Beyond the Sales Pitch: Are Water Softeners Worth It?

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Trying to decide whether a water softener is worth the upfront investment?

Here, we’ve shared everything you should consider when deciding whether a water softener is worth the cost.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • A water softener is worth it for you if hard water is your main water quality issue, you have skin or hair problems caused by hardness minerals, you want to improve appliance efficiency, and you’re fed up with cleaning limescale.
  • A water softener might not be worth it if you can’t afford the upfront cost, you don’t want to commit to routine maintenance, you don’t like salt-softened water, you’re planning on moving or traveling, or you have another water quality issue.

🤔 Is A Water Softener Worth The Cost?

If you answer “yes” to 5 or more of these questions, a water softener is likely worth it for you.

  • Have I got at least $500-$1,000 to spend upfront?
  • Can I confidently install a water softener myself, or can I afford to pay for a professional install?
  • Am I prepared to maintain my water softener by topping up the salt and occasionally cleaning the resin beads?
  • Is hard water the main water quality issue that I want to address?
  • Am I happy to add low levels of salt (or potassium chloride) to my water supply to produce soft water?
  • Do I want to reduce cleaning time by eliminating limescale build-up and water spots on my fixtures and appliances?
  • Am I keen to improve the efficiency and extend the lifespans of my washing machines, hot water heaters, and other water-using appliances?
  • Do I have skin conditions that would be reduced or ameliorated by installing a water softener?
Installing water softener home prevents limescale buildup on faucet

🚰 When Are Water Softeners Worth The Cost?

Let’s look at some specific scenarios when water softeners are worth the cost.

Hard Water Is Your Biggest Water Quality Issue

A water softener is worth it for you if hard water is the predominant water quality issue that you want to tackle.

Hardness is one of the most common water-related problems. You can test your water’s hardness with a hard water test, and if high levels of calcium and magnesium are detected, you know you will benefit from installing a water softener.

Water softener systems eliminate magnesium and calcium ions, producing soft water that’s incapable of forming scale or mineral spots. If you want to enjoy all the benefits of soft water in your home, a water softener is worth it for you.

You Have Skin/Hair Conditions Caused By Hard Water

Hair and skin conditions can affect your well-being, so if you think your eczema, dandruff, or dermatitis is being triggered or worsened by hard water, a water softener is likely worth it for you.

Water softening systems eliminate the minerals that form build-up and soap scum on your skin and hair.

Hard water increases risk of atopic dermatitis

You’re Fed Up With Cleaning Limescale

A water softening system is a worthy investment for you if your biggest gripe with your water quality is the extra work that goes into cleaning limescale and hard water spots off your fixtures and surfaces.

Cleaning up the effects of hard water is a full-time job. Installing a softener system eliminates scale formation, so it’s well worth doing if you hate the fuss of cleaning limescale off your shower screen and toilets.

You Want To Improve Your Appliance Lifespan & Efficiency

Washing machines, dishwashers, and similar appliances in your home can’t run optimally with hard water. If you want to get the very most out of these appliances for as long as possible, a water softening system is likely worth the money for you.

Softeners eliminate the minerals that cause scale buildup and blockages in appliances, helping them to run as efficiently as possible and preventing issues that could shorten their lifespans.

Kettle before and after water softener install

You’re Happy With The Ion Exchange Process

The conventional water softening process involves removing calcium and magnesium minerals from your water in exchange for salt (sodium) ions.

This process, known as ion exchange, adds only very low levels of salt to water – and newer models use much less salt than the older softeners. However, you will need to confirm that you’re okay with adding traces of salt to your water before buying a water softener.

You will also need to acknowledge that water softener systems remove essential minerals from your water. Soft water is free from calcium and magnesium minerals, so you’ll need to make sure you’re getting plenty of these in your diet (which you should be whether you drink hard or soft water).

If you think the ion exchange process has more benefits than setbacks, a water softener is worth it for you.

🚱 When Aren’t Water Softeners Worth The Cost?

Here are some instances when water softeners might not be worth the cost for you.

You Can’t Afford The Upfront Or Ongoing Cost

If you can’t justify, or you can’t afford, the upfront cost of a water softener, it might not be worth it for you.

The starting price of a conventional softening system is around $1,000. Cabinet softeners are more budget-friendly, starting at around $450.

Some manufacturers offer no-interest payment plans that break down the upfront cost into smaller, more manageable payments. But even then, you might not want to commit to new debt, so a softener might not be right for you at this time.

Water softener systems also slightly increase your water bill because they waste water during regeneration (although newer water softener models optimize their water and energy use).

If you don’t want to waste any more water than necessary, and you want to avoid the costs of this additional water use, a water softener might not be worth it for you.

Brand/ModelAverage Price
AquaOx WS
Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner
Crystal Quest System
Filtersmart Salt-Free System
Fleck 5600 SXT$900
Fleck 9100SXT Dual Tank System
Pelican NaturSoft
Pro + Aqua Portable Water Softener Pro
SoftPro Elite
SpringWell Futuresoft$2,700
SpringWell SS$2,000
Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt Based Water Softener Combo$3,000
US Water Systems GreenWave$800

You Don’t Want To Commit To Maintenance

Water softener systems don’t need a lot of maintenance – you just need to top up the salt every month or so, and clean the resin beads about once a year.

However, if you don’t want to commit to any amount of maintenance. a water softener might not be worth the upfront cost.

The last thing you want is to spend all that money on a water softening system, only to neglect the system and end up drinking hard water anyway.

You Don’t Like Salt-Softened Water

Conventional water softeners use sodium (or salt) to soften water. This gives water a slightly altered taste (although there isn’t enough salt to make water taste salty), and a smooth, “slippery” texture.

Some people simply don’t like the idea of using salt-softened water in their homes. Even if water softened with salt is safe to drink and doesn’t coat your skin with soap scum, it has a “foreign” taste and feel that some folks can’t get used to.

In this case, a water softener may not be worth it for you – but you can still consider salt-free water conditioners, which retain hardness minerals but prevent scale formation.

Woman drinking salt-softened water

You’re Planning On Moving Or Traveling

Since water softening systems are such big upfront investments, it probably won’t make sense to buy one of these machines if you’re planning on moving several times over the next few years, or you’re thinking about traveling and won’t have a base to return home to for a while.

You get the most value out of your investment when you buy and use the system throughout its expected lifespan (which is typically 10-20 years for a modern softener).

Of course, you can take your softener with you when you move, or you could leave it in your old home for the new homeowners to enjoy. But you might decide that the upfront purchase isn’t worth it until you know you’ll be settled in one location for a while.

On a similar note, a water softening system isn’t worth it for you if you currently rent and your landlord doesn’t allow you to make “major changes” to your home’s plumbing system (i.e. cutting into your water line to install a softener). The potential repercussions of subverting your rental terms aren’t worth the risk!

You Have Another Water Quality Issue

A water softener is only worth it for you if you’re looking for a solution to the effects of hard water in your home, such as mineral deposits, decreased efficiency of water-using appliances, and reduced flow in your plumbing system.

Water softener systems can remove calcium and magnesium ions, and low levels of iron, from your water supply.

If you have another drinking water quality issue, such as chlorine, fluoride, or lead, or you want to improve the taste and smell of your water, a water softener isn’t the solution.

The system won’t be worth the money because it won’t resolve your water issues. Instead, you’ll need to look at water filters that do address these issues.

Tap score example report

💰 Can A Water Softener Actually Help You Save Money?

You’ve probably read various marketing materials from water softener manufacturers that say these systems will help you save money. But what’s the reason for this, and how true is it?

First of all, it is true that a water softener can help you to save money.

There are a few reasons for this:

  • It prevents scale buildup in your water heater, so the unit can continue to heat your water quickly, keeping your heating costs low.
  • It reduces the amount of soap and detergent required in washing machines and dishwashers, so you can spend less on these items every month.
  • It extends the life-span of your appliances, reducing the need for repairs and replacements.
  • It reduces your cleaning duties, so you won’t have to spend a fortune on scale-removers and commercial cleaners for hard water damage.

Of course, running a water softener costs money that you wouldn’t otherwise be spending, and that’s something you should take into account.

But most new softeners are highly efficient, and the total energy of running a water softener over a one-year period is apparently no more than the energy required to run an alarm clock. The average family of four uses less than 10 bags of softener salt per year, too, so you won’t have to spend a fortune on upkeep.

Water softeners prevent limescale damage on water heater element

📑 Final Word

Ultimately, even if you can think of tens of reasons to buy a water softening system, water softeners are only worth it if they’re high-quality systems sold by reputable manufacturers.

There are hundreds of water softeners for sale today, and the reality is that a good portion of them simply aren’t worth your money.

When shopping for a water softener, make sure you’re aware of all your options and shortlist the products that are best for your budget and water softening needs.

Only consider manufacturers that are well-known in the industry and have a history of positive customer feedback.

Avoid deals that seem too good to be true, since they probably are. Generally, you’ll need to spend at least $450 for a cabinet-style all-in-one softener, or around $1,000-1,200 on average for a conventional two-tank softener.

Thankfully, you don’t have to put in all the research work yourself. We’ve spent hours comparing and reviewing the best-selling water softeners available today, so you can find all the most important information about these systems in our buyer’s guides.

  • Jennifer Byrd
    Water Treatment Specialist

    For 20+ years, Jennifer has championed clean water. From navigating operations to leading sales, she's tackled diverse industry challenges. Now, at Redbird Water, she crafts personalized solutions for homes, businesses, and factories. A past Chamber President and industry advocate, Jennifer leverages her expertise in cutting-edge filtration and custom design to transform water concerns into crystal-clear solutions.

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