8 best water softeners for 2021

22 March 2021

children washing hands in sink

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 so we’ve rounded up the eight best water softeners around.

If your home has more limescale than you can shake a rubber glove at, the chances are that there’s something in the water – quite literally. From leaving pesky tidemarks on bathroom fittings to damaging the central heating system, the minerals that make water hard can wreak havoc in your home.

It’s not only appliances and fixtures that are adversely affected either. Hard water can leave you with dull hair and stiff, itchy clothes, as well as smeary crockery, cutlery and glassware. It gets worse: it can aggravate and even cause skin conditions such as eczema.

The solution? Prevention is better than cure, so they say, and the answer is to improve your water quality with a water softener.

We’re not talking little rectangular tablets in a blue box here. We mean a water softener and filtration system that will stop the detrimental and often unsightly effects of hard water. It may not come cheap, but the initial outlay can be justified by the money you’ll save in the long term.

A water softener will prolong the lifespan of washing machines, dishwashers and kettles by putting a stop to scale build-up that corrodes them internally.

It can also lower your energy bills by preventing hard-water blockages in pipework and boilers that cause them to operate less efficiently – just one-eighth of an inch of limescale reduces heating efficiency by a quarter, according to water softener manufacturer Calmag.

Not only that, but with soft water creating more of a lather, you’ll use less soap, shampoo, washing powder and cleaning products – and a descaler will be a thing of the past.

With potential savings of hundreds of pounds annually, a water softener will soon pay for itself. Many Mumsnetters believe theirs is worth every penny and are enjoying shinier homes having had one installed. But it’s not all about the spondulicks and sparkles. In our opinion, the saving in scrubbing alone is justification enough to splash out.

Here are the best water softeners to buy right now.

1. Best overall water softener: Water2Buy W2B200 Water Softener

“It has amazing reviews. I was sceptical, but we had a punt. It’s great and we love it.”

Live help is at hand with this Water2Buy Water Softener. Owners can download a free app that provides set-up support, a handy digital manual and even monthly reminders for salt top-ups.

Ideal for a household of up to five people, the unit also has a digital meter controller to measure water usage, resulting in less salt and water being used.

The water softener regenerates – or self-cleans – automatically and is considerate enough to do so once you’re safely tucked up in bed, so as not to impact the water supply when it’s in use.

Built to last, the softener enables you to easily adjust the flow of water and its hardness. Although it requires a power source, the annual energy consumption is estimated to be just £20.

Pros

  • Fair price
  • Useful app

Cons

  • Instructions may be unclear
  • May need extra fittings

2. Best budget water softener: Eddy Electronic Water Descaler

“We got a cheap one – the wrap-around-pipe type. We definitely get more of a lather with soap, bubble bath etc than before, and our sinks and taps seem a lot cleaner and shinier than those of local friends.”

Yes, we’re aware that we’ve gone slightly beyond the realms of conventional water softeners here, but this eco-friendly, no-salt alternative is definitely worth a mention. It’s so easy to fit that there’s no need to get the plumber round – simply wind the coils around your incoming water pipe and switch it on.

It works by using a magnetic field to break down undesirable minerals in the water as it passes through, preventing them from entering your property and therefore stopping limescale from damaging or building up in your pipework or appliances.

Fixable on metal or plastic pipes with a diameter of up to 28mm, this descaler gets mixed reviews for its effectiveness. But at this price and with a 12-month money-back guarantee, it’s well worth a shot.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lifetime repair or replace warranty

Cons

  • May not be as effective as traditional water softeners
  • Not for use on lead pipes

3. Best electric water softener: Calmag CalSoft Mini Water Softener

Small in size but big on performance, this energy-saving water softener is designed to fit under the kitchen sink and serve a household of up to eight. It has easy-to-understand electronics, with no complicated programming required, and it even remembers your water usage just in case there’s ever a power cut.

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, though. While it’s shallower than many units featured here, it’s just as tall and wide, so a better home for it might be the garage or loft.

Pros

  • Can use tablet or block salt
  • Uncomplicated

Cons

  • May not be as small as expected
  • 22mm installation kit only

4. Best non-electric water softener: Monarch Plumbsoft Solo Ultra Water Softener

“We have a Monarch high-flow non-electric. So far very happy with it and it has a five-year manufacturer guarantee.”

Scale will soon disappear with this non-electric unit from Monarch. Powered by moving water, it has an impressive flow rate and its twin cylinders ensure that there’s always one clean vessel ready and waiting to provide soft water when you need it.

Standing at just 50cm high, it’s one of the smaller appliances available, yet it’s highly efficient. Installation is simple, in part thanks to an innovative high-flow bypass that comes with the water softener, which is easily connected to the mains supply.

Our favourite feature is the easy-open lid that makes salt refilling a doddle.

Pros

  • Five-year parts and two-year labour guarantee
  • Good size

Cons

  • Pricey

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

“I love ours. It’s from Tapworks.”

Larger households won’t be disappointed with this electronic offering 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 – the idea being that you can be sure enough of its quality to forget it’s working away in the background.

It comes with all kit needed for installation. With a backlit LCD display and light in its 11-litre tank, data-reading and salt-refilling is easy even when the unit is installed 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.

Pros

  • Economical
  • Metered

Cons

  • Shorter warranty than some softeners
  • Handbook lacks detail

6. Best water softener for peace of mind: Great Water M1D2 Water Softener

The manufacturer of this water softener is so sure of its quality and reliability that it provides a whopping seven-year guarantee – ideal if you’re a little unsure about purchasing one.

This Great Water offering helps to save on both water and salt by learning how much of each you usually use, and will automatically regenerate and adjust salting accordingly. Self-cleansing is quick and the appliance delays this until a convenient time. It also lets you know if additional regeneration is ever needed.

Available with either a 15mm or 22mm installation kit depending on your plumbing system, it’s a good choice for smaller households.

Pros

  • Backlit control panel and clock
  • Suitable for any plumbing system

Cons

  • Serves a maximum of five people

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

If your main priority is ease of fitting and maintenance, then you’ll want to go for this water softener from BWT (which stands for Best Water Technology, BTW). It’ll fit in most kitchen cupboards and serves four people.

The fully-automatic unit is approved by the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) and is one of a range of models designed and built for UK homes to ensure that you have an uninterrupted supply of soft water. Each is supplied with a bespoke installation kit.

Pros

  • Straightforward installation
  • Five-year parts warranty

Cons

  • Limited capacity

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

“I love, love, love my water softener. My kitchen and bathroom always look freshly cleaned. Shampoo, detergent etc lasts ages now as I only need to use a little. We have a Harvey’s water softener. The difference is very noticeable.”

Harvey water softeners are repeatedly mentioned by delighted Mumsnetters marvelling at the silk-like feel of their water after having one fitted.

This Crown model requires no 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.

Pros

  • Supplies water while regenerating
  • Requires no power

Cons

  • Uses block salt only
  • Price tag

Price: £925

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.

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.
  • Where will it be fitted? Ideally, this will be where the water supply enters the property, if there’s room.
  • 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.

How much should a good water softener cost?

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 water softener is the best?

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 first headed to the Mumsnet forums to find out which water softeners discerning Mumsnetters recommended and had bought themselves, noting their feedback about these brands. We then drew up a shortlist of those that were repeatedly mentioned.

From there, we did some research across the wider web, consulting independent review sites and taking into account what customer reviews said about the products featured. Having collated all that information, we picked the water softeners we thought were worthy of taking the titles in an array of interest categories.

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Main image credit: Harvey Water Softeners