The 10 Best Water Softeners of 2019

Best Water Softener Buyers Guide 2019 - Product Reviews by ReviewThis

If you happen to have iron-rich water, you’re probably already aware of its telltale signs. These include red stains on sinks and clothing, cloudy water streaming from your pipes, and perhaps worst of all, that nagging rotten egg smell. Oftentimes, iron-saturated water comes from wells, which are also known to have hard water.

Having hard and irony water usually requires two separate systems for purification. But now, thanks to the Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener, if you happen to be plagued with both iron and minerals in your water, you may no longer need two separate systems. This combo unit does double duty and works to remove both iron and mineral content from your home water supply.

The system does have its limitations when it comes to removing iron- the company states it removes 6-8 PPM (parts per million). If high levels are suspected, you’ll need to first have your water tested to find its iron content, and if it’s over the removal threshold, you’ll want to instead consider a separate aeration system to oxidize your water.

However, despite its limitations on iron removal, the Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener proves to be an effective, all-around unit and features a special fine mesh system for more effective, longer-lasting filtration. In addition to iron, the Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener removes Manganese, sediment, sand, and rust at a speed of 16 GPM (gallons per minute).  The system effectively removes water hardness up to 75 GPG (grain per gallon)

This unit also has meter-based regeneration, which means that the system only regenerates when necessary, based on the amount of water used. Since the system actively measures your water usage, the less water you use, the less the system regenerates, thus saving you water and money.

Overall, homeowners with combination hard and iron-rich water will want to give the Iron Pro 2 Water Softener a shot, as it effectively softens hard water and may also eliminate the need for a separate unit to remove iron.

Key Features
  • All-in-one water softener and iron filter
  • 64,000 grain capacity
  • Fleck 5600SXT digital-metered valve
  • Removes hardness up to 75 GPG
  • Removes iron up to 6-8 PPM
  • Type: Grain
  • Included Components: Resin tank, fine mesh resin, control head, and brine tank with safety float
  • Material: Resin
  • Warranty: 5 years on control head, 10 years on tank
  • Dimensions: 9 x 9 x 48 inches
  • Brand: AFW Filters
  • Removes water hardness and iron
  • Eliminates red staining from iron
  • Fine mesh resin for better filtering
  • Amount of iron removal more limited than from a separate iron filter

If you’d like a water softener that allows for easy installation and ease of use, without taking up valuable floor space, you’ll want to take a look at the Tier 1 48,000 Grain High Efficiency Digital Water Softener.

The Tier 1 comes with all necessary components included and provides your whole home with soft, filtered water. The Tier 1 also includes a bypass valve and quick connections, which allow for a fast and easy installation process.

And, thanks to its small footprint, if you’re short on space and don’t want a large, bulky water softener, this unit is a great choice. The Tier 1’s smart design features its turbine meter incorporated into the bypass valve, which reduces the amount of required floor space by a whopping 4 feet.

The only negative to the Tier 1 is that its regeneration cycle is a manual one, and it requires two hours for completion. In order to avoid possible disruptions, the company recommends setting the regeneration cycle to occur at 2 a.m., a time period, when no one will likely require water consumption.

Another point to consider before purchasing: The Tier 1 is not recommended for water with high iron content (over 3 PPM) or water sourced from a well. If this applies to you, you’ll want to steer clear of the Tier 1 and consider a unit that is designed to work with high iron, well water.

If, however, you’d like a unit that features ease of installation without requiring a lot of floor space, the Tier 1 48,000 Grain High Efficiency Digital Water Softener is a smart choice. 

Key Features
  • Digital meter control valve features manual bypass
  • Turbine meter is incorporated into system bypass valve, which saves 4 feet of floor space
  • LCD display
  • 48,000 grain unit
  • Type: Grain
  • Included Components: brine tank, pre-filled mineral tank with 1.5 cubic feet of Cation Resin, control valve with manual bypass valve, 3/4 inch water line connections, brine tubing, drain line and mechanical components necessary for standard installation to pre-installed water softener connections.
  • Material: Synthetic
  • Warranty: Limited parts and labor
  • Dimensions: 10 x 54 inch mineral tank & 14 x 42 inch brine tank
  • Unique, space saving design
  • Complete whole-home system
  • Ease of installation
  • Regeneration cycle takes 2 hours, machine stops softening water during this time
  • Requires iron filter for iron levels above 3 PPM
  • Not suitable for well-water

If you’d like to go the traditional water softener route instead just a temporary electronic system, but you’re on a salt-restricted diet, you may want to look into the Hansing Whole House Water Softening System. The difference in the Hansing is that it softens water without the use of salt, but instead relies on fruit polysaccharide to combat scale.

Hard minerals found in water, calcium and magnesium, leave scale behind due to their alkalinity. The fruit polysaccharide neutralizes this alkalinity, thus eliminating 95-98 percent of scale and removing 99.5 percent of chlorine. The makers of Hansing state that calcium and magnesium are essential nutrients, and for health purposes should not be eliminated from your water, as is done with traditional water softeners that replace these minerals with salt.

The downside to the Hansing is that it doesn’t include the pipe fitting needed to install, and it is up to the consumer to find the correct one. If the wrong fitting is selected, it appears that the Hansing will leak. If you plan on purchasing the Hansing Water Softening System, ensure you select the correct pipe fitting needed for your plumbing system, or reach out to a licensed plumber for assistance.

Overall, the Hansing is a strong alternative to traditional softening systems for those on salt-free diets, and provides whole home water softening capabilities without eliminating essential minerals from the water supply.

Key Features
  • Salt-free water softening capabilities
  • Softener media comes from fruit polysaccharide and coconut activated carbon
  • Removes 99.5 percent of chlorine and odors for great tasting water
  • 280,000-grain capacity
  • Type: Grain
  • Included Components: Stainless steel tank, filter media, seal ring, o ring, base, mounting bracket, screws
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Warranty: 10 years
  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 3.9 x 23.7 inches
  • High-grain-capacity system
  • Salt-free softening
  • Inhibits scale buildup and reduces chlorine consumption
  • Difficult installation
  • Prone to leaks

Most water softening systems work by exchanging a “soft” mineral such as sodium, which doesn’t build up scale, for “hard” minerals such as calcium and magnesium. However, the drawback to these types of systems is that they are high-maintenance, and create water loaded with sodium, which is not healthy for those on a low-salt diet. The overly softened water also has the potential to leach lead from your plumbing system and pipes, which is obviously not water you want to consume or bathe in.

The iSpring works differently and utilizes a computer chip to release electromagnetic waves that cause water molecule clusters to break down into twin-molecules, which allows them to bond with hard mineral ions. The new water molecules are able to more easily carry the hard-mineral ions, which reduces the scale buildup on pipes.

The iSpring is easy to install and is essentially two antennas that wrap around your main pipe and release electromagnetic waves. Since the iSpring is not a traditional water softener, it is virtually maintenance-free and requires no salts, chemicals, or replacement filters. The best part about the iSpring is that since it reduces limescale buildup in pipes, it allows your appliances to run more efficiently. The company even claims that these reduced energy costs balance out the purchase price, and the iSpring will pay for itself within one year of use.

While the iSpring sounds like a dream come true, you’ll also want to consider its limitations. First, consider whether your water has iron, and if so, you’ll likely want to pass on the iSpring, as, according to the company, high-iron content will reduce the machine’s effectiveness.

Secondly, you’ll also want to consider the size of your home, as the treatment effects from the iSpring are only temporary, and the water molecules lose their descaling abilities after traveling 50 feet.

Lastly, you’ll need to understand that while the iSpring is designed to reduce mineral buildup in pipes it will not have any effect on your laundry. So, if your hard water leaves a soapy residue on your clothes and this is a concern for you, keep in mind the iSpring won’t do anything to reduce this.

Overall, the iSpring is a great choice for those who would like their pipes to remain descaled and free of buildup, and want their appliances to function efficiently.

Key Features
  • Eliminates hard water without chemicals or salt
  • Descales water system and prevents scale buildup in pipes
  • Works without changing the chemistry of water
  • Suitable for very hard water (10-19 grains)
  • Type: Electronic
  • Included Components: 1 electronic descaler water conditioner
  • Material: Metal
  • Warranty: 1-year money-back guarantee, lifetime product support
  • Dimensions: 7 x 3.5 x 2 inches
  • Doesn’t require chemicals or salt
  • No plumbing modifications needed
  • Works with any type of pipe
  • Low maintenance
  • Doesn’t work for water with high iron content
  • Water treatment effects only temporary

If you’d like a metered, complete home water filtration system that includes all necessary components and is simple to operate, you may want to consider the Fleck 5600SXT Metered Whole House System.

The Fleck 5600SXT comes complete with a tank, control head, resin and brine tank, and is ready to be plumbed. However, note that drainage tubing, which is necessary for the unit’s installation, is not included.

The Fleck 5600SXT can be self-installed or done with the help of a professional. If you choose to go the DIY route, the company advises that you’ll need to have some basic plumbing skills, although they do offer an installation helpline.

The system uses a flow meter in order to measure water usage levels, and regenerates when needed. The benefit to having an on-demand metered system is the reduced waste from water and salt consumption.

Another benefit to the Fleck 5600SXT is its LCD touchpad display, which allows you to easily check system status, and troubleshoot any problems thanks to the error code display. The LCD touchpad also allows you to easily make adjustments and provides quick access to all settings and features.

The Fleck 5600SXT is a 48,000-grain system that treats up to 12 GPM (28 GPM peak) and is recommended for households of six or less with moderately hard water.

If you want a metered home water softener that is easy to operate and troubleshoot, the Fleck 5600SXT may be your best choice.

Key Features
  • Digital, on-demand water meter
  • Treats 12 GPM service flow rates (28 GPM peak)
  • Works for a household of up to 6 people, with medium to hard water
  • 48,000 grain high-capacity resin
  • Type: Grain
  • Included Components: Fleck 5600 SXT Metered Softener Valve 1 inch noryl plastic male threaded bypass USA Black Tanks Upgraded Paddlewheel Meter 1/2 inch Drain Barb Safety Float Overflow Elbow for brine tank
  • Material: Resin
  • Warranty: 5 years on control head, 10 years on tank
  • Dimensions: 37 x 16 x 16 inches
  • Complete, whole-house system
  • Digital control feature for ease of use
  • Flow meter measures water usage and reduces waste
  • Tedious installation process
  • Doesn’t include drainage tubing required for installation

If you’d like to soften the water in your boat or RV, you may want to consider a portable water softener. Until recently, portable units were limited in their water softening abilities, were too bulky to install in cramped quarters, and were difficult to transport.

The On the Go OTG-4-DBLSOFT Portable Water Softener seeks to change that, by offering a unit that is known for its ease of transport, flexibility of install location, and overall effectiveness at softening hard water.

The On the Go features an easy carry handle, to allow for effortless transport, and its compact size of 22 inches high and 9.5 inches in diameter allows for simple storage. The unit also features a large mouth opening, which allows for the easy addition of salt.

Installing the On the Go is also simple, as it utilizes a standard garden hose connection, and requires no tools or electricity. Regeneration of the unit is also simple and requires only 30 minutes and two boxes of table salt.

It’s important to note, however, that this unit requires regeneration once every 40 days, or performance is greatly affected. And since regeneration requires two boxes of table salt, plan on purchasing about 24 boxes a year which adds to the cost of ownership.

Another negative of the On the Go is the machine’s limited water softening capabilities. While the company claims the On the Go will soften water 40 percent better than competing units, this compact, portable 16,000 grain model simply cannot compare with the performance abilities of a whole home 48,000 grain system.

However, despite its drawbacks, the On the Go does appear to be the best portable water softener on the market. So, if you’re living the RV lifestyle and loving it (minus the hard water at the rest stops!) the On the Go OTG-4-DBLSOFT Portable Water Softener is your best buy.

Key Features
  • Portable unit designed for use in a boat or RV
  • Softens water for up to 1,600 gallons or 40 days
  • Uses standard garden hose connection
  • Type: Grain
  • Included Components: Tank, hardness test strips, storage inlet/outlet caps, handle, inlet hi-flow shut-off valve, back-flush adapter, high pressure 4’ white drinking hose, and a full cradle base
  • Material: Resin
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Dimensions: 22 inches (height) x 9.50 inches (diameter)
  • Largest compact water softener available
  • Produces 40 percent more soft water than comparable units
  • Compact, space-saving design allows installation in tight spots
  • Handle allows for effortless transport, and wide mouth opening for ease of adding salt
  • Needs regeneration once per month, requires two boxes of salt
  • Less water softening ability compared to non-portable units

If you’re looking for a whole house water filtration system that will last a guaranteed 10 years or 1 million gallons of water, the Aquasana Whole House Water Filtration system is designed to do just that.

The Aquasana works to soften water by utilizing a brand specific filter media system, that removes chlorine, contaminants, and heavy metals from water without the addition of salt or chemicals. The only downside is that the filter media must be replaced approximately once every three months, but more often for particularly hard water.

The system also contains a UV filter that eliminates harmful bacteria such as E Coli from your home’s water supply. The Aquasana effectively descales your pipes without removing essential vitamins and eliminates scaling and corrosion.

The Aquasana comes complete with a pro-install kit that includes everything needed for a DIY installation, although PEX tubing is not included. 

Note that, in order to honor their warranty, the company requires video evidence showing where the problem exists in the system. These types of service issues are definitely important considerations to keep in mind prior to purchasing the Aquasana Whole House Water Filtration System.

Key Features
  • Whole home, 10-year filtration system
  • Filters up to one million gallons of water over product lifetime
  • Includes filtration tank, pre-filter, post-filter, and all necessary fittings
  • Removes 97 percent of chlorine
  • Reduces heavy metals such as lead and mercury
  • Type: Hybrid
  • Included Components: Filter tank, brass fittings, sub-micron post-filter, 20-inch pre-filter, bend supports, and shut-off valves
  • Material: KDF/Carbon
  • Warranty: 10 years
  • Dimensions: 9 x 46 x 44 inches
  • Whole home system
  • Works without the use of salt
  • Unique upflow tank grabs impurities from water
  • UV filtration removes bacteria such as E coli
  • To honor warranty, manufacturer requires video recording of the issue
  • Filter must be changed every few months

If you find that your biggest issue with your water is scaly buildup and decreased water pressure, you’ll want to look into the Yarna Whole House Electronic Water Softener and Descaler.

The Yarna is not a typical salt and filter water softener, but instead relies on induction coil technology to turn hard minerals such as calcium and magnesium into harmless microcrystals that won’t scale up in your pipes.

As with other electronic water softeners, the Yarna only provides temporary results. It doesn’t actually remove the hard minerals from your water, but instead conditions them so they pump through your pipes without building up scale. This leads to increased water pressure, and no residue or mineral deposits on your faucets and showerheads.

The Yarna also acts as a sanitizer for your pipes, since scale is a breeding ground for bacteria, and the machine crystallizes hard minerals away. The Yarna’s electronic impulses will prevent oxidation and corrosion and can even restore pipes to their full diameter.

Although installation is a quick, painless 15-minute process that requires no tools, bear in mind that the Yarna relies on electricity in order to function, so you’ll need a power outlet close by the pipe. The company states that the Yarna’s electrical cable is 5 feet in length; however, if you don’t have a power source within this range, you’ll have to utilize an extension cord.

The unit is effective for up to 1.2 miles from the installation point, and the conditioning effect can last up to 7 after the water exits the pipe.

Overall, the Yarna Whole House Electronic Water Softener and Descaler is a great alternative to traditional water softeners and effectively eliminates scale and harmful bacteria from your home’s plumbing system.

Key Features
  • Electronic Water Softener uses induction coil technology to turn calcium and magnesium into microcrystals that no longer build up scale
  • Easy, 15-minute installation
  • Sanitizes pipes by eliminating scale deposits
  • Electronic impulses generate a metal-carbonate protective layer that prevents pitting corrosion
  • Type: Electronic
  • Included Components: 1 charger, 2 Active Impulse Bands, fixing materials
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Warranty: 10 years
  • Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.8 x 2 inches
  • Maintenance-free
  • Easy installation
  • Descales and sanitizes
  • Unit requires electricity, may need to run extension cord depending on install location
  • Doesn’t remove minerals, results only temporary

If you’ve had your water tested and your iron levels are above 8 PPM, you’ll need an iron filtration system separate from your water softener, as a combo just won’t cut it. A strong contender for an iron filtration system is the Durawater Air Injection Iron Eater Filter.

The Durawater works by maintaining a pocket of air at the top of the tank while the system is in use. As water travels through the air pocket, iron and sulfur contents are oxidized, thus eliminating them from your supply.

In addition to removing iron and sulfur, the Durawater also removes some of the strong odors associated with well water. However, as this system does not soften water, the company recommends the Durawater be installed prior to installing a water softener for those with iron-rich or well water.

The Durawater features an easy DIY installation process, although the company advises basic plumbing knowledge is required for product install. The Durawater features a Fleck 5600SXT digital control valve that automatically flushes the system daily. Another unique feature about the Durawater is that it utilizes a patented piston in the control valve, so the whole oxidation system can stay in one tank, which keeps required maintenance to a minimum.

The downside to the Durawater is that it lacks water softening abilities, and instead focuses solely on iron and sulfur removal. However, if you have heavily iron-rich water, you’ll need to purchase this system or a similar type unit before you begin thinking about water softening.

Key Features
  • Removes iron up to 12 PPM
  • Removes sulfur up to 10 PPM
  • Removes Manganese up to 2 PPM
  • Air injection creates air pocket for optimal oxidation and filtration
  • Type: Iron Filter
  • Included Components: 1.0 cubic feet centaur carbon, 10 × 54 inch mineral tank, 1 inch plastic bypass, Fleck 5600SXT digital control valve
  • Material: Fiberglass
  • Warranty: Standard Amazon Return Policy
  • Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 54 inches
  • Effectively removes iron, sulfur, and Manganese
  • Provides oxidation and filtration of water
  • Effective on well water
  • Does not soften water

If you’d like to buy a water softener but are a little standoffish about purchasing from an unknown manufacturer, the Whirlpool WHES30 30,000 Grain Water Softener may be a great fit for your home. While this softener is on the smaller side — it’s recommended for households of 1 to 4 people — it’s a quality, USA made product backed by Whirlpool’s parts and labor warranty, and customer service helpline.

The Whirlpool offers a water hardness removal of 95 GPG, which again, is on the smaller side, but also offers iron removal of 8 PPM, making this an effective unit if you have combination hard and iron-rich water.

This unit also features demand-initiated regeneration, so the system senses the amount of water used and adjusts for hardness levels. This saves both salt and water and means the system won’t needlessly regenerate while you’re away on vacation. This also allows the system to not run out of soft water if you happen to use more than usual.

The Whirlpool comes with a DIY installation kit, so that you don’t have to hire an outside contractor to install it. The unit also comes with a low salt indicator, so that you aren’t left guessing about when to add more. And, not only does the Whirlpool work with typical hard city water, it also is compatible with iron-rich well water, unlike other competing units.

If you are looking for a water softener from a well-known manufacturer, would like combination iron/water softening, and have a smaller household, the Whirlpool WHE30 will be your perfect fit. 

Key Features
  • 30,000-grain unit
  • Softens water at 95 GPG
  • Removes 8 PPM of iron
  • Ideal for 1-4 person households
  • System automatically calculates required salt and water levels for regeneration
  • Type: Grain
  • Included Components: Softener system, bypass valve, installation kit, instruction manual
  • Material: Plastic
  • Warranty: 1 year on parts and labor, 3 years limited electronics, and 10 years limited on tank
  • Dimensions: 19 x 18 x 43.5 inches
  • System automatically calculates required salt and water levels for regeneration
  • Low salt indicator
  • Demand initiated regeneration process uses less salt and water
  • Includes DIY installation kit
  • 95 GPG is lower ability then competing softeners
  • Not recommended for households with more than 4 people

Water is the ultimate multitasker. It cleanses our faces, washes our hair, extracts dirt from our laundry, and leaves our dishes sparkling clean, all with the help of little more than a squirt of soap. But if you’ve got hard water, it can also leave your skin feeling rough, your hair dry and dull, your laundry with residue, and your dishes with filmy, gray spots.

Even worse than simply having excess minerals, some water types including well water and certain municipalities, have iron in their supply, which can leave red stains on everything the water comes in contact with and smells like rotten eggs.

Another unfortunate fact for those with hard water: calcium contributes to scale buildup in pipes and appliances thus reducing their overall efficiency and places a greater strain on them in order to run. This combination leads to low water pressure, reduced appliance life, and higher electric and water bills.

Fortunately, there exists a simple solution to combat this problem of undesirable “extras” in our water supply. Water softeners promise to remove or neutralize excess minerals, heavy metals, and bacteria, thus reducing scale buildup on appliances, and allowing everything to flow and function more efficiently.

Most water softeners work by infusing a “soft” mineral, such as salt, into your water supply to replace “hard” minerals which are present, such as calcium and magnesium. Although this is a safe and effective option, some find that these types of systems require too much maintenance, as filters and salt will often need to be replaced. Traditional water softeners also require plumbing knowledge for DIY installation — otherwise, you’ll need a licensed contractor to install your system, or you risk damaging your supply line, which is a MUCH greater problem than having hard water.

If you don’t care to go the traditional route, but would still like to descale your pipes and appliances, you may want to consider an electronic device which offers descaling and conditioning of your water. While it has its limitations, such as the distance from the unit that the water must travel, electronic devices do offer easy installation, and once installed are virtually maintenance-free.

However, before you rush to purchase one of these electronic devices, you’ll need to be aware that the results are only temporary, and they don’t actually remove the hard minerals, but rather, they condition the water to flow freely through your pipes. This means that your showers will have clean, soft water, but your laundry (since the water spends time sitting in the basin) won’t be affected.

And, if you happen to be unlucky enough to have combination hard and irony water, many water softeners, such as the electronic ones, are not designed to remove iron from the supply. In fact, iron may hinder a water softener’s effectiveness. To combat iron in your water supply, you’ll need to look into purchasing a separate oxidation system, or, a combo unit that softens and removes iron. The limitation from combo units, however, is that they only work on water that is moderately iron-infused. Therefore, you’ll want to have your iron levels analyzed to check if the numbers fall above the limits for combination water softeners, and if so, you’ll need to purchase a separate oxidizer prior to installing a softener.

With so many options available and a plethora of different types, how do you know which water softener you’ll need? We’ve created this list to guide you in your choice, and rated the softeners based on effectiveness, and also addressed any limitations or shortcomings. Read on for our top picks of the best water softeners.

Resources— Popular Mechanics, Scientific American

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