How To Soften Shower Water (& Debunking What WON’T Work)

Wondering how to eliminate the effects of hard water in your shower, including dry skin and hair, constant limescale deposits on your shower heads and doors, and poor lather with soap?

In this guide, we’ve shared the only 2 effective methods to soften your shower water – and debunked a few of the myths we’ve seen about other so-called effective methods of shower water softening.

πŸ“Œ Key Takeaways:

  • The best way to produce soft water in your shower is by using a whole-home water treatment system. Water softeners and water conditioners are our top recommended choices.
  • Installing a hard water remedy will eliminate the issues you may currently face when showering, including soap scum, mineral buildup, and dry skin and hair problems.
  • Other websites recommend softening your shower water with baking soda or by boiling the water first, but these are largely ineffective and impractical.

🚰 How to Fix Hard Water in Shower: 2 Effective Methods

Here are our top 2 recommended methods of softening the water in your shower:

1) Install A Water Softener

The most effective hard water remedy for showers is a water softener.

Water softeners are point-of-entry (POE) systems that are installed at your main water line, upstream of your hot water heater. They protect your entire plumbing system, including all your water-using appliances and plumbing fixtures, from mineral deposits and scale.

A water softener works by exchanging positively-charged calcium ions (responsible for hard water) with sodium ions of the same charge. This process takes place on a resin bed inside a softening tank.

The soft water produced contains sodium instead of hard water minerals, which means it doesn’t have any of the usual hard water effects in your shower.

The added benefit is that water softening protects your entire home from calcium and magnesium damage, so you’ll also notice the soft water perks when doing your laundry, cleaning dishes, and washing your hands and face with tap water from your sinks.

Springwell salt-based water softener system

2) Install A Water Conditioner

A water conditioner is a salt-free alternative to a conventional salt-based softener and has similar benefits when installed at your main water line.

Water conditioners use a conditioning method, such as template-assisted crystallization, to suspend calcium and magnesium minerals in water, preventing them from forming scale.

Water conditioning doesn’t actually produce soft water because the hardness minerals are still present. However, these hard water minerals can’t produce scale deposits, so they’ll eliminate hard water stains in your shower unit.

It’s worth considering a water conditioner if you prefer a salt-free alternative to a conventional water softening system.

However, If you’re looking for a permanent solution to your skin and hair issues, we recommend using a traditional ion exchange softener, which produces properly soft water that reacts better with soap and won’t clog your pores.

Springwell salt-free water conditioner

🚿 Why Soften Your Shower Water?

Softening your shower water can eliminate all the common issues associated with hard water.

Some reasons to soften your shower water include:

Better Skin And Hair Health

Many folks, especially people with sensitive skin and finer hair, complain that soft water increases dryness and irritation. That’s because hard water creates an undesirable chemical reaction with your body wash, shampoo, and other soaps, leaving scum (the same disgusting soap scum that you have to scrub off your bathtub and shower screens), on our skin and hair.

Soap scum clogs pores and can even suck moisture out of skin and hair follicles, leading to irritable skin troubles and dry hair with a lifeless appearance.

Soft water eliminates these issues because it no longer contains the minerals that cause soap scum. Skin feels slick after washing in soft water, and hair is softer and has a more attractive shine.

Less Soap Needed

Hard water doesn’t lather well with soap. As a result, you have to use more soap to wash your hair and body in the shower than you technically need to. You’ll get through products at a faster rate and spend more on cleaning and personal hygiene every year.

Soft water, on the other hand, reacts well with soap, producing a foamy lather. You can use less soap than you’re used to, and get the same – if not better – results.

Woman showering

Reduced Cleaning Duties

We already know that hard water reacts with soap, leaving scum on your shower surfaces. This soap residue is gray and filmy, and requires regular cleaning to keep your bathtubs and shower units looking spotless.

The mineral deposits (limescale) produced by hard water are even more challenging from a cleaning perspective. Limescale deposits are hard and chalky, and most cleaning solutions don’t work to remove them.

Special limescale cleaning products are expensive, and you’ll need to adopt a regular cleaning schedule since water hardness stains get thicker and tougher to remove the longer they’re left to accumulate on surfaces.

πŸ“– How To Naturally Soften Shower Water

Unfortunately, there are no easy, natural ways to soften the water that comes out of your shower.

A couple of websites recommend boiling your water before showering. There are a few obvious issues with this:

  • Boiling water only removes temporary hardness, so it’s no good if you have permanent hardness.
  • There’s no practical way to boil the water before it enters your shower, then return it to your water supply line so you can shower in this water (as opposed to simply pouring a bucket of boiled, cooled water over your head – not ideal).

We’ve also read on other websites that you can soften water with baking soda. Again, this has issues from a practical sense, and it also won’t chemically soften your water, even if it does make your water feel silkier.

πŸ’‘ So, in short, the only way to effectively soften your shower water is with a water softener – which technically is a natural solution since it’s simply swapping hardness minerals for sodium, but it’s not a free method and obviously requires some forethought.

Springwell iron filter and water softener

πŸ”ŽDoes A Shower Head Filter Soften Water?

A few shower water filter manufacturers claim to sell a “water softener shower head”: a point-of-use device that softens water before it leaves your shower.

But do shower filters soften water? The answer is, sadly, no.

To understand why a shower filter can’t be used to make your shower water soft, we need to look again at the conventional water softening process.

As water flows through a conventional softener, the hardness minerals are exchanged with sodium in the resin (ion exchange).

Ion exchange can only happen continuously when the water softener is periodically flushed to replenish the sodium ions in the resin and clear out the collected calcium and magnesium ions.

There’s no way for a shower filter to flush itself as a whole-home water softener can, and nowhere for the discharge water to be drained.

So, even if a shower head filter had a pre-loaded ion exchange resin that could remove hardness minerals, the filter would only be effective for a couple of days, or as long as it took for the resin to become depleted of sodium and saturated with hardness minerals.

Even a water conditioner couldn’t be used in a small-scale shower filter because the conditioning media needs to be backwashed to remove the hard minerals and make room for more.

aquahomegroup shower filter installed

πŸ“‘ Final Word

Soft water in your shower will give you healthier, cleaner hair and skin that better retains its moisture and natural oils, and you can wave goodbye to soap scum and lime scale deposits on your shower heads and shower doors.

You’ll no longer have to use too much soap to know how truly clean skin feels, since you’ll get a nice soapy lather when you use only a small amount of soap with soft water.

Installing a water softener won’t only give you the benefits of showering in softened water. You’ll be able to enjoy soft water all around your home, including in your washing machine (so you can use less soap for washing clothes), your dishwasher, and all your other bathroom fixtures.

Be wary of manufacturers that claim to offer shower water softener filters. These don’t technically exist and won’t offer the same results as a conventional whole-home ion exchange water softener.

You can confirm this by testing your water hardness before and after installing the filter. You’re unlikely to notice much of a difference.

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