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12 Best Water Softeners of 2021 – Reviews & Buying Guide

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. 

Why do you need a water softener?

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! 

Ah!

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!

If you’re thinking about getting a water softener you’re in the right place. Here are the twelve absolute best water softeners on the market in 2021.

1. On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT-Portable

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!

On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT-Portable

Pros

  • Well-designed for travel
  • 40% for effective than competitors
  • Uses table salt for regeneration
  • Easy to install, and easy to use

Cons

  • Not suitable for use in a normal house or apartment
  • You have to top up salt and manually run regeneration about once a month

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. 

Bottom Line

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!


2. SoftPro Elite

This top of the range, US assembled water softener is designed to soften water for your whole house. 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.

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Expensive
  • 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.

Bottom Line

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.


3. Whirlpool WHES30E 30,000 Grain Softener - 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.

Whirlpool WHES30E

Pros

  • Great value
  • Removes iron as well as softening water
  • Easy to clean
  • The Whirlpool comes with a warranty

Cons

  • Not suitable for larger families (more than 4 people)
  • Hookup adaptors not included in package

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!

Bottom Line

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.


4. Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener

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.

Iron Pro 2 Combination water softener

Pros

  • A great system for an affordable price
  • Capacity to suit a large home
  • An affordable option
  • Great digital metering

Cons

  • Uses quite a lot of salt compared to some modern softeners
  • Advanced programing can take some time to get used to

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.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a solid, good value water softener for a whole 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.


5. Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener System

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.

Pros

  • Available in a range of grain capacities, from 24-64k
  • Assembled in the USA
  • Reactive to changing water needs
  • Deals usually available from the manufacturer

Cons

  • This isn’t a cheap option - it’s a premium water softener
  • Usually needs to be installed professionally

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.

Bottom Line

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!


6. iSpring ED2000 Whole House Water Descaler System

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.

iSpring ED2000

Pros

  • Excellent value for money
  • Uses no sodium, retains healthy minerals in water
  • No upkeep needed
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • The descaling is temporary, so a larger house may require multiple units
  • If your water is iron-heavy, you need to filter out the iron before using the ED2000

This is a salt-free 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. 

The whole house 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.

Bottom Line

If you want or need to avoid sodium in your home water supply, then you should consider the iSpring whole house water descaler system.


7. DuraWater 64k-56sxt-10al

DuraWater keep things simple and therefore affordable with their DuraWater 64,000 grain softener. 

DuraWater 64k-56sxt-10al

Pros

  • A great value water softening system
  • Performs as well as more expensive competitors
  • Available in three colors
  • Metered and on-demand system

Cons

  • Despite decent DIY instructions, the DuraWater may be tough to install alone unless you have some plumbing experience

Despite the system’s simplicity, it is equipped to handle water softening for a whole medium to large home.

The DuraWater is a metered, on-demand system that keeps up with your water needs even if they change day to day. It’s controlled via an LCD touch display, and it comes with an install kit that includes hardness testing strips.

The DuraWater is available in three colors - which if you ask me isn’t exactly necessary in a water softening set up! But whether you care about the looks of your system or not, you can get a DuraWater in black, almond or blue. It also comes with fittings to install DIY, but realistically you may well need professional install help if you aren’t a particular whizz at DIY.

Bottom Line

If you want an affordable, solid water softener system for a whole home, you could do a lot worse than the DuraWater 64k!


8. FutureSoft® Salt-Free Water Softener

The FutureSoft is an advanced Salt-Free 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. 

Pros

  • This system uses neither salt nor electricity
  • Comes with a DIY install kit
  • 6-months no questions asked money back guarantee
  • Environmentally friendly, and reduces water bills

Cons

  • A more expensive water softening (or rather, water conditioning) system

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 crystalisation 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 Salt-Free Water Softener. 

Bottom Line

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.


9. AquaSana Whole House Water Filter System + Salt Free Water Softener

The Rhino whole house water filter system from AquaSana is available in 600,000 and 1,000,000 gallon models.

Pros

  • A complete at-home water treatment system
  • Low upkeep needs
  • Several add-ons available
  • Can be installed DIY with some existing knowledge

Cons

  • Installation kit costs extra
  • Very high price point
  • The add ons really add up, cost wise!

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-free 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 crystalisation 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. 

Bottom Line

If you want all the bells and whistles, and you’re willing to pay for them, then get yourself a Rhino 100,000,000 whole house filter system.


10. Tier1 Essential Series 48,000 Grain High Efficiency Digital Water Softener

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.

Tier1 Essential Series 48,000 Grain

Pros

  • A fantastic mid-range water softener system
  • Easy to use, with simple digital controls
  • Customizable regeneration settings
  • Can deal with up to 48,000 grains of hardness

Cons

  • No reactive regeneration
  • Will need professional installation unless you’re skilled at DIY

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. 

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a solid, dependable, modern water softener for a family home and you want to avoid really high end products that cost an arm and a leg, look no further! You’ll love the Tier1 Essential Series.


11. Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System

The Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System looks more like something from a computer store than something from a DIY store! Nonetheless it offers excellent salt-free water descaling at a reasonable price.

Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System

Pros

  • Excellent value for money
  • Very easy to install
  • State of the art technology
  • No upkeep, no sodium

Cons

  • 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!

Bottom Line

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.


12. Watts Premier OFPSYS Whole House

This is a TAS system, but it also includes a built-in water filter to remove sediment and chlorine smell and taste. 

Watts Premier OFPSYS

Pros

  • An affordable systems
  • Doesn’t use salt or electricity
  • Filters water as well as conditioning it
  • Easy to install
  • Environmentally friendly when compared to saline based filters

Cons

  • Not technically a water softener, but a TAC conditioner
  • More about prevention that cure

The One Flow is easy to install, and shouldn’t need any upkeep for around three years. As a TAC system, this unit doesn’t actually soften water, rather it attracts crystals of magnesium and calcium and breaks them down so that they are no longer in danger of building up in your plumbing and appliances. This is called water conditioning.

With salt based ion exchange water filters banned in some municipalities due to their production of saline backwash, TAC systems may well be the future of at home water treatment. This one weighs in at a medium price point, and makes your water taste great as it conditions it!

It should be noted that TAC systems are better for prevention than for cure. So, if you already have built up limescale issues this system won’t reverse them. It will, however, stop further build up.

Bottom Line

If you time it right and get a Watts Premier OFPSYS Whole House when you move into a new home, it could keep your plumbing and appliances going for many years. Plus, it provides whole-house filtered water! What’s not to love?


Things to Consider to Pick the Right Water Softener For You

There are a few factors to consider when deciding on a water softener for at home use. Factors to take into account include:

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.

Budget 

The price of 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.

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. 

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.

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. TAC

Often just referred to as salt-free 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.

3. Electromagnetic

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. 

Final Thoughts

There really is something for everyone on this list of water softeners. 

If you’re going for the whole shebang, the Rhino 1000000 Gallon can’t be beat for both POE water filtration and salt-free softening. But of course, if you’re looking for softening alone (or the Rhino is out of your budget) you’ll have to look elsewhere.

If that was the case, I’d consider the Whirlpool WHES30E, which is a real set it and forget it piece of kit at an incredible price! It might not cater to huge houses, but for everyone else it’s a steal.

Finally, my budget salt-free pick has to be the Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System. It’s thoroughly modern, affordable, easy to install, and easy to move if you’re a renter. Of course, salt-free systems don’t soften quite like ion exchange systems, but that’s partially a benefit, as your water remains full of healthy minerals!

Whatever your needs, you’re bound to find something that fits them in this selection of the twelve best water softeners available in 2021. 

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