The idea of softer water may sound foreign but it’s actually crucial to the development of a healthy water cycle.

Water softeners work by removing minerals that create water hardness — a common water quality problem that many homeowners encounter.

Hard water can destroy kitchen appliances, leave scum residue, dry out people’s skin and hair, leave cloudy water marks on counters, sinks, showers, dishes, utensils, and can even damage dishwashers, washing machines, toilets, and water heaters (among others.)

TOP PICK

Pentair Water Softener
  • Very effective
  • Long-lasting service life
  • Easy installation
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RUNNER UP

Pentair Water Softener
  • Very effective
  • Long-lasting service life
  • Easy installation
Check Price

RUNNER UP

Pentair Water Softener
  • Very effective
  • Long-lasting service life
  • Easy installation
Check Price

Best to buy in 2020

The Pentair Water Softener is ranked as our best choice because it is affordable, effective, NSF certified, has easy controls, and has automated regeneration properties. It’s size is also impressive, as the Pentair contains a 48,000 grain capacity.

Pentair Water Softener

Pros:

  • Very effective

  • Long-lasting service life

  • Easy installation

  • Large grain capacity

  • Built-in regeneration system

  • Durable

Cons:

  • Expensive

  • Bulky size

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The system’s built-in regenerator measures the amount of water used in your home and regenerates itself when it either reaches its maximum capacity or follows your home’s preset cycle, whichever one comes first.

The automated feature can save consumers a lot of salt, water, and electricity. Combined with the timed cycle, the system ensures you always have soft water while preventing the excessive usage of salt and energy.

The powerful ion exchange system is easy to use, has a great flow rate, and comes with an LCD display that shows your system’s current status and it can also cross-reference the user manual when troubleshooting.

The Pentair comes with a five-year valve warranty and a ten-year tank warranty that’s been rested to run for up to 27 years, talk about durability.

The NSF-certified system comes at a decent price considering its effectiveness at just under $600 ($598).

Whats are Water Softeners?

Naturally, water is made up of a variety of minerals (such as calcium and magnesium) and what makes water ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ depends on how many of such minerals are in your water. Soft water contains lower levels of calcium and/of magnesium than hard water.

The decision to soften your water is a personal choice, subjective to every person’s home. According to Minnesota’s Department of Health, if your water’s hardness is greater than 7 grains per gallon (or 120 mg/L), you might need a water softener to ensure your appliances run efficiently and to improve the taste, smell, and look of your water.

Runner up for 2020

The Whirlpool WHES40E is ideal for a household with anywhere from one to six people and is good for our runner up of best water softener choices.

Whirlpool WHES40E 40,000 Grain Water Softener

Pros:

  • Saves a lot of energy

  • High flow valve

  • Large grain capacity

Cons:

  • Not the best flow rate

  • Expensive

  • Not suitable for large families

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Whirlpool’s WHES40E automatically calculates the amount of salt and water that is required to regenerate and uses it when necessary, resulting in a significant reduction in both salt and water usage.

The NSF-certified system comes with a one-year warranty and a high flow valve that can be fitted to a 1 ¼ plumbing system. The product has a 40,000 grain capacity and can remove up to 125 grains per gallon of hard water and 10 ppm of clear iron water. The system is an ideal softener for households that have a high level of hardness and iron.

The Whirlpool WHES40E requires a 110-120 volt power outlet and comes with a 24-volt transformer.

Apart from its large grain capacity, the product has an adequate flow rate (8.5 gpm) and great customer service support.

All in all, the product is good enough to be our choice for second-best water softener systems but its $570 price tag drags it down a scooch.

How do you measure water softness?

Water hardness is measured through a test kit or an independent laboratory. If you get your water from a community water system, you can contact your municipality directly for information about your water’s level of hardness.

Hard water doesn’t generally have too many negative health effects (unless you have other water-related issues, then it can be common). But, hard water can be detrimental to your other appliances. Consider it can shorten the lifespan of a water heater from eight to ten years to about four to six. So, you could be essentially slicing some appliance’s durability in half which results in more money in the long run.

To reduce the effects of hard water, you’ll want to consider buying a water softener. The basic principle of water softeners is a filtration system that attempts to remove high concentrates of the aforementioned calcium and magnesium that causes hard water. With water flowing through a softener (also called ion exchange units), the system works to filter out minerals that makes the water hard and the softened water then leaves it as a highly-concentrated salt or potassium solution and it flows through a home’s (or business’) plumbing.

Simply put, water softeners make water less harsh on your pipes and internal water set up.

Best Heavy Duty System

While not exclusively a softener, the Aquasana Rhino is a 2-in-1 filtration and softener system that filters and softens your water. Unlike other competitors, it’s a water softener and a whole-house filtration system.

Aquasana Rhino Whole House Water SimplySoft Filtration System

Pros:

  • Includes a pro-grade installation kit

  • Salt-free unit protects pipes and appliances

  • Two-in-one filtration system

Cons:

  • Expensive

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  • It removes pesticides, heavy metals, fluoride, chlorine, and others from your water at the point of entry and its unique dual-tank design can increase water contact while preventing clogging.
  • The system’s salt-free unit offers more protection to your home’s pipes, appliances, and fixtures from corrosion and even scale build up.
  • The product does not increase the sodium content of water or remove essential minerals and little maintenance is required, needing only to change the filters once every 10,000 gallons.
  • The Rhino comes with a pro-grade installation kit that includes a pre and post filter, brass fittings, and shut-off valves that makes for easier installation and upkeep.
  • The Aquasana RHino is certified NSF 42, removes 97% of chlorine in tap water, and does not require electricity to function.
  • It’s good for systems with extremely hard water (up to 25 GPG) and has a large capacity as it doesn’t require salt.
  • Because it’s a whole-house filtration system, it comes with a big time price tag of $1,799 tacked on to a 10-year warranty. Once you have it in place however, it has minimal maintenance fees so ongoing costs are relatively cheap.

Best for Well Water

The iSpring RCC7P-AK is a point of use (POU) model instead of a point of entry (POE) system, which makes it stand out for our list. The iSpring is also a great choice when it comes to home with well water systems. Most reverse osmosis systems usually require high water pressure, but this model has a booster pump so homeowners with water pressure below 40 psi can still be fine.

iSpring RCC7P-AK

Pros:

  • Fast flow rate

  • Environmentally friendly

  • Transparent filters

Cons:

  • Maximum TDS of 750 ppm

  • High price tag

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  • The booster pump ensures high efficiency, reliability, and consistent performance regardless of pressure variations and is quiet enough that it won’t really bother you under the sink.
  • The iSpring water softener removed up to 99% of over 1,000 contaminants including lead, chlorine, fluoride, arsenic, asbestos, calcium, sodium, and more. The WQA-certified product has a transparent filter which makes filter check ups easy and comes with a one-year warranty.
  • The 75-gallon per day capacity unit also comes with a dedicated faucet that is primarily used for drinking and washing, hence why the system has such a low GPM compared to alternative products.
  • iSprings can handle a maximum TDS of 750 ppm and was designed for DIY installation, making it easier than most units it’s compared to.
  • It has a fast flow rate, water remineralization, and is environmentally-friendly. When it comes to systems for well water, the $429.99 iSpring should be your go-to choice.

Best Magnetic/Electronic Descaler

Similar to its iSpring RCC7P-AK cousin, the iSpring ED2000 is unique in that it’s a whole-house electronic descaler. The ED2000 solves hard water without the use of chemicals, salt, or maintenance, all while keeping healthy minerals in the water by preventing scale deposits from forming and allowing existing scale to break down.

iSpring ED2000

Pros:

  • No maintenance

  • Won’t affect flow rate

  • Easy installation

  • One-year warranty

  • Extends lifespan of appliances

  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Only softens water for 48 hours at a time

  • No WQA or NSF certification

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  • Besides being inexpensive ($159.00), these products are good for the environment and ideal for consumers who don’t want any salt in their filtered water.
  • The iSpring is designed for very hard water sources (10 to 19 GPG) and they’re known for extending the lifespan of appliances. The installation is easy, requires no traditional plumbing, zero maintenance, and it easily attaches to a home’s entry pipe.
  • A downside that comes with the iSpring ED2000 is that it only softens water for 48 hours at a time. But, since it doesn’t change the chemistry of water as with other softeners, its minerals remain present and it also doesn’t require the constant additions of salt or cartridge replacements that are present in traditional systems.
  • By using the ED2000, deposits on sinks, shower heads, and faucets can easily be wiped off. Water treated through the iSpring system will also allow soap to lather into people’s skin and hair easier without leaving dryness or itchiness.
  • In addition to the ED2000, it’s recommended that for water that has 25+ grains of hardness, to use a traditional water softener in addition to this unit. Water that has a high iron content (over 0.3 ppm) should use an iron removal filter prior to using this product.
  • Since the ED2000 is not as powerful as ion exchange systems, it’s a good idea to use the ED2000 in conjunction with other water softeners.

Best salt-free system

The Nuvo H20 Dphb-a is our choice for the best salt-free system. Instead of removing beneficial minerals like traditional salt softeners, the Nuvo system uses a citrus-based formula that binds hard minerals, lowers pH levels, and softens water. However, once the process’ minerals are bound to the citrus-based formula, they cannot form mineral deposits (or scales).

Nuvo H2O Dphb-a Home Water Softener System

Pros:

  • Salt-free

  • No scale from hard water

  • Eco-friendly

  • Easy to change cartridges

  • Flast flow rate

Cons:

  • Pricey

  • No smart regeneration

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  • The salt-free process can extend the life of household appliance, hot water systems, and plumbing fixtures. Ideally, the Nuvo H20 Dphb-a works best for homes with one to two residents.
  • The system is NSF 42 certified and uses the same FDA-approved chelation tech that top-line hotels and restaurants trust for drinking, bathing, and gardening.
  • It provides a 1:1 water turnover ratio, which can significantly reduce its waste water management.
  • The Nuvo H20 still leaves calcium in the system but the citrus-based formula (known as CitraCharge) bonds with calcium ions which prevents them from forming scale.
  • The Nuvo has a fast flow rate (15 gpm) and comes in a sleek and compact design. The system comes with a bit of a hefty price tag ($728.95) but considering it’s a top-notch salt-free system, you really can’t go wrong. Plus, it has a five-year limited warranty to make its big price feel a bit safer.

Best budget

Everyone wants to save a few bucks and it’s no different when it comes to purchasing a water softener. With that said, the EcoPure Salt-Free system is our choice for the best priced water softener.

EcoPure Salt-Free Water Softener

Pros:

  • Great value

  • Salt-free

  • 6 month filter life

  • East installation

Cons:

  • Does not remove iron, lead, or arsenic

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  • The salt-free system works to strip away hard water minerals such as iron and manganese from water using an NSF certified additive called polyphosphate.
  • The 2-in-1 system is ideal for people looking to save money and it reduces sediment, chlorine tastes, odor, and is very easy to install. Users can install the salt-free condition system in a matter of minutes thanks to EcoPure’s easy-to-follow installation guide. The EPAWCS is specifically designed for 1-inch water pipes and comes with 1-inch plumbing connectors. At $208.89, the great valued system comes with a two-year limited warranty and its filters need only be changed twice a year.

How hard is your system’s water?

As previously mentioned, water hardness is measured in grains per gallon. Anything over 7 grains per gallon (GPG) indicates your system might benefit from a water softener. Once you know how hard your system’s water is, you can choose a system that works best for your home and/or business.

There are five varying levels that dictate how hard your water is:

  • Slightly hard water: 0-3 GPG

  • Moderately hard water: 3-7 GPG

  • Hard water: 7-10 GPG

  • Very hard water: 10-14 GPG

  • Extremely hard water: over 14 GPG

Type of systems

When it comes down to narrowing down which water softener you’ll need, understanding the different systems is a major step. Not to mention, it’s important to know which system works best with your home or business.

Here are four different water softener systems to consider, going forward:

In traditional homes with very hard water (10-14 GPG), ion exchange systems will be most effective in softening water. They tend to take up a good amount of space so you might want to consider compact items if you’re in a small home, apartment, or RV.

Price/budget

  • The most expensive system is not always the best option for your home. Generally, more expensive systems will equal more effective results but some households don’t require big time  comprehensive industrial systems.

  • Residential systems will typically hover in the $500 to $2,500 range and higher grain softeners are more expensive than lower grain ones.

  • Consumers who opt for an ion exchange model will need to consider adding $5 to $10 for softening salt a month as a softening cleanser formula to keep your system running as smooth as possible.

  • Ion exchange systems also produce more wastewater during backwashes which usually results in increased hydro and water bills.

  • Descalers usually tend to be more affordable than prototypical softeners so buyers on a tight budget might want to consider the electronic/magnetic route.

  • If you’re not really concerned about price, we’d recommend sticking with either salt-free or two-in-one reverse osmosis systems as they tend to be regarded as the stronger choices.

  • If your water is extremely hard (over 14 GPG), you’ll want to consider the salt-based ion exchange system – it will extend the life of your appliances and save you money in the long run.

Additional features

Some nice add-on features include automatic features like systems that can add its own salt, notifications when properties are running low, LCD screens that show the system’s status, easy-to-use controls, and of course, warranties.

And without further ado, here are our varieties of the best water softener products to pick in 2020.