Culligan Water Softener Reviews (Read BEFORE Buying)

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If you’ve been researching water treatment systems for your home, you’ve probably come across Culligan. This North American manufacturer has been around for nearly a century, and has become a well-known name in the water filtration and softening industries.

On the surface, Culligan’s water treatment solutions seem like they’re well worth considering. But are Culligan’s products worth your money?

In our opinion, no. You can get better-value products from other manufacturers, with more open pricing and more opportunities to get better deals.

In this Culligan water softener review, we’ll be sharing quick reviews of Culligan water softener systems, and looking at the reasons why you should – and shouldn’t – buy a softener from Culligan.

❔ What Is Culligan?

Culligan is an Illinois-based water treatment manufacturer that was founded in 1936 by Emmett Culligan. The manufacturer now has a global distribution network and works with local experts all over the world to deliver its products.

Culligan’s sales concept is different from that of most water treatment manufacturers today. Rather than offer its products for customers to buy with one click online, Culligan requires customers to purchase its products through a local sales rep, traditionally known as a “Culligan man”.

This means that customers can’t shop around or compare prices online before they buy. The price of the product, and exactly what package they receive, depends on what a customer is offered by their local dealer, based on the information they provide and the water testing carried out by the dealer.

Culligan’s service doesn’t only provide the initial sale. When you buy a Culligan water softener system, your system will be installed for you and maintained and repaired as needed – at an extra cost included in your package.

Let’s jump into this Culligan water softener review.

1️⃣ Culligan Salt-Based Water Softeners

Culligan offers a range of salt-based water softeners, and this range is constantly being updated. Some of Culligan’s most popular salt-based softeners are:

Aquasential™ Select Series™ Water Softeners

Aquasential™ Select Series™ Water Softeners


PriceAvailable from Local Distributor Only
ProcessIon Exchange
Grain Capacity4-6k, 13k-24k, 32k-54k
Flow RateUp to 10 GPM
Regen MethodDemand
WarrantyLifetime on tank & resin

The Aquasential Select Series water softener is one of the most popular Culligan water softeners available today. According to Culligan, this water softener is affordable, durable, and third-party certified to ensure quality.

There are several water softeners in the Aquasential Select Series:

  • Culligan Aquasential Select Series 9″ S Water Softener
  • Culligan Aquasential Select Plus Series CleanWater Home 9″ Water Softener
  • Culligan Aquasential Select Plus Series CleanWater Home 9″ Outdoor Water Softener
  • Culligan Aquasential Select Plus Series 10″ S Water Softener
  • Culligan Aquasential Select Plus Series CleanWater Home 10″ Water Softener
  • Culligan Aquasential Select Plus Series CleanWater Home 10″ Outdoor Water Softener
  • Culligan Aquasential Select Plus Series 10″ Water Softener
  • Culligan Aquasential Select Plus Series 10″ Outdoor Water Softener
  • Culligan Aquasential Select Plus Series 12″ Water Softener
  • Culligan Aquasential Select Plus Series 12″ Outdoor Water Softener

👍 What We Like

  • Performs demand regeneration (regenerating based on water use) to save water and salt
  • Durable, affordable design (although pricing isn’t available online, so we’ll have to take Culligan’s word for it)
  • Certified by the WQA for reduction of hardness, barium, and radium
  • Covered by a warranty and satisfaction guarantee

👎 What We Don’t Like

  • It’s not clear what makes this system unique from any other softener in the water treatment industry

Our verdict: The Aquasential Select Series water softener seems like a standard water softener to us. We’re not sure what you get from this system that you wouldn’t get from similar water softener brands.

Culligan High Efficiency (HE) Water Softener (1 inch, 1.25 inch, and twin softener options)

Culligan High Efficiency 1-Inch Water Softener


PriceAvailable from Local Distributor Only
ProcessIon Exchange
Grain Capacity17K-27K, 21K-34K, 29K-49K, 42K-66K
Flow RateUp to 10 GPM
Regen MethodDemand
WarrantyLifetime on tank & resin

The Culligan High Efficiency Water Softener Series is a selection of Culligan’s most efficient water softening systems. These systems are designed to limit your salt and water usage, helping you to keep operating costs to a minimum. According to Culligan, the High Efficiency Softener Series can reduce your operating costs by up to 46%.

There’s a range of water softeners offered in the Culligan High Efficiency Series, including:

  • Culligan High Efficiency and Outdoor Water Softener with Soft-Minder® Meter (in 9, 10, 12, and 14-inch sizes, and upflow variations. Also available as a twin-tank system)
  • Culligan High Efficiency and Outdoor Water Softener with Aqua-Sensor® Sensing Device (in 9, 10, 12, and 14-inch sizes, and upflow variations. Also available as a twin-tank system)
  • Culligan High Efficiency Municipal and Municipal Outdoor Water Softener (in 9, 10, 12, and 14-inch sizes)
  • Culligan HE Municipal Water Conditioner
  • HE Softener-Cleer Home Water Conditioner

👍 What We Like

  • Culligan’s most efficient money-saving softeners
  • Various sizes and design options for different family sizes
  • Reduces up to 99 GPG of water hardness
  • Certified by the WQA to NSF Standards for hardness, barium, and radium reduction
  • Comes with a warranty and satisfaction guarantee

👎 What We Don’t Like

  • Overwhelming number of options
  • No pricing available
  • The HE Municipal Water Conditioner and HE Softener-Cleer Home Water Conditioner are actually water softeners that use salt. Calling them conditioners is misleading

Our verdict: Of all the Culligan softening systems, we think this series is the best. But we still question why there are so many options in this series. Why offer a separate upflow offering when all softeners would benefit from an upflow design – as a given, and not as an expensive upgrade?

Medallist Series® Home Water Softener

Culligan Medallist Series Water Softener


PriceAvailable from Local Distributor Only
ProcessIon Exchange
Grain Capacity13K-24K, 17K-27K, 26K-45K, 35K-60K
Flow RateUp to 10 GPM
Regen MethodMetered
Warranty1 year

The Culligan Medallist Series is the more “basic” softener offering by Culligan. This series doesn’t come with the fancy features of the HE series, although some features can be added (presumably at an extra cost).

There are several softeners in the Medallist Series:

  • Culligan Medallist Series® 8”
  • Culligan Medallist Series® 8” with Soft-Minder® Meter
  • Culligan Medallist Plus Series® 30 with Soft-Minder® Meter
  • Culligan Medallist Plus Series® 45 with Soft-Minder® Meter
  • Culligan Medallist Plus Series® 60 with Soft-Minder® Meter

👍 What We Like

  • Most affordable softening option
  • Can choose between different models and sizes
  • Certified by the WQA for hardness, radium, and barium reduction
  • Warranty coverage

👎 What We Don’t Like

  • Warranty for entire system is only 1 year
  • No pricing available

Our verdict: What’s annoying about Culligan is that its product overviews don’t explain why each of its different softeners are unique in themselves. The information in the Medallist Series product description is exactly the same as that in Culligan’s other product descriptions, giving vague features and benefits including “affordable design” and “cost savings”. However, it does appear that this series is the most basic and budget-friendly.

2️⃣ Culligan Salt-Free Water Softeners

Aquasential™ Salt-Free Conditioner

Aquasential™ Salt-Free Conditioner


PriceAvailable from Local Distributor Only
ProcessTAC (CullAct)
Max Hardness (GPG)75
Flow RateUp to 20 GPM
Regen Methodn/a
Warranty10 years on tank. 5 years on valve

The Aquasential™ Salt-Free Conditioner is Culligan’s only salt-free softening solution. This water conditioner doesn’t produce soft water using ion exchange – instead, it naturally conditions water using the CullACT conditioning media, preventing hardness minerals from forming scale.

There are several Aquasential™ Salt-Free Conditioner models to choose from:

  • Culligan Salt Free Conditioner 9×16” Condo Unit
  • Culligan Salt Free Conditioner 9×16” Standard Home
  • Salt Free Conditioner 9×36” Large Home
  • Salt Free Conditioner 9×42” Twin Premium Home

👍 What We Like

  • Several sizes to choose from, including a twin size
  • Good option for people looking to avoid salt or ion exchange
  • Backed by a warranty
  • Different models are clearly defined

👎 What We Don’t Like

  • Needs to be installed with the Culligan Carbon Filter
  • No high efficiency options available

Our verdict: The Aquasential™ Salt-Free Conditioner is a good water conditioner, but Culligan’s marketing confuses us. The water conditioner’s product page says that the system will condition your water “when paired with the Whole House Carbon Pre-Filter”. Does this mean the system only works with other water treatment equipment? Or is this Culligan’s way of trying to extract more money from its customers?

✅ What We Like About Culligan Water Softener Systems

Before we get into our list of what’s good about Culligan water softener systems, we want to make something clear: all of these benefits are in no way exclusive to Culligan.

You could find a water softener offering virtually all of the below perks without having to deal with the negative side-effects of owning a Culligan product.

Demand Regeneration

The Culligan water softener system is designed to only regenerate when needed, based on water usage. This helps you to save salt and water – and therefore money.

Efficient Performance

Some Culligan systems are designed to proportionally regenerate the resin, which means that only the hardness-saturated resin regenerates, further reducing your salt use.

Culligan aquasential™ smart high efficiency water softener performance

Certified Products

Culligan systems are tested and certified by WQA to NSF Standards, so you can be certain that you’re investing in reliable water softeners that are third-party approved for their performance.

Convenient & No-Maintenance

Culligan products are essentially maintenance-free, because your local Culligan water expert will arrange everything for you, from installation to salt delivery and maintenance of your Culligan unit.

Multiple Payment Plans

You can finance or rent your Culligan system, or pay for the system upfront.

Water Filter Benefits

Some Culligan softeners act as water filters, removing or reducing contaminants as well as treating water hardness. You can also combine Culligan water filter systems with a water conditioner or softener, so you can benefit from filtered, soft water.

Satisfaction Guarantee

When you buy a Culligan whole-house system, you’re protected by a 30-day money-back satisfaction guarantee. If you’re not happy with your softener, you’ll get a full refund within the first month of use.

❌ What We Don’t Like About Culligan Water Softener Systems

Too Many Options

Being able to choose between more than one water softening system is a good thing. It means you can select the right system for your budget and your softening requirements. But we think Culligan takes it too far with its endless water softener selection.

The Culligan softeners are categorized by name, with several size options – and sometimes twin-tank options – for each. Some softeners are a “series”, meaning that as well as being offered in different sizes, there are also softeners for outdoor use, and softeners with slightly different names within the same series that offer a slightly different performance.

This complicated family tree of water softeners makes it virtually impossible for customers to review and compare Culligan water softeners before contacting a brand rep. This means the rep will most likely have the most control over product selection, because the customer is too confused to know what they want.

We’d personally much rather buy a water softener based on less than three choices, with clearly defined differences between them. This is a major reason why we wouldn’t buy a Culligan water softener.

Confused person

No Customer Reviews Online

Culligan doesn’t only shroud its product pricing in secrecy – it also doesn’t share its customer reviews online.

When you buy from most water softener companies, you’ll be able to read reviews on the manufacturer’s product page. Most brands also sell their products on online marketplaces like Amazon, Home Depot or Lowes, which is a great place to read genuine customer reviews that can’t be deleted or amended by the manufacturer.

There are no reviews for Culligan water softeners on the Culligan website – just one small, hidden reviews page for the brand overall. Culligan’s products aren’t available anywhere else online, so you can’t read reviews elsewhere, either. Sites like Consumer Affairs have reviews of the Culligan brand in general (which is interesting reading), but you won’t find reviews for specific products on here.

Expensive Products

Culligan has no official pricing for its water softeners. It’s likely that Culligan’s brand reps have a pricing sheet for the products they’re selling, but these aren’t available online. This means that a local Culligan dealer can charge whatever they like for a water softener based on what they claim the customer needs.

Culligan water softeners are typically more expensive than other softening systems because they come with extras like professional installation and maintenance. You’ll need to pay annually for someone to add salt to your softener and service it as necessary.

While it’s a benefit that you get these extras that you’d otherwise have to do yourself, we don’t think it’s worth the money.

Expensive price

Poor Customer Service

Tens of customers have complained about the service they’ve received from Culligan.

We’ve read reviews from customers who have had their water softeners installed incorrectly, or sent their system off for servicing, only to hear nothing back from Culligan for months. There’s a clear trend in customers complaining about Culligan’s poor response to their important questions and requests.

People have had issues with leaking components and systems that aren’t seemingly doing what they’re advertised to do, and their brand reps are failing to help. In some cases, customers were charged more than $100 for a professional to diagnose an issue within just months of owning the system.

And that leads us nicely on to our next point.

Potential Quality Issues

For the most part, Culligan water softener systems seem to be well-made and durable.

But we can’t ignore the countless customer reviews that complain about leaking parts, incorrect plumbing, and systems that don’t work at all.

In many cases, these quality issues seem to be related to the installation itself. Customers complained that their Culligan plumber incorrectly plumbed in their system, and one customer even said that they’d had the wrong system installed entirely.

For this reason, it’s unclear whether the quality of the products is to blame, or the quality of the installation. Either way, it doesn’t look good for Culligan.

Hundreds of Unimpressed Customers

When we look at customer reviews for a product, we know to expect a mixed batch – and that a small percentage of bad reviews don’t necessarily mean that the product is a write-off.

But when a manufacturer has as many bad customer reviews as Culligan, you know that something isn’t right.

A lot of Culligan customer reviews are 1, 2, or 3-star, and many customers warn readers not to buy Culligan’s products. Occasionally, customers write a poor review, then update their review to a 5-star review because of “good customer service”, which seems suspicious.

When so many customers are unimpressed with Culligan’s service, it’s clear that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the brand’s current offerings.

culligan 1 star reviews from consumer affairs
Source: Consumer Affairs

📝 Culligan Water Softener Review: Our Verdict & The Best Softener Alternatives

We’re not saying that Culligan’s products aren’t worth your money. Many customers are pleased with their Culligan water softeners, and have found Culligan’s products to be durable and high-quality. There are also perks of buying with Culligan that you wouldn’t get from your average manufacturer, such as included installation, maintenance, and repairs in your package.

But Culligan’s sales model just isn’t for us. We’d much rather be able to research and compare product prices online than be sold a water softener by a local sales rep – and we know a lot of customers agree.

You usually end up paying more upfront, and you need to pay for the “perks” of maintenance, too. We wouldn’t recommend Culligan water softeners to anyone.

Wondering what we do recommend?

We’ve tested tens of water softeners in our time, and the SpringWell Salt Based Water Softener System is currently head-and-shoulders above the competition.

Or, if you prefer a salt-free conditioner, the SpringWell Futuresoft is the best available.

You can learn more about the SpringWell softeners, and our other top picks for salt-based and salt-free softeners, in our 2023 guide.

🧠 Culligan Water Softeners FAQ

How much are Culligan water softeners?

There’s no official pricing. Your local Culligan representative (known as a Culligan Man) will discuss pricing when you enquire about a product. Some customers have paid around $3,000 for a package deal for a softening system, which is a lot more expensive than the average softener.

How long do Culligan softeners last?

Culligan softeners have a lifespan of 10-15 years, but some customers have had problems with their softeners after just a few months.

Can you save money and opt out of Culligan’s softener maintenance program?

This is unclear on Culligan’s website, but we would imagine not. You get the full package with Culligan, and that includes maintenance and salt delivery.

Do you recommend any of Culligan’s other products?

Culligan also offers several reverse osmosis system models, whole house filter systems, and water coolers and dispensers. The same sales structure applies to any of Culligan’s products, and you’ll probably end up overpaying no matter what you buy, so we don’t recommend Culligan.

Are Culligan water softeners made in China?

No. All of Culligan’s softeners are made and assembled in North America.

  • Brian Campbell
    Founder, Water Treatment Specialist

    Brian Campbell is a water treatment specialist and water expert based in Denver, Colorado. He's always been obsessed with water quality, and has spent years testing all kinds of treatment devices from simple pitchers and portable devices to complex whole home systems.

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