Ever felt that urge to just get away from it all?
From #vanlife to the cabin-in-the-woods dream, off grid living has an increased appeal these days.
No calls or emails to attend to, no to-do list piling up. More people than ever are making the choice to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, in search of a slower pace of living.
But going off-grid presents its own challenges. And no, I’m not talking about cell service keeping you off social media.
I’m talking about water.
Mother nature doesn’t always provide, and in the case of water you’re going to need to purify, filter and soften her water before you can drink, take a shower or even boil it up for pasta.
Approximately 85% of Americans’ water supply is hard water, packed with minerals like magnesium and calcium (1).
Have you ever wondered what that white stuff on the inside of your appliances is?
Or come out of the shower, only to feel your skin shrivelling up with dryness?
There’s only one culprit: hard water. And there’s only one solution: a water softener. So let’s take a deep dive into the best water softeners for well water.
10 Best Water Softeners for Well Water of 2021-2022
Well, well well, here we are – at the 10 best water softeners for well water on the market! These products will turn your water into a silky soft experience every time, and there’s an option for everyone. Let’s take the plunge!
1. Whirlpool WHES40E 40,000 Grain Softener – Best For Efficient Regeneration
Whirlpool’s WHES40E is designed for the whole family to use, and more – it’s aimed at households of up to six people. It’s a mid-priced unit with decent capacity and a few great extra features.
This salt-based softener introduces sodium to your well water (or city water, which it’s equally equipped to tackle). That means it comes with the natural downsides of a sodium-based softener, but the Demand Initiated Regeneration senses when your water needs softened, so it uses salt exceptionally efficiently.
And the WHES40E can remove 40,000 grains before it requires regeneration. The exact lifespan will depend on the hardness of your water – but for a family of four, this unit will likely require regeneration several times a year.
You don’t need to worry about that day-to-day, however: the digital display tells everything you need to know about your water supply and the low-salt light ensures you’ll never let your water harden up.
Although the WHES40 doesn’t include a filtering element, it is equipped to remove 11ppm of iron from your water supply, giving you cleaner, better-tasting water.
Water softeners are often complicated and cumbersome to install, so you’ll appreciate whirlpool's intuitive step-by-step guide enabling self-installation. And the easy cleaning and low maintenance design mean you should never have to call the plumber out.
2. Aquasure Harmony Series – Best Mid-Priced Softener For Family Use
Aquasure’s Harmony series is available in a range of sizes, but the 48,000-grain option provides great value for money for families looking to solve their hard water issues.
Quality construction – fiberglass-lined tanks and premium resin – are on display, and Aquasure is confident enough to offer an industry-leading 5-year manufacturer warranty.
The Harmony can shift 48,000 grains before requiring regeneration. The digital display meter ensures you have up-to-date performance data, and allows you to optimize regeneration through time-delay settings. You won’t waste a drop of water or a pound of salt.
The 12 gallon/minute flow rate ensures you’ll never run out of water. You can shower while your partner does the washing up – if the water heater can handle it.
Full instructions are included, enabling a pain-free self-installation, but whilst maintenance is minimal beyond replenishing salt supplies, there’s no cleaning fluid included as with some other brands on the market.
3. iSpring RCC7 – Best Under Sink Filter And Softener
This under-sink model gives you faucet-targeted water softening right at the sink – which is perfect if you’re primarily concerned about drinking water and limescale in your kitchen appliances.
However, that targeted approach leaves you with hard water in your shower and other faucets around the house.
The iSpring RCC7 is rated to filter 75 gallons a day – more than enough for your family’s kitchen requirements. That’s 75 gallons of pure, filtered water straight from the faucet.
The system works through reverse osmosis, preventing any tiny particles from passing through. As well as softening your water, it removes other contaminants such as chemicals and contaminants.
It’s not designed to be exclusively a water softener – the upside is highly filtered water, but it may not be as effective at removing the hardening minerals as other systems.
Installation is designed to be done DIY – and iSpring has included all the information to do so. As for maintenance, you’ll be required to replace the filters occasionally – but you’ll know when to do so thanks to iSpring’s color-change design.
4. Iron Pro 2 – Best For Off-Grid Water Supply
This Iron Pro 2 has an impressive capacity for softening water, but it also removes sediment, iron, and rust making it exceptionally well suited to off-grid homes. It doesn’t come cheap, but it’s a serious system for softening water.
With a 64,000 grain capacity, it’s up there with the big boys and can handle anything your family will throw at it. The time between regeneration will vary, but for all but the hardest water, you’ll likely get six months before it’s time for a top-up.
The ferrous iron filter will strip iron out of your water up to 6ppm too.
A digital metered control head gives you complete control over your unit at the touch of a button. This lets you keep a close eye on your water supply – and ensures you’ll optimize your water and salt usage within the system.
The Iron Pro also includes a bypass valve that lets you switch to non-softened water whenever the need arises. This extends the lifespan of your softener and enables you to bypass the system without switching off the whole water supply.
A maximum treatable flow rate of 16 GPM (gallons per minute) also gives you non-stop softened water when you need it.
It’s designed for DIY installation and instructions are included – as well as a handy customer support line for any questions.
5. DuraWater 80k-56sxt-10AL – Best For Maximum Capacity
Aplus Water’s DuraWater is a commercial capacity water softener, and it’s a great option for bigger households or anyone with exceptionally hard water in their area.
It’s a salt-based system and a well-engineered unit: DuraWater has recently upgraded their resin to ensure it’s chlorine resistant, meaning it lasts longer and works more efficiently to soften your water.
The resin comes pre-installed in the tank, saving you time on installation and DuraWater includes all the information you need to get the unit installed yourself. However, keep a plumber on speed dial as sometimes the resin shifts in transport.
You’ll also need to pick up both drain line and connection hoses, as these are not included.
The metered paddle wheel control has a digital display that gives you fine-tuning options over your water: 16 different customizable settings offer exceptional efficiency.
6. On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT-Portable 16,000 Grain – Best Portable Water Softener
On The Go has created an exceptionally compact, increased capacity water softener with the OTG4.
The 16,000-grain capacity can provide you with 1600 gallons of water – but potentially half that if water is especially hard in your area. It’s also efficient in its salt use. Once depleted, it regenerates in just 30 minutes with two boxes of table salt, and you’re ready to go again.
It’s aimed at the RV market and designed for portable use, but the compact size and intuitive functionality will appeal to anyone looking for a miniature, moveable softener.
The whole unit is just 22.5” tall and 9.5” in diameter – and can be installed with zero tools, and a standard garden hose.
The carry handle and wide salt intake make it easy to use while you’re on the go. However, some of the plastic fittings have a cheap feel and it might struggle to survive the hard knocks of the road.
The absence of a digital control panel means fewer options for your softening program – but the compact design and affordable price tag make it a great option for the road.
7. Pentair WS48-56sxt10 Fleck – Best Softener For A Chlorinated Water Supply
This 48,000-grain softener is a whole-house unit, providing softer water to give the whole family baby-soft skin.
The upgraded 10% resin is chlorine resistant so it’s a great choice for water supplies where this contaminant is an issue. It could last three years longer than an 8% resin in similar models.
Designed for DIY installation, the resin is pre-loaded into the mineral tank. This saves you dealing with the resin, but sometimes the resin shifts in transport and needs to be resettled. If this occurs, DIY goes out the window and you’ll be calling in the pros.
All things being well, however, installation is a breeze. Simply set it up within reach of a 120V outlet.
The LED control valve is fully programmable and gives you a customizable supply. This lets you be more efficient with both salt and water usage – you’ll never waste a drop and get the most out of your water softener.
8. iSpring ED2000 – Best Salt-Free Softening Option
If you’re after an easy life, then a salt-free descaler could solve your hard water woes without the maintenance and regeneration demands of a salt-based system.
iSpring’s electronic water descaler can eradicate any hint of hard water in your whole home. It’s compatible with any pipe and descales your water at the entry point of your water supply.
Installation is easy, and iSpring provides full, intuitive instructions. It requires a 120V outlet, but resin, sodium, and regular cleaning are a thing of the past with this design.
Because the electronic descaler doesn’t change the chemical composition of your water, it can handle exceptionally hard water without any loss of lifespan or performance. This system will descale anything up to 19 grains per gallon with ease.
But because it’s a salt-free system, it’ll be less efficient at removing spots and stains from your appliances.
Throw in a low price, a one-year money-back guarantee, and lifetime support from iSpring and you’ve got an instant solution to a hard problem.
9. Tier1 48,000 Grain – Best For A Space-Saving Design
Since salt-based systems are built on the same technology, they’re often separated by slim margins in design and function. Tier 1 has managed to save over four feet of floor space with this compact model that still maintains a family-sized softening capacity.
The 10” x 54” mineral tank and 15” x 34” brine tank combine to make a space-saving unit. The mineral tank is pre-loaded with resin for a streamlined self-installation and it comes with ¾” water line connections.
That’s great if they fit, but if your home is plumbed with PEX or CPVC tubing you may require additional attachments.
Tier1’s digital display also features simplified programming functions that are exceptionally easy to follow. They give you a fully customizable system without blowing your mind!
This salt-based softener sits in the price range of similar sized models. But for a compact design and intuitive programming, it’s hard to beat.
10. Aquasana Whole House Well Water Filter System – Best For Additional Filtering
Whoever says you can’t have everything? Aquasana’s Whole House Filter System purifies, filters, and descales – but it comes at a price.
Water softening is just one component of this mega system – but it’s a salt-free descaler, and so it won’t be as effective as other pure softening systems.
In fact, the salt-free water conditioner, which acts as the descaler in this unit, may still leave mineral spots and staining on your kitchen appliances. But it will nullify some of the effects of hard water on your skin, hair, and in your drinking water.
And while some of Aquasana’s filters require replacement every few months, the water conditioner unit has a robust lifespan of 6 years.
When it comes to purification, this system excels: it removes 99. 9% of viruses and bacteria, 97% of chlorine, and strips away a wide variety of chemical contaminants. Whilst it’s average as a water softener, it’s the full package when it comes to filtration and purification.
It’s also prohibitively expensive: if you need a one-stop system to purify, filter and descale then this could be the choice for you. But if hard water is your only worry, this is overkill.
Understanding Water Softeners For Well Water
Five out of six Americans have hard water in their pipes, so whether you’re a city slicker or drawing your own well water, you’re likely meeting these mineral menaces.
What Is Hard Water?
Water is defined as hard or soft depending on the mineral and metal content it contains. Soft water contains under 60ppm (parts per million), equating to under 60mg in every liter. Once the mineral content of water rises beyond this threshold, it becomes moderately hard, hard, or very hard. Water with a mineral content of over 180ppm is considered very hard.
The most common of these, calcium and magnesium, are a scourge in your kitchen and shower alike. These minerals build up as limescale your pipes and appliances, often causing unseen damage.
And their presence in water you wash in dries out your skin and hair, leaving you with an unpleasant, unclean sensation.
How Does a Water Softener Work?
There are two main ways water softeners work – either by removing the minerals altogether or nullifying their effects by changing their chemical makeup so they can’t stick to anything. Let’s take a look at these two systems, which work through ion exchange and electronic descaling.
Ion Exchange: Most water softeners work by removing the minerals – giving you truly soft water, with negligible mineral content. To extract these minerals, they use a process called “ion exchange”.
These systems have two tanks: a mineral tank, containing resin beads and a brine tank, containing a salt-water solution.
Ion exchange works thanks to the positive charge possessed by the minerals in hard water. When hard water meets the negatively-charged resin beads in the mineral tank, the calcium and magnesium ions glue to the resin, softening your water.
Eventually, the resin beads reach a limit where they can’t absorb any further mineral ions. At this point, the mineral tank is flushed with the salt-water solution. Sodium ions are also positively charged, albeit less than the minerals in hard water: this solution extracts the ions from the resin, regenerating the system afresh.
Electronic Descaling: Electronic descaling is a simplified and compact system, but it doesn’t actually remove the minerals from your water. Instead, it strengthens the chemical connection these minerals have to the water, so they’re less likely to be deposited in your pipes and plumbing.
Electronic descalers simply wrap around your pipes and generate a low-voltage current that charges the mineral particles as they pass through your pipes. This strengthens their bonds with the water, reducing (but not entirely negating) the impact of hard water.
The Buying Guide: Water Softeners For Well Water
Hard water means hard times. But not every water softener will be right for your circumstances. From city-dwellers to RV road trippers, let’s see how you can choose the water softener for you.
Different types of water softeners work very differently – in fact, some don’t even soften your water at all! Whether you opt for a salt-based, ion exchange water softener or an electronic descaler will depend on the volume of water you need to soften, as well as your budget and concern for maintenance. We’ll take a look at the pros and cons of these units later.
Ion exchange water softeners have a limited capacity before you need to replace the sodium that allows the resin beads to be regenerated. This capacity is measured in grains and can range from around 10,000 for portable models to 80,000.
This capacity will depend on how much water you use – so for larger families, opt for larger models or be prepared for frequent regeneration.
And capacity will also depend on the hardness of the water in your area. If the water in your area is exceptionally hard, you’ll need a model with a larger capacity to ensure it can cope with the mineral content in your water supply.
Most water softeners have a substantial flow rate that will allow multiple family members to use water at once. Premium water softeners will have a flow rate of over 15 GPM (gallons per minute), ensuring you can run all the faucets at once, whilst others may have a flow rate of under 10 GPM.
A faster flow rate will ensure your water supply is never choked.
Control and Features
A digital control panel, with customizable features, is a great bonus on a water softener. These control systems allow you to optimize your water softener, ensuring you never waste a drop of water or an ounce of salt, and they can often allow you to time-delay water softening or bypass it altogether.
Both ion exchange water softeners and electronic descalers are suitable for DIY installation, and premium brands will include intuitive instructions as well as 24/7 customer support for installation.
Make sure the water softener you choose contains everything you need for installation – sometimes hoses aren’t included – and if your system utilizes anything other than the standard ¾” piping, such as PEX or CPVC tubing, be prepared to hit the hardware store for extra fittings.
You’ll also need a conveniently located electrical outlet to install these units – grab the extension cord!
Ion exchange water softeners require regular cleaning and maintenance to keep them – and your water supply – in tip-top condition.
As well as refreshing the sodium in the brine tank regularly, you should also occasionally clean your whole system. Salt bridges – a salt crust above the water in your brine tank – may form and will need to be dissolved in warm water.
Check the manufacturers’ guidance on maintenance – some brands produce their own water softener cleaner which can simplify maintenance and keep your product in perfect condition.
Water Softeners For Well Water: The FAQ
Any questions? Here’s the need-to-know about water softeners for well water.
Do I Need a Water Softener for Well Water?
The statistics speak for themselves: 85% of Americans live in an area with hard water, and their hair, skin, pipes, and appliances will thank them if they buy a water softener.
The minerals in hard water can block your pipes and damage your boiler. They will also reduce the lifespan of everyday kitchen appliances, not to mention the unsightly mineral build-up.
The minerals in hard water can also cause your skin to dry out after a shower and can leave a film on your hair. For silky soft skin, you need soft water.
And hard water also lacks the crisp refreshment of soft water, often tasting chalky or of chemicals. We all need to stay hydrated – a water softener will increase the appeal of a glass of water.
Should I Buy a Salt-Based Or a Salt-Free Water Softener for Well Water?
Salt-based softeners relying on ion exchange and salt-free electronic descalers are both great solutions to hard water issues.
The pros of electronic descalers are their relative affordability, ease of installation, and a complete lack of maintenance. Some people on a low-salt diet may also appreciate a salt-free solution.
However, electronic descalers don’t remove the mineral content and some of the issues with hard water will inevitably persist. Electronic descalers are also less efficient – if your household uses a large volume of water, these descalers may not cope.
On the other hand, salt-based systems can’t be beaten for efficiency and capacity. Ion exchange is a chemically certified process for removing minerals from your water.
However, they are expensive and require a degree of maintenance. If you like to be hands-off with your water supply, an electronic descaler may be the way to go.
Will a Water Softener Filter My Well Water?
An ion exchange water softener will remove calcium, magnesium, and, to a lesser extent, certain metals such as lead from your water.
However, they won’t remove sediment, pesticides, viruses, or a wide range of other chemical contaminants.
Some whole-house filter systems combine filtering, purification and water softening – but these tend to rely on electronic descaling, and can’t offer the most efficient or effective water softening.
“Tread softly because you tread on my dreams,” wrote William Butler Yeats in his seminal poem of the late 19th century. Were he alive today, he might urge us to drink softly, too.
Hard water is the scourge of our skin, the enemy of our appliances and the plague in our pipes. A water softener for well water is the best defense.
And with high-capacity systems, budget options, and portable models available, there’s a water softener for you.
Whether you’re drawing your own well water, road tripping in an RV, or a city dweller looking for clean living, water softeners are a fantastic way of protecting yourself from the mineral content in hard water. Finding a way to get soft water doesn’t have to be hard!