We’ve reviewed the leading products in a variety salt free water softener categories. We included filter systems that coat hard water minerals, full filter systems, and other models that suspend hard water grains in the water.
Each of our evaluations includes information on the technology used, how effective the model is, how easy it is to install, how long you can expect it to last, its care and maintenance needs, and the price you can expect to pay for it.
You can use our reviews as a starting point for your research or read our buying guide for information on how the different technologies work and what you might want to look for in a product.
In a Rush?
Our whole house salt free water softener reviews revealed these models as the top choices for each category below. Our recommendations balance performance and value.
Read why we picked these models below.
Salt Free Water Softener Reviews (Updated 2018)
|1||Hard Water Bullet Poly||Overall||Price|
|2||Hard Water Bullet Poly||Using polyphosphates||Price|
|3||Aquasana Whole House||With full filters||Price|
|4||Eddy Water Descaler||Using electro-magnetic waves||Price|
|5||Magnetic Water Technology Two-Unit Combo||Using Magnets||Price|
|6||Hard Water Bullet Poly||For well water||Price|
|7||Aquasana Whole House||For city water||Price|
How to Pick the Perfect One for Your Needs?
When you’re shopping for a new unit, it helps to know how hard your water is so that you can tell if a particular technology or model will be able to soften it. You’ll also want to decide if you need additional filters for your system to remove chlorine or a UV light to kill bacteria and viruses.
This section will help you understand how each water softening technology works and how to test or estimate how hard your water is. We’ll also provide pricing information so that you can more accurately budget for your new product.
Conventional units are rated by grain count, the number of grains of minerals it can remove before it needs to flush the filtering resin material. Salt free types do not automatically flush like conventional ones do, but many retain the grain rating to indicate how long they will last or how effective they are at filtering hard water mineral particles.
You can determine how many grains are in each gallon of your water with a water test kit. If you have city water, you can also call and ask how many grains per gallon they allow to pass through the water treatment system.
Even at 15 grains per gallon, you’ll want a water softening system to remove the remainder of those grains. Most products can do so. If you have more grains per gallon, you might need to use more than one type.
Hard Water Effects
You can tell if you have hard water by looking for the effects it leaves on your plumbing, fixtures, appliances, clothes, and body.
Hard water leaves mineral spots on dishes, creates deposits on your faucets and fixtures, and stains your bathtub, shower, sink, and appliances. It makes soap scum stick to shower walls and builds up in your pipes or appliance water lines. It turns your white clothes dingy and dries out your skin and hair.
If you notice any of the effects of hard water after installing a salt-free unit, consider adding another type to complete your water softening system. Many products are not rated for high grain counts. Using two different technologies will greatly enhance the effectiveness of both.
Some in-line types limit the flow of water as water passes through it. A lower flow rate could mean less water pressure if you’re trying to use water at two or more locations in your house.Depending on the number of people living in your home, you might need to run all of these water sources at the same time during peak moments. The rule of thumb is that a person living alone needs a flow rate of 4 gallons per minute. You can then add 1 or two gallons for each other person living in the house, meaning that a family of 4 would need a flow rate of 7-10 gallons per minute.
There are 4 primary types of salt free water softeners: filtering softeners that use polyphosphates, full filtering systems, softeners that use electro-magnetic waves, and those that use magnets only. We’ll tell you how each one works. In the next section, you can see what you should expect to pay for each one.
First, let’s clear up what it means to soften water. Most people believe that a water softener is supposed to remove the hard water mineral grains, and that’s exactly how a conventional unit works. But minerals are not harmful to humans, and, in fact, are a necessary part of our diet.
Mineral grains are only harmful when allowed to affect our plumbing, appliances, clothes, skin, and hair. So instead of removing the mineral grains altogether, they simply remove their negative effects. The water is softened because the hard water mineral grains will no longer be a problem, not because they’ve been removed.
Filtering with Polyphosphates
Salt free water softeners that filter with polyphosphates require cleaning and polyphosphate refills. Polyphosphates are safe chemicals added to the water. They coat the mineral grains so that they can’t stick to pipes or any other surface.
Like all of this type of products, it does not remove the grains from your water. A filter catches larger particles as the smaller calcium and magnesium particles pass through into the polyphosphate coating material.
This type of system is usually very simple, designed to soften your water only. They do not treat well water with iron or sulfur and they do not remove chlorine from city water. They do not kill viruses and bacteria or remove possible herbicides and pesticides.
Products with polyphosphates serve as great first steps in your water softening and filtering system. They also help remove hard water mineral buildup in your pipes as the polyphosphates travel with your water, picking up and coating additional grains along the way. For more complete filtration options, see the next section.
Full Filtering Systems
We call these systems full filters because they soften your water while removing a lot more material that you don’t want in your water. They offer a more complete water softening and filtering solution than simple polyphosphate models.
As water passes through a filtering unit, the mineral grains are crystallized and coated, preventing them from sticking to anything. Models with additional filters and components can then remove chlorine and chloramines from city water or herbicides, pesticides, bacteria, and viruses from well water. Filter systems are our top pick for homes with city water.
Filter systems are our top pick for homes with city water.They’re also very effective filters for well water and make a significant difference in softening it. If have very hard well water, however, you might need to use them paired with another type of technology.
You will need to change the filters on this type every six months to a year depending on your usage and the condition of your water. The polyphosphate material will also need to be changed, though the frequency depends on the model.
Electro-magnetic types plug into your wall and send an electro-magnetic wave through your pipes. The wave magnetizes the hard water mineral grains, suspending them in the water so that they don’t cling to pipes or other surfaces.
They’re most effective when used with water below 15 grains per gallon or when used as the last step in a complete water softening system. You do not need to plumb them into your system, but they will require a small amount of constant energy.
Like electro-magnetic systems, magnetic types suspend the minerals in water but do so without electricity. Instead, strong magnets attach to the outside of your pipes and magnetize any water passing through it. They are the least effective water softening system but can serve as an easy final step with no maintenance needs and permanent durability.
Electro-magnetic and magnetic softening systems also remove mineral deposits from inside your pipes. Over time, the magnetic effect will loosen buildup and allow particles to flush through your system.
Here are the ranges of prices that you can expect to pay for each water softening technology.
- Filtering with polyphosphates: Less than $203-460
- Full filters: Less than $1400-2200
- Electro-magnetic: Less than $170-350 Magnetic:
- Less than $24-110[/su_list]
For suggestions on specific models using these technologies, see our Optimal Salt Free Water Softeners.
10 Best Salt Free Water Softener Reviews
These are the optimum products we found. We’ve arranged the list by those that use polyphosphates, those that filter only, those that use electro-magnetic waves, and those that use magets only. We include the advantages and disadvantages of each model.
Using Filters and Polyphosphates
These simple in-line water softeners do not remove hard water particles but coat them in harmless polyphosphates to let them slip through your plumbing and down the drain.
Hard Water Bullet Triple Action Poly
The Hard Water Bullet Poly Softener is the perfect salt free water softener for well water. The 30-micron filter catches sediment particles and allows the smaller mineral grains to pass through the polyphosphate coating material. Polyphosphates are natural materials used in water treatment facilities and they are extremely effective in preventing hard water minerals from adhering to pipe walls and other surfaces.
The Hard Water Bullet Poly Softener also works quickly, providing a flow rate of 30 gallons per minute. A house can hardly use that much water at one time, so you’ll never have water pressure problems with this model.
We also like its small size. It weighs 4 pounds and measures 9 inches by 10 inches in height and diameter. You attach it to the wall as in-line unit, so it doesn’t even need to take up any floor space.
You will need to do a little maintenance on the Hard Water Poly Softener. First, you’ll need to refill it with polyphosphates once every 6-12 months. The refill kits cost less than $30, comparable to what you would pay for salt in that amount of time.
You’ll also need to rinse the filter and clean the core once a year. You can rinse the filter in a wash basin and flush the core with vinegar to remove any mineral deposits inside. Just remember to turn off your water supply valve and empty the line before you open the Hard Water Bullet Poly.
The Hard Water Bullet Softener Poly for less than $460. Its fast flow rate, water softening effectiveness, small size, and low price make this our top pick for well water.
The Aquios FS-220 Filtration System is a combination of polyphosphate and filter only models. It does coat hard water grains in polyphosphate. It also has a 5-micron filter to remove sediment, chlorine, and other water pollutants. It is also lightweight and small, though not as small as the Hard Water Bullet Poly. It’s an in-line system that weighs 7.5 pounds, is 27 inches high, and 10 inches around at its widest point. You can install it very easily.
You will need to change the filter after every 40,000 gallons of water. Of course, you’re probably not going to keep an accurate count of how many gallons you use, so you’ll have to estimate when it’s time to change it.
A person uses an average of 80 gallons of water per day. Multiply 80 by the number of people living in your home. A four-person family, for example, uses 320 gallons of water per day. Dividing the 40,000 gallon life expectancy of the filter by 320 tells us that our four-person family should change their filter every 125 days or approximately once every four months.
You might be able to change the filter less frequently, depending on the condition of your water. The filters cost less than $65. As a bonus, the filter also renews your supply of polyphosphates, so you won’t need to be polyphosphate beads separately. As with most salt-free units, the Aquios FS-220 is used in homes with softer water or as one component in a larger water softening system.
You can purchase the Aquios FS-220 for less than $430. This low price for a polyphosphate and filter combo makes it one of our picks. It comes with a 20-year warranty on the filter housing and head.
Aquasana THD-AS20 SimplySoft 2-Year 20-Inch
The first Aquasana product on our list is the Aquasana THD-AS20 SimplySoft 2-Year 20-Inch Salt-Free Water Softener. This is meant primarily for tankless water heaters though you can install it in your water line for full-home softening. It operates very similarly to other in-line polyphosphate models.
When you open the hot water valve, water flows through the SimplySoft unit, filtering the water and coating the hard water minerals in polyphosphate. It says that it’s a 2-year model, but you can use it for much longer than that. Simply purchase the replacement filter to renew its cleanliness and polyphosphate material. The filters cost less than $110.
The entire unit is available for less than $203. Note that using the Aquasana THD-AS20 SimplySoft 2-Year 20-Inch Salt-Free as a whole-home option will cause the filter to need changing more often. You could alternatively install one into your hot water supply line and one into your cold line to achieve the same effect with less frequent filter changes.
Its versatility, simplicity, low price, and effectiveness make the Aquasana THD-AS20 SimplySoft 2-Year 20-Inch Salt-Free unit one our top picks.
With Full Filters
These products filter your water and coat hard water grains to soften it. The crystals pass through your plumbing and bounce off surfaces without sticking. These units also provide robust filters for your whole house.
Aquasana Whole House
The Aquasana Whole House Water Filter and Salt-Free Softener coats hard water molecules so that you can still drink them and reduce their negative effects without using salt. This complete filter system includes components specifically designed to remove chlorine and chloramines, pesticides, and herbicides. Because of its ability to remove 97% of the chlorine in water, it’s our top pick as the top salt free product for city water.
The chlorine and chloramines that cities add to sanitize the water supply dries out hair and skin as much as hard water does. It’s a little heavier than other in-line systems, weighing approximately 16 pounds. It’s also longer at a total of 54 inches. You can still mount it off of the floor though. The water does go through more filtration steps, so the flow rate is reduced to 7 gallons per minute.
That’s not bad though, considering that 7 gallons per minute will provide enough water pressure to run 2 showers, a dishwasher, and the kitchen faucet all at the same time. You will need to change the filters on this model at least every six months. Each 4-pack of replacement pre-filters (for the 10-inch filter) costs less than $16 and each 4-pack of replacement post filters (for the 20-inch filter) for less than $30.
The SimplySoft polyphosphate material will need to be replaced every 5 years at a price of less than $100. The Aquasana Whole House Water Filter and Salt-Free Softener under a 10-year or 1 million gallons of water warranty. You can purchase it for less than $1400. If you’re considering using this model for well water, be sure to pair it with a polyphosphate filter beforehand or an electro-magnetic or magnetic model afterward.
Aquasana Rhino 6-Stage 500,000 Gallon Well Water Filtration System with Simplysoft
The Aquasana Rhino 6-Stage 500,000 Gallon Well Water Filtration System with SimplySoft with UV Filter is our last product in this series of Aquasana SimplySoft. It is a souped up version of the above model. It comes with a UV light to kill bacteria and viruses coming from your well water.
If you do have well water, this is the most complete salt free water softener and filtering system you can buy. It features a 20-inch pre-filter to catch sediment from your well, the SimplySoft that coats smaller hard water grains in polyphosphate, the Rhino filter and a .35 micron post-filter to remove chlorine, chloramines, herbicides, pesticides, and additional contaminants, and a UV light to kill viruses and bacteria. The .35 submicron filter is dense enough to catch even the smallest pollutants in your water.
The UV light runs off a standard household outlet. It also has a water flow rate of 7 gallons per minute, removing 97% of chlorine in the process to make your skin and hair more vibrant. As we noted in the above Aquasana SimplySoft, you will need to replace the SimplySoft polyphosphate material once every 5 years for a price of less than $100. The entire unit is only is only guaranteed for 5 years, but that’s mainly due to hard well water wearing more on the Rhino filter.
You can replace the Rhino filter for less than $785. You will need to replace the pre and post-filters approximately every six months. You can purchase four 20-inch pre-filters for less than $28 and four .35 submicron post-filters for less than $30.
The Aquasana Rhino 6-Stage 500,000 Gallon Well Water Filtration System with SimplySoft with UV Filter itself is available for less than $2205. This is one of our top picks for its high filtering power complementing its sure polyphosphate technology. Multiple components make it easy to replace what you need to when you need to.
Using Electro-Magnetic Waves
These 3 models use a powered control box to send electro-magnetic waves through your pipes, suspending hard water mineral grains in the flow of the water.
Eddy Water Descaler
The Eddy Water Descaler is a durable electro-magnetic unit. The control box mounts on your wall and plugs into a regular 110-volt electrical outlet. The coils then clamp on to nearly any type of water supply lines and safely emit an electro-magnetic wave through the pipe and any passing water.
The hard water mineral grains become suspended in the water, reducing their ability to bond to pipes, water supply tubes, appliance basins, clothes, and humans. The grains remain suspended until they sit in water for a prolonged amount of time. Otherwise, they quickly exit your home through the drainage system. Because it is not an in-line system, the Eddy Water Descaler does not affect your home’s water flow rate. It does not need to have polyphosphates replenished or filters changed.
The unit itself comes with a lifetime guarantee. You can purchase the Eddy Water Descaler for less than $200. Use it alone if you have generally soft water or attach it to your hot and cold water supply lines as the last step in controlling hard water.
Over time, the electro-magnetism will loosen mineral deposits already in your pipes, improving the longevity of your plumbing and increasing your water pressure. The Eddy Water Descaler power box runs continuously, but its power consumption is minimal. The low cost of the unit, its ease of installation, its effectiveness, and lifetime warranty make this our top choice.
Clearwave CW-125 Electronic Conditioner
The Clearwave CW-125 Electronic Water Conditioner is another electro-magnetic type that comes with an even smaller price tag than the Eddy. Simply connect the wires to the wall unit and wrap the coils around your hot and cold supply lines.
The electro-magnetic wave passes through the pipes, suspending mineral grains in the water. Like the Eddy Water Descaler, you’ll want to give the Clearwave a few weeks to clear your pipes of hard water deposits. After the previous deposits flush out, you should see much clearer water with less mineral staining. The Clearwave draws power continuously but is not enough to notice more than a small increase in your energy bill. It is effective in softening water, but don’t expect it to solve all of your problems if you have more than slightly hard water. It’s used as the final step in a complete water softening system.
Unlike the Eddy Water Descaler, the Clearwave does not come with a lifetime warranty. Field Controls, the manufacturer of the Clearwave warrants it for 18 months. We expect to last much longer than that though and an 18 month warranty provides sufficient time to return a defective product.
The Clearwarve is currently priced at less than $170. You’ll never need to perform any maintenance on it or check any levels. It does not use salt, polyphosphates, or filters. We like the Clearwave CW-125 Electronic Water Conditioner for its low price, effective water softening capability, and the fact that we don’t have to plumb it in. For those reasons alone, we’ve included it in our list.
Hard Water Genie Treatment Conditioner and Descaler System
The Hard Water Genie Treatment Conditioner, Water Softener, and Descaler System costs more than the Eddy Water Descaler or the Clearwave model, but it also uses radio waves in addition to electro-magnetic waves. It is also the only unit in our list of products using electro-magnetism to connect to the main water supply line versus the hot and cold branching lines. Attaching the unit to the main supply line allows the electro-magnetic waves to start working before water and hard water grains enter any other part of your system.
If you’re using a polyphosphate filter or full filter system, they’ll have less buildup in them and require less frequent cleaning and maintenance. You’ll also save your main supply line from developing as many mineral deposits inside. This would place the Hard Water Genie at the supply line, then a simple or full filter polyphosphate softener, followed by an Eddy Water Descaler or Clearwave coil around the hot and cold supply lines. Such a 3-step combination should virtually eliminate all hard water effects in even a very hard water home.
The Hard Water Genie by itself is certainly effective, possibly even reducing hard water stains by half in a home with hard water and better in a home with city water. It’s easy to install and only requires a minimum amount of power. You can purchase the Hard Water Genie Salt Free Treatment Conditioner, Water Softener, and Descaler System for less than $350. Like the Eddy Water Descaler, it comes with a lifetime warranty and will reduce mineral buildup in your pipes over the first few weeks of operation.
Magnetic water softeners are the easiest to install and never require maintenance.
Magnetic Water Technology Two-Unit Combo
The Magnetic Water Technology Two-Unit Combo is an effective solution that wraps around your home’s hot and cold water supply lines. It doesn’t use salt, polyphosphates, filters, or electricity. You can simply strap the strong magnetic wraps to your pipes and walk away. Each sleeve holds 6 magnets that perform the same function as an electro-magnetic wave only to a lesser degree. The magnets suspend the hard water mineral grains in your water so that they can’t adhere as well to pipes and other surfaces. You can attach the magnetic sleeves to any type of pipe.
Like an electro-magnetic water softener, the magnetized mineral grains will also pull particles away from the walls of your pipes, fittings, and fixtures, restoring the overall health of your home’s plumbing system. You’ll experience fewer clogs, less buildup around fittings, and better water flow. The Magnetic Water Technology Two-Unit Combo is easy to install and doesn’t limit the water flow rate of your home’s plumbing. It comes with an unnecessary 10-year warranty.
We say the warranty is unnecessary because you’ll never have a problem with a magnetic product. Test the magnets when you receive them. If they’re good, you’ll never have a reason to return them. The Magnetic Water Technology Two-Unit Combo is available for less than $110. The price, simplicity, and effectiveness make it one of our top choices. If you have very hard water, don’t rely on a magnetic type alone.
Magnetic Conditioner Water Treatment
The second in our list of units using magnets is another product by Magnetic Water Technology. The Powermag is a smaller version designed for apartments, condos, mobile homes, RV’s, and tiny houses. No matter what type of water supply you have, you can install this magnetic water softener to improve its condition. It features the same neodymium magnets as the larger versions and installs in the same manner, wrapping around the hot and cold supply lines.
You’ll never need to check on them or replace the magnets. They’re completely maintenance-free. They’re also very small, measuring only 3 inches in length. If you’re in a home where you can’t change the plumbing or install an in-line unit, you can always install the Powermag. Take it with you when you leave and enjoy softer water while you’re there. If you can’t get to the main hot and cold supply lines, you can also install a Powermag under your sink and on each appliance water supply line. They’re that versatile. They’re also incredibly inexpensive, available for less than $24 for two magnetic sleeves.
The Powermag comes with the standard 10-year warranty that you’ll never need to use. Simply check the strength of the magnets when you receive them and then don’t worry about them ever again. For price, versatility, no-maintenance needs, and effectiveness in small applications, the Powermag is one of our top choices for the top salt free systems.
Assuming that you don’t need a full filtering system and that you can make in-line plumbing changes, our recommendation for the best salt free water softener for your money is the Hard Water Bullet Poly Softener. It’s effective for both city and well water homes, requires very little maintenance, does not use electricity, and there are no filters to be changed.
The polyphosphate refills are more economical than full filter models and the unit itself costs less than $460. It takes up no floor space, weighs only 4 pounds, and doesn’t affect water flow rates. It installs in the main water supply line, saving your pipes from buildup as early in the process as possible. It’s also compatible with any other salt free water softening technology for added effectiveness. You can’t buy a better salt free water softener than the Hard Water Bullet Poly Softener for the money.