Don’t get fooled – there’s countless outdated and misleading reviews on the web that are a headache to read.
We’ve spent months of research putting together proven NSF certified water softeners that will save you time and money.
|Best Water Softener Systems|
|SpringWell Water Softener System||
Check Prices on springwellwater.com
Coupon Code: QWL5
|Pelican NaturSoft Salt Free Water Softener||
||Check Prices on qualitywatertreatment.com|
|SpringWell Salt Based Water Softener System||
Check Prices on springwellwater.com
Coupon Code: QWL5
|Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener||
||Check Prices on aquasana.com|
Our guide contains the latest in water softening technology and these systems are easy to install and simple to operate – heck, some can be operated by your phone using an app.
…In a hurry?
Our Favorite is #1 however, #3 and #6 are solid overall budget friendly choices.
Best Water Softener Systems by Rating
- Best Overall: SpringWell Futuresoft Salt-free
- Best Salt-based: SpringWell SS1
- Best Salt-free runner-up: FilterSmart Salt-free
- Best Salt-based runner-up: SoftPro Elite
- Best Budget: fleck 5600 STX
- Best Electronic: Yarna Electronic Descaler
Top 9 Best Water Softeners Reviewed:
#1 SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free – Best Water Softener 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.
We put it through its paces, and our testing shows — SpringWell’s FutureSoft water conditioner is the most advanced hard-water solution that money can buy.
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.”
What We Like Best
SpringWell’s 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.
- 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
- Higher initial price than comparable systems
Use Coupon Code: QWL5 to save
Read Full Review: Springwell Futuresoft Salt-free Review
SpringWell FS1 Features we like:
- Installation – We really like the fact that we can install this system without hiring a plumber and not have to worry about voiding a warranty.
- ActivFlo — don’t ever worry about a drop in water pressure as this system is built to handle all of your water needs.
- 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.
👍 Best For:
The 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 concerns. 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.
SpringWell FS1 Product Updates:
- Clack connectors — this makes installation fast and a breeze with this add-on you won’t need to solder any pipe to get your system up and running.
- Size options — FutureSoft is now capable of handling 7+ bathrooms.
Use Coupon Code: QWL5 to save
#2 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.
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.”
What We Like Best
Water softeners aren’t rocket science, but how do you know they’re working efficiently when they’re out of sight and out of mind?
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.
- 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.
- Wish they would include reducer fittings
- This isn’t DIY friendly
Use Coupon Code: QWL5 to save
- 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.
👍 Best For:
More than 85% of Americans have hard water, but they don’t all suffer from the same effects. How hard minerals affect you is based on hardness levels. 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.
SpringWell SS1 Product Updates:
- Premium UV water purification system
Use Coupon Code: QWL5 to save
Read Full Review: Springwell SS1 Review
#3 Matrixx Smart Water Softener With Drop Home Protection
If you rely on technology to keep your life on track, say hello to the Matrixx water softener. It combines the best in salt-based water softening technology with remote control to tame hard water on your terms.
Other softeners may be smart, but we guarantee — the Matrixx is brilliant.
What buyers have said
“Lynne M Bianco said: I waited to leave a review even though I could see and feel an immediate change in my well water (central Florida). I installed the matrix softener with the prefilter and oxipro solution tank 6 months ago and I absolutely love it.”
What We Like Best
The Matrixx Water Drop app turns a humble softener into a complete water management system. Enjoy full control over every aspect of water softening and more using your home’s WiFi. Precision programming conserves every ounce of salt and water possible for maximum savings. It’s life without limitations.
- Smartphone tech with mobile alerts
- Leak detection system
- Uses 70% less salt
- Eco-smart backwashing
- Vortech tank technology
- Lifetime warranty
- Costs more than comparable models in our list
- Wish the trial period was longer than 60 days when others offer 6 months
- Like Springwell, US Matrix systems offers a smart hub that gives you full control over your system.
- Smart leak detection – this is a unique detection system that I haven’t seen anyone offer and it’s a must have. If you ever went on vacation your home’s plumbing sprang a leak, this system will automatically shut-off your water supply to your entire house — saving you from flood damage.
- Homeowners insurance – some owners have saved nearly $500 per year off their policy by letting their carrier about their leak detectors.
- System can be setup and operated by your mobile phone in less than 30 seconds.
- You have multiple options in water flow rates: 10, 15, 20, and 25. This helps keep costs low by only getting what you need.
- We like that we’re getting a commercial grade system for residential use.
- Choose from 3/4″ OR 1″ outlet/inlet
👍 Best For:
Equipped with the best in convenience and safety features, the Matrixx offers travelers total security. Integrated into every aspect of home water use, it keeps you informed with low salt notifications and flow rate alerts. If something in your home is leaking, you’ll know about it.
👎 Not Best For:
Advanced technology isn’t free, so budget buyers beware — the Matrixx is nothing less than an investment-grade purchase. If you plan to stay in your home for less than five years, you’ll recoup costs faster with the SpringWell.
US Water Systems Updates:
- Free leak detector with your purchase of Matrixx
#4 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.
Our research confirms what thousands of happy customers already know. The SoftPro Elite was designed, engineered and built for savings.
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.”
What We Like Best
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.
- 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
- Requires electrical hookup to run
- Doesn’t have bluetooth capabilites
- 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 system you can’t go wrong and if you have 6 months to send it back for a full refund — you got nothing to lose.
👍 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.
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
#5 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.
What We Like Best
Fleck water softeners aren’t the most advanced in any category, but they have the 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 water softener with proven technology, look no further than Fleck.
- User-friendly back-lit LCD display
- High-durability resin bed resists chlorine degradation
- Protects settings against power loss
- Five-year warranty
- Internal power backup
- More maintenance required
- Won’t remove Iron
- Fewer programming options
Fleck 5600 Features:
- This unit uses a state-of-the-art SXT controller with a back-lit LCD display that shows you the system’s status at a glance.
- Step-by-step programming is a cinch to use, and the advanced options help maximize system efficiency and save money.
- Multiple size options to choose from helps you from overpaying for what you don’t need.
👍 Best For:
The Fleck 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 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
#6 Filtersmart Salt-Free Water Softener
If all that stands between you and soft water is salt, Filtersmart’s salt free water softener alternative eliminates limescale and hard water stains without salt or water waste.
We’ve compared the specs to similar models and think you’ll agree – it protects your home, your wallet and the environment.
What We Like Best
Filtersmart’s salt free softener eliminates up to 99% of scale buildup without the high cost and ecological burden of salt. A cinch to install and virtually maintenance-free, the tank is guaranteed for life.
The system includes a sediment filter and built-in bypass valve — features you’ll pay extra for with other models. It’s a complete package.
- Certified components
- Pre-filter included
- Two sizes to choose from
- Doesn’t remove beneficial minerals
- Comes with a lifetime warranty
- Tank media lasts a lifetime
- Customer support isn’t to quick to respond
- The system requires electricity to operate
- Filtersmart is an overall decent system that covers all of the basics needed to soften water efficiently.
- We like that it comes with a built-in bypass valves
- Maintenance is super low aside from changing out the sediment filter every 8-10 months or so and their filters are pretty cheap in comparison to others.
👍 Best For:
If you’re short on space, the Filtersmart is one of the few models that can be installed indoors or out without voiding the warranty — just follow the installation instructions.
👎 Not Best For:
Filtersmart’s salt-free water conditioner serves comes in two sizes for homes with up to six bathrooms, but the 15 gallon per minute (gpm) flow rate is lower than SpringWell’s 20 gpm. Large families may experience a drop in water pressure with peak use.
FilterSmart FS500 Product Updates:
- No news yet
#7 Crystal Quest Whole House Water Softener
Crystal Quest’s Whole-House Water Softener does more than soften water. Pre- and post-filtration units transform it into a powerful water filtration system that reduces contaminants from sediment to chemicals.
As effective as several filters combined for one fair price, our analysis shows it’s an economical, all-in-one way to improve your water quality.
What We Like Best
The Crystal Quest softens and filters water. If you drink city water, you’ll never taste or smell chlorine again. Made in the USA with safety-certified parts, pre- and post-filters last up to three years, and the softening media lasts a decade or more.
If you have better things to do than maintain an elaborate filtration system, you’ll be thrilled with the Crystal Quest. And cancel the bottled water deliveries — you won’t need them.
- Commercial grade system
- Sediment & Carbon Filters
- Low cost system
- Improved taste & Smell
- Not ideal for larger homes with 3+ baths
👍 Best For:
Crystal Quest offers whole-home filtration solutions for every need. This version of their water softener includes sediment and carbon filters, but you can add a UV light filter and oxidation system if you have a well with bacteria or iron. Designed by commercial water filtration experts with residential customers in mind, it’s a reliable, customizable, low-maintenance system with unlimited potential. If you need it, they offer it.
👎 Not Best For:
Crystal Quest softeners are impressive in every way but flow rate. It’s tepid, offering just 9-13 gallons per minute. The filtration quality is superb, but if you have a large family, the system might struggle to meet peak water demand.
Crystal Quest Product Updates:
- Now offers smart hub leak detection
#8 Yarna Capacitive 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.
Unlike magnetic descalers, capacitive technology is both cheap and effective. We reviewed the studies, and it works.
What We Like Best
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. 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.
- 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
- Costs more than other electronic descalers
👍 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. Budget-friendly, the Yarna offers most of the benefits of a salt-free water conditioner without the high cost or installation hassles. If you have $300, you can afford softer water.
👎 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.
Yarna Capacitive Product Updates
- Now offers multiple descaler configurations to accommodate pipe sizes ranging from 3/8″ – to 4″ pipe diameter
#9. iSpring ED2000 – Best Electronic Water Softener
With this iSpring descaler, you’re just fifteen minutes away from better water. Installation requires no plumbing or electrical know-how — simple coils charged with electricity do the work.
What we like best:
They alter the composition of minerals, so they don’t adhere to pipes, and while it won’t reduce the actual hardness in water, it goes a long way toward enhancing the life of water-using appliances without complicated installation or the added cost of salt.
In ecologically sensitive areas where salt-based softeners are prohibited, it’s an effective alternative.
- Low long-term cost of ownership
- Perfect for those on sodium-restricted diets
- Leaves healthy minerals in water
- Two units may be necessary for water pipes over an inch in diameter
- Doesn’t protect clothes from color loss
👍 Best For:
Like Yarna, this system is perfect for the renter that just wants to eliminate limescale and moderate hard water. This is more affordable than yarna minus the features and does pretty much the same thing.
Ispring’s provides top notch customer support and has plenty of user reviews with high scores across the board.
The iSpring system comes in at about 25-percent less than the Eddy, so since we’re comparing apples to apples, this is the best electronic water softener if you need one that’s salt-free.
👎 Not Best For:
If you’re experiencing excessive hard water issues that cause frizzy hair or itchy skin, you’re better off getting a salt based water softener system and if you can’t do that, look into showerheads that help eliminate this common problems.
Ispring ED2000 Product Updates
- For every purchase, iSpring donates water filtration systems to families in need
- Now offers a premium version called the ED2000s
Compare All 9 Water Softener Systems
(Mobile users: Swipe to scroll)
Compare Brands & Models
#1 SpringWell FutureSoft System
#2 SpringWell SS Salt System
#3 Matrixx Smart Softener
#4 SoftPro Elite System
#5 Fleck 5600 STX System
#6 Filtersmart FS500 System
#7 Crystal Quest System
#8 Yarna Descaler System
#9 Ispring Descaler System
||TAC||ION Exchange||ION Exchange||ION Exchange||ION Exchange||TAC||ION Exchange||Electric pulses||Electric pulses|
||81GPG||32k, 48k and 80k||27k – 70k||32k – 110k||32k – 110k||75GPG||48k – 60k||No limit||No limit|
|Flow Rate||12-20 GPM||12-20 GPM||7-20||15 GPM||15 GPM||12-15 GPM||12 GPM||No limit||No limit|
|Warranty||Lifetime||Lifetime||1 year||7 years||5 Year||Lifetime||1 year||10 Years||25 year (limited)|
Buyer’s Guide To Water Softeners
If you have hard water, there’s no question there are significant benefits to installing the best water softener system. The only question is — which one is best for you?
We will discuss the various types of water softeners later on..
But first, let’s take a closer look at why you need a water softening system and which features will give you the long-term results you’re looking for both your health and plumbing system.
Why You Need a Water Softener
Hard water isn’t a health risk, but it does create problems. Softening your water is not a requirement since the mineral contained in the water are not toxic. However, dealing with the impact of hard water in the home can be challenging.
A water softener system, also known as (ion exchange softeners) is necessary for individuals who would like to improve the look, smell or taste of their water. This filtration system will also allow you appliances to run superbly. Another important feature of a water softening process is that it safeguards against mineral buildup on the inside of hot water heaters, fixtures and pipes.
- Dingy Clothes: If your bold new tees fade fast, chances are hard minerals are to blame. When trapped in fabric, they retain dirt and cause premature wear. Surfactants in detergents are less effective, leaving the equivalent of soap scum in your clothes.
- Spotty Dishes: Hard minerals stick to dishes as water evaporates, leaving cloudy white spots on delicate glassware. Over time, they can cause permanent scratches known as etching.
- Dry, Itchy Skin: Hard water affect skin in two ways. First, it leaves a thin layer of soap scum on your skin that can’t be rinsed away. itching. Second, it reduces lather, something most people respond to by using more soap which has a net drying effect — doctors call it hard water dermatitis.
- Haystack Hair: Hard water minerals cling to hair despite vigorous rinsing, leaving behind residue resulting in untamable frizz. Calcium ions affect pH, causing colored locks to fade faster or even change shade.
- Soap Scum on Bathroom Fixtures: Soap scum is the ugly white film that coats tubs and shower doors when soap doesn’t dissolve efficiently. Regular cleaning keeps it at bay, but it reforms every time you shower. Miss a day’s cleaning, and it hardens into limescale requiring harsh chemicals or aggressive scrubbing to remove, leaving your back and fixtures worse for wear.
- Clogged Plumbing Systems: The same limescale build up that forms in your tub builds up in pipes, narrowing their diameter and reducing water pressure at the tap. That not only makes for an uncomfortable shower, but it also forces appliances like dishwashers to work overtime. The result is higher utility bills and costly appliance breakdowns. Replacing a water heater alone averages $850. Ouch! So it’s important reduce limescale in your plumbing system to prevent these issues.
Minerals Found in Hard Water
Magnesium and Calcium
Dissolved magnesium and calcium are two of the most common minerals that “hardens” your water. The level of hardness intensifies as the magnesium ions and calcium content increase in strength. Hard water affects just about every cleaning task, from bathing and dishwashing to laundering and personal grooming. The level of hardness minerals in the water impacts the amount of detergent and soap necessary to get things clean. The soap that is used in hard water mixes with the minerals to produce sticky soap curd, that could ultimately corrode pipes and appliances.
Iron, which gets picked up from the rivers, lakes, soil and even older, oxidized plumbing, is another mineral found in hard water. Iron can clog screens and pipes and could leave reddish-brown particles on the fixtures, brownish stains on the laundry and could cause the water to have an unpleasant smell and taste. For those with Iron in their water, a fine mesh resin is used to eliminate ferrous in water softeners.
This mineral can also be found in hard water and it can get into the water by way of rock weathering or other natural processes. A thin coating of aluminum oxide can rapidly develop from aluminum metal which stops the metal from responding with water. When the coating is corroded, a reaction can develop, emitting extremely flammable hydrogen gas.
Does My Water Bill Increase With The Use Of a Water Softener?
If a water softener has been installed in your home, bigger water bills can be expected. This is because the system will require a large volume of water to be used to periodically flush out the buildup of magnesium and calcium in its filter, thereby increasing the water consumption.
This is essential as the water softener eliminates the magnesium and calcium contained in hard water. This is done by exchanging them with sodium, which indicates that excessive amounts of magnesium and calcium can harm the function it is intended to carry out.
What Is The Difference Between a Water Softener and Descaler?
Water Softeners and descalers use different techniques to handle scale deposits and hard water in their own unique way. Based on the level of your hard water, you might favor one over the other. Both systems are designed to safeguard your appliances and plumbing against premature wreckage, which means no more regular expensive repairs.
The main distinction between the two is that the water softener will remove all the hardness from the water, which is an indication that the GPG count will end in zero. The descaler will not lessen the GPG count but instead, stop the resulting effects of the hard water.
How to Soften Hard Water
High levels of minerals in water cause a wide range of household problems, but you don’t have to live with them. Boiling water and reverse osmosis filtration systems both remove minerals, but thankfully, there’s a more convenient, less expensive whole-home solution — a water softener – read more on how a water softener works.
Types of Water Softeners
Water softening systems come in two types — salt-based, or ion exchange process, and salt-free water softeners use template assisted crystallization (tac). In a salt-based Ion exchange system, water flows over negatively charged polystyrene resin beads. Positively charged hard minerals stick to the beads and are then flushed away by the action of the salt solution. This process does add a bit of sodium to your drinking water, but the amount is negligible and the system can address hard water problems of any severity.
Salt free water softeners, better-called descalers or water conditioners because they do not remove hard water minerals from water, are available in several types, but only the electronic type is in widespread use. This type of unit uses electricity from coils wrapped around your water pies to change the molecular structure of hard mineral molecules, making it hard for them to stick to surfaces like plumbing fixtures and appliances. This method of water conditioning use no salt, but is best used for low to moderate levels of hardness, and the results won’t be as comprehensive.
Salt-based Ion Exchange Water Softeners vs Salt-free Water Conditioners
Traditional salt-based heavy duty water softeners use tanks with ion exchange resin to trap calcium and magnesium. Periodic salt water backwashes disrupt the resin-mineral bond, sending positively charged sodium ions down the drain.
Only salt-based heavy duty water softeners actually remove minerals, but because they discharge briny waste water, they’re costly to maintain and are not welcomed in ecologically sensitive areas. Several states limit or prohibit their use.
Salt-free water softeners operate without electricity or salt and they produce no wastewater — they’re environmentally friendly and cost effective, but they don’t remove minerals. Instead, they alter their chemical composition so they can’t form limescale.
Salt-free water softeners come in tank-based models that perform as well as conventional softeners and electronic descaling units suitable for mild hard water problems. Salt-free water softeners are ideal for those that don’t want to add salt to their system in order to operate.
How to Choose the Best Water Softeners for City Tap & Well Water
Choose a the right whole house water softener system for quality water treatment with these three steps:
Test Your Water
If you have city water, you can contact treatment authorities for a copy of you area’s water quality report. But because minerals can leach from pipes between the source and your home, only a water test can tell you for sure how hard your water is.
Do-it-yourself water tests can be purchased online, or you can send a sample to a certified lab. Some states offer free testing for residents.
Once you know what’s in your water, you’ll know how hard it is and if you need additional filtration. Iron, for example, can permanently damage softening media and should be removed with a pre-filter.
Select a Size
Hardness is traditionally reported in grains per gallon, so salt-based ion exchange water softeners’ grain capacity is similarly sized. A grain of hard minerals weighs about 65 milligrams — as much as a newborn koala or half a paper clip. It’s equivalent to 17.1 parts per million.
Grain “capacity” is the amount of hardness a water softener can remove before resin must be regenerated. Softeners with too little capacity will constantly regenerate, driving up utility and salt bills, so it’s critical to choose the right size.
To determine the appropriate size softener for your home, multiply the number of residents by their average daily water consumption in gallons — 80 is a good average — then multiply the result by the grains of hardness in your water. Using this formula, a four-person household with moderately hard water would require a 32,000-grain water softener system. Because salt-free softeners don’t remove minerals like a salt-based heavy duty water softener , most companies have replaced confusing grain-based labels with by-the-bathroom sizing.
Consider Performance Features
We’ve all heard the stories about cheap softeners that leak, underperform, or are a hassle to use. A water softening system is a once-in-a-lifetime investment — the ideal model is the one you’ll need to think about the least once it’s installed.
These critical features make a difference:
1. Flow Rate: Any type of filtration can reduce water pressure, but a softener that decreases your shower to a trickle when someone flushes the toilet just won’t do. The average softener offers a manageable 6–7 gallon per minute flow rate of soft water so you can do several water-using activities at once without sacrifice. The higher the water flow rate, the happier you’ll be.
2. System Control: Salt-free water softeners are virtually automated — set them and forget them. But salt-based models require at least some programming to control regeneration and backwash cycles. The best salt-based water softeners have demand-initiated regeneration (DIR) control. Systems monitor resin saturation and recharge only when needed, saving salt and water. The lifetime savings can be significant in areas with high utility rates.
Look for units with back-lit digital interfaces and intuitive routines. Bluetooth capability and cell phone control are a plus. Models with battery back-ups preserve your backwash and regeneration settings during a power outage.
3. Efficiency: Water flows through lesser softeners from top to bottom. These gravity-based systems are inefficient because hard minerals tend to collect in the upper layers of the resin bed. Performance decreases and salt use rises.
Up-flow designs introduce water from the bottom of the tank, exposing it to the resin’s full surface area — every gallon is treated.
4. Footprint: A water softener is designed to be installed vertically, so measure carefully for height including the head. Most models require between 8–16 square feet of floor space to set up plus enough room for an adult to perform maintenance comfortably. If space is tight, consider a salt-free softener without a brine tank or choose a low-profile salt-based system.
5. Safety Features: Water softeners are technologically simple — there’s not a lot to go wrong. But one feature worth looking for in salt-based systems is a brine tank with a safety float. Floats rise with water, and if the tank overfills, it shuts the system off, preventing property damage if you’re away.
6. Certifications: Residential water softeners are not federally regulated, so how does a consumer know if a product meets performance and safety standards? The answer is NSF International — an organization that sets voluntary standards for product performance.
Companies pay for independent testing and certification to prove softeners or their components are accurately labeled. NSF Standard 44, for example, verifies a water softener efficiently reduces hardness via ion exchange process. It’s just one more way buyers know they’re getting what they pay for.
How important is certification? Certifying products can cost thousands, so not all manufacturers participate. Instead, some assemble systems from certified parts. Results are similar and can you save you hundreds.
7. Long-term Cost of Ownership: All softeners need at least some maintenance to consider when calculating the long-term cost of ownership. Salt-based water softener models require salt, and even the best ion exchange resin bed doesn’t last forever — resin can cost nearly as much as the original softener to replace.
8. Installation: Even homeowners with limited technical expertise can install a water softener, but engineering on cheaper models is less refined, using more parts that increase the complexity of set up. Look for brands that emphasize DIY-friendly installation with quick-connect fittings and online video support. Professional installation averages $200-500 and many opt to have a whole house water treatment system installed at the same time.
9. Support: A water softener is a once in a lifetime investment, so most buyers are inexperienced. If you run into a problem with installation or need a replacement part, will a qualified water quality expert answer your call? Working with a reputable company that has a strong track record for customer service is the key to long-term satisfaction with your purchase.
10. Capacity: A softener’s capacity is measured in grains per gallon. The higher the number of grains, the more gallons it can soften before it needs to regenerate. Since water can’t be used during the regeneration process, it’s important to minimize disruptions to your home’s water supply by ensuring the softener is large enough to meet your needs. This is, in part, dependent on the hardness level of your water.
Water softener reviews differ on the size people should purchase to get enough softened water without using excessive salt. The research I’ve done suggests that for moderately hard water, a 48,000-gallon system like the Pentair WS48-56sxt10, the Harmony Aquapure or the Tier 1 will serve three to four people. For a larger family or a small family with high usage, a 64,000-grain system like the Iron Pro2 or the Fleck 5600sxt is better.
Salt-free water softener brands have no capacity, so there are no limitations.
How to Install a Water Softener
Water softeners aren’t difficult to install, but it takes comfort with plumbing, a few basic tools and, of course, the quality of the parts makes a difference. Cheap fitting are tough to work with.
Steps required to install a salt-based water softener system include:
- Read written instructions from start to finish before beginning the project. Precautions and helpful tips are often addressed last.
- Assemble tools and equipment.
- Choose a dry, level area for setup. Salt-based systems must be installed near a power supply and drain.
- Shut off the water to your home and cut power to the water heater. Drain all faucets before cutting into pipes.
- Cut 5 inches of pipe from the cold water supply pipe coming into your home. Have a bucket handy to catch drips.
- Attach elbows to the cut ends. One will channel water flow down into the brine tank, the other will redirect water from the brine tank to your water heater.
- Attach the pipes included with the softener using compression fittings.
- Clamp the drain hose to the tank and over the drain to keep it secure.
- Connect the overflow tubing to the brine tank.
- Turn on the water and open the bypass valve to flush the system.
- Plug the softener in and prime it by setting the valve to backwash. Water flows in while pushing air out. The system is now ready to use.
Installing a separate bypass valve or pre-filters will require more plumbing. Steps to install a salt-free filter are similar but because there’s no brine tank, pipes are attached directly to the softening unit and priming occurs naturally without electricity.
How to Clean Hard Water Stains
Hard water stains range from light spots to heavy accumulations of limescale build up.
Mild acidic solutions are recommended for spot cleaning. Commercial products that remove rust from metal are effective but harsh. Instead, make a homemade cleaner with equal parts of water and white vinegar or lemon juice. Spray the solution liberally over stained surfaces and let it sit for a 5–10 minutes. A gentle scrubbing should then wipe it away. To clear clogged taps, soak a rag in the solution and wrap it around the faucet or shower head for an hour or two — a rubber band can hold it in place.
If you’ve inherited fixtures with hard scale, you’re in for a workout. You’ll need to spray, scrub and wipe the same areas repeatedly until the stains are gone — it can take a while. Age-old limescale is the best case for using commercial cleaners but follow the directions carefully. Any acidic solution can corrode metal-plated fixtures and should be tested in inconspicuous areas first.
- Mix a 50/50 solution with equal parts: Water, white vinegar or lemon juice into a spray bottle
- Spray the solution and let it sit for 10 minutes
- Gently scrub hard water stains with a sponge
How to choose which water softener is right for you
For low to moderate levels of water hardness, a descaler should give you good results. Some models suggest they also work for very hard water, but customer reviews are mixed. If you live in an area where salt-based systems are prohibited because of their ecological effect, a descaler will likely result in at least some improvement for any hardness level.
For moderate to very hard water, a salt-based water softener system will give you better results, but it will cost more to own long-term.
No water softening system removes much iron over 5 ppm. That’s why systems that remove 4ppm and 8 ppm are relatively comparable for performance. The systems in this review, the Iron Pro 2 and the Pentair WS48-56sxt10 both remove enough iron to be suitable for many buyers with iron issues. For very high levels over 5 ppm, an additional iron filter is usually required.
If you have iron in your water, softeners not labeled for iron removal should be avoided. Not only will they not help with iron staining, but the excess iron can decrease the efficacy of the resin bed and shorten its life.
The resin bed is the meat and potatoes of a softener, but there’s much ado about nothing when it comes to the difference between 8-percent cation resins — the most common type used — and 10-percent crosslink resins. The 10-percent resin can help remove iron, but otherwise, it has little impact on a softener’s performance. Lesser softeners on the market use a low-quality resin that performs poorly despite its percentage rating. The five salt-based systems on this list all use trusted, top-quality brands.
Single or Dual Tank Softeners
Single tank softeners have only one tank loaded with resin. Dual tank softeners have two. In most cases, a single tank system will serve most families, but for small businesses, a dual tank model is a good choice for a heavy duty water softener.
Conventional water softeners need to be installed near an electrical supply — no extension cord, please — and a drain. Some models also have specific manufacturer’s recommendations for distance away from water heaters to prevent the hot water from migrating backward into the softener during its regeneration cycle. If that happens, it could damage parts of it permanently. Expect most mid-sized salt-based models to take at least sixteen square feet of floor space.
Electronic declarers can be mounted in any direction and fit in less than a foot of space on the wall near your pipes.
Magnetic Water Descalers
Both electrical water softeners (descalers) like the Eddy and the iSpring ED2000 and purely magnetic water conditioners have limited to evidence to back up claims that they work. Some water softener reviews suggest they shouldn’t be trusted, however, at least concerning the electronic type, there is science that suggests they should work — even if they haven’t been extensively tested — and customers report favorable experiences. Most reviews don’t recommend them, and neither do I.
What some reviews won’t tell you is this — softening technology is old school and most systems perform comparably — even those from the high-priced water store that cost thousands more than these. These were all chosen as best picks because they’re easy to install with basic plumbing skills, but even with optional professional installation, they’ll still cost less.
Choosing a water softener really comes down more to price and the individual features that may be better for some buyers than others. Ultimately, the best home water softener for you is the one you buy today because it fits your lifestyle.
Top Rated Water Softener Brands
This company was established, in particular, to satisfy a requirement within the residential water filtration industry. They have proven longevity since they have been in business for more than 20 years. They are committed to providing every family with the purest available water.
Springwell has always focused on creating the finest whole-house systems. Their primary systems include whole house filters, combination softener and filter systems, salt-based and salt-free softeners and well water systems.
AquaOx was founded in 2006 and has been delivering excellent service to its customers for 15 roughly years. Since its inception, the mission of the company has been to safeguard families against harmful water contaminants that are commonly found in the water supply.
They are renowned for having products that are extremely durable, quite easy to install and maintenance free. Their products are also known to contain the finest water filtration technology currently available.
Established in 1997 and based in Texas, Aquasana is among the major contenders in the United States water filter industry. The company believes that pure water and a wholesome environment are vital components to healthful living and general well-being.
The company offers filtration solutions for whole-home and personal use. All of their products are manufactured and sold by the company. The products include water softener systems, shower head water filters, water filtration pitchers and whole house filters.
Pelican (now Pentair)
Founded in 2007, Pelican Water Systems has their manufacturing and warehouse facility in Florida. Their products are shipped all across the 50 states of the US, to Canada and also to international markets.
The company is known for using environmentally-friendly means to assist families in enjoying safer, cleaner and better tasting water in their own homes. It prides itself on providing each faucet in the home with sparkling pure, spring-like water that is superior to bottled water quality.
Started in 1911 and headquartered in Benton Charter Township, Michigan, Whirlpool is a first-rate appliance company that has stamped its mark on some of the best water softeners, which are designed as a solution to hard water problems. The company guarantees that its filtration systems will be a worthwhile investment in safer, clearer and cleaner water for the family.
Whirlpool water softeners are manufactured under license by Water Channel Partners and the brand is dedicated to delivering quality experiences in each of its products. These products are offered in two varieties, the Pro Series and the WHES.
In the late 1800s, in Schenectady, New York, the General Electric (GE) brand was born. The brand has spent more than years as an industry leader, creating high performing products like top-quality home electrical appliances. GE offers a line of water softeners which includes a wide array of models. It produces both big and small water softeners with varying capacity levels to satisfy every need.
GE water softeners are well renowned for their performance and quality. The company’s water softeners are energy-efficient and saves water and salt as well. It is estimated that it uses as little as 34 percent salt, as much as 35 percent less water and during regeneration, it uses less than 50 percent detergent for laundry or dishwashing.
Founded in 1970, Kinetico started with a mission to produce a water softener system that would deliver better efficiency and performance than any of the others that were on the market. This mission was accomplished when Kinetico invented its first demand-operated, twin-tank water softener system. Kinetico was actually the first brand that established the technology that made softening water without using electricity possible.
These days, Kinetico is among the most sought-after brands, renowned for water softeners internationally. In addition, Kinetico is among the top-quality brands with all of its systems certified by the National Sanitary Foundation (NSF) and the Water Quality Association (WQA).
Why Does My Water Softener Smell Bad?
Regardless of the brand, the tank of any water softener could start to have a foul smell if it gets contaminated with sulfur bacteria. This kind of bacteria is drawn to the sodium that is in water softener tanks. During the developmental process of the bacteria, hydrogen sulfide gas is emitted as waste, leading to an odor similar to rotten eggs.
Can I Use Potassium Chloride In Place Of Salt In My Softener?
For individuals who are on a diet that restricts salt, potassium chloride can be utilized in place of softener salt. This is because potassium chloride is actually not sodium chloride, which is a salt. The water softener will not be able to detect whether there is potassium or salt in the brine tank.
Therefore, the quantity of brine produced by the softener with either the potassium or salt is the same in any of the regeneration cycles. However, it should be noted that salt has a higher efficiency level for eliminating hardness from the resin bed.
What Is The Difference Between a Water Softener And Reverse Osmosis Systems?
Water softeners decrease hardness in the water and mineral buildup, while the water is purified by a reverse osmosis system. The reverse osmosis process lessens impurities such as salt and minerals. Ion exchange process is used by water softeners to substitute for minerals that cause the water to be hard with potassium or sodium, which makes the water soft.
Do I need a dual-tank water softener?
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.
Do water softeners need to be cleaned?
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.
What size water softener do I need for a family of 4?
For a family of four, you will need a water softener that can handle at least 5-10 GPG with a minimum of 32,000 grain capacity. This will ensure that your family has enough clean, soft water for all of your needs.
How long do water softeners last?
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.
How much salt does a water softener add to my water?
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.
Do water softeners increase your water bill?
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.