Best Water Softener Reviews 2016 – Top Rated Systems and Comparisons – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

So you’re looking for a water softening system for your home or RV? You’ve come to the right place.

Hard water is fine to drink, but Its well known for its negative side effects when used throughout your home, and because of this, Deciding to add a water softener system to your home is an easy decision to make.

A not-so-easy decision to make is: how the heck are you supposed to find and choose the best water softener system?

There are many different systems out there, and they work in different ways to remove hard water from your pipes. To make matters worse, you then have to choose between many different brands, sizes, features, and price ranges.

Is anyone else confused?!

Our aim here at the Water Softener Critic is to help you find the right water softener system for you; which will also be the best performing system for your house and circumstance. Take a look at some of our in-depth water softener reviews below...

Water Softener Comparison - Top 10 Water Softeners


5600 SXT

Type: Salt Based

Capacity: 48k grains

Soften only

Standard homes



7000 SXT

Type: Salt Based

Capacity: 64k grains

Soften only

Medium & large homes




Type: Salt Based

Capacity: 10k grains

Soften only

Flats & RV's




Type: Magnetic

Capacity: N/A


Small homes only




nuvo water softener

Type: Salt Free

Capacity: 60k grains


Standard homes



IRON PRO 2 (32K) 

Type: Salt Based

Capacity: 32k (portable)

Result:  Soften & Filter

Standard-Size homes



IRON PRO 2 (48K)

Type: Salt Based

Capacity: 64k grains

Result: Soften & Filter

 Medium & large homes



GXSH45V 45,100K

Type: Salt Based

Capacity: 45k grains

Result:  Soften only

Medium-large homes




Type: Salt Based

Capacity: 30k grains

Soften Only

Small homes only




Type: Salt Free + Filter

Capacity: 1 million gal

 Soften & filter

Standard homes


How Does a Water Softener Work?

In order to understand how a water softener works, you must first understand what hard water is, and why it’s destroying your home and life.

 Let’s start with the following 3 important questions:

What Is Hard Water?

Why Is Hard Water Bad?

How Can I Find Out How Hard My Water Is?

Types Of Water Softener Systems

There are 4 different types of water softener available for you to purchase in your home, which are whole house systems (for shower head water softeners, visit this page)

The reason they are different is because they soften hard water in different ways. Some system types may be ideal for your home, and some may not.

The 4 water softening system types are…

  • Reverse Osmosis Systems
  • Salt Based Systems
  • Salt-Free Systems
  • Magnetic Systems

The Reverse Osmosis System

This type of system uses pressure to push hard water through a special membrane that removes impurities. In simple terms, water is forced through a semi-permeable membrane, and only water goes through.

The hard water impurities don’t make it through, and thus, are not in your water supply.

This system works to fill a tank with softened water, and then it shuts off until more water is needed.

We recently revealed the best reverse osmosis water filters as rated by thousands of customers, however, please don’t confuse an RO system with a kitchen faucet water filter unit, which is much smaller, cheaper but is also less efficient.

Reverse Osmosis systems are actually water filters rather than water softeners, so if you’re looking for a water softener (to reduce hard water) DO NOT choose this type of system.

Often referred to as ‘water filters‘ so they differ from a water softener in a number of ways. If you would like to check out some of the best water filters, visit this page for water filter reviews. Alternatively, for a quick, low cost option, try out a water filter pitcher (read our guide on water filter pitchers here)



  • No Additives (e.g. salt) are required
  • In-expensive
  • Low running costs
  • Compact in size


  • Remove's beneficial nutrients from water also
  • Not as effective at reducing hardness

Salt Based Systems

Without getting to technical: this type of softener system uses a process where by hard-water ions are exchanged for soft-water ions:

The soft water ions in this case are sodium (salt) ions, so you’re required to have a salt chamber (brine tank), which you need top up occasionally for the system to work.

Not recommended for drinking water as there are high levels of sodium in the softened water, however it’s possible to use this system and leave certain taps (usually one or two) with hard water, for cooking and drinking. The best performing systems are made by FLECK – you can see reviews of their top 3 units right here.

Salt Based Systems are the MOST EFFECTIVE type of systems when it comes to removing hard water. There is nothing better for treating hard water.

These systems require a regular ‘regeneration’, which is when all of the hard water irons have built up in the chamber and need to be flushed out.

There are 3 common regeneration systems available today: timer regeneration, meter regeneration, and manual regeneration. Meter generation means the your water softener will regenerate (recharge) based on your water usage, and hence is the most hands-off and most popular!

In 9/10 cases, using a salt based system is the best choice for effectively dealing with hard water issues. Click here to find out more about the ongoing debate between salt-based systems vs. salt-free systems


  • Will reduce hard water problems 100% of the time
  • Will save you money in the long term
  • You will see the maximum benefits of soft water (e.g. soft skin, easier to clean etc)
  • Most good models are 'set and forget' meaning little to no maintenance


  • Are usually large machines - you will need some space to have it installed
  • A drain is required nearby (so the brine tank can discharge)
  • Cost upwards of $500

Salt Free (Salt-Less) Systems

Salt free systems are very popular today, however you should always remember that nothing is as effective as a salt-based system, no matter what the manufacture claims!

These systems involve a very complex process whereby nano-technology is utilized and two things happen:

(1) Existing scale and matter build up in your pipe (which comes from hard water) is removed.

This is great because all of that build up adds to the hardness of water running through your pipes. In addition, when using this type of softener, scale and matter build up will no longer take place.

(2) The water’s atom structure is altered in a way which greatly reduces the hardness of the water.

The biggest name brand in the salt-free space is Aquasanacheck out some of their models here.


Salt-Free systems are a great choice for you IF your water is not extremely hard. There are differing opinions in the market about how effective they really are at reducing hard water effects.


  • No need for additives (i.e salts) so running costs are lower + maintenance is easier
  • Removes existing scale in your plumbing system
  • 100% environmentally friendly
  • No drain required for installation


  • Does not eliminate all hardness in water
  • Not suitable for water over 8 GPG's in hardness
  • Cost upwards of $500

Magnetic Systems

These systems are becoming popular because they are very small and inexpensive, but again, there effectiveness at doing the job (of softening hard water) is questionable.

Magnets, or wires (which alter the water structure) are placed around your water pipes- and magnetic fields in turn soften your water. Your water’s hardness becomes ‘paralysed’ for up to 48 hours, however it reverts back to hard water after this time.


These systems are only recommended if your water hardness is medium – low


  • No need for additives (i.e salts) so running costs are lower + maintenance is easier
  • Inexpensive (often under $200)
  • Easy to install yourself
  • No drain required for installation


  • Not a permanent solution (water reverts to hard water after 48 hours)
  • Not suitable for water over 8 GPG's in hardness
  • Effectiveness in softening hard water is debatable.

So Then, What Size Softener Do I Need?

As we have outlined above, a salt-based system is the most effective at softening hard water, so if you’re looking for a real, long lasting solution, choosing a salt-based system such as this one will solve your hard water headaches.

Salt-based systems come in different sizes. Let’s work out the right size for your household – run through the following steps:


Determine The ‘Hardness' Of Your Water

This is measures in grains per gallon (GPG) and it typically ranges from between 3-20 grains around the US.  A rating of 3 is relatively soft, and 20 being very, very hard water.

The average hardness of water in the united states is at a level of 10The best way to do this is to purchase a water softener testing kit and test yourself, which is very easy to do, or if you’d rather leave it to the professionals, call a local plumber to come and run a test for you.

The average hardness of water in the united states is at a level of 10.


Determine Your Daily & Weekly Household Water Usage

The average person uses an average of 80-100 gallons of water per day. Simply take this average number, and multiply it by the number of people living in your home.

E.g. if you have a family of 4, that’s 4 x 90 = 320 gallons per day,

320 x 7 = 2240 gallons per week


Determine How Many Hard Water Grains You Need To Remove Weekly

Multiple your daily house water usage by the number of hard minerals.

E.g. 2240 gallons x 10 Grains =22 240 grains per week (that need to be removed)


Find The Right Water Softener Capacity 

Water softeners generally come in the following capacities: 15 000—24 000—32 000—40 000—48 000—64 000—80 000—100 000

Now all you have to do is ensure that your weekly hard water grains to be removed number does not exceed your water softener capacity.

This is to ensure regeneration does not occur more than once weekly

So, for the example above (22 240 grains/week) a 24 000 capacity softener would be suitable, but it would not hurt to go up to a 32 000 capacity softener (as an example, you may have guests staying over and your water usage will increase)

Buying a size to small will lead your system will be regenerating more often which will cost you more.

Buying a size larger than you need will cost you more initially, BUT will save you money in the long run (as it will regenerate less frequently)

Our Picks For The Best Water Softeners Systems- Water Softener Reviews And Water Softener Ratings

Here are our picks for the best rated water softener systems – we’ve included a system from each category (e.g. salt based vs salt-free) however we always suggest a salt-based system if your water hardness is over 8 GPG’s.

The Fleck 5600 SXT Digital Metered Water Softener System

  • Type - Salt based

  • Grains - 48 000​

  • Best suited for - Medium households

Fleck is a big player in the water softener market, and this system is one of their most popular choices – it’s a best-seller system for medium to large households, and its easy to see why.

Full disclosure – this is our favourite water softening system!

it’s a salt based system, which is the best method for truly softening hard water. A great performing, smart water softener system, that can handle VERY hard water – piece of cake.

Read our full review of this water softener here: The fleck 5600sxt

The Fleck 7000 64 000 Grain Metered Water Softener (with by-pass valve)

  • Type - Salt based

  • Grains - 60 000​

  • Best suited for - Large households

Another popular system made by Fleck, the Fleck 7000 water softener has a 64 000 grain capacity and is therefore a powerhouse softening system – much the same as the fleck 5600 SXT but made for larger households.

Consider this system if you have a large household, you use lots of water, or even for light commercial applications. Comes with a handy by-pass valve, and a smart computer system to make sure you keep costs down when water usage goes up.

Read our in depth review of the Fleck 7000 here.

The Watts RV PRO-1000 Portable Water Softener 

  • Type - Portable salt based

  • Grains - 10 000​

  • Best suited for - RV's or small apartments/condo's

As the name suggests, the Watts RV pro is a system made for RV’s – it’s a portable system so you can take it with you no matter how badly you hard the water is!

This is a manual regenerating system and it does lack a few features, however the compact size and power more than makes up for it. Not ready to invest in a permanent whole house system yet? give this a try!

Read our in-depth review of the Watts RV pro here

The Eddy Electric Water Descaler 

  • Type - Magnetic

  • Grains - N/A

  • Best suited for - Small households with low-medium levels of hard water
eddy electronic descaler review

Typically referred to as a ‘water softener alternative’ but in actual fact, its really a magnetic-based water softening system.

Super easy to install, very small, and maintenance free. The eddy electric water descaler is extremely cheap (when compared with other softening systems) and comes with an unbeatable warranty, and money back guarantee.

Not suitable for every household, and there are very mixed customer reviews, so make sure you check out our review before purchasing to see whether its right for you.

Read more about the Eddy Electronic Eater Descaler here, where we uncover it’s pros and cons.

The NuvoH2O Manor Complete Salt-Free Water Softening System

  • Type - Salt free

  • Grains - N/A (equivalent to 60 000 grains)

  • Best suited for - Medium-large households wanting a salt-free system
nuvo water softener

The Nuvo H20 manor complete salt-free water softening system is has received some great customer reviews, and offers many solid benefits.

As we keeps saying, salt free systems are the best option, however this salt-less system has some benefits that are too good to overlook; besides the customer reviews, it comes with an iron-clad money back guarantee and a huge warranty, so if you’re in the market for a salt free system, be sure to read more about this one.

Read our in-depth review here of the Nuvo H20 salt-free water softener system.

If you would like to read reviews, ratings or just see some more water softener comparison information, view the table at the top of this page (the ‘top 10 water softeners’) or visit our reviews page here.

For information on water softeners, including tips on how to get the most out of your system, check this page out.