Best Water Softeners 2024: How to Find the Right One for You

In this blog, you’ll learn that:

  • High serviceability, indiscernible loss in water pressure and NSF 44 certification makes PurASoft softeners the best.
  • “Big Box” companies create the cheapest, most accessible water softeners for small homes.
  • “Sticker” companies create moderately expensive and effective water softeners for bigger homes.
  • “Pro-grade” companies create the most expensive and effective water softeners for all homes.
  • Five traits are most important when comparing water softeners: warranty, NSF 44 certification, serviceability, pressure loss, and whether a water softener is made in America.
Even in 2024, hard water is a nuisance for countless Americans. In contrast to general contamination, water “hardness” is the amount of dissolved sediment in water. Though hard water might not sound any worse than a bottle of mineral water, it presents a whole cocktail of inconveniences, including brittle hair, cloudy stains on dishes, faded clothing, and sediment buildup inside pipes. To fix this problem, water softeners use a chemical reaction to remove sediment from water.  But there are so many to choose from, so which one is best for you?  In this blog, we’ll address different types of water softeners and tell you the one we think is best.

Price and Quality Inform Three Water Softener Categories

The sheer number of available water softeners doesn’t lend itself to easy solutions. We’ll outline three practical categories related to your needs to make the process less overwhelming.

Big Box” companies, like General Electric, Rheem, Morton and WaterBoss, offer the least expensive, most accessible water softeners, many of which you can find in department (home improvement) stores. Big Box water softeners are suitable for condominiums and small homes.

Second, “Sticker” companies put water softeners together after receiving parts from manufacturers, most of which are outside the United States. Because Sticker water softeners are more effective and expensive than Big Box water softeners, purchasing them is easier online than anywhere else. Sticker companies make up most of the water softener market. This category often confuses customers the most because sticker companies say they’re manufacturers, but they’re not. Instead, they’ve simply assembled a water softener from parts they’ve purchased around the world.

Finally, “Pro-Grade” water softeners are four to five manufacturers who genuinely build their water softeners from head to toe. They also have a network of dealers around the country. Some are even NSF-44 certified, meaning the National Sanitation Foundation can vouch for their quality and durability. They are generally the best ones with the highest costs.

Comparing Types of Water Softeners

The most effective way to find the best water softener for your home begins with a comparison among Big Box, Sticker and Pro-Grade companies. For each of these categories, we’ll compare five traits:

  • Warranty – What warranties do vendors place on the water softener’s electronics, tanks and filters? Who is warranting the product? This is a crucial question because if Chuck-in-the-truck assembled the water softener, then he’s warranting the unit. On the other hand, if Ecowater provides the warranty, then a 100-year-old manufacturer backs the product.
  • NSF 44 certification – Has the water softener endured a series of expansive tests demonstrating its effectiveness?
  • Serviceability – With how much difficulty can a licensed plumber service the water softener?
  • Pressure Loss – How much does the water softener reduce water pressure?
  • Whether It’s Made in America – Is the manufacturer liable if the water softener breaks down or needs maintenance?

Big Box Companies Offer Cheapest Options

Big Box companies offer their one-size-fits-all water softeners in major retail stores, like Lowe’s, Menard’s or Home Depot. What’s often most striking to potential customers about this type of water softener is its small profile. The smallest water softeners are the easiest to use and store, perfect for condominiums.

Big Box water softeners cost around $700, but that price doesn’t include installation. Professional installation from a licensed plumber can add an additional $900 to $1,500 to the total costs.

A Moderate Warranty

While the tank’s warranty doesn’t expire until after a decade, the electronics usually have a one-year warranty, and the filter has no warranty. This is relatively standard among Big Box companies.

No NSF 44 Certification

Big Box water softeners typically don’t have NSF 44 certification, so extensive testing hasn’t guaranteed their effectiveness or longevity.  You won’t know how well they’ll work until after installation. Even then, it can be challenging to accurately determine its effectiveness if you’re not an expert on hard and soft water. Many people don’t realize that hard water is causing many of the problems around their homes and with their hair or skin.

Poor Serviceability

Big Box water softeners are built to hit a cheap price point, not to last. These Big Box options might be the easiest to purchase, but they are the hardest to find someone to service or program it. They’re built from cheap, shoddy parts that frequently break or wear down faster than they’re supposed to. You’ll require more frequent visits from a plumber, which results in significantly more upkeep expenses long-term versus alternative options.

Impactful Pressure Loss

These water softeners may also reduce water pressure if multiple people use running water simultaneously. Big Box water softeners can cause water to trickle from showers and faucets much more slowly. This can be frustrating, particularly in households with two or more residents. Those with big families will quickly discover Big Box options aren’t their best option.

Not Made in America

Finally, most of these aren’t made in America, and here’s why that matters: If a flood or accident puts your water softener out of commission, you or your insurance company must pay, and the overseas vendor is off the hook. Water softeners from overseas are also made from cheap, shoddy parts.

What’s the Verdict?

Big Box water softeners aren’t worth pursuing unless you’re temporarily living in a condominium with one other person. You’ll need to learn how to test your water and program and maintain the product because facilities to service them are few and far between. Overall, we don’t recommend them.

Sticker Companies Are Slightly Better

As the intermediate option, Sticker companies comprise most of the water softener market. Pelican, Aquasana and other online retailers are good examples, but they’re far from the only ones. Any local search on Google will produce a variety of “Chuck-in-the-truck” dealers who also sell stickered systems.

They’re called sticker systems because a distributor or dealer will buy components from a foreign country (usually China), assemble them together and call it a water softener. While these water softeners have better serviceability than Big Box options, they still fall short of Pro-grade options.

A Common Warranty

Warranties on Sticker water softeners are usually the same as those on Big Box ones.  While the warranty on the tank itself is good, the warranties (or lack thereof) on other parts are poor. If something breaks, the chances are high you’ll need to pay out of pocket to replace or fix parts.

No NSF 44 Certification

Like Big Box water softeners, they don’t have NSF 44 certification showing they’ve been rigorously tested. As with the option above, there’s no guarantee they’ll work or how well they soften water.

Much Higher Serviceability

Sticker companies allow for easier replacement of intermediate parts and give licensed plumbers enough space to work. Since the parts are more durable, they tend to break or need serving less frequently than their Big Box counterparts. Although there’s a more significant upfront investment, the trade-off is lower maintenance costs.

Noticeable Pressure Loss

The bad news? Sticker water softeners usually have a noticeable effect on water pressure. The good news? That effect is usually significantly less than what you’d experience with a Big Box option. There will be enough pressure loss to dampen the speed of water coming out of a faucet, but it shouldn’t be enough to slow things to a trickle. Those looking for sustained high water pressure from the best water softeners in 2024 will still likely feel frustrated.

Not Made in America

A few Sticker options may be assembled in America, but they’re usually made overseas – or at least their parts are. Be careful about companies who say their products are designed and assembled in America because this isn’t the same as the parts being made here. Parts created overseas are shoddier, and the manufacturers are not responsible for accidents.

Salt-Based and Salt-Free Aren’t the Same

Since Sticker companies are the biggest category, make sure you distinguish between salt-based and salt-free water softeners while you search, as salt-free ones don’t soften water. Salt-free water “softeners” only condition the water to keep sediment from sticking to pipes. While Sticker water softeners are less of a fit for condominiums, their significantly greater efficacy can make them a nice choice for large homes.

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Water softener salt in an open tank
Water softener salt is essential for fully softening water.

Pro-Grade Water Softener Brands Are Best

The immediate downside of Pro-Grade, top water softeners is the high initial investment. But we fully believe that, for most people, choosing Pro-Grade is the best option. There are several reasons for this, but the primary one is that it outshines the alternatives in every category.

Better Warranties

Some Pro-grade options come with better warranties than the 5-plus-5 offered by lower-quality options. Some include guarantees on parts outside the water tank; one brand even provides a filter warranty.

NSF 44 Certifications

Not all Pro-grade water softener brands will go through the process of getting their products NSF 44 Certified. However, these types of water softeners will be the only options that may potentially do so. We highly suggest you choose a brand that goes the extra mile to prove their devices work efficiently.

Great Serviceability

Most Pro-grade options will be the easiest for technicians to work on – and all of them should need significantly fewer service calls. This is excellent because it negates the only downside of purchasing these higher-quality water softeners in 2024. Although these options require a more significant upfront investment, their long-term maintenance costs are also much less.  These products are manufactured for the dealer to sell… and that dealer doesn’t want to return to your home because that affects their profit margin.

Better Water Pressure

Choosing a higher-quality water softener often leads to maintaining a stronger water pressure. Pro-grade systems are more likely to maintain excellent pressure while multiple people use the water. This makes them an excellent choice for larger households!

Some Are Made in America

Parts and devices made in America are held to more rigorous standards, so they’re higher quality than those made overseas. If you’re looking for an American-made product, a Pro-grade option is your best chance at finding one.

Pro-Grade Brands for the Best Water Softeners in 2024

The following companies are among the best providers of water softeners. Each presents its own benefits and potential downsides, which are discussed below.


Culligan offers a 5-year warranty, while the dealer selling the devices adds another five years. We call this arrangement a 5-plus-5 warranty. Culligan water softeners are easy to service, with negligible pressure loss. However, Culligan water softeners are made overseas and aren’t NSF 44 Certified.


Chandler products have a 5-year warranty. They’re easy to service, and parts are easy to come by. The valve is manufactured in America, and the components are easy to source. Although the resin is NSF-44 certified, the whole system is not. We give them a thumbs up.


Rainsoft products also have a 5-plus-5 warranty. They’re easy to service, and the effect on water pressure is insignificant. But they’re also made overseas, so they’re not NSF 44-certified either.


Not only does Kinetico offer a 5-plus-5 warranty, but some of their products are made in America and NSF 44-certified. Kinetico water softeners don’t use electronics, so they’re suitable for 24-hour usage without wasting energy. However, without electronics, it’s challenging to diagnose water issues. Leaking toilets are the number one reason water softeners stop working.

Serviceability isn’t great because the water softener’s unique design splits the tank into two smaller tanks. This also has a profound effect on water pressure and calcium creep. Kinetico water softeners provide some of the lowest water pressure of all pro-grade water softeners.


In addition to a 5-plus-5 warranty, EcoWater provides a more direct option. For extra money, you can purchase a 10-year warranty from EcoWater without any warranty from the dealer. EcoWater is one of the only companies that offer a filter material warranty. Many vendors don’t like putting warranties on filter material (resin) because it makes them liable for leaky faucets, among other issues within the homeowner’s control.

EcoWater softeners are made in America, and they’re NSF 44-certified. Between amazing performance and durable warranties, these water softeners can last for decades. They feature excellent serviceability and indiscernible pressure loss force.

As you’ve read, there are stark differences among water softeners across this single category, though we find the Ecowater product line to be one of the best. Water softeners can be significant long-term investments in your home and your family’s health, so we hope you’ll at least consider the best.

A blue water softener works in a furnace room.
Angel Water can professionally install your water softener for the best results.

A New Water Softener for 2024

Ultimately, we want to provide you and your family with softer, healthier water. Under the PurASoft brand, we make effective water softeners ourselves. But our inventory includes some of the devices from brands we’ve listed above, and we’re happy to install whichever one’s best for you.

If you see something you like among our water softeners, please schedule a free consultation with one of our experts. You can also browse water softeners at our store in Barrington. Whomever you work with, we advise you to have your water softener professionally installed by a licensed plumber.

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in January of 2023 and was updated in February of 2024. 

Interested in a Water Softener System for Your Home?

You don’t have to live with a dry, itchy scalp and brittle hair anymore! It would be our pleasure to help you find the right water softener to make your showers enjoyable again.

Please give us a call at (847) 382-7800 or visit our water softener page to learn more.

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