Water softeners can seem like a waste of money. Until you live in a home with really hard water, that is.
Hard water is a nightmare – it’s rough on your hair and skin, it leaves you feeling like you’re never quite clean, and it does the same to your clothes and dishes!
And that’s before we even begin to talk about the havoc hard water reeks on plumbing and appliances.
So if hard water is driving you mad, heads up. We’re here to soften the blow of hard water.
Sure, water softeners can seem like a waste of money, until you drink coffee with flakes of calcium in it every morning, and have to replace your washer-dryer after just a couple years, and cannot get any body into your damn hair because it always has a film of conditioner left on it!
Hard water is infuriating.
That’s why you need a water softener. Softening your water will extend the life of your electronics, make your water at home easier on your skin and hair, and even make cleaning, washing clothing and doing dishes easier!
So, you’ll be happy to discover that water softeners are an increasingly realistic option for many people. And I was making a point with the waste of money thing – they are anything but. With options suitable for most budgets you should be able to find something that works for you and your family.
Anyway, in the long run, you’ll save money on water bills from rewashing every item of clothing you own and buying new appliances every couple years! (1)
If you’re thinking about getting a water softener you’re in the right place. Here are the absolute best water softeners on the market in 2022.
The Best Water Softeners of 2022
I’m going to be covering a variety of different types of systems, so to help you keep things straight and easily compare their features, here's a handy table you can return to as you read through.
- 48,000-64000 grain capacity
- Suitable for family homes
- Requires less maintenance
- Excellent 64,000 grain capacity (medium to large homes)
- One-demand system with LCD touch display
- Requires low maintenance
- Designed for medium and large homes
- Unit offers DIY installation kit
- 6-months money back warranty
- Travel friendly
- Uses table salt
- Easy to use & install
- Suitable for households (30,000 grains)
- Easy to clean
- Excellent 1, 4 & 10 years warranty
- Retains healthy minerals in water
- Energy efficient
- Best for skin and plumbing appliances
- Extends life of your plumbing appliances
- Delicious water with all essential minerals
- Risk-free 365 days warranty (money back)
- Whole house capacity (64,000 grain)
- Digital metering
- Neither wastes salt nor water
- Excellent 600,000 and 1,000,000 gallon capacity
- Low upkeep
- Removes 99% of contaminants
- Expensive ($$$)
- Suitable for medium-sized homes (48,000 grain)
- Digital control panel
- Easily customizable
When it comes to water softeners, we're playing hardball. Here are the best water softeners on the market.
1. SoftPro Elite – Best of The Best
This top of the range, US assembled water softener is designed to soften water for your entire home. It will deal with even the hardest city water (like that found throughout much of the central USA) and is perfect for a family home.
- Extremely efficient – using less salt and less water than most competitors
- State of the art upflow regeneration system
- Comes with a water report
- Suitable for family homes
- The initial expense should quickly be counteracted by long term savings
- You may need professional help to install the SoftPro Elite if you aren’t handy
And the best thing about the SoftPro Elite? Its high-efficiency design means it wastes 64% less water than most similar whole-home water softeners, saving on average over 4,000 gallons of water per year!
This is an ion exchange softener that uses salt, but it’s designed for maximum efficiency. The design includes an elite upflow regeneration system which means your SoftPro water softener will regenerate quicker and more fully than almost anything else at a comparable price point on the market while also using less salt.
You are also entitled to a free water analysis report when you purchase a SoftPro Elite, so you’ll know exactly what kind of water you’re dealing with and how to set your new softener for perfectly soft water throughout your home.
Of course this water softener, like most whole home ion exchange models, is a big ticket item. However, you can make some excellent savings by buying straight from the manufacturer and the savings you’ll make simply through not having to deal with the costs of washing and heating with hard water should balance out the purchase after just a couple of years.
If you have a larger home, or an active family who get through a lot of water, then the SoftPro Elite might be the perfect solution to your hard water issues.
2. Durawater Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener System – Best For High Water Consumption
As it is available in a variety of grain capacities, from 24 to 64k, with a Fleck 56000SXT you can build a water softening system that works for your home. Of course, as with all big purchases you want to think about future proofing – so, if your family is likely to get larger in the next few years err on the side of caution and go high grain.
Prices rise as grain capacities rise of course, but whichever capacity you choose you’ll find the best possible price with the manufacturer. There are usually deep discounts direct from Fleck, so keep an eye out!
This is another on-demand metered water softener, so it can ramp up regeneration and softened water volume when you need it most – say, if you’re hosting a party or have relatives to stay. The rest of the time, your unit will use only the water and salt it needs for normal levels of water use, saving you money and time in upkeep.
The fleck should work hard (and well) for years, but when things go wrong the advanced metering system also offers diagnostics to work out what’s wrong and fix it ASAP.
If you need a family-sized water softener that can keep up with your busy household, then the Fleck might be just what you’re looking for. It’s not a cheap option, but it certainly offers performance equal to its cost. If you can afford to splash out, then give the Fleck 56000SXT a go!
3. FutureSoft® – Best For Large Homes
The FutureSoft is an advanced Salt-less system that performs as well as a good ion exchange water softener. It’s suitable for softening the water in a medium to large home, while causing no drop in pressure at all.
This system eliminates 99.7% of scale in your water, extending the life of your appliances and making water (almost) a joy to clean with. On top of that, it doesn’t waste water or discharge brine into the water supply. This is both a plus for the environment and for your wallet!
It has to be noted that this is an expensive system. It’s worth the money, but it won’t be accessible to everyone by any means. However, this template assisted crystallisation system is a really fantastic option if you need to avoid salt and don’t want to use electricity around your water supply either.
Given the 6-month no questions asked money back guarantee, you can buy confidently when you choose a FutureSoft Water Softener.
If you want to avoid salt in your water supply, and the water wastage that comes with salt-based ion exchange systems, then the FutureSoft is probably the best system on the market for your needs.
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4. Quantum High Efficiency Water Softener – Best For Minimal Salt Consumption
Coming with a grain capacity ranging from 24000 to a whopping 96000, there’s a Quantum High Efficiency Water Softener for every household.
- Capacity up to 96000 grains
- Super efficiency – 75% less salt and 64% water savings
- Long term it’ll be great on your monthly water bill
- Additional filtering add-ons are an option
- High price point
- The add-ons also cost a few bucks, making the complete system out of reach for most budgets
With an in-built computer system, Quantum is bringing smart technology to the water softener game. That means you’ll get a system of regeneration tailored to your needs, with exceptional efficiency and consistent purity.
It boasts 75% salt savings and 64% water savings compared to traditional models. That adds up to 68% savings when it comes to the running costs of the softener – but thanks to a high price tag it’ll be some time before you make your money back!
Smart recharging means that the system will implement a mini-recharge if the capacity ever falls below 3%. That means you’ll never be caught out with hard water if you use a little more water than usual.
And add-ons for water filtering, including reverse osmosis, can turn your drinking supply into bottled-quality water – but these additional filters don’t come cheap.
Impressive features are paired with a simplified design that makes installation and maintenance a breeze. And a 7-year warranty puts your mind at rest after splashing the cash.
5. Fleck 2510SXT – Best For Off-Grid Water Supplies
Designed for well water, Fleck’s water softener also targets iron reduction to ensure your family has quality drinking water in the off-grid setup.
With a grain capacity reaching up to 64000, this system can handle all but the hardest of hard water areas and with the reduction of 3 PPM of iron, it’s a great choice for well water anywhere.
And if iron is a serious concern in your area, an upgraded iron filter can remove up to 30 PPM.
There is a range of packages targeting the contaminants that concern you, so for sulfur, heavy metals, or other chemicals you can choose the most appropriate option. While upgraded filters don’t come cheap, by creating these bespoke packages Fleck ensures you know you’ll get exactly what you pay for.
Additionally, Fleck offers three pump production rates, ranging from 6 GPM to 11+. These options guarantee you’ll suffer no loss of pressure in your plumbing.
Installation is a little complicated and the included instructions aren’t intuitive to follow – but Fleck’s great customer service is always on hand to help out.
6. On The Go OTG4-DBL – Best Portable Water Softener
This is a portable water softener designed for use in RVs, motor homes, trailers and even tiny homes. In fact, it’s the largest compact water softener model on the market!
The OTG4 produces twice as much softened water as its competitors, using common table salt for regeneration. Just two boxes gets you going, and of course replacing the salt is very cost-effective because table salt is abundant and great value. Regeneration takes about 30 minutes, at which point the water softener will be able to run for 40 days or 1600 gallons of softened water.
Despite its compact, space saving design this water softener promises almost no drop in water pressure after installation. It also requires no tools to install and no electricity to run, so it’s perfect for RV parks or other outdoor settings. That being said, it would also work indoors as long as use isn’t too heavy.
The On the Go is designed for travel, with a carry handle, a wide mouth for easy salt top ups on the road, and a no-spills cap and plug.
This is a simple water softener, that’s undeniable, but its simplicity is the key to its success! It’s no nonsense, built with the user in mind, and gets the job done with very little hassle.
If you’re looking for a travel water softener, or a softener for a tiny home or trailer, look no further than the On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT. It’s compact, smartly designed and robust, just what you need whether static or on the road!
7. Whirlpool WHES30E – Best Easy to Use and Install
This 30,000 grain water softener from Whirlpool both softens water and removes iron, and is suitable for households of up to four people. Other softeners are available from Whirlpool for larger families, but this is a great, compact, efficient softener for small to medium homes.
The Whirlpool WHES30E not only softens water, but it also removes up to 8ppm of iron.
This softener also helps you save both salt and water by regenerating only when a cycle is needed – so, when you use less water because some of the family are away, your water softener will regenerate less often. On the other hand, if family visits or a big spring clean mean more water is used for a few days, the Whirlpool WHES30E will be able to keep up with demand.
Water softeners can sometimes seem complicated, but the Whirlpool features intentionally easy to program electronics which should make sense to all users. Plus, all units come with a 1, 3 and 10 year warranties on parts and labour, electronics, and tanks respectively. That’s really impressive given the affordability of this water softener!
If you want a whole-house softener for a small or medium sized household, but you’re not looking to shell out a huge amount for it, then you should look into the Whirlpool. It’s super user friendly, and a great first water softener for a younger family.
7. iSpring ED2000 – Best For Small Homes
The iSpring ED2000 is a little different to most of the water softeners on this list, but it still deals with most hard water issues reliably.
This is a salt-less system designed for users who would rather avoid adding sodium to their water. The iSpring’s “descaling” system uses electromagnetic waves to break down the minerals in hard water and render the water much softer, extending the life of your appliances and making bathing more pleasant and easy on yours and your family’s skin.
This descaler is a great option if someone in your family is on a sodium restricted diet. It’s also suitable for homes in which soft water leaching metals from old pipes is a potential issue. On top of all that, the ED2000 is extremely affordable and easy to plumb in, and iSpring gives a chunk of profits to water access charities.
There are, however, some issues with descalers of this kind. Firstly, high iron content in water impedes the descaling process. Secondly, the effect on water is temporary. That means that larger homes may need more than one unit.
iSpring estimate that, with the savings soft water make to your water bills and appliances upkeep, the ED2000 pays for itself within a year.
If you want or need to avoid sodium in your home water supply, then you should consider the iSpring water descaler system.
8. Capacitive CWD24 – Best Budget
The Yarna Capacitive CWD24 looks more like something from a computer store than something from a DIY store! Nonetheless it offers excellent salt-less water descaling at a reasonable price.
- Excellent value for money
- Very easy to install
- State of the art technology
- No upkeep, no sodium
- If you want softened rather than conditioned water, this isn’t the product for you
- The Yarna can take a little while to show results if there is already extensive limescale buildup in your plumbing
The Yarna CWD24 uses a patented process of electrical impulses (controlled by a single chip within the system) that break up limescale, protecting your home and appliances from its buildup. Like most systems of this kind, the Yarna isn’t technically softening water, it’s conditioning it. This means your water is still magnesium and calcium rich – both minerals we all need in our diets for optimum health!
Needing no plumbing know-how to install, the Yarna simply wraps around your existing water pipes. A single unit should be enough for even the largest family home, too, so you don’t need to buy multiple Yaras for a large house.
Yarna offer a risk-free 365 day trial, during which you can claim back all your money if you’re not satisfied with the product. That makes trying a Yarna CWD24 kind of a no brainer!
If you want an alternative to salt based water softeners, whether because of their prohibitive cost or because of the sodium they add to your water, the Yarna is a great option for you.
9. Iron Pro 2 Fleck 5600SXT – Best For Removing Iron
Another great value water softener, the Iron Pro 2 also removes iron from your water supply and with a 64,000 grain capacity it’s suitable for softening the water for a whole large house.
The Iron Pro 2 removes up to 75 gpg of hardness, up to 6-8 ppm of iron, manganese up to 6 ppm, sediment, sand and rust. It’s a high-flow water softener, which means it can cater for a whole large house. It also comes with a five-year warranty, so you can rest easy even after making this relatively large purchase.
That being said, the Iron Pro 2 is much more affordable than many competitors! That’s particularly striking given its excellent digital metered control head, which looks and works as though it belongs on a much more expensive water softener. This takes care of regeneration control, making sure the system only regenerates when it needs to and wastes neither salt nor water.
If you’re looking for a solid, good value water softener for an entire house then you’ll probably love the Iron Pro 2. And the fact that it removes iron, manganese and other contaminants is a great bonus.
10. AquaSana – Best Filter + Softener
The Rhino water filter system from AquaSana is available in 600,000 and 1,000,000 gallon models.
Both options offer water filtration for a whole home when plumbed in at point of entry from the mains. Bacteriostatic materials offer constantly fresh, clear water free from bacteria as it is triple-filtered through a pre-filter and two carbon media filters, ultimately removing 99% of contaminants.
The salt-less water softener is an add-on to the water filter system, and is designed to extend the life of plumbing and appliances while avoiding making potentially unhealthy additions to your water supply. The system uses template assisted crystallisation to achieve water conditioning.
Predictably, given how extensive the Rhino systems are, they aren’t cheap. This is one of the most expensive options for water softening, but it is also one of the most complete options in terms of at-home water treatment. On top of that, upkeep is minimal with a Rhino, so you save both time and money in the long run when compared with competitors.
If you want all the bells and whistles, and you’re willing to pay for them, then get yourself a Rhino 100,000,000 filter system.
11. Tier1 Essential Series – Best High Efficiency
This mid-range water softener should be suitable for any medium-sized home. It’s easy to install, and includes a manual bypass valve for easy upkeep.
More than anything else, the Tier1 is designed with ease of use in mind. You just set your water hardness level when you first plumb the system in, and the digital water softener does the rest! With 48,000 grains of hardness it should only need to regenerate every few days with the normal water usage of a family of four.
Regeneration is automatic and metered, so you can set and forget this high efficiency water softener. It’s not reactive like some more expensive systems, so you do need to schedule regeneration times and that may take a little trial and error at first. You’ll also have to adjust them during high water usage times, like when family visit.
Tier1 boast an excellent, US based support team who are available to answer customer queries and deal with water softener issues any time.
The Buyer's Guide to Choosing Right Water Softener
There are a few factors to consider when deciding on a water softener for at home use. Factors to take into account include:
1. Size of home
In general, ion exchange and TAC systems can cover a whole medium to large home. This depends on the exact specifications of each softener, though, so do your research. Electromagnetic systems may need to be doubled up on to cover larger homes.
The price of water softeners can vary hugely. If you want a full filter system plus a water softener, you’ll be paying up to four or five times more than you would for a simple, easy to install electromagnetic water conditioner.
3. Water hardness
Water hardness is measured in grains per gallon. If your hardness is above 30 grains per gallon, you’re going to have to spend more on an advanced water softening system. If you have a larger home, you’ll also need a system built for higher grains.
4. Sensitivities to sodium
If you or anyone in your family is on a sodium restricted diet you will probably want to avoid traditional salt based water softening systems.
5. Bypass Valve
There might be times when you don’t need your water softened – such as if you’re doing yard work or cleaning the car. A bypass valve will let you move water from your plumbing past the water softener, and it’ll allow you to use water more efficiently. If you’ve got an eye on your water bill, a bypass valve is a good option.
6. Installation and Maintenance
The installation of water softeners varies dramatically by brand and type. Some systems will need professional installation, and an attempt at DIY might even void the warranty. On the other hand, some systems are simple to install and require little maintenance.
Types of Water Softener
Following are the three types of water softeners:
1. Ion Exchange
Also known as salt-based water softener systems, these are what most people think of when they picture a water softener.
They provide high flow rates, and are usually designed for whole-house use. They work by “swapping” the minerals in water for a small amount of salt. This is achieved through the use of a positively-charged resin which collects the chemicals, which are then replaced by salt.
Usually, you have to top these systems up with salt reasonably regularly. They have a regeneration cycle to clean the resin, which takes place more often when you soften more water. Modern units automatically detect when a regeneration cycle is needed, while slightly less high-tech softeners have to be set with a timer and adjusted during periods of heavy water use.
Salt based systems remove magnesium and calcium completely for water. They also leave some sodium in the water which, while not usually dangerous, may render it unsuitable for people on low sodium diets.
2. Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC)
Often just referred to as salt-less systems, template assisted crystallization water softeners don’t technically soften water. Instead, they just neutralize or ‘condition’ water.
Essentially, TAC systems just break up minerals in water. When minerals stick together, they clump and cause limescale, so a TAC system is a good way of stopping limescale build up. However, it won’t reduce existent limescale damage.
Many salt-free systems like these come with multi-stage filters for either smell and taste, or smell, taste, and contaminants like chlorine and heavy metals.
Electromagnetic systems work in much the same way as TAC systems, and are also sometimes referred to as “salt free”.
They use electrical pulses to break up minerals and stop crystallization, sometimes temporarily and sometimes for the long term. These systems tend to be controlled by patented computer chips, so their exact workings vary from unit to unit and manufacturer to manufacturer.
As both electromagnetic and TAC systems leave minerals in your water supply, they stay in your diet. This is a good thing as our bodies need both magnesium and calcium for bone and joint health, nerve health and more.
Water Softener FAQs
Time to float some questions. Here’s everything you might care to ask about the world of water softeners.
What Size Of Water Softener Do I Need?
What size of water softener you need will depend on how hard the water is in your area as well as the water consumption in your home. Hard water starts to become an issue at around 5 grains per gallon (GPM) but large areas of the United States have exceptionally hard water of 10-20GPM.
For a family of five with moderately hard water, a 32,000-grain capacity should be adequate but in an area with very hard water 64,000-grain capacity could be essential.
A single-person household may only require a 16,000-grain capacity to tackle their hard water concerns.
How Long Does A Water Softener Last?
With proper care and maintenance, any water softener should last for over 10 years and up to 15 years in most cases. This is a long-term investment.
Salt-based water softeners can last up to 15 years while salt-free systems such as electronic descalers can last even longer – around 20 years or more. Just make sure to take care of your water softener to ensure a longer lifespan.
How Do You Clean A Water Softener?
To maintain your water softener you need to regularly add salt to the brine tank. Check your brine tank at least once a month.
As well as this, there are three elements of a salt-based water softener that require occasional cleaning:
1. The brine tank needs to be cleaned out.
2. The resin bed requires regular cleaning, in particular, if your water is high in iron content.
3. The resin tank injector needs to be cleaned.
Salt build-up can occasionally form a salt bridge in your brine tank, preventing your softener from working efficiently. You’ll have to break down the bridge and clean the brine tank in this case.
What Are The Signs Of A Good Water Softener?
Efficiency is the mark of a top-quality water softener. Salt-based water softeners use salt to soften the water and inevitably produce some amount of wastewater in the process. Look out for high-efficiency water softeners – these use 75% less salt and produce just ⅓ of the wastewater compared to regular models.
How Much Salt Do Water Softeners Add?
Because water softeners basically swap sodium for the minerals in your water that contribute to hardness, the amount of salt added to your water will depend on how hard your water is to begin with.
For most people, the amount of sodium a water softener adds will be negligible. Even in areas with very hard water, a water softener will add around 500mg of sodium to every gallon of water.
That works out at around 35mg of sodium added to every glass of water – less than half of the salt found in a serving of ketchup. Unless you’re on a very low sodium diet, you don’t need to worry about the sodium being added by your water softener.
Will Water Softeners Increase My Water Bill?
Salt-based water softeners create wastewater and will increase your water bill. Even high-efficiency water softeners can use up to 20 gallons of water during the regeneration process, every day.
Salt-free systems such as electronic descalers don’t produce any wastewater, so they won’t increase your water bill (but they might add a little to your electricity bill).
Can Reverse Osmosis Soften Water?
Reverse osmosis removes every impurity from your water, including minerals such as calcium and magnesium that make water hard.
However, reverse osmosis isn’t designed to be used as a water softener. In fact, hard water can damage the reverse osmosis membrane, dramatically reducing the lifespan of a reverse osmosis filter. If you’re installing a reverse osmosis water filter, a pre-filter water softener is a good idea.
Why Is Hard Water Bad?
The minerals in hard water will clog your pipes and appliances, causing your plumbing to work efficiently and requiring your appliances to be replaced on a frequent basis.
And while hard water isn’t bad for your health per se, the minerals can cause dryness and irritation on your skin. Showering in hard water can damage your hair, stripping it of essential oils.
Do I Need A Water Softener?
85% of Americans live in an area with hard water, so it’s highly likely you need a water softener. If your water‘s mineral content exceeds around 7 grains per gallon then a water softener will make a noticeable difference to your water.
There really is something for everyone on this list of water softeners.
My pick for best all-rounder is the Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener System. For larger homes with higher water consumption, its exceptional capacity has got you covered, even as your family grows. And the inclusion of in-built diagnostics gives you pure peace of mind about your water quality.
If efficiency matters most to you – whether from the perspective of your wallet or the environment – then SoftPro Elite High-Efficiency City Water Softener is my pick. They don’t come cheap, but they really stand out by using almost two-thirds less water than competitors. That’s going to save you money on your water bills every month.
My salt-free pick has to be the FutureSoft® Water Softener. It’s thoroughly modern and surprisingly affordable for cutting-edge template assisted crystallization. Of course, salt-less systems don’t soften quite like ion exchange systems, but that’s partially a benefit, as your water remains full of healthy minerals and if you’re on a low-sodium diet this is a no-salt solution to your hard water woes.
And lastly, for those on a tight budget, look no further than iSpring’s ED2000. No salt-based system can compete on price with this electronic descaler: if you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful fix to your hard water issues, iSpring has got you covered.
Whatever your needs, you’re bound to find something that fits them in this selection of the ten best water softeners available in 2022.
- 10 Best Water Softeners for Well Water – Reviews and Buying Guide
- 9 Best Salt-Free Water Softeners – Reviews and Buying Guide
- 15 Most Common Water Softener Problems and How to Troubleshoot
- 8 Best Electronic Water Descalers – Reviews and Buying Guide
- 5 Top Rated Whole House Water Filtration And Softener System Combos