Hard water might be loaded with good minerals, but it makes doing chores around the house more difficult than soft water. If you are looking for a way to fix such problems, a water softener is a solution. If you are new to this area of products, you should take your time researching the best water softeners. What does this mean?
Since there are many products available, you can easily get confused in the sea of information. Water softeners’ prices range a lot, so you have to find one that is the best value for money, especially if you’re on a budget. Thorough research will include reading a lot of water softener reviews, like ours below, and additional information about how they work. Luckily, we’ve tested and researched the topic to make it easier for you.
What’s the Difference Between Hard Water and Soft Water?
The hardness levels of the water are determined mainly by the amount of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals that it contains. The higher the levels of mineral contents, the harder the water.
To soften the water, the concentrations of magnesium and calcium must be reduced. However, when that happens, soft water tends to get higher concentrations of salt.
Like any other thing, both types of water have their advantages and disadvantages, which we will discuss later on in the article, so keep reading.
What is Water Softening?
A water softener is an appliance that is created to remove calcium, magnesium, and other minerals that are in the water at high levels. It is achieved by one of several methods – Ion exchange, salt-free, and reverse osmosis. You can install and use a water softener for well water with iron, as well. This cannot be said for other types of water filtration systems.
We’ll talk about the three types of water softening further down the article.
Who Needs a Water Softener?
Now that you know what is the difference between hard and soft water, you might wonder what the water is in your home? Do you need to soften the water in your own house? There are several telltale signs of water being hard. But you can also have it tested or buy a home test kit to check for yourself.
Here are some signs that can tell you what the water is in your home.
Signs of Hard Water
- Mineral stains on clothes after being washed.
- Bad water pressure, or issues with it due to calcium build up in the drains.
- Spots on glasses, dishes, and silverware.
- Feeling that washing your hands with soap takes longer.
- Hard water can be the cause of dry skin and itchy scalp.
Signs of Soft Water
- A slightly salty taste in water, but not all people may feel it.
- No problems with the water pressure.
- Easy lathering and removal of the soap.
You may read in many places that every household needs a water softener, however, that is not entirely true. Some households do not have hard water, and there’s no point in investing in one. That being said, water hardness in the USA really is a problem in many areas. If you’re not sure whether you have hard water and you need a softener, get it tested. You can check out some of our reviews on water test kits and test your water on your own.
Benefits of Drinking Soft Water
- Soft water is better for cleaning. It doesn’t cause soap scum or mineral stains.
- This also makes it better to use in any appliance that needs water to work, including your coffee maker and iron.
- It’s a more efficient cleaning agent, and it may save you money on your water bill. How? By not having to re-wash clothes or dishes, for once. Plus, you won’t need to take long showers to feel thoroughly cleaned from the soap.
- Soft water is better for your skin and hair. It doesn’t cause dryness, and it doesn’t make skin problems worse.
- You will spend less time cleaning the tap and bathroom since there will be no more limescale build-up.
Why You Should Consider Buying a Water Softener
That being said, there are, of course, some positive and some negative sides of both soft and hard water. And there are some for using a water softening system, you can find them below.
Advantages of Using a Water Softener
- Prevents buildup of scale in pipes and plumbing, appliances. Thus prolonging their lifespan and saving you money on premature repairs and replacements.
- Soft water allows soaps and detergents to work more effectively.
- Soft water doesn’t leave mineral residues on your washed clothes.
- And it doesn’t leave spots on washed cups, dishes, and silverware.
- Soft water is better for the skin and hair.
- A water softener works for well water with iron and removes some of it.
Disadvantages of Using a Water Softener
- Softening the water poses a small health risk for people on low-sodium diets or with pre-existing health conditions.
- Removes calcium and magnesium from water. Some people may require dietary supplements to replace these necessary minerals.
- Ongoing maintenance costs and chores. If you use salt or potassium-based softeners must periodically add them to the brine tank. Also, the device needs to be periodically serviced and cleaned.
- The amount of sodium in soft water may cause problems with septic systems.
Best Water Softeners Comparison Chart
Pentair WS48-56sxt10 Fleck Water Softener
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Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System – Yarna EWD03
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On The Go OTG3NTP1DS Double STD Water Softener
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Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener
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Fleck 5600SXT 64,000 Grain Water Softener
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Nuvo H2O Dphb-a Home Water Softener System
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Eddy Electronic Water Descaler – Water Softener Alternative
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Best Water Softener Reviews – (Updated List)
So here are our picks for water softeners from different brands and prices, tried and tested.
1. Pentair WS48-56sxt10 Fleck Water Softener
This product from our list is the Pentair WS48-56sxt10 Fleck, which is rated 4.6 out of 5 on Amazon. The product works as advertised and is relatively easy to install once you’ve collected all of the necessary tools and components for installing it.
The space the Pentair WS48-56sxt10 Fleck takes up is no more than 2.5’x1’, so you should place where you have enough room to service it. It’s 5’ tall if that’s important to you.
Its valve is made from Noryl plastic. It is a new type of engineering plastic that has many features, including low thermal expansion and low moisture absorption. This makes it ideal for fluid handling applications, such as a water softener.
The packaging could be a little better if it had more fluff in the boxes to protect the parts. There isn’t enough padding to keep them safe if they fall.
- The softener has memory back up, and it doesn’t get lost due to power outage.
- Excellent customer service, ready to oblige with missing or additional/replacement parts.
- Can be mounted together with a whole house water filter
- High water output of 75 gallons per minute. The average is under 50.
- The instructions that come in the package are hard to understand and have no pictures, but there’s a helpful video online.
- The valve is made from plastic, and it might be damaged more easily if the pressure is too much on it.
2. Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler System – Yarna EWD03
This unit is the Yarna EWD03, and it is an electronic water descaler system that you attach to the main pipes of your home. It is hugely beneficial to all of your appliances that use water in any way to work. This is not a softener, but a water descaler, meaning it doesn’t remove the good minerals from the water and doesn’t make it saltier.
This product has the simplest installation method. You only have to attach it to the wall and wrap two copper tape cables to the main pipe. It doesn’t get easier than that!
The product works well, the first improvement in the water can be noticed soon after installing the descaler. You’ll see the difference in the dishwasher first. Plates and glasses come out cleaner, shinier without the trace of limescale.
What is more, it is an excellent value for money. Considering that it is not too expensive and does its job as described and it doesn’t affect the water flow.
- Installation is more than simple, no professional plumber is required for help.
- No need to modify the water pipe installation.
- It works with any type of pipe.
- Only one descaler is enough for a large house.
- It doesn’t remove the beneficial minerals – calcium and magnesium from the water.
- No considerable disadvantages.
3. On The Go OTG3NTP1DS Double STD Water Softener
Next, we have on our list the On The Go OTG3NTP1DS Double STD Water Softener from the list of RV water softeners. From taking it out of the box, you can feel that it is quite a heavy machine and that it is made with quality in mind.
The product isn’t super expensive, and it quickly pays itself off after a short period of time. Plus, in the long run, it will help prolong the life of your appliances.
It makes a significant difference in the water, and it can be sensed right away. Bathing in the water from the softener feels good on skin and hair, and even on the washed clothes. Another great thing about this product is that it comes pre-charged so you can set it up and use it right away.
You can easily install the softener to your RV, but be careful not to overtighten the connections because they might start to leak.
- Incredibly easy installation process. Everything you need is in the package.
- Super easy to recharge. Just take off the cap, add in 2 boxes of table salt, and flush the unit for a few minutes before using it.
- Respondent and helpful customer support.
- It comes with water hardness test strips to check the water yourself.
- No considerable disadvantages.
4. Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener
The Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener is a very nice unit and good value for money. Even after you pay a plumber to install it. If you decide to do it on your own, you may have some install issues. There are additional parts and tools required to set it up, and if you aren’t a pro, you might have it difficult to complete the installation.
The product can serve a household of 6 or 8 depending on the water hardness. It is efficient in salt use and won’t waste too much water. It uses about 65 gallons when it flushes itself, but that depends on its use or on how you set it up.
The product arrives quickly, but since its parts are manufactured in two different places, it comes in two packages and might arrive at different times.
- The system can work with potassium instead of salt. But don’t mix the two as they won’t dissolve properly.
- The unit auto-regenerates after a certain number of gallons of processed water.
- Great communication with the seller and fast shipping.
- The programming instructions are a bit confusing and might slow down the installation process.
5. Fleck 5600SXT 64,000 Grain Water Softener
The Fleck 5600SXT is another product from the series that we tested, and it is the fifth on our list. It is a whole house system that has a digital SXT Meter. This unit can be installed and used outdoors, but the temperatures should be between 34 to 110 degrees. So it might not be suitable to use it outdoors in areas with extreme weather and temperatures.
The product comes as it’s described, including the parts it’s advertised to include for the installation. If you don’t have experience in plumbing or installing similar products, you better seek professional help. It will cost you some money, but at least your water softener will be installed correctly.
The price is reasonable, given that it’s a whole house water softener. So it’s definitely worth taking into account when looking to purchase such a product. You’ll notice the improvement almost immediately, especially if you have glass shower doors.
- The softener comes with instructions, lubricant, sanitizer, and hardness test strip so you can test if the unit works correctly.
- The unit has a built-in capacitor that keeps the memory for 48 hours, which means that power outage isn’t a problem for memory.
- It can be confusing and challenging to set up the programming on the unit.
6. Nuvo H2O Dphb-a Home Water Softener System
Our next choice is the Nuvo H2O Dphb-a Home Water Softener System, which is made for homes with 1 – 2 residents. But they offer a similar but more expensive product that is suitable for families with four or more members.
The water might have a metallic taste for the first couple of days, and then it will go away. That is because this type of water softener has a carbon filter, while others do not. Some other water softeners give the water a plastic taste the first couple of days, so it’s not out of the ordinary.
Overall the product is easy to set up and to replace the filters. But if you have copper pipes in your home, you should use another product as this might give you trouble.
- This unit is eco-friendly. There is no salt, no waste water, no electricity used.
- The filter and the replacement filters have a long life – 6 months or up to 20, 000 gallons.
- It is compact and doesn’t take up much space. It doesn’t require salt, so it doesn’t take up space either.
- The product has a 90-day money-back guarantee.
- Replacement filters are expensive.
- Over tightening the fitting will cause the system to fail prematurely.
- Calcium build-up might not disappear completely.
7. Eddy Electronic Water Descaler – Water Softener Alternative
This product on our list is the Eddy Electronic Water Descaler. Pay attention that it is labeled as a water softener alternative. Meaning that will not soften your water. What it is made to do is prevent build inside of the pipes. While the product does what it is intended to do, it does not entirely help to prevent scaling. Using the water still leaves stains here and there on the sink and washed dishes.
That being said, it is a space-saving product that is eco-friendly. It doesn’t require salt, and it isn’t too heavy on electricity use. Your electricity bill will not be changed a lot so that it won’t be heavy on our budget. What is more, the product is cheaper than the others similar to it.
Follow the instructions, and installation is easy if your inlet pipe stands away from the wall a few inches. It can be much harder if it’s right up against it.
- This is the only product on our list with a lifetime repair or replace warranty.
- The unit is suitable for all types of water pipes, except lead and iron.
- Great customer service that sticks to their words about the lifetime warranty.
- Not suitable for too hard water.
Health Concerns About Drinking Hard Water and Soft Water
While there are no reported health effects of drinking hard water, there are some concerns about drinking soft water. This comes from the increased levels of sodium in soft water, which can turn out to be a problem for people with some previous health issues.
However, to most people, it is safe to drink hard or soft water without getting side effects. If you’re concerned about the increased levels of sodium, that can be managed with a potassium-based or electronic/magnetic softening system.
Additional Issues with Hard Water
While it’s safe for drinking, hard water isn’t beneficial to your skin and hair. The high mineral content in the water can cause various skin problems, including dryness, itchiness, acne, and clogged pores.
A recent study states that hard water can worsen existing skin problems such as eczema and dermatitis. The high mineral content is also to blame for hair brittleness and scalp irritation.
While using softer water for bathing will soon give you better and smoother skin and hair. For additional filtration for your shower water, you can check our shower head filters for hard water reviews.
Household Problems Caused by Excessively Hard Water
As we mentioned above, excessively hard water causes various problems in most household chores that include water. Here is more about the issues related to the use of hard water in the house:
- Damage to pipes and appliances – the high contents of magnesium and calcium ions in the water leads to build-up everywhere the hard water passes through or stands still. After a while, the build-up becomes so much that the pipes and appliances clog and lead to costly damages.
- Soap scum builds up where the water passes through. Mainly in your kitchen sink and the bathroom, which requires a lot of scrubbing to clean thoroughly.
- Damage to your clothes and improper cleaning – after extended use of hard water for washing clothes, they might become stiff and scratchy. Not to mention that some clothing materials may get stains because of the mineral build-up. Another issue with clothes is that they may not feel rinsed entirely, and that’s not good for them.
- Using hard water to clean your home may result in having to repeat the process until it is cleaned efficiently. Soap is harder to rinse when used with hard water. What is more, when using it to wash hardwood or tile floors, spots and streaks may be left and need repeated cleaning to get rid of.
How Does a Water Softener Work?
Water softeners come in different shapes and sizes and at different prices. The most crucial difference between them is the type of water softening system that they use. As we said above, there are three main methods used to make the water softer.
This is a water filtration system that is used mostly to purify the water. An effective RO system filters the water through a semipermeable membrane that removes as much as 98% of common water impurities. Additionally, it can have a softening effect on the water.
Salt – free
This method uses a mechanical filter to remove the calcium, but it doesn’t remove magnesium very effectively. So it’s not suitable for very hard water, but it would be fine for mildly hard.
this is the most used type of home water softening system. The exchange occurs when replacing calcium and magnesium ions and them with sodium ions
Types of Home Water Softeners
There are quite a few options for home water softeners out there that you will read about. We have prepared brief descriptions of how each type works and why they are worth considering.
Units with filters change the physical properties of the minerals in your water. They transform them into crystals or coat them in a poly-phosphate. This allows them to pass cleanly through your pipes without leaving build-up. The filter also removes common water contaminants, including chlorine, and thus leaves the water softer in taste. If you’re interested in reading about other types of filtration systems, you can visit WaterFiltration.Solutions homepage.
These systems rely on magnets to change the physical properties of the water. Magnetic softeners keep the grains suspended so that they pass through your drainage system without clinging to pipes or appliances. They are suitable for houses with pre-filtered water.
Like magnetic softeners, these do not use salt and are more suitable for homes with pre-filtered water. These units send electromagnetic waves through the water and don’t allow the minerals to build up in the pipes.
This is the most used method for softening the water. It uses resin beads to filter the water and then regenerate the resin with salt (or potassium). As they are salt-based, this method leaves the water a bit salty tasting.
How to Choose the Best Water Softener for Your Home?
Researching the right water softener for you can result in stress and confusion by the tons of information online. We hope that our brief and informative list below will solve all of your problems.
Here are the steps for choosing the ideal softener for your home:
Test your water to know precisely how hard it is on the scale for water hardness. You can do this via a third-party institution that treats or tests the water. On the other hand, you can get a home water test kit and do it yourself. The average hardness of the water in the United States is a level of 10. The higher the level, the harder the water.
Next, you should determine how much water your household uses daily. Simply take the average number of gallons per person (80-100), multiply it by the number of people in the house.
Hard Water Grains
After that, determine how many hard water grains you need to remove on a weekly basis. Multiply the daily house water use (the above number ) by the number of hard minerals. And then multiply by 7 for the days of the week first. Then look at the unit’s grain capacity. The water softeners come with different capacities intending to help the different households and hardness levels of the water. Now that you have the number of grains that need to be removed, you must choose a softener with a larger grain capacity than your number.
Most standard water softeners, with limited features, cost around $200 to $500. But a premium water softener can be at least $1500. So, keep that in mind when you’re looking around and comparing prices.
If you buy a smaller sized one, your system will be regenerating more often, which will cost you more in terms of maintenance and electric bill even.
If you buy a larger size, it will cost you more initially, but it will save you money in the long run because it will regenerate less frequently.
How to Install a Water Softener?
Depending on the type of unit, installing a water softener might take about a 4-8hr job after you have gathered all the needed parts, supplies, and tools.
You are going to have to prepare adequate space for the unit, level the floor, proper weight support, a nearby power outlet, and suitable ventilation.
Then depending on the types of softener, you’ve also got to cut in and out of your existing master waterline. Afterward, install or build bypass valves to bring the water lines in and out of the unit. Later on, run drain lines for both the salt tank (if it’s a saltwater softener) overflow and the control valve drain output. Make sure to install air gaps at the end of each one.
Then, in some cases, you may have to install or modify existing drain lines in your house or building to accept these two drain lines coming out of the unit.
When you’ve attached it to the main pipe, you have to fix the place to drain the water. There are several options, a floor drain, a utility sink, a standpipe.
To do so, you need to connect the small drain tubing to the valve drain fitting. After that connect the drain hose to the salt tank. It would be best if both hoses have some decline to make the water drainage easier and smooth.
In case you are interested in filtering your water as well as softening it, check out our portable water filter reviews.
Safety Tips for Using a Water Softener
As you can see from our reviews of water softeners and our guide, most products need a lot of work. There are at least two hoses that you must attach to the main pipe and the drainage system of your house. If you’ve never done any work related to plumbing or installing a water softener or a water filtration system, you shouldn’t fit such a unit yourself.
Even with the instructions and How-to install videos, not everyone can do the job. To be sure that the unit will work properly and your pipes will not be damaged, call a professional plumber to set your home water softener.
FAQ About Water Softeners
How do you know what size of water softener to get?
The size of the water softener depends on the hardness, the number of people and the size of the house decides the size of the softener.
What is a water softener salt bridge, and how do I fix it?
A salt bridge is when the salt forms a surface crust spanning the water in the brine tank, which looked from above looks normal. But it prevents the softener from doing its job. A salt bridge can be caused by high humidity, or using the incorrect type of salt, or if the tank is overfilled with salt.
To fix it, do the following:
- Turn off the water to the water softener.
- Use a long-handled tool, tap the salt bridge with it to break the crust.
- Scoop out the salt pellets from the top of the tank.
- Gently hammer the edges of the salt crust, but be careful not to damage the walls of the tank.
- Remove the water in the bottom of the water softener.
- Turn the water back on. Follow the softener instructions to regenerate it.
- Refill the brine tank with salt no more than 2/3 full.
What is the point of using a water softener if I have a water filter system?
Filtering is not dealing with hard water. A water softener can be used in combination with a water filtration system. It will be even better for the water and make it clearer and tastier to drink. Plus, the clear the water, the better for your household, including the appliances that use water.
What type of salt does a water softener use?
Most units work with tablet salt, but models can work with table salt or potassium. Read the instructions carefully, or contact the manufacturer to be certain and have peace of mind.
How much electricity does a softener use?
Some units have this information on the manual, but not all of them. Usually, a water softener uses electricity equivalent to a light bulb or a digital alarm clock.
What happens if there is a power cut for a couple of hours?
Most, but not all models have digital control and a memory backup that will remember the settings after a power cut.
As you can see from our reviews, the best water softeners can be of great help in any household where chores are a daily concern. The benefits outweigh the negatives, and such a helpful unit is worth investing in.
You will see for yourself once you’ve read our reviews and guide, and maybe others that there are different types of water softeners. They are all priced differently, made differently (as in parts), and you have to find the one that is perfect for you.
Keep in mind that if you’ve never done a similar installation on your own, you will do best if you call a plumber to install it for you. Sometimes even a good instruction video isn’t enough when you don’t know anything about water softeners and water systems as a whole.
We sincerely hope that our buying guide and water softener reviews help you make your choice. If you have concerns about the pH levels of your tap water rather than or as well as its hardness, you may also want to check our water ionizer reviews.
We would be more than happy if we manage to help you get the best value for money and aid your home. Don’t hesitate to leave us a comment if we did. Thank you.