Not all shower water filters can alleviate the effects of hard water – these are the best models in 2023 that can.
Aquasana AQ-4100 Deluxe Shower Water Filter
AquaBliss SF500 HD Multi-Stage Shower Filter
Culligan WSH-C125 Filtered Shower Head
Hey, hard water hater! Welcome to our best shower filters for hard water guide.
If you’re tired of dry, irritated skin, frazzled hair, and an itchy scalp, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve tried and tested over a dozen of the best hard water shower filter units in some of the hardest-water states in the US.
Feel free to impulse-spend $10 on a cheaply-made, short-lived “smart” showerhead at your local hardware store, but we’d strongly recommend investing in a capable shower filter that will eliminate your water hardness issues and last way longer than just a couple of months.
#1 is our favorite, but #2 is our best budget-friendly choice and #5 adds healthy vitamins to your water.
Table of Contents
- 🥇 Best Hard Water Shower Filters
- 📊 Comparison Chart of Hard Water Shower Filters
- ⭐ Reviews – Best Hard Water Shower Filters 2023
- 🧾 Buying Guide: Things To Consider When Buying A Shower Filter for Hard Water
- 🚱 What is Hard Water?
- 🤔 What’s Wrong with Showering in Hard Water?
- 🚿 How do Shower Filters for Hard Water Work?
- 🕵️Our Research
- 🙋♀️ Who This Guide is For
- 📊 How We Chose
- 🧪 How We Tested
- 🧠 Best Shower Filter FAQs
🥇 Best Hard Water Shower Filters
- Our Pick: Aquasana AQ-4100 Deluxe Shower Water Filter
- Runner Up: AquaBliss SF500 HD Multi-Stage Shower Filter
- Top Filtered Shower Head: Culligan WSH-C125 Filtered Shower Head
- Best for pH Adjustment: Invigorated Water pH Energize
- Best Vitamin C Filter: Captain Eco Universal Shower Filter
- Budget Choice: iSpring SF1S Shower Head Filter
📊 Comparison Chart of Hard Water Shower Filters
Aquasana AQ-4100 Deluxe
Shower Water Filter
AquaBliss SF500 HD
Multi-Stage Shower Filter
Filtered Shower Head
Universal Shower Filter
Shower Head Filter
|Type||In-line & Shower Head||In-line||In-line||In-line||In-line||In-line|
|Filter Life||10,000 gal. or 6 months||10,000 gal. or 6 months||10,000 gal. or 6 months||4 to 6 months||6 -7 months||14, 000 gal or 6-9 months|
|Flow Rate||2.5 GPM||2 GPM||2 GPM||2.5 GPM||2 GPM||2 GPM|
|Warranty||1 year (limited)||1 year (limited)||1 year (limited)||60-day guarantee||Lifetime||30-day guarantee|
⭐ Reviews – Best Hard Water Shower Filters 2023
Aquasana AQ-4100 Deluxe Shower Water Filter
Our top choice for the best shower water filter is the Aquasana AQ-4100 Deluxe Shower Water Filter. This capable upflow shower filter uses coconut shell carbon and copper-zinc media filtration to alter water’s pH for softer skin and healthier hair.
- Alters pH for skin & hair benefits – The Aquasana AQ-4100 combines copper-zinc media and coconut shell carbon in a single water filter cartridge to remove chlorine and alter pH, improving skin and hair health.
- Smart upflow design – To prevent the common issue of clogging, this Aquasana model has an upflow design that sends water up through the filter media, increasing the contact time while maintainin a strong flow.
- NSF tested for chlorine removal – Chlorine is another major contributor to dry skin and hair, and the Aquasana AQ-4100 has been tested to NSF 177 to reduce chlorine up to 90%.
- Good filter life, warranty, and guarantee – Each filter cartrudge in this Aquasana model lasts for six months, and the unit comes with a decent 1-year warranty and a 90-day guarantee.
Best For: Anyone who wants to invest in the most capable shower head filter. The Aquasana AQ-4100 has one of the smartest designs we’ve seen.
- Of all the shower filters we tested, the Aquasana AQ-4100 produced the best-quality water. Our skin and hair felt softer and cleaner after showering.
- We installed the Aquasana AQ-4100 in a matter of minutes – we just had to screw it onto our shower pipe.
- We appreciate being able to choose between a filter with and without a shower head. If you’d rather use your own shower head, you can save $20 and buy the inline version of the filter.
- At $100-$120, this Aquasana model isn’t the cheapest shower filter out there (although it’s still great value for money).
- Replacement filters cost $60 (or $100 per year). That’s pretty expensive.
Read the Full Review: Aquasana Shower Filter Review
AquaBliss SF500 HD Multi-Stage Shower Filter
The AquaBliss SF500 HD Multi-Stage Shower Filter is our best budget-friendly shower filter, costing less than $40 – and its affordable price doesn’t compromise the performance whatsoever.
- Significant hardness removal – The AquaBliss SF500 uses targeted filtration to significantly remove hardness minerals, preventing itchy, dry skin and hair. This filter also targets sediment, dirt, and chlorine, and boosts water’s pH.
- Eight thorough stages of filtration – This AquaBliss shower filter is incredibly thorough, combining eight different stages: a sand filter, ultra-fine stainless steel mesh, calcium sulfite, redox media, activated carbon, microporous pp cotton, and another layer of ultra-fine stainless steel mesh – all within a single filter cartridge.
- Universal fit – You don’t need tools or extra slower pipes to install the AquaBliss SF500. The unit comes with a universal adaptor, so you can twist it onto most shower arms, regardless of their size.
Best For: Anyone looking to spend less than $50 for a capable multi-stage filter that effectively tackles water hardness, chlorine, and other causes of unhealthy hair and skin.
- The AquaBliss SF500 produced the second-best results in our testing, and we noticed a reduction in mineral buildup on our skin and hair almost immediately.
- The 30-day satisfaction guarantee is reassuring, and it’s good to know that a single filter lasts for up to 6 months.
- This AquaBliss filter is one of the most complex shower filter units we’ve come across – we can’t believe how many stages of filtration are packed into a single cartridge. For less than $40, that’s pretty amazing.
- Some customers struggled to replace the filter cartridge because it had expanded inside the case due to water pressure.
- A few customers noticed leaking around the seal (potentially due to an o-ring out of place).
Culligan WSH-C125 Filtered Shower Head
The Culligan WSH-C125 Filtered Shower Head takes the top spot as the most attractive shower filter for hard water on this list, with a chrome coating that should blend in nicely with most modern shower units.
- All-in-one design – The Culligan WSH-C125 is a filter and shower head in one. No need to connect your own shower head – this shower should keep you happy with five different spray settings.
- Scale, chlorine, and sediment removal – This Culligan model uses advanced KDF media to remove the key contaminants that are known to cause poor skin and hair health, including scale, chlorine, and sediment.
- Bacteriostatic design – The KDF filter media used in the WSH-C125 has a bacteriostatic design, meaning it inhibits the growth of bacteria and ensures your shower is clean, safe, and healthy.
Best For: Anyone who prefers to combine a shower hear and a water filter in one for convenient scale reduction – and wants to pay a good price for it, too.
- Our skin and hair felt cleaner and smoother after showering with the WSH-C125, and it’s good to know that this filter has an official NSF certification for chlorine removal.
- Costing just under $40, the Culligan WSH-C125 is a good choice for people looking to spend less than $50 upfront on a shower filter.
- We enjoyed the 5 spray settings on the nozzle. Full body spray and invigorating pulse spray were our favorites – being able to choose between spray options gave a spa-like feel.
- The Culligan WSH-C125 is a heavy model, and some customers struggled to keep it in the desired upright position after installing it.
- Even with all the different spray settings, the spray from the nozzle is quite narrow.
Read the Full Review: Culligan WSH-C125 Filtered Shower Head Review
Invigorated Water pH Energize
Our top shower filter for all-around contaminant removal is the Invigorated Water pH Energize. This multi-stage filter doesn’t only reduce scale – it also removes harmful chemicals like chlorine and chloramine, fluoride, and heavy metals, providing fully filtered shower water.
- 15 stages of filtration – The Invigorated Water pH Energize produces exceptionally filtered water, using KDF, a steel micronet, zeolite, coconut shell activated carbon, maifan, tourmaline, PP, and calcium sulfate to greatly improve water quality.
- 6 month filter capacity – This shower filtration system lasts for 6 months, so you’ll need to buy about two water filters per year.
- Comes with two filters – You get an extra filter with your initial purchase of this Invigorated Water model, so you won’t have to spend anything else for the first year.
Best For: Anyone whose top priority is scale reduction, but who also wants to eliminate harmful chemicals and metals from their shower water supply.
- The Invigorated Water pH Energize noticeably improved our shower experience. Our water felt silky and our hair and skin felt healthy and smooth after showering.
- Considering everything it offers, we’re impressed with this shower filter’s $25 price tag. Replacement filters cost less than $14, too.
- This filtration system is made from heavy-duty polypropylene, and we were impressed with the quality and durability of the design.
- The filter is big, so you might need an extension hose to give it enough room on your shower arm.
- Some customers said that the filtration system lasted only three to four months, not the full six months.
Captain Eco Universal Shower Filter
The Captain Eco Universal Shower Filter is our favorite vitamin C filter for hardness reduction. This 6-stage filter significantly improves water quality by controlling scale, bacteria, chlorine, and heavy metals, and adds vitamin C into water.
- KDF scale control – The Captain Eco shower filter uses KDF-55 media to control scale in water, helping to boost skin and hair health.
- 6 filtration stages – Alongside KDF, this Captain Eco model uses calcium sulphite, granular activated carbon, a polypropylene cotton filter, maifan balls, and biocera ceramic balls, for removing chlorine, heavy metals, sediment, and more.
- Comes with 2 filter cartridges – The initial purchase includes two filters, each with a 6-month lifespan, so you shouldn’t have to buy any more filters for at least a year.
Best For: Anyone looking for a built-in filter for their shower that doesn’t only treat water hardness, but also improves water quality with added vitamin C.
- There’s absolutely no risk involved in buying the Captain Eco shower filter. If you don’t like it, the manufacturer offers a 120% refund. Now that’s reassuring!
- We enjoyed using a vitamin C filter that goes one step further than other shower filter units to improve water quality – it removes contaminants and adds vitamins to water.
- We liked the compact design of this built-in shower filter, and the fact that you can use it with you own shower head.
- Some customers complained that the filter cartridges didn’t last for the full six months.
- We noticed a reduction in our water pressure after installing this filter, more so than with any other filter on this list.
Read the Full Review: Captain Eco Shower Filter Review
iSpring SF1S Shower Head Filter
The iSpring SF1S Shower Head Filter is the runner-up budget shower filter on this list, costing less than $30 and using a combination of filter media to inhibit scale, remove chlorine and heavy metals, and add vitamin C to water.
- Combines multiple filter media – TheiSpring SF1S Shower Head Filter combines KDF, activated carbon, mineral balls, calcium sulfite, and more, effectively removing chlorine and heavy metals, inhibiting scale, and boosting water’s mineral content.
- Long-lasting filters – The cartridges in this shower filtration system last for 6-9 months – so they potentially last three months longer than the average shower filter.
- Fits standard shower pipes – This iSpring model is an inline filter that fits on most 1/2 inch standard shower lines, and can be used with your existing showerhead.
Best For: Anyone looking for the lowest-cost filter that will still do a great job of minimizing scale in their water.
- In our testing, the iSpring SF1S ticked the boxes for improved skin and hair health. We noticed less itching, irritation, and dryness after installing this filter.
- Shower filters costing less than $30 can be hit-and-miss, but this iSpring model is a great value for money.
- We like that you can extend the lifespan of the iSpring filter if your water pressure is getting low. Just flip the flip the filter and flush it with hot water.
- Even with the ability to flush the filter, it clogs quite fast, and you have to keep flushing it if you want to maintain your water pressure.
- This iSpring model isn’t as attractive as the other filters on this list.
🧾 Buying Guide: Things To Consider When Buying A Shower Filter for Hard Water
Before buying a shower filter on a whim, consider what the “best shower filter” looks like for you. There are several factors that could affect which shower filter is most suited to your situation:
Your Water Quality
If you haven’t already tested your water, that’s the place to start. It’s worth knowing several things:
- Your water hardness in GPG (grains per gallon)
- What else your water contains (such as chlorine, heavy metals, and so on)
Knowing your water hardness will make it easier to choose a shower water filter based on its water softening capabilities. Knowing what else your water contains means you can consider certain filters that can remove hardness minerals and some of your other problem contaminants.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on testing your water. Buy a water testing kit online for water hardness and common water parameters.
Even the best shower filters are priced at less than $100, so shower filters are a budget-friendly water treatment option.
However, it’s still important to set yourself a budget before buying a water softener shower head.
Our advice is to ask yourself whether you could afford to pay for a filter twice or three times at once. If the answer is no, choose something a little less expensive.
A good budget for a shower filter is $30-$80 for the upfront purchase, and $50-$100 per year for filter replacements.
Be wary of filters costing less than $20. The quality probably isn’t there, and you’ll only end up spending more money on a more suitable replacement.
Your Preferred Shower Type
There are two types of shower filter units: inline filters and shower head filters.
Inline filters have a few benefits: you’ll be able to attach them to your static shower pipe or handheld shower head (in some cases) while still being able to use your existing showerhead.
Shower head filters replace your current shower head, so it’s worth considering whether you’re happy to sacrifice the shower head you currently own in place of an showerhead filter.
Installation and Maintenance
Thankfully for anyone who isn’t the handy sort, installing a shower filter is usually simple. An inline filter sits underneath your existing shower head, and typically attaches to your shower arm with an adapter. A shower head filter screws into place where your existing showerhead currently sits.
In most cases, no tools are needed for the job. As long as you can hand-tighten a filter, you’re set. If you’re not a fan of DIY and you don’t want to hire a professional to install your filter, look for filters that don’t need any major installation work, like wrenching or re-routing your water lines.
As for shower filter maintenance, this is usually just as easy as installation. You simply unscrew the filter housing, remove the old filter, replace it with a new one, close the housing, flush the filter, and get on with your day.
The flow rate of your shower filter is one of the most important features.
If you’re a fan of power showers, know that you may have to compromise slightly when you install a shower head water filter. While these filters don’t reduce your water flow to a trickle, the multiple filter stages that water must pass through result in a slower output than a standard shower.
The average shower head (not a power shower) has a flow rate of about 2.5 gallons per minute. The best shower filters can match this flow rate exactly. So, as long as you’re happy with an average flow rate, you shouldn’t be disappointed by the flow of your shower head filter.
If you choose a showerhead filter for hard water, you’ll have an extra feature to consider: the size of the showerhead.
The larger the shower, the greater the surface area of water. However, most shower filters tend to be smaller in size to allow a fast flow of water to leave a smaller surface area. If you’re a fan of large showerheads, you’re best looking at an inline filter that can be installed underneath your existing showerhead.
Like all types of water filters, even the best shower filters don’t last forever.
The lifespan of the filter varies from one system to another. The average lifespan of a shower water filter is six months, but from our experience, many filters only last for four or five months before the flow rate reduces significantly.
When researching shower filters, look at the cost of replacement filters for the unit you’re interested in. Decide whether you can afford to pay for these filters twice or three times per year, and see if there are any bulk-buying options that will help you save money.
Additional Features & Benefits
Some shower filter units have additional features and benefits that might sway you towards making a purchase.
For instance, many shower filters include vitamin and mineral beads, which improve your shower experience by adding the likes of vitamin C and healthy minerals into your water.
Other filters with a built-in shower head have different water output settings, letting you adjust the stream to suit your preferred flow. Some even have a massage setting.
While these additional features and benefits definitely have their appeal, these shouldn’t be the main deciding factors when you’re choosing a filtered water unit for your shower. Prioritize water filtration and contaminant removal, and view these extra features as an added bonus.
🚱 What is Hard Water?
Hard water is water that contains calcium and magnesium minerals.
These minerals are good for us, but they’re known to cause problems around the home. They leave limescale deposits on surfaces, which reduce water flow and affect the lifespan of your plumbing and appliances.
Millions of homes in the US are thought to have hard water. Because hard water isn’t considered a dangerous water quality issue, hardness minerals aren’t removed during public water treatment.
🤔 What’s Wrong with Showering in Hard Water?
The problem with showering in hard water is that hardness minerals form a layer of residue over skin and hair, preventing moisture from getting beneath their surface.
According to one 2016 study, hard water decreases the thickness of hair in a matter of 30 days.
Hair becomes damaged, dry, and more prone to breakage when it’s exposed to hard water. You may experience issues with a dry, itchy scalp and dandruff if you regularly shower in a hard water supply.
Hard water also damages the skin by altering its pH balance, affecting its ability to protect against infections and bacteria.
Dryness, redness, itchiness, irritation, and acne are all linked to showering in hard water. One 2017 study even found that hard water increases skin sensitivity and may contribute to eczema symptoms.
🚿 How do Shower Filters for Hard Water Work?
There are two types of shower filters for hard water: inline filters and shower head filters.
In essence, both of these filters are the same – the only difference is that shower head filters come with their own dedicated shower head, while inline filters are designed to be installed underneath your existing shower head.
Shower filters are connected to your shower arm. Shower water flows into the filter and passes through one or several filtration stages before leaving the shower head.
The type of filter media used, and the number of filter stages, depend on the type of filter. Usually, an activated carbon filter is used, combined with additional media, like ion exchange resin, and vitamin beads.
Keep in mind that shower filter units aren’t as capable as water softeners at treating water hardness. If you want complete protection against hard water, you’ll need to install a water softener at your home’s point of entry. However, the combined processes inside a shower filter should be able to reduce hardness minerals – and shower filters are a much cheaper alternative to water softeners.
Here, you’ll find information on how we chose and tested the best shower filter units for hard water on this list, and whether this guide is for you.
🙋♀️ Who This Guide is For
This guide focuses specifically on shower filter systems that can treat hard water. A shower filter for hard water is best for you if:
- Your Budget is Small. You can’t – or don’t want to – splash out on a whole-home water softener, and a shower filter is the next best thing for protecting your skin and hair from hardness minerals.
- You’re looking for specific point-of-use filtration. Perhaps you’re not that bothered about drinking hardness minerals in your water, but you don’t want to shower in hard water. If so, a shower water filter is suitable for you.
- Dry skin and hair are your biggest hard water concerns. You know that hard water causes problems in your home, but you’re prioritizing your own health for now.
- You can handle basic DIY. You’re happy to take on the responsibility of installing an inline shower filter or a showerhead filter. You’d prefer to do this than deal with the hassle of installing a water softener at your main water line.
- You want healthier, cleaner shower water. Most shower filter units for hard water can also remove chlorine from shower water, and many add vitamins to water with dedicated filter stages.
📊 How We Chose
We chose the shower water filters in this guide based on their contaminant removal abilities, their third-party testing, their component quality, and their reviews and customer feedback.
Contaminant Removal Abilities
Not all shower water filters can reduce water hardness. In our research and testing, we focused on a filter’s ability to eliminate impurities associated with dry skin and hair.
As well as calcium and magnesium minerals, we looked at what else a filter could remove. We prioritized filters that could also remove the likes of chlorine, sediment, and THMSs, further improving water quality.
There’s no official NSF certification for shower filter units that can reduce problems associated with water hardness. So, rather than looking for certified water filters only, we focused on filters that had proof of their contaminant removal abilities via test results.
Third-party data provides useful information about how effectively a showerhead filter can tackle hard water, and whether the filter removes any other contaminants that are associated with poor skin and hair health.
The quality of a showerhead filter affects everything about its performance, including its contaminant removal abilities, flow rate, and durability.
We used our own experience and customer reviews to assess the quality of the shower filters we tested. Some shower head filters have a flimsy plastic design that cracks or breaks when used to deliver water at a high pressure. We know that quality and durability are key to value for money, so we prioritized filters that proved to be well-made and built to last.
Reviews and Customer Feedback
You can only learn so much about a product from the manufacturer’s marketing materials. Customer reviews provide extra insight into how a showerbest shower fi filter lives up to expectations for the everyday person.
We used customer reviews to supplement our own experience and feedback from testing a shower water filter. We made note of trending information – whether positive or negative – and how this affected the overall customer opinion of the product.
🧪 How We Tested
In the past, we’ve conducted our own testing of the best shower filter systems using Tap Score. However, we quickly realized that our own water sources were nowhere near as contaminated as the water sources used for official industry testing, so our results weren’t as conclusive and accurate as those provided from official testing organizations.
For this reason, we now focus our own testing on the user-friendliness of a product and assess the benefits and setbacks of using the product every day. We combine our own real-world testing with official industry test data to determine the overall capabilities of a filter.
🧠 Best Shower Filter FAQs
How can I make my shower water less hard?
The most economical way to soften your shower water is to use a shower water filtration unit. This will reduce scale in your water and should improve your skin and hair health. However, if you want complete protection against water hardness, you’ll need to install a whole-home water softener.
Do shower filters work for hard water?
It depends on what the shower filter is designed to do. Some shower filters are designed to remove chlorine, while others are designed to add healthy minerals to your water. Some shower filters are designed to remove hardness minerals – and some do a mixture of all three. Make sure to do your research and read the product’s marketing information carefully if your main goal is to remove hardness minerals.
Do any shower filters actually work?
Do shower filters work? Yes, they do – but lots of shower filters are a waste of money. That’s why it’s important to do plenty of research and read reviews from industry experts who know what they’re talking about (like us!). Also, be wary of spending less than $20 on a shower filter. Generally, the more money you spend on a shower filter, the better its quality.
Do shower filters work for well water?
Some shower filters are suitable for well water, but it’s not usually recommended to use a shower filter for well water without pre-treatment. That’s because well water has a higher sediment content than city water, which could clog the filter within a matter of weeks and affect flow rate. Plus, shower filters can’t remove dangerous microorganisms that are often found in well water, like bacteria.
Are shower filters good for hair?
Yes! If you buy a shower filter that reduces water hardness, your hair will benefit from scale-free water. You should notice that your hair is softer and less prone to breakage after using a shower filter, because showering in soft water helps hair to retain its moisture.
What’s the difference between a shower head filter and an inline shower filter?
A shower head filter is a complete package that includes a shower head, while an inline shower filter is designed to be installed on your shower arm beneath the existing shower head. Inline shower filters are the best option if you enjoy the design and flow patterns of your current shower head. However, don’t rule shower head filters out completely – there are plenty of modern, fast-flow designs to choose from today.
Does AquaBliss help with hard water?
Yes. The AquaBliss SF-500 shower filter is featured in this list of the top shower water filtration units for hard water. This model can reduce limescale levels for healthier skin and hair, although it can’t physically remove magnesium and calcium from your water supply.
How do I know if my shower filter is working?
You should notice a difference in the feel and smell of your water, and your skin and hair should feel smoother and softer, if your shower filter is working. You can test your water if you’re still not sure.