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The best water softeners to combat hard water damage

When your water’s as hard as the Mitchell brothers, it’s not only the plumbing and appliances that suffer – your hair and skin can too. A water softener could change all that and save you money on your energy bills - here's our guide to the best, as recommended by parents.

By Louise Cole | Last updated May 22, 2023

Three water softeners on a light pink patterned background

If you are among the estimated 16 million people in the UK who live in a hard water area, our guide to the best water softener might just have the answers you're looking for. From chalky white deposits leaking from your best steam iron to smelly laundry in your washer dryer that even the best laundry detergent can't fix, hard water minerals can wreak havoc in your home and on your appliances. Signs include pesky tidemarks on bathroom fittings, stiff, rough clothes in your tumble dryer, clogged showerheads and smeary glassware.  It gets worse: hard water can aggravate and even cause skin conditions such as eczema.

In the end, even the best washing machine cleaner or limescale remover won’t be able to prolong the life of your trusty washing machine, dishwasher or kettle if you don’t solve the root of the problem. Improving your water quality with a water softener filtration system will stop hard water's detrimental and often unsightly effects by preventing the limescale build-up that causes internal corrosion to appliances. Not only that, the best water softeners will lower your energy bills by inhibiting hard-water blockages in pipework and boilers that cause them to operate less efficiently. All it takes is just one-eighth of an inch of limescale to reduce heating efficiency by a quarter, according to Calmag. 

To help you find the right one for your home, we turned to the Mumsnet forums, which boast over 10 million unique visitors per month, to find honest recommendations that have been tried and tested by families. Using our triple-check vetting process, their views and feedback, cross-referenced with the opinion of industry experts and authentic consumer reviews, has allowed us to create this informative, balanced guide to the best water softener UK. 

So, without further ado, here are the best water softeners in 2023 to help you save your appliances, reduce your energy bill and optimise your laundry routine.

1. Best overall water softener: Water2Buy W2B200 Water Softener

Water2buy softener

RRP: £399 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Max daily capacity: 1,250 litres | Electric: Yes | Self-cleaning: Yes | WRAS approved: Yes | Dimensions: 42 x 22 x 65cm | Weight: 22.68kg 

What to love 

  • Best for a family of up to six people with control via their app and digital meter control  
  • A fair price for up to 1,500 litres of soft water every day 
  • Built to last, automatically self-cleans 

What to know 

  • Instructions could be clearer
  • May need extra fittings

What Mumsnet users say

“We got [a Water2Buy] from Amazon. It is great, and we love it. We buy the blocks as the pebbles can clump a bit, and they are really not that expensive." JackieWeaverFever

"I've had a Water2Buy one in our old house, and when we moved, got one fitted in the new house, always been happy with them. I buy the salt from Amazon. It's around £14 for a 25kg bag." MothershipG

Our verdict

If you’ve ever experienced pulling stiff sheets off your rotary washing line or found your heated clothes airer has revealed dried-on limescale stains, you’ll know the importance of picking the best water softener for your home. And according to Mumsnetters, the very best of the bunch is the Water2Buy W2B200 Water Softener

Promising 1,500 litres of lime-scale free water for households of up to six people and equipped with a digital meter to measure salt and water usage, this water softener can be discretely and easily installed inside your kitchen cupboard or in your garage. Many previous customers and Mumsnet users claim it’ll last you for years and that they've immediately replaced it when they've moved. Using high-quality materials, Water2Buy have created water softeners built to last and stay functional by automatically self-cleaning at off-peak times (like when you’re safely tucked up in bed), so it doesn’t impact your water supply. It also comes with an app that gives you access to set-up support, a handy digital manual and even monthly reminders for salt top-ups. Although it requires a power source, the annual energy consumption is estimated to be just £20, which isn’t crazy considering what you get in return.

*Currently out of stock on Amazon; check back as they're restocked regularly* 

2. Best budget-friendly water softener: Combimate

A picture of a Combimate water softening device

RRP: £152 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Max daily capacity: Unspecified | Electric: No | Self-cleaning: No | WRAS approved: Yes | Dimensions: H165mm x W151mm x D161mm | Weight: Unspecified

What to love 

  • Comparatively reasonable price
  • Whole house or single appliance (so it can be adjusted to your needs) 
  • Lowers energy costs but is also energy free
  • Lasts for one year before requiring a refill 

What to know 

  • Won't remove existing limescale
  • Some boiler makers do not approve of them 

What Mumsnet users say

"I always recommend this Works really easy for people to maintain themselves." (Recommended by Mumsnet user Muchlywrong)

"There are literally hundreds on the market. My sister just installed a small combiphos which attaches to the pipes. It was only £150 plus plumbers labour. It's changed her life already!" (Tried and trusted by Mumsnetter Geillis' sister)

Our verdict

When no matter amount of fabric softener or the best laundry detergent for babies can save your baby grows and romper suits from the effect of limescale, it is time to find a solution. However, not all of us have hundreds of pounds to spare, so why not try a Combimate? Not to be confused with a water softener (although there are similarities), these are a budget-friendly, compact, low-maintenance scale prevention system that’ll help you save money on your energy bill and protect your boiler and appliances from the effect of limescale. 

Now for the technical bit. Combimate is a polyphosphate scale inhibitor, which will prevent new build-up but won’t remove any blockages or limescale that already exists. It is plumbed directly onto the cold water supply, which they say is easy to install for homeowners with experience (alternatively, call a plumber). They recommend attaching it to your boiler or mains as it is a flow-through device that releases Combiphos into your water supply and forms a microscopic layer along your pipework that protects it from limescale. It is food grade, so it is fit for consumption for anyone concerned. The best part is it only needs a refill around once a year, so there is no faffing about! Although Combimate is not a typical water softener, customer reviews have said that it reduces it so effectively that it has eliminated it in some cases. Made to fit either a 15mm or 22mm pipe, and with a three-year warranty, some boiler companies don't approve of them, but many plumbers do!

3. Best premium water softener: Crown by Harvey Water Softener

Crown softeners

RRP: £986 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Max daily capacity: 508 litres per tank | Electric: No | Self-cleaning: Yes | WRAS approved: Yes | Dimensions: 46 x 21.21 x 49 cm | Weight: Unspecified

What to love 

  • Brand won the Queen's Award for Enterprise 
  • Increases energy efficiency without adding to your energy bill 
  • Compact, built-to-last and effective 

What to know 

  • Uses block salt only
  • Very expensive 

What Mumsnet users say

"We have a Harvey's water softener. It is in a cupboard in the kitchen. I love, love, love my water softener. My kitchen and bathroom always look freshly cleaned; some irritating niggles with the boiler went away by themselves a few months after installation of the softener; shampoo, detergent etc., last ages now as I only need to use a little." (Vetted by theconstantinoplegardener)

"Love it - really helps with washing hair, we don’t get limescale buildup any more around taps and in the bathroom, much easier to keep clean. Tea made with the softened water tastes loads better - this is the main way I notice if the salt has run out!" (Rated by Mumsnet user Talipesmum)

Our verdict

Is your best clothes steamer spitting? Are the holes in the nozzle clogged? Then you might be on the market for a water softener, and if you can afford to pay premium prices, the Crown by Harvey water softener is an award-winner. Repeatedly mentioned by delighted Mumsnetters, they marvel at the silk-like feel of their water after having one fitted. 

It requires no electrical power and can be regenerated at any time of day or night thanks to its two tanks, only one of which is used at a time, meaning the other can continue to supply soft water while the process takes place. Made in the UK, this non-electric unit is meter-controlled and will only go into self-cleaning mode when absolutely necessary. Whilst it still comes with a significant price tag, the Crown model is an older version, so it has more chance of being reduced.

4. Best water softener for large households: Water2Buy W2B800 Water Softener

A picture of the large model of the Water 2 Buy Softener W2B800.

RRP: £499 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Max daily capacity: 3680 litres | Electric: Yes | Self-cleaning: Yes | WRAS approved: Yes | Dimensions: ‎50 x 22.5 x 110 cm | Weight: 25kg

What to love 

  • Can support households of up to 10 people 
  • Good value for money 
  • Significant daily capacity 

What to know 

  • It is big, so it won't fit in most kitchens

What Mumsnet users say

"Very good, simple to use and does up to a ten-person house. The technology in these things is extremely simple, and there is no need to spend thousands on one. Just get it plumbed in correctly." (Tried and trusted by Mumsnet user TobyHouseMan)

Our verdict

If you’re living in a larger household of up to 10 people and therefore have a large water consumption, you’ll be pleased to know that the Water2Buy W2B800 can generate up to 3,680 litres of filtered soft water every single day - enough to tackle even the longest of showers and baths. 

Built to last, with a robust, corrosion-resistant tank that self-cleans, this water softener has powerful potential. As a result, it has a relatively substantial size (narrow but tall) that you won’t be able to squeeze under the sink and may be best suited to a garage or basement room. It's the second Water2Buy model on our list, and with good reason - it's a trusted brand that Mumsnet users have recommended, and their softeners repeatedly appear on best buy lists.

*Currently out of stock. Check back as they are restocked regularly.*

Read next: If limescale isn’t your only problem, and you’re looking for ways to beat damp, we have guides to the best dehumidifiers and best mould removers you might find helpful.

5. Best water softener for families: Tapworks NSC11PRO Water Softener

Tapworks softener

RRP: £575 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Max daily capacity: 2068 litres | Electric: Yes | Self-cleaning: no | WRAS approved: Unspecified | Dimensions: 65.4 x 53.2 x 30.2 cm | Weight: 5kg 

What to love 

  • Fit and forget, easy-to-install kit included
  • Perfect for large families (1-7 people) 
  • Metered with a clear digital display 

What to know 

  • Shorter warranty than some softeners
  • Handbook lacks detail

What Mumsnet users say

Ours is called Tapworks. It works really well. Our plumber suggested it.TiredandTested

“I love ours. It's from Tapworks." Rightmovenewbie

Our verdict 

Larger households won’t be disappointed with this electronic water softener from Tapworks, which provides unlimited limescale-free water for a family of seven. Metered and cheaper to run than some water softeners, it comes with the message ‘fit and forget’ from its manufacturer. We love appliances that don’t add to your to-do list! 

Arriving with all of the kit, you need to complete installation, although some previous customers report that the handbook lacks quite a bit of detail, so you might want to ask someone with experience to install it. Another benefit to the Tapworks water softener is that it has a back-lit LCD and lights in its 11-litre tank that helps you read and re-fill even in a poorly-lit location.  Made with minimal moving parts to reduce wear and tear and increase reliability, it’s suitable for 15mm and 22mm plumbing systems.

Read next: In need of some additional household essentials? We've collated the best laundry baskets and best clothes pegs as recommended by Mumsnetters. 

6. Most easy-to-fit water softener: BWT WS455 Water Softener

A picture of the BWT WS455 Hi-Flow Electric Water Softener.

RRP: £670 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Max daily capacity: Unspecified | Electric: Yes | Self-cleaning: No | WRAS approved: Yes | Dimensions: ‎48 x 27 x 53.2 cm | Weight: 22.54 Kilograms

What to love 

  • Five-year parts warranty
  • Family-sized and energy efficient 
  • Easy to install and set-up 

What to know 

  • Limited capacity

What Mumsnet users say

I have a BWT WS355 softener which fits in a regular 40cm wide kitchen base cupboard. I can’t taste any difference in water, but it's made a huge difference to our chrome bathroom fittings and shower screens.QuattroFormaggi

Our verdict

The BWT WS455 Hi-Flow Electronic water softener (which stands for BWT stands for Best Water Technology, BTW) is designed to fit comfortably inside your kitchen cupboards whilst still effectively reducing scale for a family of up to four people. They’ve been specifically designed for UK homes and plumbing systems, efficient, effective and automatic; they pop several times on Mumsnet forums. 

Perfect for those who want a no-fuss, no-faff solution, these water softeners are meant to be easy to fit and maintain. Comparatively cheaper than some models, they arrive with everything you need to install. Just be aware this is a smaller capacity model and won’t be as effective if you exceed its limit.

7. Best electric water softener: Calmag CalSoft Mini Metered Water Softener

A picture of the Calmag Water Softener.

RRP: £358 | Buy now from ManoMano

Key specs

Max daily capacity: Unspecified | Electric: Yes | Self-cleaning: No | WRAS approved: Yes | Dimensions: 33 x 66 x 47 cm | Weight: 1kg

What to love 

  • Energy efficient, will reduce your bills 
  • Easy to operate and install 
  • Ideal for medium-sized households 

What to know 

  • May not be as small as expected
  • Installation kit is for 15mm pipework only 

What Mumsnet users say

"Ours fits in a single cupboard (by stopcock bottom of larder). The salt is cheap and free delivery. The kitchen tap isn’t linked. Keeps appliances sparkly! Definitely good investment." (Vetted by Mumsnet user Popetthetreehugger)

Our verdict

Small in size but big on performance, the Calsoft Mini Metered Water Softener is energy-saving and is designed to fit under the kitchen sink and serve a household of up to eight. The best part is that this clever water softener remembers your water usage just in case of a power cut.

It has easy-to-understand electronics, with no complicated programming required. Automated and metered, the unit is compatible with all plumbing systems and comes with five-year parts and 12-month labour guarantees. Don’t expect this ‘mini’ water softener to be too compact. While it’s shallower than many units featured here, it’s just as tall and wide, so a better home might be the garage or loft.

8. Best non-electric water softener: Kinetico Kube Non-Electric Water Softener

Kinetico Kube Non-Electric Water Softener

RRP: £540 | Buy now from Costco

Key specs

Max daily capacity: Unspecified | Electric: No | Self-cleaning: No | WRAS approved: Yes | Dimensions: 49.2 x 23.5 x 42.5cm | Weight: 15.5kg

What we love 

  • Non-electric option for lower running cost
  • Low noise levels 
  • Compact
  • Easy to Install 
  • Low-maintenance 

What to know 

  • Cheaper electric models available 

What Mumsnet users say

We have a Kinetico that we fitted in our last house in about 1995 and brought with us. Worth every single penny.” (Brand tried and trusted by MrsIronfoundersson)

We have a Kinetico and have had them for 18 years (in different houses). They are good, compact, but expensive. However, we are now on our third (in three successive houses).” (Brand suggested by Mumsnet user LittleOverwhelmed)

Our verdict

If you’re concerned about rising energy bills (aren’t we all!), you may be keen to avoid an additional electrical device within your home. The Kinetico Kube is a mechanical non-electric water softener that, as a result, comes with lower running costs and greater reliability.

The initial cost may be a lot compared to other electric models on the market, but, as the Mumsnet users who’ve recommended this brand found, they last for years and years. Compact enough to fit under your kitchen sink, the Kube offers low noise levels and only regenerates when needed, accurately measuring your water and using salt only when required.

9. Best energy efficient water softener: Monarch Water Ultimate Midi HE Water Softener

A picture of the Monarch Water Softener.

RRP: £574 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Max daily capacity: 2,280L| Electric: Yes | Self-cleaning: Yes| WRAS approved: Yes | Dimensions: H55mm x W275mm x D485mm| Weight: Unspecified

What we love 

  • Very energy efficient and able to optimise its systems automatically 
  • Easy to use and install
  • Robust but stylish design 

What to know  

  • Best for smaller households of 1-5 people 

What Mumsnet users say 

"I’ve not had it delivered yet, but my plumber recommended Monarch softeners. I’ve gone for the MIDI HE, which has good reviews and was £519 (with ‘free’ salt included)." (Suggested by LOTER16178)

"Ours is a Monarch. It seems to work well, but I've nothing to compare it with, having grown up with soft water ... Our softener is in the garage, next to the bags of salt. It doesn't seem to use much (had it two years)" (Brand recommended by shocklate)

Our verdict

2023's buzzword is energy efficient. With everyone trying to make smart choices to reduce their energy bills, we say you can’t make a smarter choice than by choosing Monarch’s Ultimate Electric Softener Midi HE. It comes plumber-approved, with everything you need for it to be installed in your home. 

Perfect for smaller households, this water softener arrives housed in a sleek, stylish grey unit that is small enough to fit underneath your kitchen sink. Although you may still prefer to stick it in the garage. More reasonably priced than most (although still not exactly budget-friendly), this water softener promises high performance and litres of soft water for your family. However, our favourite feature is its customer protection programme that detects leaks, delays regeneration until 2am, optimises water and salt usage, and even automatically adjusts to time changes. So, you won’t have to break out the manual to figure out how to change the time during daylight savings! Hallelujah! We’re sure parents everywhere will be grateful for that extra peace of mind!

What is a water softener? 

A water softener is a filtration system that attaches to a household water supply to soften hard water through an ion exchange process. 

Many Mumsnet users recommend them for households, with benefits including saving damage to taps and appliances. And, while they don’t come cheap initially, they can save money on repair costs and heating bills, which will be very welcome news as many families face a hike in bills this year.

What is hard and soft water? 

Hard water occurs in some regions more than others, and is where the water supply has more calcium and magnesium than we would like. Whilst it won't make you sick, hard water can taste unpleasant. It can also increase the amount of limescale in your bathrooms, lead to unwelcome grime build-ups on your appliances and even dry out your hair and skin.  

Soft water is free from some of the harsher chemicals than can cause challenges in and around the home. From a better lather on your shampoo to easier household cleaning, water softeners are a practical and cost effective solution to soften your water. 

How do I know if I have hard water? 

The most effective and efficient way to find out if you have hard water is by checking out an online water hardness map. There you can use your postcode to find out whether or not you live in a hard water area. 

How do I know if I need a water softener? 

Whilst a water softener isn’t essential, there are some signs that suggest you may benefit from one within your home. If you are struggling to get a lather when you shower, finding your dishwasher isn't cleaning effectively or are continuously cleaning up limescale, grime and soap scum residue, it may be that you have a hard water problem. A water softener could help improve the look, taste and smell of your drinking water, whilst also helping your appliances run more effectively. 

How do water softeners work?

Without getting too technical, a water softener works by removing the hard water culprits – namely calcium and magnesium – that cause limescale chaos. The unit connects to your mains water supply and softens water for the entire property.

All softeners need to regenerate every so often, flushing the unwanted minerals through the system with a saltwater solution that cleans it out. This process often takes place when it’s unlikely that any water is being used in the home, such as in the early hours of the morning.

To find out how hard your water is, go to your supplier’s website. You can either type in your postcode or view on a map which water type you have. Almost two-thirds of the UK has hard water, which affects millions of households and results in extra maintenance, repairs and even the replacement of everything from shower heads to hot water cylinders.

Can I install a water softener myself?

DIY installation of water softeners is not recommended, you will need a plumber in most cases.

What type of water softener system do I need? 

There are two main types of water softeners - electric and non-electric (or mechanical). The latter will obviously keep your energy bills down and is often more reliable, however users often find even electric water softener running costs pay for themselves quickly in terms of reduced cleaning and maintenance costs.

Depending on the size of your household, you need to consider the daily capacity as well as the size of the unit itself, particularly if you have a smaller home and kitchen. 

How do I know which water softener to buy?

There are several factors to take into account when buying a water softener:

  • How many people does it serve?: Choose one of an appropriate size for your household. Consider the daily maximum capacity to ensure this covers your family’s typical water consumption. 
  • Where will it be fitted?: Ideally, this will be where the water supply enters the property, if there’s room. Some units are small enough to fit in a standard kitchen cupboard, where as other larger or double cylinder units may require installation in a garage or basement. 
  • For how long is it guaranteed?: The longer, the better. 
  • Is it economical?: Check how much salt and water is used for regeneration.
  • Do you want a metered water softener?: One of these will monitor your water usage and regenerate only when necessary.
  • Will yours use salt?: Most do and those that don’t aren’t technically water softeners – they condition the water to inhibit limescale, as opposed to softening it, and are generally less efficient than their salt-consuming counterparts.
  • How much can you spend?: Decide which of the units matches your budget, and look at the warranty offered.

Are water softeners worth it?

Conventional water softeners range from a few to several hundred pounds. While the cost may make you feel a bit queasy, you’ll feel a whole lot worse if clogged pipes end up with you having to fork out for a new washing machine, dishwasher and boiler.

When you also take into account the fact that you’ll use only a fraction of the bathing, cleaning and laundry products that you would with hard water – plus, clothes will last longer – the investment is well worth it.

How long do water softeners last?

When used as instructed, water softeners have been known to last 20 years, but their typical lifespan is 10 to 15 years.

Which is the best hard water softener?

The best water softener is the Water2Buy W2B200 Water Softener, which gets the thumbs-up from Mumsnetters and hundreds of other owners for good reason. It produces enough soft water for most families, uses the tiniest amount of power, water and salt consumption is low, and it has a fair price too.

How we chose our recommendations 

We’ve thoroughly researched the best water softeners you can buy in 2023, including tried and tested experiences from a wide range of reliable, trusted sources. We regularly update our listings page to reflect the best products currently available in the UK.

Here's how we carefully selected our picks.

Recommendations from real Mumsnet users 

Many of our users within the Mumsnet community have experienced the challenges of living in a hard water area and chosen to have a water softener fitted at home. Firstly, we weighed up Mumsnetters' tried and tested reviews and recommendations on the water softeners they’ve used and rated from their own experiences, including their advice on any critiques, challenges or things to be aware of when making the investment. 

Expert opinions 

Water softeners don’t always come cheap, so we wanted to be confident that the products we recommended were safe and performed well across the industry. We investigated the views of industry experts on the water softeners they rate and trust to perform most highly. We also considered which products had Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) approval - having gone through vigorous mechanical and water quality testing. Whilst it isn't compulsory for water softeners to have WRAS approval, it provides additional peace of mind that products are safe and of a high standard. 

Authentic customer reviews 

Finally, we evaluated the bestseller lists and scrutinised authentic reviews from a variety of retailer sites to see which products were best rated. We weighed up the pros and cons of each choice to determine which products were best suited to a variety of home environments. 

Celebrated Water Softeners

Whether you’re after a compact model that will fit in your tiny kitchen, a non-electric softener to help keep your energy use down or one that is relatively easy to fit yourself, here are the best water softeners to buy in 2023.

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.