Best Water Softeners Consumer Reports

It can be difficult to trust the quality of the water supply in the place you live. While your local water is safe to drink, it certainly is not pure and can be made much better in a few ways. One of these ways is to attach a water softener to your home’s piping.

Similar to a water filter, a water softener will remove potentially harmful chemicals in your local water supply and will replace them with nutrients and minerals that will not only make your water more flavorful but a lot safer to drink.

Different water softeners operate in different ways and perform different functions other than eliminating hard water and scale buildup, which nearly all water softeners do. This is why it is a good idea to explore different water softeners and what they do.

Editor’s Choice: Top 5 Water Softener

Why do You Need a Water Softener?

If you are interested in getting the most out of the water supply in your home, you will want a water softener.

There are a lot of things about your home’s water systems that you do not know about, and while this water is not really harmful, it does contain chemicals and additives that make it a little less than savory.

Water also has a “hardening” effect on the piping systems and structures of your home. When water hardens, it causes scale buildup which can cause lime and calcium deposits to develop in any place that encounters a lot of water.

Standing water combined with calcium and lime deposits can also cause mold to develop, and water softeners definitely help with that.

The Benefits of a Water Softener

There are a few benefits that water softeners provide.

  • Other than removing calcium and lime deposits that develop from hard water, water softeners can also act as a filter for your water and they often do very similar things than a filter does.
  • This means that water that is run through the softener will be one ounce more pure than water that is not filtered at all.
  • While water softeners are not a replacement for water filters in any sense, they do assist in the filtration process in their own way.

How Does a Water Softener Work?

Water softeners convert hard water that has high levels of calcium and lime into water that is “softer,” meaning it flows much easier through piping and other water systems.

When water is soft, it also reduces the impact that it has on the general plumbing throughout your home and it will improve the life of your plumbing.

This process is done using a mineral called sodium ions. These ions will remove the calcium, lime, and another buildup that makes water hard.

Combining the sodium ions with resin makes the process even faster and removes much more calcium and lime.

If you see a lot of calcium buildup in your bathroom or even your kitchen, you will want to check out what water softeners provide.

Here are ten featured water softeners that are very effective at what they do in a lot of ways.

10 Water Softener Ratings Consumer Reports

1. Digital Fleck Grain Water Softener by AFWFilters

Something that is left to be desired in water filters and water softeners is displayed that tells you when you need to replace the tanks. You can go months and months without even knowing that you needed to replace the tanks in your system because of this.

Fortunately, you do not need to worry about that with AFWFilters’ water softener. Coming with a digital reader, you will know exactly when your tanks are running out of the necessary sodium ionic compounds necessary to remove the calcium and lime from the hard water. This is very rare when it comes to water softeners and is very nice.

You will also get a lot out of AFWFilters’ water softener if you own a big home. Being able to treat flow rates of 12 gallons per minute, you will not need to worry about water being softened in some areas of the home and not softened in other areas. The Fleck will take care of it all.

The only thing about AFWFilters’ water softener that might turn some off is that it can be difficult to install compared to some of the more simple water softeners. Because it contains a lot of parts due to the digital reader, you might have some trouble installing the Fleck, even though you can still install it yourself.

2. Black Fleck Water Softener by Pentair

Although it is possible to install water softeners by yourself, it can often be really difficult to do. This is because most of the time, the instructions for installing water softeners by yourself can be really difficult to follow. If these instructions aren’t difficult to follow, then the softener itself is difficult to install.

Installation is made easy with Pentair’s water softener. Coming with directions that you can easily view from a tablet, PC, or any other device where you have access to a USB drive. This is far better than instructions that you get with most other water softeners, which usually come in the form of a sheet of paper that comes with the box.

Something that prolongs the life of Pentair’s water softener is that it has a 10% crosslink resin, which means it uses much less resin than most other water softeners. This is what makes Pentair’s water softener last much longer than other water softeners.

One thing that you need to check for with Pentair’s water softener is iron levels, especially if your water supply comes from your city and not a well. You will need a test kit to see if Pentair’s water softener will even be able to soften the water in your home.

3. 30000 grain softener by Whirlpool

There are a lot of water softeners that install with multiple parts. While it is possible to install these softeners, it is extremely complex and will take a very long time to install them. In some cases, you may even need to hire somebody to install these kinds of water softeners for you.

None of this is an issue with Whirlpool’s water softener. Arriving in one unit, you will have no real trouble installing it at all. All of the necessary piping simply hooks into the back of the unit and then you can work from there. You do not need to worry about attaching a lot of parts to your water supply with a design like this.

Most water softeners also do not manage salt levels too well when it comes to the sodium ions that are being used. Whirlpool’s softener solves this issue as well. It will automatically calculate how much water and salt it needs in order to soften the water that comes out of your appliances, which will save a lot of it.

The only thing about Whirlpool’s water softener that might turn you off is that it leaves a little to be desired when it comes to large homes. It only softens water up to 8 parts per million, which translates to only about 1 gallon per minute, making Whirlpool’s water softener only ideal for small homes.

4. 64000 grain water softener system by Fleck

Most water softener systems contain about a 30000 to 42000-grain resin reservoir. While this is acceptable, chances are good that water softeners that contain these kinds of reservoirs will not last in large homes. If they do last, they will only soften the water in certain plumbing or appliances but will leave others with hard water.

Being 64000 grains, Fleck’s water softener will ensure that enough resin is activated in the softener, this way every piece of plumbing or appliance will be free of hard water. It can also hold a lot of salt as well, up to 250 pounds. This will ensure that there is plenty of salt ready for your sodium ion components in the softener.

There are a couple of things that will turn you off from Fleck’s water softener, however. The first is that it has a tendency to leak. The tank is very thin and if it is not put together and installed properly, the chances are good that you might spring a link.

Speaking of installation, it is extremely difficult and time-consuming to install Fleck’s water softener. Even if you have all of the right tools and supplies, it will take hours to install and you will need a lot of space to install Fleck’s water softener.

5. “Iron Pro” combination water softener and iron filter by AFWFilters

Although water softeners loosely contain some filtering properties, most of the time these filtering properties are not noticeable when it comes to the water itself. Sure, the water softener will remove calcium and lime, but softeners do not directly filter water itself.

This all changes with the Iron Pro, by AFWFilters. The Iron Pro will not only remove calcium and lime that hardens water, but it will also check for and filter out iron content from your water supply as well. This is incredibly useful as it adds to the softening process as well as provides some light filtering.

The capacity of the Iron Pro is 64000 grains, and it uses high mesh resin. This promotes even higher iron removal and will ensure that every appliance and faucet of your home will have its water softened. Another thing that contributes to the hardness removal is that the Iron Pro will remove up to 75 gallons per grain of hardness, making it much more powerful than other water softeners.

The fact that the Iron Pro filters out iron as well as softens water means it uses more salt than others. This is something that you are going to need to watch for because even though the Iron Pro has a better salt capacity, it will also use up more salt. Keep an eye on the salt levels of the Iron Pro periodically.

6. Iron Pro 48000 grain water softener by Durawater

Loading a water softener with resin as you are installing it can be difficult to do, especially if you are installing the water softener yourself. It can be easy to load too much or too little resin and this can have some serious long-term effects on your softener.

Fortunately, Durawater’s softener comes pre-loaded with fine mesh resin, which decisively solves this issue. You will not need to worry about placing the mesh resin inside of Durawater’s water softener and this is something that takes a lot of the stress out of installing it if you have decided to install it yourself.

Being part of the iron pro series, Durawater’s water softener also acts as an iron filter, meaning that not only will the sediment, sand, and rust that hardens water will be removed, but iron levels in your water will also be reduced. You can also track these levels with Durawater’s digital metered valve.

You’ll probably need to look elsewhere if you are looking for a water softener if you possess a big home. Because the range of iron and hardness removal is only 6 to 8 parts per million, it can only soften water for 3 or so bathrooms and 1 kitchen.

7. 40000 grain water softener by Whirlpool

Installing the common water softener by yourself can take a very long time because there are so many parts involved. You’ll need to clear a lot of space for the filter and if you do not have all the right tools and supplies, you will need to acquire them before doing anything.

Although you will still need some tools and supplies to install Whirlpool’s water softener by yourself, it will be easier to install compared to other water softeners. This is because all of the small parts of the softener are located inside the unit.

Another issue with a lot of water softeners is that you will need to calculate exactly how much salt and water you will need to regenerate. While most plumbers can give you this kind of information, it is still inconvenient.

To ensure that you do not overshoot or undershoot these amounts, Whirlpool’s softener will automatically detect how much salt and water are necessary for the softening process and will use those amounts. This will save you a lot of both over time and makes it versatile as well. Large or small homes can take advantage of Whirlpool’s softener.

There is only one thing that can be improved with Whirlpool’s softener and that is its grain level. This is especially true if you intend to use it for large homes. Yielding only 40000 grains, your water might be perfectly soft if you use Whirlpool’s softener in a small home, but it might be only slightly softened in big homes.

8. 48000 grain water softener by AFWFilters

Something that is overlooked in water softeners is resin. While the resin is necessary for any given water softener to operate properly, it is the capacity of the resin that is often overlooked and this can lead to water not being perfectly softened.

You will not need to worry about this at all when it comes to AFWFilters’ water softener. With its resin being high capacity as well as yielding an 8% crosslink, this will ensure that not only the sodium ions in the softener will be able to do their job very well, it will also ensure that the softener itself will last a long time. Very few water softeners contain resin of this quality.

Installing a water softener by yourself is taxing in and of itself, and something that makes this even more inconvenient are the instructions. You usually get fold-out instructions or video instructions with these softeners but never both. You receive both with AFWFilters’ water softener, giving you options.

The high-quality resin that comes with AFWFilters’ softener seems to do its job almost too well. It will take a little longer than most for it to wear down to where your water might not taste normal. While this is essentially harmless, it is still something that you should watch for.

9. Water softener with high efficiency digital metered control head by Aquasure

Although a good majority of water softeners come with meters that allow you to check and track the water and salt levels that are necessary for activating the sodium ions that eliminate scale levels in the water, they do not do a good job at being detailed. A lot of times you will be missing specific information.

Aquasure’s water softener comes with one of the most detailed control heads that could ever be put onto a water softener. This device gives you every bit of information that you need when it comes to tracking water levels, salt levels, and even grain levels, which can fluctuate. This will provide you with much-needed peace of mind.

The control head also assists with regeneration and cleaning. It contains a time-delayed and metered backwash in case you are not comfortable with doing this kind of thing yourself.

You will need to dedicate a lot of time and effort if you wish to install Aquasure’s water softener by yourself, however. It contains a lot of different parts that you will need the right tools and supplies for. This is especially true with the metered control head, which is a bit bigger than other water softeners that contain a control head.

10. Water softener and filter hybrid by Whirlpool

While water softener and filter combinations exist, most of the filter components only focus on removing excess iron from water. While this is much more useful than water softeners that do not have any filtering capabilities at all, it still leaves a bit to be desired.

The best thing about Whirlpool’s water softener is that it combines the softening and filtering process perfectly. It will not just filter out iron, but it will do anything else that any other water filter does in terms of removing contaminants from your water supply. Very, very few water softener and filter combinations are capable of this.

Another very nice thing about Whirlpool’s softener and filter combination is that you do not need to replace the filter. The filter will clean itself every 14 days and this provides peace of mind among a set of filter and softener combinations that require you to replace the filter.

Whirlpool’s water filter is not designed for large homes at all. Not only that, it is severely lacking in the grain department, meaning that it will not remove as much scale from your drains or appliances as you may think. The iron removal rate is only 3 parts per million, meaning that it will not reach a lot of areas if you do decide to install it in a large home.

Water Softeners: A Buying Guide

Best Water Softeners Consumer Reports
Water Softener Tank System

Because of how diverse water softeners are, you are going to want to consider a number of things before buying one.

Here are a few things that you should consider before making the decision to purchase a water softener.

Do You Want to Install the Water Softener Yourself or Do You Need to Hire Help?

This is the first thing that you should consider because it is the one thing that will either add time or money to your purchase.

You’ll need to spend a lot of time if you intend to install a water softener by yourself. You’ll need the proper tools and supplies as well.

If you hire somebody to install a water softener for you, you will obviously need to spend some money on top of what you already spent on the softener itself.

Are you interested in a water softener and water filter combination?

Most households separate water filters and water softeners, but there exist a few water softeners that double as a water filter.

Something that you need to know about these contraptions is that most of them only remove the iron content from the water.

Another thing that you’ll need to know about water softener and filter combinations is that they are limited in the amount of water they will soften.

If you are looking for a water softener that is guaranteed to soften the water supply in every area of your home, you might not want to seek out a softener that can also act as a water filter.

How Big is your Home?

Just because you are in possession of a water softener does not automatically mean that you’ll be able to soften the water in every last appliance or faucet in your home.

In order to gauge if all of the piping in your home can have their scale, lime, and calcium removed, you’ll need to look at three different figures: Grain level, parts per million, and gallons per grain.

The higher these numbers are, the more likely the water will be softened among your faucets and appliances.

Understand salt, grain, and water levels

The water softening process utilizes salt, grain, and water to create a sodium ion that will clear the scale, lime, and calcium properties that make water hard.

The bigger the home you own, the more salt, grain, and water that you will need to have in your softener. More importantly, you’ll need to micromanage these levels more carefully as these levels will fluctuate a lot.

It can be tricky to micromanage these levels by yourself, and you might need some assistance in knowing the optimal levels of each of these.

Frequently asked questions

Q: Is a water softener worth it?

A: The answer to this question really depends on if you use a lot of water in your home for cleaning and other purposes. Hard water can be very inconvenient when you are cleaning, and since cleaning is an everyday routine in most homes, the chances are good that it is worth it.

Q: How much does it cost to install a water softener?

A: There are a few factors that determine how much it costs to install a water softener. It really depends on how big the softener is and whether it has a built-in iron filter. It also depends on what kinds of contractors are available and how much of the installation you want to take on yourself.

If you want to hire somebody to install the entire softener for you, you will be paying thousands of dollars. Taking on the installation yourself can cost as little as a couple of hundred dollars.

Q: How long do water softeners last?

A: The answer to this question depends on the grade of resin that is inserted into your water softener. Some resins allow the softener to last for only a couple of years before the components need to be repaired or replaced. Some others allow it to last for as long as five years.

Q: What happens if I stop putting salt in the water softener?

A: Water softeners need three things in order to clear the scale, calcium, and lime that causes water to harden: Grain, salt, and, of course, water.

This is what is necessary to produce the sodium ion compounds that eliminate hard water. If you stop putting salt in the softener, you will only produce two-thirds of said sodium ion compounds.

Q: What happens if my water softener runs out of salt?

A: When your water softener runs out of salt, your water will be one-third harder than it previously was when you were using the water softener with salt. No malfunctions will take place or anything, but the lack of salt will make your water softener a little less effective than it should be.

Q: Do water softeners need servicing?

A: As strong as the casing of water softeners are, they do encounter some malfunctions and they likely will need servicing at some point. It isn’t unlikely that some water softeners can spring a leak and other unfortunate things can happen to them. So because not all water softeners are perfect, they do need servicing at some points.

Q: Can I put vinegar in my water softener?

A: While vinegar can help to soften water, it is only recommended that you put a very small amount of it in the softener, and you should only do this if it is absolutely necessary. If you put too much vinegar in your water softener, it can cause the inner walls of the softener to erode and will cause the water softener itself to malfunction.


Believe it or not, a water softener should stand right along with your water filter when it comes to necessities for the home.

You will notice a very clear difference in how your water interacts with soap and other cleaning solutions once it is softened.

Understand that not all water softeners are the same. Some of them soften water and do only that.

Some water softeners have built-in iron filters, and some of them can double as a water filter and water softener.

Determine which of these you need, and make your decision accordingly. Your piping and appliances in your home will thank you for it.

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