8 Best Water Softeners for 2021 (Reviews and Guide)

Last Updated - May 2020

Hard water can destroy your appliances, water heater, pipes and affect your skin and hair. Unfortunately, most homes in the US have hard water coming out of their taps. If you have hard water and you need a solution, a water softener can be your best friend.

These devices effectively treat hard water, removing the negative impacts that come with it. In this article, we highlight the 8 best water softeners on the market, taking into account capacity, durability, in the second part of the article, we discuss what a water softener is and everything you need to know to choose one and have it installed. Our list of best water softeners caters to a range of needs, so there’s bound to be one that suits you in this list.

So, without wasting any more time, let’s jump right into it.

8 Best Water Softeners
3 new from $559.00
as of September 26, 2023 4:20 pm
2 new from $799.00
as of September 26, 2023 4:20 pm
1 used from $155.00
as of September 26, 2023 4:20 pm
Last updated on September 26, 2023 4:20 pm

Fleck Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener Iron Filter

2 new from $839.99
as of September 26, 2023 4:20 pm


  • Filters out iron
  • Large capacity at 64,000 grain
  • Low maintenance
  • High quality product


  • Difficult to install alone
  • Costly product
  • The plastic cone piece MUST be used to avoid resin entering water supply

If you’re willing to invest in a high-quality whole house water softening system, the Fleck Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener is an excellent choice, well worth its price. The best thing about this device is that you get not only a water softener but an iron filter as well. Another advantage is that the device has a capacity of 64,000-grain, which is high enough for most households.

24This unit works by completely removing calcium and magnesium from your water along with sediment and rust which is a part of the iron filtration process. What you get is iron-free, odorless water that tastes good and feels good too. It also removes sulfur which is an added bonus that’s not included in most other softeners.

The metered design measures water usage and automatically regenerates when required, which prolongs the life of the resin. The resin can last over 5 years, but this depends on the usage rate and the number of people in the household. Replacing the resin can costly but because the lifespan of the resin is high, this is not something you have to do frequently. 

The Fleck Iron Pro 2 comes with a bypass valve and a plastic cone that prevents resin from going into the house when the unit is operational. Although the operation of the unit is flawless, many users report that the instruction manual for installation can be confusing so it’s best if you contact customer support or seek professional help during installation.

Aquasure Harmony Series 48,000 Grains Water Softener

3 new from $559.00
as of September 26, 2023 4:20 pm


  • Suitable for softening water from any water supply
  • Manual double backwash which allows for optimum regeneration, performance and cleaning
  • Highly durable and effective system
  • Treats up to 48,000 grains of hardness
  • Suitable for a larger household


  • Doesn’t notify when salt levels are depleted
  • Some users have experience damaged or missing parts during shipment
  • Difficult to install by yourself unless you have prior experience with plumbing

If you’re looking for a solution for hard water, we recommend the Aquasure Harmony Series water softener. This water softener is great at reducing the hardness in your water by removing the hardness compounds (e.g., calcium, iron and magnesium) that have many negative impacts on your household and your body. It also eliminates scale completely, resulting in soft, scale-free water for your whole family.

The Aquasure Harmony Series water softener treats up to 48,000 grains of hardness, making it a perfect choice for a household of up to 5 people. At any given time, it can handle softening water for up to 4 bathrooms.

Aquasure water softeners are highly durable as they consist of a strong polyethylene tank lined with fiberglas. This is corrosion resistant and pre-filled with premium quality resin. The system comes with a brine tank with an overflow regulator. It has a wide opening, which makes it easy to monitor salt levels and refill when required.

One of the best things about the Aquasure is that it comes with an advanced built-in digital control console which allows three types of regeneration and is fully customizable. This gives you control of the system and allows you to optimize its performance as per your needs. However, because the system doesn’t notify you when the salt levels are low, you will have to manually check the brine tank.

Many users have cited that the Aquasure water softener is well-made, looks good and has an overall outstanding value. Aquasure is a reputed and trusted company that’s brought clean and purified water to millions of families across the globe for over 25 years and they stand by their products with their professional service and 5 year manufacturer warranty.

Fleck 5600 SXT 64,000 Grains Water Softener

2 new from $799.00
Free shipping
as of September 26, 2023 4:20 pm


  • Deals with very hard water
  • Easy installation and set up
  • Demand initiated regeneration
  • Large grain capacity
  • Sturdy construction


  • Instructions not clear
  • Large size

The Fleck 5600 SXT is an efficient and compact water softener that comes with a lot of positives at a really good price. This whole house water softening system does a great job at eliminating hardness minerals by using an ion-exchange process, completely removing the hardness of the water. This helps to extend the life of your plumbing as well as your appliances.

The Fleck 5600 SXT comes with pre-filled high-capacity resin. You The system requires only about 1 bag of salt monthly which is the standard for a household of 4. The brine tank holds up to 4 bags so once it’s filled up, the system will last you for around 4 months, depending on your water usage.

The flow meter enables keeps count of the amount of water you’ve used, via the easy to use LCD display Metered Control Head. Because it’s fully adjustable, you can control the capacity and salt usage according to optimal performance. The Fleck 5600 SXT regenerates on its own depending on your usage but uses about 70 gallons of water per regeneration cycle.

The Fleck 5600 SXT comes equipped with all the necessary components including the tank, pre-filled resin, a control head and a brine tank with a safety float. All you have to do is add the salt and your system is ready. The instruction videos and manual will give you all the information you need to properly install the system.

SpringWell Futuresoft Salt-free Water Softener

as of September 26, 2023 4:20 pm


  • Salt-free TAC technology
  • Minimal maintenance
  • Adjusts to water hardness level
  • No generation required
  • No electricity necessary


  • More expensive than regular salt-based water softeners

The SpringWell Futuresoft Water Softener stands out with its innovative process which purifies water while softening it. One of the best things about this water softener is that it’s completely salt-free which means that you can target hard water, without sodium and resin.  

The Futuresoft works through a process known as Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) where water passes through a media bed which breaks hardness minerals turning them into hardness crystals.  These crystals don’t stick to any surfaces and so can’t form hard water deposits in your home. This significantly reduces scale and lime build up without the use of salt, effectively softening and conditioning the water. Additionally, regeneration isn’t required, which saves water and provides consistent soft water supply.

The Futuresoft is ideal for a household with 1-3 bathrooms with no reduction of water pressure. It maintains a consistent flow of 12 gallons per minute, meaning that several fixtures can be used at once. Once installed, maintenance is minimal, with only an annual filter replacement required.

The system comes complete with a mounting bracket so you can attach it to any wall and a bypass valve so your softener will be on a separate piping route from the main pipe. If you’re familiar with plumbing, you can install the unit yourself as it’s not very complicated.

Eddy Electronic Water Descaler

1 used from $155.00
Free shipping
as of September 26, 2023 4:20 pm


  • Reduces scale buildup in pipes and faucets
  • Low maintenance
  • Compact design
  • Extremely easy installation


  • Not a comprehensive water softening solution
  • 100% electric but not waterproof

When it comes to problems with limescale build-up in your pipes and showers, the Eddy Water Descaler offers an easy, compact solution. It differs from the competition in that it doesn’t use a physical process to descale water.

Although it’s advertised as a water softener, this descaler is a unique electronic device (not an actual cartridge) that works by producing electromagnetic waves which interact with water. The biggest advantage of the Eddy is that by using these waves, it completely inhibits the deposition of limescale in your pipes.

The Eddy doesn’t remove or add anything to the water. In fact, it doesn’t interact directly with the water since everything takes place in the electromagnetic field. The downside of this is that the system doesn’t eliminate calcium and other substances, which remain intact and you may not notice a significant difference in the water’s hardness. Although it isn’t an actual water softener, it has its advantages, most notably that it’s extremely compact and effectively descales.  

The Eddy Water Descaler comes with 4 wires, a mounting bracket and an AC adapter. You can install it yourself but ensure that the wires are coiled around the pipes properly. When this is done, simply plug in the machine, set it down somewhere that’s convenient for you or attach it to the wall and turn it on.

Aquios AQFS220 Salt Free Water Softener & Filter System

as of September 26, 2023 4:20 pm


  • Doesn’t remove healthy minerals
  • All-in-one filtration and softening device
  • Runs without electricity


  • If it’s not installed correctly, there can be leakages
  • Filters tend to clog easily
  • Not a heavy-duty water softener

Solve all your water problems with the Aquios Salt Free water softener system which not only softens hard water but purifies it as well. It prevents and removes existing limescale, iron stains and other issues associated with hard water.

Like other salt-free softeners, the Aquios doesn’t remove minerals from water, but simply inhibits their ability to build up via a polyphosphate additive called Siliphos. The result is that scale-causing compounds pass through the system without forming deposits on your pipes, faucets, shower heads or appliances like water heaters. Additionally, while you’ll notice a difference in the feel and texture of the water, the water is free of salt additives.

The filtration system works using a multi-stage process, incorporating an active carbon block with a 5-micron filtration capacity. Chlorine, rust, dirt, sediment and other contaminants are eliminated resulting in clean and healthy water for the entire household. You won’t experience any reduction in water pressure or flow rate but you will definitely notice a significant difference in how your water ‘feels’ and tastes.

The sleek and compact design of the Aquios FS220 and its 7.5 pound weight makes it extremely easy to handle and install, in small, tight quarters. It comes with its own mounting bracket which means you can easily set it up where there is room.

Additionally, a major plus point is that the Aquios FS220 requires little maintenance. You don’t have to deal with the hassle of replacing salt bags and backwashing as with regular water softeners. All you need to do is replace the filter cartridge (the first one is included in the package) after every 40,000 gallons of usage. This correlates to about six months for the average household (4 members).

Choose the Aquios if you want a single solution for water filtration, softening and conditioning without demineralizing your water or adding in sodium.

Fleck 9100SXT 96,000 Grain Dual Tank Water Softener

as of September 26, 2023 4:20 pm


  • Quality LCD display with touch controls
  • Heavy-duty dual tank system
  • Operational even during regeneration process
  • Easy to install
  • Ideal for large household
  • 96,000 grain capacity


  • Large unit
  • Replacing the resin is costly

The Fleck Dual Tank Water Softener is a heavy-duty product with exceptional effectiveness and enormous capacity. It works by removing the ions that cause hard water and also eliminates buildup of scale. The resin also helps to a certain extent when it comes to the removal of iron but one downside is that its salt cartridge doesn’t handle typical sediments well.

This model comes with dual alternating tanks, each with a 96,000 grain capacity that is guaranteed to give you top-notch functionality. This means that you never run out of soft water, even during regeneration cycles. We were very impressed about the strong flow rate, standing at 20GPM. This means that even when you flush the device, the regeneration process will be quick.

The Fleck Dual Tank water softener is easy to install, and the box contains everything you need to do it yourself. It’s important to note that this product is definitely not space saving. In fact, at 36 inches tall, the tanks are quite tall and will take up a lot of room. The resin is pre-loaded, so be careful when lifting as it’s heavier than it looks. Both tanks equal 6 cubic feet in total as each has 3 cubic feet of resin.

One advantage about this unit is that it regenerates depending on the amount of water used instead of based on a timer. This is beneficial as it recharges the unit based on water consumption and not on a schedule. This saves you water, salt and time. The unit requires minimal maintenance with resin replacement only required every 5 years.

Whirlpool WHES30E 30,000 Grain Softener

4 used from $648.00
Free shipping
as of September 26, 2023 4:20 pm


  • NSF certified product
  • 95 grain per gallon capacity
  • Removes iron
  • Demand initiated regeneration
  • Low-salt light indicator – lets you know that the tank needs a salt refill


  • Plastic construction
  • Not ideal for households with more than four people

Compact, efficient and at an affordable price, the Whirlpool WHES30E Grain Softener is one of the most popular water softeners on the market. This unit doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, is extremely compact and services households up to 4 people. 

The Whirlpool WHES30E comes with a single tank in which the brine and resin tanks are combined into one compact unit, making it ideal for use of economic softening in small apartments or light duty shops. It’s excellent at removing high levels of hardness in water and even removes up to 8 ppm of iron, resulting in soft and delicious tasting water for the entire household.

A stand-out feature of this salt-based water softener is that it includes sixth sense technology allowing it to calculate how much salt and water is required to regenerate. This demand-initiated regeneration system ensures that only the necessary amount of salt is used and at the right time, resulting in significant saving on both salt and water. Also, because the model has an indicator which tells you when to replenish the salt supplies, you won’t need to manually check this.

The Whirlpool 30,000 Grain Water Softener comes with all the fittings you need to set it up. It also includes an installation kit and instruction manual which makes installation similar to a DIY project.

What Exactly Does a Water Softener Do?

Water softener

A water softener is a whole house filtration system that targets one of the most prevalent problems people have with water – hardness. If there is an excessive amount of hardness compounds in your water, it can negatively impact your pipes, appliances, clothes, cutlery, skin and hair. These mineral compounds include calcium, magnesium and other trace minerals, which aren’t harmful to health but are hard on your household. Water softeners combat hard water via several methods, but most popularly through ion exchange.

Negative Impacts of Hard Water

Water hardness is typically reported in milligrams per liter (mg/L) with the scale outlined as follows:

  • Very Hard Water – Over 180 mg/L
  • Hard Water – 121 – 180 mg/L
  • Moderately Hard Water – 61 – 120 mg/L
  • Soft Water – 0-60 mg/L

Hard water has its benefits, most notably the minerals in the water which can be beneficial for our health, in terms of mineral intake. According to the WHO, hard water doesn’t have any negative health effects.

However, there are several downsides to hard water:

  1. Hard water results in limescale and mineral build up in pipes, on faucets, shower heads and appliances. These deposits can clog up pipes, reduce water flow and pressure and damage appliances.
  2. The build up can make appliances run less efficiently, especially when it comes to water heaters. As a result, these appliances will be less energy efficient and consume more energy overall, resulting in increased utility bills.
  3. Hard water dries out skin and hair, making them appear dull and lifeless. It can also irritate eyes, cause itching and rashes.
  4. Hard water reduces the efficiency of soaps, shampoos and detergents, preventing lather from forming. This makes it harder to wash off the soap which results in soap curd.
  5. Laundry washed in hard water can look washed out and faded, losing color and appearing older quickly. Also, they can have white spots and laundry detergent may not wash off as quickly.
  6. Hard water significantly shortens the lifespan of appliances like dishwashers, ice machines and even washing machines. Water heaters, whether tankless or tank storage, can sustain significant damage and may need to be replaced sooner than expected.

Signs You Have Hard Water

You can keep an eye out for signs of hardness, which include:

  1. Water spots on cutlery, shower glass and faucets
  2. Lower water pressure due to clogged pipes
  3. A feeling of dryness when you get out of the shower
  4. Clogged showerheads
  5. Scale deposits in your steam iron that stain your clothes when ironing
  6. Residue on the bottom of kettles or coffee maker
  7. Laundry appears dull and worn out
  8. Hair appears lifeless and dull
  9. Yellow stains in toilet bowl and bathtub
Hard water stain before and after side by side

Before and after cleaning a toilet with hard water stains

The best way to know whether you have hard water is to have your water tested for hardness. You can do this at home with a home water testing kit or you can have a professional laboratory test your water for you. Additionally, if you’re water comes from a public source, you should be able to request a water quality report from them. These are typically done annually and provided to customers.

Benefits of a Water Softener

There are many reasons why a water softening system can be beneficial to you. These include:

  1. Scale-Free Pipes: Without the minerals that cause deposits and build-up, the piping system in your home will be unclogged and scale-free, resulting in less maintenance required.
  2. Efficient Appliances: Your appliances, most notably the water heater, will run more efficiently and with less damage. If you have a tankless water heater, you won’t need to flush out and clean the system as frequently, and if you have a storage tank water heater, the damage caused by hard water to the tank can be avoided.
  3. Improved Hair and Skin: Soft water does wonders for hair and skin. You will notice a significantly improvement when you switch to soft water and your skin and hair will feel rejuvenated, vibrant and fresh. You will also notice a difference in the way the water feels. The water will feel slicker and more slippery.
  4. Clean Cutlery: Water stains and spots will be avoided with a water softening system, so when you take your glassware out of the dishwasher, they’ll be clean and stain-free. This also applies to pretty much anything that comes into contact with water, like pots, appliances, faucets and tiles.
  5. Vibrant Laundry: Your clothes will feel softer and cleaner, and won’t have a shabby, faded look about them. This means a longer life for your clothes and more vibrant colors.

How Do Water Softening Systems Work?         

The most common way water softeners work is via ion exchange, which we explain below. However, there are several other ways that water can be softened and the hardness minerals inhibited.

Ion-Exchange Systems

Water softener

This is one of the most effective methods to soften water and is also the most commonly used. Most water softeners on the market use ion exchange, which removes calcium and magnesium from the water.

In this process, the hard water comes through into the resin tank where it goes through the bed of resin beads. The beads are covered with sodium ions and have a negative charge. The aim of the negative charge sodium ions is to attract the positive charged hard ions. As the hard water flows through the resin, the resin holds onto the positive charged minerals, which takes them out of the water. However, in this process, the sodium ions are released from the resin beads (hence the term ion exchange) which then flow into the water. While the water is free of minerals, it does acquire salt. Over time, the salt in the resin need to be replaced as they get depleted.

Most Ion-Exchange systems come with an additional tank – a brine tank. With these systems, the salt is placed separately in the brine tank, which is a smaller tank located next to the mineral tank. It holds the salt or potassium to replenish the resin bead’s positive charge. You simply have to add the salt manually as the softening capacity of the resin begins to decrease. If there’s not salt in the brine tank, the system can’t continue to soften water.

This video explains how ion exchange works with a little more detail.

Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) Or Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC) Systems

TAC or NAC systems are salt-free processes that reduce a lot of the downsides of hard water without actually softening it. Both systems work by turning the hardness minerals into hardness crystals, which makes it impossible for them to stick onto any surfaces. As such, the minerals will simply flow through the pipes without building up.

As with chelation systems, the water will still technically be “hard”, and will have many of the negatives associated with hard water. However, unlike ion exchange systems, there won’t be any salt or brine wastewater and no need for regeneration cycles, which are all noteworthy benefits.

Magnetic or Electronic Water Softeners

Eddy electronic descaler

Eddy electronic water descaler removes scale via electro-magnetic waves

An excellent way to reduce the hardness in your water without adding salt to it, magnetic and electronic softeners are compact devices which effectively reduce the mineral buildup in pipes and appliances. These devices are attached to the indoor water pipes and produce electromagnetic fields inside the pipes. As the water passes through, the waves change the way the minerals interact with each other. The carbonates aren’t able to attach onto the pipes or form deposit. However, these water softeners often get mixed reviews, as some people don’t tend to see a difference in the water while others swear by them. Overall, they work very well as descalers.

Chelation Softening Systems

This is a salt-free water softening system. Chelating agents like nitriloacetic acid are put in the water to attract mineral ions. This system inhibits scale buildup but it  doesn’t soften the water by removing the minerals in it. They reduce the ability of these minerals to form deposits, but they don’t take them out of the water.

As such, chelation systems are an excellent way to solve the problem of clogged pipes and damaged appliances, but you will still have difficulty with laundry, lathering and dry skin and hair, among others. Additionally, the water will be salt free and will not have the flat, almost salty taste associated with softened water.

Parts of a Water Softener

A water softener is typically made up of three parts – the control valve, the mineral tank and the brine tank.

Parts of a water softener

Parts of the Aquasure Harmony Water Softener. Check Price Here.

  • The control valve is located at the top of the mineral tank and often has a digital display. It is pre-programmed to initiate regeneration cycles as per your water usage and several other factors. It measures the amount of water that’s being softened and the capacity of the resin beads to soften the water. When necessary, the control valve will start a regeneration cycle, which flushes out the mineral ions from the resin. A system that is designed to regenerate the unit based on usage is much better than a system designed to regenerate based on a schedule, as this will only recharge the unit when necessary, saving money, time and resources.
  • The mineral tank is the where the hard water is softened. It’s the cylindrical, tall component which holds the resin. The water supply flows the hard water into the mineral tank, where it leaves behind the minerals and acquires the sodium. The water then leaves the tank and goes out into your pipes.
  • The brine tank is a simple container that helps with the regeneration system. It sits next to the mineral tank and is typically shorter but wider in size. This is where the salt goes. As we mentioned before, you simply have to load the salt into the brine tank manually and monitor its use. The salt dissolves and sits in the tank, waiting for a regeneration cycle. When it’s time to initiate a regeneration cycle, the salt water is drawn out of brine the tank and into the mineral tank, where it backwashes through the resin. This ‘regenerates’ the resin, allowing it to continue softening water. If the salt is depleted in the brine tank, the resin tank can no longer continue softening water.  

What is Water Softener Regeneration?

The regeneration cycle is the most technical aspect of the water softening system. Once the resin beads have attracted and trapped as many hardness ions as possible, it needs to be flushed off these ions if it’s to continue softening water. There are two methods to do this:

Counter-Current Regeneration Cycle:

Starts at the bottom and flushes upwards from less depleted to highly depleted. More efficient system.  

In this type of regeneration cycle, the salty water from the brine tank is pumped backwards and up the resin tank at an increased speed. It begins the cycle from the bottom of the mineral tank, where the water usually exits, and the resin is not completely depleted of salt ions. As the water goes up the resin bed, it exchanges the sodium ions with the mineral ions and carries them into the drain. The resin bed is flushed out and replenished with sodium ions. Because this cycle begins where the resin still contains salt, fewer hardness ions are exchanged, and the salt is distributed more fairly. The counter-current cycle is more efficient because it uses up to 75% less salt and up to 65% less water.

Co-Current Regeneration Cycle:

Starts at the top and pushes its way down from highly depleted to less depleted resin beads. Less efficient and wasteful.

This system is much less efficient because it flows in the same direction as the water service flow. The brine starts its flow at the top of the mineral tank, triggering the ion exchange process, with the sodium exchanging ions with the mineral ions captured in the resin. The hardness minerals flowing with the brine water is distributed throughout the system, using up more salt and water in the process of exchanging and re-exchanging ions. As the water is drained out of the tank, the brine has lost a large amount of its strength. The process uses up a lot of salt and water.

Once the brine tank is empty, the system is rinsed out once or twice more. Excess brine is washed away and sent down the drain. The brine tank is refilled, awaiting another regeneration cycle. The mineral tanks are then ready to soften water again.

Each cycle uses up about 3 pounds of salt per gallon, but this depends on the model and the regeneration cycle. Because so much salt is used in a regeneration cycle, it’s important to monitor and replenish the salt as required. During regeneration cycles, the water softener can’t work as normal, but if you have a dual-tank, the regeneration cycles alternate, so you’ll never run out of softened water.

Excessive and unnecessary backwashing can actually waste water so by allowing backwash only when needed, so systems designed to backwash according to water usage is much more efficient than a system designed to initiate the cycle automatically as per a schedule. These are known as demand-initiated regeneration systems

What Does a Water Softener Remove?

Water softeners are designed to remove hardness minerals – calcium and magnesium. Some systems are able to remove iron from the water as well. These are particularly ideal if you source your water from a well. However, note that large amounts of iron in water can accumulate on the resin bed and impact the system’s water softening process. In such cases, it’s best to first send the water through an iron filter.

Note that a water softener doesn’t remove harmful contaminants from water. As such, it shouldn’t be viewed as a water purifier or filter. For a complete clean water solution, use a water softener in conjunction with a water filter, to ensure that your water is softened and purified.

Salt-Free Softeners vs. Salt-Based

Salt Pellets Lies In Water Softener

Salt in a brine tank

If you’ve gone through our list of best water softeners, you’ll notice that some of them are salt-based and others are salt-free systems. But is one better than the other?

Salt-free water softeners work more like water conditioners. They create hardness crystals out of the minerals, but they don’t remove them from the water. In other words, these systems work by inhibiting mineral deposits, thereby stopping mineral buildup. They’re also extremely easy to maintain, hardly requiring any maintenance at all. However, they don’t really target the issues associated with hard water and aren’t a comprehensive solution. Choose these systems if:

  • You want to avoid salt in your water
  • You want a smaller, compact solution
  • You don’t want to remove the minerals from water
  • You want minimal maintenance

Salt-based softeners trump salt-free softeners every time when it comes to effectiveness. These systems remove the hardness minerals from the water, making the water noticeably softer, giving you a clean, residue-free feeling. Even the water will feel different – it’ll be slicker. This is the best option if you want a complete water softening solution, but these systems can be more expensive and also require a lot more maintenance. There’s also the ongoing expense of buying salt.

What Salts to Use in a Water Softener

There are two main types of water softener salts to use:


Sodium chloride can be found in a variety of forms, including pellets, cubes and crystals. There are three types of sodium used in water softeners.

Solar salt – this is one of the more popular options and refers to  purified salt crystals taken from brine ponds that have been warmed by the sun.

Evaporated salt – this is standard salt, similar to what we use when cooking. It’s also highly popular and commonly used.

Rock salt – the most affordable option, rock salt contains additional insoluble materials which can result in deposit formation and problems in the system. It’s a good option for small-volume systems as the insoluble materials won’t be a big problem there.


Potassium chloride works in the same way that sodium does, except that the hard water is replaced with potassium ions instead of sodium. This can be a better option because it’s a vital nutrient, unlike salt. This is an ideal alternative for water softeners if you have health issues related to sodium.

Check our article on the best salts for water softeners.

How to Choose Your Water Softener

  • Check Your Water Hardness: Test your water to figure out the amount of hardness. This will give you an indication of the grain capacity you require from the water softener. Consider the amount of water you use per day in gallons and multiply that by the amount of hard water grains in your water. On average, a person uses 80-100 gallons of water. This will give you an estimate of the amount of hard water grains you need to remove daily.
  • Check Grain Capacity: This is only applicable for salt-based water softeners. Grain capacity means the maximum number of grains of hard water minerals the unit can remove before regeneration. The higher the capacity, the more long-lasting the system. Grain ratings for water softeners range from around 16,000 to 96,000 (with dual capacity). For a household of up to 3 people, using 2 showers at a time, consider 20,000+ grain capacity, while a larger household with 4+ people would require a larger system of at least 30,000 grain capacity.Depending on the size of your household and your water usage, choose the appropriate grain rating.
  • Consider Your Water Softener Size: The physical size of the water softener should be able to fit into your available space for the unit. If you live in a small apartment, a large, heavy tank might not be for you. Consider the measurements of the unit, including its brine tank when purchasing.
  • Check Regeneration: Check whether the system has a demand initiated regeneration cycle as opposed to a timed cycle that operates automatically. Some water softeners come with several regeneration cycle settings, while others allow you to customize the setting according to your requirements. In general, a metered water softener is more efficient than a timed one.
  • Examine Extra Features: Consider whether the system comes with extra features such as a salt level indicator and customizable regeneration settings for example. These can make using the system convenient and effective.

Installing a Water Softener

A water softener should be installed at the point-of-entry, much like a whole house water filtration system. This means that it needs to be located close the main supply of water entering your home. However, ensure that it’s positioned before the water heater, as hard water severely damages water heaters.

The best position will be a dry, level area near the main’s line. The system will require a drain for the briny water from the regeneration cycle as well as an electrical outlet. Some people install a bypass line to the kitchen, so that drinking water remains unsoftened. This way, you can avoid drinking softened water, if you don’t like the taste, and instead purify your drinking water with an under-sink water filter. Additionally, include a bypass valve in the softened water line so if ever you need to service the unit, you can turn off the water supply going through the softener.

Here are the stages of installation for your water softener:

  1. ­Place the water softener in the correct position, ensuring that the surface below is level. The water inlet should be connected to the main water supply and the outlet should be in the direction of the hot water heater.
  2. Turn off the water supply at the main, to prevent any leakages.
  3. Drain the water lines. To do this, open faucets and other fixtures to empty the pipes.
  4. Make all the necessary connections.Measure, cut and fit your pipes, using tape to seal the threads.
  5. Connect the drain hose as per instructions.
  6. Connect overflow tubing which ensures that the brine tank doesn’t inadvertently overflow and make a mess.
  7. Fill the brine tank with salt.
  8. Turn off the bypass valve and slowly turn on the water. Check for leaks and any issues.
  9. Complete the initializing procedure as per manufacturer’s instructions.

The Bottom Line

A water softening system is an excellent solution to the ravages of hard water. With so many models on the market, finding the right water softening device for your home depends on knowing what exactly you want out of your system and how much maintenance you’re willing to put into it.

When combined with a whole house filtration system, a water softening system can solve almost all your water woes. Hopefully the guide above has given you an in-depth idea about water softeners and how to choose and install the right one for you.

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