Unfortunately, many U.S. residents do not realize the harm that hard water can bring to them. And it can be more unfortunate if you do not know what hard water is and you are not even aware that you have been using it for a long time. But don’t worry; water softeners are designed to solve this problem. You can actually read tons of water softener reviews online, but some of them are contradicting and may confuse you. So to make sure that you will buy the best water softener for your home or business, we strongly suggest that you read and understand the comprehensive buying guide below.

Best Water Softener Comparison and Ratings

PictureNameRatingPriceOther Feature
PictureNameRatingPriceOther Feature
WaterBoss 220 22000 Grain 5.0$$$Whisper quiet operation
North Star NSC40UD1 Ultra Demand Water Softener5.0$$$Backlit LCD display
OmniFilter OM40K Twin Tank Water Softener5.0$$40,000 Grain
Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 grain water softener digitial sxt metered whole house system4.8$$$DIY Installation Easy to Install
Tap Master TMAFC Artesian Full Contact Reverse Osmosis System4.8$$Very light, only 14.1 pounds
Watts RV PRO-1000 OR M7002 10000 Grains4.6$$Portable, only 23.4 pounds
iSpring 75GPD 5-Stage Reverse Osmosis System4.5$$356 Reviews Very Popular
Metered water softener with 1.25" Fleck 7000 control with by-pass valve4.5$$$64,000 Grain
Magnetic Water Softener & Conditioner4.5$High rating and low price.

Hard Water: Definition, Negative Effects, and Affected Areas

As defined by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the hardness of water is the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium and a variety of metals. Areas where water makes contact with rocks that contain calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, or other minerals have hard water. To determine the hardness of water in your area, you can either use a hardness test kit which you can buy online or in your local appliance stores or hire a professional to do the testing for you. You can also get information on the hardness of your water from your municipality if you are using city water.

The hardness of water is usually measured in grains per gallon (gpg). However, some municipalities may be using milligrams/liter (mg/L) or parts per million (ppm). And because 1 grain of hardness of water is equal to 1/7,000 pound of rock, 1 gpg is therefore equal to 17.1 mg/L or 17.1 ppm. To help the public have a better understanding of the hardness of water, the USGS released a guideline to classify the different levels of water hardness, which you can see below.

Water hardness scale:

  • Slightly Hard: 1 – 3.5 gpg (0 to 60 mg/L)
  • Moderately Hard: 3.5 – 7 gpg (61 to 120 mg/L)
  • Hard Water: 7 – 10.5 gpg (121 to 180 mg/L)
  • Very Hard Water: More than 10.5 gpg (more than 180 mg/L)

The components of hard water can build up in water pipes, tea kettles, coffee makers, water heaters, and industrial machines as well. These so-called scales cause clogging of pipes and are also a poor conductor of heat. Therefore, residents living in the areas that have hard water need more soap and detergents for their laundry. Hard water can also cause damage to equipment and machines such as boilers and washing machines. Hard water can even destroy your clothes when used regularly. It is also being believed to cause dryness and breaking of hair and worst of all, hair loss. But while hard water is generally safe to drink, it can greatly affect the taste of tea and coffee.

According to USGS, more than 85% of homes in the US have hard water. This includes Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The hardest water (1,000 ppm above) can be found in Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, and southern California. So if you are among those living in the affected areas, using a water softener is a good choice.

Benefits You Will Enjoy

Now that you know the negative effects of hard water, it will be easier for you to understand the benefits that you will enjoy once you decided to buy a water softener. Here they are:

  • Requires one-time investment only
  • Easy to setup, transfer, and maintain, especially the salt-free type
  • No need to use cleaning products that have strong chemicals
  • Less repair and maintenance of pipes and machines
  • Softened water makes easier laundry and effortless cleaning of dishes and other utensils
  • Softened water increases the efficiency of your hot water
  • No more frequent buying of appliances and clothes
  • Removes worry of hair damage
  • Softened water is kinder to skin
  • Huge reduction of possible production downtime (for companies and businesses)
  • Greatly reduces fuel consumption
  • Helps in keeping a greener environment

To summarize the above benefits, using softened water does not only allow you to do your daily activities faster and more convenient. It also helps you save money and Mother Nature in the long run. But more importantly, they protect your body. No wonder, more and more business owners and families in hard water areas buy water softeners these days.

When You Are Likely to Need One

Ideally, water should be colorless, tasteless and odorless. However, there are instances when water is not really toxic but is still unbearable to drink. Below are some of them:

  • Water smells like a rotten egg – The most common cause of this problem is the presence of Hydrogen Sulfide, a colorless corrosive gas that has dissolved in your water, which is most common in well systems, either public or private. Although this foul smell usually comes from hot water tanks, it can also be found in cold faucets.
  • Water has rusty or metallic taste – As the description implies, your water may have a very strong presence of metals such as iron, copper, manganese or zinc. This change in taste of your water could be due to materials from corroded pipes, and may also cause change in the color of your water.
  • Water has earthy or musty odor and taste This annoying problem is likely due to accumulated mold and bacteria within your water pipes. But in some cases, this can be a seasonal phenomenon especially during summer, when algae bloom on the surface of reservoirs, lakes, and other water sources.

In any of these cases, contact your water supplier immediately. Although water softeners can solve such problems, it is better if you will know first which type is more applicable.

Water Softener Reviews: Is it Safe to Drink Softened Water?

For you to realize whether softened water is safe for drinking or not, it is better if you first understand the different ways to soften water. The very basic way to soften water is to boil it for a few minutes and allow it to cool before using it. But this is only a temporary method. Another method is by adding baking or washing soda (sodium carbonate) to the hard water that you will use for dishwashing, washing clothes, and any cleaning method that uses soap and water. But while this is considered to be effective, this is not really water softening. It only reduces the hardness of water, not totally eliminating it.

There are other water softening methods, but so far, the best way is by using a water softener. But if you do not want salt to be added to your softened water, use a salt free water softener. And because of the fact there is no need to use salt (which is pretty obvious), salt-free ones remove your worry that your water will contain sodium, which can be harmful in some ways especially if you are on sodium restricted diet. Another good alternative is a Reverse Osmosis (RO) water filter system, which is a better choice for watering plants instead of salt softened water.

Salt water softener and salt-free ones have their own pros and cons. Salt softened water is safe to drink as long as you know the amount of the added salt and you understand your health status. On the other hand, you have nothing to worry about salt if you prefer drinking salt-free softened water. So generally speaking, it is safe to drink softened water, and much safer than tap water.

How to Buy the Best Water Softener for Your Needs

As mentioned earlier, it is very important that you know the hardness of water in your area. The main purpose of doing so is to know the capacity you need. This is the most important factor to make sure that you only buy the best water softener. But besides that, there are other aspects that you should consider. Below is a list of buying tips:

  • Buy the right size. For salt based ones, the size is usually related to the capacity to remove water hardness. Typically, an average person consumes 75 gallons of water every day.
  • Know the different types. Salt based ones are either meter controlled or timer controlled. Salt-free ones are either electromagnetic-type or catalytic.
  • It must be easy to install and should not leak. Ask your local plumber to assist you. But for salt-free ones, installation is quick and very easy. No electricity required.
  • Check the manufacturer. This does not only include checking the credibility of the brand, but also its capability to provide support in case you need it. Warranty of the product matters a lot.
  • For salt based ones, we highly recommend that you buy only those assessed and approved by the Water Quality Association (WQA). Salt-free ones do not require this, though.
  • Read plenty of best water softener reviews, but make sure they are honest and authentic. We have some of them here. You can also go directly to Amazon.