The Best Water Softeners of 2020: Your Review & Buying Guide

Disclaimer: The products we feature in the list of our top picks have been chosen independently following an intensive product review procedure and without conscious bias. While we may receive a commission from any purchases made via the links on this site, these are received at no additional cost to you.

Are you looking for an efficient solution to deal with your heart water problem? Perhaps you’ve been considering a water softener to solve the issue? Before deciding on the installation of a water softener in your home, it’s essential to understand the nature of hard water.

This knowledge should help you determine if you have an issue that should be addressed. It’s also worth considering the most effective ways to handle other hard water-related issues.

Table of Contents

What Exactly is Hard Water?

Hard water forms when magnesium, calcium, and other minerals dissolved in large amounts. Any water that contains more than seven grains of calcium carbonate per gallon is designated as hard water. The actual hardness level of the water is measured in milligrams per liter or parts per million (PPM).

What problems can be caused by hard water? Luckily high levels of calcium in your water are not considered a health hazard. Research has shown that it can be beneficial for your body in many different ways. This is why many of the high-end water filtration systems you can purchase use a step called remineralization.

This adds calcium to your drinking water following purification. Despite these health benefits, elevated levels of calcium and other minerals can cause problems when found in water.

An infographic showing a simple way to detect soft water from hard water.

1. Damage to Appliances in Water Pipes

Hard water causes many problems in different areas of your house. Limescale can build up inside your piping systems, as well as appliances and other water fixtures. Depending on the hardness level, this can ruin equipment. Cause heavily stained faucets; high limescale can cause clogging, leakage, and even broken pipes.

If left untreated, more severe damage can occur in tankless or traditional water heaters. Anywhere, water sits for hours in your household, allows these minerals the chance to stick to internal surfaces.

2. Irritated Skin

Water that has a high mineral content or elevated pH levels is known to cause various skin problems, including itchiness, clogged pores, acne, and dryness. Many dermatologists recommend that their patients should only wash their face with bottled or purified water. Especially when they’re experiencing acne breakouts.

Hard water is also known to accentuate existing skin issues such as dermatitis and eczema. High mineral residues cause hair brittleness as well as scalp irritation.

3. Persistent Staining

The minerals found in hard water are known to stick to surfaces. Leaving grungy stains and spots on showerheads, bathtubs, toilet bowls, tiles, and cars. To make matters worse, these minerals neutralize some detergents and soaps, which makes them difficult to remove.

Telltale signs of hard water:

If you’re not sure whether or not you have hard water, here are some reliable indicators.

  • Your showerhead is clogged.
  • You find a layer of white residue left on your skin following a shower.
  • Your laundry has a rough texture, new clothing tends to fade quickly, and white clothing tends to turn yellow after just a few washes.
  • You’re continually maintaining you’re piping because of limescale buildup.
  • Mineral residues are visible in your coffee maker or kettle.
  • Various appliances begin to break down.
  • There’s an unpleasant odor from your water.
  • Your glassware, tiles, mirrors, or car are left with a film of residue after cleaning.

Why Should You Consider a Water Softening System?

There are many different reasons why these water softening solutions have become increasingly popular in recent years.

US Hard Water Map | HomeWater 101

1. They Keep Your Pipe System Scale

As we detailed, earlier hard water can result in limescale buildup in household piping systems and cause significant damage. The installation of a whole house water softening solution thoroughly removes the minerals responsible for forming limescale and eliminates the source of the problem.

2. Keep Your Appliances Residue-free

Installing a water softener helps prevent mineral buildup, leakage, and prolongs the lifespan of your household appliances. It also helps reduce the possibility of foul smells that can emerge from your bathroom sinks, showerheads, and water heater deposits because of the residue buildup.

3. Keep Your Hair and Skin Healthy

Installing a shower head filter improves water quality, but it doesn’t want to filter out hard minerals. If you always wash your hair with hard water, you can experience issues with hair and skin care. A water softening system is a solution you need to reduce your hair dryness and skin irritation.

4. Keep Your Clothes Softer For Longer

Once your new system has removed the unwanted mineral particles, your towels and clothes are softer after washing. Issues such as stains and soap scum should become far less prevalent, and you notice that fabrics last much longer.

5. Have Shiny Silverware and Glassware Again

Your water softener either alters the structure of minerals or removes them, preventing them from sticking to any surfaces. As a result, you should no longer have any issues with a calcium film on your glassware, silverware, mirrors, or car after washing.

How Can You Soften Hard Water?

Image titled Soften Hard Water Step 1
Boiling water is considered as a method that can soften hard water at home.

1. Whole-house Filtration

These days it’s widespread for new houses to have whole house water filtration systems installed. Especially in areas that are known to have issues with hard water. These systems do provide solutions to remove many harmful contaminants. Unfortunately, the majority of these systems were not designed to remove minerals that cause hard water.

Research has revealed that there is only one type of whole house filtration system on the market best designed to deal with water hardness, and this is a reverse osmosis (RO) filter. These filters are particularly useful at softening and purifying water, but they can be a little expensive, and they also need to be installed and maintained professionally.

2. Whole-house Water Softening

Installing a water softening system will either change the structure of the water or replace the minerals in the water with sodium. To ensure that it can longer adhere to any surfaces. These systems are effective at reducing limescale buildup. The issue with these systems is the salt they introduce to your water and that they are not very effective against some harmful substances such as arsenic and lead.

3. A Combined System Would Be Most Effective

The most effective way to tackle your hard water problem would be to combine an under sink RO filter with a whole-house water softening system. A system that removes your unwanted minerals while producing more hygienic water for the whole house. These under sink RO filters remove any harmful contaminants that may be in the water making it safe to drink or cook-producing an excellent solution targeting both significant issues while remaining more affordable than any whole house RO system.

A step-by-step guide to choosing the best water softener system:

Step 1: Determine Precisely How Hard your Water Is

Here are three practical ways to find out exactly how hard the water in your home is.

The easiest method is to use assumptions and estimation.

The USGS provides a modified map that shows the different water hardness levels across the US. Each area in the map that is marked as blue or white it’s considered not to have a water hardness problem. Water in this area typically has a TDS level that is lower than 7 GPG. Indicating that there is no need to soften, as the water provides more health benefits as unlikely poses any risk of limescale buildup.

If you live in areas marked as red or orange, which is more than half the US population, you have a hard water problem. Generally, all these areas of waters that contain minerals with a TDS level of greater than 7.

A more accurate approach would involve testing your water with a device.

The estimation method is more convenient and cheaper. Based on studies conducted almost 40 years ago across many geographical regions, it may not be accurate enough. When looking for more precise results, purchase testing kits that are also known as TDS meters. These handy tools are very convenient for anyone seeking a more excellent knowledge of the type of water that they have in their household, mainly if it might be dangerous to use for drinking, cooking, or in a fish tank.

These meters usually measure the results of greens either in mg/l or PPM (Parts per million). Here is a formula to help you convert the results.

Hardness in grains = hardness in PPM/17.1

For example, if your meter is a reading a concentration of 171 PPM, this would mean your TDS is as follows:

171/17.1 = 10 (Hard Water)

The most professional approach is to get a complete chemical analysis.

If you’re anxious about your hard water level, you may want to get a more accurate reading. Send a water sample to a certified professional to get a complete composition analysis. PLS lab test results show the hardness level of the water, but they can also identify any specific elements that are contributing to it.

The analysis shows the levels of microorganisms and other potentially dangerous substances in your water. Considering the level of water contamination in the world at the moment, getting your household water analyzed is probably advisable.

Step 2: How Large a Water Softener Will You Need?

First, you should determine the grain. The majority of water softening systems should be installed at a point of entry. The household’s overall daily usage determines the size of the softeners they need. Before deciding on the capacity of a water softening system, you need you to have to determine the length of time between each regeneration.

Regeneration is the part of the process when the minerals that are filtered from your system to the resin bed are washed off to allow space for additional salts to be added so it can start softening water again. We understand this is complicated, but this regeneration process should be allowed to occur at least every three days no less than once every fortnight.

The main reason you don’t want to have frequent regeneration is that the backwash part of the process results in some waste water; the amount depends on the size of your softening needs. In addition to this, the process typically takes an hour or two to complete, meaning that while it’s happening, you will have no access to soft water.

Here is a formula you can use to help you determine the capacity softener you need:

Capacity = People in the household (add one for appliances) x water hardness level (TDS) x 80 Gallons X days left between regenerations

Please note: This formula was initially used to calculate the meanings of people in the city of St-Charles we’ve adjusted the amount of water used by an average person to 80 gallons as this more accurately reflects the current national estimate. This formula uses grains per gallon as the units of hardness. If your system has detected dissolved iron, you should hide five grains per million.

Here is a working example:

A family of 5 people
The water hardness level of 10 gpg
5-day regeneration cycle
(5+1) X 10 X 80 X 5 = 21,600 grains

If this household water contained iron, the capacity would be calculated as such:

(5+1) X (10+5 X 1.5) X 80 X 5 = 54000

Step 3: How Much Can You Afford to Spend on Your Water Softening System?

On average, a residential water softening system and costs anywhere between $500 and $2,500. When deciding on your overall budget, you should also factor in a monthly maintenance cost, which can be anything from $5to $10. Allow for up to 3 gallons per minute using, on average, an additional 1000 gallons every month to backwash the system.

Step 4: Always Check for Any Extra Features and Product Certification

Before making any final decision on the water softening system that you’re going to purchase. There are some other things that you should take into consideration, such as product certification, crosslinking, and any additional features offered. The concept of crosslinking it’s quite complicated to explain; to put it simply, the number of crosslinks your system contains directly affects the density of the resin in your filtration basin.

Systems that have higher crosslink are more resistant to physical damage and oxidation. You should never purchase a system that is not certified. At the same time, certification does not always mean that you are guaranteed an error-free experience; it does mean that your device meets industry standards and has passed rigorous testing.

One of the most recognizable certifications is the Water Quality Association Gold Seal. This means that the softener has passed their strict requirements and has been subjected to an annual manufacturing facility order. Buying a product with the gold seal means you can be confident of its durability, safety, and quality.

Buying a product that has many automatic features usually means that the product would be more convenient to use. For example, the newer salt-based softeners on the market are designed to add salt to the system automatically. The system also notifies you when the salt level is running low.

What Are The Best Water Softeners On The Market in 2020?

To make your life easier, we have tracked down the 5 best residential water softening systems available on the market today. After combing through thousands of customer reviews, we hope that this list can provide you with some additional information to help you choose the best system to suit your needs.

These are the systems that we consider the best on the market:

  1. The Best Overall System of 2020 – The 5600sxt-48k-10 Water Softener from AFWFilters
  2. The Best System for Well Water Containing Iron – The Fleck Iron Pro 2 Water Softener
  3. Best Salt-Based Water Softening System – The Fleck 5600sxt BR8 Water Softener
  4. Best Salt-Free Water Softening System – The Pelican Salt-Free Water Softener

The Best Overall System of 2020 – The 5600sxt-48k-10 Water Softener from AFWFilters

We found this system to be easy to control, reliable, and useful. Rating this as the best salt-based residential water softener to purchase in 2020


  • Effective (certified by the NSF)
  • Affordable
  • Simple to control
  • Real and auto demand regeneration
  • Durable (features10% crosslink resin)


  • It doesn’t have the best instruction manual

The 5600sxt-48k-10 Water Softener from AFWFilters features an impressive softener tank with a capacity for 48,000 grains, a standard size brine tank with a float, 1.5 cubic feet of commercial standard 10% resin. It also has a well designed and simple to navigate control system. We consider this to be a complete on-demand metered system.

What makes this system stand out from the crowd? Offering the significant features of any of the other salt lake softening devices in the market, this system has the being designed to rejuvenate based on actual water usage. The mechanism is not overly complicated; it merely measures your household water usage and resets itself to regenerate when you have reached your maximum capacity or at the end of a preset cycle.

This simple addition will save you a lot of money on electricity, wastewater, and salt. It ensures that your house will always have soft water on demand.

Simple Controls

The system has an in goat LCD screen that displeases its current status; it is by no means a retina, but it does show any error codes. You can always cross-reference these codes with the user manual allowing you to troubleshoot an issue that arises. The touch pad is simple and quite intuitive. If you an turn your TV on using a remote, you can set the system up when you sleep.

Certification from the NSF

The 5600sxt-48k-10 Water Softener from AFWFilters, the components of the system coming past Icarus testing done by the way I’ve been certified against NSF standard 44 and prove to be useful for addressing hard water problems

For Well Water With Iron – Fleck Iron Pro 2 Water Softener

Iron content can prove to be a problematic issue for people sourcing their water from a well. These water sources traditionally have issues caused by elevated levels of magnesium and calcium. To address this problem, you’ll need to purchase a self-tanner specifically designed iron, and this is precisely what the Fleck 5600SXT Iron Pro 2 has been designed to rectify.


  • Effective at treating tough water
  • Offers large-capacity
  • Effectively removes moderate concentrations of iron
  • Auto-regeneration


  • If you have above-average levels of iron, There-filter may need to be fitted.

Designed for High Capacity

In five different capacities that range from 32000 grains to 80000 grains. These capacities should I allow you 2 generations the amount of softball you need regardless of the size of your household.

Can Filter Out Iron

This softener system is specifically designed utilizing ion exchange to turn the boat ferric and ferrous iron. Eliminating the root of your annoying brownish things that are appearing on your equipment and tiles, as well as I need to be filled up in your piping system. It can handle iron half up to 8 P.M., but this is only a medium concentration of iron, anyone who has an iron level of 10 PPM or higher we’ll need to install an extra iron filter.


The Fleck 5600SXTi s designed to auto regenerate either after a certain length of time or after filtering a certain amount of water. whichever you choose is down to your preference and can easily be programmed using the digital touch pad controls

Best Salt-based Water Softener – Fleck 5600sxt BR8 Water Softener

There’s no denying that this salt base system offers the ideal solution when it comes to handling hard water issues in residential areas. The 5600sxt-BR8 from Fleck Is, in our opinion, one of the top salt-based softening systems on the market.


  • NSF certified
  • Highly effective
  • Excellent customer service
  • Enhanced durability
  • High customization


  • Standard crosslink of only 8%

Highly-effective On Demand Metered System

The fact that the system comes equipped with a digital meter allows Palos to regenerate after a certain amount of water is used makes it far more effective than the majority of traditional softeners that follow a preset time cycle. The 5600sxt BR8 from Fleck. When your consumption levels are low, the system is designed to prevent the waste of salt and water.

It also ensures that the backwash cycle runs promptly, which are especially useful to cover any sudden surges of need. Such as when you’re washing your car. Also featuring a large capacity tank that can hold over 250 pounds of salt, meaning that is traditional can run for up to six months without the need for replacement.

Overall a Well-rounded Package

These water softening systems arrive at your house in a near-complete condition. The only additional purchase you might need to make is for some drainage tubing as, for some unknown reason, this is not included in the package, but this is readily available any decent-sized plumbing store.

Easy to Install

The Fleck 5600sxt BR8 Systems have been specifically designed to be easy to install. Anyone who possesses some necessary DIY skills should be able to figure out how the system works and be able to get it up and running smoothly in a matter of hours. The only thing you may need some additional help with his setting up the drain, and the little bit of electrical work that is needed.

Depending on the landscape, weather, and local safety regulations, you need to adhere to it. If you don’t feel up to the task it’s okay you to employ the services of an experienced plumber it’s always a better idea to pay some money now, instead of paying more for any mistakes you made later on.

Best Salt-Free Water Softener/ConditionerPelican Salt-Free Water Softener

We recommend the solution for anyone who is tired of mineral scale but is reluctant to introduce any additional salt to the water system.


  • Super effective
  • Basic maintenance
  • NSF and DVGW certified
  • Lifetime warranty


  • High initial price
  • Not effective at addressing mineral stains

Certified as Effective

The system from pelican is excellent at doing what it is intended to do. It effectively alters the minerals that are responsible for creating your hard water problem making it difficult for them to cling to your piping system. It has been fully certified by the German association for gas and water at being able to prevent 99.6% of scale. The WQA gave this system it’s Gold Seal of approval for material safety and structural integrity.

A Complete Package

The system also features an excellent pre-filter that can remove dust, rust sand, and another sentiment down to a size of the smallest 5 microns. This additional filter heats the pressure put on the resident and offers a better quality of water as the overall insulation is nothing more complicated than a primary DIY job; it’s certainly cheaper than many of the options that require professional help.

It Is a Little Pricey

As you were writing this review, this softening system is retailing for $1,600 that is an expensive addition to any household as a way of comparison Aquasana offers a 5 stage filtration and softening system for the same price. But you shouldn’t be overly graded because, in this case, you get precisely what you pay for.

This system produces excellent quality of water, and it doesn’t need any electricity or salt to operate. Another key benefit is that it doesn’t produce any wastewater. Aside from having to replace the pre-filter once every 6 months, this is an excellent investment.

Best Electronic Water Softener – iSpring ED2000 Whole House Water Softener

If you’re looking for a more equal and budget-friendly solution this electronic descaler from iSpring undoubtedly worthy of consideration


  • Easy installation
  • Salt-free, chemical-free
  • No maintenance needed
  • Affordable


  • Effects not scientifically proven

Convenient and Affordable

These are the two reasons that the descaler is so popular both MSN and the spruce ranked among the top water softeners available on the market it also costs far less than the cheapest salt-based chemical-based softeners available. It’s Affordable and Convenient.

Compact Design

Due to its compact design, these units score some extra points for being easy to install. You won’t meet any professional plumber or handyman. All you have to do is wrap the coils around your pipe, turn the device on, and the descaler is up and running. These systems run by employing electromagnetic force minimizing any noise that might have been caused by machinery generation.

You also don’t have to spend any extra money, replacing salt every few months.

By All Accounts, It Works for Most People

Too many people out here say that if it appears too good to be true, it probably is not the case when it comes to magnetic water descalers. Just because a device appears to be too simple doesn’t need a contest to be effective, after a comprehensive review of customers’ opinions, the majority of users declared that they noticed almost immediate improvements.

Noticing a reduction in bathtub rings toilet stains and buildups under shower heads. Other users have also noticed that their soap and shampoo has become more active on the water itself appears to have a more luscious field The ED2000 even comes with a one-year money-back guarantee and free lifetime tech support.

As you see there are many different factors you need to consider before purchasing a water softening system, cost is only one of them. Other concerns include how hard your water is, the amount of water your house consumes, whether or not you have iron in your water. One thing is for certain there are no shortage of quality solutions on the market.

We hope that you enjoyed reading our review of the best water softening systems on the market in 2020, and the information provided will prove useful as you look for the best solution to meet your needs.

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