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Salt-free water softeners reduce or completely eliminate hard water scaling without actually removing any hard water minerals.
Another benefit of installing a system in your home is that it dissolves already existing limescale build-up – provided that the process works as intended.
There are different types of saltless water softeners; most aren’t suited for all water conditions and some we wouldn’t recommend buying at all.
So, here is our collection of the 8 best salt-free water softeners. Enjoy!
- 1 Best Salt-Free Water Softeners – Top Picks
- 2 Best Salt-Free Water Softener Reviews
- 2.1 1. SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener
- 2.2 2. SoftPro Elite Salt Free Water Softener
- 2.3 3. Essential Series Water Conditioner with Pre-Filtration System by Tier1
- 2.4 4. iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler
- 2.5 5. Review: Eddy Electronic Water Descaler – Water Softener Alternative
- 2.6 6. Pelican NaturSoft Salt-Free Water Softener
- 2.7 7. Aquasana SimplySoft Salt-Free Whole House Water Softener
- 2.8 8. Nuvo H2O DPHB Home Water Softener System
- 3 Salt-Free Water Softener Systems Comparison Chart
- 4 Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Water Salt-Less Water Softener for Your Home
- 5 What are Salt-Free Softeners and How Do They Work?
- 6 Advantages and Disadvantages of Water Conditioning
- 7 Salt-Based vs. Saltless Water Softeners
- 8 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- 9 Conclusion
Best Salt-Free Water Softeners – Top Picks
Best Salt-Free Water Softener Reviews
The order of the following salt-free water softener reviews is deliberate. Our favorite products are at the top.
1. SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener
In our opinion, the best salt-free water softener in 2021 is the SpringWell FutureSoft. Also known as the SpringWell FS, it applies a process called Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) which crystallizes hard water minerals.
The crystallization achieves that the hard minerals remain suspended in the water instead of attaching to surfaces like pipes. As a result, limescale build-up can be reduced by up to 99.6%, according to research. This protects your entire plumbing system and home appliances for less maintenance requirements, fewer repairs, and ultimately a longer service life.
What’s more, already existing mineral deposits dissolve over time, something that no salt-based water softener can achieve. More benefits include:
- The catalytic media which starts the process does not require regeneration. This means you don’t have to keep buying heavy salt bags, plus it saves a lot of water (and thus money).
- Water conditioned through TAC isn’t slippery to the touch.
- Any remaining hardness staining or spots can be easily wiped away.
- It has no effect on water pH, unlike regularly softened water which tends to be slightly acidic and therefore more corrosive.
- The SpringWell FutureSoft keeps all essential minerals in your water.
- Price: $$$
- Salt-free systems type: TAC
- Flow rate depends on which system size you choose
- FS1: 12 gallons of water per minute (1-3 bathrooms)
- FS4: 15 gallons per minute (4-6 bathrooms)
- FS+: 20 gpm (7+ bathrooms)
- The system can be used on water classified extremely hard with up to 81 grains per gallon (gpg) hardness, says the manufacturer.
- The catalytic media does not have an expiration date. With the right feed water conditions it can last for a very long time.
- A small sediment pre-filter stage removes rust, sand, and other particulates from the incoming water to protect the conditioning media from fouling.
- Replacing this pre-filter once or twice a year is all you need to do for maintenance.
- For do-it-yourselfers the SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener should be easy to install.
- You get a 100% money-back guarantee for the first 6 months after purchase
- There also is a limited lifetime warranty.
- The feed water must be free from iron, hydrogen sulfide, and manganese. If not, additional pre-filtration is required.
2. SoftPro Elite Salt Free Water Softener
The SoftPro Elite Salt Free Water Softener makes use of Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC) to effectively prevent scale on fixtures and water pipes by up to 99.6%, as well as reduce existing scale.
NAC works by transforming dissolved calcium and magnesium ions into microscopic crystals which renders them harmless, meaning they easily pass through your plumbing system without forming scale.
- Price: $$$
- Salt-free system type: NAC
- Flow rate: 12 gallons per minute (1-3 bathrooms)
- NAC works for water hardness up to 17 GPG (very hard water).
- The technology is not based on salt and also does not need to backwash or regenerate producing wastewater.
- All essential minerals are kept in your water.
- The SoftPro Elite comes with a carbon filter system. Rated at 5-micron nominal the filter catches sediments, chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, and other chemical contaminants. This improves the taste and smell of your water and also protects the Filtersorb SP media from clogging.
- Maintaining this salt-free softening system is easy. Simply replace the pre-filter cartridge every 3 months – that’s all! The NAC media lasts for 6 to 10 years, maintenance-free.
- The installation is easy. As a free bonus you can add quick-connect hoses to your cart.
- Quality Water Treatment provides a 100% no-risk money-back guarantee.
- The SoftPro Elite also comes with a lifetime warranty on the valve and tank which has you covered in case anything goes wrong.
- This water softener does not perform on private well water systems.
3. Essential Series Water Conditioner with Pre-Filtration System by Tier1
The Tier1 Essential Series Water Conditioner uses Template Assisted Crystallization to remove the minerals responsible for hardness scaling, the same process that’s also used by the SpringWell FutureSoft.
The Tier1 water system, however, is much more affordable. On the downside, it lacks some of the features that come with the SpringWell…
- Price: $$
- Salt-free system type: TAC
- Water flow rate depends on which system size you choose
- Small unit: 12 gallons per minute (1-3 bathrooms)
- Large unit: 20 gallons per minute (4+ bathrooms)
- Most importantly, this water conditioner crystallizes calcium and magnesium ions in water so that they don’t form scale buildup. As much as 99.6% scale can be prevented throughout your entire home. The maximum applicable hard water level as recommended by Tier is 75 gpg.
- Apart from preventing the formation of new limescale, existing deposits can be dissolved over time.
- Both protect your pipes, fixtures, and water heater and other appliances from harm.
- The TAC Media doesn’t need to regenerate which saves water and salt.
- A pre-filter removes sediment to protect fouling of the conditioning media. Replacing the filter about every 6 months at minimum cost is all you need for maintenance.
- System installation is easy. Experienced do-it-yourselfers shouldn’t have problems doing everything themselves.
- There may be a quality difference between the catalytic media that the SpringWell FutureSoft uses and the media filled into the Tier1. While the former is supposed to last indefinitely, the latter needs to be replaced every 3 to 5 years.
- We are missing a money-back guarantee and a product warranty.
- If your water source contains more than 0.3 ppm ferrous iron, 0.05 ppm manganese, or 1.3 ppm copper, this system isn’t suited for treatment.
4. iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler
In our opinion, the iSpring ED2000 is one of the best water descalers, maybe even the best.
It emits electromagnetic waves which prevent around 50% of hard mineral ions from sticking to pipes and also breaks down existing scale build-up. This prolongs the life of water pipes, water heater, dishwasher, washing machine, etc. – without using any chemicals or salt.
- Price: $
- Salt-free system type: Tankless water descaler
- Flow rate: –
- The iSpring ED2000 water descaler is super affordable.
- It’s perfectly suited for people on a sodium-restricted diet.
- Any remaining limescale softens after regular contact with the conditioned water which allows for easier cleaning.
- The unit is easy to install. You just need to wrap the two antenna cables around your main water line so they form a coil – no plumbing modifications required.
- Once set up the unit is virtually maintenance-free.
- iSpring provides a 1-year satisfaction guarantee together with the ED2000.
- With electromagnetic water descalers it’s normal that some people see no improvement in their water conditions. This is also the case for the ED2000. What you need to know is that the system is not recommended for water above 19 grains per gallon hardness.
- The anti-scale effects wear off after the water has travelled 50 feet. Therefore, large homes might need more than 1 system.
- Prior iron removal is recommended for water sources that contain 0.3 ppm iron or more.
5. Review: Eddy Electronic Water Descaler – Water Softener Alternative
The Eddy Electronic Water Descaler is very similar to the iSpring ED2000 reviewed above. Both are solid water softener alternatives that induce an electromagnetic field into the hard water to neutralize its scaling effects.
- Price: $
- Salt-free softener type: Electronic descaler
- Flow rate: –
- The system is cheap and there are no additional costs for salt or wastewater.
- No salt and no chemicals make electromagnetic water conditioning extremely eco friendly.
- Remaining scale on fixtures can be easily cleaned.
- Everyone can install the Eddy Electronic. You don’t need any prior experience or be handy with tools.
- Once installed there is absolutely no system maintenance required.
- For peace of mind, the manufacturer offers you a full refund within the first 12 months after purchase in case you’re not satisfied with the product.
- A lifetime warranty covers repair and replacement.
- Please note that the maximum allowed pipe diameter is one and a half inches.
- The Eddy cannot be used on iron and galvanized pipes.
- Not all reviewers are happy with their conditioned water. That might have something to do with the maximum recommended hardness level of 20 grains per gallon.
6. Pelican NaturSoft Salt-Free Water Softener
Our guess is that Pelican NaturSoft saltless water softeners use some kind of crystallization to eliminate hard water scaling in order to protect pipes, valves, fixtures, and home appliances in general.
You can learn more about how the technology works and its many benefits in the first review on top.
- Price: $$$
- Salt-free water softener type: ?
- Flow rate depends on which system size you choose
- NaturSoft NS3: 10 gpm (1-3 bathrooms)
- NaturSoft NS6: 15 gpm (4-6 bathrooms)
- TAC is effective even for water with a hardness level of up to 75 grains per gallon.
- A small water filter system removes sediments to prevent clogging.
- The system is easy to install. And if you buy the optional installation kit you get everything you need to complete the project.
- Almost all saltless water softeners are low in maintenance. This also applies to the Pelican NaturSoft. Just keep in mind to replace the sediment whole house water filter every 6-9 months.
- Pelican’s satisfaction guarantee allows you to send back the system within 90 days after purchase and receive a full refund.
- Head valve, bypass valve, resin tank, and all fittings come with a 12-year warranty.
- Your water supply must not contain hydrocarbons, oils, lubricants, hydrogen sulfide, phosphate (more than 1 ppm), or copper (more than 1.3 ppm). If it does, pre-treatment is required.
- The pressure release button on the pre-filter tends to leak.
7. Aquasana SimplySoft Salt-Free Whole House Water Softener
The Aquasana SimplySoft Salt-Free Whole House Water Softener uses “Scale Control Media (SCM) technology (…) to effectively inhibit scale buildup by transforming dissolved hard minerals into harmless, inactive microscopic crystal particles that are harmlessly passed through your water and down the drain.”
- Price: $$
- Salt-free softener type: SCM
- Water flow rate: 7 gpm (1-2 bathrooms)
- A 5-micron sediment pre-filter removes large particles. This is important so that the actual conditioning tank does not clog or foul. The whole house water filter cartridge needs to be replaced every two months. This requires a bit more work obviously, but the costs are minimal.
- As with most saltless water softening systems you can install the Aquasana SimplySoft yourself. The process isn’t overly complicated. You should have some prior experience as a handyman, though. Also, there is no built-in bypass valve.
- You can return the product within 90 days after purchase and receive a full refund, thanks to Aquasana’s satisfaction guarantee.
- The system comes with a 6-year warranty.
- The biggest issue seems to be the softening capacity that, for many people, was shorter than advertised. Instead of 6 years their unit stopped working after 6 to 12 months.
- Furthermore, the system works best at water hardness levels of no more than 15 gpg. The maximum recommended is 25 gpg. So in case of extremely hard water this is not the right water conditioner for you.
- Seven gallons per minute water flow is enough for homes with 2 bathrooms, maybe 3. Anything larger than that requires a bigger system.
8. Nuvo H2O DPHB Home Water Softener System
The Nuvo H2O DPHB Home Water Softener is completely different from the saltless softener systems we have reviewed thus far. That’s because it uses citric acid as a chelating agent to bind calcium and magnesium ions in hard water so they can’t form limescale build-up. In addition, already existing scale formation dissolve with time.
- Price: $$
- Saltless water softener type: Chelation
- Capacity per cartridge: 35,000 gallons
- Flow rate: 12-15 gpm (1-4 bathrooms)
- Leaving all beneficial minerals in the water means they can add to your recommended daily intake.
- The Nuvo H2O DPHB is small and thus ideal for homes where space is limited.
- System installation is no more difficult than installing any the other saltless water conditioner. Built-in bypass valve check!
- One softening cartridge filled with citric acid lasts for around 35,000 gallons of water or up to 6 months. You may need to do more frequent replacements, though, depending in your water conditions. All in all, required system maintenance is manageable.
- A 90-day money-back guarantee allows you to return the system for a full refund minus shipping and handling fees if you’re not satisfied with the performance.
- You get a limited lifetime warranty for peace of mind.
- Many people saw no beneficial effect. That may be because the incoming water pH needs to be between 7.2 and 8.5 for optimal system performance. Above that, the Nuvo isn’t suited for private well water.
- Some home owners suddenly had blue water coming out of their taps. This has to do with copper piping and air residues. Fortunately, this is not a health issue and should subside after a few days/weeks.
- There have been issues with leaking.
Salt-Free Water Softener Systems Comparison Chart
How do the best salt-free water conditioners perform when directly compared to each other?
|Product||$$$||Type||Water Flow||Best For||Details|
|SpringWell FutureSoft||$$$||TAC||12-20 gpm||Best Overall Scale Prevention||Uses Sediment Filter, Produces Better-Tasting Water without Added Sodium, Little Maintenance|
|SoftPro Elite Water Softener||$$$||NAC||12 gpm||City Water||Treatment System Produces High Quality Water, Uses Carbon Filter System|
|Tier1 Essential Series Water Softener||$$||TAC||12-20 gpm||Water without Iron, Manganese, Copper||Includes Sediment Water Filtration System|
|iSpring ED2000 Water Conditioner||$||Electronic Descaler||–||Scale Prevention Up to 19 gpg||Conditioner Doesn’t Come with an Extra Filter, Easily Wraps Around Water Lines, Little Maintenance, Does Not Affect Water Quality|
|Eddy Electronic Water Descaler||$||Electronic Descaler||–||Scale Prevention Up to 20 gpg||Conditioner Doesn’t Come with an Extra Filter, Easily Wraps Around Water Lines, Little Maintenance|
|Pelican NaturSoft Water Conditioner||$$$||?||10-15 gpm||City Water||Uses Sediment Filter, Uses NAC to Soften Water|
|Aquasana SimplySoft Water Conditioner||$$||SCM||7 gpm||Up to 15 (25) gpg||Includes Sediment Water Filtration System|
|Nuvo H2O DPHB||$$||Chelation||12-15 gpm||Alkaline Water||No Filter, Binds Minerals Present in the Water without Using Salt|
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Water Salt-Less Water Softener for Your Home
Installing a saltless water softener in your home has many benefits provided that you choose a system that’s up to standards. But what does that even mean? Well, here’s our buyer’s guide with everything you need to know about how to buy the best salt-free water softener system.
There are different types of saltless softeners, but we wouldn’t recommend all of them.
Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) is certainly our favorite method followed by Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC). Both use catalytic media that causes calcium and magnesium ions dissolved in hard water to form crystals. In their crystalline form, calcium and magnesium cannot adhere to surfaces. This is how up to 99.6% scale build-up can be prevented.
Another saltless water softener type is electromagnetic systems. They use a raw magnet or a coil to induce an electromagnetic field into the water. As with TAC and NAC, the field causes hard mineral ions to not adhere to pipes and fixtures, and also causes existing scale to break down. Effectiveness: 50%.
The last type we want to mention is systems that work with a chelation agent. Added into the water, the chelating agent binds hard water ions to prevent scale. This is not our preferred type of water softener to be honest. For one, we don’t like the idea of adding a chemical into our water and the overall effectiveness often leaves a lot to be desired.
What all types of salt-free softeners have in common is that they don’t actually remove minerals from the water. Rather, they only reduce the scaling effects of hard water. That said, water conditioners can also remove already existing scale deposits which no salt-based water softening system can do.
There are 3 cost factors to consider:
- The initial price tag
- Cost for installation
- Ongoing expenses for operating and maintenance
Electromagnetic water descalers are most affordable by far. Their initial price tag is low, you don’t need to hire a professional installer, and the systems are virtually maintenance-free. Total cost: Around $200.
Crystallization water conditioners are much more expensive at purchase. And you have to add cost for installation if you’re not a do-it-yourselfer. As far as maintenance is concerned, most units come with a pre-filter system. Replacement cartridges are cheap. Total cost: Around $1,500 + $50 per year.
Saltless water softeners based on chelation are more affordable than TAC and NAC units, but the cost for replacement cartridges start to add up over time. Total cost: Around $600 + $150 per year.
Feed Water Conditions
Not all types of salt-free softeners are suited for all feed water conditions. Therefore, you need to check that your water meets the required criteria.
First of all, most systems are limited by the maximum amount of water hardness grains they can handle. So we recommend you have your water tested find out how hard your water really is.
Depending on the water system, other criteria can include low iron, hydrogen sulfide, copper, and manganese content. Some models do not perform on private wells at all. The Nuvo H2O only performs as intended if the incoming water pH is within the right range.
Simply put, you also want to check your water for these and possibly other parameters if need be.
Water Pressure and Flow Rate
Except for water descalers, salt-free softeners are limited by how much conditioned water they can provide at any given time. So if you want enough water even at times of peak consumption – for example when your family is getting ready for school and work in the morning – you need to buy a system that’s sized according to the size of your household.
Our recommendation is a minimum of 8-10 gpm water flow for the average-sized household. Large homes may need 15 gpm or more.
Too small of a system might result in a water pressure drop or lets raw water bleed through.
Installation and Maintenance
Installing a water softening system sounds more complicated than it is. As an experienced do-it-yourselfers you shouldn’t have any problems at all, especially if you use quick-connect hoses. Most systems also have a bypass valve already built in.
And if you’re thinking about buying an electronic descaler, they can be installed in a few minutes by literally anyone who’s able to read the manual.
System maintenance is equally simple. In fact, many softeners don’t require any maintenance at all. With others, all you need to do is replace the pre-filter and possibly post-filter cartridges on a regular basis.
Not counting electromagnetic systems, salt free water softeners are larger than you may think. Make sure there’s enough room in your home to accommodate one.
Where to Buy
You have four options as to where to buy:
- Buying from your local hardware or big box store – Many large stores offer of-the-shelf system at affordable pricing. However, overall quality may not be the best.
- Buying from a local dealer – Buying from a local water treatment expert allows you to pick his or her brain regarding specific water conditions in your area. Another benefit is that you can purchase a complete package from installation to yearly maintenance.
- Buying from a manufacturer directly – Most manufacturers run their own stores online. This guarantees the best prices and you can address your questions to the people who know their products best.
- Buying from an online marketplace – The first marketplace that comes to mind is Amazon obviously. What’s great is that you probably have the largest selection of products.
What are Salt-Free Softeners and How Do They Work?
The Different Types of Salt-Free Softeners
Like we said, there are different types of saltless softeners which we don’t all recommend.
- In our opinion, water systems that apply TAC are the best. NAC also works very well. Both use catalytic media that trigger a process to crystallize calcium and magnesium ions in hard water. As microscopic crystals, the hard minerals can’t stick to surfaces and cause scaling. The water flows through your home’s water system without causing damage.
- The second type of saltless water softeners is electromagnetic systems. They are also called water descalers and use magnets or a coil to induce an electromagnetic field into the water. Again, this stops hard water minerals from forming scale build-up.
- Then there are systems based a chelation. They add a chemical agent into the water that binds all hardness minerals. Quite honestly, we don’t like the thought of adding a chemical into our water and the overall effectiveness often leaves a lot to be desired.
The good news is that with all types listed above is that, even though they don’t actually remove anything from your water, they can dissolve already existing scale deposits; no salt-based system can do that.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Water Conditioning
What are the advantages and disadvantages that come with water conditioning?
Scale-Free Plumbing System
They’ll make your plumbing scale-free and dissolve any existing buildup. The result: Prolonged life of water pipes, water heater, washing machine, and dishwasher.
A system that uses neither salt nor water is environmentally-friendly. In contrast, salt-based water softeners require both when regenerating.
They are easy to install – not for everyone but as long as you are handy with tools you should be able to do the installation yourself.
Most models are either easy to maintain or they don’t need any maintenance at all.
Maintenance-free or low maintenance also means cost effectiveness.
For one, any remaining scale is soft and wipes off easily. And secondly, water conditioned with a saltless softener doesn’t feel slippery.
Water without added salt and no essential minerals (calcium, magnesium, etc.) removed means better water quality; better tasting water that is much healthier than if it was traditionally softened.
Most experts agree that regular water softeners (ion-exchange process) are more effective than their salt-less counterparts. That’s also because salt-based water softeners often perform better at increased hardness levels.
You also don’t get those positive effects associated with salt-based softening including more vital skin and hair, and softer clothes.
Salt-Based vs. Saltless Water Softeners
Finally, which is better salt-based or salt-free water softening?
In our opinion, it’s often a matter of personal preferences. All benefits and drawbacks of whole house salt-free water softening systems are listed above.
Most importantly, salt-based softeners tend to perform better at more extreme levels of hardness and they are suited for many different water conditions. Therefore, they waste water during regeneration and they need to be fed with salt which not only costs money, it’s also released in the environment where it may cause harm.
Saltless systems don’t do any of that, but they also won’t actually remove any hard water minerals. They only reduce their scaling effects – and not always very successfully depending on the water conditions. So pre-treatment may be needed.
As far as installation and maintenance are concerned, there really is not a big difference between most salt-based and salt-free systems.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Do salt free softeners work?
Yes, they do, but not all of them. It depends on the specific technology applied.
Why are water softeners banned?
They are banned in some areas because they release excess sodium and also waste water during backwash and rinsing.
How long do salt free systems last?
They can last for many years, probably more than a decade or two depending on the exact water treatment system.
How much does a salt free softener cost?
Cost range from $150 to $1,500 and more.
Are electronic water softeners any good?
Scientific water analysis has shown that they can reduce scale by up to 50 percent.
A salt-free water softener can make a great addition to your home. You just want to install one that’s suited for your water conditions and usage. Personally, we find the SpringWell FutureSoft to be the best choice. In case you are looking for something more affordable, check out the Essential Series salt free softener by Tier1. If you prefer an electronic water descaler, the iSpring ED2000 looks highly promising.
If you have questions about our saltless water softener reviews please leave a comment below!
- 11 Best Water Softener Reviews: System & Buyer Guide 2021
- Reviews of the Best Rated Home Water Softener and Filter Combos in 2021
- Best Water Softeners for Well Water Supplies
- Renting vs. Buying a Water Softener
-  https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/grants_loans/water_recycling/research/ion_exchange_water_softeners.pdf
-  https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/house-and-home/household-advice/a656992/remove-limescale-stains/
-  https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/hardness-water
-  https://www.ahs.com/home-matters/quick-tips/can-water-buildup-cause-damaged-pipes/
Jason is the founder of Water Masterz and head of content creation. After six years in the industry, he has tremendous knowledge and first-hand experience on all things related to water treatment.
His credo: Not a single American should have to drink unhealthy water at home.