Best Water Softener Reviews & Ratings

bill_r
By bill_r / September 17, 2016
Best Water Softener Clean Glasses

It doesn’t matter where you live or how nice your home is, almost everyone has some degree of hard water. The good news is that hard water doesn’t typically cause any serious health hazards. The next question will be what is the best water softener? and this page is here to help you make that choice.

What's So Great About Soft Water?

Hard water can be a complete nuisance. Think of all the ways you use water around your home.  You may have noticed some effects of hard water but didn't know why or what was causing it.

Here is a short list of some ways hard water can affect your life.

  • It can make your laundry look dull and stiff after cleaning, or worse, it can leave yellow or gray streaks on your clothing.
  • Showering in hard water can leave your hair dull and flat and your skin dry and flaky.
  • Hard water also makes soap less effective. Whether it is laundry detergent, shampoo or hand soap you will end up using more of it and not getting the full benefits. Talk about a waste of money!
  • Dishes washed in hard water can leave a scum. If your drinking glasses are cloudy, you probably have hard water.

Luckily, there are ways to soften your water and stop the drain on your finances. Since hard water is such a common problem, there are many products on the market aimed at fixing it. The difficulty is determining which product will work best for your home.

Choosing the Best Water Softener

I’ve combed through many water softener reviews and picked the best water softeners to help you narrow down the choices.

Top Rated Water Softeners & Conditioners

Fleck 5600SXT

Aquios FS-220

Watts RV Pro-1000

Aquasana EQ-1000

Eddie Descaler

Fleck 5600SXT
Aquasana EQ1000

48K Grain

N/A (Conditioner)

10K Grain

N/A (Conditioner)

N/A (Conditioner)

170 lbs

9.3 lbs

9 lbs

83.2 lbs

1.4 lbs

10" x10" x 54"

27" x 10" x 8"

21" x 9.5" x 9"

9" x 46" x 54"

6.7" x 1.6" x 3.5

Price: $$

Price: $$

Price: $

Price: $$$$

Price: $

Whole House Water Softeners

​City water goes through a water purification process before it gets to you. However, the amount of calcium and magnesium in the water (hardness) can cause the problems discussed above. Also, many people use well water that is considered hard. For a more detailed description of water softening visit our "How Does A Water Softener Work?" page, read the Scientific American article,  or watch a video on the How Stuff Works website.

Water Softener Stream

If you want the convenience of having one unit that prevents hard water in your entire home you should consider a whole house water softener.

A whole house water softener helps reduce and prevent scale build up in all your faucets. You get the benefit of cleaner showers and money saved on soaps and detergent!A whole house water softener also protects your pipes from the corrosion that builds up over time from the hard water minerals – saving you money on plumbing and repairs.There are two types of water softeners that you can buy for your home.

Different Types of Water Softeners

Salt Based Water Softener

One uses salt to replace the minerals in the hard water using ion exchange. Although these are great for softening your water, they are a bit of work because they typically use electricity and the salt has to be replaced periodically.

Salt-Free Water Softener

The other kind of water softener is a salt-free water softener also known as a water conditioner. A page comparing only saltless water softeners can be found on our Best Salt Free Water Softeners page

Instead of salt, these water softeners neutralize the minerals that make the water hard and turns them into crystals so that they cannot attach to the inside surface of the pipe. Some may find these less effective, but others prefer them because they don’t leave a slippery feeling on your skin.

Quick Introduction to Water Softeners Video

Top 5 Best Water Softeners

Fleck 5600SXT

The Fleck 5600SXT is widely known as one of the top water softeners on the market. This unit uses salt to replace the minerals that cause hard water and is perfect for households of 3-6 people with moderate to very hard water.

The installation process takes about 2 hours and for most will not need a professional plumber. However, you will be inserting it into your water line so it does require some plumbing experience. At 147 lbs, it is quite heavy and you may need help during installation.

The Fleck 5600SXT uses a special meter based regeneration process so that it measures the water it uses and it only replaces the water when necessary, making it very efficient. This unit has a digital display that is easy to program and comes in two colors, almond or black.

Although this unit comes with a higher price tag, it has the best water softener reviews and it also comes with a 10 year warranty on the tank and a 5 year warranty on the electronics, so it is built to last.

Pro

  • Best Ratings
  • Auto Regeneration using water usage measurement (instead of time)

Con

  • Heavy
  • Requires some plumbing experience to install

The Aquios AQFS-220 is one of the best salt-free water softeners available. Unlike the models that use salt, this unit uses no electricity and is low maintenance. Also, because it crystallizes the minerals instead of replacing them with salt, you don’t lose the benefits of having calcium and magnesium in your drinking water - you only get rid of the side effects of hard water scale.

However, since it is a conditioner instead of a softener, you probably won't see a decrease in soap usage or get the "slick" feeling from soap.

In addition to softening your water, the Aquios FS-220 also filters out contaminants like chlorine and dirt.

This unit is good for the entire house and it won’t cause a loss in water pressure.

The filters are good for 40,000 gallons meaning that the only maintenance you will have is to change the filter once every 6 months.

Also, the housing and valve come with an amazing 20-year warranty.

The unit itself is easy to install, but if you prefer to hire a plumber for installation it will take them less than an hour.

Pro

  • Filter lasts for 6 months
  • Light weight makes installation easier

Con

  • Not a traditional water softener - this is a water conditioner
  • Requires some plumbing experience to install
Watts RV Pro-1000

If you are looking for a great portable unit to use in your RV, this is the unit for you. Campsites are known for having either very hard water or well water, which can be awful for the pipes in your RV.

With this unit, you won’t have to compromise your health or spend your entire vacation cleaning the showers and sinks of limescale. It also comes with test strips so you can see with your own eyes that the system is effective.

However, with the benefits of having a portable unit, there are also some downsides. This unit must be manually regenerated, so there is more maintenance than a whole house unit.

To regenerate, these steps must be followed:

  • Unscrew the top
  • Add table salt into the cavity
  • Re-attach the top
  • Flush with water

It would be impossible to take a bulky whole house unit on the road, so for most the trade off is worth it. As long as you regenerate it on a regular basis, this is the best unit for the money.

Pro

  • Portable
  • Small size is great for RVs

Con

  • Must be manually regenerated
  • Not as much capacity as other units
Aquasana EQ1000

If you are looking for a salt free water conditioner solution to your hard water problems, you should consider the Aquasana EQ-1000.

If you are looking for a salt free water conditioner solution to your hard water problems, you should consider the Aquasana EQ-1000.

Although this unit is higher in price than some of the others, it is meant as a long-term solution to your hard water problems. It is low maintenance and only requires replacement of the main filtration tank every 10 years or 1,000,000 gallons.

The Aquasana EQ-1000 has 3 filtration systems to remove the greatest amount of contaminants possible. The filters on this unit remove 97% of chlorine and other microscopic impurities. Depending on your needs and the types of contaminants in your water, there are many different options to add on to this unit, including a UV filter.

The water softener itself is salt-free (a conditioner) and therefore doesn’t remove the minerals, but prevents scale buildup. Additionally, the Aquasana EQ-1000 does not use electricity or waste water from back drainage.

One of the downsides of this unit is that unless you are a skilled DIY person, you will likely need a professional plumber to install it. Also, reviews indicate the plastic connectors are prone to failure. Additionally, since it is a conditioner instead of a softener, you probably won't see a decrease in soap usage or get the "slick" feeling from soap.

Pro

  • No Electricity Use
  • No waste water

Con

  • Not a traditional water softener - this is a water conditioner
  • Requires some plumbing experience to install
  • Expensive - this is the most expensive unit on our page
Eddy Electronic Water Descaler

One of the best lower cost models is the Eddy Electronic Water Descaler. This unit is a straightforward water descaler and it does its job well.

It is also one of the most lightweight units at 1.4 lbs. The Eddy Electronic Water Descaler does not use salt to soften the water. Instead it uses electro-magnetic waves which alter the property of the limescale so that it can no longer stick to hard surfaces like your shower walls and doors.

This means you get to keep the essential minerals like calcium and magnesium in your water, without the time consuming task of cleaning limescale deposits.

The company is so confident that you will like their product that they offer a 12 month money-back guarantee.

One thing to keep in mind if you are considering this unit is that although it works on almost any type of PVC water pipe, it does not work with lead and iron pipes.

Pro

  • Cheaper than other units
  • 12 month money-back guarantee
  • ​Does not require any plumbing experience
  • ​Lightweight

Con

  • Not a traditional water softener - this is a water conditioner

Other Great Options

Nuvo H20

  • Salt-Free
  • 50,000 gallon capacity
  • Whole Home Unit
  • ​12-15 GPM
  • 1" Ports


GE GXSH45V

  • Easy to use electronic system
  • Status light
  • Salt Capacity of 230 lbs
  • Whole house water softener
  • ​45,100 Grains
  • ​12 PPM Iron Removal



Waterboss 365

  • Great for large families
  • Works well with moderately hard to very hard water
  • Quiet unit
  • 36,400 Grains
  • ​Built-in 20 micron whole house dirt & sediment filter
  • ​Demand based regeneration



3M Aquapure AP902

  • Not a water softener but a whole house filter - an alternative.
  • Carbon filter
  • Whole House System
  • High Flow Rate
  • ​Materials are FDA CFR-21 compliant
  • Simple twist off filter change



Morton 34M Water Softener Unit

  • Salt Based Water Softener
  • Easy to install
  • 34,000 Grains
  • ​Brine tank & filter combination
  • Small footprint
  • Reviews suggest this unit uses less salt than expected
  • ** Replacement parts are expensive



Reverse Osmosis Water Systems

Reverse Osmosis water systems are much more expensive ($3K and up) for full house water softening. Reverse Osmosis filters so many contaminants out that they typically drop the water pressure and waste a lot of water. A much better alternative is to use a water softener for your entire home and then add a Reverse Osmosis filter for just the areas that need purified drinking water.

If you have hard water and extra contaminants in your water supply, your water problems will be magnified. If this is the case, then you may want to consider adding a reverse osmosis water system after the water softener. The reverse osmosis (or RO) system will remove other contaminants from your drinking water.

Reverse osmosis water systems not only prevent scale build up, but they also reduce the amount of contaminants in your water supply – sometimes by as much as 99%. This option is incredibly important if someone in your household is allergic to chlorine and it can make a world of a difference.

Best Water Softener for Clean Water

Reverse osmosis water systems are also great if you have well water as their filters can improve the taste and smell of your water.

The only downside to reverse osmosis water systems is that they can be incredibly inefficient. Because the water goes through the filter and the contamination goes back down the drain, reverse osmosis water systems can discard up to 85% of the water coming from your pipes.

Considering how much water is wasted with an RO system, the whole house RO is not recommended. Whole house RO is particularly not recommended for well water systems.

Smaller Reverse Osmosis systems are usually just installed underneath the kitchen sink so that the water can easily be used from drinking and cooking. These small RO system won't help with hard water in the shower which is what most people are looking for.

For more information on RO systems,  take look at our How Does Reverse Osmosis Work page.  For help selecting an RO system, take a look at our Best Reverse Osmosis Systems page.

Buying Guide

When investing in a water softener for your home there are many things you need to consider.

To determine which model is best for you it is important to identify what you need the unit to do (i.e. do you need a water softener only or do you also need a filter). Once you’ve identified this, you must also consider the following things:

Cost

There are a wide range of models out there and an even wider range in cost. If you are looking for a whole home unit, you may want to consider investing in a more expensive water softener. These are typically more permanent and they need less maintenance.

The salt based water softeners need salt to regenerate the softener. Sacks of salt pellets can typically be purchased at home & garden stores. One popular manufacturer of salt pellets is Morton Salt Company. I've had great luck with the System Saver Salt Pellets.

If you just want a basic model there are plenty of good options that cost less than the whole house units and still do a great job at softening your water.

Portable or Household

Are you looking for a unit that will soften or filter the water in your entire home or do you just need a localized unit?

If you don’t necessarily need to soften the water in your entire home, you may want to consider a shower head unit.

This will save on shower cleaning and prevent the dryness in your skin and hair caused by hard water.

If you are looking for a unit to take on the road in your RV there are options for that as well. We suggest the Watts RV Pro-1000 above. The disadvantage is that it will need to be recharged manually.

Environmental Effects

Another thing to consider is the environmental effect of each unit. The salt used to recharge the salt based water softeners will be hard on your septic. Many people prefer to drain this into a pond but the salt will kill the plant growth around it.

Most water softeners do not waste a lot of water, but if you are looking at a reverse osmosis water softener this will be a consideration.

Reverse osmosis units tend to waste a lot of water, but they are effective at softening and filtering hard and contaminated water so you will have to weigh the costs and benefits.

Salt vs. Salt-Free Water Softeners

Salt based water softeners tend to be better at softening the water, but there can be a lot of maintenance involved because the salt needs to be replaced periodically.

Salt-free units may not always be as affective as their salt based counterparts, but they are definitely less involved on your part.

Shower Head Water Softeners

Do you live in an apartment in which you don’t have the ability to change the entire water supply?

Do you like the calcium and magnesium in your drinking water and just don’t like the effects it has on your hair and skin?

In either of these cases, a shower head water softener may be the best choice for you. Most shower head water softeners also come with a filter to protect you from the hard water scale and the other contaminants that may be coming out of your pipes.

When deciding on a shower head water softener you can choose to get a filter that attaches to your existing shower head or you can get an all in one unit that includes a filter in the shower head.

The former may be the best choice for you if you have a shower head that you love, but you just don’t want the negative effects of hard water.

The later is more convenient if you just want one unit and you don’t want to deal with having many parts.

Conclusion

There are many things to consider when choosing a water softener for your home.

Depending on the extent of the contamination you may want to consider going a step further and getting one that also has a great water filter.

Whether you need to soften the water in your entire home or just your shower or sink, there are plenty of options out there.

A water softener can be a great investment. Despite the up front cost of the unit, it will save you time and money and keep your pipes clean of the scale build up that can cause corrosion.


About the author

bill_r

Hi and welcome to my website. I'm Bill Robertson and I worked my way through school as a handyman. The skills I learned have been useful as I've made changes to my own home. As a father of a 3 children, having a healthy water supply is important. Because the Central Texas well water was so hard, a water softener and reverse osmosis filter were critical. The water softening process was interesting and resulted in such a difference in water quality that I wanted to know why. This website is the result. Central Texas is famous for its hard water and I likes sharing what I learn experience with other readers.

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