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When you first bought your RV, you might have thought something along the lines of, “Great! That’s that – no more money to spend.” But of course, that isn’t true. The average RV owner spends between $500 and $1,000 a year on maintenance alone – and if you’re dealing with excessive hard water mineral buildup in your pipes, this cost could double or even triple at any point.
You already know the benefits of owning an RV water softener, but making a smart investment is tricky. You need to understand which factors make a good portable water softener for RV use – and which softeners are the best on the market today. This guide is designed to equip you with this essential knowledge.
Having established WaterFilterGuru.com to help people like myself find the perfect at-home water treatment solutions, I now offer valuable guidance to 130,000 monthly readers.
The best portable water softeners made it onto this list because they meet my high standards when it comes to performance, ease of installation/maintenance, quality of build, and much more. In this guide, I’ll share:
- The 5 portable water softeners worth investing in
- Things to consider when buying a water softener
- Answers to common questions you might ask
Best RV Water Softener
- Portable RV Water Softener by SoftPro
- On The Go Portable Double Standard Water Softener
- Mobile-Soft-Water Portable Water Softener
- Pro + Aqua Portable Water Softener Pro
- Flow Pur RV-Pro 10,000
|Portable RV Water Softener by SoftPro||Capacity: 8K or 16K|
Flow Rate (GPM): 5
Dimensions: 21.5 x 6 inches
|On The Go Portable Double Standard Water Softener||Capacity: 16K|
Flow Rate (GPM): 5
Dimensions: 22 x 9.5 inches
|Mobile-Soft-Water Portable Water Softener||Capacity: 16K|
Flow Rate (GPM): 5
Dimensions: 9 x 18 inches
|Pro + Aqua Portable Water Softener Pro||Capacity: 16K|
Flow Rate (GPM): 5
Dimensions: 10 x 20 inches
|Flow Pur RV-Pro 10,000||Capacity: 10K|
Flow Rate (GPM): 4
Dimensions: 10 x 22 inches
Portable Water Softener Reviews 2021
Portable RV Water Softener by SoftPro
As one of the best RV water softener systems that use salt, the SoftPro RV softener guarantees no more hard water, dry skin, dirty dishes – and every other inconvenience of hard water. It uses an 8% premium resin that’s designed to be both durable and efficient, and it comes at a budget-friendly price of just less than $200.
This system has been assembled in the US, so you can rest assured that it’s made from high-quality materials with no corners cut in manufacturing. You can choose between 2 grain counts: the 8,000 grain capacity is ideal for part-time use by 1 person and the portable 16, 000 grain capacity is best suited for part-time use by two people.
Being priced similarly to other RV water softeners, the SoftPro brings a lot to the table without being unaffordable. It’s lightweight and built to last, and is small and compact enough to store away when not in use. Installation and regeneration are common sense with this system, and you shouldn’t need a plumber to do the job for you.
A bonus of this RV water softener is that you can use table salt in the system, so keeping up with salt top-ups won’t cost you an arm and a leg. It’s easy to add more salt to the system – just turn off your water supply, disconnect the outlet hose, drain water, remove the top plug, and pour a mixture of salt and warm water straight into the softener. If you don’t want to use salt, you can also use potassium chloride in your softener.
With a lifetime warranty and lifetime support, SoftPro are on hand to make sure you can get the most out of this travel-friendly system – and there here for you if you don’t. Aside from salt top-ups, the only maintenance you’ll need to do is cleaning the sediment filter screens if you buy them, so looking after this system couldn’t be simpler.
👍 What I Like
- Regeneration is quick and simple
- Portable 16, 000 grain capacity prevents low pressure drop in larger vehicles
- Suitable for extremely hard water
👎 What I Don’t Like
- Some customers didn’t receive a user manual with purchase
- May be too tricky for some users to install
On The Go Portable Double Standard Water Softener
You can guarantee that On The Go offer the best water softener options for RVs, and the Double Standard Water Softener is one of the more impressive offerings by the manufacturer. It produces twice the gallons of soft water compared to On The Go’s standard system, and is currently one of the biggest and most user-friendly systems available today.
With a portable 16, 000 grain design, the On The Go water softener offers a high flow rate, even with an efficient performance that, according to the manufacturer, produces approximately 40 percent more soft water than any other RV water softener on the market.
If you’re looking for a system that’s simple and convenient to use, you can’t go wrong with the On The Go water softener. You just need two boxes of table salt to regenerate the system in a matter of minutes, and you can access up 16,000 gallons of soft water, or roughly 40 days’ worth.
This softener has a compact design that won’t take up too much space, enabling you to install it in the tightest, most compact places in your RV. On The Go has included features in the design that help make the system as portable as possible, including a handle for easily carrying the system, a large mouth opening for adding table salt, and a cap and a plug to prevent leakage while you’re on the road.
As an extra bonus, the On The Go Portable Double Standard water softener doesn’t require electricity, and it’s capable of running with a high flow rate and even very low pressure drops. The soft water provided by this system helps to eliminate the effects of hard water mineral buildup and extend the life of appliances in your RV. It’s easy to hook up and move around when needed, and will provide a means of quick, convenient water softening no matter where your travel takes you.
The On The Go softener comes with a back-flush adapter, hardness test strips, adaptors, and everything else you need for easy installation.
👍 What I Like
- Eliminates mineral buildup
- Can run with table salt
- Handles high flow rates
👎 What I Don’t Like
- A little more expensive than other options
Mobile-Soft-Water Portable Water Softener
If you’re looking to not only eliminate mineral buildup but also contaminants in your RV’S water, the Mobile-Soft-Water is one of the best portable softener options for you. It’s designed for easy setup and connection to your RV tank using a simple, secure garden hose connection – something all of us feel confident in handling.
Featured on this model is a reinforced vessel, which can handle a high water flow rate and pressure. Being relatively compact and lightweight, the system is easy to carry, and you can install it in a small, out-of-the-way location – and the detailed user manual is on hand to guide you through the simple installation process.
Containing high-quality resin beads, the Mobile-Soft-Water Softener can provide a means of softening up to 16,000 gallons of hard water before the resin beads need replacing. But while this is impressive, it’s not the system’s biggest selling point. What convinces most customers that this is the best portable water softening solution for them is that it can eliminate impurities like heavy metals from your water source, too, helping to improve your all-round water quality.
This water softener combines a heavy-duty plastic and fiberglass tank with sturdy fittings that enable the system to handle high pressure. The system offers a flow rate of up to 5 gallons of water per minute (5 GPM or gallons per minute), so you won’t need to wait around for a long amount of time to access soft water in your RV. The materials used in the softener’s design are lead-free, and the system even has an NSF certification to prove it.
👍 What I Like
- Water flow rate of 5 gallons of water per minute
- Improves all-round water quality
- Durable, compact design
👎 What I Don’t Like
- Doesn’t include all parts required for installation
Pro + Aqua Portable Water Softener Pro
Designed with portability and durability as a priority, the Pro + Aqua Portable Water Softener Pro is a great-choice system to soften your water on-the-go, improving your water quality without affecting your water flow. It has a wide base, making it more stable when placed on an uneven surface, and with its 16,000 grain capacity, you can get up to 40 days of softened water depending on your usage and the types of water you’re softening.
With a 5 GPM (gallons per minute) water flow, this system will soften your water without a dip in your water pressure as a side-effect. It comes with an extra female adaptor for backwash, and can be used to condition both well and city water. Not only does it reduce magnesium and calcium, but this system also reduces lead, iron, radium and other heavy metals.
It takes just 5 minutes to set the Pro + water softener up ready for use. You can use this system in more than just your RV, too – it can also be used in boats and other recreational outdoor applications that require water softening. You only need to wait for 30 minutes for the system to regenerate with 2 boxes of table salt, and the manufacturer offers a regeneration kit at an extra cost for an even simpler regeneration.
This system was built to last, using NSF high-grade materials, so you can ensure it’ll keep on providing you with softened water for years down the line. It comes fully assembled and features polyethylene, a durable fiberglass wrap, premium resin, and high flow in/out garden hose ports for convenient installation and use.
👍 What I Like
- Easy to install
- Produces up to 5 gallons of softened water per minutes
- Reduces contaminants as well as hard water issues
👎 What I Don’t Like
- Nearly $100 more than the typical portable water softener price point
- Additional regeneration kit costs extra
Flow Pur RV-Pro 10,000
The Flow-Pur RV-PRO 10,000 is one of the most user-friendly RV water softeners on the market today, designed to tackle hard water issues by removing magnesium, calcium and even trace amounts of iron from water. At just over $170, this system is very competitively priced, being ideal for people with smaller budgets and those who want the same high value water softener for less.
Being compact and portable, the Flow Pur recreational RV water softener can be installed in the smallest of spaces without dominating room. It has a 10,000 grain capacity and is capable of removing hard water minerals, helping to improve the lifespan of RV appliances, while also offering cleaner water that won’t stain, cause scale build-up, or negatively impact your hair and skin health.
Made in the USA, the Flow-Pur water softener comes ready to install, pre-packed with a supply of resin. You don’t need to buy the resin separately on your initial purchase, and the resin should last for many years, so you won’t have to worry about maintenance aside from salt top-ups. Even regeneration is made easier with the Flow-Pur, as the custom flow valve allows regeneration without having to connect or disconnect it from the system.
Because this water softener uses table salt, you can soften hard water in RVs at less of a financial commitment. The system comes with hardness strips included, so you can test the quality of your water before and after using the softener and get real-time information on your improved hard water levels.
👍 What I Like
- Uses standard table salt
- Also removes trace levels of iron from water
- One of the most budget-friendly options on the market
👎 What I Don’t Like
- Only comes in one size
Portable Water Softener Buyer’s Guide
What is a Portable Water Softener?
Portable water softeners are small-scale water softening systems that are designed for on-the-go use. While your standard whole home water softener needs to be installed at your home’s water line, a portable recreational water softener system can be moved around much more easily, making it ideal for taking with you on your RV travels.
The water at campsites isn’t known for being the best, and if it has a high mineral content, you may deal with hard water issues in your RV. But there’s no reason to have to wash yourself, your clothes or your dishes in hard water thanks to RV water softeners. You can simply hook the system up to your water line and enjoy softened water in a matter of minutes.
How Do On-the-Go Portable Water Softeners Work?
When you install an on-the-go portable RV water softener, you’re taking a proactive step towards soft water, no matter what type of water you’re softening and from where. Portable RV water softeners all differ slightly in design, but the end result is the same: hardness minerals are either removed from water or crystalized, preventing them from being able to cause scale.
You just need to install the system at your water line in your RV, before your water heater. When water flows into the system, it’ll treat it in a matter of seconds, softening or conditioning it and making it much more RV-friendly.
Because these water softeners are installed at your RV’s point of entry, all of your pipes, fixtures and water-based appliances can benefit from soft water. Even your hot water will be magnesium and calcium-free, providing you install an RV water softener before your heater.
Types of Portable Water Softeners
Ion exchange water softeners are also known as salt-based softeners. There are two tanks involved in ion exchange softeners: a mineral tank and a brine tank. They’re so named because they use a process known as ion exchange to soften water.
During ion exchange, water flows through the mineral tank, which features a media bed containing sodium (salt) ions. The positively-charged hard water (calcium and magnesium) ions are attracted to this negatively-charged media bed, and stick to it. As this is happening, the sodium ions are released into the water, thus replacing the calcium and magnesium with sodium.
An RV water softener system that uses ion exchange to soften water will need to regenerate once the media reaches a certain hardness saturation point. This regeneration process usually takes place once every 24 hours, and you can choose to set a time for regeneration that suits you best.
It’s worth being aware that the regeneration process wastes a small amount of water, which is one setback of a salt-based softener. Another potential negative factor, as well as regeneration, is that not everyone is happy to add salt to their water, even though the amount added is minimal – and you can add potassium chloride instead if you prefer. Adding salt to the system is an unavoidable maintenance task, although you can usually add standard table salt to a system, so you don’t need to buy anything too specific.
Salt-free softeners are sometimes known as conditioners, because rather than softening water, they condition it. This means that instead of removing calcium and magnesium entirely from water, they crystallize the minerals and make them unable to stick to surfaces.
This type of softener has a more compact design because it only consists of one tank, which contains a conditioning media. In a process called template-assisted crystallization (TAC), calcium and magnesium have their structures altered, and the crystal coating that forms on their exteriors prevents them from being able to cause scale.
Salt-free softeners are considered more efficient than salt-based softeners as they don’t need to carry out a regeneration process – meaning they don’t waste water – and they don’t need electricity to run. You only need to change the media once every 6 years or more, which means maintenance isn’t something you’ll need to constantly keep track of.
Though there are benefits to a salt-free RV water softener, some people may still prefer a salt-based softener because the fact that it completely removes hardness minerals from water gives them more confidence that the system is working.
Magnetic descalers are another saltless softening option that doesn’t require regeneration. They consist of a magnetic coil, or two magnets facing one another, and are installed on the outside of a water line. When water travels through the portion of the pipe that hosts the descaler, a process similar to TAC is used to crystallize hard water minerals.
Magnetic descalers are the cheapest to buy, easiest to install and entirely maintenance-free. You don’t have to intercept your water line to add in a filter or a softening system, making it an appealing option for owners of RVs that don’t have much space for adding much more to what’s already there.
It’s worth being aware, though, that magnetic descalers are not as popular as the two above options because it’s very difficult to prove that this method actually conditions water. There’s also some information online to suggest that water that has been conditioned in this magnetic descaling process only remains in its conditioned form for 24 hours, so you should take care to use any descaled water in that time.
Finally, a great option for both softening and filtering your water is a reverse osmosis system. This type of water treatment system doesn’t just remove magnesium and calcium from water – it also greatly reduces or removes a whole host of common water contaminants.
The reverse osmosis process generally consists of multiple stages. After passing through several filtration stages, such as a pre-filter and a carbon filter, water will be sent through a semi-permeable reverse osmosis membrane at speed. You need a relatively high flow rate in your recreational vehicle for this reason.
This RO membrane contains pores that are so tiny, they’ll only allow water particles to pass through. Any contaminants in your RV water source will get flushed down the drain with your waste water – including the hardness causing minerals. Because draining is an essential part of the reverse osmosis process, you’ll need to make sure your RV is hooked up to a drain line whenever you want to use the system.
Reverse osmosis can give you access to gallons of soft water instantly, but it will contribute to higher water usage than a typical water softening system.
RV Water Softener Pre-purchase Considerations
You might consider the best RV water softener to be something very different from another RV owner. Your decision will most likely come down to personal preference after weighing up the pros and cons of each type of water softening system available.
There are many high quality on the go water softener options to suit a variety of budgets and needs, but what type of system would you prefer?
Would you rather use a salt-free water softener that doesn’t require a regeneration process or sodium to operate? If so, keep in mind that these water softener system types aren’t recommended for use in areas with particularly hard water, as they’ll struggle to keep up with demand.
What if you’re looking for an effective means of softening that will help prolong the life of your RV’s appliances? In that case, you’ll likely favor an ion exchange portable water softener over a salt-free water softener. Be aware that these require more upkeep, have to regenerate, and add a small amount of sodium to water.
For the simplest, no-fuss portable softener option for your RV, a magnetic water softener may be the answer – but you’ll have to put your faith in this system working, as there’s no way to prove it with a soft water test.
If you’re prepared to spend more money and carry out more system maintenance for a highly effective softening solution, reverse osmosis is a great choice. Just keep in mind that you’ll have more filters to change, you’ll need a drain line, and reverse osmosis isn’t the best option for high levels of hardness, as the minerals will damage the RO membrane and cause it to deteriorate at a faster rate.
Your water usage and the hardness of your water will determine what capacity water softener you need. Most portable RV water softeners have an 8, 000 grain capacity, but you can also find a 16, 000 grain unit relatively easily if you don’t think an 8, 000 grain system will quite cut it. Most portable RV water softeners are designed for once-a-week regeneration.
To figure out what size system you need for your recreational vehicle, first work out your daily water use per person, then multiply this by the number of people in your RV. Next, figure out your daily softening requirement by multiplying the number of gallons you need per day by your water hardness (you can find this out by carrying out a water hardness test). This will give you the number of grains per gallon you need your softener to be able to handle on a daily basis.
It should be very clear in a water softener’s marketing materials how many grains of hardness it’s designed to tackle. Contact the manufacturer if you’re unable to find this information.
Weight & Portability
It goes without saying that if you’re looking for a water softener to treat magnesium and calcium in your RV water, weight and portability are two important features to consider.
While portable RV water softeners are capable of producing the same high quality softened water as softeners designed for your home, they’re smaller, more lightweight and more portable. This means you can easily take a water softener with you on all your RV travels, and your system will generally be suitable for treating all types of RV water, providing you’re using a clean source offered by a campsite or similar.
There’s no reason why you can’e benefit from efficient appliances, well-maintained plumbing, and healthier hair and skin while using a mobile water softener in your RV, thanks to the system’s more lightweight design that makes it suitable for taking on the road.
Ease of Use
Once you’ve installed your on the go water softener, you’ll find it easy to use and maintain long into the future. No one wants to spend hours dealing with a complex system while they’re on their travels, and with a mobile soft water system for your recreational vehicle, there’s no need to.
The majority of water softeners are simple to hook up to your water line, allowing you to quickly gain access to soft water when you park up for the night. Most mobile soft water systems are also simple to maintain, with automatic regeneration, one-click filter changes and quick salt top-ups.
Installation & Maintenance
Installation of a water softener for your RV will vary slightly depending on which system you go for. But something you’ll need to decide, whether you opt for a traditional softener or otherwise, is where you’re going to install it.
Not all RVs and are built the same, but if you have a base compartment in your vehicle, this is a convenient location for a softener system. Your softener should be small enough to fit into cargo space, but be sure to measure the area carefully before making a purchase.
To install a typical RV portable water softener system, RV owners will have to follow these steps or similar:
- Turn off your water supply – Start by turning off your water, whether you’re connected to a hose spigot or you’re using a fresh water pump. Relieve any pressure in your water line by turning on a faucet or shower. This will also release some of the leftover water in the pipes, making installation less of a messy job.
- Gather your tools – Your RV water softener should come included with everything needed for installation. Make sure you have the softening chamber, adaptors, threads, pipes and nuts for the job. Prepare everything in advance and check that you have what’s required before starting your installation.
- Cut the water inlet pipe and install – Here’s where it gets a little complex – you’ll need to find a suitable spot in your water inlet line for installing the system, then cut the line and attach the system according to the instructions in your user manual. You’ll also need to install a shut-off valve before the system. Some RVs come with a water filter, and if that’s the case, make sure you install the RV softener before this system. If your RV doesn’t have a water filter and you’re installing a reverse osmosis system, ignore this tip.
- Flush the system – Most systems, whether softeners or filters, require flushing before you can use them. In this case slowly switch on your water line, then turn on a faucet and allow water to flow through it for as long as specified in your user manual.
- Check for leaks – While your system is in operation, check that there are no leaks in the connections. If there are, you may need to tighten them a little more or add plumber’s tape.
You may prefer to have a professional install your RV water softener on the go for you. Plumbers naturally have more knowledge and experience when it comes to installing systems at a water line, and will be comfortable in installing all types of RV water softener for your vehicle. If you’d rather have a plumber or a handyman carry out your installation, note that this will come at an additional cost.
Again, maintenance will vary depending on the kind of RV softener you opt for:
- Salt-based softeners will require adding salt to your system periodically. The amount of salt you use will usually depend on the level of hardness in your water and the number of appliances in your RV. A bonus of RV salt-based softeners is that most of them allow the use of common table salt, so you don’t need to buy special salt for the job. You will also need to change the softener’s pre-filter if it comes with one.
- Salt-free softeners don’t need any maintenance aside from changing the media, which lasts for years on end. They may also have a pre-filter that you need to change after roughly 6 to 9 months, or as stated in your user manual.
- Electronic descalers are the easiest to maintain, as once you’ve installed them, there’s no more work required.
- Reverse osmosis systems have several filter cartridges that will need to be replaced approximately every 6 and 12 months. They also have the RO membrane itself, which typically lasts for 2 years before it needs replacing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can an RV water softener be used in freezing temperatures?
Your RV travels might not always take you to places with warm climates. Most RV water softeners, however, aren’t designed for use in freezing temperatures. A way to get around this, if you’re simply parking up at home and don’t plan to use your water softener until the next time you travel, is to drain the water from the softener, which should prevent damage. Some RV owners also place their water softener inside an insulated box to protect it from cold temperatures.
Can I install an RV water softener on its side for convenience?
If you only have a small amount of space to install your RV water softener in, it might seem more convenient for you to install it on its side. But the majority of softeners and filtration systems need to be installed upright to be able to function properly. If in doubt, check your user manual or contact your manufacturer.
Will an RV water softener affect my RV’s water pressure?
In most cases, no. Your water pressure should be high enough to handle a softening or filtering system without producing a low pressure drop when it’s in use. If you have an adjustable pressure regulator, make sure it’s set at 60 PSI, which is the optimal water pressure for your RV if you plan to install a softener.
How do I store my RV water softener when it’s not in use?
If you’re only a part-time RV traveler, you’re probably concerned about what might happen to your water softener when it’s not in use. Luckily, you don’t have to worry too much about storage. Most RV owners store their water softeners in dark, clean places that won’t get too hot or too cold. Most water softeners can be stored as they are and don’t require draining, but be sure to check this with your manufacturer if you’re unsure.