5 Best Water Softeners for Apartment Life: 2022 Reviews

The best water softener for apartments in 2022 is the Portable Water Softener by SoftPro. Check it out, and read our reviews of the runners up.

Hey, apartment owner! Welcome to our best water softeners for apartment life guide.

If you’re looking for a water softener that’s effective enough to appeal to you and non-invasive enough to appeal to your landlord, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve tried, tested and compared some of the best portable water softeners in hard water states across the US.

Feel free to make a quick purchase – and end up regretting your decision even quicker. But we strongly recommend buying one of the portable water softeners that are loved by everyday customers and industry professionals alike.

#1 is our best-value pick, but #2 is a good electronic option, and #5 is best for people with small budgets.

🥇 Best Water Softener System for Condo & Apartment Life

📊 Comparison Chart of Water Softeners for Apartments

ProductPortable RV Water Softener by SoftPro
Portable RV
Water Softener by SoftPro
Yarna Capacitive Electronic Water Descaler
Yarna Capacitive
Electronic Water Descaler
On The Go Portable Double Standard Water Softener
On The Go Double Standard
Water Softener
Eddy Water Descaler Electronic Water Softener
Eddy Water Descaler
Electronic Water Softener
Pro + Aqua Portable Water Softener Pro
Pro + Aqua
Portable Water Softener Pro
Ranking1st2nd 3rd4th5th
Ratings5/54.5/54.5/54/54/5
Price$$$$$$$$$
TypeSalt-BasedWater DescalerSalt-BasedWater descalerSalt-Based
ProcessIon ExchangeElectromagneticIon ExchangeElectromagneticIon Exchange
Grain Capacity 8K or 16Kn/a8K (Standard) or 16Kn/a16K
Flow Rate5 GPM15.4 GPM5 GPM10 GPM5 GPM
Dimensions21.5 x 6 inches7 x 2 x 2 inches 22 x 9.5 inches6.69 x 1.57 x 3.54 inches10 x 20 inches
WarrantyLifetime1 year1 yearLifetime5 years (all other parts)
10 years (resin & brine tank)

⭐ Reviews – Best Water Softeners for Condo Living 2022

Key Features:

  • Eliminates scale – The SoftPro Portable RV Water Softener is an all-in-one, single-tank system that uses the classic salt-based softening process to eliminate scale. If you want the best protection against hard water, this system is a good choice for you.
  • Two system sizes – You can choose between two system sizes for this softener: an 8,000 grain capacity, for use by 1 person; and a 16, 000 grain capacity, for use by two people.
  • Good warranty and customer service – The SoftPro Portable RV Water Softener comes with a lifetime warranty and lifetime support, so you can purchase the system risk-free.

Best For: People looking for a portable, apartment-friendly water softener that uses the highly effective salt-based softening method to eliminate limescale issues.

Pros:

  • In our testing, we found this SoftPro model to be lightweight, compact, and easy to store out of sight, but durable and built to last (we also appreciate that SoftPro assembles its systems in the US).
  • A big perk of using this system is that you can top it up with table salt – a big no-no with standard-sized water softeners. If you prefer not to use salt of any kind, potassium chloride is an option, too.
  • We were pleased with the minimal maintenance involved in owning the SoftPro Portable RO Water Softener. Aside from salt top-ups, you just need to occasionally replace the spin-down sediment filter to keep the softening resin protected.

Cons:

  • If you prefer a maintenance-free water softener system, this SoftPro unit isn’t for you.
  • Installing the system takes a bit of effort. Even with the quick-connect hoses, if you struggle with DIY, you may need help from a handy family member.

Key Features:

  • Electronic descaling – The Yarna Capacitive uses a salt-free electronic descaling method, producing a changing field of electricity to crystalize calcium and magnesium minerals, retaining them in water but preventing them from scaling on surfaces.
  • Suitable for most water pipes – This Yarna model is built for installation on most pipes up to 1 inch in thickness, including stainless steel, copper, plastic, and iron pipes.  
  • Simple installation & maintenance-free operation – Installing the Yarna Capacitive is simple and non-invasive (no permanent connections, so it’s apartment-friendly), and there are no maintenance tasks involved in owning this system.

Best for: Anyone keen to buy the very best salt-free softening alternative that’s easy and non-invasive to install, maintenance-free to operate, and capable of reducing scale while retaining healthy minerals.

Pros:

  • We enjoyed the lack of hassle or responsibility while owning the Yarna Capacitive. The system doesn’t need salt top-ups, it doesn’t need to regenerate, and you don’t need to install a bypass valve.
  • The Yarna Capacitive is one of the best electronic descalers we’ve tried in terms of scale reduction. Over a period of four weeks, we noticed an obvious reduction in limescale in our fixtures and water-using appliances.
  • We think the Yarna Capacitive is a steal, costing around $300 (we’ve seen it drop to less than $250 during sale periods) and requiring no expensive maintenance or upkeep. If you’re sceptical to try an electronic descaler, this model comes with a guaranteed returns promise for your first year of ownership.

Cons:

  • You need to connect the Yarna Capacitive to your electricity, so you’ll notice a slight increase in your electricity bill after installing this system.
  • Depending on your water quality, it can take up to three months to see noticeable results from this descaler.

Read the Full Review: Yarna Electronic Water Descaler Review


Key Features:

  • Salt-based softening & iron removal- The On The Go Portable Double Standard Water Softener provides traditional salt based water softening, exchanging calcium, magnesium, and iron with sodium ions.
  • 16,000-grain capacity – This softening unit has a good 16,000-grain capacity and supplies about 40% more water than its similar, less effective competitors.
  • Complete kit – Everything included to set up and use this On The Go softener is in the kit, including the tank and resin, a carrying handle, and more.

Best For: Apartment owners who have hard water that contains iron. This water softener prevents both scale and rust in pipes and water-using appliances.

Pros:

  • We love that the On The Go softener comes as a complete system, with all the items you’d expect to receive – and a few extras. The kit includes storage caps, inlet and outlet hose adaptors, a drinking water hose, a stable base, a carry handle, and water hardness test strips.
  • In our testing, this water softener was one of the best we tried for tackling scale and rust, offering two benefits in one.
  • We found it easy to set up, use, and maintain this water softener unit. It just needs two bags of table salt to regenerate.

Cons:

  • As a relatively new product, the On The Go softener doesn’t have much customer feedback so far.
  • There’s some effort involved in manually regenerating this system.

Key Features:

  • Salt-free descaling process – The Eddy Water Descaler produces an electromagnetic wave, which alters the adhesion properties of hardness minerals and prevents them from forming scale, while still retaining them in water.
  • Suitable for instilling on most pipes – This electronic descaler is suitable for installing on metal and plastic pipes up to 1.5 inches thick (that’s 0.5 inches thicker than for the Yarna Capacitive).
  • Good warranty – The Eddy Water Descaler comes with a lifetime replace or repair warranty and 12-month money-return promise, so if you’re unsure about electronic descalers, you can try this model at no risk.

Best For: Anyone looking for the most affordable salt-free descaler, without compromising on performance. After the Yarna Capacity, the Eddy Water Descaler is the second most capable electronic descaler on the market.

Pros:

  • We were impressed with the Eddy Water Descaler’s capabilities. This system can tackle water hardness up to 20 GPG.
  • It took us just minutes to install this Eddy model, and you didn’t need any particular skills or expertise for the job. It attaches around your main water pipe with two coils, so it’s suitable for apartments and rentals.
  • We love that the Eddy Water Descaler is a maintenance-free unit, and the only cost of owning this system is a small increase in your electricity bill.

Cons:

  • The Eddy Water Descaler doesn’t physically remove hardness minerals, so you may still experience some scale.
  • It’s difficult to know whether the descaler is working because it retains calcium and magnesium.

Read the Full Review: Eddy Water Electronic Descaler Review


Key Features:

  • Salt-based softening & regeneration – The Pro + Aqua Portable Water Softener Pro is a traditional salt-based water softener that uses a high-capacity resin to soften water. The system regenerates in under 30 minutes with two boxes of salt.
  • 16,000 grain capacity – This small, compact water softener has a 16,000 grain capacity, equal to about 2,000 gallons of softening between regenerations, depending on your water hardness and quality.
  • High flow ports – The Pro + Aqua Portable Water Softener minimizes pressure drop and offers a 5 GPM flow rate with high flow ports.

Best For: Anyone looking for an effective traditional water softener that’s half the size, a fraction of the cost, and much quicker to install than a POE salt-based unit.

Pros:

  • We like the low-maintenance operation of this system. You only need to manually regenerate the unit with water and two boxes of table salt once every one or two months.
  • In our testing, the Pro + Aqua water softener was highly effective at tackling water hardness, and also reduced lead, iron, radium, and other heavy metals.
  • This water softener is one of the best-built portable softeners we’ve tried. The tank is made from polyethene and fiberglass, and the premium resin is NSF certified for its design.

Cons:

  • Some people had issues with leaking.
  • The unit doesn’t come with a handle for carrying.

🕵️ Our Research

In this section of the guide, we’ve shared our research and testing process for the products in this guide. We’ve also provided information that should help you to decide whether an apartment water softener is for you.

🚰 Do I Need an Apartment Water Softener

We can’t tell you either way whether you certainly should or shouldn’t get an apartment water softener. Hard water isn’t harmful to health, so it’s not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and different states have varying levels of water hardness.

However, if you do think you have hard water, and you’ve noticed significant limescale damage in your home, it’s well worth considering installing an apartment water softener to protect your plumbing and water-using appliances.

Effects of hard water in a home

🙋‍♀️ Who This Guide is For

This guide is for you if:

  • You live in an apartment. If you’re a small household living in an apartment or rental property, the products listed in this guide will appeal to you.
  • You have a small-to-medium budget. Apartment water softening systems are significantly cheaper than standard POE softeners, but theu’ll still set you back $200-$400.
  • You have moderately hard to hard water (and potentially iron, too). All the apartment softening systems on this list are ideal for varying ranges of hardness, and many of them target iron, too – but they probably won’t cut it if your water is exceptionally hard.
  • You’re open to options. We’ve shared several kinds of softened water systems, so you can compare their technology and choose what works best for you.
  • You’re looking for a short-to long-term solution. The systems in this guide can be used for decades – but they’re also easy to disassemble and take with you if you move.

📊 How We Chose

This guide is aimed at apartment owners looking for a soft water solution, so our research focused solely on portable or non-invasive systems.

We chose the softeners on this list based on their scale prevention abilities, their customer feedback, and their overall value for money.

Scale Prevention Capabilities

The more effective an apartment water softener at preventing scale, the better protected your pipes and plumbing are from mineral damage. Most apartment water softeners can prevent more than 95% scale, and the best systems on this list all noticeably reduced mineral buildup in our testing.

In our research, we found a small selection of water softeners and electronic descalers that stood out above the rest, offering the most consistently reliable scale reduction. We favored these systems over those that produced a less consistent or effective result.

Limescale before and after apartment water softener installation

Customer Reviews & Feedback

Alongside our own personal product testing, we also looked at customer reviews to determine the overall user experience with a certain water softener.

We read hundreds of customer reviews in our research stage, which helped us to better understand the general customer impression about a water softener’s ease of use, long-term durability, and maintenance requirements. We made note of any feedback that was repeated by several customers, whether positive or negative.

Value for Money

Finally, we combined the overall qualities of a water softener – including its ability to produce softened water, its capacity and durability, its warranty, its customer feedback, and potential third-party testing data, to determine whether the softener is worth the money.

We shortlisted the systems that offered an exceptional performance at the best price.

🧪 How We Tested

When testing the products in this review, we combined professional industry test results with our own real-world testing to determine the user-friendliness of a system, its pros and cons with everyday use, and whether the system lives up to a manufacturer’s claims.

This replaced our previous method of conducting our own water testing, which produced limited results compared to industry tests conducted in a professional testing environment.

Testing and reviewing portable apartment water softeners

🧾 Apartment Water Softener Systems Buying Guide

Here, we’ve shared everything you need to know before you buy an apartment water softener, including what it is, how it works, and how to choose the best water softener for your needs. We’ve also answered your commonly asked questions about apartment water softeners at the bottom of this guide.

🤔 What Is Hard Water?

Hard water is water that contains a moderate-to-high amount of dissolved calcium. Hardness is measured in grains per gallon (GPG). Hardness may also be measured in milligrams per liter (mg/L), which is equal to parts per million (PPM).

1 GPG = 17.1 mg/L OR 17.1 PPM

Measuring Hard Water

The cheapest, easiest way to measure the hardness of your water is to use an at-home test kit. Hard water isn’t dangerous, so it isn’t essential for you to know exactly how soft or hard your water is to the nearest unit. For this reason, we recommend using an at-home test kit if you’re just interested to know if you have hard water.

If you’re trying to decide between a salt-based and saltless water softener for your apartment, consider using a laboratory test to determine your water’s hardness levels. Lab tests can give you a detailed, accurate insight into your water’s calcium and magnesium concentrations, how these compare to national or local averages, and the best way to treat your water based on the results.

Diy vs lab water test results

🚱 Common Hard Water Issues

If your apartment has hard water, you may have noticed the following things:

  • Limescale – a white or gray residue – on your faucets, showerheads, sinks, coffeemaker, and bathtubs
  • Your water doesn’t lather well with soap, dish soap, or shampoo
  • Your water tastes mineral-rich
  • Stiff laundry with white spots or marks
  • Spotting on your glassware or cutlery
  • Damaged or leaking plumbing or appliances
  • Itchy, dry skin or hair

🚿 What Is an Apartment Water Softener?

An apartment water softener is a softened water system that’s suitable for use in an apartment or a rental property.

Apartment water softeners are easy to install and low-hassle to maintain. They’re small, compact water softeners, so they can be installed in small spaces, and they don’t require a permanent installation, so they’re a good option for rentals.

Small water softener under sink

📝 How Does an Apartment Water Softener Work?

An apartment water softener works by either physically removing calcium and magnesium or by altering these minerals to prevent scale build-up. There are different processes to achieve the same result: soft or descaled water.

Portable water softening systems use a process called ion exchange to add salt to water, removing equal amounts of calcium and magnesium

Apartment Water Softener Vs Whole House Water Softener

Apartment water softeners are small, compact units that are designed for use in small buildings or RVs, for families of 1-3 with a smaller water consumption.

Whole house water softeners, or typical water softeners, are large, whole house water treatment systems that soften gallons of water at a time.

The key differences between whole house water softeners and apartment water softeners are:

  • Apartment softeners are small and compact, while whole house softeners have multiple tanks. There are even dual-tank water softeners, which have two resin tanks and a brine tank.
  • Apartment softeners produce about 5 gallons of water per minute, while whole house softeners treat up to 10 gallons of hard water per minute.
  • Apartment softeners are ideal for people with a low or moderate water consumption, while whole house softeners are best for large families that use a lot of water.
  • Apartment softeners are easy, non-permanent applications to install and don’t intercept your water line, so they’re suitable for rental properties.
  • Apartment water softeners are about one-fifth of the price of whole house water softeners.

Learn more about the top entire home water softening systems here.

Water softener system for condo and whole house water softener comparison

⚖️ Pros and Cons of Apartment Water Softeners

We’ve listed some of the advantages and disadvantages of owning an apartment water softener below.

Pros:

  • You can save money on an apartment water softener, which only costs around $250 – that’s a fraction of the price of a whole home system.
  • There are various softening methods to choose from, including saltless softening and traditional salt-based softening.
  • Perhaps the biggest pro for anyone who rents: you don’t need to cut into your water line to install an apartment water softener. So, this type of system is ideal for people who can’t make permanent changes to their property.
  • Most types of apartment water softener systems are highly effective at tackling hard water issues. Some systems can also get rid of rust stains.
  • Apartment water softeners are small and space saving. Some of them are portable, too, so you can take them with you to your RV or vacation home.
  • These systems require minimal maintenance. Salt-based systems require a saltwater top-up every two months or so, while salt-free electric systems can treat thousands of gallons of water, requiring no maintenance at all.

Cons:

  • An apartment water softener isn’t a heavy-duty water softener. This system can’t be used in large homes with high water usage and hardness.
  • Apartment softening systems aren’t quite as automated as traditional timed or metered water softeners. The units don’t have a separate brine tank to draw salt from, so you’ll need to add a saltwater solution manually.
  • Salt-based apartment water softener systems will only continue to produce softened water as long as you maintain them, so they’re not entirely self-operational.
  • It’s difficult to prove that saltless electronic apartment water softeners are effective in descaling water. Because these descalers don’t technically change water quality, you can’t use a test to compare your water’s hardness levels before and after using the system.

📝 What to Consider Before Buying an Apartment Water Softener

Before you invest in an apartment water softener, make sure you know exactly what you’re looking for.

Consider these things while shopping for salt-based water softeners or salt-free water softeners for your apartment:

Your Water Hardness

To decide what type of apartment water softener will work best for you, test your water to work out your water hardness. An at-home hardness testing kit should give you enough knowledge about your hardness in GPG to make a smart purchase.

If your water’s hardness is 10 to 12 GPG or higher, you’re best looking at portable salt-based water softeners, which are capable of treating high levels of hardness.

If your water is moderately hard to hard (around 4-9 GPG), you have the choice between salt-based water softeners and salt-free water softeners, both of which should effectively treat your apartment water.

Water hardness scale showing different levels of hard water

Method of Water Treatment

There are two common types of soft water systems for apartments: a salt-based softener and an electric, electromagnetic, or magnetic softener. Both offer their own unique methods of water treatment.

👉 Magnetic/ electronic descalers produce electromagnetic waves, which alter the adhesion properties of calcium and magnesium and prevent them from sticking to surfaces as scale. You may notice particles of calcium and magnesium ions in your water (they’ll look like grains of sand), but these ions will remain in your water and won’t stain your pipes or appliances.

👉 Water softeners use a process called ion exchange to swap calcium and magnesium ions with sodium. Only a water softener can completely remove hardness minerals. If you want a water softener that’s apartment friendly, look for portable softeners, which take up far less space than whole house water softener systems.

Your Budget

Your budget is another big factor to consider before buying a water softener for your apartment.

The good news is that apartment water softeners are smaller and cheaper than standard-size whole house water softeners. The average cost of portable water softeners and electronic descalers is $200-$300.

Also consider the money you can afford to spend per year on maintaining your water softener. A salt-free water descaler is entirely maintenance-free, making it a good option for people with limited budgets.

Portable water softeners just need to be topped up with table salt every 1-2 months, so they’re not expensive to operate. Expect to spend $30-$100 per year on salt.

Faucet water flowing beside a piggy bank

Unit Size and Capacity

Apartment water softeners are smaller and more compact than the traditional whole house water softener or conditioner.

Salt-based portable softeners are all-in-one systems, eliminating the need for a separate brine tank and resin tank, while electromagnetic descalers are single units with a coil or magnets that wrap around your main water supply line.

💡 However, if you’re really limited in space, you shouldn’t just assume that an apartment water softener will fit in your home. Measure your available space carefully, factoring in additional space for installation and maintenance, then compare numbers with your chosen water softener’s measurements.

The capacity of your water softener – how much soft water it can produce before the resin is used up – is another factor to consider. The bigger the capacity, the fewer times the system will need to perform a regeneration cycle. Most portable softeners have a capacity of around 2,000 gallons, or 40 days.

Magnetic water softeners are the better option as far as capacity is concerned. These systems have an unlimited capacity as they don’t use a media or a resin to produce soft water – just electricity and magnets.

Water softener installed in small space

Installation and Maintenance

The installation and maintenance requirements of your apartment water softener depend on the type of system you choose.

Installing a portable salt-based softener is easy: just connect the inlet and outlet ports to your water line. An electromagnetic descaler is even easier to install: just mount the power unit on your wall and wrap the coil around your water pipe.

💡 A portable softening system doesn’t have a separate brine tank (salt tank) that mixes the salt and water for you for system regeneration, which means you need to do this yourself. The biggest maintenance task involved in owning a portable salt-based water softener is topping up the resin with salty water. The system will then regenerate itself, which takes about 30 minutes.

Electronic water descalers are salt-free softeners, so they don’t need to be topped up with salt to operate. These systems require no maintenance, either, so they’re a good choice if you don’t want the hassle of any upkeep whatsoever.

Either way, whether you choose an apartment water softener or a descaler, both methods of water treatment are easier to install and maintain.

Water Flow Rate

The flow rate of a water softener affects the flow of water delivered to your home.

Portable water softening systems usually have a flow rate of 2-5 GPM (gallons per minute), which should be enough for a single-bathroom apartment for one or two people. If you regularly use multiple water-using appliances at once, look for softeners with a flow rate of at least 4 GPM.

Saltless water softeners that use electromagnetic waves to soften tap water don’t affect flow rate at all because they don’t intercept your water line. If you already have an issue with slow water flow in your home, these softeners are worth considering.

Flow rate

Warranty

Finally, we strongly recommend only buying an apartment water softener if it has a warranty. The best systems on this list come with a limited lifetime warranty, so you’re protected throughout the system’s lifespan if anything goes wrong.

We also recommend looking for systems with money-back guarantees. Some of the softeners in this guide (particularly the electromagnetic descalers) have 12-month money-back guarantees that allow you to return the product within 12 months if you’re not satisfied. If you’re sceptical to invest in a softening system, look for one that’s backed by a guarantee.

🧠 Apartment Water Softener Systems FAQs

Is there a way to soften water in an apartment?

Yes, the best way to soften water in an apartment is to use a portable water softening system or an electronic water descaler. You don’t need to buy a huge unit that takes up valuable space – and this might not be an option if your landlord doesn’t allow changes to your plumbing system. Portable softeners are much smaller, and much less invasive, than traditional salt-based water softners.

Can you have a water softener in an apartment?

Yes, you can have a water softener in an apartment, even if you’re renting. However, there’s a good chance that your landlord won’t allow you to install a traditional water softener at your water line, as this would be classed as a permanent change. The best water softeners for apartments are those that don’t need to be permanently installed, such as portable softening systems and electronic descalers.

How do portable water softeners work?

A portable water softening system is a small, compact version of a traditional salt-based water softener. To use this unit, you need to manually fill it with a solution of salt dissolved in water. You then attach the unit to your water supply, and the softener will remove calcium and magnesium from your water. The resin typically has a capacity of around 2,000 gallons, and you’ll need to refill the unit with salt for manual regeneration every 1-2 months.

Is a water softener or a water descaler best for an apartment?

It depends on your preferences and water hardness. A water softener is the best choice for homes with very hard water (over 7 GPG), but it requires more upkeep and typically costs more than an electronic water descaler, which is budget-friendly and maintenance-free.

How do I lower water hardness in my apartment?

The best way to lower water hardness in your apartment is to install an apartment-friendly water softener. Alternatively, you can boil your water to remove temporary hardness. There are no other DIY water softening methods – only methods to remove limescale stains.

Do electric water softeners work?

Yes, electric water softeners (called “descalers”) do work. They don’t remove hardness minerals from water, but they prevent scale by stopping these minerals from sticking to surfaces. Electric water softeners are commonly used in apartments because of their easy, non-permanent installation.