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8 best water softeners for your home

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 best ones around.

By Louise Cole | Last updated Apr 4, 2022

child washing a bowl

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.

How we chose our recommendations 

We’ve thoroughly researched the best water softeners you can buy in 2022, including tried and tested experiences from a wide range of reliable, trusted sources. 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. 

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 2022.

1. Best overall water softener: Water2Buy W2B200 Water Softener

Water2buy softener

Price: £339.15 | Buy now from Amazon

We have one of these. Very good, simple to use and does up to a 10 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.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user TobyHouseMan)

We also have a Water2Buy, So far, so good” (Reviewed by Mumsnetter FrownsandDimples

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 larger households, this 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.

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

Pros

  • Fair price
  • Useful app to support use

Cons

  • Instructions could be clearer
  • May need extra fittings

2. Best budget water softener: Eddy Electronic Water Descaler

Eddy softener

Price: £139.99 | Buy now from Amazon

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.” (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user muddaofsuburbia)

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.

Key specs

  • Max daily capacity: Not applicable 
  • Electric: Yes 
  • Self-cleaning: No 
  • WRAS approved: Not applicable 
  • Dimensions: 17 x 3.5 x 9 cm
  • Weight: 550 grams

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lifetime repair or replace warranty

Cons

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

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

Calmag CalSoft Mini Water Softener

Price: £409.49 | Buy now from Amazon

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.

Key specs

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

Pros

  • Can use tablet or block salt
  • Uncomplicated
  • Comes with installation kit (but for 15mm pipework only)

Cons

  • May not be as small as expected

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

Kinetico Kube Non-Electric Water Softener

Price: £599 | Buy now from Homebase

We have a Kinetico that we fitted in our last house in about 1995 and brought with us. Worth every single penny.”  (Rated by Mumsnet user 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).” (Vetted by Mumsnetter LittleOverwhelmed)

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.

Compact enough to fit under your kitchen sink, the Kube offers low noise levels and only regenerates when it needs to, accurately measuring your water and using salt only when required. 

The initial cost may be a lot but, as the Mumsnet users who’ve recommended this brand found, they last for years and years. 

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

Pros

  • Non-electric option for lower running cost
  • Low noise levels 
  • Compact

Cons

  • Cheaper electric models available 

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

Tapworks softener

Price: £574.95 | Buy now from Amazon

Ours is called Tapworks. It works really well, our plumber suggested it.” (Tried and tested by aptly named Mumsnet user TiredandTested

We have a water softener from Tapworks which our plumber recommended as he has the same system at home. It gets plumbed in at the mains and our water is flushed through the softener. If you live in an area with hard water the difference is absolutely incredible.” (Reviewed by Mumsnetter ChilliBeanSauce)

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.

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 

Pros

  • Economical
  • Metered

Cons

  • Shorter warranty than some softeners
  • Handbook lacks detail

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

Water2Buy W2B800 Water Softener

Price: £419 | Buy now from Amazon

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.

Due to its powerful potential, the W2B800 is fairly substantial in size (narrow but tall) and as such may be best suited to a garage or a basement room. Built to last, this is a robust and corrosion-resistant tank that automatically self cleans and regenerates during the night.

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 appear time and time again on best buy lists. 

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

Pros

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

Cons

  • Larger size won't fit in most kitchens

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

BWT softener

Price: £556.88 | Buy now from Amazon

I have a BWT WS355 softener which fits in a regular 60cm 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.” (Brand recommended by Mumsnet user QuattroFormaggi) 

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.

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

Pros

  • Straightforward installation
  • Five-year parts warranty

Cons

  • Limited capacity

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

Crown softeners

Price: £925 | Buy now from Amazon

I would recommend a mechanical softener e.g. Harveys, as there are no electronic parts to go wrong - ours is at least 25 years old as we inherited it with the house.” (Recommended by Mumsnetter Ariela)

"We've had a Harvey's water softener for more than 20 years and never had a problem. The blocks are big, but we get a couple of big boxes delivered at a time and keep them in the shed." (Reviewed by Mumsnet user Oblomov21)

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

Whilst it comes with a significant price tag, the Crown model 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. 

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

Pros

  • Supplies water while regenerating
  • Requires no power

Cons

  • Uses block salt only
  • Price tag

What is a water softener? 

A water softener is a filtration system that attaches to a household water supply to soften hard water by a process called ion-exchange. 

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, something 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 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 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. 

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.

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.

Why you should trust us

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Main image credit: Harvey Water Softeners