A water softener provides one of the most effective solutions for dealing with hard water, which is water that contains at least 60 mg of dissolved minerals like calcium, magnesium, and manganese.
Although these minerals will typically not pose any serious health risk, having the best water softener is important because they often create a damaging buildup in the plumbing and water system.
Other issues associated with hard water include ashy and dry skin or hair, low-lathering of soaps, bad smell, and funny water taste.
Water softeners are available in several types which include the magnetic descaler, salt-based and salt-free types. Besides the type, there are also many other things that you need to take into account when shopping for a water softener.
Here we review 10 top-rated water softeners and also describe the different types and explain the factor to consider when shopping.
What To Check Before Buying Best Water Softener?
Even after deciding on the type of water softeners to go for, you will still need to pick between different brands and models. But this should also be easy if you consider the following things when shopping.
1. Portable or Standard Water Softeners
One of the first decisions that you will need to make is whether to go for a portable or standard water filter as the two are ideal for different situations.
The portable water softeners are designed to be easy to carry around and for your use on the go. And so if you move or travel a lot and would still want to get some soft water they are the right pick for you.
Standard water softeners are the kinds that require permanent installation in your water system. They are often larger and with a higher capacity than the portable types and they are the best whole house water softeners.
As you are picking a water softener, it is important to make sure that you pick one that is the right size for your home. It should be able to handle the water demand of your home while still not being overly expensive or too large.
To determine the right size for your house, the two most crucial things to consider are the number of individuals in the house and the water that they use for drinking, washing, cooking and other things.
You can easily calculate the right size for you by multiplying the number of people with the average amount of water they use every day which in most cases is 75 gallons. However, the water softener size chart below makes things much easy.
Hardness – in GPG (Grain per Gallon)
Number of People
Read More: How to Size a Water Softener
3. Flow Rate
Like with water filters, the flow rate also matters a lot when it comes to choosing a water softener as it determines how much water that you get per minute.
The quicker the softening process the faster the flow rate will be. However, when it comes to the water softeners you will have to take into account the regeneration speed.
A good water softener should have a regeneration time of under 2 hours to ensure you never have to wait for long to get the softened water. But something like On The Go OTG3NTP3M that can regenerate in just 15 minutes is more ideal.
For the flow rate, it will vary from one type to the other and also between brands. But, a system that can deliver at least 5 gallons per minute should be good enough.
You cannot overlook the brand when it comes to shopping for a water softener. While it is true there are almost countless companies that make them, there are a few that stand out due to the quality of their products and their reputation.
Some of the best water softener brands are Aquasana, Culligan, Morton, Fleck, and WaterBoss.
Aquasana – A highly reputable brand and one of the oldest water softener manufacturers known for making long-lasting products backed by great customer support. And most of their products use reusable and environmentally friendly materials with minimum waste.
Culligan – Having been in the market for three-quarters of a century, Culligan has seen it all, and they not only make high-quality water softeners but also a variety of softening products.
Morton – More famously known as a table salt manufacture, and so it is only natural for them to make salt for water softening. Although they do not have many water softener models in the market, the ones they have are top-notch quality and highly rated by customers.
Fleck – Probably the most famous water softener brand and this is for a good reason because they make some of the best performing water softener models in the market. Their products are also relatively more affordable to offer the best value for money.
WaterBoss – A brand that focuses on making water softeners that use less fluid to ensure minimal water wastage which in turn also means that their devices will use less softening solution.
10 Best Water Softeners of 2021 Reviewed
1. iSpring RCC7AK (Best Overall)
2. ABCWaters ABCWS48-56SXT-10 (Best for Small to Medium Size Family)
3. iSpring ED2000 (More Affordable for Whole House)
4. On The Go OTG3NTP3M (Compact & More Portable)
5. Watts Water Technology M7002 (Simple & Cost-Effective)
6. AFWFilters Fleck 64k (Effective Design With High Flow Rate)
7. Eddy ED6002P-US (Easy to Install & Affordable)
8. Aquasana EQ-1000-AST-UV-AMZN (Super High Capacity for Whole House)
9. Aquasana EQ-SS20 (Salt-Free Standalone Water Condition)
10. WaterBoss 220 (Efficient & Reliable for Whole House)
1. iSpring RCC7AK – Best Overall
- Flow Rate: 75 gallons per day
- Dimensions: 14.5 x 5.2 x 18.5 in
- Weight: 20 pounds
This iSpring system features a highly efficient 6-stage filtration system that also consists of a reverse osmosis membrane that will filter out contaminants down to 0.0001 microns.
There is also a remineralization stage that adds important minerals to the water to make it healthier and great tasting.
This system is designed to remove up to 99% of more than 1,000 different contaminants while still delivering up to 75 gallons of clean and fresh tasting water every day.
Given the performance, easy DIY installation, quiet operation, and relatively affordable price tag, this is the best water softener for the money in our list as it is hard to get anything similar without spending more.
While this system seems to take up a lot of cabinet space, this should not be a big deal as it is always recommended dedicating the cabinet under the sink entirely to the filtration system.
And the thin and a little flimsy o-ring that comes with the system is easy to fix by getting a better quality one from your local hardware.
More Detailed: iSpring RCC7AK Review
- Reliable 6-stage filtration system
- Filters down to 0.0001 micron
- Removes more than 1,000 different contaminants
- Easy DIY installation
- Quiet and requires low maintenance
- Takes up a lot of space
- Thin and a little flimsy o-ring
2. ABCWaters ABCWS48-56SXT-10 – Best for Small to Medium Size Family
- Capacity: 48,000 grains
- Flow Rate: 12 gallons per minute
- Dimensions: 54 x 10 x 10 in
- Weight: 133 pounds
With a capacity of up to 48,000 grains and a flow rate of up to 12 gallons per minute, this water softener will be a great choice for a family of 2 to 5 people.
It is a whole house water softener that comes complete with everything that you need to use it and a handy installation kit for more convenience. Also, it is fully assembled when you get it to ensure a quick and easy setup.
The water softener is designed to use less salt and also consumes little power when working which makes it a more eco-friendly product. With the electronic powerhead with push buttons for programming, this is an easy-to-use water softener.
You will not have to deal with any heavy lifting or the mess that comes with loading resin as the manufacturer preloads the mineral tanks with resin.
Although this is quite a heavy and bulky device, you should still be able to handle it with ease during installation.
- Perfect size and capacity for small/medium size families
- Uses less salt and power
- Simple to use
- Preloaded resin
- Quick and easy assembly
- Quite bulky and heavy
- Relatively expensive
3. iSpring ED2000 – More Affordable
- Dimensions: 7 x 3.5 x 2 in
- Weight: 2 pounds
If you prefer a more affordable whole house water softening solution, the iSpring ED2000 is a great choice as it is the cheapest model among our water softener review.
This electronic water system is designed to descale the entire water system without the need for chemical or salts, and it ensures that the water retains the healthy minerals.
It is great for use in areas with very hard water, and it will save energy and increase the lifespan of your appliances significantly to save you even more cash.
Installation is also straightforward, and you will not need to do any plumbing modification to your water system, and it will work on any type of piping including PVC and PEX.
While this is still not as effective as the salt-based water softeners, you should still be able to notice significant improvements in water quality after some time because like all other electronic water softeners, it takes a while to be effective.
- More affordable
- Descales entire water system
- No need for chemicals or salt
- Reduces energy consumption
- Very simple installation
- Not as effective as salt-based softeners
- Takes longer to start working
4. On The Go OTG3NTP3M – Compact and More Portable
- Capacity: 8,000 grain
- Dimensions: 7 x 19.5 x 7.3 in
- Weight: 18 pounds
For those that would like to get soft water on the go, this is the best water softener system for you as it is designed to be compact and easily portable.
The compact size also means that you can install it in tight places, and it will also not take up a lot of room when in storage.
Setting up is a straightforward process as it comes with all the necessary hardware and the manufacturer also provides detailed instructions. You will not need any tools for the installation and the unit does not use any electricity.
With a softening capacity of 8,000 grains and a regeneration time of as little as 15 minutes, this water softener is designed to offer long-lasting service and with minimum downtimes.
Although it might not be as effective in softening the water at high flow as other high-end models, this should not be a big deal as you can still get enough water even at a low flow and the quality makes it worth it.
- Compact and highly portable
- Quick regeneration
- Easy no-tools installation
- No electricity required
- Full cradle base for maximum stability
- Not good for softening at a high flow rate
5. Watts Water Technology M7002 – Simple and Cost-Effective
- Capacity: 10,000 grains
- Flow Rate: 4 gallons per minute
- Dimensions: 22 x 10 x 10 in
- Weight: 9 pounds
Being the second most affordable water softener in our review, the M7002 by Watts Water Technology is designed to make water softening a simple and cost-effective process.
This high-quality water softener is also quite compact and highly portable to allow for use on the go. It has a full cradle base that will keep the tank more secure.
With its built-in drain line flow restrictor, regeneration is more effective while the custom flow valve will allow the regeneration to happen without the need to disconnect and connect the system.
Because this water softener uses common table salt, it will be cheaper and more convenient to use in the long run.
The instructions provided seem a little vague and incomplete, but this is not a dealbreaker because setup and installation of this water softener are quite straightforward. While the 4 gallons per minute flow rate is one of the slowest in our list, it is still good enough.
- More cost effective water softening
- Quick and convenient regeneration
- More secure full cradle base
- Relatively more affordable
- Uses regular table salt
- Vague and incomplete instructions
- Relatively slower flow rate
6. AFWFilters Fleck 64k – Effective with a High Flow Rate
- Capacity: 64,000 grains
- Flow Rate: 20 gallons per minute
- Dimensions: 52 x 12 x 12 in
- Weight: 110 pounds
The 64,000-grain Flex water softener is designed to offer effective water softening service for a long time and do it conveniently than most others.
This water softener can provide up to 20 gallons of softened water every minute which gives it one of the highest flow rates on our list, and it is hard to find another similar size model with a better flow rate.
It comes as a complete system to make installation easy and ensure it will be ideal for immediate use and with digital controls that include an informative display for easy setup.
There is also a flow meter that measures the water use and ensures regeneration only happens as needed to save salt and minimize water waste. The tank will come preloaded with the resin to make this an even more convenient water softener.
The few significant shortcomings of this water softener include the relatively higher price tag which is still quite a small price to pay given the quality, and not so good instructions which are also not a dealbreaker as this is an easy device to install.
- High flow rate
- Informative display and digital controls
- Preloaded resin
- Comes as a complete system for easy installation
- Low salt use and water waste
- A little pricey
- Not very good instructions for first timers
7. Eddy ED6002P-US – Easy to Install and Affordable
- Dimensions: 6.69 x 1.57 x 3.54 in
- Weight: 1.45 pounds
Another relatively more affordable electronic water softener that will make water softening a more cost-effective process for you.
This water softener is designed for easy DIY installation without the need to use any special tools, and it will be efficient enough in descaling the entire water system.
Also, it ensures that the water retains the good minerals to keep it healthy and great tasting. Because it does not require the addition of salt, it is more environmentally friendly and does not waste any water.
Since this is not a waterproof device, you cannot install it outdoors at the main water inline, but this should not be an issue as it will still be effective enough indoors. And the fact that it does not entirely remove the hard minerals should not worry you as this is typical of these types of water softeners.
- Retains healthy minerals
- More environmentally friendly
- Descales entire water system
- Easy DIY installation on both metal and plastic pipes
- Lifetime repair/replacement warranty
- Not waterproof for outdoor installation
- Does not remove the hard minerals completely
8. Aquasana EQ-1000-AST-UV-AMZN – Super High Capacity
- Capacity: 10,000,000 gallons
- Flow Rate: 7 gallons per minute
- Dimensions: 9 x 46 x 69 in
- Weight: 76.9 pounds
With a capacity to filter and soften up to an impressive 10,000,000 gallons, this Aquasana product is one of the best whole house water softeners you can get anywhere. This super high capacity ensures that it will be at least a decade before you think of any replacement.
Besides getting rid of most contaminants and up to 99% of the chlorine in the water, this system also uses a salt-free softener. It will also be ideal for individuals on a low salt diet.
Also, it does not demineralize the water which means that it will retain all those healthy minerals to give you healthy and great tasting water.
The high capacity and efficient filtration and softening help to make this one of the best water softeners for well water.
Despite the relatively larger size and more complicated look, this system is quite easy to install as it comes with everything you need in the installation kit.
This water softener is the priciest on our list but the long service life and water quality make the price tag seem like a huge brain.
And the relatively low water pressure that delivers 7 gallons per minute is also not that bad and given the water quality, it is something that you can live with.
- Super high capacity
- Salt-free softening
- Easy installation and filter change
- Does not demineralize the water
- Quite an expensive system
- Relatively low water pressure
9. Aquasana EQ-SS20 – Salt-Free Standalone Water Condition
- Capacity: 50,000 gallons
- Flow Rate: 7 gallons per minute
- Dimensions: 14 x 5 x 23 in
- Weight: 13.1 pounds
Aquasana EQ-SS20 is a salt-free water softener designed to condition the water to prevent the buildup of hard minerals in the system and without adding salt to the water.
It can work as both a standalone system or as part of a whole house water filter system to allow for more flexibility.
Also, this water softener will not demineralize the water meaning that it will still retain the healthy minerals and the great natural taste. And there is almost no water wastage with this salt-free system.
The installation is quite straightforward because like with most of their other products, Aquasana supplies everything that you will need.
Like most salt-free water softeners, this is more of a conditioner, and so it might not remove all the hard minerals from the water but at least you will not have to deal with scaly buildups.
While the 7 gallons per minute flow rate is relatively slow when compared to other units in our list, it is still good enough for most households.
- Salt-free water softening
- Will not demineralize water
- No water wastage
- Super easy to install and use
- Highly effective in preventing limescale buildup
- Does not remove the hard minerals
- Slower flow rate
10. WaterBoss 220 – Efficient and Reliable
- Capacity: 22,000 grains
- Flow Rate: 12 gallons per minute
- Dimensions: 18.8 x 14.8 x 25.8 in
- Weight: 73.2 pounds
WaterBoss 220 is a compact and reliable whole house water softener with a capacity of up to 22,000 grains and is designed to provide a decent flow rate of up to 12 gallons per minute.
Being a product from one of the best water softener brands, the performance is also quite impressive. And this is because the system does not use a lot of salt, but it is still highly effective in softening the water.
The 18-minute on-demand regeneration time is also faster than what you get from many other similar systems, and this means you will have less downtime when using this water softener.
Also, it has a factory installed by-pass valve and provides a whisper quiet operation, and you will hardly hear any sound from it.
The fact that you cannot mount it outdoors should not be a big deal as it does not take up a lot of space. Also, despite the salt storage and control location not being well-thought-out, this will not affect the performance and convenience of the system.
- Efficient softening with less salt use
- Compact design to fit tight places
- Faster regeneration time
- Whisper quiet operation
- Built-in bypass valve
- Cannot be mounted outdoors
- Location of salt storage and controls is not well thought out
Types of Water Softener
There are four common types of water softeners which are dual-tank, salt-based, salt-free and magnetic water softeners.
1. Salt-Based Water Softeners
Salt-based water softeners are the traditional types like the ABCWaters ABCWS48-56SXT-10 and they are the most common option currently on the market. The water softener will work by cycling water through two tanks.
One of the tanks houses special beads and the other is for the brine or salt water. The water filters will work by swapping the hard minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium with sodium ions from the water which then softens it.
The wide availability of these water softeners makes them relatively more affordable as there are many models available. Although the water may contain some traces of salts, it will not leave any scale deposits in the plumbing system.
- Common and widely available
- Relatively more affordable
- Water will not leave scale deposits
- Leaves salt traces in the water
- Softening material can be pricey to replace
2. Salt-Free Water Softeners
While the name might sound exciting as there is no salt, this is not actually a water softener as it will not remove the hard water minerals.
Salt-free water softeners like iSpring ED2000 are water conditioners that will not remove anything from the water. Instead, they will make it harder for the minerals to form some buildup inside the pipes.
Because they do not use any salt, these are not nearly as effective as the salt-based water softeners, but this also means that they will also be cheaper to run as you do not need to but any salt. And they also require relatively less maintenance.
- Cheaper to run
- Require less maintenance
- Minimizes limescale buildup
- Not proven to remove hard water minerals
3. Dual-Tank Water Softeners
Water softeners require regular recharging or regeneration after working on a certain volume of water. For the traditional salt-based water softeners, this means having to take the system offline for some time, and you will not be able to get softened water for that time.
The dual-rank water softeners are meant to address this problem by ensuring that you will get a constant supply of soft water throughout the day.
They achieve this by having multiple tanks which for most systems means two large iron tanks and one brined one. And so as one tank is regenerating the other one continues to soften the water.
These are the best water softener systems for families that require large volumes of softened water and they generally also have a faster flow rate when compared to many other types. However, they require a bigger initial investment.
- Great for filtering large water volumes
- No regeneration downtimes
- More flexible tanks sizes
- Relatively pricey
4. Magnetic Water Softeners
The magnetic water softeners like Eddy ED6002P-US are also salt-free softeners, and they are some of the most controversial types as many people seem to have varying opinions about their use. Like the salt-free types, they are more of a water conditioner than a softener.
Magnetic water softeners are clipped to an incoming water pipe and will then emit a magnetic field that then changes the properties of the minerals in the water. And it will also prevent the buildup of limescale.
These water softeners will not interfere with your piping system and will not require any installation or bypass valves.
- No installation required
- Does not require any plumbing detachment or bypass valves
- Prevents nasty limescale buildups
- Not very effective in water softening
Buying Advice: For those that have larger families and require a constant supply of softened water, the dual-tank is by far the best option while the more affordable conventional salt-based water softeners are ideal for small families. Magnetic and salt-free water softeners, on the other hand, are ideal for those that do not have very hard water and just want something to prevent limescale buildup.
Finding a good water softener should now be effortless as our review above provide enough recommendation.
For those looking for something inexpensive that still does a great job and is straightforward to install, the Watts Water Technology M7002 is perfect.
But, if you want a great all-round unit that is both highly useful for filtration and water softening, the iSpring RCC7AK is our best overall product.
In this post:
- What To Check Before Buying Best Water Softener?
- 10 Best Water Softeners of 2021 Reviewed
- 1. iSpring RCC7AK – Best Overall
- 2. ABCWaters ABCWS48-56SXT-10 – Best for Small to Medium Size Family
- 3. iSpring ED2000 – More Affordable
- 4. On The Go OTG3NTP3M – Compact and More Portable
- 5. Watts Water Technology M7002 – Simple and Cost-Effective
- 6. AFWFilters Fleck 64k – Effective with a High Flow Rate
- 7. Eddy ED6002P-US – Easy to Install and Affordable
- 8. Aquasana EQ-1000-AST-UV-AMZN – Super High Capacity
- 9. Aquasana EQ-SS20 – Salt-Free Standalone Water Condition
- 10. WaterBoss 220 – Efficient and Reliable
- Types of Water Softener