Several years ago there were only a handful of companies that manufactured water softening solutions for hard water. Back then, there were also very few standards and no certifications needed.
This simplified the average consumer’s decision-making process tremendously.
Fast forward to today, there are some 124 manufacturers that produce a wide range of water softeners. So, how do you determine which one is the best water softener for your home and family?
Below we have reviewed 10 systems that will solve your hard water problems. Because some will do it much better than others, we have ranked and rated them.
If you are in a hurry, check out our top choice below.
BEST OVERALL – FLECK 5600SXT
The Fleck 5600SXT is at the top of our list for a third year in a roll. Made in the USA, this system is NSF certified, comes with user-friendly LCD display, brine safety valve, and one of the highest efficiency 48,000 grain tanks available on the market.
- Best for medium to large households
- 5 years control valve warranty
- 10 years tank warranty
- A maximum of 28 GPM
Even though the 5600SXT model is our favorite water filter system, we have considered two more categories in order to ease everyone’s decision-making process.
There is a wide range of systems on the market that claim to remove hard water from your pipes, but some do it better than others.
10 Best Water Softeners Comparison Table
Read Full Review
Watts RV Softener
Read Full Review
On The Go Portable
Read Full Review
Aquasana Whole House
Read Full Review
Read Full Review
Read Full Review
Fleck Iron Pro 2
Read Full Review
Read Full Review
Read Full Review
Fleck 7000 SXT
Read Full Review
Best Water Softeners Reviews & Features
1. Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener
- High-efficiency 48,000 grain tank
- 12 GPM peak
- NSF Certified
- User-friendly LCD display
- 14” x 34” square brine tank with included safety float
- Made in the USA
- Installation kit comes with a mineral tank, brine tank, adapter and a bypass valve.
- Brine safety valve
- Remove calcium and magnesium
The Fleck 5600SXT brings together all of the foundational aspects we checked for during our review into one complete package. The water softener system features an all-in-one design that reviewers have noted is extremely easy to set up, and even easier to maintain.
The minimalistic LCD display and touchpad allows for easy adjustment of various settings on the device, as well as at-a-glance information about status errors and troubleshooting information.
The metered-on-demand system is ideal for conservation-minded individuals, as it allows for regeneration on an as-needed basis, preventing unnecessary regenerations and reducing waste in the process.
The 48,000-grain capacity should mean that the 5600SXT can handle homes with up to 6 people living in them comfortably, even if you have extremely hard water. In fact, several reviewers have mentioned that this water softener is able to handle as many as 10 users in a single home with ease.
The Fleck 5600SXT sits right at the sweet spot for pricing on this list, which is another reason it earned its top spot.
For what you receive, we feel that there is an excellent amount of bang-for-buck on display here (even if the Watts RV softener below may provide a slightly better value overall).
The guys over at Fleck have gone as far as to include a handy home test kit and USB instructions that allow you to set the product up properly for your home’s needs.
Once you’ve determined your water hardness, all you need to do is install the system and add salt to the brine mixture. It’s literally that simple.
Overall, the Fleck 5600SXT provides enormous value for its asking price. Based upon all of our research above, as well as customer feedback from various resellers, we’re extremely happy to award this completely water softening system with our Best Overall award.
2. Watts RV Water Softener
- 10,000 grain system
- 4 GPM peak with low-pressure drop
- Ultra-portable design means that the system can be taken on-the-go
- High-efficiency regeneration means less water wasted
- Uses basic table salt for operation
- Ideal for use in RV’s and campers
- Full-cradle base keeps things secure
- Custom flow valve allows easy regeneration without a disconnect
The Watts M7002 RV-Pro Softener provides some of the best value for those simply looking to get started with water softening systems, or those looking to take their rig on the road.
The condensed design of the product enables it to fit into many places larger tanks simply wouldn’t. But, this reduced footprint doesn’t mean reduced efficiency.
Thanks to a completely redesigned flow valve, the M7002 RV-Pro can increase its capacity by up to 55% during regeneration, keeping your water soft in even the most treacherous conditions.
Though the 10,000-grain setup probably isn’t ideal for a long-term, large-home installation, it is more than capable of handling a small townhome for one to three individuals without much issue.
Based on user reviews online, it would seem that most purchasers specifically felt that the RV-Pro line was a fantastic entry-level product that allowed them to reap the benefit of a water softener system without the tremendous investment usually involved with more complex products.
If you’re looking for something portable and inexpensive, you can hardly go wrong with the Watts M7002 RV-Pro line.
3. On The Go Portable Water Softener
- 16,000 grain system
- Custom-built for RV applications
- 1600 gallons of soft water in 30 minutes
- Easy-to-carry handle and other travel-friendly features
- Utilizes standard garden hose connectors
- Ideal for use in RV’s and campers
- 32-pound system
- No additional tools needed for installation
The On The Go RV water softener tops our list for portable devices based on its high capacity, fantastic efficiency, and compelling price point.
This complete water softening kit includes all of the portability and ease-of-use found in our top pick for value above, but with an expanded 16,000-grain system capacity to boot. In addition, quality of life features like the easy-turn valves and handle system make this a product truly designed from the ground up to be taken on the road.
If you’ve been searching for the right portable water softener but haven’t been able to find one that fits inside your cramped space, the 22” x 9.50” tank should be a welcome surprise.
Based on customer reviews, it seems as though most users are able to fit the product into the smallest of spaces, such as a utility bay or dock-side locker for marine installations. Either way, if you’re looking for a powerful filtration system in a portable package, this is your best bet.
4. Aquasana Whole House Water Softener
The Aquasana EQ-1000 Deluxe filtration softener is a full-home filtration system designed to last 10 years, or 1 million gallons (whichever comes first).
Aquasana claims that the product can remove up to 97% of chlorine, as well as reduce trace elements of lead, mercury, pesticides, and more. This is a more permanent, complete filtration solution than most of the other products in this guide.
Interestingly, this system is not a salt-based water softener. The unique salt-free design utilizes SCM technology to help remove hardness in your water supply, and the 7 GPM peak flow rate means that you should always have plenty of soft water at your disposal. At 44 pounds, this is a bit heavier than other systems on this list, but it isn’t designed to be a portable solution anyways.
The EQ-1000 includes the tank and a full installation kit, as well as a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty against any defects. According to customer reviews, this is very much a “set it and forget it” system; maintenance seems to be extremely minimal, which will certainly apply to home improvement folks who have way too much to do as it is.
5. ABCwaters Pentair Water Softener
Combing ease-of-use with raw performance, the ABCwaters Pentair system features the latest enhancements from top products on the market, including the addition of the Fleck 5600XST control head.
The high grade 48,000 grain capacity makes this another attractive offer at a competitive price point, especially when you factor in that the system is rated to potentially run continuously for 27 years.
The tank itself is made of a durable poly-glass material that can hold about 250 pounds of salt, according to the manufacturer. In the event of a power outage, the system includes a 48-hour internal backup power source, which could be a central selling point for users located in areas with frequent power disruptions.
In addition, multiple reviewers have noted that the system can be installed without professional help, citing the simplistic control mechanism and maintenance-free design as key components.
The Pentair water softener system comes with a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty. Since the system only regenerates whenever needed, you should be able to get many more years of operation out of it under optimal conditions.
For the price, the ABCwaters Pentair beats out many competing products with its NSF-certified design and simplified functionality. It doesn’t quite live up to the value provided by our top picks, but nonetheless, if you’re searching for a quality water softening system that’s built for the long haul, this is a solid pick.
The WaterBoss 700 softener system is a bit different from other products on this list in that it is designed to use less water than traditional systems by way of an advanced, patented filtration system.
The makers of the device claim that this new system allows for the removal of dirt and sediment as well, making this a uniquely ideal solution for those living in regions with high sediment deposits in the water supply.
Weighing in at 88 pounds, this is by no means a portable solution. That said, the WaterBoss has a 22,000-grain capacity, which is decent for the asking price.
The built-in LCD display was a hit with reviewers online, who noted that the machine was very simple to program and maintain, once the initial setup process was out of the way.
Overall, there are certainly softeners that provide more bang for the buck on this list, especially if you are in the market for something more portable, but regardless, the WaterBoss 700 offers tremendous appeal for what it does do. If you’re searching for a hands-off water softener system with minimal fuss, it’s a worthy option to consider.
7. Aquios FS-220
The Aquios FS-220 is another combination filtration system, so in other words, it’s not strictly a water softener.
The product features a carbon block system that the company claims is rated at 5 microns, allowing it to filter out even the smallest of contaminants. They also claim that the system utilizes a polyphosphate additive known as Siliphos which “inhibits scale deposits and, over time will slowly reduce scale buildup on your pipes and appliances.”
The actual water softening aspect of the system relies on a non-salt-based operation, so you won’t have to worry about replenishing its levels periodically.
Unlike a traditional system, the minerals are not actually removed but are simply prevented from building up within your plumbing infrastructure. This is obviously great for some users, but for many, the taste and health benefits of having hard elements removed from the water entirely will be preferred.
Overall, the Aquios FS-220 provides a unique filtration system with a slightly modified, no-salt softener that will work well for some, and not for others.
If you think having the carbon block filtration system would be beneficial for your water supply, this may be one compelling reason to choose this system over others on this list, but if not, you may be better suited with one of the options above.
8. Fleck Iron Pro 2
Another offering from our top-rated brand, the Fleck Iron Pro 2 is more than a water softener; it’s also a fully-functional iron filter as well. Using the included iron hardness testing kit, you can determine if iron is an issue within your water supply. If it is, the system can be set up according to your levels to ensure proper filtration.
Like several other options in this guide, the Fleck Iron Pro 2 utilizes the 5600XST control head for easy management of the system functions included with the device.
The Iron Pro 2 also comes in a variety of sizes, including 32,000, 40,000, 48,000, 64,000, and even 80,000-grain options. In all of these sizes, the product is able to remove hardened elements up to 757 grains per gallon.
The complete system comes with a full 5-year manufacturer’s warranty, and has everything you need for installation in the box, as per usual with Fleck products.
Though the Iron Pro 2 isn’t purely a water softener like our top pick, the 5600XST, customers are clear; they love the product and find that it includes just about everything you could want from an all-in-one package.
9. Fleck 7000 SXT
Another Fleck offering (starting to notice a trend?), the 7000 SXT is slightly different from the other models listed above in that it is designed for residential as well as light commercial use. Because of this, it features an extremely high flow rate at 16 GPM peak, allowing it to keep soft water flowing in even the most demanding situations.
The system’s 48,000-grain capacity is no slouch, though obviously for some commercial applications, this may not be enough.
Like most other Fleck softening systems, the 7000 SXT still relies on the mainline 5600SXT control head for most of its basic operations.
The regeneration system is on an as-needed basis, meaning the system will only back-wash as needed, ensuring that it stays at the highest efficiency possible over the long haul.
The manufacturer includes a 5-year warranty on the valves, as well as a 10-year warranty on the tank itself.
Fleck customer service seems to be a high point for many reviewers, who have mentioned on this product and others that working with the company has been a seamless, pain-free experience.
If you’re searching for a quality water softening system with some serious flow rate capabilities, it may be worth it to pony up for the more expensive 7000 SXT.
10. Aquasana EQ-SS20 SimplySoft
The Aquasana EQ-SS20 SimplySoft is another salt-free filtration system that claims to be able to present scale buildup in your pipes using a hybrid “softening” system that is also capable of removing chlorine, heavy metals like mercury and lead, and organic chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides.
By changing the ionic charge within the water, the company claims that the system can prevent hard minerals from clumping together, halting the generation of scale buildup in the process.
With a flow rate of 7 GPM, the EQ-SS20 isn’t going to compete with faster Fleck products, but they are also less expensive as a result.
For users just looking to invest a bit of money into their first filtration system, this may be ideal (provided you aren’t looking for a salt-based system to actually remove hard minerals from your water).
In terms of other models in this price range, the EQ-SS20 enjoyed some of the highest reviews we’ve seen as of this writing. The product was described by many as being hyper-functional and easy to set up, which is a comment that appears to be less common on the cheaper end of the spectrum.
If you want a pure softener, you may need to look elsewhere but for everyone else, the SimplySoft system represents a solid buy.
11. Eddy Electronic Water Descaler
The Eddy Electronic Water Descaler is one of the more inventive products on this list, featuring a wholly unique filtration system. The no-salt system instead utilizes electromagnetic waves that work to separate hard minerals, preventing them from building up within your pipes.
Again, this system does not actually affect the hardness of the water itself, meaning that if you’re after something to provide better tasting water, this won’t be ideal for your needs.
That said, the salt-free water approach is environmentally friendly and the 20 GPG filter can still do wonders for your plumbing in your home.
Not to mention, this is one of the most affordable options on this entire list, making it a uniquely attractive option for those looking to get into softening their water supplies without reducing mineral levels.
The product is highly reviewed on the internet, with users championing the product as highly effective and extremely easy to install and maintain.
Some users did mention a few of the downsides of not having the system actually soften your water, but most were pleased with their purchase and knew what they were getting into. If you’re looking for something truly unconventional, the Eddy Electronic Water Descaler is a worthy option.
How We Chose a Water Softener
This section explains the mad formula behind our reviews and ratings. In order to be transparent, it is important for us to disclose all aspects of the research.
During our reviews, we made a point to only consider water softening units that had been fully NSF/ANSI 44 certified. This is a voluntary standard that ensures that each device is capable of removing a minimum of 3,350 grains of hardness per pound of salt used.
The NSF/ANSI certification also ensures that they do not use more than 5 gallons of water per 1,000 grains of hardness removed. We consider this the baseline for being included in our list, so products that fall short of this standard were not included.
We do this for several reasons. Firstly, we recognize that these certifications were put in place to ensure that good manufacturing processes were upheld, and we’d like to do our best to reward this behavior. After all, this helps the environment by keeping our communal water supply healthier and safer to enjoy.
Secondly, during our research we’ve found that the majority of water softening products featuring high reviews online were certified regardless, so we felt it would be easier to simply focus on them for this guide.
Water Softeners Salt Efficiency
For all of our salt-based water softener system picks, we only looked at units which had the highest efficiency ratings for long-term use. Salt can represent a significant ongoing expense over time, so units that feature efficient regeneration systems were given extra consideration.
Most individuals expect a water softener to last them at least 10 years, so we needed to factor in all costs over this period of time when making our recommendations.
We know that most of our readers are environmentally conscious as well. So, we made every effort to highlight water softeners that do their best to ensure that they feature minimal salt waste, only replacing resin when it is fully depleted.
As more and more water softeners begin to include advanced filtration methods, this will only become a more popular trend in the wider industry as a whole.
Portable VS Traditional Water Softener Systems
As you learn more about the best water softener, you will likely see two specific types being offered online; portable, and traditional.
A traditional water softening system is one that is installed in a home or business on a permanent basis. This often means that they are heavier duty, and feature a more complex setup process, though this isn’t always the case.
Portable systems, on the other hand, are meant to be taken on the road, such as in a boat or RV. These water softeners are usually smaller and carry less capacity than their traditional brethren. That said, they tend to feature simpler setups and a more hands-off approach to maintenance.
Essentially, there are benefits and downsides to both types of water softeners. Which one will work best for you will largely come down to what you want to do with it. Keep in mind, either type can remove calcium and magnesium from hard water. So, this should not be your only criterion.
Single VS Dual Tank Water Softeners
Single tank water softeners differ from dual tank systems in that all of the separation and regeneration processes happen in the same tank. With a dual-tank system, the processes are separated into stages. In addition, twin tank water softeners usually have greatly expanded capacity, making them ideal for commercial applications and for use in very large homes with many residents.
So, how do you decide which one is best for you? In short, most of the products you’ll find below will be single-tank setups, because, for the majority of homeowners, this is all you will realistically need.
While having a twin tank water softener may be nice, they usually cost a considerable amount more than a single tank setup, and the gains received usually don’t amount to much for a typical American family.
That said, if you do need a dual-tank water softener, there are many quality options out there, provided you can part with the additional change to get them.
Manual vs Timed Regeneration
The regeneration process is crucial to the design and overall functionality of a water softener. Because of this, we paid close attention to the exact specifics of how it was carried out on each of the models reviewed here.
Some units feature an automatic, timed regeneration, while others require you to manually do it yourself once the system is depleted.
Again, there are pros and cons to both methods. However, in general, we’ve found that advanced time regeneration systems with the ability to sense when they are running low seem to be a sought-after feature for our readers. So, we’ve made a point to mention these on any models that have them.
Ultimately, this is a luxury first and foremost. But, these kinds of features can also save you money in the long-run as well, so we felt that they warranted consideration.
Water Softener Maintenance
Last (but certainly not least), we looked at each water softener comparatively to discover how they stacked up in terms of their ongoing maintenance requirements.
A high-quality water softening system should last you many years with minimal maintenance. So, we researched customer feedback, warranty information, and manufacturer best practices to determine which models were most likely to provide a hassle-free experience over the long haul.
How to Choose
There are several questions that need to be addressed before you make any final decisions.
What size water softener do you need?
I am glad you asked. This is quite an important consideration.
On average, each person in your household likely uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day. If we take the median number of 90 and multiply that by how many people are living in your household, we get your average daily water consumption.
For instance, if you are a family of five, that means that 90 x 5 = 450 gallons of water a day. 450 x 7 days = 3,150 gallons of water a week.
Remember this number, as you’ll need to use it in a moment when determining which capacity water softener is right for your home.
How to Calculate Your Water Hardness
Water hardness is commonly measured using grains per gallon, or GPG for short. In the US, we typically see an average of anywhere from 3-20 GPG in most of our water supply systems.
3 GPG would be considered fairly “soft” water, whereas 20 GPG would have significant amounts of mineral deposits, making it very hard.
Luckily, most areas in the country sit closer to around a 10 GPG medium in terms of hardness, which is much easier to manage with the proper system in place.
There are two ways to test your home’s specific water hardness level. The first way is to do it yourself using a water softener testing kit, many of which can be purchased online.
The second option is to have a professional plumber come out to your home and test it for you using his own kit. Either way, you go about it, knowing this number is crucial to the next steps below.
Calculate your daily water hardness removal requirements
Once you have a firm grasp on how many grains per gallon are in your water, you’ll next need to calculate how many need to be removed every day to maintain a soft water environment. To do this, you’ll simply take your average weekly water usage and multiply it by your average water hardness. Using the examples above, that would look something like this:
3,150 gallons of water x 10 GPG = 31,5000 grains that need to be removed each week. If that sounds like a lot, don’t worry, a quality system can handle it easily.
If done by a pro, calculations will look something similar to the image below. Mind you, it will also depend on the water filter being used.
How to determine your home’s water flow rate: low vs high
A crucial (but often-ignored) facet of choosing the right water softener for your family is knowing its internal “flow rate.” This refers to how quickly the softener can carry out the chemical processes needed to turn hard water into softened water for use throughout your home. The flow rate is typically measured in gallons per minute or GPM.
The idea here is that your ideal water softener should provide enough throughput in terms of flow rate to cover your total water usage.
Choose a certified water softener manufacturer
As we mentioned earlier on, we’d recommend only going with models that are fully NSF/ANSI 44 certified. This ensures that it will meet the minimum requires for safety and efficiency, and will likely also ensure that your new system will last longer before needing to be replaced.
How Does a Water Softener Work?
Water softeners work by way of a unique chemical process commonly known as ion exchange. Essentially, the “hard” elements that make up hard water (calcium, magnesium, iron, etc) are removed completely and are replaced by sodium ions.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that soft water is salt water. In fact, only trace amounts of sodium can be found in the finished product; certainly not enough to alter the taste.
So, after this initial process is complete, what happens to all of the hard minerals trapped in your tank?
This is where the process of regeneration comes into play. This enables the tank to be used repeatedly to treat your water, and as such is a crucial part of the overall softening procedure.
All water softeners come with some sort of secondary storage tank. Specialized softener salt is added to this tank along with regular water, allowing for the formation of a solution known as brine.
This is then added into the main chamber, where an ion exchange will again occur, only this time in reverse order. This cleans the main solution, replenishing it with the essential sodium ions it needs.
Why you need a water softener?
You may think that water softeners aren’t really a big deal for you and your family. But, having one can really improve your home in a number of surprising ways, besides just getting rid of all the calcium and magnesium.
For instance, hard water has been known to build up within plumbing systems, causing scale build-up, corrosion, and decreased washing efficiency. A water softener can fix all of these issues, and as a result, it can even save you money monthly on your water utilities!
In addition to saving you money this way, it can also help improve the lifespan of many of the essential appliances that you use every single day. Items like your coffee makers, ice machines, water heater tanks, dishwashers, and washing machines can all be affected by hard water.
Surprisingly, it can even improve the cleanliness of things like glassware, silverware, mirrors and more, due to the decrease in soap scum and other mineral deposits (such as calcium carbonate) left on them during cleaning.
In the shower, you’ll notice that you can use less shampoo and conditioner than before, and your hair and skin will be smoother than before. This is a subtle advantage that many people with soft water may take for granted every day, but when you live without it even for a short while, the difference is immediately apparent.
Finally, soft water simply tastes better to most people. This one is obviously a matter of personal taste, but removing excessive mineral deposits in your drinking water usually means a cleaner, more “pure” tasting water, which is especially ideal if you find yourself often drinking from the tap in your home.
Best Types of Water Softeners
Salt-based water softening systems are the most conventional on this list, and represent the bulk of the products below as well. In short, these systems work by using the ion exchange process to separate out hard minerals at the atomic level, leaving nothing but traces of sodium ions in their place.
Salt-based systems actually affect the chemical balance of your drinking water at home, actively filtering out hard minerals so that you don’t actually drink them, or encounter them in your various appliances. You can think of them as the baseline for water softening systems and the other options below as alternatives to this main method.
Salt-free softeners vary in several key ways from salt-based ones, and it is vitally important to understand them before deciding on the right product for your needs. The primary change with most salt-free water filter systems is that they do not actually make your drinking water “soft”. Instead, what they do is prevent hard minerals from clumping up in your water at home, preventing scale buildup in your pipes in the process.
Though this is part of the benefit of softening your water, there are other benefits that you aren’t receiving by opting for a salt-free water solution.
For instance, having truly soft water can be more healthy for your hair and skin, and some individuals even enjoy the taste of soft water more than hard (though this is a matter of opinion).
Magnetic Water Softeners
Magnetic systems are similar to salt-free ones in that they usually do not actually make your water any softer than it was before. Instead, they typically utilize electro-magnetism in order to prevent the buildup of scale and other hard mineral issues within your plumbing.
These systems are generally newer than the other two types of water softeners, but despite this, magnetic (and salt-free) systems can often be found for lower prices than conventional units.
That said, lower prices do not mean better in all cases. In fact, salt-based softener systems have several key advantages that you may not have considered beforehand.
Why are salt-based water softeners the best?
Salt-based water softeners are the only type that actually converts the hard water in your home to soft water. For this reason alone, they are usually more popular amongst our readers, and many experts recommend using them over the alternatives as well.
While reducing scale buildup on your pipes is one positive aspect of water softening, benefits like shinier, cleaner glassware and cookware, healthier hair, and less soap curd is all exclusive to salt-based systems.
In general, they will be a better buy for most users, but there are still situations where an alternative may be ideal.
Water Softeners Summary
Purchasing and installing a water softening system in your home is definitely not as easy as buying a water filtering bottle. But, the health benefits of getting rid of hard water once and for all are worth it.
This guide is intended to help make your decision-making process faster and easier. However, it is always recommended that you collect as much information as possible before making a final decision. This is why we always advise consumers to visit the websites of the corresponding water softener manufacturers and try to get all questions answered.
Jake is a clean water enthusiast and blogger. He has spent his university days in Chicago studying various water filtration technologies and now enjoys helping people live healthier lives when it comes to water consumption.