Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Good, pure water can be hard to find, even when it is treated by a city treatment plant. The problem is, while treatment plants can remove all of the harmful bacteria and germs to make the water safe to drink, it doesn’t necessarily improve the taste. In some places, water contains extra minerals, like calcium, that affects the taste and quality. To remove these minerals, you need a water softener.
Common in laundry products, water softeners are a wide range of products and devices that remove calcium buildup and the like from water. Basic softeners come in liquid or pellet form for laundry, dishes, and bathing. To expand the treatment to all the water in your home, you can buy a dedicated softener device that will hook up directly to your plumbing. We looked at the water softeners on the market and found the best ones to help you find the right choice for your home.
Best Overall: GE 40,200 Grain Water Softener
This top pick for best overall water softener will take care of the entire home. While liquid and pellet softeners are great for specific tasks like laundry, they are too limited to handle a home’s whole water supply. The GE 40,000 Grain, however, has the capability to tackle every watering task since it hooks up directly to the plumbing, filtering the water well before it reaches a faucet.
The water softener removes around 125 grains per gallon of hard materials such as iron using its salt-storage capacity of 230 pounds. For some customizability, it comes with a digital display with programmable settings, an alarm, and memory for saving your preferred settings. GE’s SmartSoft technology adaptively learns the home’s standard water usage so it can better adapt the softening process to things like laundry and bathing automatically.
Best Budget: Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner for Tankless Water Heaters
Since water softeners can range from a few to thousands of dollars, it is helpful to know what your budget is before buying one. Budget-conscious customers can stick with task-specific softeners that are cheap but limited in quality. The better option, however, is an affordable permanent softener like the Aquasana SimplySoft. Using a salt-free design that sits right hooks up right to the water source, this softener can handle a variety of small tasks without needing a refill.
This is a relatively low tech solution for people wanting an easy-to-use water softener option. Using a salt-free water softener, it naturally removes the hardness without adding any salt or harmful chemicals back into the water. Simply put the device into the waters you are using and wait for it to soften before moving forward.
Best for Well Water: iSpring RCC7AK 6-Stage Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System
While having your own well comes with its advantages, well water doesn’t always taste so great. This six-stage water softener from iSpring promises to remove 99-percent of more than 1,000 different contaminants like asbestos, bacteria and other stuff you definitely don’t want your family drinking. The result is healthy, great-tasting water that many say is as good or better than bottled water you’d buy in a store. Because the process also takes out some healthy minerals, this softener come with an additional filter that adds some of them back in so you don’t miss out on their benefits.
It’s designed to be mounted under the sink, and it comes with detailed instructions to help aid installation. It can also be connected to your refrigerator or coffee maker. The company offers live phone support in case you run into trouble during installation, but customers say it’s a relatively easy process. Many also note that using it has eliminated their need to buy bottled water, so it helps save money (and the planet!) too.
Best Pellet Water Softener: Diamond Crystal Bright and Soft Water Softener Salt Pellets
Whole home water softening systems require a softening source such as salt to get the job done. Typically, this can involve dumping pounds of specifically formulated salt directly into a brine tank. Since this can get rather messy, a good alternative is a salt pellet like the Diamond Crystal Soft and Bright which comes as a single, packed unit of salt.
When placed in the brine tank, the pellet will naturally dissolve into the water to automatically soften it while in use. Each pellet contains 99.8% pure salt so you don’t have to worry about harmful chemicals getting into the water. Once the pellet runs out, simply add a new one to keep the system running.
Best Electronic Water Softener: Eddy Electronic Water Descaler
An electronic water softener is the best option to consider when you want a modern way of removing minerals from the water. Electronic softeners such as the Eddy Water Descaler produce an electromagnetic wave that naturally breaks up minerals in the water as it passes through the pipes in a home. Compared to salt, this process can handle a variety of minerals without any leftover particles in the water.
The unit hooks up directly to the existing plumbing and filters the water without any need for salt or other chemicals. Specifically made for removing calcium, magnesium, and manganese compounds, the softener does a good job of dealing with limestone buildup that can damage tubs, sinks, showers, and other fixtures hooked up to the plumbing.
Best Heavy Duty Water Softener: Aquasana Rhino Series 6-Stage Whole House Water Filtration System
Large-scale water softening can be necessary for big homes or businesses where the quality of the water really matters. Liquid and pellet softeners will simply fail for these large tasks. Even common softeners that hook up to the plumbing might lack the capacity to effectively treat the water at the rate you need. Should you need the most in terms of capacity, the only real option is the Aquasana Rhino 5-Stage.
The Rhino is a whole water filtration system that uses a salt-free softening process to deal with hard water. Beyond just softening, the filtration system also removes chlorine, heavy metals, pesticides, and other chemicals that are harmful to the water and air during evaporation. The system doesn’t rely on any electricity, so installation is as simple as hooking it up to your existing plumbing.
Best Salt Free Water Softener: Pelican Water Whole House NaturSoft Water Softener Alternative System
Salt-free water softeners are a common alternative to laundry, dishwater, and pellet softeners. While salt gets the job done, some people don’t like the aftertaste or extra presence of sodium leftover. Salt can also remove nutritional minerals from the water. The Pelican Water Natursoft is an effective salt-free water softener that gets the job done.
The unit attaches to the plumbing from inside or out of the house. The stainless steel outer casing is waterproof for exterior use in cold temperatures. The salt-free softening process is tailored to remove harmful minerals will retaining nutritional ones that can enhance cooked foods.
Best Twin Tank: Abundant Flow Water WS-48k-91SXT 9100sxt complete softener
If your water is particularly hard and full of iron or you use more water than the average household, you may want to invest in a twin tank water softener to avoid any bouts of hard water while a single-tank model regenerates. This one from Fleck promises to deliver soft water 24 hours/seven days week and is a great pick for large families or those with particularly hard water. When one tank runs out of water and begins to regenerate, the other gets to work, meaning there’s no interruption in the flow of soft water
It’s a heavy-duty, salt-based system that will treat water for the entire house, capable of removing up to 48,000 grains of hardness. That can help with everything from making your laundry soap more effective (meaning you don’t have to use as much) to making your tap water taste better. Customers say the detailed instructions make it reasonably easy to install yourself. If you choose to have a plumber do it for you, the manufacturer say it’s about a 1- to 2-hour job.