Best Ion Exchange Water Softener [May 2023]

Why You Should Invest in a Good Ion Exchange Water Softener

Mineral- and metal-rich water has an odd smell, a bad flavour, and a murky appearance. Even worse, because there are more toxins present than usual, it could poison people mildly to severely. You should have a tool that cleans it up when this occurs.

The greatest ion exchange water softener is practically a must-have home appliance because it can supply clean water to parts of the house like the kitchen and bathrooms. Without it, coping with hard water’s effects could have negative ramifications in the future.

The greatest ion exchange water softener can give families more productive laundry and enjoyable showers while guarding plumbing and water appliances against limescale accumulation. Families that pick the best ion exchange water softener also won’t have to worry about outdated plumbing and fittings.

Unfortunately, purchasing an ion exchange water softener for the first time might be difficult if not complicated. In our article today, we will be discussing on the best ion exchange water softener systems that are available in the market as well as the important considerations to take into account when buying the best ion exchange water softener for your home.

Best Ion Exchange Water Softener Systems

SpringWell SS: Top Overall Salt Based Water Softener

  • Grain Capacity: 32K-80K
  • Suitable For: Up to 6+ People
  • Flow Rate: Up to 20 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime

The SpringWell SS Salt-Based Water Softener System is our top ion exchange water softener for a single, straightforward reason: this system has repeatedly proven to be one of the most efficient, dependable water softeners available, totally removing hardness minerals and eliminating scale.

You can now say good-bye to limescale thanks to the SS’s 100% soft water production. Three different sizes of the salt-based Springwell water softener are available: 32,000 grains (for 1-3 bathrooms), 48,000 grains (for 4-6 bathrooms), and 80,000 grains (for 7+ bathrooms).

Select the appropriate size to prevent a decrease in water pressure. The lifetime warranty and 6-month money-back satisfaction guarantee for the SpringWell SS, in our opinion, are two unmistakable indicators that SpringWell is dependable in terms of the durability of its goods.


  1. We adore how the SS’s automated regeneration lowers salt and water waste while assisting you in maintaining low operating costs. One of the most cost-effective systems we’ve studied is this one.
  2. A reliable company with a long-standing reputation, SpringWell. You don’t need to be concerned about making an unwise investment in a SpringWell product. Also, the SS offers better value for money than the majority of market-available water softeners.
  3. During our tests, we observed a rapid increase in the quality of our drinking water and saw no new scale form after the unit was installed.


  1. Installing the SpringWell SS water softener is challenging. For this task, most individuals engage a plumber.
  2. higher initial cost

SoftPro Elite

  • Grain Capacity: 24K-110K
  • Suitable For: Up to 5+ People
  • Flow Rate: Up to 15 GPM
  • Warranty: Lifetime

After the SpringWell SS, the SoftPro Elite is a close second in our opinion. This ion exchange water softener is the most effective we’ve ever examined, which gives it a significant edge over the SS despite not being quite as effective.

Efficiency was a priority in the design of the SoftPro Elite. With its effective upflow regeneration technique, this system significantly minimises salt consumption, using only three bags year.

Regeneration cycles in water softeners are notorious for wasting water, but the SoftPro Elite uses cutting-edge sensors to initiate far shorter, quicker regeneration cycles if the resin only requires a boost at an opportune time.

The LCD panel on the SoftPro Elite water softener allows you to access presets that are simple to select and include auto-variable backwash, auto-refresh, auto reserve, and vacation mode. We appreciate that this item costs less than $1,000 because it offers excellent value. SoftPro demonstrates that high quality may be had without breaking the bank.


  1. The SoftPro Elite’s efficiency has really blown us away. A conventional salt-based softening system consumes twice as much salt as the system does. We found that during our tests, we used very little salt and water.
  2. You’ll be relieved to learn that the resin in the SoftPro Elite has a 20-year lifespan if you don’t enjoy spending money on maintenance.
  3. The lifetime warranty for the SoftPro Elite gives us peace of mind. It’s made by the reputable company Quality Water Treatment.


  1. There is no foundation model for the system. It also requires electricity, which can limit the locations where it can be deployed.

Fleck 5600 SXT: Excellent Budget Softener Option

  • Grain Capacity: 24K-64K
  • Suitable For: Up to 6 People
  • Flow Rate: Up to 20 GPM
  • Warranty: 5 years (valves), 10 years (tanks)

The cheapest 24,000-grain model of the Fleck 5600SXT Digital Control Water Softener costs slightly over $1,000. We consider this water filtration system to be one of the most cost-effective, best-value water softeners on the market right now, even with all its fancy features.

The smart water flow metre in the Fleck 5600SXTwater softener only regenerates when it is necessary, and it has an easy-to-use programmable control valve so you can adjust the system’s performance to your needs.

We installed the Fleck with little difficulty or puzzlement. The system is already partially put together and filled with resin, which makes installation easier. The control valve has a decent 5-year warranty, while the tank has a 10-year warranty.

Longer manufacturer support if something goes wrong is a result of good warranties. To save money, you don’t have to sacrifice quality. Starting at slightly over $1,000, the Fleck 5600SXT is available in 5 different capacities.


  1. Given its low cost, we were really happy with the performance of this Fleck model. After only a few minutes of installation, the water had softened substantially.
  2. We were satisfied with the quality of the components, and it’s comforting to know that the device is put together in the USA.
  3. Depending on your water usage and hardness, you can pick between different grain quantities ranging from 24,000 to 64,000 grains.


  1. Some buyers had trouble putting the Fleck 5600SXT together by themselves. You’ll probably need to call a plumber if you’re not handy.

AquaOx WS: Premium Choice

  • Grain Capacity: 64K
  • Suitable For: Up to 5 People
  • Flow Rate: Up to 16 GPM
  • Warranty: 10 years

Have the funds for a water softener that is truly exceptional? Our top premium option is the AquaOX WS, which costs under $2,000 and provides the best ion exchange water softener available.

An extremely dependable technology that offers quick scale removal benefits is the AquaOX WS. The AquaOX WS water softener is cleverly built to save salt and money with automatic regeneration cycles, like all the best salt-based water softeners.

Thanks to its sophisticated upflow technology, this system is up to 40% more effective than a water softener that doesn’t use it.

Knowing that the AquaOX WS has a hassle-free 10-year warranty and a 1-year money-back guarantee is comforting.


  1. We were optimistic that the AquaOX WS would successfully handle our hard water, and after utilising this system, our limescale problems were all but gone.
  2. The effectiveness of this water softener impressed us because it required less salt top-ups than inefficient devices.
  3. The touch-screen interface is simple to use.


  1. The features of this water softener are almost identical to those of the SpringWell SS. If money is tight, you might as well just get SpringWell’s model.

Our Extensive Research Results

The methods we used to gather information, evaluate items, and compare them are covered in this portion of the article. A thorough examination of hard water will also be covered, along with information on what it is, what it does, how to test for it, and why ion exchange water softeners are the most effective method of removing it.

Who This Guide Made For?

This section is for anyone who wants to utilise a conventional whole house water softener to get soft water throughout the plumbing system of their home.

You’ll benefit from this guide if:

  • You want to have truly soft water (not simply “conditioned” water), so you should be looking at ion exchange water softeners rather than salt-free or magnetic water softeners.
  • You have a budget of any kind. The majority of the items in this guide are affordable, although some are on the more expensive side. In any case, you always get your money’s worth.
  • You want to purchase from a reliable manufacturer that a knowledgeable reviewer with experience in the field suggests over the competition.

How We Selected The Top Rated Ion Exchange Water Softeners

We only considered conventional ion exchange water softeners with a brine tank and an ion exchange resin tank that soften water using the ion exchange method when selecting products for this guide.

We selected the ion exchange water softeners on this list based on their capacity for softening, customer reviews, price, and general quality.

Water Softening Capabilities

The exchange softening technique is thought to be the most efficient way to lessen or stop scale formation. Ion exchange water softeners vary widely, though.

We preferred ion exchange water softeners that soften at least 99% of the water. We sought scale elimination rather than merely scale reduction. The ion exchange water softener units on this list are the closest to achieving this goal.

System Capacity

This is the most important element to think about when purchasing an ionic water softener. Every ion exchange water softening system has a capacity rating that specifies how much water it can hold for a specific period of time. It also specifies how much calcium carbonate in the form of dissolved grains the system is capable of handling at any particular time.

In contrast to another system, which can only manage 31,000 grains, one product can handle 48,000 grains. You must select the product with a 48,000-grain capacity if you reside in an area with significant water hardness levels.

Verify how much grain the system can remove per gallon at all times. For instance, a system rated at 120 GPG (grains per gallon) is superior to one rated at 100 GPG.

Water Flow Rate

The water flow rate is a rating you should pay attention to in a reliable water softener system. Although some items only have average water flow rates, they offer significant grain capacities. You might want to look up the water flow rate in your house right now. A system that will slow down the flow is not what you desire.

Other Features

Each product has unique qualities that distinguish it from its respective rivals. Some can be used without the need to buy extra water filters because they come with built-in filters. Additionally, there are water softeners with digital controls, metres, and regeneration capabilities. Choose the one that will benefit you the most.

Customer Feedback

Customer reviews are priceless since they provide us with knowledge about how regular people interact with ion exchange water softeners.

In order to choose which ion exchange water softeners would appear on this list, we read hundreds of user evaluations. Some water softeners had excellent marketing, yet received negative customer feedback. These products were neglected in favour of those with effective advertising and a solid consumer base.

Bang Per Buck Value

Value for money was a key consideration when narrowing down this selection of water softening systems.

We didn’t necessarily search for the most affordable ion exchange water softeners on the market. Our top objective was to find ion exchange water softeners with the best performance at the most reasonable cost. We excluded ion exchange water softeners that cost more than $2,000 and couldn’t provide an improvement over the options on our shortlist.

Quality in General

Additionally, we considered how the general standard of the water softeners that made the short list affected their performance and longevity.

System Installation and Maintenance Requirements

Ion exchange water softeners need routine maintenance. Some water softeners, however, offer a useful feature that eliminates the trouble of routine Ionics water softener maintenance and service. Checking the system’s recommended maintenance schedule is a good idea.

It is also crucial to assess how simple the system is to implement. Some products are pre-installed as a whole-house solution. Simply attach the system’s one end to your main water line and the other to your water distribution line, and you’re good to go. Other goods could require more effort to set up.

How We Tested

In our first research, we used our own laboratory tests to evaluate the effectiveness of water softeners, but this did not provide us with a complete grasp of a system’s capabilities. We didn’t get a strong sense of how well a water softener could work because our water supply wasn’t quite as hard as the water used for official testing.

Instead, we now concentrate our own testing on a water softener’s capabilities based on actual use. We examine a water softener’s dependability, usability, and durability, and combine our findings with information from formal testing conducted by industry authorities including ANSI, the NSF, and WQA.

What is Hard Water?

Hard Water is water that contains a lot of calcium carbonate and magnesium ions and is generally referred to as hard water. If your water feels sticky to the touch and produces white spots known as limescale on your faucets and showerheads, your water is likely hard.

How to Measure Water Hardness

Magnesium or calcium carbonate ion concentration is measured by water hardness. Parts per million (PPM) or milligrammes per litre (mg/L) are both comparable units for measuring hardness. Granules per gallon are another way to assess hardness (GPG).

How to Check the Hardness of Water

You may be aware of the hardness of your water, but how much hardness are you actually dealing with and what exactly does a water softening system need to remove?

The only way to be certain of this is to compare your results to the table below after testing your water’s hardness (either using a testing kit that costs less than $10 or a professional laboratory that costs around $50).

Problems Caused by Hard Water

The following consequences are likely to be felt if your water is hard:

Dry skin and hair

One of the most obvious negative impacts of hard water is dry skin and hair.

Hard water’s minerals adhere to hair and skin, causing residue buildup and escalating skin problems including eczema, dandruff, and acne. By preventing moisture from penetrating the skin’s pores and hair follicles, these minerals also contribute to dryness.

Ineffective water heater and appliances

Inefficient appliances, such as your water heater, are another common indication of hard water. Mineral stains are left behind by hard water supplies on everything, even the interiors of your heaters and appliances.

These deposits lessen water flow over time, which reduces appliance performance. Additionally, they act as an insulating layer in water heaters, requiring the heating components to operate harder to heat the water. Appliances that are utilised with hard water frequently completely lose their efficiency much before the end of the anticipated length of time.

Spotted Dishes

If your water is hard, white stains on your dishes and glassware are typical. If you’re using hard water, the stains won’t go away no matter how thoroughly you clean them. While not harmful, white spotting is ugly.

Pipe and faucet damage

Your pipes and plumbing are particularly vulnerable to damage from limescale deposits. Over a number of decades, limescale builds up in your pipes as a result of regular contact between your hard water supply and the interior of your pipes.

Your home’s water pressure is decreased by this limescale, which inhibits water flow. Limescale buildup on showerheads and faucets has an impact on how much water can flow from these fixtures as well.

Scratchy, Stiff Laundry

Finally, hard water is probably to blame if your washing is scratchy and stiff or if your whites are turning a dingy grey. You’ll need to use more washing soaps to wash your clothes correctly if you have hard water since hard water impacts how well soap lathers in water.

What Is An Ion Exchange Water Softener?

Ion exchange water softeners are conventional water softener systems with two tanks for water softening:

  • A brine tank, that stores salt
  • A resin tank, that contains an ion exchange resin bed, where all the softening process takes place

The only technique that physically eliminates hardness minerals from water is the ion exchange process. How precisely does this operate?

The resin tank is flooded with hard water. The resin bed pulls positively charged calcium and magnesium ions out of the water while simultaneously releasing an equal number of positively charged sodium ions into the water (the exchanging of ions).

Because sodium ions don’t affect water quality and can’t form scale, they efficiently soften water by replacing calcium and magnesium. A brine solution (salty water) is extracted from the brine tank when the water softener needs to renew, and the ion exchange resin is then refilled with sodium ions.

Ion Exchange vs Water Softener

Although both the ion exchange and the water softener procedures aim to reduce water hardness, there are several important differences between them.

When it comes to problems with water hardness, the conventional water softener is able to eliminate calcium, magnesium, and silica ions while still leaving behind trace amounts of those substances to produce what is known as “temporary hardness.” Ion exchange is the mechanism by which the water softener replaces those ions with salt.

Other varieties of water conditioners control how hardness minerals behave in a liquid solution. These minerals will still exist as a result, but they won’t continue to accumulate on surfaces and create additional issues.

Keeping calcium, magnesium, and silica in the water may be advantageous because these minerals can be beneficial for both people and other creatures. As long as they don’t endanger the home’s plumbing, that is.

Salt Based Water Softeners vs Salt-Free Water Conditioners Comparison

The following are the main distinctions between salt-free water softeners and salt-based ion exchange systems:

While salt-based ion exchange water softeners use ion exchange to totally remove these minerals from water, salt-free conditioners use template-assisted crystallisation to decrease mineral buildup.

While ion exchange systems require two tanks—one for the resin and one for the brine—salt-free conditioners just require one (or dual tank water softeners use three tanks: one brine and two ion exchange resin tanks).

While a salt-based water softening system softens water and prevents scale throughout your plumbing system, a salt-free conditioner just reduces scale.

Ion exchange water softeners perform a regeneration process and require salt or potassium chloride to function, but salt-free water softeners don’t require regeneration and don’t utilise salt.

Advantages of Using an Ion Exchange Water Softener System

Some of the major advantages of using an ion exchange system to soften your water are:

  • Scale is entirely eliminated: A water softening system can remove scale accumulation better than a complete house filtration system or salt-free water softener.
  • Improves appliance performance: By eliminating scale buildup, installing one of the top water softener systems on this list will keep your appliances operating at their peak efficiency.
  • There are several sizes available: The majority of systems come in two distinct grain capacity variants, at the very least. Depending on how much water you use and how hard your water is, you can select the ideal grain capacity. If you desire continuous water softening, you can also use a dual-tank water softener.
  • Low maintenance: Salt-based systems need a little more upkeep than salt-free systems, but most people are content to top off the salt tank once a month or so.
  • Models that are effective at conserving salt: Some of the top water softening systems on this list contain a variety of effective features that help conserve salt and water. Many systems have effective upflow designs, and some are made to regenerate only the depleted resin, preventing salt waste.
  • Fast flow rate: With an ion exchange water softener, your water flow will remain constant and your water pressure won’t decrease.

Having healthy skin and hair is possible with even a basic water softener. Your hair and skin will retain moisture and be less prone to dryness once calcium and magnesium are removed from your water.

Buying Guide: Selecting an Ion Exchange Water Softener System for Your House

Want to get the most return on your ion exchange water softener system investment? Here are some things to think about:

Price Point

Make a budget for yourself first. How much money do you have to spend on a water softener? A solid system will cost you at least $1,000, but you won’t need to pay much more than that to acquire a system that performs well.

Costs of Installation & Maintenance

In addition to the initial cost of a water softener, you should think about the potential installation expenses and ongoing expenditures of using the device to soften water.

Whether you want to instal the water softener yourself or not will affect the installation cost. Depending on the parts you require, installation should only cost you $50 if you’re comfortable doing it yourself. If not, you’ll have to pay a plumber anywhere from $200 to $400 to instal the system for you.

How effective the water softener is affected by the expense of upkeep. Less salt will be used, and less water will be utilised during regeneration, the more effective the softer. Depending on the brand of salt you purchase, you might anticipate spending anywhere between $24 and $300 annually on salt.

Grain Capacity

How much hardness a water softener can handle before it needs to renew is determined by its grain capacity. You need to know how much water you use and how hard your water is in grains per gallon in order to determine your needed grain capacity (GPG).

Let’s assume that your family uses 320 gallons of water each day. Add this value to your water’s GPG hardness, which, in this example, is 8. Then, to reach a weekly value, multiply this amount by seven:

320 x 8 x 7 = 17,920

This demonstrates that you require a house water softener with a grain capacity of at least 17,920; however, it’s recommended to round up by roughly 2,000 to account for increased water demand during peak times.

Durability & Resin Crosslink Percentage

How long a water softener will survive before needing replacement depends on the resin crosslink %. Find a water softener with a 10% crosslink percentage if you want to obtain the best value for your money. This will last twice as long—roughly 20 years instead of 10 years—as a water softener with an 8% crosslink resin.


Although certifications aren’t necessary for a water softener, they’re a good sign that a system has been reviewed by a third party and found to be effective.

Not all of the top softening systems have official certification. The next best thing to official certification is third-party testing to NSF/ANSI Standards.

Manufacturer & Warranty

Buy from a reputable manufacturer if you want to ensure that you are making a sensible financial decision. Avoid buying from unproven or new manufacturers, and make sure the system’s tanks come with a warranty that lasts at least 10 years.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you drink water that has been softened with salt?

Yes. For each 8-ounce glass of water you consume, the majority of ion exchange water softener units add less than 35 milligrams of sodium. To put this into perspective, one rasher of bacon has about 140 milligrams of sodium in it, compared to about 60 milligrams in a slice of bread.

Is a salt-free water softener superior to an ion exchange system?

By encapsulating them in resin beads, ion exchange softeners remove all hardness minerals from the water. Electric water softeners and descalers, which don’t need salt, can’t genuinely soften water. Instead, they only crystallise hardness minerals to “condition” the water.

How Long is an Ion exchange softener’s lifespan?

An ion exchange water softener typically lasts for 15 to 20 years. If properly maintained, these softeners can last considerably longer than this.

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