inside your hot water system, fixtures, and pipes
Types of Water Softeners
There are three water-saving heroes:
- Salt-Based: Water waltzes over negatively charged polystyrene resin beads, luring and flushing away those unruly minerals with just a pinch of sodium. A hero for all levels of hardness.
- Salt-Free: These savvy descalers, like electronic champions, don’t kick minerals out but give them a makeover. Ideal for moderate hardness levels.
- Electronic Descalers: These units use electricity from coils wrapped around water pipes to alter mineral particles, reducing scale buildup on fixtures and appliances. While salt-free, they work best for low-to-moderate hardness levels, with less comprehensive results.
Choose your water-saving system wisely, and let the softening journey begin!
Benefits & Drawbacks
1. Appliances That Live Their Best Life:
- Water softeners send those hard water-causing minerals packing. The result? Your household gadgets live a longer, happier life. You’ll spend less time battling maintenance issues and more time enjoying peak performance.
2. Elevate Your Water Game:
- Dive into a world where water feels luxurious on your skin, leaves your hair silky smooth, and treats your clothes with care. Say goodbye to pesky soap scum and mineral deposits, and hello to a cleaner, more radiant you.
3. Save on Soap (and Save the Planet):
- With soft water, your soap works smarter, not harder. You’ll use less, save more, and give a cheerful high-five to Mother Earth.
4. Power Up Your Energy Savings:
- Banish that scale buildup and watch your appliances run like a dream, potentially shaving those energy bills down to size.
5. Keep More Coins in Your Pocket:
- Less damage to appliances and lower energy and soap use? That’s a recipe for delicious long-term savings.
1. That Initial Price Tag, Though:
- Quality water softeners come with a cost. It’s an investment that might have you clutching your wallet at first glance.
2. Maintenance: It’s a Thing:
- Yep, you’ll need to keep up with maintenance, including that salt refill dance for salt-based models. A bit of a drag, but oh-so-necessary.
3. Salt and Water Take the Stage:
- Especially with the salt-gang, expect a hike in salt and water use. It’s a heads-up for your utility bills and the environment.
4. Got Space?
- Make sure you’ve got some room to spare, as water softeners like to stretch out. It could be a space puzzle in cozy homes or apartments.
5. Not an All-Out Contaminant Bouncer:
- While they’re champs at booting out hardness minerals, some other unwanted guests might still crash the water party.
In a Nutshell:
Alright, so water softeners are like that friend with incredible perks – think gloriously efficient appliances, exceptional water quality, and cost savings that’ll have you smiling. But, remember, even the best buddies have their quirks. Consider the upfront cost, regular upkeep, and environmental footprint.
Take a good, hard look at both the highs and the lows to make sure your water softener vibes perfectly with your needs and values, maximizing the good while keeping the not-so-good in check.
Transform your home’s water quality with the perfect whole house water softener system in just three simple steps:
Step 1: Decipher Your Water’s Story
City and town water quality can be a bit of a wild card, with minerals sneaking into your water supply as it journeys through the pipes, altering its hardness. Unravel the mystery of your water’s ideal hardness level with these tactics:
- Seek Expert Insights: If you’re on city/town water, get in touch with your local treatment authorities. They hold the key to your area’s water quality report, a priceless resource available to you for free.
- Hands-On Testing: No need for a lab coat here. DIY water test kits are readily available at your local hardware store or online. Alternatively, you can send a water sample to a certified lab, with some states even offering free testing for residents.
Why It Matters: Knowing what hides in your water is crucial for every family. It reveals the hardness level, guiding you on whether extra filtration is needed. For example, if iron lurks in your water, it can wreak havoc on your softening systems, emphasizing the urgent need for a pre-filter.
Step 2: Right-Sizing for Peak Performance
It’s important to get the sizing right — here’s the lowdown on nailing it:
- Grains of Hardness: Picture a single grain of hard minerals weighing about 65 milligrams, roughly equal to 17.1 parts per million (PPM).
- Calculate the Size: Start with your household size, multiplying the number of residents by their daily water consumption (around 80 gallons on average). Then, multiply this by the grains of hardness in your water.
Example: For a four-person household dealing with moderately hard water, we recommend a 32,000-grain water softener system. But keep in mind, salt-free systems are sized based on the number of bathrooms in your home.
Step 3: Embrace the Regeneration Methods
Water softeners come armed with various methods to rejuvenate their resin beads:
- Timer-Based: These systems stick to a set schedule, but they can be a tad wasteful.
- Metered (Demand-Initiated): Efficient and cost-effective, they spring into action only when needed.
- Manual: Regeneration is at your fingertips, but it can be a bit hit or miss.
- Electronic Sensor: Advanced systems keep a watchful eye on resin bed saturation, regenerating precisely when required.
- Co-Current and Counter-Current: These terms map out the direction of brine flow during regeneration, with counter-current reigning supreme in efficiency.
Choose your regeneration method wisely, aligning it with your water softener model and your household’s habits. For most homes, the efficiency and convenience of metered and electronic sensor methods are the ultimate choices.
Before You Buy
It’s important to read these tips below before you buy a water softener – we feel it’s vital for a seamless experience. Here are some key factors to consider:
- Flow Rate: Keep the water flowing smoothly with a softener boasting a manageable flow rate (roughly 6-7 gallons per minute). This ensures uninterrupted activities like showering and appliance use.
- System Control: Salt-based softeners might demand programming for regeneration and backwash cycles. Look for models equipped with demand-initiated regeneration (DIR) control, a green choice that regenerates only when necessary.
- Efficiency: Choose up-flow designs, where water enters from the tank’s bottom, for maximum resin utilization and efficiency compared to gravity-based systems.
- Footprint: Make space for your softener, usually around 8-16 square feet. For tight spots, consider low-profile salt-based systems or salt-free alternatives sans a brine tank.
- Safety Features: Opt for salt-based systems with safety floats in the brine tank. They shut down the system if it’s on the verge of overflow, preventing property damage.
- Certifications: Seek out products certified by NSF International. Certification is your assurance that softeners or their components meet the highest performance and safety standards, giving you peace of mind.
- Long-Term Expenses: Plan for maintenance costs, such as salt for salt-based softeners and potential resin bed replacement.
- Installation: Check if the softener offers a DIY-friendly installation with quick-connect fittings and online support. Professional installation is always an option if you prefer.
- Support: Secure your investment by choosing a reputable company with a stellar customer service track record, ensuring a smooth experience from installation to maintenance.
- Capacity: Consider the softener’s capacity, measured in grains per gallon (GPG). Match it to your water’s hardness level and household needs to keep your water supply running seamlessly.
You really want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment. We don’t want you to feel like you wasted your money – I’ve been there and done that! Carefully review what’s best for you and your family and what you really need.
If you’re pondering salt-free water softeners, remember, they only help in moderate hardness levels, so be sure to test your water to know what your needs are.
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For those on a salt-restricted diet, potassium chloride can be used as a substitute for softener salt. In terms of brine production, it’s similar to regular salt during regeneration cycles. Nonetheless, regular salt has higher efficiency in removing hardness from the resin bed.
If you have a high water hardness and water demand, you might need a dual-tank water softener. A dual-tank water softener can soften water more effectively than a single-tank water softener, by allowing one tank to recharge while the other is in use.
It’s recommended that if you’re water contains iron, that you should clean the resin beads in your water softener every 6 to 12 months. These beads can become coated with iron, which will reduce their ability to soften water.
Also, it’s recommended that you clean the brine tank every other time you add salt. Over time, this tank can become dirty, which will reduce the efficiency of your water softener.
Water softeners typically last for about 10-15 years on average and this highly depends on how much water your unit processes over its lifespan and the type of water softener you own.
The answer to this question depends on the specific water softener that you have. The amount of salt that is added is typically very small and should not have a significant impact on your health or the taste of your water.
There is no definitive answer to this question since there are many variables involved, including the type and size of water softener, your local water hardness, and your water usage.
However, in general, a water softener will not have a significant impact on your water bill. In fact, some studies have shown that softening your water can actually reduce your overall water usage.