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7 Best Water Softeners of 2024

Fed up with dealing with hard water? A water softener can help.

The mineral content of hard water can clog your pipes and appliances with scale, stain glasses and dishes, and leave your clothes dull and stiff. A water softener will help you overcome this by either removing or altering the water’s mineral content.

If you want to soften water, you have a huge selection of different softeners to choose from, whether you want to treat a single outlet or your entire home’s water supply. The only downside of so many options is that you might struggle to choose a model from the many softeners on offer.

To help you find the best water softener for your home, we have reviewed seven of the top-rated products available today. We chose these softeners based on their type, size, effectiveness, and flow rate.

Our Top Picks

We independently evaluate, assess and research all recommended products and services. If you purchase through the links we provide, we may receive compensation.
Product Comparison Table

Product Image of the AFWFilters Fleck 64k
Best Overall
AFWFilters Fleck 64k
  • Digitally metered control valve
  • 5-year warranty
  • Includes bypass valve
Product Image of the Tier1 Everyday Series
Best for Hard Water
Tier1 Everyday Series
  • Quick-connect fittings
  • 48,000-grain capacity
  • Demand initiated regeneration
Product Image of the AFWFilters Iron Pro 2
Best for Well Water
AFWFilters Iron Pro 2
  • Meter-based regeneration
  • 30-day satisfaction guarantee
  • Complete system
Product Image of the Aquasure Harmony
Best for Reducing Limescale
Aquasure Harmony
  • Suitable for up to 5 people
  • Up to 11% more energy efficient
  • Customizable digital control head
Product Image of the iSpring Undersink Water Filter
Best Salt-Free
iSpring Undersink Water Filter
  • Extensive installation guides
  • Suitable for ice or coffee makers
  • Six-stage filters
Product Image of the ABCWaters Fleck Water Softener
Easiest to Install
ABCWaters Fleck Water Softener
  • Smaller than rival models
  • 12 GPM flow rate
  • Very user-friendly instructions
Product Image of the Whirlpool Water Softener
Best Compact All-in-One Unit
Whirlpool Water Softener
  • Made in the USA
  • NSF-certified
  • 30,000-grain capacity

Best Water Softener Reviews of 2024

There are countless water softener designs available around the world today. To help you find the best water softener for your home, we have reviewed what we consider to be seven of the best products you can currently buy. As ion exchange units are the most popular and reliable type, most of our reviews fall into this category.

AFWFilters Fleck 64k Water Softener

Best Overall Water Softener

Capable of softening your entire home’s water supply, this 64,000-grain unit from AFWFilters utilizes 8% crosslink resin.

The Fleck includes a digital control valve, bypass valve, brine tank, and everything else you need to connect it to your plumbing. This means it will be ready to install out of the box and you will be able to enjoy softened water very quickly.

The blue resin tank measures 48 inches by 12 inches and is made in the United States. The brine tank is 15 inches by 17 inches by 33 inches.

With this in mind, make sure you have enough room to accommodate both tanks before buying this system, as it is not small.

What We Like

Digitally Metered Control Valve

This system is fitted with a Fleck 5600SXT digital valve. This measures the water flowing through the softener tank and regenerates it only when needed. This could help you save money on water and salt as it won’t clean the system unnecessarily.

The valve has an LCD monitor that displays the current status of the system and error codes to help you overcome any issues. It also has touchpad controls so you can manually adjust the settings if you want to assume greater control over the system.

Customer Support

After you receive your Fleck system, AFWFilters provides customer support and technical advice to help you install your unit, via a toll-free number. They will also answer any questions you have about programming your system.

Once the unit is installed, you will also have the protection of a five-year warranty on the valve and a 10-year warranty on the tanks.

Installation Kit & Bypass Valve

This unit includes an installation kit, which contains a standard 1-inch male national pipe thread. You should be able to connect this to your plumbing, even if you are relatively inexperienced.

A bypass valve is included so you can easily divert water away from your softener. This is great when you want to clean your brine tank or renew your resin without shutting off your home’s water.

What We Don't Like

Video instructions are provided on a USB drive to walk you through installing the system. Some customers find these instructions hard to follow. Thankfully, there are better reviews of the company’s telephone customer support, which guided people through any issues they encountered.

Product Specs

Capacity (Grain) 64,000
Flow Rate Approximately 14–16 GPM
Valve Fleck 5600SXT digital metered regeneration
Type Ion exchange, salt-based
Warranty 5-year valve, 10-year tanks

Our Ratings

4.5 / 5
Regeneration Speed
4.5 / 5
4.5 / 5
Installation Ease
4 / 5
Total Rating
4.25 / 5

User Experience

This water softener installation may be a bit challenging for the average do-it-yourselfer, but the results are worth it. As a resident of northern California with well water, I was dealing with hard water that had high concentrations of iron and hydrogen sulfide. I opted for this softener and an air injection filter, and despite a few hiccups during setup, I managed to get the system up and running on my own. The instructions provided with the softener weren't the best, but I found excellent third-party guides online which were extremely helpful. Now that it's installed, the quality of my water has immensely improved - no more rotten egg smell and the water's hardness has noticeably decreased, which was my primary concern.

Tier1 Everyday Series 48,000 Grain Water Softener

Best Water Softener for Hard Water

This Everyday Series ion exchange water softener from Tier1 has 48,000-grain capacity. It is a whole-home system available with blue or black tanks. This relatively simple system will effectively remove hardness minerals from your water, making cleaning products more effective and preventing limescale buildups in pipes and appliances.

It regenerates within two hours, and this process can be manually set to occur at night while you’re asleep. The unit features a digital control valve with an easy-to-read LCD, which provides relevant information from your system, helping you address any issues before they become more serious.

What We Like

Quick-Connect Fittings

All the fittings you need to connect this softener to your plumbing are included with this system. It has three-quarter-inch connections, tubing for the brine tank and drain line, and all required mechanical components. Customer reviews also mention receiving additional 1-inch connections.

Tier1 advises that homes with CPVC or PEX plumbing might require additional compression fittings. If this applies to you, the brand recommends Sharkbite products.

Space Saving

The softener tank measures 54 inches tall and 10 inches in diameter, while the brine tank measures 42 inches by 14 inches. The proprietary turbine meter is incorporated into the bypass valve, meaning the unit as a whole occupies less space.

The company advises this can save as much as 4 square feet of floor space compared to some other leading models.

Dedicated Customer Support

This system is sold with a “100% no-worries guarantee”, although it isn’t clear how long this lasts. Tier1 has a dedicated customer support team that speaks English and Spanish. They are based in the United States and are available to answer any queries about the product and how to install it.

Demand Initiated Regeneration

This softener’s valve is fitted with a water probe (propeller) that measures how much water you use. It uses this information to regenerate the resin tank when necessary, although it is possible to set a manual override if you want it to occur at a specific time.

The benefit of demand-initiated regeneration is you can save money on salt and water as the system won’t regenerate unnecessarily, reducing waste.

What We Don't Like

Unclear Installation Instructions

Some customers found the included instructions to be unclear and somewhat confusing. Most of these people were able to overcome this issue with some patience and help from customer support, but this did prolong the installation process.

Product Specs

Capacity (Grain) 48,000
Flow Rate 11.2 GPM
Valve Digital metered regeneration
Type Ion exchange, salt-based
Warranty “No worries” guarantee, duration not specified

Our Ratings

4 / 5
Regeneration Speed
4 / 5
4.5 / 5
Installation Ease
3.5 / 5
Total Rating
4 / 5

Personal Perspective

I noticed an immediate improvement in water quality after setting up this water softener. The installation process was a bit tricky due to the lack of clear instructions and the absence of a 90-degree adapter, but with a little patience, I managed to get it up and running. Despite the inconvenience, this water softener has proven to be a superior choice, delivering excellent results that even surpassed those of my old one.

AFWFilters Iron Pro 2 Combination Water Softener

Best Water Softener for Well Water

A water supply taken from a well generally presents more challenges than a municipal water supply. It is your responsibility to keep clean and generally won’t be regulated. In addition to harmful chemicals and bacteria, there is a strong possibility that your water will be hard and could contain high iron levels (1).

The Iron Pro 2 is designed to soften water by removing hardness up to 75 GPG. It also helps remove iron in the 6–8 PPM range and manganese below 6 PPM. The fine mesh resin can also help eliminate sediment, rust, and sand.

In addition to reducing scale buildups in pipes and appliances, this system could help eliminate red rust stains on sinks and tubs, which are caused by iron in the water. The system has a flow rate of 16 GPM, making it powerful enough for households of up to seven people.

What We Like

Meter-Based Regeneration

The system features a Fleck 5600SXT digital control, which utilizes metered regeneration. This means your system will only remove the hard minerals from the softener tank’s resin balls when necessary, reducing water and salt waste.

If your water consumption increases, the meter will detect this and regenerate more often. If your consumption decreases, it will regenerate less frequently, so you will always have soft water without any manual input.

Peace of Mind

AFWFilters includes a 30-day satisfaction guarantee with this system. If you decide to keep it, you will be protected by further warranties of five years on the control head and 10 years on the tanks.

Complete System

This water softener includes a softener tank containing a 64,000 grain count, fine mesh resin, a brine tank, a metered control, and a bypass valve. It has everything you need to soften hard water and reduce the amount of iron.

What We Don't Like

Lack of Installation Instructions

Although AFWFilters provides toll-free telephone and email support, many customers find that there are either no instructions included or, if there are, they lack sufficient detail. If you aren’t an experienced plumber, this could mean hiring a professional to install it, potentially increasing your costs significantly.

Product Specs

Capacity (Grain) 64,000
Flow Rate Approximately 14–16 GPM
Valve Fleck 5600SXT digitally metered regeneration
Type Ion exchange, salt-based
Warranty 5-year valve, 10-year tanks

Our Ratings

4.5 / 5
Regeneration Speed
4.5 / 5
4.5 / 5
Installation Ease
3 / 5
Total Rating
4 / 5

Community Feedback

For two years, I've been using this water filtration system which has successfully eliminated my Iron Oxide and sand issues. Initially, I experienced some minor challenges with fitting the pipe sizes, necessitating a few trips to the hardware store, but once set up, the system has functioned smoothly. However, the controller of the system seems sensitive to power grid fluctuations, but an uninterruptible power supply unit (UPS) seems to mitigate this. The device is user-friendly and automatically back flushes, leaving my water clean and free of stains.

Aquasure Harmony Series Water Softener

Best Water Softener for Reducing Limescale

Limescale is the most common side effect of living in a hard water area, potentially narrowing or clogging your pipes and damaging appliances.  The Aquasure Harmony water softener eliminates these problems by removing hard minerals and softening the water throughout your home.

It has a 48,000-grain capacity. It primarily removes hard minerals including iron and magnesium — which can otherwise dry your skin and cause brittle hair in addition to damaging your home’s plumbing.

What We Like

Great Choice for Large Homes

This Harmony water softener is designed for families of up to five people or anyone living in a four-bathroom home. If you have a larger household, this softener will fulfill your requirements.

Up to 11% More Energy Efficient

This softener is more energy efficient than many of its competitors as it regenerates quickly, reducing your water waste. Aquasure claims it is as much as 11% more energy efficient than some of the other leading products.

Customizable Digital Control Head

The user-friendly digital control head allows you to customize the unit’s settings to meet your household’s requirements. As the display is lit, you will even be able to make adjustments when it is dark.

What We Don't Like

Mixed Customer Service

Some reviews praise Aquasure’s customer support, while others complain that they did not find them very helpful. Complaints include waiting a long time for a response or receiving no help to address problems. It sounds like the individual customer experience is largely down to luck.

Leaky Brine Tube Connection

Many customer reviews mention discovering leaks from the brine tube connection. This is apparently relatively easy to fix but it is something to keep in mind before buying.

Product Specs

Capacity (Grain) 48,000
Flow Rate 12 GPM
Valve Bypass valve with 1” and out NPT yoke
Type Resin-based
Warranty 5-year

Our Ratings

4 / 5
Regeneration Speed
4 / 5
4.5 / 5
Installation Ease
3.5 / 5
Total Rating
4 / 5

First-Hand Impression

In my experience with this water softener, I found the installation relatively straightforward and much easier than anticipated. In the first few days of use, I noticed a significant difference in the water texture, which was a pleasant surprise. There were a few initial hiccups, such as a faulty control unit, but these issues were quickly resolved without much hassle. The only downside was the difficulty in finding a specific hose connector, which added to the assembly time, but overall, the convenience and performance of this water softener have been satisfying.

iSpring Six-Stage Undersink Drinking Water Filter

Best Salt-Free Water Softener

If you would struggle to fit a whole-house water softener unit into your home, this iSpring under-sink reverse osmosis water conditioner is a great alternative. It has a six-stage filter system: five to remove contaminants from your water and one that adds beneficial minerals back into it.

iSpring claims this filter removes lead, chlorine, fluoride, sodium, bacteria, and viruses. It also adds healthy minerals such as calcium and magnesium before the water leaves the unit.

The unit measures 14.5 x 5.2 x 18.5 inches and is designed to be installed beneath a sink. This means it will filter the water for a specific outlet rather than your entire home. Despite its small size, it can filter up to 75 gallons of water per day.

What We Like

Easy Installation

All parts needed to install the unit are included and easy-to-follow written instructions and illustrations are provided. There are also instructional videos available and access to iSpring’s technical support if required. The fittings are push-to-connect and color-coded to remove any guesswork from installation.

Choice of Water Output

This product includes a nickel-plated brass faucet, which is designed for mounting on your countertop. Alternatively, you can connect the output lines to a coffee maker or ice maker to treat their water, if you prefer.

Excellent Filters

The first-stage filters have transparent cases, which makes it easy to see when they become coated with sediment and need to be replaced.

A granulated activated carbon filter (GAC) helps remove contaminants and a CTO (color/taste/odor) filter improves the water’s taste and removes any unpleasant smells. The final stage remineralizes the water.

All filters must be replaced at some point, but when this needs to occur will vary based on your water quality and how often you use it. Read the manufacturer’s directions to determine what needs to be replaced and when.

What We Don't Like

Leaky Faucet

Customer reviews mention that the faucet included with this system sometimes leaks. As the system is guaranteed for a year, you will be able to get a replacement if this starts happening.

Product Specs

Capacity (Grain) Cleans 75 gallons per day
Flow Rate Information not supplied
Valve Information not supplied
Type Reverse osmosis filter
Warranty 1 year

Our Ratings

4 / 5
Regeneration Speed
4 / 5
4.5 / 5
Installation Ease
4.5 / 5
Total Rating
4.25 / 5

User Experience

Bought the iSpring RO System a few years ago and it's been a real game-changer for our water quality. Installation was a breeze, though it did take a few hours due to our unique setup. The system itself is quite large and heavy, so make sure you have ample space for it. The water tastes as good as bottled water, if not better, and it's saved us from constantly buying and changing expensive filters. Only issue we ran into was when it stopped working after four years, but a quick troubleshoot and replacement of a part had it up and running again in no time.
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ABCWaters Fleck 48,000-Grain Water Softener

Easiest to Install Water Softener

This Fleck system from ABCWaters is designed to soften municipal water for a household of up to five people.

It has a 48,000-grain capacity and the softener tank is prefilled with 10% crosslinked resin. This higher percentage means the beads are smaller and the resin has a longer life expectancy.

This product includes almost everything you need for a complete home water-softening solution. It contains the brine and softener tanks, a Fleck 5600SXT valve digital meter, a bypass, and a yoke.

What We Like

Great for Smaller Spaces

The softener tank has a 10-inch diameter and is 2 inches tall, while the brine tank measures 14 inches by 36 inches. This system’s tanks are smaller than many of its competitors, which can make a significant difference if you have limited space.

Flow Rate

With a flow rate of 12 gallons per minute, this unit can easily supply a family of five with enough water for their daily tasks. This means you will be able to clean your laundry while filling a bathtub at the same time, rather than having to compensate for an inadequate filter.

Installation Instructions

An experienced technician wrote the installation guide supplied with the system. It was then revised following feedback from a novice installer. These two viewpoints have resulted in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide.

Videos are available on the manufacturer’s website to further guide you through the installation process, as well as the programming of the digital meter.

What We Don't Like

Additional Parts Needed

It is important to know that the drain line and water connectors aren’t included with this system. It might take you a few trips to your local plumbing store as there is not a complete list of the extra parts you need.

Product Specs

Capacity (Grain) 48,000
Flow Rate 12 GPM
Valve Fleck 5600SXT valve digital meter
Type Ion exchange, salt-based
Warranty 5-year valve, 10-year tanks

Our Ratings

4.5 / 5
Regeneration Speed
4 / 5
4 / 5
Installation Ease
4 / 5
Total Rating
4 / 5

Personal Perspective

I've had the ABC Fleck water softener for a while now and my experience has been a bit of a mixed bag. Installation was a bit of a hassle and resulted in a leak a few months later, which required an additional repair by a local plumber. Despite this, the product itself seems robust and has been handling the hard water in my area quite well. There's been a noticeable change in water quality, and it's been a huge relief for my wife's eczema. Even though it does consume a fair amount of salt, I feel it's a small price to pay for the massive improvement in water quality. Just a heads up, it lacks some necessary parts for installation and the hoses are pricier than in local stores, so plan accordingly.

Whirlpool 30,000 Grain Water Softener

Best Compact Water Softener

This Whirlpool product is a whole-home system with a difference. Both the softener tank and brine tank are enclosed in a single unit, making it more compact and helping you save space. The housing measures 19 inches deep by 18 inches wide by 43.5 inches high.

The bypass valve and salt indicator are also built into this unit. The meter constantly measures the amount of salt required and informs you when it needs to be topped up.

What We Like

Made in the USA

This unit has been designed, assembled, and packaged in the United States. This means replacement parts should be readily available if you need them. The system is also NSF-certified, ensuring it has been tested for safety and quality (2).


Whirlpool provides a one-year warranty on parts and labor. This can be extended to two years if you purchase three bottles of the brand’s water softener cleanser.

A further warranty of three years protects the electronics and there is a 10-year guarantee on the tank.

Grain Capacity

The grain capacity of this softener is 30,000 and it removes 95 GPG of hardness and up to 8 PPM of iron. This makes it suitable for a household of up to four people.

What We Don't Like


There are mixed reports regarding how complicated this system is to install. Although most people had no issues, some have found it very difficult to install the unit. It might not be suitable for novice plumbers, so always remember that you can call for professional help if you aren’t confident.

Product Specs

Capacity (Grain) 30,000
Flow Rate Not specified
Valve Demand calculated regeneration
Type Salt-based
Warranty 1-year full parts and labor, 3 years electronics, 10 years tank.

Our Ratings

4 / 5
Regeneration Speed
4 / 5
4.5 / 5
Installation Ease
3.5 / 5
Total Rating
4 / 5

Community Feedback

My experience with this water softener has been largely positive. Despite an initial glitch where the control board went faulty after a couple of weeks, it was quickly replaced and has been operating smoothly since. I've noticed a significant difference in the water quality; it's softer and doesn't leave that slimy feeling that I've experienced with other water softeners. The digital readout panel is super handy, providing me with information on water flow and salt levels. While I did have a plumber handle the installation, it seemed straightforward enough and I was pleased to find the settings were preprogrammed to accommodate my needs.

Product Comparison Chart

Product Best Capacity (Grain) Flow Rate Type Warranty (year)
AFWFilters Fleck 64k Overall Pick 64,000 14–16 GPM Ion exchange, salt-based 5-year valve, 10-year tanks
Tier1 Everyday Series Hard Water 48,000 11.2 GPM Ion exchange, salt-based N/A
AFWFilters Iron Pro 2 Well Water 64,000 14–16 GPM Ion exchange, salt-based 5-year valve, 10-year tanks
Aquasure Harmony Series Reducing Limescale 48,000 12 GPM Resin-based 5-year
iSpring Undersink Water Filter Salt-Free 75 gal. per day N/A Reverse osmosis filter 1 year
ABCWaters Fleck Water Softener Easiest to Install 48,000 12 GPM Ion exchange, salt-based 5-year valve, 10-year tanks
Whirlpool Water Softener Compact 30,000 N/A Salt-based 1 parts/labor,3 electronics,10 tank

The Impact of Hard Water

The majority of people in the United States receive a hard municipal water supply. This water has flowed over rocks and soil, collecting minerals on its way to reservoirs and water supplies. Magnesium and calcium carbonates are the most common minerals found in hard water (3).

These minerals are harmless to humans and have health benefits, but they are less kind to your home’s plumbing. As hard water flows through your plumbing and appliances, it leaves its mineral content behind. In time, these minerals accumulate, leaving you with limescale and other deposits.

These deposits narrow pipes and can eventually create blockages, forcing your appliances to work harder. If they are not dealt with, this will increase your energy bills and potentially damage your appliances.

Hard water can also cause white, cloudy marks on dishes and your bathtub, faucets, and sinks. It might also leave your skin dry and hair brittle and dull. Soap and shampoo might not create the suds you expect, and your laundry could be faded and stiff.

How Do Water Softeners Work?

Water softeners remove or alter the minerals that cause hard water, such as calcium and magnesium. This can be achieved using several methods, depending on whether you want a whole-home solution or only want to treat specific outlets. Softener types include:

Ion-Exchange Salt-Based System

The most popular and effective whole-house water softener is an ion exchange system with salt. They usually include two tanks, one for the softening resin (softener tank), and one for salt (brine tank). Some high-end models have two softening tanks, so there won’t be any downtime while one is being cleaned or regenerated.

  • Resin tank: This tank contains numerous tiny beads covered by sodium or potassium (salt). As water comes into contact with the beads, they attract the water’s magnesium and calcium ions and release sodium ions in their place, a process called ion exchange (4).
  • Brine tank: The brine tank contains salt and water (brine) and flushes it through the softener tank when the resin beads reach their capacity. Reverse ion exchange occurs and the hard water minerals are washed down the drain as fresh salt ions are attached to the resin. The softener tank is then ready to operate again.


Due to sodium being released into the softened water, the salt content is usually higher. Keep this in mind if you have high blood pressure or cardiovascular issues (5).

Demand Initiated Regeneration System

Demand-initiated regeneration systems are among the most common softener types. They operate on the same principle as ion exchange systems but they only regenerate the softener tank when it is necessary. They measure the amount of water that flows through the tank to calculate when the ions have become saturated and then initiate the cleaning process (6).

Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) or Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC)

TAC and NAC systems are salt-free and condition your water rather than soften it. They descale water by passing it through a special media that turns the hard minerals into crystals. These crystals are unable to adhere to pipes and appliances, so they don’t cause the issues associated with hard water.

This means you can still enjoy the benefits of hard water’s mineral content. It can also be more environmentally friendly as you aren’t putting sodium into the drainage system, or wasting water.

Chelation Systems

Like TAC systems, chelation systems are also water conditioners. They use a chelating agent such as nitriloacetic acid to attract hard water minerals (7). This suspends the minerals in the water, preventing them from becoming attached to your pipes as the water flows through your plumbing system.

Magnetic or Electronic Water Softener

These devices are easy to install and will provide treated water to your entire home. You only need a power outlet near your home’s main water inlet. The device is connected to the water pipe and the electrical supply.

They function by creating magnetic fields that alter the chemical composition of your water. This helps prevent scale from forming without removing the hard water’s mineral content, thus retaining its health benefits.

The true effectiveness of these devices has been questioned in comparison to ion exchange water softeners (8). Still, they aren’t designed to soften water, simply to prevent the negative side effects of hard water on your plumbing.

If you are interested in a magnetic or electric water softener, this model from iSpring is an excellent example.

Reverse Osmosis System

If you don’t want a whole-home system but still want cleaner drinking water, a reverse osmosis system is a great option. They are often installed beneath a sink and use multiple filters to remove contaminants from your water. They usually remove calcium, magnesium, organic materials, and chemicals (9).

How to Choose the Best Water Softener

In addition to choosing the type of water softener, you will also need to make some other important decisions. Answering these questions will help you narrow down your options and ensure you get a softener that fulfills your requirements:

What Size Do You Need?

The capacity of an ion exchange water softener refers to the grain capacity of the resin in the softener tank. The higher the grain capacity, the less frequently it will need to be regenerated. This should mean spending less on salt and water in the long term.

To find out the capacity you require, you will need to collect some information and make a few calculations.

1. Water Hardness

Water hardness is calculated based on the amount of calcium carbonate it contains. There are a few ways to find out how hard your water is:

  • DIY: Test the water yourself using a water testing kit. These are widely available, such as this one from JNW, and are easy to use.
  • Lab test: Ask an independent laboratory to test your water.
  • Water supplier: Request a water report from your local supplier, or call them to ask for a measurement.

Water hardness is measured in PPM (parts per million), or GPG (grains per gallon). The industry standard is grains per gallon. The GPG can be calculated by dividing the PPM by 17.12.

For example: 100 PPM divided by 17.12 = 5.84 GPG

If your water has high iron content or comes from a well, it is advised to add 4 GPG to your water hardness for every 1 PPM of iron present in it.

2. Daily Water Consumption

The next figure you need to determine is your home’s daily water consumption. You can check your water bill for this and convert it to a daily average.

If you don’t have access to this information, you can estimate it. The USGS states that each person uses an average of between 80 and 100 gallons of water per day (10). Simply multiply the number of people in your household by about 90 to have a better idea of your total gallons per day.

Example: 5 people x 90 gallons per person = 450 gallons per day.

3. Daily Softening Requirement

You will also need the softening requirement, measured in hardness grains per day. This is calculated by multiplying the hardness level from step 1 by the gallons used per day from step 2.

Example: 5.84 GPG (hardness in grains per gallon) x 450 gallons per day = 2,628 softening requirement.

4. Calculate Your Required Grain Capacity

The required grain capacity relates to how often a system needs to regenerate itself. This usually occurs every six or seven days. If you want your softener to regenerate weekly, multiply your daily softening requirement by seven.

Example: 2,628 grains per day x 7 days = 18,396 grains per week.

In this example, you should be looking for at least an 18,000-grain capacity to avoid the system regenerating too often.

The best water softeners usually have grain capacities starting at about 16,000 and reaching up to 96,000 if the system has dual softener tanks.

Available Space

Unavoidably, the type and size of your potential water softener will be limited by how much space you have available. Whole-house systems will usually need to be installed where the water supply enters your home.

Many ion-exchange models consist of one softener tank and one brine tank. However, some are single units and some others have dual softener tanks and a brine tank.

If you live in a small house or apartment, it might be better to choose an under-sink water conditioner or a magnetic water conditioner, as these will require far less space to be installed.

Bypass Valve

The bypass valve allows you to divert water away from the softener when it is not in use. This is helpful when performing repairs or filling an aquarium and these valves are easy to access and operate.

Although they are not essential when buying a water softener, a bypass valve adds flexibility and could make life easier in the future.

Regeneration Settings

Regeneration is often scheduled to take place automatically at a suitable time, such as at night when you are asleep and don’t need water. There are also metered systems that measure the water used and only regenerate when required.

Manual timers generally use more water and salt by regenerating even when the system doesn’t need it. However, metered systems can regenerate when you are trying to use water, so they could be less convenient.

Flow Rate

The flow rate of a water softener is how much water it can process in a given time, usually written as gallons per minute (GPM).

Consider how much water is used simultaneously by members of your household, and how much each appliance or faucet needs. As a guide, here are a few standard household fixtures and how much water they use on average (11):

  • Faucet: 2.0–3.0 GPM
  • Toilet: 2.0–3.0 GPM
  • Bathtub: 4.0–8.0 GPM
  • Shower: 1.5–3 GPM
  • Washing machine: 3.0–5.0 GPM
  • Dishwasher: 2.0–4.0 GPM

A good rule of thumb is a flow rate of 4 GPM for the first person in a household and an extra 1 or 2 GPM for each additional person.

This means:

  • 2 people: 5–6 GPM
  • 3 people: 6–8 GPM
  • 4 people: 7–10 GPM

Crosslink Percentage

The beads in the softener tank are usually made of polystyrene and divinylbenzene (DVB). Crosslinking is the result of the process where the DVB is wrapped in strands of polystyrene to make it more durable.

The more DVB and strands, the higher the crosslink percentage and the smaller the beads. Smaller beads mean more can fit into the tank, proving a greater resin surface area for ionization.

Most softener systems have a crosslinking percentage of either 8% or 10%.


It is important to have peace of mind when buying a product that is expected to do as much work as a water softener system. Most reputable manufacturers provide warranties on their products. These will protect you if there are any manufacturing faults or the valves and tanks do not last as long as they should. Softener warranties usually range from 12 months to 10 years or more.

How to Install a Water Softener

Most modern water softeners are easy to install with minimal plumbing experience. Here are the basic steps for fitting each type of softener.

Quick Tip

If you are unsure what to do or don’t feel confident, ask a professional to complete the installation instead.

Salt-Based Systems (Ion Exchange and Automatic Regeneration)

  1. Switch off and drain: Before starting any installation, shut off your main water supply and drain the system by opening the lowest faucet or drainage valve in your home. Also, turn off the power supply to your water heater.
  2. Location: Identify where you will install the new water softener. There should be enough room for the two tanks, power supply, and a drain to discharge wastewater. It will also need to be near your main water supply — after the meter but before your water heater connections.
  3. Bypass valve: Most water softeners include a bypass valve that attaches to the softener tank. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and secure this into place.
  4. Connect to the water: You can either connect the softener to your water supply with hard pipes such as copper or PVC or use flex hoses and connectors. You will need to cut your main supply line and either solder or use push fittings to connect your pipes or hoses. Once these are in place, connect them to your softener system, ensuring you attach the inlet and outlet to the appropriate connectors.
  5. Drainage: When a water softener system regenerates, mineral-heavy water drains from it. You can use a utility sink, standpipe, or floor drain for the water outlet. Connect the drain hose to the softener tank and the overflow drain hose to the drain elbow located on the salt tank. Both of these hoses must then be placed and secured somewhere they can drain the water from your home.
  6. Add salt and turn on: Add the recommended amount of salt to the brine tank and turn your water back on. Don’t forget to also restore power to your water heater. It is a good idea to open a faucet before turning the water back on to release any built-up pressure.
  7. Set up regeneration: Designate a time for your system to regenerate and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the initial regeneration.

Bypass Valves Are Important

If your system doesn’t include a bypass valve, it is worth fitting one separately. This will allow you to redirect the water supply for repairs or maintenance without shutting off your water temporarily.

Non-Salt-Based Systems

  1. Switch off and drain: Shut off the water supply to your home and drain it by opening a faucet. Disconnect the power to your water heater.
  2. Location: Place your filter system on the main water supply before it reaches your water heater. This will enable it to supply conditioned water to your entire home.
  3. Place the valves: Cut your main water pipe using a pipe cutter for copper or PVC, depending on your pipes. Install shut-off valves at both ends so you can easily disconnect the system if you need to perform maintenance such as changing the cartridges. Extend the pipes using elbow joints or flex hoses and connect them to the filter with compression joints.
  4. Check the flow direction: Ensure the water flows through the system in the correct direction, adhering to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. Switch on: Open the shut-off valves to allow water to flow through the system.
  6. Check for leaks: To prevent flooding and check for leaks, slowly open each valve independently.

Magnetic Systems

Magnetic systems are much simpler to install.

They usually have a hinge that opens up or wires that wrap around a pipe. Simply place them over your pipe and secure them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Reverse Osmosis Systems


Reverse osmosis filters are versatile and take many forms. This installation method is for under-sink models as they are currently the most popular type.
  1. Switch off and drain: To mount a filter under your sink, shut off the water supply, either locally or at the mains. Drain that part of the system by opening the faucet.
  2. Dimensions: Check the correct height for your system and carefully measure where on your cabinet the softener will fit. Mark the spot with a pencil. Attach the system to your cabinet with screws according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Connect the water: Detach your cold water supply from the old valve. Attach the supplied saddle valves to the cold water supply, so the water will divert to the filter. Cut the tubing to fit if necessary. ​
  4. Faucet and drain lines: Now install the supplied faucet and drain lines. You might need to drill a hole in your countertop to accommodate the faucet, so be careful.
  5. Switch on and check for leaks: Once everything is in place, turn on your water supply and check closely for any leaks.


Is Getting a Water Softener Worth It?

A water softener is definitely worth it if you have problems with hard water in your area. There’s no cause for concern regarding the nutrition provided by hard water. Consuming it is in every way beneficial to one’s health.

Hard water in your home might give rise to various issues. Your pipes eventually become clogged due to hard water, decreasing water flow. Mineral deposits will begin to form in all of your valves and fixtures, which will shorten their useful lives and make them less effective.

How Much Does It Cost to Put in a Water Softener?

When supplies and labor are included, the typical cost to have a water softener installed in an entire house by a professional is approximately $1,500. Depending on your chosen system, the procedure may set you back between $500 and $6,000.

For the majority of systems, you should additionally plan to allocate between $10 and $50 each month for the expense of maintenance.

Do Water Softeners Need Maintenance?

To ensure it continues to function at its highest efficiency level, a water softener must be cleaned regularly like any other home equipment.

It should not be necessary to regularly clean a water softener under typical conditions; about twice every five years should be sufficient for maintenance.

However, look for other signs, including water with a brown tint. That’s also an indicator that it’s time to clean the system.

How Long Will a Water Softener Last?

A water softener will last between ten and 15 years, but some can last around 12 while others have a lifespan of 20 years.

Can You Drink Softened Water?

Although the vast majority of soft water can be used without any concerns, those with hypertension should consider whether or not the higher sodium content is in their best interest.

Most softened water is completely safe to consume. If the hardness of the water is lower than 400 ppm of calcium before it is softened, you can drink it without too much worry.

Suppose the hardness of your water is higher than 400 ppm. In that case, you will need to purify it even further to lower the amount of sodium.

Do Water Softeners Increase Home Value?

A water softener is a neat idea if you want to increase your home value and plan on selling it later. Suppose you install a high-quality softener, like a reverse osmosis system. In that case, you can afford to up the price of your house by $5,000 or even $10,000.

What is an Alternative to a Water Softener?

A water conditioner is a viable alternative to a water softener. The biggest difference between these two types of products is that conditioners don’t remove hard minerals from the water. Still, they have a positive impact on preventing scaling.

The usage of a template-assisted crystallization medium is the method that water conditioners employ to accomplish this. When hard water is run through the TAC medium, a fraction of the hard minerals in the water begin to crystallize.

These are often referred to as “seed crystals.” As these seed crystals form, the mineral ions in your water will attach to them instead of binding to the surface your tap water touches.

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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.