Category Archives for "water softeners"

Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener

Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener

In the United States, over 85% of households have hard water. Hard water is water that has an increased amount of minerals (primarily Calcium and Magnesium).

On the surface this may sound harmless, but the side effects of hard water affect almost every household task and can add many expenses to your monthly budget. Hard water makes it more difficult to clean your shower and tub because of the minerals that build up and leave soap scum. Hard water can also leave your skin and hair dry and your laundry dull and stained.

Fleck 5600

On top of all this, the mineral buildup can ruin your pipes and appliances. Fortunately, there are many options on the market to soften your household water and get rid of the irritating side effects of hard water. To view our water softener comparison can be found on our Best Water Sotener Reviews page. One of the best solutions available is the Fleck 5600SXT.


A good water softener system should :

  • Automatic softener recharge
  • Capacity to soften water for an entire house
  • Low maintenance – long life span.

When looking for a whole house water softener you want to make sure that you get the correct size for the needs of your household. If you get one that has a higher capacity than you need, you will be wasting money, but if you get one with a lower capacity it won’t be as effective.

Another thing to look for is how the unit regenerates. The two most common methods for regeneration are using a timer to regenerate at particular time intervals and metered regeneration, which measures the water using a meter. The meter regeneration method is preferred, because it wastes less water and electricity and will save you money in the long run since it only regenerates itself when necessary.

Product Overview:


Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener

The Fleck 5600SXT is one of the most popular water softeners on the market. It is a salt-based system that regenerates using a meter based regeneration process, which is the more desirable method. The meter itself has been upgraded to the SXT electronic meter, which has fewer parts to worry about and is much more accurate. It is very user friendly with touch screen controls, a backlit LCD display, and a 48-hour power back up so that you can continue to have soft water even if there is a power outage and you won’t have to reprogram the unit.

The tank can hold up to 250 lbs of salt and has a 10-year warranty. It also has a safety float to prevent the tank from overfilling and a backup drain in case of overflow. This unit will treat up to 12 gpm flow rates and is good for a household with 3-6 people and moderate to very hard water. Once you have this unit for your home, you will spend less time cleaning the shower and your skin and hair will have more moisture. You will also waste less money on soap, because without hard water your soap will be more effective.


Once installed this unit starts working immediately and customers rave about how effective it is at solving their hard water problems. Not only will everything that uses water in your home be cleaner, but it will also save you money on your water bill because it will meter your actual water use and only regenerate when necessary. However, there is also a delayed meter regeneration option so you can set the unit to regenerate at a particular time if you’d like. The unit is easy to use, with a digital LCD display and touch screen controls that you don’t need a lot of technical knowledge in order to work. It also comes with a 10-year warranty on the tanks and a 5-year warranty on the electronics.


Although there are plenty of pros to this unit, some people find the installation to be a challenge. The company says that installation will take a few hours and only require basic plumbing skills, but some customers found it impossible to install on their own. However, there were also buyers who stated that as long as they prepared the tools ahead of time it really wasn’t too difficult to install. Another recommendation is to buy Shark Bite fillings, which will make the installation easier.


Fleck water softeners are known as some of the best water softeners on the market, with the Fleck 5600SXT being the most popular. Although it may be priced slightly higher than some of the units in its range, the quality is equal to that of a much more expensive unit.

If you are in the market for a whole home water softener, this is the unit I would recommend.

Best Salt Free Water Softeners – Comparison & Reviews

Hard water is a common problem that affects a majority of households. The high mineral content of hard water causes unpleasant soap scum and limescale build up. Long term, this buildup could lead to inefficient furnaces and water heaters.

To avoid the potential problems hard water can cause it is wise to consider a water softener. A water softener removes a large amount of the minerals from the water.  More in-depth information can be found on our “How a water softener works” page.

There are two types of water softeners, salt and salt-free.  Unlike salt-based water softener systems, a salt free water softener is practically maintenance free and almost as effective as salt based softeners at solving your hard water problems.

With all the available choices how will you know which is the best system for you? Take a look at our Best Water Softener page which reviews both salt and no-salt water softeners.

This page focuses on salt-free water softeners. Here are the best no salt water softeners on the market to help you narrow it down.

Eddy Electronic Water Descaler

The Eddy Electronic Water Descaler Alternative is a unique system that does not remove minerals from the water. This allows the water to keep the mineral benefits.

Instead, this system uses electro-magnetic waves to alter the limescale and prevent it from building up. You get to keep the health benefits of the minerals without the drawback of limescale film.

In no-salt water softener comparisons, this unit rates higher because it preserves the minerals instead of stripping them from the water.

Another great feature of this unit is that there are no plumbing changes required for installation.

Hard Water Genie

If you are looking for a non-chemical solution for your hard water, the Hard Water Genie is one of the best water conditioner systems you can buy.

It uses both radio waves and electromagnetic waves to descale your water and prevents the excess wear and tear on your appliances that can build up from limescale deposits.

You will no longer have to worry about water spots on your glasses from the dishwasher. They will now come out clean. This system is low maintenance and easy to install and is approved for use with plastic or PVC piping.

Aquios FS220 Salt Free Softener Filtration System

For a whole house water softener, you should check out the Aquios FS 220 Salt Free Water Softener and Filtration System. In addition to conditioning your hard water, it also filters out contaminants.

For a whole house water softener, you should check out the Aquios FS 220 Salt Free Water Softener and Filtration System. In addition to conditioning your hard water, it also filters out contaminants.

If you are worried about the loss of water pressure, this unit is the one for you. In saltless water softener reviews this unit rated highest in retaining water pressure.

No electricity is needed for the unit to work and it takes up very little space with the ability to mount it on a wall. Additionally the filter is good for 40,000 gallons of use before needing to be replaced.

Scalewatcher Nano Electronic Descaler

The Scalewatcher Nano Electronic Descaler begins working as soon as it is installed.

It works by altering the mineral deposits to crystals so that they don’t attach to hard surfaces. Instead they flow with the water. One unit has the ability to protect the water supply of the whole house.

You will no longer need to clean your showerheads or dishwasher with harsh chemicals because this device will prevent the deposits from beginning in the first place.

It also includes an LED indicator to display its operations. This innovative descaler is easily one of the best salt free water softeners available.

Nuvo H20 DPHB Home Softener System

Not only does this unit prevent future limescale buildup, it also removes the buildup that occurred before the unit was installed. It reverses the previous damage that was caused by your hard water and helps prevent new damage from occurring.

This is a benefit not only for your health, but for the environment as well. It also doesn’t affect the water pressure, so the only side effect you will have is cleanliness.

The Nuvo H20 DPHB also has a capacity of 50,000 gallons making it one of the highest capacity units of its size in the industry as well as one of the best water conditioner systems on the market.


When looking for a salt-free water softener system the choices can be overwhelming.

Each of these salt-free water softener systems offers its own benefits and it is important to know what you need in your home before purchasing. These units are some of the best salt free water softeners on the market and you can’t go wrong with purchasing any of them.

They all use their own innovative technology to protect your appliances and your health from the limescale deposits caused by hard water.  Some even reverse the previous damage.

You can look forward to clean showers and glasses without spots after running the dishwasher.

APEC RO-90 Review

APEC RO-90 Reverse Osmosis Water Filter

APEC RO-90 is a 5-stage reverse osmosis system that produces clean drinking water. The system has been in the market for quite some time and is quite reputable due to its impressive specs and results.  This is similar to the ROES-50 but has a capacity of 90 gallons per day instead of 50 gallons per day like the ROES-50.

APEC RO90 - Best RO Water Filter

Clean water is important to many people. Reverse osmosis is one of the best methods for removing contaminants from water. A list of contaminants can be found on our Types of Water Contamination page.

The APEC RO-90 has impressive user reviews on AMAZON and other consumer review sites. Below is a list of APEC RO-90 features, pros and cons and our thoughts on whether it is worth the money. Other RO filters are compared on our Best Reverse Osmosis Filter Systems page.


Reverse Osmosis Water

As mentioned above, APEC RO-90 is a reverse osmosis water filter system. It is a five-stage reverse osmosis system that eliminates 99% of contaminants such as arsenic, chlorine, fluoride, lead, copper, and selenium. Removing such contaminants eliminates risks of health related complications, improves taste and removes odor.

A good RO system should :

  • Filter almost all contaminants
  • Have at least 2 carbon filters before the RO filter
  • Feature high quality filters
  • Have a reasonable GPD (Gallons Per Day).

The APEC RO-90 satisfies all these standards. The system is easy to install and the company provides support throughout the lifetime of the product.

Product Overview

Reverse Osmosis Purified Water

APEC RO-90 produces bottled-water-quality water from your tap and in the largest quantities of any of the APEC RO Filters. The contaminant-free water can be used for drinking, cooking, making tea, coffee or ice cubes. The system has a very high rejection rate, making it highly efficient in the elimination of organic and inorganic contaminants.

Contaminants (Removes 97% or more)

  • Arsenic
  • Borium
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium (Hex)
  • Chromium (Tri)
  • Copper
  • Fluoride
  • Lead
  • Selenium
  • Radium 226/228 (80%)

5 Stage Filter System

The system has five filters. The first filter is the sediment filter that removes silt, dust, rust and other large particles. It is essential for the prolonged life of the other filters. The next two filters are carbon block filters that remove chlorine, bad taste, and unpleasant odor. These filters also remove other chemicals including VOCs. The fourth filter is a high-quality reverse osmosis filter responsible for the removal of 99% of contaminants. The final filter is a Coconut Shell Refining Carbon filter that polishes the water by removing odor and improving taste. You may need to change the water filters after 1,000 gallons of water pass through the system.


APEC RO-90 has a capacity of 90 gallons per day. Its tank, which measures 11 × 11 × 15 inches, can hold 4 gallons at a time. The tank fills in about 2-3 hours, according to the manual. Any time the tank fills up the system ceases running. The water filtration system runs on water pressure alone, no power supply or fuel is needed.


APEC RO-90 can handle water with a pH value between 2 and 11 and temperature between 40 and 100° Fahrenheit. For efficient filtration of water, the feed water should have pressure above 40psi. The system’s dimensions are 16 × 5.25 × 17.5 inches (w × d × h). The dimensions allow installation under the sink. The fittings are high quality, with no extra clipping needed. The fittings are leak free, eliminating any need for leak detectors.


Advantages of the APEC RO-90 include;

  • Removes 99% of over 40 contaminants.
  • Cheap, when you consider the lifetime of the filter.
  • Long lasting filters. Even with heavy use they will last 6 months or longer before they need to be replaced.
  • Easy to install for someone with basic handyman knowledge. The system comes with a step-by-step user manual
  • Small size for installation under the sink or inside a kitchen cabinet
  • Comes with a lead-free, high-pressure faucet
  • The system is certified by the NSF and FDA
  • One year warranty
  • Customer support throughout the lifetime of the system. Support through live chat, email or telephone.
  • 100% built in the USA


Even an excellent product has a few drawbacks; These drawbacks are common for all RO filter systems.

  • The system has a rejection rate of 3:1. Every gallon of clean water results in 3 gallons of waste water. You can direct the waste water to a garden or reuse it in some other ways such as cleaning the house.
  • The system is not selective in the minerals it filters out.  Some important minerals in water such as calcium are lost.
  • There is no alert or any other way for knowing when the filters require changing. However, you can install a TDS (total dissolved solids) meter, which indicates the rejection rate. If the rejection rate falls, change the filters.
  • The system only comes with one option for the faucet, which requires mounting on the sink. This could be a problem for people who do not want to drill their sinks to accommodate the chrome faucet.


For less than $300, the APEC RO-90 delivers what the company promises. You will get quality and clean drinking water with this low maintenance water filter. We highly recommend this product.

Best Water Softener Reviews

Soapy Hands From Soft Water

Rusty Buildup From Hard Water

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



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.



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



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.

Attributes at a Glance


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


  • 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.



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


  • Not a traditional water softener – this is a water conditioner
  • Requires some plumbing experience to install

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.

Attributes at a Glance


  • Portable
  • Small size is great for RVs


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

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.

Attributes at a Glance

  • No Electricity Use
  • No waste water


  • 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

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.

Attributes at a Glance


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


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

Other Great Option


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


  • 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

  • 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:


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.


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.

How Does A Water Softener Work

Have you seen the terms “soft water” and “hard water” and wondered what they mean? Why do we need to soften the water used in our homes?

While other articles on this site, focus on picking the best water softener with specific reviews, this article will answer the question “how does a water softener work?”

To understand the concept of water softening and its advantages, we must first learn about the types of water. Depending upon the amount of dissolved minerals in our water, we have two types of water: hard water and soft water.

Water picks up minerals such as magnesium and calcium when it passes through the soil and rock underground. The amount of minerals in the water determines the hardness of water. If there is a high concentration of minerals in a gallon of water, it will be called hard water compared to a gallon of water with only a few minerals.

Hard water is not harmful but it is undesirable because it can clog pipes and reduce water flow.

Hard water also causes problems when used in daily tasks around the home such as cleaning dishes, bathing or laundry. Hard water does not form enough lather and usually leaves a sticky scum when it comes in contact with soap. This makes washing off soil and bacteria difficult, and leaves the skin and hair feeling dry and dull

Washing laundry with hard water doesn’t completely clean the clothes and can damage clothes in the long run. It is preferable that household water doesn’t contain these minerals. The process of removing these minerals is known as softening of water.

How does a water softener work?

The hardness of the water is due to minerals like calcium and magnesium saturating the water. The act of softening of water is removing these minerals.

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How Water Softeners Work

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Water softeners work on the principle of ion exchange where the harmful minerals are replaced with another mineral. In the case of salt based water softeners, these minerals are replaced with sodium.

A water softener is a mechanical device that is attached to the household water supply system where the water enters the home. After exiting the water softener, the soft water is then sent to the different water faucets in the home.

A water softener consists of a softener tank which has thousands of tiny resin beads or zeolites, which are basically polystyrene beads. The resins are coated with sodium positive ions. The resin beads attract and bind the magnesium and calcium ions present in hard water.

Calcium and magnesium have a positive charge and they switch positions with the sodium ions on the resin bead as water is pumped through the beads. Water coming into the softener has calcium and magnesium minerals. Water exiting the water softener will have sodium ions..

After some time, the beads are saturated with calcium and magnesium and the water exiting the water softener is hard again. To remove the calcium and magnesium from the resin beads, a regeneration cycle is required.

A strong saltwater (brine) solution (created using common salt in a separate brine tank) is used to wash away the minerals collected by the beads. Calcium and magnesium ions are displaced by the high concentration of sodium ions in brine solution, and the resin gets coated with new sodium ions. The salty rinse water, and the minerals are flushed down the drain and a cycle has been completed. This is known as recharging of the resin, and the process is repeated every few days.

Trigger a Recharge Cycle

The process of recharging can be controlled in a variety of ways.

The most common method is the use of electric timers which automatically flush away the rinse water and minerals through the drain on a fixed scheduled time.

The second method is to use an electronic device or mechanical meter to measure the amount of water usage. The device starts the regeneration process once the set amount of water has passed through the mineral tank.

Salt or salt less?

There are some arguments against salt-based water softeners.

The main argument is that minerals like magnesium and calcium are healthy and beneficial to us and they are being replaced by sodium. Sodium can be harmful to both our health as well as the environment.

Also, the cost of maintenance can be high, and the cost of buying salt must be factored into your budget.

Is A Salt-Less Water Softener Good?

Water softeners have been developed that don’t use salt at all. These are the salt-less water softeners. Technically they don’t soften the water because the hard minerals aren’t removed from the water. Instead they are crystallized so they don’t adhere to the surface of clothes or utensils.

The term “water conditioners” or “descalers” is used to describe these devices instead of water softeners. They use either magnets to “condition” the water.

Usually permanent magnets are fixed to either the inside or outside of water pipe. The magnetic field from the magnets crystallizes the minerals.

Another alternative is using an electromagnet – an electrical current carrying wire – around the water pipe which performs the same function as the magnets.

But Is a Salt-Less Water Softener Effective?

In a word, No.

Although salt-less water softeners are cheaper and easier to maintain than salt type water softeners, studies suggest they aren’t as effective.

Many people argue that the laundry is not as soft and the whites aren’t as white when salt-free water softeners are used.

The use of salt-less water softeners is limited. Salt based water softeners are much more popular than salt-less water softeners.


In many areas, water softeners are a necessity because of the issues caused by hard water if not treated properly.

We have discussed “how do water softeners work” with an overview of removing the problematic minerals magnesium and calcium that build up over time. This “scale” is what you’re trying to prevent.

These minerals don’t form lather easily and mess up the cleaning process.

More importantly, they cause buildup of scale in water pipes which if not treated at the earliest would become a huge issue in the long run. The replacement of pipes would result in huge costs and inconvenience.

It is important to invest in good water softening equipment and there are two main options available.

One uses salt such as sodium in the recharging cycle of resin beads.

The second is a salt-free water conditioner that is popular due to concerns related to sodium intake and is a cheaper alternative. It uses either magnetic or electric fields to neutralize the minerals. It also has a much simpler set-up and is less costly (no monthly salt purchases).

As is the case to every technology, there are pro and cons to every alternative.

Water softeners with salt are preferred because of their reliability and efficiency.

Ultimately it comes down to the preference of each individual but this article has given an overview of the different types of water softeners.  For a more detailed look at water softener options, look at our best water softeners reviews page.