If you’ve heard someone describe their water as “hard,” but you weren’t sure what that meant, we’re going to explain that to you today. You may have hard water in your house without even realizing it.
Hard water can inconveniently leave your dishes dingy, but on a more serious scale, it can corrode your pipes with limescale buildup. Limescale buildup inside water pipes will significantly decrease your water pressure and cause your water to move more slowly through the pipes.
Hard water is determined by having a large amount of dissolved calcium, magnesium, and other hard water minerals. Not only can hard water damage the water pipes, but it can also damage hair, clothes, and machinery that comes in contact with the hard water.
Some people may want to soften hard water simply to improve the taste of the water. Hard water often has a strong mineral taste that is unappealing to most. For this reason alone, it is common to use a water softener or water conditioning system to soften hard water.
A water softener will combat hard water by adding sodium to the water supply to change the mineral composition and overall mineral buildup that occurs in the water. Don’t worry. We have included the best water softeners on this list, along with a guide to help you identify hard water and what you can do to fix it.
The 8 Best Water Softeners - Reviews and Specs
Best Overall Water Softener
GE Appliances Smart 40,000 Grain Water Softener
The GE Appliances Smart 40,000 Grain Water Softener is our choice for the best overall water softener for the following reasons.
First, you can customize the softness of the water. Not all hard water requires the same level of softness. With the GE Appliances Smart 40,000 Grain Water Softener, you can dial in the exact level of water softness you need.
Second, a low salt reminder will sound when salt levels fall below a designated amount. Water softeners only work when there is sodium added to the water. If the salt is low in the softener, then the water will not become softened. The low salt reminder will let you know when the salt level is low in the water softener so that you can keep it filled continue softening your water.
Aside from the water-softening features of this GE Appliances water softener are some really beneficial and convenient features related to water pressure, water flow, and consumption tracking. This feature can help you improve your overall water usage and potentially lower your water bill from month to month.
Because the GE Appliances water softener is a smart water softener, it can be connected to your home’s Wi-Fi internet to relay information from the water softener to your smartphone application. The water softener will alert you through your smartphone application when there is a potential leak or running faucet in your home. This can prevent a potentially serious catastrophe from happening.
The water softener will also alert you when the salt levels are low in the softener. Low salt will prevent the hard water from becoming softened, ultimately rendering the water softener useless.
Finally, the water softener will allow you to monitor your water usage to determine if you are using too much water each month. The water usage also shows the flow rate.
Because hard water affects the water pressure and flow rate, you can monitor how well your water softener works through the water pressure and water flow rate information found in your smartphone application. There is also an automatic shutoff you can take advantage of through the smartphone application if you need to immediately shut your water off.
- Smart water softener connects to Wi-Fi to relay vital information
- Adjustments to the water softener can be made directly within the smartphone application
- Automatic shutoff, water flow alerts, consumption tracking, and salt level monitoring can be done through the smartphone application
- Water softness can be adjusted as needed
- May need to add a Wi-Fi extender to your home to boost the internet transmission between the water softener’s location and your phone
User Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars
Best Budget Water Softener
Whirlpool 30,000 Grain Water Softener
The Whirlpool 30,000 Grain Water Softener is the best budget water softener for more reasons than just being affordable. It offers a variety of functions that many of the premium water softeners offer.
The Whirlpool 30,000 Grain Water Softener automatically calculates how much salt is needed to successfully soften the water being used. There is no calculation you need to make to adjust the salt during each usage; the Whirlpool water softener will automatically calculate the salt and use it accordingly.
There is a low-salt light on the Whirlpool water softener interface that will flash when the salt in the water softener is low. When the light is lit up solid, the water softener is operating normally.
The Whirlpool 30,000 Grain Water Softener comes with a one-year part and labor warranty with an additional 2-year warranty you can purchase if you choose.
- Extremely functional with various methods of water softening and alerts built into the water softener
- Easy to install
- One-year parts and labor warranty included
- Not Wi-Fi compatible; all functions must be set directly on the water softener machine, and all readings must be done from the water softener interface
User Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars
Best Premium Water Softener
APEC Water Systems FUTURA-15 Premium Water Softener
The APEC Water Systems FUTURA-15 water softener isn’t just the best premium water softener on the market, it is also the safest water softener on the market. This is because the premium water softener doesn’t use any salt or chemicals to soften the water.
Instead, it converts the hard minerals into crystals. Once crystallized, the minerals become harmless and unable to attach to the walls of the water pipes, your skin, your clothes, or your dishes.
The FUTURA-15 premium water softener is the best premium water softener on the market today because it is the overall healthiest and safest water softener on the market. Without using salt to soften the water, extra sodium isn’t added to the water. This means you don’t consume or absorb additional sodium levels through water softeners that use salt to soften the water.
Without adding salt or chemicals to the water, the water is safe for pets, plants, and people who may need to limit their overall daily sodium intake.
The FUTURA-15 comes with a 10-year limited warranty with lifetime customer service.
- Healthiest, safest, and cleanest water softener
- Does not use salt or other chemicals to soften water
- 10-year limited warranty
User Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars
Water2Buy W2B800 Water Softener
The Water2Buy W2B800 is another smart water softener that can accommodate a building with up to 10 bathrooms. The water softener can generate 1,060 gallons of filtered water every day. There are a variety of functions included with this water softener, all of which can be controlled directly from the smartphone application.
You can manually override the system if you need to start a new regeneration cycle as needed. You can do this on the water softener unit itself or conveniently from the smartphone application. There is a digital meter that measures how much water is being used to automatically regenerate as needed.
An adjustable hardness regulator will automatically adjust the salt required for the water to flow freely through the pipes. The water automatically regenerates at 3:00 am when water usage is at its lowest.
The smartphone application also has built-in reminders, such as monthly salt reminders. This reminder notifies you when you need to top off the salt in the water softener.
- Smart water softener that uses Wi-Fi and a smartphone application to control the appliance as needed
- Water automatically regenerates daily at 3:00 am
- Large water capacity can generate 1,060 gallons of water daily; enough for up to 10 bathrooms
- Adjustable hardness regulator, digital meter, and built-in reminders all included with the water softener
- No manufacturer’s warranty included
User Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
EcoPure EPHS Conditioner Water Softener System
The EcoPure EPHS Conditioner Water Softening System will reduce lead, chlorine, sediment, calcium, magnesium, and iron by adding salt to your water through precise calculations. The water softener will calculate the exact amount of salt needed to soften the water and reduce the hard mineral buildup.
This water softener is a whole-home system that will accommodate up to 6 rooms, including bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
The easy-to-use interface located at the top of the water softener allows you to control different features of the appliance, including setting your desired salt level, regenerating the water, or setting your salt alarm.
When this water treatment system is low on salt or recommends a cleaning, the “low salt/clean” light will come on to notify you that you should run a cleaning cycle and then add more salt to the water softener.
- Salt saving technology calculates the exact amount of salt needed to soften water
- Reduces many different buildups of minerals, including iron, magnesium, calcium, lead, and chlorine
- Easy to set up and use
- Low salt indicator light
- 5-year warranty available to purchase
- No smartphone application or Wi-Fi technology
User Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars
Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Softener
The Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Softener uses electric impulses to crystalize the minerals within the water and prevent them from attaching to the sides of the pipes to create limescale buildup. Instead of using salt to remove the magnesium and calcium to prevent limescale buildup, the Yarna electronic water softener simply crystallizes the minerals to keep them from building up within the pipes.
Adding salt to water can increase sodium levels in people, plants, and animals. Suppose your pets or family members have a sensitivity to sodium or suffer from high blood pressure. In that case, you should avoid a water softener that uses salt to eliminate minerals from your water.
Instead, you should choose a water softener that crystallizes the minerals to prevent them from attaching to the water pipes to create limescale. This will soften your water and prevent hardness from occurring.
The Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Softener comes with a 365-day risk-free guarantee. If you are not satisfied with the Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Softener during your first year, Yarna will refund 100% of your money.
- Uses electric impulses instead of salt
- Safe for plants, pets, and people
- 365-day risk-free 100% money-back guarantee
- Basic; no personalization controls or smartphone application
User Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars
Aquasure Whole Home Water Softener System
The Aquasure Whole Home Water Softener System has a 64,000-grain capacity to cover an entire household up to 8 people. The Aquasure Whole Home Water Softener System can use salt or potassium to soften the water. This is beneficial if you have pets or family members who need to limit their daily sodium intake.
Aquasure guarantees that their system removes all hardness from the water, rather than just reducing the water's hardness. They also give you a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are unhappy with the water softening system results. Additionally, there is a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty provided with the system.
The head unit on top of the system indicates a variety of information regarding the system, including the volume or days remaining until water regeneration, programmable regeneration, double backwash feature, and days override feature between 1 and 28 days.
- Easy to install
- Easy to use
- Many different programmable features
- Uses potassium or salt to completely remove hardness
User Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
GE Appliances 30,400 Grain Water Softener
The GE Appliances 30,400 Grain Water Softener is similar to our choice for the best overall water softener. The only difference between this water softener and the best overall water softener is the Wi-Fi Smart technology built into the first one. The lack of Wi-Fi Smart technology makes this water softener essentially half the price of the GE Appliances Smart Water Softener.
The features of this 30,400-grain water softener are similar as well. You will just have to manually select the programs or commands directly on the water softener system's head unit, rather than through a smartphone application. You can check the salt level, hardness, and the number of days left until the next cleaning cycle.
The water softener also guarantees to use up to 20% less water than when a water softener system is not used. This ultimately saves you money in the long run by preventing water from being wasted and overused.
GE Appliances includes a one-year limited warranty on the entire appliance should anything malfunction within the unit.
- Easy to install
- Easy to use
- One-year warranty on the entire appliance
- Reduces your overall water usage by 20%
- No smartphone or Wi-Fi technology compatibility
User Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
What Does it Mean to Have “Hard Water”?
“Hard water” is a term used by the United States Geological Survey to refer to water with a buildup of different minerals, mostly pertaining to iron, magnesium, calcium, lead, and chlorine. These hardness minerals will settle in your water and cause various issues, all of which can ultimately harm the areas in which they are being used.
Hard water is measured by how many hardness minerals are found within the water. The following measurements determine the hardness of the water:
- Less than 1 grain = soft
- 1 to 3.5 grains = slightly hard
- 5 to 7 grains = moderately hard
- 7 to 10 grains = hard
- 10+ = very hard
Having hard water will cause your dishes to have a dingy film once they have been washed. It will also cause your hair and clothes to become damaged when it is washed with hard water, and your body will likely have a filmy residue that remains after bathing or showering.
All of these areas suffer greatly when hard water is used. This is why it is important to know if you have hard water. Softening hard water will significantly reduce the damage that is caused when using hard water.
Why Hard Water Poses Big Problems
Dishes, clothes, skin, water pipes, and appliances are all areas throughout your home that can suffer significantly from hard water. If you’re unsure if you have hard water, or if you think hard water may not be that big of a deal, don’t go anywhere. You need to read this before you read anything else.
Hard Water and Pipes, Appliances, and Water Pressure
When hard water flows through the water pipes of your home day after day, it creates a buildup of rust, corrosion, limescale, and calcium. When this happens, the diameter of the pipe gets smaller and smaller. This causes water pressure to weaken and the flow rate to slow down when your water is turned on. This is often one of the first indicators that you have hard water.
Not only does this damage the basic water pipes throughout your home, but it also damages the appliances in your home that use water. This includes dishwashers, washing machines, and hot water heaters.
When these appliances become damaged through hard water, it can significantly reduce the appliance’s overall lifespan, causing you to have to prematurely replace an appliance that would otherwise have many years of life left.
Hard Water Makes Dingy Dishes and Ugly Stains
If you have ever pulled a clean glass from the dishwasher and noticed it had a dingy film residue left on it, then you have hard water.
Changing the dishwashing detergent or wash cycle won’t change the film or get rid of the soap scum that remains on the dishes when they are washed with hard water.
Dingy dishes are not the only evidence of hard water. There will also be stains that accumulate on kitchen faucets [link to best kitchen faucets article], spigots, toilet bowls, and showerheads. You will likely need a tough stain remover and descales to clean the stains from these surfaces.
Hard Water and the Body
Using hard water to bathe, wash your hair, and wash your clothes will likely cause your skin to become irritated. This is because of the large number of minerals that settle on the skin after it comes in contact with the hard water. This occurs through secondary means, too, such as clothes that have been washed in hard water.
Skin irritation includes itchiness, redness, and inflammation. It may seem subtle or be blamed on other issues, such as a new soap or new laundry detergent, when it may really be the level of hardness in the water.
Other more serious skin issues can occur when using hard water. This can include acne breakouts, dermatitis, eczema, clogged pores, scalp irritation, and scalp dryness. In addition to softening your water, you may also need to consult a dermatologist to help treat the issues, should they become severe.
Using a water softener will significantly improve the way your skin feels, likely to completely eliminate the redness, itchiness, and irritation.
How Do Water Softener Systems Work?
Water softener systems are installed in your home and connected to your home’s water system. This is because the water softener needs to access the water pipes and various locations throughout your house to reduce mineral buildups and accumulations. Water softener systems work because they use salt or potassium added to the water to remove the minerals that settle and build up in the water and along the sides of the water pipes.
Salt or potassium are the most common types of water softener systems because they are easy to use, effective, and typically affordable.
If salt or potassium is not used in the water softener system, then the system will convert the minerals into crystals to prevent limescale buildup within the water pipes.
Both of these methods are effective in reducing or removing the minerals in the hard water. When the minerals are reduced or removed, the water becomes softened, which creates an overall safe and effective water to use for all applications.
You will need to choose a whole-home water softener system to ensure that every bathroom and every appliance that uses water receives softened water. Choosing a water softener system that is not big enough for your home or that is only centralized in one location, such as one bathroom, will not solve your water hardness problem.
You can still suffer from water hardness through the clothes you wash or the shower you take. This is why you need a whole-home water softener system that will adequately reduce the number of grains found in your water.
How to Determine if You Have Hard Water
The most reliable method for determining if you have hard water is purchasing a water hardness testing kit. A water hardness testing kit is used by measuring the TDS (total dissolved solids) within the water.
The test will typically give a reading that indicates the number of milligrams of minerals per liter. You can easily convert the milligrams per liter to grains by dividing the mg/L by 17.1, which is the conversion factor for converting milligrams into grains.
This means if you have a mineral collection of 150mg/L and you divide 150 by the 17.1 conversion factor, you will get a hardness level of 8.77, which is considered hard.
Another way to determine if you have hard water is by looking at the USGS water hardness map. You will find your location on the map to determine if you live in a region with water hardness or not.
This method is not a definite way to determine the water hardness in your home, but it can be a good place to start. The best way to determine if you have hard water is by purchasing a water testing kit and measuring the water's total dissolved solids.
Features to Consider when Purchasing the Best Water Softener System
As you have seen, there are many different water softener systems that you can choose from, and each has its own respective features and functions that set them apart from one another. So how do you make the right choice when purchasing the best water softener?
These are some of the best features that you should consider to help make your decision!
PPM (Parts Per Million) Capacity
Water softeners will reduce the number of minerals within the water at a rate known as PPM. PPM stands for parts per million, which means that minerals are reduced at a certain number of minerals per each million. This ratio equates to milligrams per liter of minerals within the water.
This makes the PPM capacity of the water softener important. The lower the PPM capacity, the fewer minerals will be removed, whereas the higher the PPM capacity will reduce a higher number of minerals.
Choosing a water softener system based on PPM alone shouldn’t be the sole determining factor for which water softener you should choose. Still, it should definitely be considered, especially if you have a water hardness with a large accumulation of sediments and limescale buildup.
Water softeners that are certified by the National Sanitation Foundation are known as being NSF Certified. NSF Certified water softener systems are guaranteed safe by the National Sanitation Foundation for consumer purposes. This ensures that the water softener system you are buying is safe to use through consumption, washing, and absorption.
Similar to the PPM capacity is the water softener system’s grain capacity. Grain capacity relates to how many minerals you will need the water softener to reduce or remove each day.
Water softener systems range from 20,000 to 50,000 grains, so there is an easy calculation to determine how many grains you will need the water softener system to be.
To determine the grain capacity you need, you will take the number of people living in the home and multiply that number by the average gallons of water used per person each day. Then you will multiply that number by the level of water hardness that is found in your water.
The average number of gallons a person uses each day is around 75, so if you have four people living in the home, you will multiply 4 by 75 to give you a number of 300. Then you will take 300 and multiply it by the level of hardness in your water.
Generally, a 30,000 to a 35,000-grain water softener is sufficient for most 4-person households.
Reducing Minerals by Salt
Most water softeners use salt to reduce the grains of minerals from their water to make it soft. The salt prevents the pipes from building up with limescale or other corrosion. Additionally, it also removes the limescale and corrosion that has accumulated on the pipes.
When limescale, rust, and corrosion accumulate onto water pipes, it causes the water pressure to weaken and the water flow rate to slow. These are often the first indications that you have water hardness and that the water should be tested.
Other indications of water hardness can be found on dishes or the fabric of clothing that has been washed. Clear, glass dishes will have a dingy film left on the dish after the dish has been washed. This film is indicative of high levels of water hardness.
Low Salt Indicator Light
Water softeners that use salt to reduce and remove minerals in the water will have an indicator on the system that shows you how much salt the system needs to perform successfully. When the salt is low, the system will not operate at a maximum capacity, ultimately decreasing the number of minerals that the water softener can remove.
This is what makes a low salt indicator light so important. Knowing that the salt is low will ensure that it is refilled as needed to guarantee that the water softener works at maximum capacity during every cycle.
Reducing Minerals by Crystallization
You can also choose a water softener system that removes minerals through crystallization. This method is considered safer and healthier than using a water softener that uses salt.
Minerals that are reduced or removed by crystallization will turn the minerals into dissolved crystals. This will eliminate the minerals and prevent them from building up limescale, corrosion, and other buildups on the walls of the water pipes. This type of water softening is considered to be safer and healthier because there is no salt or sodium added to the water.
Adding sodium chloride to the water in your home means that you will inevitably consume and absorb additional sodium than normal. This can be potentially concerning for those living in your home who are sensitive to sodium or who need to monitor their sodium intake.
By using a water softener system that crystalizes minerals to remove them instead of uses salt to remove the minerals, you can rest assured knowing the people, pets, and plants within your home won’t suffer from overexposure to sodium chloride.
Water Softener Systems with Smart Technology
Smart technology is wireless internet communication that occurs between a device and your smartphone. When you choose a water softener system with smart technology instead of a traditional water softener, you will set up a wireless internet communication connection between the device and your smartphone.
This will give you the option to control the water softener through the application on your smartphone. This is beneficial because you can ultimately control all functions and programs of the water softener system directly from your smartphone.
Some of the areas on the smart water softener system that you can monitor on your smartphone application include any of the following:
- Water usage
- Salt levels
- Water regeneration schedule
- Leaks or running faucets
- Water pressure and water flow speed
- Manual shutoff or overrides
A water softener system with smart technology is generally more expensive than water softener systems with no Wi-Fi compatibilities, but for a good reason. You don’t have to be at home to be able to monitor your water softener system.
This means if you are out of town and notice that your water softener system is indicating a running faucet or potential leak, you can either shut off the water through the smartphone application or contact a neighbor or the utility company to shut off the water at the water main. This can prevent a major disaster from occurring within your home while you are away.
You shouldn’t make your selection based on price alone, which is why we have placed it near the bottom of our list of features you should consider; however, we understand that price can play a major role in making your decision.
The water softener's price can be affected by many different features, including the size, if it has Wi-Fi technology, and how many functions the water softener system has. The more basic the water softener, the less expensive it will be. The same goes for choosing a smaller water softener, as a smaller water softener system will likely be cheaper than a larger water softener.
On the other hand, a water softener system that has Wi-Fi technology will almost always be more expensive than models that don’t.
This is why the price of the water softener system shouldn’t be the first feature you should consider, but also shouldn’t be completely disregarded. Just make sure you understand how the price will vary depending on the size, features, and technology of the water softener systems.
Warranties and Money-Back Guarantees
Any time you can choose a water softener with a manufacturer warranty or money-back guarantee is always recommended. This ensures that you won’t be out a large amount of money for something that may not work how you need it to.
As long as you purchase a water softener system that is large enough to handle the number of gallons of water used in the home on a daily basis with the water hardness level within the home, you should have a system that is equipped for the job.
The best water softener will be effective, functional, and easy to use. It should significantly reduce the hardness of your water almost completely, or at least to a level of soft or slightly hard, around 3.5 grains or less.
Reducing the hardness of your water by using a water softener will improve a variety of areas within the home. Your home’s water pressure will be increased, the water flow rate will be faster, your dishes will be cleaner, there will be fewer stains accumulate on faucets, and your skin will be significantly less irritated.
These areas are affected by hard water, and all of these areas will be significantly improved by using the best water softener.
If you are still unsure of what to look for when choosing the best water softener, keep the following brands in mind when making your decision, as these are the best water softener brands available on the market today: GE Appliances, Whirpool, APEC, EcoPure, Aquasure, and Water2Buy are all reliable water softener brands.
They each have many functions, features, and warranties that will ensure your hard water becomes softened during each use for many years to come.