Most important things about water softenersWhich criterias we used to select the best water softeners

Water GPG levels

If you have very hard water, a salt water softener may be the only system that is powerful enough to bring down the GPG levels far enough.

Size

If you select a system that is too small, you won’t be able to filter out all the water that you use. If you select a system that is too large, you will be overspending on it.

Maintenance

Some of the systems require occasional maintenance to run correctly, some do not require any maintenance.

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The Best Water Softeners in Our Opinion

Cheapest good choice

AquaBliss High Output Universal Shower Filter with Replaceable Multi-Stage Filter Cartridge

best water softener by AquaBliss
Pros
Universal connections work with all shower types, including fixed, rain and handheld showers. No tools required. Contains a removable filter cartridge, which can be easily changed.

Best Choice

iSpring RCC7 High Capacity Under Sink 5-Stage Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filtration System and Ultimate Water Softener- WQA Gold Seal Certified

Pros
This under sink mounted water filter and water softener removes up to 99% of over 1,000 contaminants. Easy, do-it-yourself installation, typically in a couple of hours with industry-leading help just a phone call away. Fits under a standard kitchen sink, with all parts included and clear, well-organized instructions and videos.

Extra high capacity

PENTAIR Fleck 5600sxt 48,000 grain of UPGRADED HIGH capacity 10% resin

upgrades high capacity water softener
Pros
More resilient to chlorine in city water than standard resin Complete system including brine tank, mineral tank, valve with bypass and adapter DIY installation.

WHAT IS HARD WATER?

You may have heard the terms ‘hard water’ and ‘soft water’ before, but most people don’t know what the differences actually are. Hard water isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is actually better to drink than soft water is. It just doesn’t feel as good on your skin.

Hard water is “hard” because it contains minerals like manganese, magnesium carbonate and calcium in it. This is why hard water can sometimes leave spots on dishes and calcium deposits on your shower heads. It’s actually mineral deposits that are left behind.

Most homes come standard with hard water. Roughly 85% of homes in the United States have hard water. Hard water is more common because it requires less treatment and money to create and distribute to the residents of the area. If you are unsure what type of water you have, is most likely hard water.

There are no health dangers to having hard water. This is why it is so commonly found despite the issues it can cause. Over time, the mineral deposits can wreak havoc on your plumbing. In addition to that, it causes a variety of minor inconveniences such as the mineral deposits that we mentioned above.

TESTING YOUR WATER

There are different levels of hard water. Hard water absorbs minerals as it makes its way through underground stone embedded in the earth. The water absorbs the minerals as it travels through the ground. Since hard water is its most natural state, water treatment plants will often forgo removing these minerals since they are not harmful to your health. Treating the water will increase costs for the water treatment plants. Fortunately, there is a way that you can turn your hard water into soft water yourself.

First, you should test your water. Hard water is measured by the mineral grains found per gallon (GPG). If your water contains anything above 1 GPG, it is considered hard water. Most homes will have hard water that falls between 3.5 GPG and up to 10.5 GPG. If you have a GPG at around 10, you are in the extreme and off the spectrum. The higher the GPG, the greater the difference will be when you switch from hard water to soft water.

There are plenty of water test kits that you can find online and on Amazon. They are cheap and will tell you what the GBG of your water is. If you have anything above 3 GPG, we recommend that you strongly consider investing in the best water softener.

Expert tip

If you prefer not to drink softened water you can have a separate cold line installed for drinking and cooking purposes.

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THE HIDDEN COSTS OF HARD WATER

Many people choose not to make the switch because there is no direct cost benefit to doing so. When you invest in a water softener, you may never be able to see the direct returns of that. Aside from the immediate benefits that soft water brings, it’s hard to convince people that there is a more pressing advantage that you get from soft water. That advantage is avoiding any of the hidden problems that can develop with hard water.

It takes years, but eventually, mineral deposits can take its toll on your plumbing. If you are lucky, it will only be minor issues. In some cases, it could lead to a major disaster. Mineral deposits can cause your appliances to break and need repairs. It can also accumulate on the surface of water heaters and lead to water tank failure.

It is very common for water heaters to run at 30% less efficiently due to the problems that hard water causes. This means your energy bills will be higher running a less efficient heater.

Instead, you can avoid all of these issues simply by installing the best water softener in your home.

Expert tip

There are 3 types of salt: rock, solar, and evaporated. Rock salt is the cheapest but it contains more insoluble material. Because of this, solar and evaporated salt will keep your softener cleaner.

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WHAT IS SOFT WATER?

When water has a low concentration of calcium and magnesium ions, as well as other minerals, it is referred to as soft water. Any type of water that has a GPG of less than 1 is considered soft water. Anything above that point is considered hard water.

Soft water can be found naturally in riverbeds and in rainfall. Any place where water does not have a chance to absorb added minerals, it can be considered soft water. Because of the way we transferred and distribute water, it is almost always hard water. The process that we use gives the water a chance to absorb calcium and magnesium minerals. These are harmless minerals; however, they can interfere with many household tasks that we use our water for.

Soft water outperforms hard water for these household tasks by a wide margin. There are many benefits that soft water has over hard water including:

YOUR SKIN AND HAIR WILL FEEL SOFT

The minerals in hard water will cause your skin and hair to dry out. When you shower, the minerals in the water will bond with your skin. This can clog your pores and dry your skin out. Soft water will leave you with baby soft skin and hair every time.

IT WILL SAVE YOU MONEY ON SOAPS AND DETERGENTS

You can get away with using as much as 75% less soap when you are using soft water as compared to hard water. This is according to a study conducted by the Battelle Institute. Over the long run, the savings will add up to significant amounts.

IT WILL SAVE YOUR PLUMBING

Mineral deposits from hard water can accumulate in the piping of your plumbing and eventually cause problems. Soft water does not contain the minerals that hard water does. This will keep your plumbing working great for years to come.

In some cases, this alone could save you thousands of dollars over the years.​

IT WILL ADD YEARS TO YOUR HOT WATER HEATER

Hard water will accumulate along the interior surface of your hot water heater. It will be invisible to the eye, but it will slowly degrade the efficiency that it runs at. This will raise your energy bills and it can eventually cause your hot water heater to break. Soft water will not cause these issues with your hot water heater.

IT WILL KEEP YOUR APPLIANCES WORKING FOR YEARS

Any appliance that uses water can fall victim to a buildup of minerals from hard water. From coffee pots to washing machines, no appliance is safe from this. While you may be able to clean out a coffee maker and remove the mineral deposits, it is not is necessarily true for more expensive appliances.

A dishwasher, for example, may make it impossible for you to reach certain areas and clean them out when they are starting to clog up. In addition to that, it’s hard to tell when your appliance is underperforming because of mineral buildups. Many people simply assume the appliance is too old and it’s time to replace it. This can be an expensive decision to make.

Soft water will prevent this buildup from occurring and save you $100’s or even $1,000’s of dollars that you would otherwise spend replacing those appliances too early.

YOUR DISHES WILL COME OUT CLEANER

Hard water leaves spots behind on your dishes. These spots are mineral deposits that are left over. Soft water will not leave these spots on your dishes or silverware. As a bonus, soft water is also ideal to use when you wash your car for the same reason.

These are just some of the many advantages that soft water has over hard water.

As you read through all of the great benefits that you are missing out on by having hard water, keep in mind that there is a way to fix that. You can convert your hard water into soft water using a water softener. Below, we will talk about what a water softener is and how it works.

Expert tip

Pure salt is not the only important component. Iron-Out, a rust stain remover, can also help you maximize your softener maintenance.

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WHAT IS A WATER SOFTENER?

A water softener is able to filter out most of the minerals that are found in your tap water. It filters the minerals out in a variety of different ways depending on the type of system that is being used. It allows you to use the filtered water throughout your home in the same way that you use your current plumbing for. It works with your sinks, showers, ice machines, toilets, appliances and anything else that has a direct water line.

The main principle behind a hard water softener is that it performs one operation. The operation is to extract the unwanted minerals in the water and replace it with another mineral. In most cases, sodium is used.

Before you ask, no, this is not turning your water into salt water. When the process is complete, there will be no sodium present in your water. Instead, you will have clean soft water and all of the benefits that come with it.

TYPES OF WATER SOFTENER SYSTEMS

There are four main different types of water softeners. The most commonly found type of water softener is called and ion exchange unit. There are several other types that you may want to consider as well.

SALT BASED WATER SOFTENERS

A salt-based water softener is the most common type of system that is used in homes. To put things simply, this system exchanges minerals that contribute to hard water and exchanges them with minerals that contribute to soft water. The unwanted minerals are replaced with the preferred minerals. In this type of system, sodium is used as the added mineral.

This type of system is the most effective at removing minerals from hard water and converting it into soft water. The major downside is that it does leave some sodium in the filtered water. This makes it less than ideal to use as drinking water. People that have this type of system will leave any water sources that they drink from unfiltered. They use this type of system for their appliances exclusively.

Another downside is that the system requires occasional maintenance to run correctly. Depending on the size of your tank, you will have to refill the salt chamber once every few months.

This type of system will need to be flushed out on occasion. This occurs when the tank fills up with the minerals that it extracts from the hard water. This flushing process can be done through a meter, based on time, or manual only. You will have full control over when the system flushes out, but you will not be able to use the water while this is happening.

If you are just looking for a soft water solution for your appliances, this is the best system for you. If you are looking for something else, we recommend considering one of the options below.

SALT-FREE WATER SOFTENERS

A salt-free water softener system is not quite effective as the salt softener, but the results are very comparable. Instead of using salt, it uses nanotechnology to change the structure of the atoms in the water to significantly bring down the GPG levels. Not only that, but it also helps to clear out any existing buildup that has accumulated in the past.

Is easy to use and it does not require any maintenance. It doesn’t work as well as a salt water softener, so it is best to use for water that already has a fairly low GPG level.

REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER SOFTENERS

A reverse osmosis water softener pushes water through a special membrane that serves as a filter. The filter removes the unwanted minerals and reduces the GPG levels. This is a tank-based system. It will filter the water into a tank and shut off once a tank is filled. As you use the water, it will replace the empty tank with more filtered water.

One thing to note is that this is not a true water softener. Instead, this works more as a water filter. This is an expensive option and it is not recommended if you are looking for a water softener for your appliances and showering. It will still provide all the benefits that a water softener will give you, but there are more affordable options out there.

MAGNETIC WATER SOFTENERS

Magnetic water softeners are quickly gaining popularity. They are cheap and easy to install. The trade-off of this is that they aren’t quite as effective as the salt and salt-free water softeners.

This type of system uses magnets that are placed directly on your water pipes. This creates magnetic fields that soften your water as it flows through the pipes. It’s not a permanent solution. The water will revert back to its original hard state 48 hours after you use it.

Although it is easy to install and there is nothing to filter out or refill, it can be troublesome to use the system every 48 hours.

CHOOSING THE BEST WATER SOFTENER FOR YOUR HOME

If your main concern is drinking water, we recommend the reverse osmosis water system. Aside from that, the best system will depend on your needs and the GPG levels of your water. If you have very hard water, a salt water softener may be the only system that is powerful enough to bring down the GPG levels far enough. If your GPG levels are in the 3 to 5 range, a salt-free water softener or magnet water softener may be better options for you.

water softener maintenance

OTHER FEATURES TO CONSIDER

There are a few things that you should figure out before you decide on a particular water softener. First, figure out the GPG levels of your water using a water testing kit. You should also calculate the amount of gallons that you will be using per day on average. Combine the two numbers to determine the amount of mineral grains that you will need to remove per week.

For example, the average person uses 90 gallons of water per day. If you take that and multiply it by the GPG level of your water (let’s say it’s 4), that will give you 360 grains per day, or 1,440 grains for a family of 4 (360 x 4 = 1,440).

This will help you select the right sized system. If you select a system that is too small, you won’t be able to filter out all the water that you use. If you select a system that is too large, you will be overspending on it.