Guide: Best Water Softeners For The Money (2019)

We use water for so many parts of our daily life, and if that water isn’t good quality, you will likely start to notice some damage to your home. A water softener is a tool that you can use to remove minerals and chemicals from water, making it cleaner and safer for your home to use.

Shopping for water softeners can be tricky, because there are so many on the market, and you want to make sure you select one that is going to be effective for your needs.

In this article, we’ll review some of the top water softeners on the market, and we’ll also discuss how water softeners work and why you need one in your home. And if you’re in a hurry, you can view our product recommendations before getting to the reviews.

Quick answer: What are the best water softeners in 2018 – 2019?

What Is A Water Softener and Why Do You Need One?

Hard water is water that contains calcium, magnesium, and other minerals. It sometimes also contains chemicals. In many areas, tap water is hard water, which many people prefer not to drink. If you live in an area like this, a water softener is a tool that can help you purify your tap water so you can use it. It connects to your plumbing system to remove the chemicals, so you’ll get balanced water that doesn’t damage your home.

There are many reasons why you might consider getting a water softener for your home. While hard water isn’t necessarily dangerous to your health, it can damage your pipes, your sink, your dishwasher, and any other tools in your home that use water. If you have hard water in your house, you might start to notice a buildup of minerals in these areas that looks almost scaly. Not only can this be very unattractive, but it also shortens the lifespan of your home and your appliances and makes them less effective. You may even notice that the atmosphere in your home is dry and uncomfortable, and that your skin starts to get itchy. When you have a high density of minerals in your water, it makes it difficult to keep your home healthy.

Another reason that you might want to invest in a water softener is because soft water is much more effective for cleaning. Soft water allows you to get a nice, thick lather when washing your hair or doing the dishes, while hard water requires you to scrub harder to get the same results. Additionally, you might notice that your towels or clothes have a hard, stiff feeling after they’ve been used or washed. This is from all the mineral buildup in the hard water. Again, while it’s not dangerous, it can damage your items over time, and makes them far less comfortable to use as well. Finally, your dishes and glassware might start to show some hard water stains, and they can become very brittle over time.

Finally, hard water can run up your water bill drastically if you aren’t careful. This is because mineral buildup will develop on the inside of the pipes, which means that it’s much more difficult for water to flow through. You’ll unwittingly be using more water and spending a lot more money each month. A water softener is a great investment because it will bring your bill down over time.

What Is Hard Water And How To Test For It

For some people, knowing if you have hard water is difficult to determine. If you are like me, then you probably grew up and spent most of your life with soft water in the house and never really knew the difference. For me, I learned that something was different about the water in my new home when I began to notice that all the dishes were drying with white, chalky residue on them and that in the shower it was difficult to lather the soap. It took some online research for me to learn that the problem is hard water.

According to an article from the Chicago Tribune in 2012, about 85% of water in the United States is hard water. So, there is a pretty good chance that you live in a home with hard water right now. This type of water is characterized by high amounts of magnesium and calcium. How does it get in the water? Well, as the water was making it way from the ground to your home, it comes into contact with rocks and soil with those minerals and they end up in the water.

Don’t be alarmed because of the presence of these minerals. Your water is still clean, it just has some extra minerals in it that can cause harm to your appliances and your body.

Soft water is basically just water that does not have those minerals in it. Some soft water occurs naturally, about 15% of it in the U.S. according to the article referenced above. And other soft water comes from the hardness elements being removed with water treatment equipment and devices, like water softeners.

Here’s how hard water is bad for you and your home, and why you should treat it with a water softener:

  • Cleaning – minerals in hard water interact with soap and detergent, which makes it more difficult to get laundry, dishes and your both clean.
  • Bathing – not only do the hard water minerals make it harder for you to get clean with soap, but they also cause limescale build-up on your shower walls and bathtub.
  • Energy use – minerals from hard water cause build-up in hot water heaters, which results in about an 8% loss in efficiency for every 100 gallons of water. This increases your energy costs.
  • Plumbing – the minerals in hard water can cause scaling in your hot water heater, pipes and even your coffee maker! This restricts water flow and eventually results in clogging.

Now that you know why having hard water is bad, don’t you think it is a good idea to do something about it? Still not sure if you have hard water? Keep reading to learn how to test for it.

Testing for Hard Water

There are two ways to test for hard water – the quick, unofficial test or the store-bought test. To find out right now if you have hard water, just take a clear bottle and fill it about half full with some tap water. Then, put in about 5 drops of liquid dish soap. Secure the the cap on the bottle and give it a few shakes. When you remove the cap, if you see a lot of suds, then you probably don’t have hard water. But if you only see light suds or a soap film, then it looks like you’ve got hard water.

For a more official result, you can pick up a DIY hard water test kit at a local hardware store or online from Amazon. I recommend AquaChek Total Hardness 25 Test Kit Strip from Amazon. I find it easy to use and that it works well.

With a kit like the one above, you just take the test strip and put it either in a glass of water or under some running water. I suggest you use running water though since a glass in your home might skew the results of the test since they can have some limescale build up on them or soap residue from the dishwasher.

After you use the test strip, you just match it up to the guide on the bottle and it will tell you if the water is  hard or soft. What’s great about a kit like this is that you can use it once you get the water softener installed to determine if it’s working properly or if you’re using a filter on your faucet then you can check for when it needs changed with the kit.

Another thing about these water test kits is that you might find out that your water isn’t really super hard after all. So, you may end up learning that you need a water purifier instead of a water softener. That’s why these kits are so great, and since they are cheap it is really a no brainer when it comes to buying a kit to test your home water for hardness.

How Does a Water Softener Work?

Water softeners use a process called ion exchange to transform hard water into soft water. The calcium and magnesium ions that are causing problems in your water both carry a positive charge, so the water softener has a mineral tank that contains small beads that are negatively charged. As the minerals pass through the softener, they cling to the beads because they have the opposite charge. Sodium ions are then released into the water. These ions have a very slight positive charge, but do not cause the same problems that these minerals do. Water softeners go through this process cyclically to ensure that your home has the soft water that it needs.

Types of Water Softeners

For the most part, there is one basic type of water softener. The standard type of water softener strips the hard minerals from your water with potassium chloride or salt. This is the type that is most commonly used and sold for hard water problems.

Salt-free water softeners also exist and these units condition the water and descale it. It is important to know that these types of devices don’t actually strip the minerals from the water, so technically they do not give you soft water. What they do is use template assisted crystallization (TAC) to make the minerals not stick to either other or to your pipes.

Electronic water softeners are another option you might be considering to fix your hard water. These units have wires that you have to wrap around the outside of your water pipes. The wires then reverse the charge of the minerals in the water. So, again, you are not left with soft water but now the minerals won’t stick to your pipes.

Magnetic water softeners have a similar design to the electronic ones, but instead of wires you have to use magnets on the pipes. Other than that difference, these units work exactly like the electronic units.

Now that you know about the different types of water softener units, you can decide which is the best choice for your home. For the best results, I suggest the standard units that use salt or potassium chloride.

Our Picks: Best Water Softeners Reviewed

There are many water softeners on the market to choose from, so you want to be absolutely sure that you are getting a great quality model. Here’s our comparison of the nine best water softeners on the market, so you can make an informed decision while shopping.

Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener Review

The Iron Pro 2 is one of the best water softeners out there at the moment, particularly if you are looking for a water softener for your entire home. It comes in several different sizes, so you can choose the one that is most appropriate for your needs. Size options include 32k, 40k, 48k, 64k, and 80k grains.

Iron Pro 2 Combination water softener iron filter Fleck 5600SXT digital metered valve 64,000 grain, 64k for whole house

The higher the grain, the higher the capacity for water softening. This water softener is unique in that it also removes a range of other potential contaminants from the water while softening it. In addition to removing hardness up to 75 gpg, it can remove iron up to the 6-8 ppm range. It also removes manganese up to 6ppm, as well as any rust, sediment, and sand.

In addition to being very effective, this water softener is also very easy to use. It comes with a digital metered valve that you can use to adjust the settings quickly and easily. It uses a meter based regeneration system to reduce water waste and keep your water bill down. With this regeneration system, water is only regenerated as necessary depending on your existing use, instead of working on an automatic schedule. It’s made with a fine mesh resin and the entire system is extremely durable, making a great investment for your home in the long term. It comes with a five year warranty as well in case you experience any challenges with the system. It comes with everything you need to get the system set up, including complete instructions, the tank, and the bypass valve.

Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener Review

This water softener works very similarly to the Iron Pro 2, making it another very viable option for those who need whole house water softening. It treats 48,000 grains, which is ideal for a six person household. Unless your home is very large, you will likely have more than enough soft water with this product.

Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener Digital SXT Metered Whole House System

Like the Iron Pro 2, it has a long brine tank and bypass valve, which is operated using a digital meter for ease of use. The paddle wheel meter is easy to install and adjust, even for those who aren’t particularly technical. It’s made in the United States and has an excellent warranty of up to 10 years, which is double that of the Iron Pro 2. It also comes in a sleek black color, which will help it blend in better with your home.

This water softener can treat up to 12 gallons per meter service flow rates, which is quite powerful. It also uses high capacity either percent cross linked resin, which is very durable and effective.

Like the Iron Pro 2, it can also remove iron, manganese, sediment, sand, and rust from the water in addition to the basic calcium and magnesium removal that you would expect from a water softener. This softener only regenerates water as needed, so you can save money on your water bills and avoid waste. However, the high GPM means it can keep up with increases in use as necessary.

Watts M7002 Flow-Pur RV-Pro Water Softener Review

If you need a portable water softener for your space, the Watts M7002 may be a good option for you. This water softener is great for travelers who want a water softener for their RV, but it’s also helpful if you live in a small apartment or if you move frequently and want to take your water softener with you. Although it’s smaller than many of the other water softeners mentioned here, it works in a very similar way. This water softener is very easy to install and use, and you can get it up and running in under an hour. The water regeneration process itself only takes 20 minutes, so you’ll have soft, clean water right away.

Watts Water Quality/Condition M7002 Flow-Pur RV-Pro 10,000 Water Softener

This water softener has a drain line flow restricter built into the construction, which makes regeneration much more efficient and increases the softener’s water capacity very significantly. It can handle high flow rates up to 4 gallons per minute, and it regenerates automatically using custom flow valves, which means there’s minimal maintenance or adjustments required. The softener has a very secure base, which is important when you are using a portable appliance. It also comes with water testing strips, so you can actually test the hardness of the water at each location you connect to. It uses common table salt for the ion exchange process, which could be considered either a bonus or a hassle, depending on your perspective. You can easily pick up table salt at your local grocery store, but it also requires about two pounds for a regeneration, so you’ll need to buy it in large quantities and replenish frequently.

Aquasana 10-year Whole House Water Filter with Salt-Free Softener Review

If you are looking for the entire package for your home, this whole house water filter by Aquasana will ensure you have soft, clean water to drink for 10 years. It’s a great option for someone planning on staying in their current home long term who needs a water filtration solution.

Aquasana 10-Year, 1,000,000 Gallon Whole House Water Filter with Salt-Free Softener and Professional Installation Kit

This is a complex system that comes with a filtration tank and a softener that connects to your pipes. It does come with an installation kit, but you should plan on taking time to get it set up. It comes with all the fittings, filters, and valves you will need for setup.

The Aquasana softener is very unique because it doesn’t use salt to soften the water, instead using SCM technology to keep your water soft and clean. It also uses UV filtration to kill off viruses and bacteria in your water, making it clean and drinkable. It also removes pesticides, herbicides, rust, silt, and sediment. This filter-softener combo has a long life of approximately 10 years or one million gallons of water, so it is a true investment for your home. This entire system will keep your home healthy and reduce damage to your home’s plumbing system.

Eddy Electronic Water Descaler Review

Although this isn’t technically a water softener, it works as a good water softening alternative. If you don’t want to put salt into your water, this electronic descaler will essentially give you the same results you would get with a softener without adding salt.

Eddy Electronic Water Descaler - Water Softener Alternative

It prevents scales from building up in your pipes, and it also can remove existing deposits in your pipes. Because it doesn’t change the water hardness, you still get some minerals in your water. Certain minerals, like calcium, are actually healthy to consume in small quantities, so you will still get that benefit.

This descaler is very environmentally friendly, and it also makes your water better to shower and clean with by removing the components that could cause damage to your items.

This product works by putting out electro-magnetic waves that break up the minerals that cause scaling. Putting large amounts of salt in your water in the long term can have some environmental downsides, which is why some people prefer to avoid softeners that use salt. T

his electronic descaler is relatively easy to install, and you can use it with either metal or plastic pipes. It keeps your entire water system de-scaled, and works with any system up to 20 gallons per minute flow rate. It doesn’t require maintenance, and it comes with a 12 month money back guarantee. Since it is electronic, this descaler will need to be plugged into a power source. It requires 110 watts of power.

Pelican Salt-Free Water Softener and Conditioner Review

This is another water softener that does not use salt to change the water’s hardness. The ion exchange process uses small granules that do not contain salt to keep your water as healthy as possible.

Pelican Salt-Free Water Softener & Conditioner (1-3 Bathrooms)

It actually leaves in the minerals that are beneficial to your health, but takes out the minerals that cause damage to your pipes over time. It also conditions the water to make it clean and safe to drink. It has a very fine filter to keep sediment out of your water. In fact, it filters sediment as small as five microns, which is 20 times smaller than a human hair.

It is appropriately sized for homes with one to three bathrooms.

This water softener only processes water as needed, so it does not waste water. It also doesn’t require electricity to run, so you won’t run up your electric bill by using it. The softener itself is made with a durable stainless steel exterior, so it resists rust and other damage. This makes it a very durable water softener and helps it last for a long time. It comes with everything you need to install the softener on your own, including installation diagrams. Finally, this softener is DVGW certified to prevent 99.6 percent of scale in your plumbing system, so you can count on it providing the best possible service for your system.

Pentair 5600sxt Water Softener Review

This is another large, durable water softener that is large enough for most homes. It comes in both 32,000 and 48,000 grain sizes, depending on the size of your home. As a traditional softener, it comes with the standard brine tank, mineral tank, bypass valve, and adapter that you can use to connect to your existing plumbing system.

Pentair 5600sxt-48k AFW Filters water softener with AFW Install kit Fleck 48,000 Grain of Upgraded HIGH Capacity 10% Resin, Black

It comes with an AFW installation kit that you can use to install the system easily on your own. Unlike many other water softeners, it actually comes with video instructions that show you how to get things set up in detail. It uses 10 percent crosslink resin for very fine ion exchange to ensure good quality softening for your water.

Like many other popular water softener options, it has a digital meter control display. This makes it much easier to switch the settings on your water softener as needed. A high quality LCD display shows your settings clearly, and touchpad controls make adjustment quick and intuitive. This system works on demand, which means it only softens water as it is needed. This way, you don’t waste water or energy and you can keep your bills down. Finally, the system comes with a lubricant and sanitizer as well as test strips, so you can actually test the hardness of your existing water before you set everything up.

Whirlpool WHES30 30,000 Grain Water Softener Review

The Whirlpool water softener is a great option for small family homes. It has a sleek design that looks nice and will fit into your space effortlessly.

Whirlpool WHES30 30,000 Grain Water Softener - Built in USA - Salt Saving Technology - NSF Certified

It is a 30,000 grain water softener, so the capacity isn’t quite as large as some other options, but it is still enough for many homes. It is NSF certified and comes with a parts and labor warranty.

This softening system is extremely easy to install and adjust the settings due to the intuitive display on the front of the softener. It can remove up to 8 ppm of iron from your system in addition to softening the water. This water softener is also very efficient, because it works to calculate exactly the amount of salt and water that’s necessary for your home’s needs, preventing energy or water waste.

Nuvo H2O Dpmb-a Manor Water Softener System Review

This is a very unique water softener system that uses a technology that adjusts the pH level of the water in your system, which change the solubility of the minerals in your water and prevent them from causing problems like damaged pipes, stained dishes, or irritated skin from the mineral content in the water.

Nuvo H2O Dpmb-a Manor Water Softener System, 8 X 26

In addition to preventing scale from building up in your pipes, the pH adjustment can actually remove existing buildup as well.  It doesn’t use any salt, and it also doesn’t waste water or electricity, so you won’t have to worry about higher energy or water bills.

This water softener system is great for large homes that have over four people in them, because it can handle a larger flow. It has a very compact design that will fit almost anywhere in your household.

Keep in mind that the cartridge lifespan is only 50,000 gallons, so you will need to replace it every few years, depending on your water usage. The Nuvo H20 brand also makes similar products in different sizes, so you can choose which one is best for your home’s size and water usage needs.

Top Water Softener Brands

If you prefer to shop by brand first instead of top rated water softener models, then our list of the top brands on the market right now can help you head in the right direction. Take a look at our list below to check out all the best brands in the industry.

  • Fleck – this is hands-down the most well known brand out there, and for good reason – they make the most high quality water softeners on the market. It is hard to get a better value for the money when it comes to the Fleck brand. The models that they make are consistently on the lists of best selling and best rated consumer water softeners.
  • Morton – there is a good chance that you already know this brand because they make table salt! So, it is only natural that they make good water softeners using their salt. They do not have a lot of models for sale, but those that they do offer are high quality and well-rated by consumers like you and me.
  • Aquasana – this is another brand that has a long built reputation in the industry. In addition to water softeners, they make a variety of other healthy and clean water products, like filters for the faucets and shower heads. Overall, they are a great brand to support.
  • WaterBoss – this company also has built a good reputation over time by creating quality water softener products. They specialize by making units that use less water, which is great for people who are trying to reduce their usage.  Their units are always highly rated by consumers.

While there are other brands out there, these four are the industry leaders right now. Basically, if you buy one of these brands, then you know that you are getting quality equipment that will perform well and last you for many years to come.

Summary: Top Home Water Softener Systems Recommended

For a quick comparison, check out the table below of our top picks right now.

Keep in mind that plenty of models are available, so no matter your home’s size or water usage needs, you will be able to find one that’s appropriate. The water softeners listed here are some of the best available, and they are reliable options for homes of many different sizes. A water softener is an essential if you live in an area with hard water – it will prevent damage to your property and keep your skin and hair healthy as well.

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