The 10 Best Water Softeners: Reviews & Ultimate Guide

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This is our review of the best Water Softeners of 2021.

We reviewed several water softeners and found out that the SpringWell Salt-Based Water Softener is the best one overall.

There are several factors to consider when buying a water softener system, and to facilitate your life we spent long hours reading & researching to find out the best overall water softener so that you don’t have to waste your time. And because there isn’t just one option that suits all households and families, we also identified the best option for different situations.

You will find out the best water softeners available today, their pros and cons, an explanation of why they are better for specific situations, and a complete buying guide with all the relevant information that you need to know to choose the best water softener system for you.

Let’s get started!

Our Top Picks for Best Water Softeners

10 Best Water Softeners Reviewed

After investing our time researching and reviewing several water softeners, we identified the 10 best options for different purposes.

We’ve invested the time so you don’t have to:

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  • Best for: Overall
  • Type: Salt-Based
  • Dimension: 10 x 54 inches
  • Capacity: 32.000, 48.000 and 80.000 grains
  • Flow Rate: 11 to 20 GPM

We believe that the SpringWell Salt-Based Water Softener is the best overall solution to deal with hard water. This durable water softener is available in different sizes so you can select the capacity that suits your needs, has a lifetime warranty, 6-month money-back satisfaction guarantee, and allows you to control it through a mobile app powered by a Bluetooth connection.

The SpringWell Salt-Based Water Softener is made with a 10% crosslink resin, which will make it last longer than usual as the typical water softeners have 8% crosslink resins. This factor is important because the higher the crosslink percentage, the more resistance a resin will have against iron, the more resistant to be damaged by chlorine it will be, and it will have a higher ion-exchange capacity.

This water softener also presents a great performance, as it uses automatic regeneration to reduce the amount of water wasted during the regeneration process, and has a design that minimizes the amount of salt required for the softening process.

But one of the features we most love about the SpringWell Salt-Based Water Softener is the fact that you can control it through an app on your mobile phone, that connects to the water softener through Bluetooth. This great feature allows you to set up the water hardness level, the backwash cycles, the regeneration cycles, check the water usage and historic information.

This water softener comes in 3 different sizes so that you can select the one that better fits your needs. The smaller size has a 32.000 grain capacity (good for a household with 1 to 3 bathrooms), the medium size has a 48.000 grain capacity (recommended for a household with 4 to 6 bathrooms), and the large size has an 80.000 grain capacity.

The SpringWell Salt-Based Water Softener manufacturers show that they trust their product because they offer a lifetime warranty and a 6-month money-back satisfaction guarantee.

Pros:

  • Automated regeneration
  • Durable
  • Bluetooth enabled controls
  • Ability to select the capacity that suits your needs
  • 6-month money-back guarantee
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Cost
  • Installation process
  • Best for: Salt-Free
  • Type: Salt-Free
  • Dimension:  9 x 52 inches
  • Flow Rate: 12 to 20 GPM
  • Hardness Removal:  up to 81 gpg

The SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener is the best choice if you are looking for a salt-free water softener. This system not only removes more than 99% of the scale buildup from the water without adding salt to it, but it also comes with a pre-filter to remove some contaminants from the water, has a lifetime warranty, and a 6-month money-back guarantee.

The SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener uses TAC (template-assisted crystallization) to crystallize the minerals that make the water hard, preventing them from bonding to your plumbing and household appliances, preventing up to 99.6% of scale formation.

But this water softener also comes with a pre-filter that removes larger contaminants like sediments, dirt, and dust, which will not only filter your water from some harmful contaminants but will also extend the life of your water softener preventing it from being damaged by larger particles.

The SpringWell FutureSoft Water Softener requires low maintenance, the only thing you will need to do is to replace the cartridge from the pre-filter every 6 to 9 months.

This device has a special ActivFlo technology that ensures a good water flow, of at least 12 GPM, in different situations, to make sure that you never feel a drop in water pressure. 

The SpringWell FutureSoft uses ActivFlo water technology, which allows the system to operate at all water flow rates, ensuring your household doesn’t experience a drop in decreased pressure of water.

The SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener comes with a lifetime warranty and a 6-month money-back satisfaction guarantee, so you can try it and check if it fits your needs without being afraid of wasting money.

Pros:

  • Efficient at reducing scale buildup
  • Soften water without adding salt
  • No need for electricity
  • Good water flow
  • Comes with a pre-filter
  • 6-month money-back guarantee
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Cost
  • Installation process
  • Best for: Top Choice Salt-Based
  • Type: Salt-Based
  • Dimension: 27 x 17 x 62 inches
  • Capacity: 40.000 grains
  • Flow Rate: 12 GPM

The Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener is a great choice for a salt-based water softener, as this device comes with an affordable price and is highly effective at removing the hardness of your water, maintains a good water flow, and gives the ability to digitally control its setup.

The digital control is one of our favorite features, as it allows you to measure the water usage, control the regeneration cycles, adjust the salt usage, and more. This allows you to save on wasted water and salt consumption.

The Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener is NSF certified, ensuring that it was effectively tested by an independent organization to deal with hard water. 

This system comes with its own bypass valve that allows you to control when you don’t want to soften the water. So for example, if you want to water your lawn, you don’t need to use soft water, saving the system and salt.

The Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener comes with a 5-year warranty for the bypass valve, and a 10-year warranty for the tank.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Digital control
  • Controls to reduce water waste
  • NSF certified
  • Good capacity
  • Good water flow

Cons:

  • Few options regarding capacity
  • Some customers complained about leaks
  • Best for: Top Choice Salt-Free
  • Type: Salt-Free
  • Dimension: ‎5 x 5 x 24 inches
  • Weight: 8 pounds
  • Capacity: up to 20.000 gallons
  • Flow Rate: 15 GPM

If you are looking for a salt-free water softener, the NuvoH2O Home Water Softener is an excellent choice. Suited for a small house, is perfect for minimizing the hardness of your water without adding salt to it, protecting the environment, and saving water and electricity.

The NuvoH2O Home Water Softener was independently tested to reduce up to 98% of scale buildup in hard water, without having to use salt or electricity. And it does this using its proprietary technology based on chelation that disables the minerals from binding, keeping them soluble in water.

This system is designed for smaller houses with a couple of residents, so if you have a larger family this probably won’t be the right device for you. It can soften water up to 20.000 gallons, then you need to replace the cartridge, which should happen every 6 months.

You won’t feel a drop in water pressure with the NuvoH2O Home Water Softener, as it is able to maintain a flow rate between 12 and 15 GPM.

It comes with a 5-year limited warranty which should give you confidence in using the product.

Pros:

  • Efficient at reducing scale buildup
  • Soften water without adding salt
  • No need for electricity
  • Good water flow
  • 5-year limited warranty

Cons:

  • Only suitable for small homes
  • Not ideal for extremely hard water
  • Some customers complained about the taste of water
  • Best for: Water Softener + Water Filter Combo
  • Type: Salt-Free + Whole House Water Filter
  • Dimension: 9 x 46 x 54 inches
  • Weight: 23.9 pounds
  • Capacity: 600.000 Gallons (around 6 years)
  • Flow Rate: 7 GPM

The Aquasana EQ-1000 Whole House Water Filter + Conditioner is the best choice for a water filter plus a water softener combination. This trusted brand offers a complete, durable, and high-capacity device with powerful filtration and salt-free softening capabilities.

The Aquasana EQ-1000 conditions the water naturally without the need for chemicals, salt, or electricity, reducing the ability of the minerals that cause water hardness to bound and form scale. But like most salt-free water conditioners, if your water is extremely hard, this might not suit your needs.

But this combination also offers one of the best whole house water filtration systems available, and it was our choice for the best whole house water filter. The Aquasana EQ-1000 Whole House Water Filter is of removing 97% of chlorine, but also reducing other harmful contaminants like VOCs, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, etc.

The flow rate of this device isn’t its best feature, as it offers only 7 GPM. While it is ok for small to medium-sized households, it might not be enough for larger households that need to use water in multiple divisions at the same time.

The Aquasana EQ-1000 Whole House Water Filter + Conditioner allows you to add a UV filter, which is important if you need to deal with bacteria and/or viruses from your water source.

The manufacturer offers a 10-year warranty and a 90-days money-back guarantee, but for you to be able to activate it you need to have the system installed by a professional.

Pros:

  • Removes 97% of chlorine
  • Reduces scale buildup
  • Long filter longevity
  • No need for electricity
  • 90-day money-back guarantee
  • 10-year warranty

Cons:

  • Low water flow
  • You may need a plumber to install it
  • Not ideal for extremely hard water
  • Best for: Overall (Runner-up)
  • Best for: Electronic
  • Type: Salt-Free Electronic
  • Dimension: ‎7 x 3.5 x 2 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Hardness Removal: up to 19 gpg

The iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler is a good choice for people looking for an affordable salt-free electronic water softener. This device is capable of dealing with low to medium-hard water, and it is easy to install as it doesn’t require cutting and connecting pipes.

The iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler doesn’t work as a regular salt-free water softener that changes the structure of the minerals, instead, it creates electromagnetic waves that induce oscillations in the water molecules to increase the water solubility and allow it to dissolve scale deposits.

This system is designed to deal with water with hardness up to 19 gpg, so low to medium-hardness. If your water is harder than this, it will be better to buy a salt-based water softener, as they are better suited to deal with very hard water.

Also, if your water has a high concentration of iron, with more than 0.3 ppm, it will be better to install an iron water filter before the iSpring ED2000, or a salt-based water softener.

The iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler comes with a 1-year money-back guarantee, and the manufacturer also offers lifetime tech support, so you can try it and check if it works well for your scenario.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Easy to install
  • No maintenance required
  • Don’t affect the water flow

Cons:

  • Not ideal for extremely hard water
  • Not suited for water with iron
  • Some customers complained that didn’t notice much improvement
  • Best for: Magnetic
  • Type: Salt-Free Magnetic
  • Dimension: ‎5.9 x 1.8 x 2 inches
  • Weight: 1.25 pounds
  • Hardness Removal: Works with any hardness level

YARNA Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System is our recommendation for a magnetic salt-free water softener. This affordable and easy-to-install device is able to reduce the scale buildup in water with different hardness levels while maintaining the water flow and without adding chemicals, and/or salt to the water.

The YARNA Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System creates an electric field that forces the formation of vaterite crystals (easy to remove) instead of calcite, which is responsible for the scale buildup.

This system is easy to install and you should be able to do it by yourself in around 15 minutes, as you don’t need to cut the water pipes or special tools, like when installing other types of water softener systems.

The YARNA Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System 1-year money-back guarantee, so you can try this device and get a full refund if not happy with it in the first year.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Easy to install
  • No maintenance required
  • Don’t affect the water flow
  • 1-year money-back guarantee

Cons:

  • Requires electricity
  • Some customers noticed few improvements with really hard water
  • Best for: Iron
  • Type: Salt-Based
  • Dimension: ‎14 x 7 x 21 inches
  • Weight: 119.2 pounds
  • Capacity: 64.000 grains
  • Iron Removal: 6 ppm

The Fleck Iron Pro 2 Water Softener is the best choice for a water softener that can also deal with iron. This system is capable of removing up to 6ppm of iron from the water, has a capacity of 64.000 grains that is suited for large households and/or families, and has a digital control that makes it easy to set up and maintain.

The  Fleck Iron Pro 2 Water Softener is not only good at removing the hardness from your water, but its fine mesh resin allows it also to remove iron and manganese up to 6 ppm.

Its digital meter allows you to set up the device to automatically regenerate based on water usage or on time, minimizing the water waste and the salt usage. Apart from it, you can also use the digital control to monitor water usage, salt usage, and other functions.

The  Fleck Iron Pro 2 Water Softener comes with its own bypass valve, allowing you to control when to use the water softening capabilities, to avoid using it for activities that you don’t need, like watering the lawn or washing the car.

This system comes with a 5-year warranty for the control head, a 10-year warranty for the tank, and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.

Pros:

  • Can deal with iron
  • Good for really hard water
  • Large capacity
  • Digital control

Cons:

  • Not easy to install
  • Some customers complained about the control sensitivity
  • Best for: Overall (Runner-up)
  • Best for: Well Water
  • Type: Salt-Based
  • Dimension: 10 x 44 inches
  • Capacity: from 24.000 to 80.000 grains
  • Iron Removal: 3 ppm

The SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water is one of the water softeners available in the market. This system combines a great water softener with the ability to deal with well water, and comes with high efficient technology that reduces salt consumption & operational costs, allows different add-ons, and has a lifetime warranty.

The SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water has a fine mesh resin in which the beads are more densely packed than in other water softener’s resins, so it not only uses ion exchange to soften the water (swamping sodium with calcium and magnesium) it also exchanges sodium ions with iron, effectively removing up to 3 ppm of iron from the water.

And if your well water is highly contaminated, this system has the ability to add different filters to deal with different contaminants, like:

  •  KDF to remove iron, sulfur, and heavy metals
  • PH Buster to neutralize pH levels
  • Pro Iron to remove up to 30 ppm of iron
  • And some combinations of these, like the KDF Buster and the Well Ultimate

The SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water has a high-efficiency design and features, like auto-regeneration, automatic salt recharge, precision brining, and soft water brine tank refill, which allows saving salt and water waste.

The SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water has different capacity options available, from 24.000 to 80.000 grains, so you will be able to find the right option for your household.

Another great thing about this device is that it has a lifetime warranty, which should give you peace of mind on your purchase.

Pros:

  • Good for well water
  • Removes up to 3 ppm of iron
  • Automated regeneration
  • Ability to select the capacity that suits your needs
  • IAMPO Certified
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Price
  • Not easy to install
  • Best for: Efficiency
  • Type: Salt-based
  • Dimension: 10 x 44 inches
  • Capacity: from 24.000 up to 110.000 grains

The SoftPro Elite Water Softener is a top choice for a salt-based water softener, as this durable and highly efficient system is capable of removing the hardness using less salt and wasting less water than the typical water softener.

The SoftPro Elite Water Softener comes with a 10% crosslink high-capacity resin that removes the minerals that make the water hard through ion exchange. And due to its high crosslink percentage (the typical water softener resin is just 8%), the resin should last up to 20 years.

But one of the most important features of this water softener system is its upflow design, as it guides the minerals up through the depleted resin and out of the drain, forcing the use of typically unused regions of the resin and saving new parts, improving the efficiency when compared with other competitors that only have the downflow mode.

The SoftPro Elite Water Softener has other nice features, like auto-regeneration, automatic salt recharge, precision brining, automatic backwash, and soft water brine tank refill, which increases its efficiency when compared to other water softening systems, saving up to 75% of salt and 64% of water, reducing the operational costs up to 68%. 

There are different size available for this system, that goes from 24.000 to 110.000 grains, allowing you to select the optimal size for your situation.

And the SoftPro Elite Water Softener comes with a 6-month money-back guarantee and a lifetime warranty for the tank (the resin has a 10-year warranty and the circuit board a 7-year warranty), showing the trust that the manufacturer has in this product.

Pros:

  • High efficiency that reduces salt usage and water waste
  • Automated regeneration
  • Ability to select the capacity that suits your needs
  • IAMPO Certified
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Price
  • Not easy to install

Buying Guide for Water Softeners

When searching for a Water Softener, there are several factors that you need to understand to make sure you make the right choice for yourself and your family.

With this in mind, we created a comprehensive guide with the key topics you need to know about water softeners, and a list of the best water softeners available in the market, for different scenarios.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Water Softener

When researching for the best Water Softener for you and your family, these are the main factors that you should consider:

Type

There are two main types of water softeners, the salt-based water softener (with a tank), and the salt-free water softener (also known as a conditioner).

There are two variations of the last type, the salt-free conditioner, and the electromagnetic conditioner.

The big differences between these two types are that:

  • Salt-based: Uses ion exchange to remove the minerals that make the water hard. It is a better option for very hard water, as you will get better results removing the minerals that cause water hardness.
  • Salt-free: These change the minerals’ structure so that they don’t cause as much limescale buildup. Not ideal for very hard water, but if that is not your situation, it is a good option because it won’t require as much maintenance. After all, you won’t need to add salt recurrently.

Grain Capacity

The grain capacity is one of the main factors to consider when buying a water softener because it directly relates to the capacity of water it can soften, which is what you need.

Water hardness is typically measured in GPG, or grain per gallon, in which one grain represents 0.002 ounces of calcium carbonate in 1 gallon of water.

There are different variables to consider when choosing the grain capacity that you need, like the water hardness of your home, the water usage, and the number of days between regeneration cycles.

For an average size family, a water softener with a capacity between 16k to 32k gpg is recommended.

For larger families and/or households, a water softener with a capacity between 40k to 64k gpg is a better option. But if you have an extremely large family, you might need a water softener with a capacity in the 80k to 100k range.

If your water is extremely hard, you might need to consider extra capacity.

Certifications

The top water filters and water softeners are generally certified for one of the main certification entities: NSF or WQA. These are independent third-party accredited institutions that certify water filters softeners to ensure they remove hard water minerals as mentioned. 

The certification to look for in a water softener is the NSF 44 for cation exchange water softeners, which certifies this type of system to reduce hardness caused by calcium and magnesium ions, replacing them with sodium or potassium ions.

Not having a certification is not proof that the product doesn’t soften the water, as some brands prefer to do their one test or don’t have the size and budget to invest in certification.

Our recommendation is to always go for a product with certification if you’re undecided between two products.

Cost

Like in any purchase, the cost is an important factor, so it isn’t different when buying a water softener.

There are different water softeners available in the market, and the price can vary from a few hundred dollars to two thousand dollars, depending on the brand, certifications, type, capacity, etc.

You should take into consideration installation and maintenance costs also. In some cases, you may need to hire a professional to install your water softener, so take that into account in your budget when selecting the right water softener for you.

And if you go for a salt-based water softener, you need to consider the recurring cost of buying salt to add to your water softener, which won’t be necessary for a salt-free water softener.

System Physical Size & Available Area

Typically water softeners take a considerable amount of space, and if they have dual tanks and/or are salt-based, the more available area you will need to have them.

Also, the more capacity a water softener has, means it will be a larger unit.

So make sure you understand the dimensions of the water softener you want to buy, and check against the available area where you want to install it, to make sure it fits well.

Bypass Valve

You might be wondering what is a bypass valve in a water softener. Well, a bypass valve controls the flow of water through your home’s main pipes and will divert the water flow from the water softener, making sure it enters your house without passing through it.

But why do you need to use a bypass valve for your water softener? In reality, there are a few good uses for it, like:

  • When you want to use water that doesn’t need to soften, like when you are watering your lawn
  • When you need to maintain your water softener
  • When your water softener is in its regeneration cycle

Is common for a water softener to include a bypass valve, but if yours don’t have one, you can always buy one on the side, you just need to make sure it fits.

What is a Water Softener and How Does a Water Softener Work?

A water softener is a system that removes the hardness of water making it softer.

A water softener works by ion exchange, in which sodium ions are exchanged with calcium and magnesium ions (that cause water hardness), resulting in water with more salt (because of the sodium) but softer.

There is a type of water softener, the salt-free water softener, that instead of using an ion exchange process to reduce water hardness, uses another process called template-assisted crystallization (TAC) to change the structure of the minerals that cause the water hardness.

After passing through the water softener, the water flows into the household giving access to soft water in all the divisions of your household.

Some salt-based water softeners have two tanks, named dual tank water softeners, in which one tank has a special resin that performs the ion exchange, and the other tank in which the salt is added and that flushes the resin tank.

The salt-based water softeners require some maintenance as you will need to refill the salt or potassium chloride pellets from time to time.

What Does a Water Softener Remove?

Water softeners deal with hard water, so they are good at removing calcium and magnesium from the water, which are the minerals that make the water hard.

If you need to deal with other contaminants, a water softener is not the solution for you, you should get a whole house water filter.

Another option is to go for a combo system that contains a water filter and a water softener, dealing with hard water and multiple contaminants.

What is Hard Water?

Hard water is water with an excessive amount of minerals like calcium and magnesium. While these are essential minerals, we don’t need to get them from water, and in high concentrations, it can have some negative effects.

One way to measure water hardness is by the number of grains (of calcium carbonate) per gallon of water, or GPG.

Water with 0 to 3.5 gpg is considered soft water, water with 3.5 to 7 gpg is considered moderately hard water, while water with more than 7 gpg is considered hard water.

Your home and your health can be negatively impacted by hard water, as we will see below.

The Problems with Hard Water

There are several disadvantages of having hard water at your home, such as:

Clog your water pipes

Hard water will cause limescale buildup in your pipes because the calcium carbonate in the water accumulates in the pipes after the water evaporates.

This will make your water pipes less efficient reducing the water flow, and increase the maintenance and repair needs.

Damages your appliances

Hard water impacts appliances in a similar way it impacts the water pipes, causing limescale buildup in them, and reducing their performance.

Makes your water heater less efficient

In water heaters, a limescale buildup may prevent the water from heating as quickly as before, making you waste more energy to heat the water.

Makes your cleaning more difficult

After drying, hard water leaves mineral residues of calcium and magnesium on dishes, glassware, cutlery, etc., causing them to have stains and a cloudy appearance.

Regarding laundry, hard water not only impacts the washing machine performance like any other appliances, but it also prevents soap from lathering well, making washing clothes more difficult.

Irritates your skin

Hard water has minerals that prevent the soap from dissolving completely and don’t create enough lather in your bath, and these minerals will also remove your skin’s natural oils, making it dry and itchy.

Makes your hair dry

Bathing with hard water prevents soap from dissolving properly which causes your hair to feel dry, sticky, and weak.

The Different Types of Water Softeners

There are different types of water softeners available, so let’s understand better each one of these types:

Salt-Based Water Softeners

The salt-based water softener is the most common and conventional type of water softener available. A salt-based water softener removes the hardness of the water through an ion-exchange process, in which the calcium and magnesium (that cause hardness) ions are replaced by sodium ions.

This type of water softener needs salt to be able to perform this process, and the softened water it generates has sodium, or salt, added to it.

The salt-based water softener is very effective when dealing with hard water, which makes it a good choice if you are dealing with this problem.

Dual Tank Water Softeners

Dual tank water softeners are a variation of the salt-based water softeners. While in a normal salt-based water softener the softening process can’t happen while the system is regenerating, you won’t have to worry about this with a dual tank water softener.

When the regeneration process is happening in one tank, the other is working, so you will always have the water softener process operational.

This water softener type is better for large homes that require large amounts of water every day.

Salt-Free Water Softeners

Salt-free water softeners are a more recent type of water softener that instead of using an ion exchange process to soften the water, uses a different process, called template-assisted crystallization (TAC), to do it.

This process instead of removing the minerals from the water, changes their structure instead, basically deactivating them which will prevent them from adhering to surfaces and causing limescale buildup.

This process doesn’t actually remove the minerals, so it conditions the water to prevent limescale buildup, so this type of water softeners are also known as water conditioners or water descalers.

This type of water softener is a good option if you are on a low-sodium diet or if you live in an area that you can’t use salt-based water softeners, but is not as effective as the salt-based type water softener to deal with really hard water.

Magnetic Water Softeners (or Magnetic Descalers)

Another type of salt-free water softeners is the magnetic water softener. The major difference is that instead of using the TAC process mentioned above, they use electromagnetism to prevent scale buildup.

In this process, a strong magnet turns the minerals that cause water hardness into larger crystals gathering them, and then they won’t adhere to surfaces and cause limescale buildup.

You won’t need to connect this type of water softener directly into your water main line, you just need to attach the system to it.

Salt-Based vs Salt-Free Water Softener Systems

Which one is better, a salt-based water softener or a salt-free water softener system? Each one has its pros and cons, so the right choice will depend on your specific situation.

Let’s go through the pros and cons of each type to help you decide: 

Salt-Based Water Softener Pros:

  • More effective with hard water
  • Remove minerals that cause water hardness
  • Generally are NSF certified
  • Prevent scale buildup in appliances

Salt-Based Water Softener Cons:

  • Require maintenance
  • Waste some water during the regeneration cycle
  • Add salt to the water
  • Eliminates stains and spots

Salt-Free Water Softener Pros:

  • Don’t require maintenance
  • Don’t add salt to the water
  • More environmentally friendly, as they don’t produce waste water
  • Easier to install

Salt-Free Water Softener Cons:

  • No good against super hard water
  • Do not prevent buildup in appliances
  • Don’t solve hard water issues on skin & hair, laundry, and glassware

Water Softener Benefits

Hard water can be so damaging to your house and health that using a water softener system brings many important benefits, so we wrote a specific article to cover them in detail.

But we will list them here in a summarized version:

Prevent limescale building inside of pipes

Hard water has minerals that will form a limescale buildup when passing through the pipes.

The limescale buildup has major impacts on your pipes, causing the water to not flow so well through them, and can also cause leaks, and will lead you to have to repair your plumbing, which is expensive.

Saves you money on the electric and water bill

Hard water builds limescale on your pipes, narrowing the space on them for the water to flow, causing problems with water pressure and flow rates. This can lead to an increase in your water bill.

The narrowing of the pipe also causes the heat transfer to be less efficient, so your water heater has to work more than expected, which increases your electric bill.

Extend the lifespan of your appliances

Soft water, unlike hard water, won’t scale buildup in your appliances, such as water heaters, coffee machines, dishwashers, laundry equipment, etc. preventing damage on them and extending their lifespan.

Softer clothes, with brighter colors

Soft water is better at dissolving detergents, and also has fewer minerals than hard water, so it won’t deposit in your clothes and make them feel rough and scratchy. Using soft water leaves your clothes soft to the touch and with a fresh look.

Cleaner dishes, glassware, and silverware

After drying, hard water leaves mineral residues of calcium and magnesium on dishes, glassware, cutlery, etc., causing them to have stains and a cloudy appearance.

Softer skin

Hard water has minerals that prevent the soap from dissolving completely and don’t create enough lather in your bath.

The minerals in hard water also remove your skin’s natural oils, making it dry and itchy, and can block your pores which causes inflammation.

Cleaner hair

Bathing with hard water is not only bad for your skin but is also bad for your hair. Because hard water prevents soap from dissolving properly, it can cause your hair to feel dry, sticky, and weak.

Water Softener Disadvantages

While using a water softener has several advantages, it also has some disadvantages that we will cover now.

Cost

A regular water softener is not cheap, and a really good water softener can cost almost $2.000.

And if you go for a salt-based water softener, you need to add the recurring cost of buying salt to add to your water softener.

Adds salt to the water

Salt-based water softeners add salt to the water, which can bring some health concerns for people with low sodium diets.

While the quantities of sodium added by a water softener are quite small, it will increase your daily consumption of sodium.

Requires maintenance

A water softener will require frequent maintenance – you will need to add salt to it (not the case if you choose a salt-free water softener), and some regular cleaning from time to time.

These are quick and easy activities to perform but will consume more time from your busy schedule.

Is a Water Softener Right For Me?

There isn’t a direct response to this question, because each situation is different. But let’s go through some steps that will help you find out if a water softener is right for you and your family.

Step #1: Check if you have hard water in your home

This is the first step because if you don’t have hard water in your home, you definitely shouldn’t spend money on a water softener.

There are different ways to check if you have hard water in your home, like:

Check the water hardness map

You can check a water hardness map [1] to verify if you live in an area with hard water, and understand the level of hardness.

With this knowledge, you can estimate the hardness of the water in your home.

Check for hard water signs in your home

Another method to understand if you have hard water in your home is to check signs of it, like the existence of limescale buildup in pipes and appliances, mineral residues of calcium and magnesium on dishes, glassware & cutlery, or dry and itchy skin.

If you have some of these signs at home, it is an indication that you have hard water.

Test your water

But the best method to check if you have hard water at home is to test the water. You can easily do it by yourself, just buy a water hardness test kit and test your water.

Step #2: Choose the water softener capacity

If you know that your water is hard, the next step is to determine the capacity of the water softener.

You can use an approximation range from the table below, or you can calculate it taking into consideration different variables.

Family/Household SizeTypical Water Softener Capacity Range
Family/Household SizeTypical Water Softener Capacity Range
Small to average size family16.000 to 32.000 gpg
Large family40.000 to 64.000 gpg
Extremely large family80.000 to 100.000 gpg

The variables or factors to calculate the capacity of a water softener are:

  • Water hardness
    • Should be measured in grains per gallon (gpg). If you need to convert from mg/l to gpg, just divide the value by 17.1
  • Water usage
    • You can calculate it with our water usage calculator or use an average of between 80 to 100 gallons per day per person (typical indoor water use in the US)
  • The time between regeneration cycles
    • Usually, a water softener is set to regenerate once a week. The recommended interval is between 3 days and 2 weeks.
  • Iron concentration
    • If your water is rich in iron, an adjustment needs to be made to the capacity calculation, and add 5 grains for every part per million of dissolved iron

To calculate the required capacity of a water softener, you should use this calculation:

Capacity = Daily Water Usage x Water Hardness x Number of Days Between Regeneration Cycles

So, for a household of 3 people with average water consumption of 80 gallons per day, a water hardness of 10 gpg, and a common water softener with a 7-day regeneration cycle, the minimum required capacity would be:

Capacity = 3 x 80 x 10 x 7 = 16.800 gpg

If you need to adjust for water with a high concentration of iron, let’s say 1.5 ppm, then the calculation would be:

Capacity = 3 x 80 + (10 + 5 x 1.5) x 7 = 29.400 gpg

Step #3: Consider other important factors

Now that you have an idea of the hardness of your water and the capacity that you need, you should consider other important factors that we mentioned in the “What to Consider When Choosing the Best Water Softener” section.

So, if your water is not extremely hard, you might want to consider a water descaler type, because not only is it cheaper on average, but it also doesn’t require the recurring cost of adding salt.

Then, consider the options that fit your budget. If you have a defined budget, this will help you filter out some options, leaving you with a short list of options to select from.

If in this list you have water softeners with certifications, you should consider this factor because it’s proof that the system can perform according to industry standards.

Water Softener Installation

If you have some basic DIY skills, you should be able to install a water softener by yourself, as they are not very difficult to install. Make sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions first, to check if you can follow all the steps.

But if you are not comfortable with this process, it’s probably a good idea to hire a plumber to do this for you.

The complexity of the installation may depend on the brand, type, and size, but typically these are the steps required to install a salt-based Water Softener:

Step #1 – Turn off the water and water heater:

The initial step of a water softener installation is to turn off the main water source and drain the water from the system, turning on taps and faucets.

You also need to turn off the water heater power, and, ideally, disconnect it from the plug. 

Step #2 – Choose the water softener location:

Then, you need to choose where you want to install the water softener. Make sure you select a place with enough space to install it, and that it is before the water enters the household.

Also, it should be installed before the water heater, as you don’t want hot water to enter the water softener, as it can damage it.

Step #3 – Cut the water pipe:

After selecting the place to connect the water softener, cut the pipe using a pipe cutter. You can use a bucket to get any water that might leak from the pipes.

Step #4 – Install an elbow fitting:

Install an elbow fitting to connect the main water pipe into the water softener. If you are using a bypass valve, you will be able to divert the water from the water softener during maintenance.

Step #5 – Install the water softener:

Now install the water softener, connecting its “In” and “Out” ports to the correct pipes.

Step #6 – Connect the drain tube:

You need to attach the drain tube of the system to a drain.

Step #7 – Connect the brine tank:

Connect the overflow tube to the brine tank. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s guide, particularly in this step, because each brand may have its specificities.

Step #8 – Turn it on:

Add some salt to the tank, and slowly turn the water on. You can also turn the water heater on at this stage.

Step #9 – Run a backwash cycle:

Connect the power of your device, and open the bypass valve to the backwash position, letting the air push through pipes for a few minutes, then run a backwash cycle.

Step #10 – Setup the water softener:

Finally, you are good to go! Just configure the water softener system with your desired configurations, following the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Water Softener Maintenance

Water softener maintenance is quite simple, but there are a few activities that you will need to do from time to time to ensure it will work properly.

Clean the brine tank:

You should clean out the brine tank every 3 months to avoid the buildup of a hard crust in it.

To clean it, make sure you start by removing the salt and the water from the tank. Then, break the crust and remove it.

Next, wash it with warm and soapy water, and scrub the tank’s interior with a long brush. Finally, rinse it out with water.

If you want to go for a deep clean, you may perform a few additional steps, like adding bleach and a couple of gallons of water and wait a few minutes. Then, rinse the tank again with water.

Clean the resin bed:

You might need to do this activity if your water has a high concentration of iron.

But it is a simple activity, as you only need to add an iron rust product to the water softener and manually start a regeneration cycle process.

Clean the resin tank:

When the resin tank gets clogged with sediments you will need to clean it.

To do this, cut the water supply or use the bypass valve, and manually regenerate the tank. After that, open the tank and clean its interior with warm and soapy water.

FAQ About Water Softeners

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about water softeners:

Is it safe to drink water from a water softener?

Yes, in the sense that a water softener won’t contaminate the water. Is the opposite, it will remove or inactive the minerals that are making your water hard.

But if you have contaminated water, a water softener won’t solve the problem, you probably need a whole house water filter or an undersink water filter to remove its contaminants.

What is the cost of a water softener?

The price of a water softener may vary a lot, from a few hundred dollars to as much as two thousand dollars.

And if you go for a salt-based water softener, you need to consider also the recurring cost of the salt that you need to add, which can go from $5 to $30 a bag.

Some of the factors that have an impact on the cost of a water softener are the inclusion of a bypass valve, the inclusion of a pre-filter, the brand, single unit, or dual tank, etc.

Does Reverse Osmosis remove hard water?

The short answer is yes. The detailed answer is that a Reverse Osmosis system is not an ideal choice to remove hard water from your home.

But let’s go by parts, a Reverse Osmosis system can remove many minerals from your water, including the ones that cause hard water, like calcium and magnesium, so it removes hard water.

That being said, this is not ideal because generally Reverse Osmosis systems for a whole house are very expensive, and they aren’t as efficient as a water softener because they will generate waste water.

That is why we don’t recommend a RO system to remove hard water for the entire house (point of entry), but a water softener instead. If you need to use a RO system to remove certain contaminants from your water, you can always use it at point-of-use, i.e, connected to the sink that you use to drink and clean.

Where are water softeners installed?

Typically water softeners are installed at point-of-entry (POE), ie, connected to the mainline where the water enters your household. Some common locations where people install water softeners are garages and basements.

The objective is to soften all the water that enters your home so that all the pipes and appliances only get soft water. You should install the water softener before it reaches the water heater because running hot water through a water softener can damage some parts of it.

How long do water softeners last?

Typically a water softener has longevity between 10 and 20 years, but of course, that will depend on different factors, like the quality of the materials, usage, and water hardness.

For really hard water a water softener will be used more often, which will reduce its lifespan.

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

A simple calculation is to consider 2mg of salt for each gpg of hardness in an 8-ounce glass. So, if your water hardness is 10 gpg, then the water softener will add 20mg to an 8-ounce glass of water.

But to put this into perspective, a glass of milk has around 120mg of salt, so a water softener adds just a small amount of salt to the water, and it is under acceptable health ranges.

What is the difference between a water softener and a water conditioner?

Water softeners and water conditioners are both used to soften water, but they work in distinct ways.

Water softeners use ion exchange to replace calcium and magnesium ions with sodium, while a water conditioner doesn’t remove ions but changes the minerals’ structure to avoid limescale buildup.

Do I really need a water softener?

If you currently have hard water in your home, then a water softener is the best option to deal with it. But if you don’t have hard water, you shouldn’t spend money on a water softener.

You can check our article about the top benefits of using a water softener, and if you would benefit from any of these points, you should consider buying a water softener.

Does my water bill increase with the use of a water softener?

Yes, but it will be a small increase.

When you use a water softener your water usage will increase (and directly your water bill also), but not as much as when you use a Reverse Osmosis System, which can generate as much as 3 times the waste water as the amount of water that is purified.

The increase in water usage generated by a water softener is due to the necessity of flushing out the accumulated ions from the resin tank with some frequency, so don’t expect a huge spike in water consumption.

Our Verdict

If you have hard water you know that you need a water softener. But with so many different options available, selecting the right water softener to buy is not an easy task.

But after reading our guide and product reviews, you should be informed to do the correct choice now, and you also know that for us the best overall water softener is the SpringWell Salt-Based Water Softener.

But if you prefer a salt-free water softener, there is a great option from the same manufacturer, the SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener, which is also a great option.