Water softeners are a great addition to any home. There are a few different kinds, each with its own purpose.

Heavy minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium are taken out of the water source as it comes into the home by water softeners. Hard water can be filtered out with a water softener, which is a great addition to any home. There are a few different kinds, each with its own purpose.

Some water softeners are hidden under the sink or connect to the faucet, while others connect to the shower head. This handy product can improve the taste and smell of the water in your whole house, or it can help you take a shower without getting dry skin, hair, or filmy soap and shampoo residue.

But before you get a water softener for your home, it’s important to know how they work and what kinds are out there. We’ll explain the most important features between each type of softener to help you decide which one is best for you. Find out about 6 kinds of water softeners and how to choose the right one for your home.

Shower heads that soften the water

Shower head water softeners are made to get rid of minerals by cleaning the water as it goes through them. Most of them are made of salt. This helps make sure that the water you bathe in doesn’t have heavy minerals that can dry out your skin and make it hard to get soap and shampoo out of your hair.

This is a cheap way to get the benefits of softened water in the shower without installing a whole-house water softening system, which usually costs between $20 and $100 (though there are more expensive choices). These water softeners are easy to set up and should last for a few years. However, they do have a filter tank that needs to be changed every three months. Some goods even have extras like vitamin-boosting filters and scented filters, but not everyone likes these features.

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  • Minerals that dry out hair and skin while showering are taken out.
  • With regular service, an object lasts a long time.
  • Affordable.


  • Point-of-use; doesn’t treat the water source for the whole house.
  • Filters need to be changed.
  • Salt-based systems add salt to water, which isn’t good for everyone.

Water softeners that use salt

A salt-based water softener is also called an ion exchange water softener because it exchanges sodium ions for heavy minerals like calcium and magnesium. Once the water has been softened, it goes through this filtration device and into a separate tank.

Even though this method adds a small amount of salt to the water, it’s hard to tell, and the water becomes neutral, which is good for your skin and hair and won’t hurt your appliances or water systems.

The most popular type of water softener, these systems come in different sizes to fit a wide range of homes. This includes salt-based softeners that are small, movable, and great for camping and RV trips.

But it’s important to keep in mind that these systems have a problem that goes beyond adding salt to the water. The softener needs to have the plastic refilled often because it runs out of positively charged sodium ions to trade for heavy minerals.

Choose either a metered system that instantly cleans the water softener after a certain amount of water has gone through, or a timed system that cleans the sodium ions on a set schedule instead of a metered amount of water.

There are many low-cost choices, and there are also salt-based high-end water softeners. Prices usually run from $400 to $1,000, plus the cost of installation if you want it. This kind of water softener should last between 10 and 15 years, based on how often it is used and how well it is taken care of.


  • Home system as a whole.
  • Options for homes of different sizes and price ranges.
  • If they are taken care of, they can last up to 15 years.


  • Putting salt in the water.
  • Resin needs to be switched out often.
  • When something is used a lot, it lasts less time.

water softeners

Reverse Osmosis Water Softeners

Reverse osmosis water softeners filter out minerals, metals, and nitrates by forcing water through a semipermeable barrier under high pressure. Most of the time, these units are not made to treat the water in a whole house. However, they are popular systems for installing under the sink, which gives you access to softened water at a single place. Most under-sink units have between one and three cartridges that connect to the water pipes in your sink through the lower cabinet.

This kind of water softener does more than just get rid of heavy minerals. It also filters out other things that might be in the water. Reverse osmosis systems can cost as much as $1,800, but there are also cheaper ones that cost around $100. The point-of-use form of these water softeners makes them less useful than other kinds. When taken care of properly, reverse osmosis systems should last between 10 and 15 years, just like salt-based and TAC systems.


  • At the same time, it filters out both dirt and rocks.
  • Under-sink units are easy to set up.
  • With regular service, an object lasts a long time.


  • Point-of-use; doesn’t treat the water source for the whole house.
  • Can cost a lot.
  • It uses more water than it makes.

Salt-Free Water Softeners

A salt-free water softener is a good way to improve the quality of your water if you don’t like the idea of adding salt to it or you want a system that doesn’t need much upkeep. These water softeners look like salt-based ones, but as water flows through them, heavy minerals stick to polymeric beads at microscopic places called nucleation sites.

During a neutralize process, the minerals don’t stick to anything as they move through the water. Instead, they stick to the sites and start to form crystals. When the minerals are dissolved, they separate from the sites and move through the water without causing scaling.

But it’s important to keep in mind that these systems might not work as well if you have very hard water or if your household uses more water than normal. They also cost more up front than water softeners that use salt, between $500 and $3,000. They should last about 10 years


  • No salt was put in the water.
  • Salt-based softeners need a lot less upkeep.
  • No growth of minerals.


  • Not as good for homes that use a lot of water.
  • Salt-based softeners are more expensive to buy at first.
  • Not good for water that is very hard.
  • Water softeners with two tanks

Water softeners that use magnets

Magnetic water softeners also work as water descalers, which get rid of the mineral buildup in your home’s pipes caused by scale deposits. These softeners get rid of heavy minerals by using a magnetic field to get rid of the negative or positive ions. Since the minerals no longer have a negative or positive charge, they don’t stick to each other. This means that the minerals can dissolve in water completely.

Tip: Magnetic water softeners don’t get rid of the minerals in the water. Instead, they change the water’s chemical makeup for a short time. This means that the water is only “softened” for a few days at a time.

Salt-free and salt-based systems can take up a lot of room and don’t always fit in a smaller home. This problem can be solved with a magnetic water filter, which is very small and just straps on to the water pipe. You don’t even have to cut into the water line to set these up, but they do need a power source.

Most things are very cheap and can be put into an electrical outlet. Some of these water softeners or scale removers need to be connected into the home’s electrical system. But, at an average of $200 to $400, they are a good way to save money.

Plug-in magnetic water softeners are great for renters because they are easy to set up and don’t require lasting changes to the home. They are also easy to move to another home if you move in the future.


  • Salt-based and TAC methods cost more money.
  • Easy to set up and good for renters.
  • Small size doesn’t take up a lot of room at home.


  • Not really proven to make water softer.
  • Does not take minerals out of the water.
  • Some choices must be set in stone.

Water softeners with double tanks

The main difference between a normal salt-based water softener and a double-tank water softener is that the double-tank water softener has double tanks. This makes it easier for the softener to handle a larger amount of heavy minerals and a larger amount of water. These systems are made with double resin tanks, so even when one tank is going through a salt recovery cycle, the other one can still be used.

But double-tank water softeners need a lot of room and cost a lot (up to five grand or more), so they are really only needed in big homes that use a lot of water. Typical salt-based water softeners can last between 12 to 15 years, and so should those with double tanks.


  • The second tank holds more warmed water than the first.
  • Can fit homes that use a lot of water.
  • Able to clean water that is very hard.


  • More expensive than softeners that use salt.
  • Resin needs to be switched out often.
  • Need a lot of room.

How to Choose a Water Softener

Choosing the right water softener for your home can take a long time because you have to think about the different kinds and what they do. Salt-based systems with two tanks are good for homes that use a lot of water. A single-tank system or a TAC system may be better for homes that use an average amount of water.

If you don’t need to treat all of the water in your home, you might want to put water softeners on your shower heads and under your sinks. This is often the best way to get softened water on a budget, even though the filters need to be changed every so often.

But these options don’t remove minerals before the water goes through your plumbing system, so older homes can benefit from whole-home systems that help keep the pipes from rusting. If you’re still not sure which type of water softener is best for you, it’s a good idea to talk to a professional plumber about your home and get advice and suggestions.

FAQs About Water Softeners

How do I figure out how big of a water softener I need?

To figure out the right size water softener for your house, multiply the number of people living there by the number of gallons of water each person uses each day (the average is 80 gallons per person). Multiply that number by the number of grains of hardness in your water to find out how many grains need to be taken out each day.

How does one water softener compare to another?

How well these hard water minerals are taken out is what makes a good water softener better than a bad one. High-efficiency water softeners need much less salt and water to regenerate, so they produce less trash and cost less to run. Only ion exchange can really soften water.

How long do water softeners usually last?

A water softener should last between ten and fifteen years. If your unit is wearing out faster than usual, it could be because you aren’t doing enough maintenance or because you have hard water. You can add a pre-filter to your water softener if you want to make it last longer.

Does soft water help hair grow?

Most importantly, soft water doesn’t have the heavy minerals that can damage hair and make it less resistant to other changes (like stress or food). Because soft water can get deeper into the hair shaft, it usually makes hair look healthier, shinier, and softer.


To effectively select a plumber, it is essential to thoroughly examine both local and national plumbing companies, carefully evaluate customer reviews, and seek recommendations from trusted acquaintances who have previously employed reliable plumbers. If available, you may verify a plumber’s insurance and license information through your state’s labor department.

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