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5 Best Water Softener Resins of 2024

Updated
When your water softener stops working well, you might need to use some resin.

If you have owned a water softener for several years and noticed that it is no longer working as effectively as it used to, it might be time to replace your unit’s resin. A common symptom is your system needing more frequent regeneration and salt replacement.

Water softener resin should last about a decade but it will eventually stop capturing the minerals that make your water hard. When it becomes ineffective, it needs to be replaced, which you should be able to do without professional assistance.

To help you find the best water softener resin for your unit, we have provided reviews of what we consider the top products available today. We chose these resins based on their materials, effectiveness, and price.

Our Top Picks

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Image
Model
Product Comparison Table
Features

Product Image of the Aquatrol Water Softener Resin
Best Overall
Aquatrol Water Softener Resin
  • 8% crosslink
  • FDA approved
  • Easy pour packaging
Product Image of the Purolite C100E Cationic Resin
Best USA-made Resin
Purolite C100E Cationic Resin
  • 1 cubic foot bag
  • Strong acid cation
  • Made in the USA
Product Image of the AFWFilters SOFRES1 Water Resin
Best Certified Resin
AFWFilters SOFRES1 Water Resin
  • WQA approved
  • 8% crosslink resin
  • Strong acid cation
Product Image of the Liquagen Ion Exchange Resin
Highest Crosslink Resin
Liquagen Ion Exchange Resin
  • Strong resin with 10% crosslink
  • Free funnel included
  • Large 2 cubic feet size

No products found.

Best Guarantee
Tier1 IER-110 Ion Exchange Resin
  • Strong acid sodium cations
  • High-quality resin
  • Unconditional guarantee

Review Methodology: At Sensible Digs, we understand the significance of providing accurate, hands-on analysis and trustworthy assessments. Our expertise in evaluating water softener resins is based on rigorous tests, data-driven research, and our substantial experience in the field. We compare different products, measure their performance, and rank them based on key decision-making factors such as efficiency, longevity, and cost-effectiveness. We delve into the design choices of each resin, focusing on their effects on water quality and user experience. Our findings and reviews are supported by first-hand evidence and solid facts, ensuring you make an informed choice. We go beyond the standard to track and highlight what sets a product apart from its competitors. Trust us to help you find the best water softener resin for your needs.



The Best Water Softener Resins of 2024

There is a strong possibility that you have never purchased water softener resin before, so the prospect can seem a little daunting. To make your search as straightforward as possible, we have read numerous user reviews and expert opinions to bring you our top five water softener resins available today.

Aquatrol Water Softener Resin

Best Overall Water Softener Resin

Aquatrol offers a premium quality water softener resin replacement made from polystyrene and DVB beads with an 8% crosslink.

This resin is FDA-approved for use in treating food for human consumption, which means it won’t affect your drinking water after it has undergone the softening process.

Aquatrol claims this resin is suitable for any residential water softener. However, it is always best to check your manufacturer’s specifications for your softener system to make sure.

Pros

  • 8% crosslink
  • FDA-approved
  • Easy pour packaging

Cons

  • Might not be suitable for commercial systems

Product Specs

Quantity 1 cubic foot
Weight 50 pounds
Type of Resin Strong acid cation sodium exchange
Crosslink 8%
Materials Polystyrene divinylbenzene (DVB)

Our Ratings

Ion Exchange Capacity
4.5 / 5
Material Quality
5 / 5
Lifespan
4.5 / 5
Eco-friendliness
4.5 / 5
Total Rating
4.5 / 5

User Experience

My experience with this resin has been outstanding. It's revitalized my older softener, transforming the water back to a softness even surpassing its original state. While changing the resin can get messy, careful planning can prevent it from becoming a problem. The quality and efficiency of this resin have been impressive so far; it's even enhanced my softener's performance compared to when it was first installed. Remember, though, this project might not be for everyone as it requires some research and specific tools.

Purolite C100E Cationic Water Softener Resin

Best USA-made Water Softener Resin

Purolite’s C100E Cationic water resin has 8% crosslink and is manufactured in the United States. The beads are polystyrene gel with DVB, making this resin a great choice for domestic water softener systems.

The strong acid cations are sodium-based to help remove hard minerals and soften your water. This should mean less buildup in your plumbing and appliances.

This resin is also suitable for commercial systems as Purolite states its primary application is use in industrial water softeners.

Pros

  • 1 cubic foot bag
  • Strong acid cation
  • Made in the United States

Cons

  • Might need to buy multiple bags for large systems

Product Specs

Quantity 1 cubic foot
Weight 50 pounds
Type of Resin Strong acid cation sodium exchange
Crosslink Not specified
Materials Polystyrene gel, divinylbenzene

Our Ratings

Ion Exchange Capacity
4.5 / 5
Material Quality
4.5 / 5
Lifespan
4 / 5
Eco-friendliness
4.5 / 5
Total Rating
4.25 / 5

Personal Perspective

Best decision I've made for my water softener was opting for this resin replacement. The resin was well-protected in its packaging, presenting no signs of damage. I found that patience was key during the application process, as the resin tended to stick together, requiring a slow pour with a funnel and cup. This resin, which had no odor and a unique golden-brown color, immediately transformed my water quality after installation. While my old Kenmore water softener was primarily used for filtering iron, this resin significantly improved its performance, bringing it up from a mere 35% to an impressive 90%. Although the price has increased recently, the results from this resin replacement have made it well worth the investment.

AFWFilters SOFRES1 Water Softener Resin

Best Certified Water Softener Resin

Although this AFWFilters resin is produced overseas in India, it is approved for use in the United States, having been tested by the Water Quality Association (WQA). The WQA sets the standards that must be adhered to for products created for use with water softeners and other water-related materials (1).

The 8% polystyrene and DVB beads are designed to remove calcium and magnesium from your water — this is a strong acid sodium cation blend.

AFWFilters advises that although this product is sold as 1 cubic foot, it might be delivered in multiple smaller bags with a combined volume of 1 cubic foot.

One negative is that some people notice a strange taste in their water after using this resin. Some describe it as having a plastic flavor.

Pros

  • WQA approved
  • 8% crosslink resin
  • Strong acid cation

Cons

  • Might give your water a plastic taste

Product Specs

Quantity 1 cubic foot
Weight 50 pounds
Type of Resin Strong acid cation sodium exchange
Crosslink 8%
Materials Styrene divinylbenzene copolymer

Our Ratings

Ion Exchange Capacity
4 / 5
Material Quality
4 / 5
Lifespan
4.5 / 5
Eco-friendliness
4 / 5
Total Rating
4 / 5

Community Feedback

This resin bag is a valuable asset for any water softener owner. Replacing the old resin in my softener was not too difficult; in fact, it was a straightforward process that only took about three hours. With the new resin, the water pressure and softness have significantly improved, making this product a worthwhile investment for extending the life of my water softener.

Liquagen Water Softener Resin with Funnel

Highest Crosslink Water Softener Resin

Liquagen’s food-grade water softener resin has a 10% crosslink. These stronger beads should last longer, so you will save money by buying them less frequently (2).

This higher crosslink can be particularly beneficial if your water supply contains a lot of chlorine or iron, such as when it is supplied by a well. These can quickly wear down your resin beads, so the stronger the better (3).

You get 2 cubic feet of resin and a free funnel when you buy this product. The funnel is very useful when refilling your tank, as you might otherwise have difficulty pouring the beads into it.

Pros

  • Strong resin with 10% crosslink
  • Free funnel provided
  • Large 2 cubic feet bag

Cons

  • The funnel is not packaged with the resin

Product Specs

Quantity 2 cubic feet
Weight 52 pounds
Type of Resin Strong acid cation sodium exchange
Crosslink 10%
Materials Gel polystyrene

Our Ratings

Ion Exchange Capacity
4.5 / 5
Material Quality
4 / 5
Lifespan
5 / 5
Eco-friendliness
3.5 / 5
Total Rating
4.25 / 5

First-Hand Impression

After receiving this product, I was initially disappointed as the funnel was missing, making it challenging to fill my resin tank. However, I was soon impressed by the quality of the product, which was top-notch and worked exactly as promised. It helped me replace my old, dark red resin, something that previous attempts had failed at. I was relieved to find that there were no ongoing water stains following its use. Despite the minor hiccup in the beginning, I find this product to be quite satisfactory.

Tier1 IER-110 Ion Exchange Water Softener Resin

Best Guarantee Water Softener Resin

Although Tier1 IER-110 is a premium-grade resin, it is unclear what its crosslink is. However, we do know that the gel polystyrene beads are a strong acid sodium cation, making them suitable for both home and commercial water softener systems.

This product can also reduce limescale buildup in your plumbing and extend the lifespan of appliances such as dishwashers. As a sign of Tier1’s confidence in this product, the company provides an unconditional guarantee for the resin’s life.

This product is a  28-liter bag, which equates to 1 cubic foot, so you might need to order multiple bags if you have a large plumbing system.

Pros

  • Strong acid sodium cations
  • High-quality resin
  • Unconditional guarantee

Cons

  • Might need to order multiple bags

Product Specs

Quantity 1 cubic foot
Weight 49.9 pounds
Type of Resin Strong acid cation sodium exchange
Crosslink Not specified
Materials Gel polystyrene

Our Ratings

Ion Exchange Capacity
4 / 5
Material Quality
4.5 / 5
Lifespan
4.5 / 5
Eco-friendliness
4.5 / 5
Total Rating
4.25 / 5

User Experience

For those in search of a solution to hard water problems, this Tier1 IER-110 resin is certainly worth a look. I found the strong acid sodium cations within the gel polystyrene beads to perform admirably in both residential and commercial water softening systems. Impressively, this resin also reduced limescale buildup in my plumbing, contributing to the longevity of appliances like my dishwasher. Bear in mind, this product comes in a 28-liter bag, or 1 cubic foot, so depending on the size of your system, you may need more than one bag.

Product Comparison Chart

Product Best Quantity Weight Type of Resin Crosslink Materials
Aquatrol Water Softener Resin Overall 1 cu ft 50 lbs Strong acid cation sodium exchange 8% Polystyrene divinylbenzene (DVB)
Purolite C100E Cationic Resin USA-made Resin 1 cu ft 50 lbs Strong acid cation sodium exchange N/A Polystyrene gel, divinylbenzene
AFWFilters SOFRES1 Water Resin Certified Resin 1 cu ft 50 lbs Strong acid cation sodium exchange 8% Styrene divinylbenzene copolymer
Liquagen Ion Exchange Resin Crosslink Resin 1.5 cu ft 75 lbs Strong acid cation sodium exchange 10% Gel polystyrene
Tier1 IER-110 Ion Exchange Resin Guarantee 1 cu ft 49.9 lbs Strong acid cation sodium exchange N/A Gel polystyrene

Choosing the Best Water Softener Resin

Not all water softener resin types are created equal and some products will be more suitable for your water softener than others. There are a few key points to keep in mind when looking for the best resin for water softeners:

Crosslink Percentage

Resin beads are usually made using divinylbenzene (DVB), which is wrapped in numerous strands of polystyrene, or crosslinks. This gives the beads their strength and allows them to expand and contract without breaking.

The percentage of crosslinking indicates the amount of DVB in the resin beads. The higher the crosslinking percentage, the smaller the beads and the better their life expectancy and efficiency will be (4).

Cations

Cations are positively charged ions that attract the minerals in your water. As these minerals cause hardness, this process softens the water. For the effective exchange of ions to take place, you will need strong sodium cations in your resin (5).

Quantity

The manufacturer’s instructions for your water softener should state how much resin it needs. If they don’t, you will need to measure the circumference and height of your tank. Once you have these measurements, you can use one of the many calculators available online to determine how much resin you need to buy (6).

Materials

The main materials used to create resin for softening water are divinylbenzene (DVB) and polystyrene. You might also see these referred to as polystyrenic or gel resin. These materials will effectively attract the minerals that cause hardness, thus softening your water.


How Does a Water Softener Work?

Water softeners remove hard minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, from your water, replacing them with sodium, which is a softening mineral. This process is called ionization and it is the most popular method of softening used today. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Resin beads: The hard water ions are attracted to, and become attached to, the resin beads.
  2. Sodium released: Sodium ions are released to maintain balance in the water. The resin is the catalyst that allows this ion exchange to take place — it acts as a cation (positively charged) to attract oppositely charged negative ions.
  3. Regenerate: In time, the beads will become saturated with hard water minerals. When this happens, the system will need to be regenerated (or cleansed). Water, which is rich in sodium, is flushed from the brine tank through the softener tank. The calcium and magnesium ions are released back into the water and washed away, while the resin is recharged with sodium ions.
  4. Repeat: Your system will then be ready to continue softening your water (7).

When Does My Water Softener Resin Need Replacing?

Water softener resin generally lasts about 10 years (8). This can vary depending on the quality of your municipal water supply and particularly if your water comes from a well.

Some municipal water supplies have high chlorine content, which will shorten the lifespan of your resin. Water from a well often contains large amounts of iron or sometimes sand particles, which will also degrade resin more quickly (9).

Usually, the first and most obvious sign that resin might need replacing is that the water is no longer soft. For example, you could notice hard water stains on glasses, or your soap might not clean as effectively as it previously did.

If you have cleaned your brine tank, replaced the salt, and regenerated the system, but your water remains hard, it could be due to your resin having been exhausted.

Some causes of ineffective resin include (10):

1. Hydraulic Shock (Water Hammer)

A sudden interruption to the high pressure of your water flow can cause the resin beads to strike the side of the softener tank. This could leave beads broken or cracked, ruining their effectiveness.

2. Chlorine

Chlorine can cause the water softener resin beads to lose strength, which results in them swelling to a larger size. As there is limited space in the tank for them, this can cause the beads to crack or break entirely.

3. Osmotic Shock

The beads grow and shrink as they draw in minerals and then release them. In time, this can lead to cracks or breaks.

4. Reduced Quantities

As the beads are slowly cracked or broken, the volume in the tank will gradually decrease. Pieces can fall off and be washed away when the tank is regenerated. This means that, even if some beads are still effective, you might not have enough to process your water, so it could remain hard.

5. Iron Buildup

As your tank regenerates, iron in your water can react with oxygen, leaving behind iron oxide. The salt used to clean the resin will be unable to remove this, so it will accumulate on the beads. This will reduce the size of the area available for ion exchange, thus impacting the performance of your system (11).

FAQs

Is All Water Softener Resin the Same?

There are two basic types of water softener resin: fine mesh and ion exchange.

Softeners for well water typically use fine mesh resin. Since it is more successful at eliminating iron, it is the water softener resin of choice for treating well water.

In the past, iron problems necessitated the addition of an iron filter to the softening system, which was necessary when using a conventional resin. However, this is unnecessary due to the nature of a mesh resin’s construction.

Suppose you have a basic water softener for your entire house at the moment. In that case, there is a good chance that your system includes a standard ion exchange resin.

Cation-style resin is another name for this particular kind of resin. Cation-style resin is a sort of resin. On its surface, it allows positive and negative ions to trade places with one another.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace Water Softener Resin?

Water softener resin replacement costs between $200 and $400. If bits of yellow resin make their way into the house, the bottom distributor will also need to be changed. Bleach is an efficient agent for sanitizing the system and eliminating resin-fouling bacteria.

How Do I Dispose of Water Softener Resin Beads?

To dispose of water softener resin beds, place them in a container that prevents spillage and throw them away as you would with regular waste.

Water softener resin does not react with other substances and is very stable. The current consensus holds that it threatens the natural world, even though this is not the case.

What’s the Difference Between Fine Mesh Resin and Standard Resin?

If you’re unfamiliar with the terms, mesh size indicates the resin beads’ size. A finer mesh size means the beads are smaller, packed tighter, and offer more ion-exchange surface area. Overall, they are more efficient at water softening.

Fine mesh resin packs more densely than normal mesh resin, reducing the softener flow rate. Because of this, we are not huge fans of fine mesh and do not include it among our usual product offerings on our website.

Most consumers who inquire about fine mesh have been led to misbelieve that it is more efficient for iron reduction.

Another thing to remember: if you take a water softener that previously utilized normal resin and add fine mesh to it, you must ensure that the lower basket is also replaced simultaneously.

This basket contains slots proportional to the resin beads’ size. A basket with standard mesh resin will have no problem accommodating fine mesh resin.

Which Resin Is Best for a Water Softener?

The Purolite C-100E Cationic Resin is a top product for people looking to buy water softener resin. Designed to withstand hard water conditions, this resin is a best-seller that suits all homes with well water, promising to fight off the iron and eliminate the threat rust poses to your pipes.

Purolite C-100E Cationic Resin makes drinking water taste better, so you don’t have to worry about buying extra water for cooking. It is an FDA-approved product and is compatible with all water softener systems.


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About the Author

Peter Gray

Peter has been a homeowner for 35+ years and has always done his own repair and improvement tasks. As a retired plumber, Peter now spends his time teaching others how they can fix leaks, replace faucets, and make home improvements on a budget.