The 7 Best Whole-House Water Filter and Softener Combos: Reviewed and Compared (2024)

Reviewed by: James Layton
Updated on:
February 22, 2024

A whole-house filter and softener combo is an excellent way to combat all of the most common water problems in a single, cost-effective unit.

Working with our in-house water filtration expert, James Layton, I have looked at more than 40 filter/softener combos.

With our four decades of combined experience in the water industry, we were able to narrow the list systematically.

Some of what we did included scouring user manuals, contacting existing customers and industry professionals, and compling and comparing water test data.

This helped me narrow the list to these seven options.

Spoiler Alert: Here’s Our #1 Pick

The SpringWell CSS1 Water Filter and Salt Based Water Softener System is the best water filter and softener combo on the market.

Superior filtration meets effective and efficient softening in a unit that is managed by a state-of-the-art controller head and backed by an industry-leading warranty.

Note: the CSS1 is the best for those on city water. If you’re on well water, the WSSS1 is a better fit.

Best Whole-House Water Filter and Softener Combos: Our Top Picks

Best for city water: SpringWell CSS1

Best for well water: SpringWell WSSS1

Best salt-free : SpringWell CSF1

Best budget : Aquasana Rhino

Table of Contents

Factors to Consider: Expert Reviews From Real-World Experts

Sifting through the many different filter/softener combos on the market can be quite challenging. There are a lot of options and honestly, many seem to be exactly the same.

This is why we developed a systematic water filter review process.

It allows us to collect both qualitative and quantitative data to review a product and determine its quality.

If you want to nerd out, you can read all about how we test and review water filters.

This involves a detailed analysis of the specific use of each filter and its technology, as well as water test data, installation, cost of ownership, warranties, and customer service.

If you’re new to the world of water filters and softeners, I highly suggest reading our guide on what to look for when choosing a filter/softener combo.

Best Filter/Softener Combo for City Water

SpringWell CSS1 Whole House Filter and Softener Combo

The SpringWell CSS1 Whole House Water Filter and Salt Based Water Softener is the best whole-house water filter and softener combo for city water.

It combines effective filtration with one of the most efficient water softeners on the market to deliver clean, soft water to your entire home.

  • Four-stage whole house filtration.
  • Removes chlorine, chloramine, VOCs, PFAs, etc.
  • Super effecient softener.
  • Bluetooth-enabled controller allows for total control.
  • Low maintenance costs.
  • Available in three sizes.
  • Six-month money-back guarantee.
  • Lifetime warranty.
  • Not useful for well water systems.
  • Uses salt to soften the water.
  • Requires semi-regular maintenance.

Who it’s for

The SpringWell CSS1 filter/softener combo is for you if you have hard city water.

Four-stage filtration makes it particularly effective against the most common city water contaminants, such as chlorine, chloramine, PFAs, VOCs, heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, and more.

It is not an effective solution for well owners unless your water test data indicates the presence of these contaminants.

Why it’s the best

The SpringWell CSS1 filter/softener combo features top products in the filter and softener world, the SpringWell CF1 and SS1.

The CF1 whole-house filter uses four-stage filtration to effectively remove the most common contaminants from your water supply, such as chlorine and other disinfection by-products, pesticides, herbicides, and more.

It will also remove sand and silt in stage four, which really shouldn’t be an issue on city water, but more filtration surely can’t hurt.

You can dig deeper into this filter in my full review of the SpringWell CF1.

The softener, the SpringWell SS1, is a salt-based softener, making it a true water softener that can alleviate all the problems of hard water. 

The SS1 has a 32,000-grain capacity, which is more than enough for even the hardest water supplies.

If you have extremely hard water (absolutely no suds or lather and crazy scale buildup) you may want to conduct a water hardness test before buying a softener to see if you need a larger unit, but the SS1 is going to cover the vast majority of water supplies. 

The Connected Series Bluetooth head is an excellent feature. It is constantly monitoring the conditions inside your softener to determine exactly when and how much it needs to regenerate.

This is much better than other systems that regenerate at set times, which can waste water and salt. This helps reduce the total cost of ownership and makes this unit that much more worth the investment.

The SpringWell CSS1 also comes with SpringWell’s industry-leading money-back guarantee and lifetime warranty. This is hands-down the best on the market and cannot be ignored.

The dual-efficacy of this unit is why I chose it for my home. SpringWell is the brand I trust to ensure the water my kids are drinking is 100 percent clean and safe and free from the annoyances of hardness minerals.

*If you have more than three bathrooms, you’ll want to opt for the CSS4. If you have more than seven, you can get the CSS+. Same product, just larger to handle more water.*

Some things to keep in mind

As we’ve discussed, the salt-based process used in the SpringWell CSS1 adds a tiny bit of sodium to your water supply.

My expert opinion is that you won’t even notice. But this idea does scare some people away.

If you’re on a ZERO sodium diet per your doctor’s recommendation, you could add a reverse osmosis system to filter the water after it goes through the softener, which will catch the sodium.

This is an expensive add-on, but it would give you truly soft water with no sodium whatsoever. 

This unit does require some maintenance. It’s your job to make sure your brine tank has enough salt in it to properly regenerate the resin inside the softener.

The advanced controller head on the SS1 reduces regeneration time and will also let you know when you actually need to add salt, which shouldn’t be more than once a month.

When you do need to add salt, you can get 40 lb bags for $10 or less at home improvement and hardware stores.

The efficiency of the SpringWell SS1 ensures a bag of this size will last you several months, keeping the total cost of ownership quite low.

For more detailed information regarding this product, consult my review of the SpringWell SS1.

Another thing to keep in mind about the CSS1 is that it doesn’t filter out any microbial contaminants.

Most city water filters don’t bother with microbes because the disinfection agents added at the treatment facility take care of these.

I find users are more concerned with these chemicals and their by-products. But if there’s a problem at the treatment facility and a boil water emergency goes into effect, your water would be vulnerable.

If this is a concern of yours, this unit won’t cover you. A UV purifier is a good way to make sure these are removed. I have a comprehensive review of the best UV water purifiers if you want to take a look.

Also, as I mentioned, this unit really isn’t going to be of much use for well owners. It doesn’t address sulfur, iron, or manganese, which are common in wells.

Final thoughts

Thanks to its high-efficiency and minimal waste, user-friendliness, effective filtration, and industry-leading satisfaction guarantee and warranty, the SpringWell CSS1 Whole House Water Filter and Softener Combo is the best filter/softener combo you can buy if you use a municipal water supply. 

So, if you’re tired of all the ill effects of your city’s hard water, stop suffering and get the SpringWell CSS1 today.

For a more thorough examination of the product, you may want to explore my comprehensive review of the Springwell CSS1.

Best for Well Water

SpringWell WSSS1 Whole House Well Filter and Salt Based Softener

The SpringWell WSSS1 is the best whole-house filter and softener combo if you’re using well water.

It’s nearly identical to the CSS1 but it features a whole-house filter specifically designed to tackle the most common well water contaminants.

  • Removes 8 ppm hydrogen sulfide, 7 ppm iron, and 1 ppm manganese,
  • 32,000-grain softener capacity.
  • Advanced controller head (Bluetooth) maximizes efficiency.
  • Low cost of ownership.
  • Three sizes available.
  • Six-month money-back guarantee.
  • Lifetime warranty.
  • Not a city water unit (see above).
  • Included sediment filter could be better.

Who it’s for

The SpringWell WSSS1 whole house filter/softener combo is best for well owners who have high levels of sulfur, iron, or manganese in their water supply and who also suffer from hard water.

It will also work well if you have large sediment particles in your water, but it is not an effective solution for city water users.

Why it’s the best

I chose the SpringWell WSSS1 as the best whole-house filter and softener combo for well water for two simple reasons: the WS1 is the best whole-house water filter for well water, and the SS1, SpringWell’s whole-house water softener, is the best water softener of those I reviewed. 

As for the filter, the WS1 uses air induction oxidization (AIO) to oxidize sulfur, iron, and manganese particles and filter them out of your water.

It’s equipped to remove up to 8 ppm of sulfur, 7 ppm of iron, and 1 ppm of manganese. 

To give you an idea what that means, your water starts to smell of rotten eggs when there is between 0.5 and 1 ppm of sulfur present in your water, so this filter can handle the job and then some. 

The salt-based softener also rocks the house. It’s effective against even the hardest water supplies. The technology behind it is the same you’ll find elsewhere (this wheel has already been invented).

What makes this softener so good is its Bluetooth-enabled control head that works behind the scenes to optimize regeneration and cut back on wasted water and electricity. 

It will also help extend the life of your brine tank, which means buying less salt and adding it to the system less frequently.

All of this is topped off with SpringWell’s lifetime warranty on all components, as well as its six-month money-back guarantee.

No other water filter/softener company stands by its products quite as proudly as SpringWell.

Some things to keep in mind

The SpringWell WSSS1 comes with a 152-micron spin-down sediment filter. This means it catches everything 152 microns and larger, so really only the larger pieces of sand, dirt, dust, clay, etc. 

I understand the logic. This type of filter is going to be just fine for most homes, and the spin-down filter is super easy to clean (there’s just a mesh screen inside you need to wash).

But I would have liked to see this product offered with SpringWell’s cartridge filter, which has a 5-micron filter and catches a lot more stuff than the spin-down filter.

If you do have a lot of sediment in your water, I would consider adding the canister sediment filter to your system. It’ll go in the same spot as the provided spin-down filter, it will just do a bit more.

Other things to keep in mind are the same you’ll find with any salt-based softener. You’re going to have a little bit of extra sodium in your water, but not enough to notice.

And you’ll have to keep that brine tank full. But the app will help you with this and it’s not more than a once-a-month task. 

Also, while sulfur, iron, and manganese are typical well water contaminants, they are not the only things that could be in your well water.

There could be herbicides, pesticides, nitrates (all common in agricultural areas), naturally occurring fluoride, or even microbial contaminants in the event your well cap has been compromised.

Regular testing of your well water is encouraged, and if you have any of these contaminants in your water, the WSSS1 will not be a total solution.

If you do have additional contaminants, the WSSS1 can be part of the solution but not all of it.

You’ll want to check out my full review of the best whole-house filters for well water to see which filters you could pair with a salt-based softener to create a combo unit that’s right for you.

Final thoughts

If you have hard well water and need to filter out sulfur, iron, or manganese from your water supply while also softening it, the SpringWell WSSS1 is the best option you’re going to find on the market.

It’s a highly effective filter and an efficient softener that’s backed by SpringWell’s amazing money-back guarantee and warranty. 

You can check the latest price and get the SpringWell WSSS1 here.

If you’re looking for even more information on this unit, I’ve written an in-depth review of the WSSS1 for you to check out.

Best Filter and Salt-Free Conditioner Combo

SpringWell CSF1 Whole House Water Filter and Salt-Free Softener

The SpringWell CSF1 Whole House Filter and Salt-Free Conditioner is an ideal option if don’t want, don’t need, or can’t have a traditional salt-based softener.

It features the CF1, an excellent city water filter, and SpringWell’s FutureSoft salt-free conditioner.

  • Four stage filtration.
  • Removes chlorine, chloramine, VOCs, PFAs, etc.
  • Neutralizes but does not remove hardness minerals from water.
  • Ideal in areas where softeners are banned or restricted.
  • No sodium is added to your water supply.
  • Virtually maintenance-free.
  • Built for city water, but available as the WSSF-1 for users wells.
  • Not a true softener but rather a conditioner.

Who it’s for

The SpringWell CSF1 whole-house filter/salt free conditioner is best for city water users with only slightly hard water or who can’t have a salt-based conditioner due to local regulations.

It’s not going to remove hardness minerals, so while it will prevent scale buildup, other hard water issues will remain.

For those with slightly hard water, this maintenance-free solution is very attractive. Those with moderately to very hard water will want to opt for a salt-based solution.

Why it’s the best

Using a four-stage filtration process, which includes a sediment pre-filter, activated carbon, and KDF media, the SpringWell CSF1 whole-house water filter removes 99% of chlorine and tackles most other contaminants in your water. 

This is the same whole-house water filter I’ve reviewed and supported many times. It’s a great product with a great warranty that I will keep recommending. 

This particular softener, however, is quite different from the others we’ve reviewed in that it’s not actually a softener but rather a “conditioner.” 

The salt-free conditioner featured in the SpringWell CSF1 is quite effective against slightly hard water supplies, reducing scale buildup on your fixtures, pipes, and appliances.

It also has three main advantages over a salt-based system:

1) it doesn’t add any sodium to your water;

2) it doesn’t have to backwash and regenerate, which will save you some water and electricity and makes this unit maintenance-free; and

3) it doesn’t produce that “slick” or “slimy” feeling you get with truly soft water.

As a SpringWell unit, it comes backed with a six-month money-back guarantee. But if you’re realistic about how this differs from a salt-based softener, you’re not going to want to return this unit. 

Like all SpringWell products, it’s available in three sizes to accommodate different homes. This unit is designed for city water.

Those on well water will want to get the SpringWell WSSF-1, which combines the same salt-free conditioner in the CSF1 with SpringWell’s top-of-the-line whole-house well water filter.

Should you desire further information, you can access my comprehensive review of the Springwell WSSF-1 here.

Some things to keep in mind

Again, the main thing to keep in mind with the SpringWell CSF1 is that while the filter is the same as the one in other combo products, the conditioner is not a true softener.

If you have moderately to very hard water, you will still experience many of the problems hard water causes.

You will still get streaks and spots on your glassware, and detergents and soaps will struggle to lather, making cleaning more difficult.

Depending on how hard your water is, that itchy, dry feeling on your skin may remain.

Final thoughts

If you can’t have a traditional water softener because of where you live, or you want to prevent scale buildup without making your water feel slick on your skin, then SpringWell’s whole-house water filter and salt-free conditioner combo is a perfect choice. 

This dual-unit includes SpringWell’s CF1 whole-house filter with a salt-free conditioner and is backed by an industry-leading warranty and money-back guarantee.

If you require more details, I’ve conducted an extensive review of the SpringWell CSF1.

If you’re prepared to enjoy clean water, you can get the CSF1 here, or if you need a well water unit, get the WSSF-1 here.

Best Budget Filter and Softener Combo

Aquasana Rhino WH-1000 Whole-House Filter System

The Aquasana Rhino WH-1000 is a decent option for those who want a whole-house water filter for city water and a salt-free conditioner at a lower price point.

Performance wise, the Rhino is right up there with its competitors, but Aquasana has a much more limited money-back guarantee and product warranty than SpringWell.

  • Excellent filtration.
  • Removes chlorine, chloramine, VOCs, PFAs, etc.
  • Easy maintenance and filter changes.
  • Neautralizes hard minerals but does not remove them.
  • Doesn’t address streaks, stains, or soap effectiveness.
  • Lots of options can be confusing.
  • Not suitable for well water.
  • Comes with only a 90-day money-back guarantee and 10-year warranty.

Who it’s for

The Aquasana Rhino WH-1000 is for you if you want a maintenance-free, effective filter/conditioner combo at a more accessible price point.

As a salt-free conditioner, it’s not going to remove hardness minerals but rather minimize their impact. It’s an excellent choice if you have only slightly hard water and want to save some money.

Why it’s the best

The Aquasana Rhino WH-1000 is a highly effective filter, but what makes it worthy of a “best” designation is how affordable it is compared to some of the other options on the list.

The Rhino uses five-stage filtration, which includes a pre-filter, advanced KDF media, and a post-filter, delivering water that is 97% free of chlorine.

The dual-tank design, while a bit odd looking at first glance, increases the contact time of water with filter media, resulting in better filtration than single-tank models.

If you want to take things even further, you can add on a UV purifier that will further cleanse your already filtered and conditioned water. 

In fact, Aquasana offers a number of different configurations that make it easy to get the system you want. Just want the filter and conditioner? No problem. Want to add a full bypass system? No problem there either. Want two filter tanks to handle more volume? Yep, can do. Of course, each addition will cost you more money, but it’s nice having this level of choice.

Aquasana also uses a unique tank design that makes changing filters and conditioners a bit easier than with other models.

But since you will only do these big changes once every 10 years, this isn’t a huge factor.

Some things to keep in mind

Not to sound like a broken record, but the important thing to remember about this unit is that it’s not a softener but rather a conditioner.

Beyond that, be careful when you order.

I have two concerns with the Aquasana Rhino WH-1000. The first is that although you can purchase the Aquasana Rhino WH-1000 as a combo product with a salt-free softener, it’s not a pre-packed deal.

You kind of have to know exactly what you want and make sure to select the appropriate add-ons to the WH-1000 filter. 

I like that other companies put logical combos together for you rather than making the customer do the work. If you are an expert yourself, however, this could be a great way to customize your system.

Also, this is a unit specifically designed for city water, yet Aquasana doesn’t make that super clear.

If you’re using a private well and have sulfur in your water (it smells like rotten eggs), then this unit won’t do much for you. 

Aquasana does offer a whole-house well filter, but it’s designed more to deal with sediment and bacteria and does little against sulfur, iron, and manganese.

Again, to buy an Aquasana product you need to have a pretty solid understanding of what you need and want, otherwise you might be disappointed. 

Lastly, the guarantee and warranty are shorter than with SpringWell. It’s 90 days to decide if you like it and 10 years on the warranty. This is better than most, but far from the best.

Final thoughts

The Aquasana Rhino WH-1000 is a more than capable whole-house filter and salt-free water conditioner, though it’s specifically designed for city water.

It’s cheaper than some of the other options, but this does come with a slightly more limited warranty and money-back guarantee.

If you want a solid filter/conditioner combo, get the Aquasana Rhino WH-1000 here.

Honorable Mentions: Filter and Softener Combos

Evo E-3000 Whole House Water Filter and Salt-Free Softener

Designed for city water, the Evo E-3000 Whole House Water Filter and Salt-Free Softener Combo from Kind Water Systems is probably the easiest to install of all the units we’ve reviewed, but that’s all there really is to say about it. 

First, it’s not a softener but rather a conditioner, so it will neutralize some of the effects of hard water but not all of them.

The site doesn’t make this abundantly clear and instead seems to claim that this is in fact a true softener. 

Most companies don’t go out of their way to discuss this, but Kind Water Systems seems to not want you to know it.

It sort of claims this system is better without really explaining the difference. Good thing I’m here! 

One really nice thing about the Kind EVO is that it’s super simple to install. All three stages of the system come as one already-connected unit, so all you need to do is connect supply lines to either end and voila! You’re ready to go!

Kind also has an auto-ship program that lets you schedule replacement filter orders in advance so you don’t forget and let your system fall out of maintenance.

The Evo E-3000 is priced competitively compared to other options I’ve reviewed, and it comes with a limited lifetime warranty, which is great to see.

However, the money-back guarantee period is only 120 days, which is better than some but not as good as the six months SpringWell gives you. You can get the Evo E-3000 here.

Aquasure Whole-House Filter System

The Aquasure Signature Series whole-house filter system is about as complete of a water filter and softening system as you can get.

It includes a 10” whole-house sediment pre-filter, a traditional ion-exchange salt-based water softener, a UV-light sterilizer, and an under-counter reverse osmosis (RO) system.

The addition of a UV-light means the system will zap and kill all microbial contaminants, and the RO system will filter out pretty much any and all particulates before it reaches your tap thanks to its smaller-than-small membrane. 

The RO unit is point-of-use, meaning it is only available at one tap. This part of the system filters water and stores it in a separate tank that is accessed from a dedicated faucet, which you usually install in your sink where the sprayer might go.

This is a nice extra benefit you don’t get with most combo packages. 

What’s more, and this is both a pro and a con, is that this whole system costs about one-third of what you will pay for other comparable setups. 

This sounds great, but consider that there is only a two-year limited warranty on this system, and no money-back guarantee.

Personally, I felt the build quality to be a bit inferior, and while I didn’t have access to it for long enough to see how long it would really last, I have lots of questions and concerns. 

Considering this is an important investment in your home, beware of products that seem too good to be true.

But if you really want all the bells and whistles at a discounted price, the Aquasure system is worth looking at further.

Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter

The Crystal Quest SMART whole-house filtration system is effective against many harmful contaminants, but the cost is enormous. You will likely come across this product in your search, so allow me to elaborate. 

As far as its filtration and softening abilities go, it does pretty well. But it is a “salt-free conditioner,” not a true softener, so keep that in mind.

It will remove chlorine, chloramine, trihalomethane, lead, mercury, and herbicides from tap water just like any other product, which makes it a great city water system. 

However, what is interesting is the inclusion of these tourmaline and ceramic balls as part of the filtration process.

While they certainly can’t hurt, there is no science out there that proves these do anything to enhance filtration, making them mainly a gimmick the manufacturer is using to get you to buy its expensive product over someone else’s. 

Like I said, as far as its filtration and conditioning abilities go, there is nothing wrong with this product. If you get a special deal or something, then by all means go for it.

But there are other products out there that do the same if not better and don’t include these gimmicky extras to try and get you to spend more money.

The Bottom Line: The Best Whole House Filter/Softener Combo

In the end, the SpringWell CSS1 and WSSS1 are the cream of the crop when it comes to whole-house water filters and softener combos. 

Unmatched filtration combined with efficient salt-based softening makes for an excellent product, and SpringWell’s industry-leading money-back guarantee and lifetime warranty are just icing on the cake. 

If you’re on city water, check out the CSS1 here, or if you use well water, you can get the WSSS1 here.

Research Methodology: How We Test and Review Products

With so many whole-house water filters and softener combos on the market, it’s essential to apply a systematic approach to figuring out which ones are good and worth the money and which are not.

Drinking Water uses a seven-point research methodology that combines qualitative and quantitative analysis to narrow down a large list of options to the true best of the best.

Feel free to check out all the details about how we review water filters, but here are some of the more important factors we consider:

Use analysis

Once the initial list is created, the first step is to dive deep into the specific use case for each product.

All filters are designed to do something specific, and while manufacturers often like to position their products as being able to “do it all,” this is often not the case.

We comb through all the products on the list and throw out those that are better suited for a different use.

Learn more about how we do our use analysis.

Tech check

Alongside checking the best use case for each product on our list, we also complete an analysis of the technology at play. This is different because we focus on the science behind the different filter media being used.

Robust literature exists on all the different filter technologies out there, and if something new is actually good, there’s data to support it.

For a product to make it to the next phase of our review, the technology has to pass our test.

Learn more about the tech check portion of our review process.

Water test data

It’s not uncommon for filter manufacturers to use statistics to try and demonstrate why their products are better than the competition. We don’t just take this data at face value but rather put in the work to verify it and even collect our own when it’s needed.

Our intent here is to verify all manufacturer claims and also identify any false information.

Learn more about how we collect and use water test data.

Installation test

Our reviews are comprehensive in that we take into account every aspect of the buying process, which includes what happens after you make a purchase.

Whole-house filters are fairly straightforward to install if you have basic plumbing knowledge, but there are lots of things companies can do to simplify or sometimes complicate the process.

To make sure we’re recommending truly top-notch products, we run installation tests on all the products that make it past the first few levels of our review process.

Learn more about how we run our installation tests.

Cost-of-ownership analysis

In addition to the up-front cost of buying the filter, there are often ongoing costs associated with water filters, mainly maintenance and filter replacements, but also energy bills and installation costs.

We calculate all of these to project how much you can expect to spend both at the moment of purchase and throughout the product’s lifetime.

Learn more about how we conduct our cost-of-ownership analysis.

Warranty check

While complex, water filtration technology has been around for some time and should be built to last. While we analyze all the materials used in every product we look at, it’s also our belief that a good warranty says a lot about a product and a company.

It says the company is ready to stand by what it makes and sells. This is why we dive deep into every warranty manual to get all the details.

Learn more about how we do our warranty checks.

Customer service test

No one wants to buy from a company and then never hear from them again, especially when making an investment as large as a whole-house water filter.

This is why we run extensive checks on a company’s customer service operation before we even think about recommending one of the products.

Learn more about our customer service test.

Before You Buy a Whole-House Filter and Softener Combo

Whole-house filter and softener combos are not actually one product. Instead, they are two separate products sold together as an all-in-one water treatment solution.

Determining which combo product is right for you is an important first step. If you haven’t already, you should consider testing your water to see what’s in it and what needs to be filtered out.

You could also check out my review on the best whole-house water filters to see which unit is best for you.

This will help you determine which type of filter you can buy, and the next step is to determine which softener is best.

Water softeners target “hardness minerals” to eliminate the negative side effects of hard water. With a water softener, you can say goodbye to scale buildup, soap that doesn’t lather, streaks and stains on your glassware, and an itchy, dry feeling on your skin after showering.

Salt-Based Softeners: The Only True Softeners

The big thing to keep in mind with water softeners is whether salt is involved in the process. True softeners, which remove hardness minerals from your water, use a process called ion exchange.

In ion exchange, water passes over a resin that attracts calcium and magnesium, then a brine solution rinse exchanges them for sodium.

To completely alleviate the unwanted effects of hard water, this is the best and only solution.

It has two main downsides. First, it does add a little bit of sodium to your water. How much gets added depends on how hard your water is, but even then it’s an extremely small amount.

To give you an idea, a water softener working on a very hard water supply (15 grains per gallon) will only add about 3.5 mg of sodium to each ounce of water.

So, for every eight ounces you drink, you’re consuming about 30 mg of sodium. Very few food products have less sodium, including many fruits and vegetables. For example, a boiled egg has around 80 mg of sodium.

The other main drawback is that to charge the resin with sodium, water softeners regenerate with a brine solution (water heavily concentrated with salt). You will need to periodically add salt (around once a month) to your brine tank to keep it fresh.

Also, some of this brine solution gets flushed down the drain, which can raise environmental concerns in some areas, both about water waste and salt added to the ecosystem.

Salt-Free Softeners: Not True Water Softeners

For most people, these drawbacks don’t outweigh the benefits of truly soft water, but alternatives do exist.

Many water treatment companies sell “salt-free softeners.” These are not softeners. Instead, they use a filter medium that turns calcium bicarbonate (what’s in your water) into crystals of calcium carbonate, which don’t dissolve in water.

These crystals then pass right over your pipes, fixtures, and appliances and do not cause scale buildup. But all the other side effects of hard water will remain.

In short, salt-free softeners, aka water conditioners, are a solution if you have only slightly hard water, are on a ZERO sodium diet, live in an area where traditional softeners are banned, or want to avoid the slippery/slimy feeling truly soft water can leave on your skin.

They’re also great for people seeking an eco-friendly solution to mildly hard water.

These products are all over the water softening market, and they do just fine based on their design. They’re also less expensive to purchase and maintain.

But it’s important you know the difference before you shop, especially since most companies will market salt-free conditioners as softeners, which they simply are not.

My review includes both options, though I do give preference to true softeners since they actually soften water.

Now that you know a bit more about the details of filter/softener combos, you can click the link below to go back to my recommendations to find one that works for you.

Back to product recommendations.

Dive Deeper: In-Depth Water Filter Guides

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about water filters and water softeners before you make a purchase, here are some resources you can check out:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best whole-house water softener and filtration system?

The best whole-house water softener and filtration system is the SpringWell CSS1, which is a whole-house filter combined with a salt-based conditioner.

But the best filter/softener combo is really going to be the filter that best aligns with the contaminants present in your water.

The best thing to do is to test your water and then seek out a filter/softener combo that will meet your needs.

Do you need a water softener if you have a whole-house filtration system?

You need a water softener in addition to a whole-house filtration system if you have hard water. The two systems do not do the same thing.

Hard water is not necessarily a health concern, but it can cause scale buildup, streaks on your glassware, poorly lathering soap, skin irritation, and damaged hair.

If these are concerns, it’s smart to add a water softener to your whole-house water treatment system.

Can you have both a water softener and a water filter?

Yes, you absolutely can have both and it’s recommended if you have hard water and also want to remove the many potential contaminants present in your water supply.

How much does a whole-house water softener and filtration system cost?

Costs for whole-house water softener and filtration systems range between $500 and $3,000. It depends heavily on the type of filter and softening system you use.

The best and most effective units tend to be $1500 and up.

Do I need a sediment filter if I have a water softener?

You need a sediment filter in addition to a water softener if your water supply has high levels of sediment in it. Water softeners address the “hardness minerals” calcium and magnesium, but they do not deal with other types of sediment.

Sediment filters usually go before water softeners to remove these particles before the water heads to the softener.

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Very helpful article! :D

James Layton

Thank-you Tiffany! If you have any questions, please ask. We’re here to help you find the most effective water quality solutions.

Philip Tympanick

How much water waste in gallons does the regen process create for the Springwell WWS and Salt Softener and can I tap into the 3/4″ drain pipe for my HVAC air handler.

James Layton

The amount of water used ranges from 35-60 gallons depending on how much brine is needed to regenerate the softener. harder water will require more brine. I am not able to say if taping into the HVAC drain will work. In a worst-case situation you could have brine back-flowing into the HVAC system. Water softeners typically require a dedicated line to the drain or wherever you want to send it.

Philip Tympanick

Given I’m told these systems produce between 30-125 gallons of gray water during the regen cycles, where and how are we expected to expel this water if we don’t have a drain in our basement? I would be afraid to run this water through my septic given the salt content generated by the water softener because that would likely corrode the concrete tanks. I don’t want to expel onto my property for fear it will kill all the plants and grass. Can you explain what the best method is for capturing the gray water and disposing of it is?

James Layton

Philip, That is a good question and many others have wondered the same. I checked the most up to date research and it turns out that a well-maintained water softener that discharges into a septic system will cause no harmful affects. In some cases the softener discharge enhanced the performance of the septic system. Let me share my own experience with discharge water and what I have observed in other homes in my neighborhood. My home has no basement. The softener sits in a closet on the ground floor. I had no drain for the discharge. I attempted to run a hose from the discharge to a drain on the second floor. I will skip the reasoning. The discharge water did not have enough pressure to push the water up to the second story drain. I discovered that I could run a small diameter PVC pipe behind the baseboard trim and out of the house through a hole I drilled in an outside wall. I sent the discharge water to a grassy area in a corner of my yard. Over the years I have observed no harm to the plants. A neighbor had a similar drain except it poured the water directly into a row of shrubs and trees. He experienced no harm to the plants. I have seen stand-alone sumps designed to pump water to an upstairs drain (or wherever you want to send the water). The submersible pump automatically turns on when the water level rises in the sump. Perhaps something like that will work for your situation. I have seen some homeowners send sump water to the street, provided it is not a great distance from the home.