In need of the best water softener to free your tap water of contaminants and make it soft? Naturally, the consumption of hard water can cause hair, skin problems, and a weak immune system. It might clog up your plumbing system and reduce the lifespan of home appliances. Also, soaps do not lather well when you bathe with hard water.
Economically or hygienically, there's nothing positive about the use of hard water. I had issues with high concentrations of calcium in tap water in the past. Then, I installed a dual-tank 24,000-capacity softening system in my home. It was expensive, but very effective in preventing the growth of lime-scale deposits and descaling the concentration of calcium in my hard water. Since then, I've been recommending excellent water softeners and filters for friends that have unmatched, harsh chemicals in their tap water.
It's this rich experience with several types of water softeners that gave me some valuable understanding of tackling hard water. As you get ready to shop for the ideal system for your home or office, this buying guide will show you the way!
Why Should You Trust Us?
The Faucets Reviewed team contains professional plumbers, home renovation specialists, interior designers, and DIY enthusiasts based in the USA. We love to share our expertise with people from all corners of the world, hence the beginning of the incredible journey of this platform.
This is a great opportunity for us to write how-to articles and give honest reviewed on different types of home improvement tools you will find in the industry. Our large base of audience is a solid proof that all the effort our team gives to maintain this website never goes in vain.
Also, you will find unbiased product reviews here because we have no connection with the manufacturing companies. We select out the finest choices from any product category following a testing procedure that we have finalized after a lot of trial and error. You will get to know more about this procedure in the "How We Picked These Products" section given below.
How We Picked These Products
Finalizing the highest performance water softeners from so many choices in the industry was not a piece of cake. These are the things we did to make this review as much reliable as possible.
a) Online Research: At first, we spent close to 22 hours online to figure out those models that were the most popular at the time of our research. We were able to select 26 such units that we had then decided to put to test
b) The Testing Phase: Over the next 5 months, we tested every single model with the help from a volunteer team. For your information, we had to involve the volunteers because collecting and reviewing those water softening machines all by ourselves were near to impossible.
c) Shortlisting: Based on our findings, we eventually finalized the top 10 choices. We compared their types, capacities, performances, build qualities, prices, and other essential factors during the selection process.
d) Re-evaluating the shortlisted products: We did not stop there. To double-check that our finalized choices were really up to par, we consulted with other industry experts and asked for their opinions. We also went through their ratings and reviews from real users available on eCommerce platforms like Amazon and eBay. As we had expected, we received nothing but positive feedback that ensured us that this is the best review on water softeners you will find online.
Our Top 10 Best Water Softeners
You might not need water softening machines to provide potable water, but they can keep your clothes free from stains when you wash with soft water. Alternatively, your bathroom's floor and shower will appear pleasing with the use of top rated water softeners. There are health benefits when you choose the great units too. Make sure your preferred model has the availability of its spare parts. Your budget and the level of your tap water's contamination will help you get an ideal product from these highest rated units.
So, what is the best water softener for sale? Let us find out!
What Are Water Softeners & Why Do You Need One?
A water softening system is a type of water conditioner that removes (positively-charged ions) minerals and metals from water. Various types come with different water filtration systems. The softener's unit where you'll see its removal method might use ion exchange resins, reverse osmosis (RO), or magnetic fields. While the porous resin beads are coated with negative ions, the RO softeners have semi-permeable membranes. Generally, most resin beads or zeolite are charged with sodium and potassium (soft) ions to help you replace hard ions.
Usually, water flows from local municipal water pipes into your softener's water tank. This household water is hard when it contains concentrations of 'dissolved,' hard ions like iron, calcium, and magnesium. For the salt-based types, hard water must pass through their tank's surface resin. It's this first tank that traps (ion exchange) hard minerals and gives soft water. There are grains of salt and water in the brine chamber whereas this (brine) solution ensures the next phase of regeneration.
The soft water contains sodium (salt) ions, but the brine solution will flow to the resin chamber that contains trapped minerals and displace them. It's the displacement of these hard minerals with high concentrations of sodium ions that helps your resin tank to clear these hard water ions. Consequently, as the softener flushes these contaminants through its wastewater drain, soft water flows into your home's plumbing system.
Soft water from your salt-based softener may be used for washing, but not for drinking because it might contain high concentrations of sodium salt. However, you should monitor the level of salt in the brine chamber for the softening system to work effectively.
You'll need a water softening system to clear hard water and for the following reasons:
- Water softeners help extend the lifespan of appliances like washing machines, faucets, water heaters, pipes, coffee makers, dishwashers, water heaters, sinks, and ice-makers.
- When you wash, soap and shampoos will lather with soft water easily. It saves the amount of soap you need to wash and bathe.
- Soft water reduces the buildup of limescale and rust inside your water pipes and shower heads.
- The use of water softeners ensures glowing nails, skin, and hair. Also, the difference between hard and soft water is noticeable because of the hygienic effect of the latter. So, the use of soft water for bathing helps to promote the health of households.
How to Determine the Perfect Size for You?
Whether electric or non electric, the outward appearance of any water softening system doesn't determine its efficiency. Usually, the two models of portable and regular water softeners come in different sizes and capacities. The former type fits buyers with on-the-go lifestyles, while the latter is for buyers that don't need outdoor softening systems. Also, both types of softening devices are designed to replace hard water into soft water, no matter the water is from a well or the tap. Here are some tips to determine the ideal size for you.
- Before you settle for any, it's important to know if the 1-piece or 2-piece softener meets your needs. You might save more money from the low maintenance of 2-piece water softeners than single-tank designs. Usually, the media chamber (for hard ion separation) in a 2-piece water softener is designed to hold the system's control buttons. This style of construction is to prevent the spread of corrosion from salt in the brine chamber to the media chamber.
- However, the 1-piece unit is ideal if you need it for personal or small household use. The design of this type of hard water softener helps you to conserve filtration salts and workload of the machine.
- Apart from buying water softeners that are reliable and sturdy, their ease of maintenance and availability of spare parts are important factors of consideration.
- Instead of purchasing a foreign brand with low availability of spare parts, try to get a locally-made product.
- Additionally, you can determine the workload of a water softener by multiplying the number of hard ions (minerals) by your daily water usage. The capacity of water softening systems to serve every member of the family or household must be considered before choosing any model. Generally, the hardness of water is a measurement in grains per gallon, and the rating ranges between 3 to 20 grains
Things to Consider When Buying Water Softeners
You have to ensure that your preferred choice is certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), or Water Quality Association (WQA), or NSF. These regulatory bodies are standards for water filtration systems, whether tankless, under sink, inline, or any other type. Aside from that, you should also consider the following factors.
There are four basic types of water softening systems ideal for residential and commercial space use. Each type comes with some pros and cons. However, not all of them are classified as water softeners because water conditioners (descalers) might produce soft water.
- Reverse Osmosis (RO) Type
- Salt Based Type
- Salt-Free Type
- Magnetic Type
Water softening machines that use the reverse osmosis technology usually have built-in, semi-permeable membranes. The treatment process begins as high-pressure pushes unfiltered water through this porous membrane and traps every mineral that's positively charged. With Reverse Osmosis (RO) Systems, you don't need additives like salt to ensure the desired output. Instead, the space-efficient RO system clears water from every (bad or essential) mineral, and it’s easy to maintain.
The salt-based softener uses an ion exchange system (resin beads) to swap hard-water ions for soft-water ions like sodium and potassium. Usually, this process (ion exchange) occurs in two tanks- resin and brine chambers. The quality of water might improve in the first chamber, but a later stage of regeneration occurs from the brine chamber that provides soft water. However, the concentration of salts (sodium or potassium chlorides) can leave your soft water with a salty taste. So, these Sodium or Potassium ions might render your soft water unfit for cooking and drinking.
Instead of being called water softeners, salt-free or saltless systems are actually conditioners because they use the complex nano technology to descale water channels. These water conditioners (descalers) are not designed to remove minerals from hard water, but they prevent the formation of scales on water pipes, and appliances. So, descaling is a process of altering the chemical composition of hard-ion minerals in the water. This technique ensures that atomic structures of these contaminants can't bind together, or accumulate inside your water pipes.
Magnetic descalers don't need additives to soften water. Instead, magnetic systems use magnetic fields to change the atomic structure of hard water temporarily. However, the hardness is reversed if you don't use the soft water after 48 hours. Water softeners that use magnetic systems can handle hardness ratings below 8 GPG.
The capacity of water softening systems varies according to requirements. Usually, water usage for families and single occupants are different. A single user might see more reasons to buy a compact softener with one tank. You can get the 1-tank system at a cheap rate, but the system will require frequent regeneration. Also, a dual-tank softener can handle medium to large-sized households. However, 2-tank water softening systems are more expensive, and they regenerate less frequently.
The range of measurement for water's hardness is between 3-20 grains. While the value of 3 indicates very soft water, 20 is the highest quality of hard water. So, check your water source for its grains per week value, and choose the ideal water softener capacity for this purpose. Also, water softener systems with the following capacities; 16,000, 24,000, 32,000, 40,000, 48,000, 64,000, 80,000, and 100,000.
With a water test kit, you can measure the hardness in GPG (grains per gallon), MPL (milligrams per liter), or (PPM) parts per million. Also, 17.1mg/L is equal to 17.1PPM or 1 GPG. However, the durability of any water softener model not guaranteed when the weekly grains of your tap water exceeds the softener model's capacity.
The performance of water softening machines varies according to their maintenance and design. The salt-based softener's brine chamber needs to be assessed and refilled regularly. Without ensuring adequate levels of salt, you might not have a smooth filtration process with the water softener. Additionally, the brine's unit performance may develop salt bridges when you use low-quality salts. It's required to clear impurities from the tanks that, filter mesh (semi-permeable membranes), and resin beads. This practice will enhance your unit's performance to a great extent. After softening the water, you can use a water filter pitcher to ensure the purity of drinking water.
4. Bypass Valve
A valve is a flow system that serves as plumbing accessories for homes and offices. Bypass valves that come with water softeners are designed to divert the flow of water when you don't need soft water. Gardens and swimming pools might not need softened water. However, any great bypass valve should be user-friendly like the types in Fleck softening devices.
5. Regeneration Setting
Usually, softener systems regenerate according to their settings, or your water usage. Regeneration is regulated by a meter or timer, but you can run out of softened water when you rely on timed softening systems. Unlike a metered softener that regenerates when there's the need to, the timed system will utilize more salt and water after an extended period of non-usage.
You can get water softening systems for less than $50, but the high-end ones cost hundreds of Dollars. Aligning your budget with the type of softener that you can afford is a good decision where you will have to make some comparisons. Sometimes, conservative homeowners might need cheap, middle-of-the-pack softeners to enjoy good water quality. However, you shouldn't expect energy-efficient softeners with high-quality to come cheaply.
Water Softener Installation Tips
Every installer needs to understand the specific installation instructions for different brands of water softening machines before wrecking them. The risk of a poor setup can cause a decline in the performance of water softeners. In extreme conditions, the poor installation process will increase the maintenance cost of your system. However, these are the basic tips to follow when installing regular water softening systems.
- Have an understanding of the type of softener to buy. Generally, both the 1-tank and 2-tank softener operate differently. The digital controller of the 2-tank softener is often the system's media tank's top and detached from its brine tank. Additionally, single users and small families may find the single-tank water softener more ideal than dual-tank softeners.
- Read the product's user manual, and watch the online video before setting up your filtration system. You might call an expert for installation or test your DIY skills if the process interests you.
- Turn off the shut-off valve that controls the main source of water supply to your household, and drain the residual water in the lines accordingly. Choose a suitable location for the new water softener; an even and dry surface is ideal. Don't forget to position this softening machine close to a drain.
- Position the resin and brine side by side, and close to a source of electricity. Take accurate measurements of the distance between your source of hard water and the positions of (bypass or inlet) valves that are attached to your filtration system. Also, ensure a tight connection of connector fittings and tubing pipes for the prevention of leakages. Don't forget to connect the discharge and overflow tubes to the right port on your softener.
- You'll need a set of socket, screwdriver or Allen keys to install a bypass valve. The bypass valves are useful for connecting garden and swimming pool hoses. Then, turn on the main source of water to pressure test every unit for leakages.
Care & Maintenance
Our reviews will not be complete without learning how to maintain water softeners. Here are some maintenance tips for water softening machines that can extend their lifespan, and save money for softening system owners.
- Your water softening machine consumes salt as it carries out the regeneration process. So, the right type and level (2/3 full) of salt is essential to ensure hitch-free softening operations. Don't overfill the brine tank with its salt solution. Instead, get water softening systems that have floating devices attached to their brine tanks. Additionally, the regular refilling of brine tanks ensures the most efficient operations possible.
- Salt bridging is an unpleasant experience that arises when you don't use pure salt. The salt-free softening systems in our reviews show that hardness minerals remain in soft water after descaling them. These types of systems need cleansing formulas to clear your tanks from residual sediments.
- After the regeneration process, inspect every unit of your filtration system for 'dissolved' particles, salt bridges or blockages. It's only a regular inspection that can confirm the status of your softener. The resin bed and brine tank might corrode because of salt's toxicity. So, make sure to apply resin cleansers after investing in any device.
It's the last segment of our review, we're confident that you'll have a great experience with any of these shortlisted choices. However, I'll recommend the high-capacity Fleck 5600SXT IronPro2 Combination for industrial use. It has a grain capacity of 64,000 to trap large sediments like Manganese and Ferrous Iron. Fleck is a trusted manufacturer in the field of water filtration and you shouldn't give room for the slightest chance of consuming hard water.
There might be no need to use heavy-duty filtration systems when you are on a budget. So, the Eddy Electronic Water Descaler is an ideal option for such conditions. It's a great magnetic descaler that doesn't cause pollution to the environment. Generally, our top 10 options have way more superior features than the regular market products offered by reputed brands like Culligan, Rainsoft, Clack, NuvoH2O, Sterling, EcoWater, Hellenbrand, AO Smith, Watts, Krystal Pure, Aqua Systems, Charger Water, Ionics, Commers, Fleet Farm, Ultima, Iron Brigade, Structural, Avantapure, Kinetico, Kenmore, GE (General Electric), Marlo, Rayne, Nugen, and Aqua Pure.
Hope you will make your final decision soon and don't forget to share your experience with us in the comments section below.