If you’re reading this, there’s a high chance that you’re among the 85% of Americans whose homes suffer from hard water. If this is the case, fear not, as there’s a great solution at your disposal.
Best 10 Water Softeners Reviews
In this water softener review, you’ll see some of the best solutions out there. Note that not every system will fit your needs, so keep reading to learn more about finding the one that will.
- 12 GPM, 48,000 Grain
- Manufacturer warranty on control head 5 years, 10 years on tank
- 48,000 Grain
- Upgraded HIGH Capacity 10% Resin
- 48,000 Grain
- With LCD display, improved features and ease of operation as compared to Fleck 5600SXT
- 96,000 Grain
- Dual alternating tanks never run out of soft water
- High flow, treats high hardness
- 30,000 Grain
- Built in USA
- Salt Saving Technology
Triple Action Poly Salt Free
- BPA FREE, NSF Certification, Wall Bracket Included, Compact Design, Eco-Friendly, Comes ready to install complete
Best Value of Salt Free
Aquasana Whole House Water Filter with Salt-Free Softener
- 10-Year, 1,000,000 Gallon Whole House Water Filter with Salt-Free Softener and Professional Installation Kit
Eddy Electronic Water Softener
- 12 month 100% "no quibble" Money-Back Guarantee + Lifetime Repair or Replace warranty.
Culligan HE Series
- Dial-a-Softness® Valve
- Soft-Minder® Meter
Kinetico Premier Series
- on demand "countercurrent regeneration"
- twin tank design
1. Fleck 5600SXT
If you’re hunting for a whole house water softener that will make every dollar you spent on it count, the Fleck 5600SXT might be your best choice. It’s not exactly a cheap solution, but overall it offers the best value for the money.
This salt-based water softener uses the ion exchange process to remove magnesium and calcium, the main causes of hard water. It features the Fleck 5600 valve, which the company claims can last for up to 27 years.
The valve has a built-in SXT controller with an LCD display, touchpad controls, and 48-hour internal power backup. The controller’s interface is very user-friendly so using it won’t be a complex task. The user can simply enter the size of their family and water hardness, and the softener will calculate the regeneration cycle.The company also offers a 5-year warranty on the tank, but you shouldn’t have any issues with it for a much longer time.
As for the brine tank, the dimensions are 14" x 34", and it can hold roughly 250 lbs. of salt. It’s highly durable, and you get a 10-year warranty on it.
The system is designed to work best for a household of up to six people and for treating moderate to severe hard water. It has an operating flow rate of 12 GPM and a peak flow rate of 28 GPM.
The only possible drawback of this system is the use of 8% crosslinked resin. This is the percentage of divinylbenzene added to the polystyrene resin, or strand intersections. While the 8% crosslinked resin is good enough for most city waters, the finer mesh 10% crosslinked resin would offer more strength and resistance to oxidation – if your water has a high amount of oxidizing agents.
At the end of the day, if you live in the city or the suburb, the Fleck 5600SXT is the best bang for the buck in our water softener review.
2. Pentair 5600SXT
This is another great water softener system that’s based on the Fleck 5600SXT.
The first thing worth mentioning is the use of 10% crosslinked resin in the Pentair. The 2% higher divinylbenzene and finer mesh can make the resin last up to three years longer and offer much higher resistance to the chlorine, an oxidizing agent, found in all tap waters these days.
As far as the other features go, they’re basically the Fleck 5600SXT. The same SXT controller is used, so calculating the regeneration cycles is a hassle-free process that can be done in a matter of seconds.
What you’ll like about this one are all the goodies that come with it. Here are the extras that you’ll get:
The only thing some users have complained about is some faulty equipment out of the box. Still, this doesn’t happen that often, and just like the Fleck 5600SXT that it’s based on, when it comes to getting the most value for your money, this is one of the best water softeners on our list.
3. Tier1 WS-165-150 Water Softener
If you need a reliable solution to your hard water issues, but the budget is a bit tight, you should definitely consider this one. This model is the best budget option of all water softeners, not just in the Tier1 WS-165 series.
It comes with a 15" x 34" brine tank, a 10" x 54" mineral tank, and a well-built valve including bypass and adapter. Another great thing about it is the digital meter installed on the valve. It features an LCD display that shows you all the operating parameters, and the company claims that this meter trumps the one on the Fleck 5600SXT, with which this water softener bears a resemblance. Aside from just giving you the info you need, the controller lets you set up automated regeneration cycles the same way that our previous choices do.
The system is capable of processing up to 48,000 hardness grains before it needs to be regenerated, and the brine tank has a capacity of 130L (34.3 gallons).
As for the system’s shortcomings, the main one is that there’s no salt level indicator, so determining whether it’s time to add salt might be a bit inconvenient. This is something that many systems in this price range don’t have, so it’s not that big of a deal, but an indicator would certainly add quite a bit of convenience.
All in all, if you’re on a budget, there’s a slim chance you’ll find a better whole house water softener than this one.
4. Fleck 9100SXT Water Softener
If you’re in need of a water softener with a huge grain capacity, it doesn’t get any better than the Fleck 9100SXT. It is equipped with two 14" x 65" resin tanks that can remove 96,000 grains of hardness between regeneration cycles, thanks to the 3ft³ of resin in each of them.
The maximum flow rate is 20 GPM, which is enough to supply a large household with plenty of soft water.
The system is digitally-operated, so controlling it is a cinch. The same goes for the installation, the detailed instructions are designed to guide an average homeowner through a DIY installation.
Fleck also offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, a 5-year warranty on the control head, as well as a 10-year warranty on the tanks.
There’s really nothing bad to be said about the system. The features of this industrial-looking water softener are nothing to be too excited about, but there’s no doubt about its high performance and capacity. So if you live in a large household or have very hard water, this one is worth checking out if you don’t want your water softener to be in regeneration mode too often.
5. Whirlpool WHES30
This whole house water softener is perfect for smaller households, in terms of both performance and footprint. It’s a very compact system in an attractive package, so if you don’t have enough space for a bulky water softener, you might find this one quite appealing.
It’s NSF certified and great at dealing with ferrous water as well, as it can remove up to 8 ppm (parts per million) of clear water iron.
Whirlpool states that the softener is perfect for households of 1-4+ people. It has a capacity of 30,000 grains, which isn’t that much unless the water is only mildly hard or the consumption is far below average in a 4-person family.
The Whirlpool WHES30 does a great job of conserving salt, as it calculates the exact amount needed for regeneration. It doesn’t use more salt than necessary, which means it’ll cut down on wastewater as well.
Whirlpool offers a 1-year warranty on the entire system, which can be extended if you purchase three bottles of Whirlpool WHEWSC water softener cleanser to go with it.
6. Triple Action Salt-Free Water Softener
Let’s move away from the salt-based softeners for a second. They may not be for everyone, so if you’re looking for a saltless water softener, this one can be a great choice.
Out of all the no-salt water softeners, this one offers the best value for money. It’s on the affordable side for a whole house water softener, yet it is powerful enough to make for a great investment.
It also has an NSF certificate and the materials are completely BPA-free. Instead of resin beads, it uses polyphosphate crystals to treat hard water. It has a filtration surface area of 340 square cm and an operating flow rate of 30 GPM.
It’s much simpler to install and use than the salt-based softeners, though it may not be as efficient. The polyphosphate converts calcium and magnesium carbonate with the help of catalysis to aragonite that won’t cause limescale, but it doesn’t actually remove the soluble calcium or magnesium.
This is an excellent budget solution if you can’t have a salt-based softener, such as if there are people in the household with medical conditions which call for less salt consumption.
7. Aquasana Whole House Water Filter with Water Softener
If you’re looking for a water softener without salt that offers supreme performance, Aquasana has something in store for you in the form of a high performance whole house water filter system with an Aquasana SimplySoft water softener upstream of an Aquasana Rhino water filter.
First of all, the system can process one million gallons of water. With an average water consumption, this could mean 10 carefree years. It doesn’t require salt or any other chemicals.
The softener uses SCM technology to prevent scale from building up, thereby protecting your entire plumbing system from potential damages. There’s also a UV filter in the last stage that removes up to 99.99% of bacteria, viruses, and chlorine-resistant cysts. The system removes 97% of chlorine, which ensures a better-tasting water.
Of course, you can’t expect a system of such capabilities to be cheap. The price is its main drawback, but if you’re willing to splurge, you’ll get an extremely high-performing water softener and filter combo that can provide soft and clean water for years to come.
8. Eddy Electronic Water Descaler
If limescale is your main issue, this electronic water softener alternative can be a great choice. Even though it isn’t exactly a softener, it deals with the primary issue and does so at a price that’s more than fair.
It works on the principle of electromagnetic (EM) field (produced by two coils). As the water passes through the descaler, the EM field alters limescale’s adhesion properties so any limescale that forms (from calcium and magnesium carbonate) loses its ability to stick to your pipes and appliances.
At the same time, it doesn’t alter the chemical hardness of the water, which means that you still get to keep all the benefits of healthy minerals like calcium.
If you’re in need of an effective tankless water softener alternative that won’t burn a hole in your pocket, the Eddy electronic water descaler is worth taking into account.
9. Culligan HE Series Water Softeners
The entire line of Culligan High-Efficiency water softeners is designed for those that aren’t willing to settle for anything less than impressive performance and don’t care how they’ll have to spend to get it.
The first feature that makes the system special is Culligan’s Aqua-Sensor® technology. Instead of having to configure the regeneration cycle, you can let the system automatically adjust to all changes in water conditions and consumption habits, such that it’d regenerate only when necessary to ensure great efficiency.
The Dial-a-Softness® valve lets you customize the desired softness level to match the needs of everyone in your household. Lastly, the Soft-Minder® meter offers comprehensive diagnostics that help you identify consumption trends and make any necessary changes.
If by any chance you’re not satisfied with your purchase, Culligan will give you a full refund within the first 30 days.
10. Kinetico Premier Series Water Softeners
The Kinetico Premier Series is nothing short of impressive. You’ll find in this line some of the best high-end water softeners money can buy, but they’re also the most expensive in our water softener review.
One of the key things that make the Kinetico Premier so powerful is the great flow rate/softness ratio. This series of water softeners offer impressive flow rates without sacrificing the softening performance.
Kinetico also promises that you’ll never run out of soft water thanks to the dual-tank design. While one tank is operating, the other is either regenerating or in standby mode. This ensures a consistent flow of soft water regardless of your consumption habit.
These water softeners are easily among the most efficient out there, as they get the most out of every bag of salt.
The price that you have to pay for such performance isn’t just monetary. These systems are very complex and definitely not DIY-friendly. Also, they can be quite hard to maintain, which can result in additional costs in the form of service contracts. However, those with the wherewithal for owning the best may not have to look any further than the Kinetico Premier.
What Is Hard Water?
In a nutshell, water is considered hard if it contains too much minerals. To be more exact, water that has more than 3 GPG (grains per gallon) of minerals is considered too hard for household use. The most abundant minerals in hard water are manganese, magnesium carbonate, and calcium.
Many people don’t even realize that their water is hard by just tasting it. However, there are a few indicators that you can look for:
If you encounter any of these, you might have issues with hard water. So how can you know whether you need a water softener? Test kits might be a good option, since they show the exact level of water hardness. Also, the US Geological Survey offers a hardness concentration map that you can check out.
Despite the widespread fear, hard water isn’t necessarily a health concern. However, it can damage the health of your home budget. There’s a big chance that you won’t even notice that there’s an issue until it damages your pipes, shower, or dishwasher.
Having this in mind, you might want to consider a water softener as soon as you notice that there’s something wrong with your water. Let’s go over some of the reasons why this is the case.
Why Do I Need a Water Softener?
To answer this question, you need to understand all of the hazards that hard water can cause. They range from mild inconveniences to full-on disasters, so reacting as soon as possible might be a good idea.
Even though it can’t hurt your health, hard water can make your skin very dry. This is because excess minerals prevent water from nourishing your skin. Instead, they dry it out, which can make it itchy and leathery. A moisturizer can help with this, but it might not be very effective.
Pretty much everything plumbing that gets in contact with hard water is prone to damaging. For example, if you have steel pipes, you’ll be among the first people to notice hard water. Limescale that builds up can clog up the pipes very easily, so you’ll notice that the water doesn’t flow as well.
Unfortunately, this is only the first stage of all the issues that can happen. Reduced water flow causes limescale to build up even faster, which can lower the efficiency of and even damage home appliances that use water, such as water heater and dishwasher.
Repairing your pipes on a regular basis can be pretty costly. When you add the costs of repairing your appliances to that, you get a pretty large sum of money that flies away from you.
Glassware and Silverware Damage
Whether you’re using a dishwasher or not, you’ll probably notice that your glassware and silverware get damaged easily if you wash them with hard water. Other than losing their shine, they will become brittle, and the glass will be more prone to breaking. Even though there are some life hacks that can help with this, such as adding vinegar to the dishwasher instead of soap, they’re not the most effective solution.
Stained and Damaged Clothes
If you keep washing your clothes with hard water, you’ll probably notice it losing its softness and color. Another red flag is soap streaks that show up after the clothes dry. You’ll also notice that the quality of materials suffer, which is especially the case with wool and linen.
Even if you use clothes softeners, this will keep happening if your water is hard. This is why water softeners might be your safest and best bet.
Higher Energy Bills
As mentioned, you water heaters will have a harder time getting the water to the right temperature, which uses more electricity and drive up energy bills.
These are the main issues that you may encounter with hard water. Instead of looking for a separate solution for each of them, you might want to consider a whole house water softener. It is a cost-effective solution in the long run for its ability to prevent all of the above issues.
However, water softeners use different technologies to soften the water. To help you find the perfect one, let’s go over the main types that are available to you.
Water Softener Types
Now that we’ve established the importance of using a water softener, it’s time to explain the main technologies that they use. Before we do that, it’s worth mentioning that you should always go with a softener that’s NSF/ANSI 44-certified.
Once you see that the softener has the certification, here are the options that you can go for:
1. Salt-Based Ion Exchange Softener
This is the most common home water softener type, as it has proven to be among the most effective.
The way it works revolves around a chemical process called ion exchange. Let’s break down this process to explain how it makes your water softer.
What Is Ion Exchange?
During the ion exchange process, hardness minerals, such as magnesium and calcium, are exchanged for sodium minerals. Like all metals, these hardness minerals have a positive charge.
As you probably know, opposite charges attract one another, which is essentially what happens here. The exchange happens when hard water passes over negatively charged ion exchange resin beads that hold sodium ions.
Once calcium and magnesium get in contact with the resin beads, they get drawn into them. The sodium ions get displaced from the exchange site, since the resin beads would prefer higher charged positive ions (calcium and magnesium have a charge of +2) to the weaker sodium ions (which have a charge of +1). All of this happens in a pressure vessel tank. The displaced sodium ions then pass through the softener outlet, which makes water soft.
As time goes by, more and more resin exchange sites will get occupied by magnesium and calcium ions, which lower the softener’s efficiency. When this happens, the resin beads need to be regenerated using a brine solution. Water and salt are mixed in the brine tank, from which they flow to the sites. Despite the lower charge, the sodium ions that outnumber calcium and magnesium ions by billions will displace them and return the resin beads to their original state.
When this happens, the resin is ready to soften water again.
This is a traditional water softener type that has been in use for quite some time. More advanced solutions have been developed since.
Electric/Non-Electric Water Softeners
If you decide to go with the salt-based water softener, you’ll have to choose between the electric and non-electric ones. Each type brings its own set of benefits, so it will mostly be a matter of personal choice.
Electric water softeners are a more traditional option. The way they work is by relying on an electric timer to trigger the regeneration process. Even though this sounds convenient, this system tends to suffer from a few flaws.
First of all, there are a number of adjustments that you have to make to ensure that it works properly. Functions like rinse, brining, and backwash need to be regulated for the cleaning to be effective. Also, the regeneration cycle runs on raw water, which means that the user is out of soft water, and even water altogether, during the cycle.
Of course, the electricals are at risk of malfunctioning in certain environments, which requires frequent maintenance.
Non-electric water softeners eliminate many of the pitfalls of their electric counterparts. First of all, the regeneration process gets triggered only when it’s needed. The geared, throughflow model that this type uses registers when regeneration is needed, and then activates it.
This means that they use less water and salt and no electricity, which makes them a more cost-effective solution in the long run. However, they require a larger initial investment. Still, the pros outweigh the price, so it might be a good idea to consider them.
This doesn’t mean that electric salt-based softeners aren’t worth looking into. For decades, they’ve been the mainstay water softener and have proven to be very capable. As far as the results are concerned, electric and non-electric softeners are equally effective so you can’t really go wrong with either of them.
2. Salt-Free Water Softener
Also known as potassium chloride water softeners, this type is not as popular since it’s less capable than the salt-based one. However, this doesn’t mean it can’t be very useful in some situations.
Unlike salt-based softeners, these don’t remove the minerals from the water. Instead, they just change their form so that they don’t adhere to surfaces. This is why they’re more commonly referred to as ‘water conditioners’ rather than ‘softeners’.
These machines operate by Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC). Instead of being removed, the hardness minerals are transformed into crystals that don’t bind to surfaces.
This means that the hardness is still there but in a form that is less harmful. You might notice some significant improvements with these salt-free softeners, but the salt-based ones might be a better fit for many.
You might be asking yourself, ‘So what are the benefits of water softeners that don’t actually soften the water?’ Well, the main benefit is that they use no electricity, unlike the salt-based ones. Maintenance is also far more convenient.
You also don’t have to deal with any brine solutions, for one. Even though outperformed by salt-based softeners, the salt-free water softener can still be a great solution for water that’s not too hard.
3. Magnetic Water Softeners/Conditioners
A trait that this type shares with the previous one is that it doesn’t actually remove the minerals from the water. As a result, they don’t completely soften the water either, which is why ‘conditioners’ might be a more appropriate name.
The way they work is pretty simple. Unlike the previous types, they don’t use any chemicals. Instead, they operate on the basis of magnetic fields, which attract hard water ions so that the water that runs through your pipes is free of them.
Unfortunately, all this sounds much better than it actually is. Currently, there’s no research that supports the effectiveness of magnetic water softeners, as all studies thus far have ended up inconclusive. This makes them fairly unattractive, despite the good concept.
However, there are still some benefits to them. If you’re not experiencing any serious hard water issues, these might still be enough. They require no maintenance, as they contain no moving parts. They’re also very cheap, compared to the other solutions, and they’re very easy to use. All you have to do is snap one on your pipe and you’re good to go.
Still, despite their popularity, their reliability remains questionable. Thanks to their low price, you can always try one for yourself and see if it works firsthand.
Whole House Water Softeners
Whole house water softeners are installed at the main water pipe before it branches out to different areas of your home. They contain other filtration stages which is necessary to extend the life of the ion exchange water softening stage.
In the first stage, particles of 100 microns and below in size are captured. This prevents the sediments from damaging the ion exchange stage. After going through ion exchange to reduce water hardness, many whole house softeners also include another stage to remove non-metals like VOCs, pesticides, and bacteria.
Of course, these features come at a price. Whole house water softeners tend to be quite expensive and require maintenance like changing filter cartridges. The level of maintenance needed varies according to the model.
Still, these systems are very effective and might be useful to everyone who wants to have filtered soft water throughout the house.
What Water Softener Size Do You Need?
Now that you know which water softener types are at your disposal, it’s time to discuss the size that you should go for.
There are three main factors that you need to take into account:
Let’s dig a bit deeper into each of those so that you can make the best decision regarding the size of your water softener.
By definition, hardness shows how much magnesium and calcium your water contains. As mentioned, it’s measured in GPG, and everything over 3 GPG is considered hard.
It’s very important that you determine the exact water hardness, as this is a deciding factor in choosing the right water softener size. If you try to estimate it, you probably won’t end up with the right machine.
If you have your own well, you’re going to have to measure the hardness on your own. This is where a test kit can be very useful. You can find them online, and they’re fairly affordable. On the other hand, if you’re using city water, you can just find the reports that your local water utility publishes.
Keep in mind that if there’s iron in your water, you need to correct the published value. For every 1 PPM (Parts per Million) of iron, you need to add 3 GPG of hardness to the overall value.
Once you know the level of water hardness, you need to determine how much water your household uses on a daily basis. Luckily, this is far easier to do that measure the water hardness.
The easiest way to find out your daily water consumption is to take a look at your monthly water bill. Simply divide the total usage by the number of days and you have your daily water consumption. This is an approximate number but close enough. If you prefer, you can also take the average of your last 3 or 6 bills.
In case you can’t access your monthly bill, there’s another easy way to calculate daily water consumption. Just multiply the number of your household occupants by 75 gallons, the average amount of water consumed per person.
Daily Softening Requirement
After you have the information about your water hardness and daily water consumption, you can calculate the daily softening requirement by simply multiplying the two numbers.
For example, let’s say that your water hardness is 12 GPG and there are five people in your household. This would mean that your water consumption is 375 gallons per day. When you multiply the hardness with consumption, you get the daily softening requirement of 4,500 grains per day.
However, that’s not all. Most softeners are sized to regenerate around once a week. This means that you need to calculate the weekly consumption.
In our case, this would be 31,500 grains per week. So what size do you need? It depends on the size of the resin beads for ion exchange water softeners, which is measured in cubic feet. Here’s a chart that you can use as reference:
Keep in mind that these numbers are based on the assumption that the salt efficiency is at its highest. Since the efficiency will go down as it gets closer to regeneration, you might want to go for one size up.
Now that you know everything about the types and sizes of water softeners, you’re pretty much ready to start looking for the right one. However, there are still some things that you need to take into account.
What to Consider When Buying a Water Softener?
To make sure that you find the right machine for you, there are some questions that you need to answer. Here’s what you need to think about:
Do I Need a Water Softener?
The fact that your water is hard doesn’t mean that a softener will fix all your issues. For some people, a conditioner might do a good enough job. On the other hand, some will need a whole house filtration system, as explained earlier.
The good news is that you can find the answer to this easily by simply analyzing your water. There’s a high chance that the softener is the only thing you’ll need, but it’s always best to make sure you’re investing in the right machine.
How Do I Know If the Quality Is Good?
Don’t forget is to check if the softener has the NSF/ANSI 44 certification. Every good softener needs to be an NSF International certified cation exchange water softener, so if you stumble upon an option that doesn’t it might be a good idea to keep looking.
Another thing to take into account is the resin quality. Since it’s the main thing that softens your water, you’ll want to make sure that it’s guaranteed to last for around a decade. Taking a look at the warranty might be a good idea here. It covers pretty much every component in the softener, so try to go with a company that stands behind its product.
Can I Install It Myself?
Maybe, but it’s probably a better idea to let a professional do it. Unless you’re going with a magnetic solution, which is really easy to set up, you might want to let an expert install the softener.
The installation process might be a bit complex especially for a whole house option, which can easily result in a flood.
How Much Maintenance Will I Have to Do?
This mainly depends on the type you decide to go with. Still, the maintenance is about on par with any good water filtration system. Make sure to discuss this with the retailer, as it can make a world of difference in terms of expenses.
One thing to keep in mind if you’re using a salt-based solution is that you should never run out of salt. If your softener can’t regenerate, you’ll have to shut it down or risk damaging the resin.
How Much Should I Spend?
It’s probably a good idea to not let the price be the determining factor. A water softener is something that should serve you for at least a decade, so it’s not a good idea to be cheap. It’s better to invest more initially, since it can save a lot of money in the long run.
The Final Word
This is pretty much everything that you need to know about water softeners. Use the information in this review & guide to find a best water softener so that serve your needs.
Make sure to consider every factor carefully. As you can see, there are quite a few things to think about.
The two most important boxes that a good softener needs to check are:
Take a close look at all the available options and find the solution that will ensure this. When in doubt, consult a professional until you have all the answers you need. Once you find the perfect water softeners, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to reap all the benefits of soft water for years to come.