Best Water Softener [2021] – Reviews & Buyers Guide


This article is all about choosing the best water softener but before starting our discussion let me tell you that water is declared as hard when it contains high amounts of minerals and their salts. These minerals are calcium and magnesium. The good news is that hard water is not a health risk. But still it is a nuisance in domestic and commercial settings. So if you are having hard water at your place you may face these challenges;

Hard Water Problems???

  • Rough and dull hair
  • Skin problems
  • Fading and chalky laundry
  • Low soap performance
  • Blocked showerheads, etc
  • Difficult to clean tubs and sinks
  • Spotty dishes
  • Lime build-ups in plumbing and appliances
  • You are exhausted with all these problems?
  • Do you want to get rid of this?

Here is the Solution!!!

These problems are no more if you have water softener systems in place. To make hard water soft all you need is a water softener system. So now you know the problem and its solution. Now the question is what is a water softener?

A water softener is a device that removes minerals from water that are responsible for the hardness of the water. What is the best water softener? So, if you are here looking for the answer, I want to assure you that you are in the right place.

Our detailed reviews on several water softeners, comparison among various best water softener brands and buyers guide will help you purchase the best water softener among various available options.

Who We Are? 🤔

Let me proudly tell you that we have water consultants. Our team of researchers comprises of Chemists, Microbiologists, Pharmacists and Nutritionists with years of knowledge and experience.

In a hurry? let’s take you to our top 3 picks

reward for premium choice

Iron Pro 2 Fleck 5600SXT

Iron Pro 2 Fleck 5600SXT

  • Removes Iron
  • Auto regeneration
  • Dual operation


rewards for best overall

Pentair WS 48

Pentair WS 48

  • Demand control
  • High capacity resin
  • Whole house use


Fleck 5600SXT

Fleck 5600SXT

  • Most Economic
  • Compact Design
  • Easy Installation


How We Picked The Best Water Softeners?

Our researchers are fully equipped with the knowledge and experience in the water softeners and water treatment processes and instruments.

They have reviewed and analyzed hundreds of best water softener brands available in the market and picked these thirteen best water softeners suitable for a variety of different sets of users having different requirements.

Top 13 Best Water Softeners – Experts Choice 2020

Before I tell you about the science behind water softening processes and hacks of choosing the best water softener for you, let us have a look at our residential water softener reviews:

Water Softeners

Pentair WS 48

  • Whole House Use
  • Demand-based Operation
  • Best for Big Family
Iron Pro 2 Fleck 5600 SXT
  • Best for Well Water
  • Auto Regeneration
  • Dual Operation

Fleck 5600 SXT 48000 Grains

  • Economic
  • Easy Installation
  • Compact Design
AFW Filters WS 96K
  • High Efficiency
  • Large Storage
  • Smart Controls

Nuvo H2O Dphb-a

  • Economic
  • Compact System
  • FDA & NSF Approved

AFWFilters Fleck 64K

  • High Capacity
  • Easy Installation
  • Auto Regeneration
ABCwaters Fleck 5600sxt
  • Cost-Effective
  • High Capacity
  • Durable
Tier1 Essential Series
  • Money Saver
  • Complete Package
  • Intelligent Design
Aquasure 48,000 Grains
  • High Rated Treatment
  • On-demand Digital meter
  • Optimum Regeneration
DuraWater FL-SXT-M-32
  • Efficient
  • Dual Meter
  • Durable
  • Smart Design
  • Easy Installation
  • Budget-Friendly

1. Pentair WS48-56sxt10 – Best whole house water softener

This water softener brand is of the bestselling among best water softeners on the market. Some users described this product as a “bomb”. It has the history and ability to replace top-rated water softeners that users had been using for years. Therefore we have picked it as the best water softener 2020.

  • Value for money
  • Easy installation
  • Flavor
  • Efficient
  • Instruction manual is complicated for some users.

Key attributes

  • Efficient on-demand control

Removes hard water scales build up on tanks and pipes and hoses and improves soap quality with water softening unit through its high-efficiency Fleck 5600SXT Digital valve that features on-demand control.

  • High Capacity Resin

This water softener contains 1.5 cubic feet high capacity resin which ensures removal of bad salts which make hard water.

  • Method

It softens the water through the most modern and reliable ion exchange method thus removing calcium and magnesium ions responsible for the hardening of water. The life of appliances and plumbing extends with the removal of hard water.

  • Meter based regeneration

This feature ensures that the quantity of water is measured when used and the system only regenerates at the time of need. That is why this best water softener system.

  • Fleck 5600SXT Digital control

The latest SXT controller from Fleck which is constructed on the 5600 true and tried valve. They offer a 5-year warranty for valves that is outstanding. That was made possible with the test of running continuously for 27 years.

More Features

  • Item Weight: 130 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 54 inches
  • Size: 48,000 Grain
  • Flow Rate: 14 GPM
  • Water Consumption: 3.5 GPM
  • Certification: Not Applicable
  • Batteries Included?     No
  • Batteries Required?    No



2. Iron Pro 2 Fleck 5600SXT Combination water softener - Best for Well Water

This is another outclass water softener in our water softener systems review for those who are using well water but having trouble with hard water as well as high iron content. Since you are using well water so in well water in addition to Calcium and Magnesium, Iron is an extra nuisance.

  • Handles extremely hard water
  • Great capacity
  • Removes iron
  • Auto-regeneration
  • Needs extra filter for a high concentration of iron

So, Fleck 5600SXT Iron Pro 2 water softener is specially designed for this purpose. It not only removes calcium and magnesium from water but Iron also. This is one of the most common products in the best home water softener reviews anywhere.

Key attributes

  • Great capacity

The Fleck 5600SXT has 5 varying capacity ranges, starting from 32,000 grains to 80,000 grains. So as per your house size and number of individual users, it offers a great capacity of water softening.

So if we talk hardness levels on scale, this is important to know that water is regarded as hard if it contains greater than 7 gpg or 120 ppm the solid material. The Fleck 5600SXT is capable enough to deal with extremely hard water, as more as 85 gpg or 1456 ppm. We haven’t yet found any other water softener as mighty as Fleck 5600SXT for iron-containing water systems.

  • Crafted for Iron

The name Iron pro Fleck 5600SXT says this all that this water softener is specially designed for iron. This softener utilizes the effective ion exchange method to effectively remove both ferrous and ferric ions from the water thus eliminating the very source of the disturbing rusty stains on your surfaces and equipment. The build-ups in your water pipes are now a past story. With the removal of hardness and iron, water tastes much better.

The softener can easily remove iron up to 8 ppm, thanks to the fine mesh resin which works efficiently in high iron concentration. Unlikely no other softener assures such level of efficiency in removing iron.

This is also important to know that 8 ppm is considered as medium concentration of iron. Some customers even gave the feedback about its working at 10ppm concentration but we recommend installing an extra iron filter to be on the safer side if iron in your water is extremely high. The extra filter will facilitate iron removal and ensure a longer life.

  • Auto-Regeneration

Fleck 5600SXT gives you freedom and ease of use about its cyclic operations. It operates on 2 mechanisms, time-dependent and amount dependent. That means it regenerates after a specific amount of water or after a set time. It takes less than a couple of minutes to set up after that you have nothing to do. The softener will do all you need. The Digital touchpad is user friendly.

More Features

  • Item Weight: 119.5 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 7 x 21 inches
  • Batteries Included? No
  • Batteries Required? No[/su_section]



3. Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grains – Whole house Water Softener

This Salt-based Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener lies next to the WS48-56sxt10 in durability. NSF compliance and certification makes it more trustworthy concerning quality and safety. Salt-based water softeners are undoubtedly the foremost choice among hard water softeners. This water softener offers auto regeneration hence saving your water and salts.

  • Easy to personalize
  • NSF certified
  • Whole house usage
  • Remarkable customer support
  • Standard crosslink (8%)

Key attributes

  • Demand-based regeneration

Unlike traditional soft water systems that regenerate after a set time duration, the Fleck 5600sxt BR8 with the help of its digital meter is designed to regenerate when a set amount of water has been used. So it automatically saves water and salts from consuming in case of low consumption and it readily works when the demand or consumption is higher such as in the presence of guests or car washing.

  • Less replacement needed

The tank of the softener can accommodate up to 250 pounds of salt that means it can work for half a year without replacement needed.

  • Smart but complete package

When you receive the softener at your doorsteps, it is almost a complete package. Except drainage tubing all you need is present in the package. The items list includes tank, control head, connectors, resin, and brine tank along with safety float, brine tubing and bypass valve. That makes all the things you need to assemble and start using.

  • Easy Installation

This Fleck 5600sxt softener is so easy to install that even a nonprofessional can install it easily. Even a layman can figure out the system and its components within a couple of hours they say. Still if there is something not understandable, calling some fixer will not be a failure but rather a wise decision. It is better to play safe rather than paying the price of mistakes.

More Features

  • Item Weight: 20.8 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 27 x 17 x 62 inches
  • Flow Rate: 12 Gallons per Minute
  • Water Consumption: 103 gallons
  • Capacity Description: 48,000
  • Certification: NSF
  • Included Components: Complete with bypass valve
  • Batteries Included? No
  • Batteries Required? No[/su_section]



4. AFWFilters WS-96k-91SXT Fleck Dual tank water softener- Best for big household

This is the most suitable system for a bigger household and family with 4-5 individuals. It is a dual tank water softener that ensures the availability of soft water all the time. Utilizes the ion exchange method to remove hardness and provides soft water with the help of high capacity resin. This is the ultimate solution to all hard water problems being the best water softener for the money.

  • Efficient
  • Huge capacity
  • Auto regeneration
  • Good for bigger families
  • Some users find it difficult to install

Key attributes

  • Efficient

Complete System comprises of  dual 14"x65" resin tanks and two riser tubes with distributor baskets three sq ft high capacity resin in each tank (total six sq ft) which removes 96000 grains of hard water in a single operation

  • It’s huge

It has a bigger tank coupled with safety float. Large storage and efficient working ensures the availability of softwater round the clock.

  • Smart Control

SXT Controller with LCD Display and smart touchpad controls made for simple setup and easy operation.

  • On-Demand Flow

It regenerates on a pre-set amount of water so it saves salt and water

Flow rate is 20 gallons per minute.

  • Easy installation

The installation is easy. Complete installation guide is available. Instruction manual can be followed even by home owners to install by them. Still if professional help needed, they can install the system within 2 hours.

More Features

  • Item Weight: 53 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 14 x 65 inches
  • Item model number: WS-96k-91SXT
  • Color: Almond/Black
  • Batteries Included? No
  • Batteries Required? No[/su_section]



5. Nuvo H2O Dphb- Best Salt Free Water Softener

The NuvoH2O Home Softener System is based on the revolutionary technology that lowers the water pH. This technology makes the principal ions, calcium and magnesium to cause chelation, thus making them soluble and prevent them from making the water hard.

  • Compact system
  • Light in weight
  • Budget friendly
  • Approved from FDA and NSF
  • Suitable for small families only

The water result is soft and healthier for all types of household use. That includes drinking, washing, bathing and gardens watering. Due to salt free unique technology, this product has been including in our best water softener system review.

The package of NuvoH2O softener includes housing and its cartridge. More items include a mounting bracket, user manual, mounting backplate, housing wrench and screws.

Key attributes

  • Prevent scales and removes existing scales

It prevents new scales to build-up and also removes hard water scale that existed before.

  • Cost-effective

It utilizes no salt, produces no wastewater and consumes no electricity. This is good in extending the life of your plumbing fixtures, water heater and appliances.

  • Compact system

It comes with a very compact design, you can fit it almost anywhere.

  • Trusted manufacturer

This water softener has been developed by a trusted manufacturer from more than 25 years of experience in the commercial market.

  • NSF & FDA approved

What worths more than an FDA and NSF approval?

  • Best for smaller family

This water softening system is best for homes with 1-2 individuals.

More Features

  • Item Weight: 8 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 5 x 24 inches
  • Item model number: H2O DPHB
  • Flow Rate: 15 GPM
  • Batteries Included? No
  • Batteries Required? No[/su_section]



6. AFWFilters Fleck 64k- Best for medium family

This is another salt based water softener system utilizing the most reliable ion exchange method for water softening. This is good for medium sized family with 3-4 residents. The system removes the hard water causing scale buildups and enhances soap efficiency.

  • Efficient
  • Durable
  • Cost effective
  • User friendly
  • Complex Programming for beginners

AFWFilters is a trusted name among the producers of water treatment products. This product is surely worth trying.

Key attributes

  • High capacity

With 64, 000 grain system, it gives a high capacity of water softening.

  • Easy to install

This is easy to install with the help of clear instruction manual. The package includes tank, brine tank, control head and resin. All you need is to just fix it and then add salt. Auto regeneration

The auto regeneration is based on the calculated amount of water usage. Hence it prevents the overuse of salt and water. This system saves your water and salt.

  • Cost effective

Auto regeneration system makes the softener save your money on salt and water

  • Smart touchpads and LCD

The system comes with smart touchpads ensuring easy operation and error warning for on the go troubleshooting and settings.

  • Technical support

The company offers toll-free technical support before and after the sale for all installation and programming related questions.

More Features

  • Item Weight: 20.8 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 52 x 12 x 12 inches
  • Certification: Not Applicable
  • Batteries Included? No
  • Batteries Required? No[/su_section]



7. ABCwaters built Fleck 5600sxt – Whole house water softener

This water softener is another best pick for the customers who are conscious about the efficiency and output. This systems employees high capacity 48000 grains softening system with an upgraded 10% cross-linked resin (ABC10).

  • Efficient
  • High capacity
  • Softens water with filtration
  • No waste water
  • N/A

This simply means the water softener provides you with the best soft water with durable build comparable to any other product in the market. The flow rate is 12 GPM which makes this water softening system best suitable for the needs of a household comprising of 2-5 people. Good housekeeping water softener reviews always count this product in their lists.

Key attributes

  • Cost effective

This water softener works on the principle of upflow carbon filtration. No back wash required which means it does not consume electricity hence saves your money. This is one of the best water softener 2020.

  • High capacity

With 48000 grains, this product is high capacity softening system and one of the best quality products available in market.

  • Durable

10% upgraded cross link fibre ensures the durability of the water softening system.

  • High flow rate

A flow rate of 12 GPM makes this water softener best choice for the household of 2-5 residents.

  • Removes other impurities

Upflow carbon filteration not only ensures the removal of hardness of water but it also removes other impurities such as chloramines  and chlorine, herbicides, pesticides, organic matter, THM, and mtbe.

  • No waste water and drain line needed

This water softener produces no waste water therefore no drain line is required. and o drain line needed, and no wastewater produced

More Features

  • Item Weight: 95 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 54 x 10 x 10 inches
  • Size: 48000
  • Item Package Quantity: 1
  • Included Components: softener and carbon tank
  • Batteries Included? No
  • Batteries Required? No
  • Warranty Description: 5 year manufacturer[/su_section]



8. Tier1 Essential Series 48,000 Grain- Best Budget salt-based water softener

Like 5600 SXT, this water softener also provides 4800 grains of water softening. The added benefit of this water softener is its digital meter controlled valve with a smart LCD. So it has slightly advanced features and easy operation as compared to Fleck 5600SXT.

  • Completely adjustable cycle times
  • Reliable
  • Easy operation
  • User-friendly LCD display
  • Disruption in water during regeneration

Key attributes

  • Money saver

Enhances the quality of water and soap efficiency and provides you soft water for your healthier hair and skin. It saves your money by saving your appliances and improving their life. This is for sure one of the best water softener for home.

  • Complete package

The water softener is a complete package in terms of the items included. That includes mineral tank, 1.5 cubic feet resin, brine tank, 3/4 inch water connections, control valve, drain line, brine tubing plus mechanical components required for standard installation with pre-installed connections for water softener. If you have PEX or CPVC supply tubing, it may require compression fittings like the Sharkbite brand which is available in markete and can be bought separately.

  • Intelligent Design

Intelligent design with pre-valve turbine meter make you worriless about the operation and remembering difficult and complicated input keys.

  • Customer care

Tier1 ensures the best customer service that is the reason behind their successful journey as a trusted supplier of water filteration and softening systems all over the US.

More Features

  • Item Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Product Dimensions: 57 x 27 x 15 inches
  • Batteries Included? No
  • Batteries Required? No
  • Flow Rate (GPM): 11.2[/su_section]



9. Aquasure Harmony Series 48,000 Grains – The durable

This durable water softener is a giant. Made of optimum strength fiberglass with full corrosion resistance and lined polyethylene tank. Additionally, it has prefilled premium grade resin and durable bypass valve.

  • Easy installation
  • Reliable
  • Durable
  • Value for money
  • N/A

It is covered with a promising 5-year manufacturer warranty. It helps in reducing hardness in the water, and removing scale and spots build up for the whole house. This water softener is something really worth having. Customer reviews are encouraging and success rate is as high as any leading brand among water softeners. This product can even be listed among our 4 best water softeners.

Key attributes

  • High rated water treatment

This water softener has 3 variants, 32000 grains, 48000 and 64000 grains. So it offers you the flexibility of picking one that matches with your requirement and level of hardness.

  • Removes damaging minerals

This water softener removes damaging minerals such as magnesium and calcium from water that make it hard. Additionally, it also removes iron that cause rusting of the plumbing and appliances. These minerals also cause skin irritation.

  • On demand digital meter

This water softener is equipped with Aquatrol Advanced On-Demand Digital Meter, in and out bypass, 1" NPT Male Adapter, Control Head, and pre-filled resin of premium quality.

  • Time delayed operation

Using the advance time delayed backwash technology ensures optimum regeneration, high performance and great cleaning of water. That is the reason it is best rated water softener.

More Features

  • Item Weight: 120 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 60 inches
  • Item model number: AS-HS48D
  • Size: 48,000 Grains
  • Voltage: 120 volts
  • Flow Rate: 12 GPM
  • Batteries Included? No
  • Batteries Required? No[/su_section]



10. DuraWater FL-SXT-M-32 Fleck – Best for Small Family

This is a great 32000 grains water softener. It comes 2 types of meters, that are paddle wheel meter and turbine meter. Due to metered operation, it backwashes only when needed. This gives you a huge saving of money on salt and water.

  • Efficient
  • Durable
  • Meter based regeneration
  • High capacity
  • Some customers feel difficulty in installing

Key attributes

  • Efficient

The system is efficient. Gives you what you want. A soft water that is good for your plumbing, appliances and body.

  • Dual meter

The complete system will arrive at your home with two meters. Those are paddle wheel and turbine meters. The paddle wheel meter is already attached with the wall. You can change the meter as per your choice and requirement.

  • Durable

High capacity resin enhances the life of the water softening system.

  • Economic

The backwash is metered hence saves your salt and water and backwashes only when it is needed.

  • Easy installation

The installation is very easy and even non-professional homeowners can install the system easily through the help of instructions manual.

More Features

  • Item Weight: 75 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 9 x 48 inches
  • Included Components: complete system
  • Batteries Included? No
  • Batteries Required? No[/su_section]



11. WHIRLPOOL WHES40E 40,000 Grain Water Softener

Whirlpool WHES40E water softener is the water softener of choice for quite large families with the number residents from 1 to 6 and more. This water softener not only eliminates hard water but also remove iron from water up-to 10 ppm. So you have a softer water that is free of iron as well. This characteristic makes this water softener suitable choice for well water.

  • Efficient
  • Smart design
  • Value for money
  • Suitable for all types of families


Key attributes

  • Automatic Calculation

With the ability to automatically calculate the amount of salt and water for regeneration it only regenerates at the time of use. This feature limits the usage of salt and water and saves your money.

  • Efficient System

Based on the ion exchange method this water softener efficiently removes hardness of water and gives your house a completely new look. It also makes your skin and hair look smoother and shinier. Plumbing build-ups are no more and spotty dishes and stained sinks are gone.

  • Simple programing

The electronic panel of whirlpool water softener is simple to program hence easy to operate.

  • Made in USA

Manufactured by the US based manufacturer makes this water softener ensures reliability.

  • Whole house water softener

This water softener is suitable for a family ranging from 1 to 6 and more residents. So ideally this is suitable for all time of families.

  • NSF Certification

Certified water softener by NSF makes this system more reliable.

More Features

  • Item Weight: 95 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 18 x 48 inches
  • Certification: NSF
  • Batteries included? No
  • Batteries Required? No[/su_section]



12. iSpring ED2000 Descaler – Best Budget option

This descaler water softener cannot be a substitute for a salt-based water softener which has proven efficiency, But if you are concerned about budget or having a small place with a few number of people, this can be the best choice.

  • Easy installation
  • Salt & Chemical free
  • Affordable
  • Maintenance not needed
  • Effects are yet to be proven scientifically

Key attributes

  • Popular water softener

The reason behind the popularity of descaler is its ranking in water softeners reviews on The Spruce and MSN is one of the best water softners.

  • Budget-friendly

This is a budget-friendly and eco-friendly water softener. Water softener price comparison suggests that the price of this water softener is even less than the cheapest water softeners using salt-based or chemical techniques of water softening. This will also save the cost of periodic salt replacement.

  • Easy to install

Another outstanding feature of this descaler is the compact size ease of installation the unit also earns points for ease of installation. No plumbing expertise and engineering work is required for installation and making it run. All You need is wrapping the coils around the pipe, power up the device and there you go. Your water softener is functional.

  • Noise-free operation

As this softener operates by producing electromagnetic waves,  that means it does not produce the noise of machine operating.

  • Is this worth investing in?

If you are thinking that the device is simple and economical so it’s not worth it, I request to reconsider this thought. It’s effective.

It works – Yes it does

There are several instances and users have shared their experience with this device. That it works. All hard water problems related to instruments and hair or skin problem have been solved by only using this device at home. People experience more lather with soap, silkier and softer hair and skin, brighter utensils, cleaner and shinier bathtubs and sinks, clean showerheads and so on.

If you are still thinking to invest or not, please note that iSpring is a renowned name among the manufacturers of water treatment equipment. They have years of experience of customer satisfaction in the best water softner. Though this device does not offer water filtration but you can install a water filter at your sink to get clean drinking water.

If still not satisfied with the device, ED2000 is backed with a yearlong money-back guarantee and technical support for a lifetime.

Why have this?

It is simply best for your household and the environment. Our experts and the best water softener consumer reports suggest that if you are on salt-restricted diets and salt based softener is not recommended you can have this. It’s good for your hair skin as well.

It is specially made for the areas with hard water areas (having 10-19 grains). It’s cost effective, energy saving and helps improve the life of your appliances.

Works on all pipes It works equally great on any type of pipes, including PVC and PEX.

More Features

  • Item Weight: 2 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 3.5 x 2 inches
  • Included Components: 1 Electronic Descaler Water Conditioner
  • Batteries Included?     No
  • Batteries Required?    No[/su_section]



13. HQUA 5000E – Best water Descaler

We have already reviewed iSpring water descaler and this HQUA 5000E Electronic water descaler is another pick among water softener alternatives. Though they are not as efficient as salt based water softeners but this new emergent technology is getting popular day by day.

  • Economic
  • Easy installation
  • Environment friendly
  • Noise free
  • Removes existing scales
  • Not suitable for high hardness

They just emulate the soft water and lessen the hard water related problems. There is a huge customer feedback as they experience better soap efficiency, silkier hair and smoother skin, brighter dishes and appliance and cleaner tubs and sink. So there is no harm in having a descaler as this is economic, eco-friendly and workable water softener system for home.

Key attributes

  • Environmental friendly

As the descalers use no salt or other chemicals so this is the best choice among eco-friendly water softeners.

  • Economic

This is very much economic as compared to even the cheapest salt based water softeners.

  • No maintenance

It has zero maintenance cost. Once you install it at your place. It will continue to give you desired result without requiring any work or replacement etc

  • Removes existing scales

This system not only prevents scales to build up but also remove existing lime scale on plumbing.

  • Whole house use

It is suitable for a full family use

  • Easy installation

This descaler does not require any plumbing.

More Features

  • Item Weight: 1.95 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 3.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Wattage: 4 watts
  • Batteries Included? No
  • Batteries Required? No[/su_section]



Methods to Soften Hard Water

There are two methods used most effectively to reduce the hardness of water.

1. Whole House Filtration

Modern whole house filtration methods are effective in removing particles, microbes, sediments, and other forms of impurities. So they are very useful in cleaning the water but unfortunately they are not the solution to hard water.

Among modern systems of whole house filtration, one of the most effective methods for filtration and water softening is reverse osmosis. RO devices perform both functions but they are much expensive than water softeners. The cost includes the initial cost of the system and accessories plus maintenance cost throughout the life of the RO system.

2. Whole House Water Softening

Water softeners on the other hand, remove the hardness of water by replacing magnesium and calcium ions with sodium ions. This is the principle on which a water softener works. So they are good to soften the hard water at a much cheaper cost than RO systems.

These water softeners cannot eliminate impurities, particulate matter, microbes and sediments which are harmful for the life of the appliance and human beings. Therefore an ideal system would be the one which handles all water-related problems – Water softening plus filtration.

Our Recommendation- Mixed Setting

The most sound approach to address the issue of hard water and impure water is to install both systems altogether. Install the best salt water softener system at the entry point of water coming into your house and under the sink filtration system- preferably the RO system.

Reverse osmosis is the most effective method of filtration that gives the highest degree of purity. The whole house RO system is way too expensive while under the sink RO system is economic. Our whole house water softener reviews will help you in choosing the product that fits your needs.

Choosing the best soft water system - Buyers Guide

So, if you are having trouble with hard water and need to choose a water softener that best fits your needs, you must know how to choose the best water softener. Besides water softener review, here is the complete step by step buyer’s guide which will enable you to choose the best water softener among hundreds of the water softener ratings available in the market.

1. Know the hardness of water

Water softeners come with varying capacities depending on the hardness of water that they have to deal with. So before choosing the best water softener you must know exactly the extent of the hardness of water.

There are different methods of knowing the hardness level of water such as;

Method 1: Estimation with Integrated Water hardness scale map

USGS has gathered data of water hardness from all over the US and integrated it into a map. That is called USGS integrated water hardness map. It does not give an exact score of the hardness but an estimation of the hardness of the water in a given area.

Water Hardness Scale Integrated US map

According to the map, the whole US has been divided into four regions of different colors. Blue being the slightly hard water areas and red being the very hard water areas. White and orange come in between. So according to the map if you come in areas with blue or white marking, you don’t need a water softener. Slight to moderately hard water does not create nuisance rather it contains essential minerals that are helpful for biological processes in the body.Hardness map

However, if your area is highlighted with red or orange, and that makes more than half of the US, That means you have the problem of hard water at the extent where you need to address it. These areas have the minerals that make much more than what could be accepted. Here you need a water softener. Total dissolved solids equal to or greater than 7 grains per gallon is problematic.

Method 2: Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Devices

The method of estimation was developed based on geological surveys conducted four decades ago. Though that method is convenient but does not give accurate and reliable information about the hardness of water at your place. For the exact calculation of hardness of water that comes to your place you need more accurate technique. Therefore TDS meter can help get the exact and reliable score of water hardness.

These meters are quite handy and can be used by the individuals themselves to calculate the water hardness at their places. You can calculate the hardness of your drinking water as well as for the water intended to be used for other purposes such as bathing or filling up the fish tank etc.

The units used in these devices will be either mg/L or ppm. You can convert these results into grains per gallon which is more commonly used in expressing water hardness by using the following simple formula:

Grains per gallon = result in ppm/17.1

Suppose you calculate the hardness on TDS meter 190 ppm, it would be 190/17.1 = 11.1 gpg which is very hard.

Method 3:Differential analysis – Lab test

Though TDS results will give you the exact calculation of water hardness, it has a limitation that it does not reveal the differential amount of the minerals involved in the hardness of water. Sometimes it is not the calcium or magnesium that increases the TDS value of water but other minerals such as iron etc. In that case you need a different approach or device to take care of your water other than simply installing a water softener.

Therefore, the lab results are useful in determining the hardness level of the water as well as the exact amount of the elements that are responsible for it. Lab results will also indicate whether the water is just hard or it contains other harmful entities that may be poisonous or pathogenic such as arsenic, lead or bacteria.

So having a complete lab report on the ingredients of your water is always the best approach. It helps you to decide and plan what strategy you must adopt to cope with the problems related to water at your house. It will you in deciding whether you need a water softener or just a filtration system or both.

2. Know Water Softener Size You Need - The Grain

After knowing the hardness of water, the first and foremost step in choosing the best water softening systems is to know the capacity of the top water softeners that you need. As buying a water softener is a one-time investment, so it should be wise and smart. Nobody wants to put himself in trouble by purchasing a wrong sized dress or shoes, let alone the water softener.

The water softeners are usually installed at the entry point of water where water first enters your household. So calculating the capacity of a water softener is very important and it should match with the daily consumption of water at your home. The capacity depends on the number of residents using the water with other factors.

Along with the number of residents, the time length between the regeneration is also an important factor while calculating the capacity of the water softener. Regeneration is the term frequently used in water softener systems. It is the process by which the minerals are washed off from the resin beads so that the resin is available to collect more salt ions through the ion exchange process. Normally regeneration is set to be done after a specific time duration. Most of the modern water softeners also offer to set the regeneration after a specific amount of water has been utilized.  Regeneration should be ideally set to take place once in 3 days maximum, and minimum after a fortnight.

Too frequent regeneration is not recommended. Every regeneration cycle consumes some amount of water and salt which leads to the wastage of water and salt and puts an extra burden on your pocket. Moreover, every regeneration process takes one to two hours to complete during which water is not available. Too long gap that is more than two weeks in between the regeneration cycles is also not recommended despite high grains of the water softener. The resin becomes smelly with minerals attached to it especially Iron.

The capacity of any water softener is usually expressed in terms of grains. Higher the number of grains, the higher will be the capacity and vice versa. To understand this phenomenon, you need to understand the concept of grains. The term grains refers to the amount of the mineral grains of hard water that a water softener can clear in a given regeneration cycle. It depends on the water hardness and the amount of water intended to be used between 2 regeneration cycles.

Too much complicated? There is an easy formula to calculate the capacity of the water softener you want to install at your house:

Capacity in terms of grains = Number of residents (+1 for appliances) x 80 X Hardness Level x number of days


The formula is as per the suggestions from the St. Charles city estimation. That expresses the number of gallons by an individual that is 80 gallons. If your estimated usage is less or more than 80 gallons per person, you may adjust it accordingly in the formula. The unit of the hardness necessary to be put in this formula is gpg. So if you have calculated the hardness in ppm or mg/L first convert in into gpg by using the formula expressed in the previous section. If there is Iron also in the hardness water, add 5 times the each ppm of iron in the formula.


Suppose the family of 5 with water hardness 10 gpg, and number of days between regenerations is 4, the capacity of the water softener to be installed will be

(5+1) x 10 x 80 x 4 = 19,200 grains.

If there is iron also, suppose 2 ppm, then suggested water softener capacity will be;

(5+1) x (10 + 5 x 2) x 80 x 4 = 38,400 grains.

3. Know the cost of water softener and your budget

While buying the best home water softener system it is important to have an estimation about the cost a water softener is going to put on you. Therefore it is good to compare water softeners in terms of budget.

There are 3 ways water softener puts the cost on a user

Initial cost, cost of the salt that needs to be replaced periodically and cost of water utilized during backwash. Repair and maintenance cost also adds up in unfortunate cases.

The price of a water softener ranges between 500 $ to 2500$. The monthly cost of water softener salt lies between 5 to 10 $ on every 40 lbs of the salt and if you are using Potassium instead of Sodium the cost goes even higher.  During backwashes water is consumed at the rate of 3 gallons per minute. This means if your regeneration cycle is set to every 7 days, the amount of water consumed during a month will be between 960–1080 gallons in a month.

So considering all these factors, a salt based water softener is not easy on the pocket. But, on the other hand if we look at its benefits, it looks something of value for money. Still if it seems a burden on your pocket you may consider installing a descaler which costs very less than the cheapest salt based water softener and it has no maintenance cost as well.

But I will not recommend a descaler if you have to deal with the extremely hard water. Keeping in consideration the benefits of soft water and the burden involved in using hard water in terms of the life of appliances and its effects on skin and hair, the cost of salt based water softener does not seem high.

4. Certifications

Along with the capacity, cost and size of a water softener there is another important factor that can be considered while buying the best water softener brand. That is certification.

Certifications show that the water softener has proven ability to removes several water hardening elements. Though the certification does not guarantee the flawless operation, it simply suggests that the softener has passed the testing of industrial standards.

There are several types of certification for water softener systems such as FDA certification or NSF certification. Some of the products listed in our review have certifications from the above-mentioned standards.

There is another certification by the Water Quality Association. They award a Gold Seal to the products which pass the rigorous testing based on the industry standards. So a product, having any of the certifications, gives you confidence about efficiency, quality and durability. Top rated water softeners have one of these certifications.

5. Other features

Above mentioned features are though sufficient in deciding the best water softener you have to pick from the market, but some additional attributes are also helpful in making a good purchase. The top of them is the Cross-link profile of the resin. You may have seen the term cross-link resin in our reviews. So I want to tell you what it is;

Cross-linked resin is made of polymeric material styrene and divinylbenzene which are cross-linked with each other. This cross-linking enhances the life and durability of the resin. A resin is a material used in water softeners to absorb the minerals responsible for the hardening of water.

With time and the extent of the impurities in the water, quality and performance of the water softener resins becomes less. The processes involved in affecting the life of resins are oxidation and physical damage. Cross-linking is done to increase the durability of the resin.

To make it easier, it is enough to say that the number of cross-links is an indicator of durability.

Higher the number higher will be the resistance to oxidation and physical damage and durability of resin. Some standard salt-based water softeners come with cross-link resin of 8% but few systems have cross-linking of 10% (Some of them are included in our list). Though the difference may not look much higher, still it is considerable in expecting a more durable resin. If the water has more chlorine content then a higher cross-linking must be chosen as chlorine is notorious in damaging the equipment.

Automatic operation is also a considerable factor in buying the best water softener. In a busy lifestyle when you cannot keep a check on the salt level, an automatic water softener will replace the salt on its own or inform you when the salt level reaches a minimum level through the indicator.

Types and Working of Water Softeners

Based on structure and functions water softeners can be broadly divided into 4 best water softeners categories. Here are our water softner comparisons;

1. Salt-Based Water Softener

Salt-based water softeners are the most popular and the best water softener systems. They work based on the ion exchange method. Through this method the bad ions (calcium and magnesium) are replaced with sodium ions and the water becomes soft. The bad salts are attached with the resin beads which then ultimately get washed away during the regeneration process

There are many advantages of salt-based water softeners. They are;

  • Reliable
  • Efficient
  • Give high quality of soft water
  • Economic in the long run
  • Suitable for whole house
  • Heavy duty

A few disadvantages include;

  • Higher initial cost and maintenance cost.

But it seems negligible if one considers the advantages they add in your daily life.

Salt-based water softeners add plenty of sodium in your water. It can be a hazard if someone among the family members has been advised low dietary sodium. But this problem can be solved by installing an under the sink Reverse Osmosis system which extracts all the unnecessary salts and other impurities from the water. Still every list of top 10 water softener system will mostly have salt based water softeners.

2. Double tank water softener (duo-softener)

When a salt based water system is in the regeneration process, the water supplies are cut and no water is available to use. Therefore the regeneration is normally set to happen at night. Still it affects some activities such as cleaning and washing the house when more water is needed. In the case of a bigger family where daily water consumption is higher, this is a major problem.

The duo-tank softener is larger than a traditional water softener and more complicated in working. It has two tanks called twin tanks instead of a single tank. Both tanks perform their functions turn by turn and ensure a steady supply of softer water all the time irrespective of the amount of water used or time of the day.

So the benefits of duo-tank water softeners are;

  • Fast
  • Steady supply
  • Effectiveness

The disadvantages include;

  • Cost
  • High salt consumption
  • Maintenance

3. Descalers (Salt free water softeners)

The descalers or salt free water softeners use polysaccharide material to condition the water. These are water conditioners and not the water softeners. Descalers introduce the polysaccharides into water which then prevents the scale to build up. These do not practically remove the ions from water which are responsible for the hardening of water. Descalers are best for those individuals who have to take a low sodium diet or for those areas where salt based water softeners are not allowed due to environmental conditions. These descalers are also not effective in removing the white spots of hard water from glasses or cars and tubs etc.

Advantages include;

  • Affordable
  • Require less maintenance
  • Removal of scales from plumbing and fixtures

Disadvantages are;

  • Slow working than salt based water softeners
  • They do not remove scales from appliances.

4. Electromagnetic Descaler

Electromagnetic descalers are growing popularity day by day among water softener brands due to low budget, ease of installation and low requirement of maintenance. These are salt free systems. Descalers do not soften the water or remove minerals from the water. They are attached to the water piping where they produce electromagnetic effects. This electromagnetic effect gathers the bad ions from water and prevents them to deposit on the surfaces of plumbing and fixtures. By altering the habit of water hardening mineral these descalers are so far good in producing an effect similar to that of soft water. They are successful in small households where water has not to travel more distance.

The advantages of electric descalers include;

  • Low cost & maintenance
  • Easy installation

Disadvantages include;

  • Slow results
  • Unable to stop build-ups in appliances.

Therefore a descaler can be regarded as the best water conditioner.

Salt Based VS Salt-free Water Softeners

Salt-based and salt-free water softeners have a lot of differences in their structure and function. The principle difference between both systems is that the salt-based systems remove the minerals responsible for water hardening from water while the salt-free systems do not remove them but change their properties.

Although salt-based water softeners are more popular and effective, it does not mean that salt-free systems do not work. Salt-free water softeners carryout the conditioning of water and reduce the chances that minerals will deposit in plumbing. In preventing the limestone formation inside the pipes, the same results can be expected from both types of systems. Salt-free systems are also more economical and require less maintenance, easy to install, and save much of the money of users.

Still, salt-based systems are reliable and popular and there is a reason!

Salt-based water softeners are popular over salt-free water softeners because they can remove minerals from water appliances. In these appliances water does not move frequently so minerals tend to deposit in the appliances. Salt-based water can remove the minerals from the appliances while salt-free systems cannot do this. The appliances include coffee makers, dishwashers and water heaters, etc.

Salt-based water systems remove minerals from water in actuality.

Salt-based water softeners remove magnesium and calcium ions from the water and sodium. Although the amount of sodium is not as much as it can pose a risk in healthy people, but for those people who have been advised a low sodium diet. This problem can be solved by installing an under the sink RO system to remove extra minerals and other impurities from water.

More hard water contains more ions of magnesium and calcium and for removing them more sodium is added into the water through the ion exchange process. So if Sodium is a problem, it can be replaced with potassium. Potassium is as effective in removing the harness as Sodium but safer in terms of health risks.

Steps to Install a Water Softener

Installing a water softener is not a difficult job. But it requires little effort and an understanding and experience of plumbing. Water softeners are attached at the entry point of water to the house. So they have to be attached to the main supply line of water coming to your home. Installing a water softener may require cutting, soldering and digging. Before installing a water softener make sure that you have all the required tools in line.

If you have no experience of doing plumbing work or feel less confident about installing a water softener by yourself, taking the services from the professional plumber will be a wise decision.

Self-installation possesses a risk of damaging the parts of the water supply and/or the water softener.

Water softener can be installed as short as in one hour if the site is accessible and the fixtures are in good condition and shape. It can take as long as 3 to 4 hours when the installation site is not easily accessible or the conditions is not friendly. If you arrange all tools and instruments that you will need in advance you can save more time.

Things you need

Below is the list of all items you’ll need while installing a salt based water softener;

  • Torch & solder
  • Tubing for connecting water softener to the water supply
  • Measuring tape
  • Drain tubing
  • Slip joint pliers
  • Pipe cutter
  • Pipe wrench
  • Teflon tape
  • Valves & fittings (mostly come in package with the system)
  • Instruction manual

Steps to Follow

After making all the things ready, follow these steps to install the water softener;

1.      Shut water supply and open faucets to drain, heater disconnect.

2.      Find the bypass valve and install it into the softener.

3.      Place the softener unit at the position intended. The system should be safe in harsh weather conditions including flooding and/or freezing.

4.      Now install elbow fittings to the bypass valve at its inlet and outlet ports. Connect the pipe to the ports after cutting it. Make sure the incoming water be connected with the inlet port and outgoing water is connected with the outlet port.

5.      After doing the above steps now connect the drain tubing to the valve for drain.

6.      Brine tube install on the brine tank at overflowing valve. Here instructions of the manufacturers must be followed about the drain of the brine. Sometime an air gap may be necessary.

7.      Place the distributing tube into the brine tank and put salt into the tank up-to ⅔ capacity.

8.      Now set bypass mode on the unit and slowly turn on the water. When there is steady flow in the drain line, after a few minutes, turn it on completely. Reconnect the water heater and turn it on.

9.      Open the bypass valve slowly and wait for two minutes. Wait for the air pushing through the system. Make the valve open and run backwash.

10.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to configure the unit.


This is a general guide on the installation of a water softener. The features may vary from product to product or manufacturer to manufacture. So it is always advised to follow the instructions given by the manufacturer. Still if there is difficulty in installing or understanding the manual. Taking the services of a professional plumber is a good choice.

How to Remove Hard Water Stains

Water softeners prevent new stains to form but they cannot remove the stains that have already been deposited on surfaces. These stains are often hard to wash with soaps as hard minerals can neutralize the soaps.

So it’s a bit tricky task to deal with such troubling stains.

So if you have been unlucky so far dealing with these stains and looking for an answer to How to Clean Hard Water Spots? I have some useful tip which works;

How to Clean Hard Water Spots

Hard water spots are not difficult to remove. if you exactly know the way to deal with them. They mostly appear on the surfaces where water does not stay for long. Such surfaces can be mirrors, glass or car’s screens. The white chalky residue appears just after a wash. When the water dries up leaving the white spots appear on the surface. More quickly you act to deal with it, more easily you can get it off the surface.

Using a mixture of vinegar and water is the easiest and cheapest method to remove the nasty stains of hard water.

Take equal volumes of vinegar and water and mix them thoroughly. Put the final solution into a spray bottle and shower it over the stains you want to clean. The solution will take a minute to put its effect before you wipe it up with a clean dry piece of cloth. Use another piece of clean cloth to dry the area afterward.

How to Clean Permanent Hard Water Stains

Some hard water stains are too hard that they seem to be permanent. But you can remove them easily by using the same water and vinegar solution. All they need is more time to be removed.

Take equal volumes of water and vinegar. Mix them thoroughly in a container to make a clear solution. Put a clean piece of cloth into that solution and make it fully soaked. Drape the wet cloth over permanent stain. Wait for an hour.

The vinegar solution will show its effect during that time in making the stronghold of the stains very weak. You can easily scrub the stain off from the surfaces.

Vinegar can also be used to remove the stains from the toilet boil. Put ¾ gallon of the vinegar into the bowl and make sure all the spots have been soaked in the vinegar. Leave it for an hour then clean the bowl with nonabrasive sponge using more vinegar.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I know which water softener to buy?

Know your budget, know the hardness of water, know the capacity of water softener you need. Also know other features such as certification, warranty, installation method and maintenance. For a detailed answer please read our buyers guide.

What is the best whole house water filter and softener system?

The best whole house water softener and filtration system is the one that employs water softener at the entry point of your house where water first enters the home followed by under the sink Reverse Osmosis system. Having a Whole House Filtration system is too expensive therefore a mixed setting is the best.

Do no salt water softeners work?

No salt water softeners or electronic water softeners do not practically remove the minerals responsible for the hardness of water from water but they emulate the effect of soft water. Hard water minerals are not dangerous for health if not in excessive amounts. Therefore no salt water softeners are the effective substitute for salt-based water softeners.

Do electronic water descalers really work?

Electronic water softeners, also known as water descalers are the devices that prevent the water from hardening by altering the behavior of water hardening minerals such as Calcium and magnesium. They do not remove these minerals from hard water. Electronic water descalers really work with slightly high hard water. For Extremely hard water salt-based water softeners should be considered.

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