If you have hard water, a salt-free water softener can help. These softeners don't add salt to your diet and require no electricity or regular maintenance. In addition, they don't discharge water like some salt-based softeners do.
Hard water contains minerals such as manganese, magnesium carbonate, and calcium. Symptoms of hard water include spotty dishes, poor lathering of shampoo and soap, a ring around the bathtub, and dingy-looking laundry.
There are many types of water softeners available, but a salt-free option is a good choice for those concerned about adding excess salt to the communal water supply.
As the market for salt-free water softeners has grown, it can be difficult to choose the right one. We have researched the top salt-free water systems and included a buying guide to help you make an informed decision.
Top Salt-Free Water Softeners of 2023
1. NuvoH2O Home Water Softener System – Best Citric Acid Option
The NuvoH2O Home Water Softener System is a water conditioner designed for small to mid-sized households with typical water usage.
The NuvoH2O Home Water Softener System uses the chelation process to change the behavior of calcium and magnesium ions in water. This alters the pH levels and prevents minerals from sticking to surfaces. Instead of using salt and resin, the system has a cartridge containing citric acid. This conditions the water, making it softer and better for use with household appliances. The acid amount is tiny and doesn't affect the taste of the water.
NuvoH2O recommends this softener system only if the water has a pH of at least 7.2 to avoid corroding pipes. The chelation process is suitable for mild and medium-hard water and is FDA-approved and safe. The system has a flow rate of up to 15 GPM and the cartridge lasts for around 20,000 gallons or four to six months.
The NuvoH2O Home Water Softener System is easy to set up and comes with everything needed in the box, including a housing unit, wall mounting panel, housing wrench, screws, and a bypass valve. The bypass valve is useful when large amounts of water are needed and the cartridge is not being used.
2. SoftPro® Elite Salt Free Water Softener – Best for a Busy Household
The SoftPro® Elite Salt Free Water Softener boasts easy installation with minimal maintenance required. Once installed, there is nothing else to do.
- SoftPro Elite offers 99.6% scale prevention
- Reduces the existing scale in pipes and plumbing
- Included 5-micron sediment and chlorine pre-filter
- Softener lasts for six years and doesn't require electricity
- Comes with a washable, removable neoprene jacket to protect the tank from humidity
- Installation might be difficult
- Available in one size only
The SoftPro® Elite Salt Free Water Softener by Quality Water Treatment has premium-quality parts and uses water softening technology. It comes with a lifetime warranty.
The system uses a chamber with Filtersorb SP3 media to condition your water. This material breaks down magnesium and calcium carbonates through Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC).
The system uses Filtersorb SP3 media in a chamber to condition your water. This media breaks down magnesium and calcium carbonates through Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC). NAC transforms hard water minerals into harmless micro-crystals, reducing the negative effects of hard water without using salt or removing healthy minerals. NAC also protects equipment from limescale and reduces maintenance costs.
The SP3 media in the water conditioner will last between 5 and 10 years, depending on the hardness of your water. The SoftPro® Elite can handle water hardness up to 17 GPG.
A Big Blue Carbon filter helps prevent clogging from the SP3 media during use. The only maintenance required is flushing the filter with a half cup of household bleach every 12 months.
3. AO Smith AO-WH-DSCLR Salt-Free Water Softner – Best For Larger Households
AO Smith offers a system that eliminates chlorine odor and taste in your water. It's important to understand the capabilities and limitations of a water filtration system in order to choose the right solution. The AO Smith AO-WH-DSCLR is the main point of contact for water entering your home.
The activated carbon filter in the AO Smith AO-WH-DSCLR system removes up to 97% of chlorine, as well as volatile organics (VOCs), pesticides, and herbicides that may be present in water. This helps reduce the taste and odor of chlorine, making the water taste cleaner and laundry smell fresher. The filter works by trapping particles in carbon pores through the adsorption process.
It's important to note that city water is regulated by state regulatory bodies, so the amount of chlorine in the water is likely within the maximum allowed levels. However, homes with a high concentration of chlorine may still experience a significant reduction with the AO Smith filter.
AO Smith AO-WH-DSCLR is effective for up to six years or 600,000 gallons, depending on the quality of the incoming water. However, it's worth considering installing a separate water softener to address hard water in addition to using the AO Smith filter.
4. SpringWell FutureSoft FS1 Salt-Free Water Softener – Best Highest Flow Rate
SpringWell's FutureSoft FS1 softener removes 99.6% of scale while maintaining water pressure and producing no wastewater. It's a high-tech system.
- Conditions water better than most other systems
- FutureSoft doesn't require extensive maintenance
- Efficient water contaminants filtration
- Prevents and removes scale
- Provides great-tasting water
- Tricky installation
The SpringWell FutureSoft FS1 Salt Free Water Softener is a good investment for improving the quality of your water. It's a water conditioner and descaler that helps to remove impurities and provide gentle water for your skin and hair.
The FuturSoft FS1 also has a unique ActiveFlo technology that uses four filtration stages to reduce contaminants. It's also effective at removing chlorine's odor. The FuturSoft FS1 is easy to maintain, with no need for cleaning or electrical connections.
5. YARNA CWD24 Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System – Best Value for Money
The YARNA CWD24 water descaler system is a salt-free water softener that prevents scale buildup using electric impulses. It's also one of the cheapest options.
When searching for a water softening system, two common concerns are high price and installation difficulty. The YARNA CWD24 Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System addresses these issues with its unique approach.
This YARNA CWD24 uses capacitive technology to descale the water, similar to an electromagnetic device. However, it clumps calcium and magnesium minerals differently. Capacitive technology changes the structure of the water entering your home, causing the hard minerals to crystallize. This allows them to travel with the water instead of sticking to pipes, preventing limescale buildup.
After installing the YARNA CWD24, the effects can be seen almost immediately. Kitchen utensils, plates, glassware, and cutlery will appear cleaner, and showers will feel more refreshing. The system can be mounted on the pipe or the nearest wall, but you will need a nearby power outlet. It can be used on any type of pipe, including PVC, plastic, stainless steel, iron, and copper.
6. Eddy Electronic Water Descaler – Best Electric
The Eddy Electronic Water Descaler softens your water effectively and at a lower cost compared to other methods. It requires no maintenance and takes up no space, making it convenient to use. Additionally, it's environmentally friendly.
The Eddy Electronic Water Descaler is an alternative to a traditional salt-based water softener. It works by wrapping two small wire coils around the water supply line, which creates a magnetic wave that changes the behavior of minerals in the water. Unlike salt-based softeners, the descaler does not alter the chemical composition of the water. Instead, it suspends minerals such as magnesium and calcium, preventing them from sticking to pipes and causing damage.
Installation of the unit is quick and easy, even for those with no experience. It can be used with metal and PVC pipes, but not with lead or iron pipes. The Eddy Electronic Water Descaler requires a standard 110-volt electrical supply, and power usage is minimal. It comes with a 12-month satisfaction guarantee, and Eddy Electronic Water Descaler will repair or replace it for free if necessary.
The Eddy Electronic Water Descaler doesn't reduce water flow like some other water softener products. It can treat up to 20 GPM, which is above the maximum flow rate of most homes. However, it should be noted that the Eddy Electronic Water Descaler is not a water softener, but rather a conditioner or descaler. It does not remove the minerals that cause water hardness, but instead conditions the water as it flows through the main pipe into your home.
7. Aquasana EQ-1000-AST-UV Salt Free Water Conditioner – Best Filter + Softener
The Aquasana EQ-1000-AST-UV is a salt-free water conditioner that reduces scale and corrosion, protecting your plumbing and appliances. Aquasana offers cost-effective house water systems that are often surprising to households.
The Aquasana EQ-1000-AST-UV is a whole house water descaler with a dual tank design. It uses Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC) technology to naturally reduce scaling by altering the structure of hardness minerals in the water, preventing them from binding and forming deposits. This results in a reduction of up to 99.6% in scaling.
The Aquasana EQ-1000-AST-UV has a service flow of 7 to 10 GPM and can handle water hardness levels up to 25 GPG. It is most effective at 15 GPG and below. The unit also has a 6-year softening capacity and can operate at pressures between 20 and 100 psi.
In addition to reducing scaling, the Aquasana EQ-1000-AST-UV also removes chlorine from the water supply. It maintains flow rate to all faucets in the house, making it a convenient and effective choice for whole house water treatment.
8. Watts Premier OneFlow Plus Salt-Free Water Softener – Best Easy-to-Install Design
The Watts Premier OneFlow+ reduces hard water scale buildup in appliances and pipes. It also removes harmful contaminants and improves water taste.
The Watts Premier OneFlow Plus system uses Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) technology to form microscopic crystals from dissolved hardness minerals in water. These crystals rest on the OneFlow media and then detach and flow freely through the plumbing system, preventing scale build-up on plumbing surfaces.
This system requires no maintenance and does not use electricity. It has a maximum water flow of 10 GPM, but should only be installed on the cold water supply. According to lab tests, it can last up to three years, but actual lifespan may vary based on the environment.
The Watts Premier OneFlow Plus also includes a chlorine filter that can filter up to 50,000 gallons of water. It comes with a mounting bracket for installation on walls or floors.
Explore Your Options: The Different Types of Salt-Free Water Softeners
There are three main types of saltless water softeners: Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC), chelation, and electromagnetic.
Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC)
Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) is the most popular method of softening water without using salt. However, it's not a true softener, but it does provide similar results to salt units. TAC works by treating the hard water minerals in your water supply and changing their chemical composition to prevent scale formation. TAC media maintains healthy minerals while providing the benefits of soft water.
In a TAC conditioner, resin attracts the hard water minerals in the water and holds them until they crystallize and are released back into the water.
Chelation is a water conditioning process that binds hard water ions to a chelating agent, such as citric acid or ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). This causes the mineral ions to suspend in the water and not deposit on surfaces as scale. Chelation is commonly used in commercial applications, but there are also in-home chelation conditioning systems available.
Electromagnetic water conditioners use electromagnetic coils to separate hard water minerals and prevent scale formation. These systems don't require tanks and are affordable salt-free softening options. They consist of a pair of magnets or a coil that is attached to the outside of a water pipe. The magnetic process intercepts the water before it reaches the heater. However, there is little evidence that these systems are effective.
The Benefits of Salt-free Water Softeners
The benefits of using salt-free water softeners are as follows:
- Reduced maintenance: Salt-free water softeners are convenient for homeowners because they don't require regular salt refills. These systems use a process called “template-assisted crystallization” to alter the chemical makeup of hard water minerals, reducing build-up and scaling on pipes and appliances. This means less maintenance and cleaning for homeowners.
- Require no electricity: Saltless water softeners don't require electricity to function. This makes them a reliable option in areas with power outages or blackouts, as well as a money-saving choice on energy bills for homeowners.
- Don't affect the taste: Unlike salt-based water softeners that can alter the taste of your water, often making it taste metallic or salty, salt-free water softeners don't negatively impact the taste of your water, leaving it clean and fresh-tasting.
- Don't negatively affect health: Salt-free water softeners don't add any salt to the water, making them a safe choice for those on low-salt diets and reducing potential negative health effects.
- No negative impact on plumbing: Over time, the high levels of salt in water treated by salt-based water softening systems can corrode pipes and appliances. Salt-free water softeners don't have this negative impact on plumbing, making them a more durable and long-lasting choice.
- Environmental-friendly: Salt-free water softeners don't release salt or chemicals into local waterways and ecosystems, making them a more environmentally-friendly option.
Breaking Down the Differences: Salt-Based vs. Salt-Free Water Softeners
Here is a breakdown of both salt and salt-free water softeners in the table below:
|Salt-Free Water Softeners||Salt-Based Water Softeners|
|Reduced maintenance||Regular salt refills required|
|Eco-friendly||Releases salt into the environment|
|No need for electricity||Requires electricity to function|
|Safe for septic systems||Can put excess strain on septic systems|
|No negative impact on taste||Can affect the taste of water|
|No negative impact on health||High levels of salt can have negative health effects, especially for people on a low-salt diet|
|No negative impact on plumbing||Can corrode pipes and appliances over time|
|Higher upfront cost||Lower upfront cost|
|Lower long-term cost||Higher long-term cost|
|No need for salt purchases||Regular salt purchases required|
|No electricity costs||Electricity costs required|
|Uses template-assisted crystallization to alter hard water minerals||Uses salt to alter hard water minerals|
|Doesn't remove hard water minerals||Removes hard water minerals|
|Doesn't alter the mineral composition of water||Alters the mineral composition of water|
|Non-invasive installation process||Requires installation of a brine tank|
Key Factors to Consider When Buying a Salt-Free Water Softener
When selecting a salt-free water softener, there are a few features to consider. These features are outlined in the following section.
Type of Hard Water Problem
Different salt-less water softeners are designed to address specific hard water issues. For example, some salt-less softening systems are designed to reduce scaling on pipes and appliances, while others are designed to remove chlorine or other toxic contaminants or improve the taste of the water.
Make sure to identify the specific problem you are trying to solve before purchasing a system.
Before purchasing a salt-free water softening system, make sure to measure the size of your home and the amount of water you use. This will help you determine the best size system for your needs. For example, if you've got a large family with high water usage, you will need a larger system to meet your demand.
When shopping for a water softener, it's important to consider the capacity rating or grain rating of the unit. This refers to the number of minerals that the softener can remove before needing to be flushed. Salt-free water softeners work differently and don't use a filter resin material. Instead, they use a grain rating to indicate how long the unit will last or effectively filter hard water particles.
To determine the grain rating you need, it's important to test your water first. Water tests can tell you the number of mineral grains present in a gallon of water. You can also inquire about the grain levels in your city's water supply, but keep in mind that well water and city water can have different grain levels. Most cities have a tolerance of around 15 grains per gallon (GPG), while well water may have up to 40 GPG.
When choosing a water softening system, it's important to consider the water flow rate. Some systems may reduce the water flow, which can impact the water pressure in different areas of the house. For example, a washing machine typically needs 1.5 gallons per minute, while a shower uses 2 gallons per minute.
The water flow rate for a salt-free softener is different from that of a traditional softener. Salt-free softeners use a catalytic media to crystallize material ions on the media surface, rather than flushing them out. This process allows the water to flow freely while removing the hard crystals from the surface.
Ensure that your salt-free water softener is made with safe materials. Research has shown that Bisphenol A (BPA) in some plastic can be carcinogenic. Avoid models that may release BPA into your home. Safe alternatives include stainless steel and BPA-free plastic components.
Consider the maximum pressure of each salt-free water softener model. Compare it to your current water pressure. Avoid choosing a unit that will significantly reduce your current pressure. Keep in mind, installing a softener will generally decrease water pressure.
Chlorine Reduction Feature
To determine if the model filters chlorine, consult the product specifications. A model with full filtering capabilities can improve the quality of household water by removing chlorine.
Check the dimensions listed and measure your space to ensure it will fit. It can be frustrating to purchase a unit and realize it doesn't fit in your space.
The operating temperature depends on the model you choose. If there is no information about the operating temperature in the product specifications, you should contact the manufacturer for this information.
Ease of Installation
Hire a professional if you don't have experience installing a salt-free water softener. Shut off the main water supply before touching the plumbing to avoid problems. Installing a salt-free unit is easier than a salt-based system, but some devices can still be tricky.
The cost of a salt-free water softener can vary greatly depending on factors such as the size of the system, the type of filter used, and other features and capabilities of the system. Generally speaking, salt-free water softeners can cost anywhere from $400 to $2,500 or more. I'd advise you to compare the costs of different water softening systems and consider both the upfront and ongoing expenses to find the best value for your money.
Also Read: How Much Does It Cost to Install or Replace a Water Softener?
Check the warranty to see what is covered and how long it lasts. If the warranty is short, consider purchasing an extended warranty from the manufacturer. This will protect you in the event that something goes wrong with the softener.
You're now ready to get rid of hard water minerals and enjoy soft water by following the reviews and buyer's guide provided.
It's important to note that water from a salt-free system isn't actually soft water. True soft water has all hard water minerals removed, while salt-free conditioners only reduce the scaling effects of hard water without removing magnesium or calcium.
Despite this, hard water does have its benefits, including protecting bones and heart health. Salt-free water softeners allow you to enjoy these benefits without damaging plumbing fixtures or water appliances.
We hope that this guide has helped you find the best salt-free water softener for your needs. Go salt-free today and enjoy the benefits of saltless soft water.