The upper tank of a water softener system.

10 Best Salt-Free Water Softeners (2021 Reviews)

What is a water softener? Water softeners are useful machines that turn your hard water into soft water – essentially, they help clear away certain contaminants in your water supply that may be harmful, and deliver high-quality water to your pipes, your appliances, and to you. Hard water can cause your faucet and showerhead pipes to rust, can cause clogging, can cause limescale or stains, can cause scale buildup, can cause white spots on your glassware, and can lower your appliance’s lifespan (such as water boilers, water heaters, and washing machines). In terms of your health, hard water can cause skin irritation and harm your hair. So it can be really important for you to install one of these machines in your home. There are different types of water softeners.

Although most saltless home water softener systems will not actually give you softened water to drink, they can still give you clean, good tasting water. Many will come with an in-built water filtration system which will help clear your water of contaminants. At the same time, less salt means less wastewater which will help you save your money. There is a better detailed explanation at the end of this list that details the differences between salt-based and salt-free systems. You can also check this article by Hall’s Plumbing. With all of Amazon’s water softener reviews in mind, we have created this buying guide for all your salt-free water softener needs. There are Amazon links available to each product in case you would like to get on the case of which best water softener for you is right away!

In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:

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10 Best Salt-Free Water Softeners (2021 Reviews) – Overview

Here are the top 5 picks (keep scrolling for more details and picks 6-10).

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1. Aquios AQFS220 Full House Salt-Free Water Softener

The Aquios AQFS220 Full House Salt-Free Water Softener is a whole house system of fantastic quality. Apart from the salt-free softening abilities, this water softener also comes with a built-in water filter, which will clean out bacteria and particles in your water, too.


Features of the Aquios AQFS220 Full House Salt-Free Water Softener:

  • Includes a water filter
  • Prevents scale formation in water lines and fixtures
  • Inhibits corrosion
  • Improves the quality of water
  • Filters particles larger than 5 microns
  • Suitable for the whole house
  • Easy installation
  • Friendly price
  • Not ideal for households with substantial levels of water hardness
  • Leaks if not correctly installed
  • Standard pore size of 5 microns
  • Filters up to 40,000 gallons of water


2. APEC Water Systems FUTURA-15

The APEC Water Systems FUTURA-15 is an aesthetically pleasing water softener that does not need to be plugged into an electrical outlet. Its only downside is that it will be ineffective for households with hardness levels that do not exceed 25 grains per gallon (GPG). This system also does not come with a water filter, which is regretful.


Features of the APEC Water Systems FUTURA-15:

  • Prevents corrosion of water lines
  • Easy to install
  • Provides safe water for different uses
  • Does not require maintenance
  • Good water flow rate
  • Great aesthetic
  • No integrated water filter
  • Not for households with high water hardness levels


3. Tier1 Essential Certified Series Salt-Free Water Softener

The Tier1 Essential Certified Series Salt-Free Water Softener does not require any backwashing, or any plugging into an electrical outlet. This softener is also a water filter. It has two separate canisters joined by connectors – one handles the filtration, while the other conditions the water. This system ensures you do not have to worry about leaks. The filter also reduces the odor of chlorine in the water as well as minimizes the levels of copper and other minerals. The product also comes with ANSI (American National Standards Institute) 61 and NSF (National Science Foundation) certification, which is just fantastic.


Features of the Tier1 Essential Certified Series Salt-Free Water Softener:

  • Inclusion of a water filter
  • Conditions water to prevent scaling
  • Can filter the chlorine and other particles
  • Backwash not necessary
  • Very easy to install
  • Hassle-free maintenance
  • High maximum water hardness level capability
  • Removes odor from chlorine
  • ANSI 61 and NSF certified
  • The filter is only useful in removing some particles
  • Not a true softener


4. Aquasana EQ-1000-AST Whole House Water Filter System

The Aquasana EQ-1000-AST Whole House Water Filter System is a whole house water filter. Aquasana also labels this product as a conditioner, which is more accurate to describe a salt-free water softener, meaning this is a more trustworthy product as well as a brand. The only downside of this filter is that the filter membrane’s pore size is large enough to allow the passage of viruses and certain bacteria. It also has a short service life. The pre-filter can only last about a month. The post-filter has a longer service life of 2 to 3 months. While the system itself can last a decade, you will have to replace its whole house water filter up to 12 times every year. The entire kit also requires a good working knowledge of plumbing for proper installation.


Features of the Aquasana EQ-1000-AST Whole House Water Filter System:

  • Excellent combination of water conditioner and filter
  • 10-year service life span
  • Includes everything you need for installation
  • Hassle-free maintenance
  • Good value for money
  • Requires necessary plumbing skills for installation
  • The filters have a short service life


5. AO Smith AO-WH-DSCLR Water Descaler

The AO Smith AO-WH-DSCLR Water Descaler labels itself as a water descaler, just as the Aquasana product, which is a more accurate description and therefore more honest. The AO-WH-DSCLR is ideal for both city and well water. By setting up a pre-filter you can maximize the performance of this device. The only downside to this system is that you will have to replace the entire unit when you want to replace its components, which is not ideal.


Features of the AO Smith AO-WH-DSCLR Water Descaler

  • Reliable descaler
  • Works with both city and well water
  • Easy installation
  • Zero maintenance
  • Durable construction
  • Does not come with filter and water softener
  • Requires replacement of the whole unit upon reaching its service life


6. YARNA Water Descaler System

The YARNA Water Descaler System has a  capacitive technology that alters the basic structure of water. This change in water structure promotes the crystallization of hardness minerals. This crystallization allows the mineral to travel with water and never adhere to the inside of the pipes. This is a whole house system, meaning it can take care of all your water needs.


Features of the YARNA Water Descaler System:

  • Straightforward installation
  • More efficient than electromagnetic descalers
  • Retains beneficial minerals in the water
  • One device works for the entire house
  • Works with different types of water pipes
  • Not a real water softener


7. Pelican Water Systems Whole House Water Filter & Softener

The Pelican Water Systems Whole House Water Filter & Softener is also a whole house water softener. It also incorporates a filter that can remove microorganisms that can lead to infection and other diseases. This product uses a bacteriostatic media, which does not kill bacteria but immobilizes it so that they will not grow. This system will also remove chlorine from your water giving your water a better taste. The only downside to this product is that it is not the most affordable.


Features of the Pelican Water Systems Whole House Water Filter & Softener:

  • Provides impressive water quality and taste
  • Filters bacteria and other impurities
  • Prolongs the life of water-using appliances
  • Removes chlorine odor
  • Easy installation
  • A bit expensive
  • Water conditioner, not a softener


8. Watts Premier OneFlow & Salt-Free Scale Prevention

The Watts Premier OneFlow & Salt-Free Scale Prevention is certainly more affordable than the Pelican model, and it is like others mentioned in the sense that it does not claim to soften water, rather that it prevents scale. It also features a filter that takes care of the odor and taste of your water. The only downside of this system is that this water softening system filter is too large to be effective in trapping smaller particles. This means a lot of microorganisms will not be filtered out by this product.


Features of the Watts Premier OneFlow & Salt-Free Scale Prevention:

  • Prevents the buildup of sediments and the formation of scale
  • Eliminates chlorine odor from water
  • Template-assisted Crystallization technology
  • Improves the lifespan of water appliances
  • Easy installation
  • Good value Short actual filter life span
  • Large filter pore size


9. Aquios Jumbo Salt-Free Full House Water Softener

The Aquios Jumbo Salt-Free Full House Water Softener is yet another whole house water softener that has a point-of-entry design that eliminates the need for small, individual systems in different faucets and water appliances. It is a compact design that also comes with a filter built into it which will take care of chlorine and therefore taking care of your water’s smell and taste. The only downside is that this product is known to leak. You will also have to call a plumber in order to install it.


Features of the Aquios Jumbo Salt-Free Full House Water Softener:

  • Prevents and reduces scale-formation
  • Improves the quality of water
  • Hassle-free maintenance
  • Compact design
  • Comes with a built-in filter
  • Does not ‘soften’ water
  • The tendency to leak if not installed properly


10. iSpring ED2000 Electronic Descaler Water Conditioner

The iSpring ED2000 Electronic Descaler Water Conditioner is an electronic water descaler and an electronic water softener that is very easy to install. The only downside to this system is that it does require electricity in order to operate. Having a magnetic system that relies on electricity can be useful, but it has its downsides. First, the magnetic force of the device is limited to about 50 feet. You may have to install one machine for every 50 feet of water pipe. This system also depends on the levels of iron in your water. The maximum level of iron in the water that it can accommodate is 0.3 PPM. If your water has a higher iron content, then you might want to choose a different product, since this product’s efficiency might falter.


Features of the iSpring ED2000 Electronic Descaler Water Conditioner:

  • Protects the integrity of water appliances
  • Retains the natural chemistry of water
  • Easy to maintain
  • Very easy to install
  • Eco-friendly design


Our Winner:

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The Aquios AQFS220 Full House Salt-Free Water Softener is our top pick on this list. It is a whole house system, meaning your whole house will be protected from hard water. It includes a water filter, meaning you will be getting clean water too. And its friendly price just makes it impossible for this system not to climb to the top of the list.


Which is Better? A Salt-Free Water Softener or a Salt-Based One?


Water softeners can use salt in their softening process or they can be salt-free. Salt-free water softeners work similarly to water conditioners or descalers. They do not remove magnesium and calcium – two minerals that can harden water – they only prevent the adhesion of these minerals to your pipes. However, both these minerals can help improve the health of your bones, and having a salt-free water softener can help decrease the level of sodium in your blood. At the same time, they are maintenance-free, are more long-lasting, have a longer warranty and they are more eco-friendly than salt-based water softeners (since their water usage is lower). They also have a capacity for more gallons per minute (gpm) as well as are less likely to decrease your water pressure.

According to Popular Mechanics, a typical salt-based water softener consists of a tall, narrow water-softener tank, and a short, wide brine tank. The softener tank is connected to the home’s water supply line. They remove hard minerals such as chlorine, mercury, lead, other chemicals, industrial solvents, chloramine, and others. Salt-based water softeners utilize an ion exchange process. Negatively charged resin beads in the resin tank attract and remove magnesium and calcium from the water supply. These water softeners also utilize salt to clean the water softener and regenerate the resin bed.

The water softener bypass valve is normally included as part of the control valve assembly on top of the water softener media tank (the smaller tank that handles the actual ion exchange that is the real work of a water softener). During the regeneration process, positively charged sodium or potassium ions replace the hard water minerals trapped in the resin bed, and the hard water concentrate is flushed down the drain.

We understand that understanding the different processes that can be used to treat water in your home can get confusing. There are many water treatment systems, and out there is the perfect one for you. Essentially the bottom line is, both these processes give you clean water for your home so hopefully, with all this information, you can choose which works better for you.


Bonus tip: Check out this video on the difference between hard and soft water!



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Joshua Perkins

Joshua spent ten years as a water systems technician in California before settling down with his wife and two young children in Nashville in 2018. Through all of his experience, he learned the benefits and shortfalls of so many different types of water filtration systems, from pitchers to whole-house installations. He started Water Filter Authority in 2019 to empower other families to make the right decision for their long-term health and wellness.