It may surprise you to find out that around 85% of all households in the USA are supplied with hard water. That means unless you know for sure that you don’t have water hard water running through your pipes, you probably do. Is this a big problem? Well, it depends on your definition of “big”. Hard water is certainly not going to kill you. But if you would prefer to be able to drink clean, tasty water straight from the faucet, prevent your shower head from clogging up and prolong the life of your hot-water appliances, it may be time to invest in one of the best water softeners.
What is a Water Softener?
A water softener is a device capable of removing the minerals present in hard water which causes it to be, well, hard. Usually, these minerals are calcium and magnesium. When not treated, hard water running through your home can cause a number of minor inconveniences as well as some pretty serious ones. Problems caused by hard water include:
- Bad Taste – To be clear, drinking hard water is not a problem. And it may even be better for you to do so, thanks to the calcium and magnesium it contains. However, the big problem for most people is the unpleasant taste.
- Hair/Skin Problems – If you are bathing with hard water, you will find the calcium and magnesium in hard water create a thin film on your hair and skin. For hair especially, this film prevents moisture from being able to pass through, resulting in hair which is far more prone to breaking.
- Stains/Slime/Spots – Doing the washing up with hard water tends to leave noticeable marks on your glasses, dishes, and other kitchenware. It also feels different against your skin, with a slimier, more unpleasant feel.
- Problematic Buildups – Over time, having hard water running through your home produces build-ups in your pipes, faucets, shower heads, and perhaps most importantly, your hot-water appliances. Left unchecked, these buildups create blockages and inhibit your device’s ability to work efficiently. And when we’re talking about expensive devices like your washing machine, water heater, and dishwasher, it becomes clear why hard water is best avoided.
This is why the best answer to hard water is to install one of the best water softeners.
How Do Water Softeners Work?
Water softeners use a chemical process called ion exchange to remove calcium and magnesium from hard water.
Inside, water softeners contain an ion-exchange resin which is negatively charged, making it attractive to positively charged ions. Before the process even begins, this resin is already bound to positively charged sodium and potassium ions. However, when hard water is passed through this resin, the sodium and potassium are replaced by calcium and magnesium, due to their stronger positive charge. This leaves you with a water softener filled with resin bound to the unwanted calcium and magnesium ions.
In time the resin becomes saturated, at which point your water softener undergoes a process called regeneration. This process requires a certain amount of water and, more importantly, salt. This is why, for a water softener to function correctly, salt must always be available. Once the regeneration process is complete, the softening process can begin again.
Here is our selection of the nine best water softeners. We’ve included a range of styles from whole-home to portable devices. Scroll down to find the right one for your household needs.
1. Whirlpool WHES30E 30,000 Grain Softener
The Whirlpool WHES30E 30,000 Grain Softener is a mid-sized device capable of dealing with households containing up to four inhabitants. It comes backed by over 900 five-star ratings and has been NSF-certified to reduce the symptoms of hard water in your home, including stains and scale buildups. The advanced technology also minimizes water and salt loss by accurately calculating the amount of each required during the regeneration process. Additionally, the USA-made system has a full one-year warranty on parts and labor and also comes in a larger 40,000 grain model for larger homes.
Whirlpool WHES30E 30,000 Grain Softener
2. iSpring ED2000 Alternative Salt-Free Water Softener
If you want a chemical, salt and maintenance-free way to fight against hard water, the iSpring ED2000 Alternative Salt-Free Water Softener is your answer. Not only does it cost less than your average salt water softener, the installation process is also comparatively simple. Instead of removing the potentially harmful minerals, this device ensures they remain in the water, preventing new build-ups as well as encouraging existing ones to break down. It’s a great option for homeowners adhering to a salt-restricted diet or wishing for healthier skin and hair. Plus, unlike a soft water softener, this device will not affect the chemistry of the water.
iSpring ED2000 Alternative Salt-Free Water Softener
3. On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT RV Water Softener
If you’re looking for a portable water softener, consider the On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT RV Water Softener. This 16,000-grain device was designed with RV use in mind, meaning it’s comparatively lightweight and requires no tools or electricity to function. It’s capable of providing up to 1600 gallons of treated water, and regenerates in as little as half an hour. Thanks to its compact size, the device can fit into tight spaces, while its high-quality construction means it’s built to last. For ease of use, the water softener can be connected to your water system using a standard garden hose.
On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT RV Water Softener
4. Rheem Preferred Water Softener
While still a sizable investment at just under $350, the Rheem Preferred 32,000 Grain Water Softener remains a solid option for anyone on a tighter budget. This 32,000-grain water softener is ideal for households with a maximum of four people and claims to earn its money back over three years of use, thanks to the advanced Rheem learning technology. This smart tech addition learns your water usage patterns to ensure your water and salt consumption is optimized. It also includes top-quality valves and features an angled tank design for easier salt loading.
Rheem Preferred Water Softener
5. Waterboss Water Softener System
The Waterboss Water Softener System is supplied with an easy-to-follow DVD to make do-it-yourself installation easier. The system sports a space-saving design so it takes up less space in your home, while its 36,400-grain capacity ensures it’s more than enough for an average four-person home. The system includes a built-in sediment filter and a safety shut-off for cleaner and safer water softening operation. Additionally, a factory-installed bypass inside helps to extend the life of the filter.
Waterboss Water Softener System
6. AFWFilters 5600sxt Metered On-demand Water Softener
Thanks to the accompanying Pentair Scan and Service app, you’ll always have important stats from the AFWFilters 5600sxt Metered On-demand Water Softener at your fingertips. The device boasts a 48,000-grain capacity and includes Fleck’s most popular valve in the design. This advanced piece of kit measures water usage and only regenerates when needed to help you save on water and salt costs. It comes with USA-made components, including the structural tanks. You’ll also find a safety float and overflow to prevent the system from causing any water-related issues.
AFWFilters Metered Water Softener
7. AQUASURE Harmony Series Water Softener
The AQUASURE Harmony Series Water Softener is a stylish device capable of delivering soft water which won’t leave marks on your dishes. The 48,000-grain capacity makes it an ideal option for households with 3-5 people, while the advanced, built-in digital controls offer a user experience that’s hard to beat. Precise control of your settings, offered through the controls, lets you save gallons of water and uses less salt through more economical functioning. Plus, the device’s high-strength, corrosion-resistant construction makes this one of the most durable and long-lasting options available.
AQUASURE Harmony Series Water Softener
8. GE Water Softener and Filter
This GE Water Softener and Filter is another popular device with users to enhance the quality of water running throughout your home. From your shower head to the kitchen sink, you’ll notice the difference this 31,100-grain softener can make. It includes both a programmable operation and permanent memory, just in case the power fails during use. The advanced device also adapts to your household’s usage patterns to ensure you have clean water when you need it most. Furthermore, in addition to the softener, you’ll find a built-in filter which further removes unwanted sediment from your household water.
GE Water Softener and Filter
9. Pelican Water Heavy Duty Water Softener
With an 80,000-grain capacity, the Pelican Water Heavy Duty Water Softener is serious about softening your hard water. This large water softener can accommodate large homes of up to eight people, and includes a number of features to make your user experience run more smoothly. Notable inclusions range from its high-flow rate, down-flow regeneration, programmable electronic head, and choice of three modes of operation. Additionally, if 80,000 is a little too much for your needs, this well-reviewed device also comes in 24,000 and 48,000 models.