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Reviews of the Best Water Softeners

The 6 Best Water Softeners of 2018

Best Water Softener
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We reviewed six different water softeners. At the end of our review, we came to the conclusion that the Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener is the best water softener. Its strengths overshadowed it’s weaknesses even as its relatively affordable price ensnared us.

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Is water really hard? What is a water softener? How does a water softener work? These are just a few examples of some of the unanswered questions in the minds of many people right now. We’ll try as much as possible to provide you with the answers to these questions.

In the next section, we’ll review the best water softener systems on the market. If you’re interested in buying a water softener – sure you are – please read this article to the end.

Let’s take a look at the water softeners we’re reviewing.

Whole House Water Softeners: Our Top Picks

Best Overall
Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener
Editor Rating:
4.9 Star Rating
Grain Size:
64,000
Type:
Salt-based
Best Value
Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Water Softener
Editor Rating:
4.7 Star Rating
Grain Size:
48,000
Type:
Salt-based
Best For RVs
Tier1 48,000 Water Softener
Editor Rating:
4.9 Star Rating
Grain Size:
48,000
Type:
Salt-based
Best Softener With Hardness Tester
ABCwaters built Fleck 5600sxt Softener
Editor Rating:
4.8 Star Rating
Grain Size:
48,000
Type:
Salt-based
Budget Pick
Watts RV-Pro 10,000 Water Softener
Editor Rating:
4.8 Star Rating
Grain Size:
10,000
Type:
Salt-based
Best Salt Free
Eddy Electronic Water Descaler - Water Softener Alternative
Editor Rating:
4.9 Star Rating
Grain Size:
NA
Type:
Salt-free

Expert Water Softener Reviews

Overall Best – Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener

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Our overall best water softener is the Fleck Iron Pro 2 Combination water softener. The Iron Pro 2 is a whole house water softener – just like some of the other units in the table above. It is built to work in tandem with a whole house water filter.

The Iron Pro 2 water softener has a grain rating of 64,000. This is undoubtedly one of the best grain ratings in the industry. It’s the highest on our list too. You can choose from the other grain options available depending on the size of your household.

Available grain options for this water softener include 32000, 40000, 48000, and 80000. The Almond color of the unit makes it look quite premium – something better than the black color we’re used to on other models.

The Iron Pro 2 also sports a digital LCD display with responsive controls. You can set your regeneration preference from this mode.

View Features and Pros/Cons

Features We Love

  • 64,000-grain capacity.
  • LCD screen with control buttons.
  • Removes as much as 75 GPG of hardness.
  • Half a decade warranty period.
  • Sports a bypass valve.

Pros

  • The Iron Pro 2 is available in various grain options up to 80,000 grains. This will cater very well for households with large water needs.
  • It comes with an LCD screen and buttons that make controlling this unit simple.
  • A complete brine tank with float assembles and well.
  • The unit is designed to last up to 5 years.

Cons

  • It doesn’t remove iron from the water completely.

The Iron Pro 2 water softener has a longevity period of about half a decade. For this long period, it does a lot of work, removing as much as 75 GPG of hardness. It also eliminates iron, manganese, sand, sediment, and rust – all of which have a range of 6 – 8 PPM.

Fleck saves you a lot of stress and money as they ship the Iron Pro 2 alongside everything you’ll need for a smooth installation. Don’t be afraid when the delivery team shows up and offloads four huge cartons in front of your door.

Installing the unit is not difficult. You should have an intermediate knowledge of plumbing to be able to install it. To save yourself the stress of installation, we advise that you find a professional to do the installation for you.

Best Value – Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener

Fleck-5600SXT-48000-Grain-W
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The Fleck 5600ST 48,000 grain water softener is one unit that offers immense value to its owners. Yes, it doesn’t have up to 64,000 grains like its close cousin, the Fleck Iron Pro 2 water softener. However, it does well even with the 48,000-grain rating.

This Fleck 5600SXT is donned in black color in contrast with its almond colored counterpart. It comes with its brine tank and safety float as well as a digital LCD screen with responsive controls for setting the unit.

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Features We Love

  • 48,000-grain capacity.
  • Digital LCD with controls.
  • Supports water with a flow rate of up to 28 GPM.
  • Suitable for a household of 6 persons.

Pros

  • The unit has a grain capacity of 48,000.
  • It has a digital LCD display with controls that are swift and responsive.
  • You can install the unit outside the home if you are low on space.
  • This can serve a household of up to 6 persons.

Cons

  • Requires professional installation.

Fleck designed the 5600SXT water softener to treat water with a flow rate between 12 GPM and 28 GPM. This makes the unit suitable for softening water that can sustain a household of 6 persons.

This unit doesn’t have a low salt indicator. Therefore, you need to check it once a month to ascertain the salt level in it. It can use as much as 4 bags of salt per month depending on your water usage. Further details concerning this are on the instruction manual in the unit.

The unit should be installed by a professional. It can be installed outside unlike some competitors that can only be installed in the house. However, for outside installations, an electrical cover should be used to cover the electrical connections to make sure they are waterproof.

Best For RVs – Watts RV-Pro 10,000 Water Softener

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RV owners need not complain about their inability to get soft water onboard their vehicle. The Watts RV-Pro 10,000 water softener is uniquely designed to work on RVs. It makes hard water a thing of the past.

Installing this water softener in your RV isn’t all that rosy for a newbie. A professional, on the other hand, won’t find it hard to install the unit.

To make usage easy, the unit comes with an inbuilt drain line flow restrictor. This restrictor ensures that the softener is able to regenerate effectively. As a matter of fact, the level of regeneration is significantly increased by up to 55%.

In addition to that, the flow valves in the unit allow the unit to regenerate without be disconnected and reconnected frequently.

View Features and Pros/Cons

Features We Love

  • 10000-grain capacity.
  • Inbuilt drain line.
  • Stress-free regeneration.
  • Works with common table salt.

Pros

  • This softener works with common table salt.
  • It offers stress-free regeneration which doesn’t require connecting/disconnecting the system.
  • The grain rating is somewhat adequate for an RV. It eliminates the issues caused by lack of soft water in an RV.

Cons

  • A low flow rate of 4 GPM.

The Watts RV water softener has a grain rating of 10,000 grains. It’s certainly not much. However, it’s surely going to last for a pretty long time considering the fact that you’re not living in the RV permanently.

As a salt based system, the unit requires salt to be put into it every now and then. It is designed to work with common table salt. One advantage this offers is that it saves you the stress of looking for where to buy specific salts when compared to other softeners.

The unit has a pretty decent flow rate of about 4 GPM. It’s not the best, however, it will suffice in an RV.

Best Softener With Hardness Tester – ABCwaters built Fleck 5600sxt 48,000 Black Water Softener

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The ABCWaters Fleck 5600SXT water softener is in no wise different from the other Fleck water softener models we’ve reviewed so far. However, this particular model comes with a water hardness test kit.

This is important especially if you have no prior knowledge of how hard your water is. This should save you a few bucks. Aside from that, this model also comes with an install kit.

The unit is black in color and has a grain rating of 48,000 grains. As with the other water softeners, the resin is already loaded into the water tank.

There’s a five year longevity period for this unit. It’s likely going to exceed the warranty period if you maintain the salt levels and do all the necessary changes.

View Features and Pros/Cons

Features We Love

  • 48,000-grain capacity.
  • Comes with a hardness test kit.
  • Preloaded with resins.
  • Supports flow rate of 12 GPM.
  • Features an LCD screen for quick controls.

Pros

  • The softener supports a flow rate of 12 GPM.
  • An impressive 48,000-grain capacity.
  • Extensive warranty period.
  • Fully loaded brine tank.

Cons

  • Not easy to install.

This water softener has a flow rate of 12 GPM. It’s arguably not high, but you won’t have any problems with the water pressure. The unit comes with its own brine tank with the accompanying float.

The softener is easy to install. However, to minimize the chances of making mistakes, you should get a professional to install it for you. To control the regeneration ability of the unit, a digital LCD display with control buttons comes with the unit.

If you want to install the unit outside the house, ensure that the electric fittings are properly covered.

Budget Pick – Tier1 48,000 Grain High-Efficiency Digital Water Softener

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If you are on a budget and you’re looking for a water softener for your home, the Tier1 48000 grain water softener might be a perfect choice. With a grain rating of 48000 and a shiny blue color, this water softener will do more than just capture hardness from the water in your home.

As you’d expect, it looks like its counterparts and has no extra bells and whistles. The extra benefit for owning this unit is that it’s a hundred bucks cheaper than its counterparts on our review list.

This softener comes with the standard LCD display with responsive control buttons. You can easily set the unit to regenerate with ease.

View Features and Pros/Cons

Features We Love

  • 48,000-grain capacity
  • An LCD screen with responsive control buttons.
  • Less expensive than its counterparts.
  • Comes with its own installation kit.

Pros

  • The grain capacity of this softener is more than enough to provide soft water to a household of 6 persons.
  • It comes with its own installation kit although installation is better off in the hands of a professional.
  • The softener is less expensive than its counterparts.

Cons

  • None.

The softener comes with its own installation kit. You’ll find the bypass valve on the softener very helpful when you start using the softener. It is important to have a professional handle the installation of the unit to avoid stories that touch.

Best Salt-Free – Eddy Electronic Water Descaler – Water Softener Alternative

Eddy-Electronic-Water-Desca
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For individuals worried about their intake of salt, the Eddy water descaler is a convenient alternative to a water softener. We explained how a water descaler works in the knowledge-based section of this review article.

The eddy water descaler is electrically powered, however, you shouldn’t worry about your energy bills. It requires only about 5 watts of power to function.

Installation wise, the Eddy water descaler can be installed by anyone who follows the directions in the installation manual. However, a professional would do a better job in record time and save you the stress of making and correcting mistakes during installation.

The unit cannot be installed outside the house. All the installation must be done on the inflow pipe within the house. This can make installation cumbersome in some cases.

View Features and Pros/Cons

Features We Love

  • No grain limits.
  • Uses only 5 watts of energy.
  • Affordable softener alternative

Pros

  • It is an inexpensive alternative to a water softener.
  • The Eddy water descaler is energy efficient as it uses just 5 watts of energy.
  • There are no grain limitations with the Eddy water descaler. It simply treats all the water for hardness.

Cons

  • It can only be installed inside the house. Some houses have their water plumbing line outside the house.

Unfortunately, the Eddy water descaler doesn’t work on galvanized, lead, and iron pipes. And if you were expecting a grain rating on the unit, well, you might be disappointed as it’s designed to soften all the water.

In all honesty, anyone on a budget can opt for this descaler instead of going for the whole house water softeners that abound. However, the descaler has a few limitations which include a low flow rate that might cause water pressure to drop in the home.

Whole House Water Softeners Comparison Table

Best Water SoftenersOur RatingGrain SizeTypePrice
Iron Pro 24.964,000Salt-based$$$$$
Fleck 5600 SXT4.748,000Salt-based$$$$
Tier1 48,0004.948,000Salt-based$$$$
ABCWaters Fleck 56004.848,000Salt-based$$$$$
Watts RV-Pro4.810,000Salt-based$$$
Eddy Water Descaler4.9N/ASalt-free$$$

Benefits of using a water softener

Before we look at the factors to consider when shopping for the best water softener, here are some of the benefits you’ll derive from using a water softener.

If you’re curious to know the benefits of using a water softener, then this section of this review will interest you.

Prolonged appliance life

It’s no news that hard water can sometimes reduce the lifespan of water-based appliances in the home. It gradually builds up rust and discoloration in these appliances due to the presence of the minerals in the water.

This directly leads to a reduction in the efficiency of the appliance. And next thing you know, you’re taking out your credit card to buy another replacement and the cycle continues.

Save on energy

Hard water takes a lot more time to boil than soft water. This causes the appliance to stay on for long and thus uses more energy. Having a water softener installed in your home can slightly reduce your energy charges.

Save on detergents and soaps

Hard water doesn’t lather easily. Thus, we are tempted to keep rubbing soap on our body and adding detergent to the washing machine. This ensures the soap and detergent don’t last long. Did we even mention that you save a great deal of time wasting?

Your Plumbing System will be cleaner

Imagine filtering water to remove impurities only for the water to clog the plumbing system in your home. Install a water softener alongside the whole house water filter and you’ll have up to 98% clean drinking water in your home. Adding a UV water filter or a reverse osmosis system will surely make the water 100% fit for drinking.

White Fabrics Stay White

Hard water is one of the chief culprits responsible for discoloration of white clothes. When a water softener is installed, the minerals in the water responsible for the discoloration are removed. This leaves your white clothes looking whiter.

What is hard water?

Wikipedia gives us the definition of hard water as “water that has high mineral content as a result of the water coming in contact with deposits of minerals like limestone and magnesium carbonates”.

This clearly indicates that water softeners were developed in other to eliminate water hardness. In the knowledge-based section towards the end of this review, we delved deeper into identifying hard water.

The Best Water Softener: What You Should Know Before You Make A Purchase

It’s obvious you’re about to buy a water softener. You wouldn’t be reading this article if you were not interested in buying one. In this section of the article, we will share with you a handful of things you must know while you pick shop for the best hard water softener for your home.

The first thing you should do is to test the water in your home for hardness.

Test Water For Hardness

This is important because it will help you determine how hard the water is and what type of water softener you need. There are several ways to test for water for hardness, the chief method being a lab test. Below, we’ve shared two different ways to test water for hardness.

Testing Using Soap Suds:

This is a quick way of detecting if water is hard or not. However, it doesn’t provide 100% accuracy as compared with a test kit. For testing using this method, follow the steps below.

  1. Get a clear and transparent bottle. An empty plastic water bottle can suffice.
  2. Pour some of your home’s water into the water bottle.
  3. Get liquid soap and squeeze a little bit of the soap into the water bottle.
  4. Next, cover the water bottle and shake it thoroughly for about 10 – 15 seconds.
  5. Place the container on a table and examine for suds. Suds refer to the lather produced by a soap. If the water looks cloudy with fewer suds, it’s most likely to be hard water. Again, if the water is clear and has much suds, then it’s most likely to be soft water.

Using a Test Strip

This method involves dipping a material into the water you are testing. Any color changes on the strip are checked against the color palette provided with the strip. This method of testing water for hardness will give 99% accuracy.

See the video below to understand how it works.

Which Type of Water Softener

There are 3 different types of water softeners. They differ slightly in how they work. Ensure that you use a water softener that has an NSF/ANSI 44 certification. This certification is a clear indicator that the water softener is an efficient one.

  1. Salt-based softeners.
  2. Salt-free softeners.
  3. Magnetic water softener otherwise called a descaler.

Salt-based Softeners

A salt-based water softener makes use of salt ions to remove the minerals in water that cause hardness. This is done by passing the hard water through two tanks. One of the tanks is filled with brine and the other is filled with special resin beads/grains. It is necessary to add salt into a salt tank provided on the machine. The hard water that goes into it comes out as soft water.

Salt-free Softeners

A salt-free water softener uses a salt substitute like potassium chloride. The added substitute prohibits minerals from accumulating in the water by acting as a scaler.

Magnetic Water Softeners

Magnetic water softeners otherwise called a descaler works using magnetic principles. It creates a magnetic field which changes the electromagnetic properties of the minerals in the water.

NB: There are dual-tank water softeners. A dual tank water softener falls under either a salt-free or a salt based water softener. They are often categorized as a separate type of water softener whereas they are clearly not.

The main focus of a dual tank water softener is to keep providing you with soft water even when the unit is regenerating. One tank is regenerating while the other provides its water.

What Size Would You Prefer?

Water softeners are available in various sizes. When we say sizes, we don’t mean physical size. In other words, we are referring to an internal size rating. While you read the review above, you must have come across numbers like 48,000 and 64,000 grains. Well, that’s what we mean.

To determine the size of water softener to buy, you should first consider the size of your home. Any largely sized water softener is your best option.

The average grain rating of a water softener for a home of 3 stands at 33,000 grains. Opting for a unit with a 48,000 or 64,000-grain rating will definitely make room for more people.

Don’t just plan for yourself. An extra room for Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas visitors won’t hurt.

Installation

DIY enthusiasts shouldn’t find it difficult installing the unit. Make sure that there is an installation guide that comes with your unit. Take note of the accessories you’ll need for installation, in addition to the price for installation except you are getting a professional installation.

Furthermore, take note of the space available for installation. There should be ample space around the unit before and after installation.

Features

Water softeners don’t always come with a lot of bells and whistles. We’ve made mention of some of the important features a water softener should have. They include the following.

  1. A timer control: The timer can help you automatically regulate your water softener’s regeneration cycle. Remember to set the timer accordingly based on your water usage speeds in the house.
  2. DIR controls: DIR refers to a type of control feature on water softeners that indicate the need to recharge the resin. With the DIR controls, a water softener can enter the regeneration mode easily and help you save on both salt and water. Fairly large households with fluctuating water usage needs will like it.
  3. A bypass valve: Activities like filling the pool, watering the flowers, and washing the car, don’t have a preference for a type of water. Hence, a bypass valve can come handy when you want to do any of these things.
  4. Regeneration setting: The regeneration setting is an important aspect that you shouldn’t overlook. Buy a water softener that has a metered regeneration system. The resin in the system regenerates when the water drops to a certain level.

How To Install A Water Softener

This is one of the most asked questions aside from “which water softener should I buy?”. It clearly indicates that a lot of people are keen on saving some bucks by doing the installation themselves.

We don’t encourage DIY installation of some of the units above especially if you don’t have a basic plumbing knowledge although all the units come with an installation manual.

We’ve shared a video showing the process of installing a water softener.

In this video, a professional can be seen digging a trench for the installation. The trench is necessary since they installed the water softener in the garage which is a bit far from the main water pipe into the home.

A water softener can be installed outside the house but a few things are taken into consideration. These include a drain for the water, an electricity source, and of course, environmental factors.

The installation process in the video appears easy, literally. However, he’s a professional so it’s really an easy thing for him to do.

Here’s the video below.

The next video below shows another professional doing the installation inside the house.

Here, no trench is dug since the water source and the place where the water softener is installed are close to one another.

Take note of all the steps and items used. A single mistake can ruin your unit. This is why we always advise that you get a professional to run the installation for you.

How Often Should You Add Salt To Your System?

Most of the water softener systems on the market are designed to use one bag of salt every month.

You should mark off a month from the date of installation and then check the salt level on the tank. Always keep a bag of salt at home.

And please make sure the salt level has gone down significantly before topping it up again.

To add salt to your water softener, simply remove the lid on the unit and pour in your salt. Turn it off before topping the salt. Then turn it on back again after topping up the salt.

How Does A Water Softener Work

Here’s an explainer video that shows how your water softener works. The first video shows how traditional water softener works.

The next video below shows how a water descaler like the Eddy Electronic Water Descaler – Water Softener Alternative works.

Maintenance Tips For Your Water Softener

Proper maintenance of your water softener will surely elongate the life of your unit. In this unit, you’ll find a step by step process of cleaning your brine tank and keep your water softener working fine.

Final Words

Keep your family safe and healthy by installing the best water softener in your home. Install a water filtration system before the water softener.

  • Our Rating
4.9

Summary

Hard water can cost you a lot. However, with the Iron Pro 2 Water Softener installed in your home, you’ll have fewer things to worry about.

Stay safe drinking clean soft water.

Walt Anderson

Walt Anderson

I'm Walt Anderson, a general contractor from Montana. I specialize in water treatment and I have installed water filtration systems, water softeners and water heaters in residential homes for over 20 years. When I'm not working on this site, I'm at my cabin in the backwoods of Montana with my two dogs, Kurt and Russell.

2 comments

  • Walt, I definitely have hard water but I have heard that water softeners are basically a waste of money most appliances and detergents these days are able to work in both soft and hard water conditions. Can you shed some light on this opinion, thanks.

    • Hey Robyn, while there is some truth that products do exist that are capable of performing in hard water conditions, the general consensus in the professional world is that a water softener will prolong the life of not only your appliances, but also your entire plumbing system. Hard water will inevitably leave limescale, calcium and other deposits in your water heater, for example. Water softeners are not expensive relative to the cost of your house and the potential repair bills of fixing your water heating, plumbing or other appliances. For that reason, I still recommend getting a water softener. Thanks for your question, Robyn.