Sadly for homeowners, most water coming out of the faucet is hard water. In fact, 85 percent of the United States has hard water that’s high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium (1).
During the summer, as you’re roaming the open roads in your RV, you’re likely going to encounter some hard water problems. For example, you might notice hard water stains on dishes, faucets, and water fixtures. You might also experience dry skin and hair due to soap scum and mineral buildup.
Having a one of the best portable RV water softeners on board can help to reduce — or even eliminate — your hard water problems.
- Easy setup
- Compact design
- Smart features
- Removes contaminants
- Heavy-duty tank
- Compact & sturdy fittings
- Double filtration
- Stable stand
- Small & lightweight
- Quick regeneration
- All parts included
- Excellent size
- Low maintenance
- High flow rate
Why Use a Water Softener?
A portable water softener is an excellent way to combat hard water issues while on the road. These units are easy to set up and usually don’t require any tools.
The most common water softener for RVs is a salt-based unit. These work similar to ion-exchange systems, but have only one tank.
Having a water softener on-board your RV can come in handy more than you might think. You can use it to create soft water to wash your vehicle, avoiding white marks caused by dried mineral deposits (2).
Having a nice warm, soapy shower while traveling in an RV is a great feeling. Unfortunately, soap doesn’t lather as well in hard water — calcium reacts with the soap and prevents it from lathering; instead, it creates soap scum (3). Therefore, softening the water will also improve your showering experience.
Choosing the Best Portable RV Water Softener
Finding a water softener for your RV isn’t as straightforward as choosing one for your home. When you’re planning a trip in your RV or camper, weight and space are limited. This means you have to be careful with what you pack and bring on your trip.
Here are some things to consider:
Size and Weight
The weight and size of the water softener are crucial. Sure, a large tank that can soften a significant amount of water in one go might sound good. However, it might not be necessary.
Consider how many people you’ll be traveling with. This should give you a good indication of how large the unit will be.
Keep In Mind
Type of RV Water Softener
There are a few types of RV water softeners you can choose from. The most common and effective system is portable ion exchange. Other types include magnetic, electronic, and filtration, but these are less-popular in RVs.
- Ion-exchange: Residential systems generally consist of two tanks, a resin and a brine. However, portable systems consist of only one tank and are hooked up between the water source and your RV. As you fill your freshwater tank, the water will run through the resin tank, and hardness ions are exchanged with salt ions (5).
- Electric and magnetic: These systems are salt-free. They use electrical currents or magnetic force to alter the molecular setup of the hard water. This results in the molecules being unable to stick to any surface and, therefore, unable to build scale.
- Filters: Softening RV water using a filter is also a popular method. Although it isn’t as effective, it can still remove a significant amount of minerals. A major plus for filters is that they’ll also remove contaminants such as metals and chemicals (6).
Regenerating a water softener is done when you’re refilling it with salt. The system requires a certain amount of time to regenerate — or recharge — after a refill.
How long it takes for a water softener to regenerate depends on the size and salt dose (7). A large unit (16,000 grains) can take about 30 minutes, whereas a small softener (8,000 grains) can be ready in 15 minutes.
Another point you should look for is a large mouth opening. This will make it much easier to access when regeneration is needed. It should also be easy to open and close, and shouldn’t require any disassembly.
Best Portable RV Water Softeners of 2022
Finding the best water softener for your RV only requires a little forethought. To make our ultimate list, we looked at the top water softeners that our expert team picked out, as well as customer feedback.
1. On The Go 16,000-Grain Portable Water Softener
Best 16,000-Grain Softener
The compact design of this water softener makes it the perfect option for the limited space in an RV. Despite the small casing, this softener can produce twice the amount of soft water compared to similar products.
Setting up the water softener is straightforward as it connects using garden hose connections. It also includes a few smart features to make it even easier to transport and set up.
Setting up this bad boy is super simple. Connect one end to the water source and the other to your RV’s mainline as you fill the tank.
All hoses are connected using garden hose connections, so it’s easy to figure out and doesn’t require any tools. You get everything you need in the box, such as the hose and adapters.
Measuring 22 inches in height and 9.50 inches in diameter, this water softener is compact and easy to store. If you’re a frequent RV traveler, you’ll know that of space and weight are precious.
Bringing a heavy, cumbersome water softener with you on the road isn’t going to work. This softener can easily be kept in the storage bay or dockside locker.
We love the extra thought and special features the brand put into this water softener. This includes a handle at the top to make it easier to carry, and a large opening for when you need to add salt.
Inside the tank, you’ll find high-grade premium resins that effectively exchange hardness ions for salt ions. The top of the tank swivels 360 degrees to face any inlet hose easily.
To avoid spills as you’re driving on bumpy roads, the tank can be fitted with a cap and plug feature. This keeps the lid on tightly and prevents any accidental spills.
The manufacturer claims that this water softener will produce 40 percent more soft water compared to similar models. Adding two boxes of regular table salt will generate soft water in less than 30 minutes. You get up to 1,600 gallons of soft water, which can last up to 40 days.
Weighing 32 pounds, this water softener can be too heavy for some to lift.
Also, remember that this will add significant weight to your RV’s overall load.
|Flow Rate||Not specified|
|Dimensions||22 x 9.5 inches|
|Salt Required||Two boxes of table salt|
2. Mobile-Soft-Water Portable 16,000 Grain Tank
Best Tank Softener
The Mobile-Soft-Water is a favorite of many RVers due to its ability to not only soften water but also eliminate contaminants, as claimed by the manufacturer. It connects easily to the RV tank and water source using a garden hose connection.
This model features a reinforced vessel that’s designed to withstand high pressure. The compact design is easy to store in an RV without compromising other items. You get everything you need to set it up, including a detailed manual for extra help.
It’s claimed that this unit will effectively soften up to 1,600 gallons worth of soft water due to it being filled with high-quality resin.
Not only does this water softener remove minerals, but it also eliminates contaminants. Impurities such as lead and other heavy metals can pose a significant risk to our health if consumed (8). These contaminants can be found in both well and municipal water (9).
The tank is made of plastic reinforced with fiberglass, enabling it to withstand high pressure (10). Furthermore, the vessel offers a high water flow rate of up to 5 GPM (gallons per minute) — you won’t have to wait for hours to fill your tank with softened water.
By measuring only 9.2 inches in diameter and 21.6 inches in height, this softener is an excellent size for RVs. It fits easily into a storage unit or cabinet without the need to swap items to accommodate.
This softener is sturdy even when water pressure builds, being equipped with male nylon fittings. Nylon fittings are durable and can withstand high pressure which ensures that no damage is done while you refill your tanks.
Because this softener uses nylon fittings, you can be sure it’s free of lead or other contaminants. In fact, this tank has been approved by the NSF as lead-free.
Doesn’t Include All Necessary Parts
Unfortunately, this vessel doesn’t come with all the necessary accessory parts, such as a hose. A few customers weren’t too pleased with this, as they had to make additional purchases.
|Flow Rate||5 GPM|
|Dimensions||9.2 x 9.2 x 21.6 inches|
|Salt Required||Two boxes of table salt|
3. ClearSource Premium RV Water Filter
Best Hard Water Filter
If you’re looking to soften and clean your water of contaminants, this is your guy. This portable water filter will remove sediment effectively while also removing chemicals and other impurities.
ClearSource’s water filter was featured in TrailerLife Magazine’s 2018 “Essential Equipment for RV Camping” gear guide. The system consists of two filters with different pore sizes to remove most contaminants. To avoid any spills or issues, the two filters come with a metal chassis that keeps them stable on the ground.
The water gets purified more efficiently due to the presence of two filters. At first, the water runs through a 5.0-micron filter; this removes sediment such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. Next, the water passes through a tiny 0.5-micron filter; this removes chemicals and volatile organic compounds.
Not only does this product soften your water and reduce the chance of sediment buildup, but it also cleans your water. Many campers refrain from drinking tap water from their RV but, if you filter it thoroughly, it can be safe to drink.
To make filtering water easier, ClearSource has included a rugged, powder-coated metal chassis. This keeps the filters stable as water passes through. You can easily attach the filters to the frame by using the included tool.
Small and Lightweight
A lot of weight is saved since this softener doesn’t hold a tank full of resin beads. This makes it even more ideal for a frequent camper who enjoys clean and soft water while on the road.
The two filters weigh about 17 pounds, which is much less compared to resin tanks that are close to or over 30 pounds. Additionally, the compact size makes it easy to store anywhere inside your camper or RV.
You can easily connect the filters to the RV and water source without worrying about breakage. The filters are fitted with stainless steel fittings that are durable and can withstand great pressure (11).
Not as Effective
There’s no doubt that this filter will remove a significant amount of sediment and scale from your water. However, it’s not as effective as a resin tank.
Resin tanks use the same technique as an ion exchange system, where they replace hardness ions with salt ions. This eliminates every trace of hard water. Because this is only a filter, it will only reduce the effects of hard water, such as limescale and dry skin.
|Flow Rate||Not specified|
|Dimensions||15 x 7 x 14 inches|
4. On The Go OTG3NTP3M Water Softener
Best RV Softener For Couples
If you like our top On The Go model, you’ll surely like this one as well. Sporting a similar design, this model is smaller, making it even more ideal for an RV.
It has a capacity of 8,000 grains, which is half the capacity of its big brother. Despite the smaller size, this softener is still an excellent choice for an RV’ing couple or small family.
The smaller size makes it quicker at regenerating, which is a plus. You also don’t need a lot of salt to recharge.
By measuring just 7 x 19.5 x 7.3 inches, this water softener is incredibly portable. You can easily store it anywhere in the RV without it hogging too much room.
The softener weighs around 18 pounds, so it won’t add much weight to your camper or RV.
Regenerating a water softener can take a long time; however, because this model is smaller, it only takes 15 minutes for it to be ready. You don’t even need to add more than a box of regular table salt.
All Parts Included
One of the main reasons we like this water softener is the fact that it comes with every part you’ll need. You get a hose and the correct fittings, so you don’t need to make any additional purchases.
Low Water Flow
Compared to bigger softeners, this unit has a significantly lower water flow. Unfortunately, this also means it can take a while to fill a large RV tank.
Consider this softener if you have a low water requirement, and the larger model, at our number one spot, if you have a larger requirement.
|Flow Rate||Not specified|
|Dimensions||6.75 x 22 inches|
|Salt Required||One box of table salt|
5. Watts Water Quality/Condition Softener
Best 10,000-Grain Water Softener
If you’re looking for an effective in-between water softener, this is it. The Watts water softener isn’t as grand as the others, but it’s not a small unit either. It has a capacity of 10,000 grains, so it fits in between the other models we’ve featured.
One of the reasons this is so popular is due to its high water flow of 4 GPM. There’s also a built-in drain line flow restrictor. This increases the regeneration capacity significantly.
We really like that the tank stands stable on the ground as you’re filling it with soft water.
If you want a water softener that’s neither too big nor too small, this softener may suit you perfectly. It has a compact, lightweight tank that can be stored easily in an RV.
We love how low maintenance this is. It requires no rinsing or cleaning; all you have to do is fill it with salt when regeneration is necessary.
High Flow Rate
Filling your RV tank via a water softener can sometimes take far too long. Some products are also prone to damage due to them not being able to withstand high pressure or water flow. However, this tank provides a flow rate of up to 4 GPM.
Several customers noticed a few leak points around the fittings. Some were able to fix this by using different connectors.
|Flow Rate||4 GPM|
|Dimensions||22 x 10 x 10 inches|
|Salt Required||Not specified|
|Product||Best||Capacity||Flow Rate||Dimensions||Weight||Salt Required|
|On The Go RV Water Softener||16,000-Grain Softener||16,000 grains||N/A||22″ x 9.5″||32 lbs||Two boxes of table salt|
|Mobile-Soft-Water Portable Tank||Tank Softener||16,000 grains||5 GPM||9.2″ x 9.2″ x 21.6″||33 lbs||Two boxes of table salt|
|ClearSource RV Water Filter||Hard Water Filter||N/A||N/A||15″ x 7″ x 14″||17 lbs||N/A|
|On The Go Portable Water Softener||RV Softener For Couples||8,000 grains||N/A||6.75″ x 22″||18 lbs||One box of table salt|
|Watts Water M7002 Softener||10,000-Grain Water Softener||10,000 grains||4 GPM||22″ x 10″ x 10″||9 lbs||N/A|
The Briny End
Using a water softener is the best way to reduce or eliminate hard water issues such as stains and limescale. There are different types to choose from, with salt-based models proving to be popular. If you prefer a filter, this can also get the job done.
Finding the best portable RV water softener isn’t hard but it does require a few considerations. Factor in size and weight to ensure you don’t overload your RV, and you’ll be on your way to a stress-free traveling experience.