Please note: This page may contain affiliate links. If you buy a product or service through such a link we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Learn more about our product review process or check our FTC affiliate disclosure.
There are salt-free and there are salt-based water softeners. Both can be used to deal with the issues caused by hard water. The difference, however, is that, unlike traditional water softeners that rely on salt, salt-free water softeners a.k.a. water conditioners don’t remove any hard minerals from water. Instead they neutralize their scaling effects.
Both methods have their right of existence. The most important advantages which salt-free systems have over salt-based are that
How can you find the best salt-free water softener? This buying guide lists a collection of the top rated products currently on the market. Let’s dive right in!
On This Page You Will…
Best Salt-Free Water Softener: SpringWell FutureSoft
Flow Rate: 15 gpm
Water For: Up to 6 People
The Runner-Up: SoftPro Elite
Flow Rate: 12 gpm
Water For: Up to 4-5 People
#1 Electromagnetic Water Descaler: Eddy Electronic
Flow Rate: –
Water For: For Small to Large Homes
In our opinion, the best salt-free water softener in 2021 is the SpringWell FutureSoft. That’s because it’s based on Template Assisted Crystallization, short TAC, which has shown to reduce hard water scaling by up to 99.6 percent. (Study)
How does TAC work? Simply put, it uses catalytic media to crystallize mainly calcium and magnesium which are the primary minerals that make up hard water. In their crystal form, these hardness minerals cannot stick to pipes and other surfaces, thus remaining suspended on their entire journey through your home’s water system.
Consequently, your plumbing and home appliances are protected from scaling. And, on top of that, already existing scale formation will gradually dissolve. This will increase the efficiency of your water heater for example, and result in overall longer lifespans with less maintenance work and fewer repairs. #MoneySaver
All other benefits below!
Bottom line: Serious competition for any salt water softener. 5 stars!
SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free Water Softener
|Flow Rate:||15 gpm|
|Water:||For Up to 6 People|
The SoftPro Elite by Quality Water Treatment is a legit alternative to the SpringWell FutureSoft salt-free water softening system reviewed above. The biggest difference is that the former is a tad more affordable. Therefore, the risk-free trial period is much shorter and we also prefer SpringWell’s customer service.
Anyway, the SoftPro Elite, too, uses Template Assisted Crystallization to convert hard water minerals into their crystal form which, most importantly, prevents scale buildup, plus old deposits will vanish over time. The benefits: Water heaters, washing machine, and other appliances last longer and perform at peak efficiency, and your plumbing requires less attention in terms of maintenance and repairs. 5 stars.
SoftPro Elite Salt-Free Softener
|Flow Rate:||12 gpm|
|Water:||For Up to 4-5 People|
The main reason to opt for Tier1 when shopping for a salt-less water conditioner is cost saving. How much is the price difference? Up to a few hundred dollars depending on which competitor model you use for comparison – not bad at all!
What’s more, Tier1 uses the exact same tried and tested technology that we also find in SpringWell systems.
On the downside, a Tier1 system naturally cannot compete with the cream of the crop in regards to overall quality. It also lacks lifetime product warranty and, as far as we can tell, there’s no money-back guarantee/trial period.
All in all, 4.5 stars!
Tier1 Essential Series Salt-Less Water Conditioner With Pre-Filtration
|Flow Rate:||20 gpm|
|Water:||For Up to 6+ People|
The Eddy Electronic is our #1 salt-free, electronic water conditioner in 2021. With its wires wrapped around the incoming water pipe, it induces electromagnetic waves which eliminate the scaling effects of hard water by approx. 50 percent (tested in a scientific study).
Furthermore, the remaining half of the scale is less persistent and can be wiped off easily. 4.5 stars!
Eddy Electronic Water Descaler
|Water:||For Small to Large Homes|
The P3 P7920 may sound like a robot, but in reality it’s a salt-free softening system that makes use of magnets to, just like the Eddy Electronic, induce a magnetic field into the water. The ionic minerals in the water form relatively large crystals which are less likely to attach themselves to whatever surface they touch. In regards to effectiveness, we’re talking about one-third to one-half reduced scale build-up.
Taking into account the extremely low price tag, it’s 4 stars from us!
P3 P7920 Magnetic Water Softener
|Water Flow Rate:||–|
|Water:||For Small to Large Homes|
The Crystal Quest saltless water softener is another system applying TAC – because it’s the most effective water softening process that doesn’t involve salt. Again, possible scale reduction is well above the 90 percent mark. On top of that, old buildup in pipes etc. will disappear sooner or later.
What distinguishes the Crystal Quest from its competitors is that it not only includes pre- but also post-filtration for conditioned water that’s also healthy to drink with great taste. Everything is Made in USA so your budget has to be accordingly high. 4 stars.
Crystal Quest Salt-Free Whole House Water Softener + Water Filtration System
|Water:||For Up to 6 People|
Our final saltless water softener review features the Aquasana SimplySoft which uses scale control media to “naturally” counter the negative effects of hard water. Our guess is that the process is very similar, possibly identical, to what SpringWell and the other TAC water conditioning systems do: Convert ionic hard minerals into crystals which stops them from binding to surfaces – think hard water scale prevention (more details above).
Aquasana SimplySoft Saltless Water Softening System
|Water Flow Rate:||7 gpm|
|Water:||For Up to 3 People|
(Mobile Hint: Swipe to Scroll)
|SpringWell FutureSoft Salt-Free System||$$$||Uses Sediment Whole House Water Filter|
|SoftPro Elite Treatment System||$$$||Uses Sediment Whole House Water Filter for Better Water Quality|
|Tier1 Essential||$$||Includes Water Filter, Low Maintenance|
|Eddy Electronic||$||Tap or Well Water, Does Not Affect Water Pressure at Main Water Lines|
|P3 P7920||$||Does Not Affect Water Pressure at Main Water Lines, Maintenance-Free|
|Crystal Quest (with Pre and Post Water Filters)||$$$||Uses Carbon Filter Block + Ultrafiltration Post Filter for Better-Tasting Water (Drinking Water Without Chlorine)|
|Aquasana SimplySoft||$$||With Water Filter System for Better-Tasting Water, Little Maintenance|
There’re many different types of saltless water softeners. Personally, we favor systems using catalytic TAC media. That’s because they’re the most effective and don’t release anything into the water nor do they remove anything. The only downside is that this type of water softener is also the most costly.
Then we have systems which add a chemical additive to the water, such as citric acid or polyphosphate. Honestly, these are not our preferred choice. We simply don’t like the thought of consuming water that contains any kind of additive. Cost: Medium to high.
And lastly, (electro-)magnetic units – nowhere near as effective as TAC models but really affordable.
You need to double-check that your water meets the necessary conditions set by whichever salt-free softener you’re eying. Potential parameters may include a certain water pH range or temperature, and low iron, sulfur or manganese content.
POE water treatment systems allow for a certain maximum flow rate. Your demand should not exceed this threshold even at times of peak consumption or you might experience a water pressure drop or have unconditioned water bleed through.
Here’s what most industry experts recommend:
If you’re handy with tools you should be able to hook up any water softening/conditioning system provided you have enough time and patience. Tip: Flex tubing combined with shark bite fittings save you from soldering and make the whole process a lot faster and easier.
With most systems you also don’t need to worry about installing an extra bypass as they already have one built in.
As far as maintenance goes, there’s usually not much to do, maybe replace a sediment filter every once in a while.
In case you prefer installation by a professional, expect to pay a few hundred extra bucks.
By the way, everything of the above doesn’t apply to the Eddy, the P3, and similar products. They can be installed in under 10 minutes and don’t need to be looked after – it’s set and forget!
Electronic and magnetic units being the exception, salt-free water softeners are larger than you might think. Make sure there’s enough room in your garage or basement to install one.
We prefer sellers that
More on Salt-Free Softeners
Traditional water softening systems use salt to make hard water soft, meaning they remove calcium, magnesium, and other hard minerals from the water in a process called ion exchange. Although being highly effective, this method of softening water has several disadvantages.
For one, a regular water softener has to regenerate on a frequent basis. This means backwashing the resin bed to flush out all accumulated hard water ions and recharging the small resin beads with sodium (in some cases potassium). This wastes a considerable amount of water and releases excess salt into your water supply which will eventually end up in the environment. Another drawback is that you have to buy new salt bags on a continuous basis.
This is why engineers came up with the concept of salt-free water softeners. These don’t actually remove the minerals from hard water, however, they reduce or completely eliminate their scaling effects which is just what regular water softeners are doing.
As mentioned above, there are various types of saltless water softeners. They come in all shapes and sizes and are based on different technologies. In other words, not all saltless water softeners work the same way.
Side note: Reverse osmosis and other water filtration systems are not intended to soften water. Salt-free softeners, salt-based softeners, and water filters will all treat the water in your home but in different ways.
By far our favorite type are systems using Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC), due to their unmatched performance and ease of use. We’ve already explained how the salt-free technology works in one of the reviews above. In a nutshell: Water flows through a catalytic media which causes all calcium and magnesium ions to crystallize so they stay suspended in the water. TAC has shown to prevent scale buildup by more than 99% when applied right.
Some saltless water softeners add chelating agents to the water. Two examples are the Aquios water systems which use a polyphosphate and NuvoH2O which add citric acid. However, customer feedback for systems working with chelation is mixed at best.
And lastly, electric respectively magnetic no-salt water conditioners also known as water descalers. They use electricity or plain magnets to alter the adhesive properties of calcium and the like by creating a magnetic field in the water supply. Here, too, overall effectiveness is rather limited.
Salt-free water conditioners have many benefits, most importantly scale prevention. This protects your home’s plumbing and appliances. Above that:
Which is better salt or saltless water softener is a question we get asked quite often. Again, there’s no doubt that the former is more effective than the latter.
That said, saltless softener systems have their own benefits which are listed right above. Most importantly, they also remove existing scale deposits which is something no salt water softener system can do.
Last but not least, we want to make very clear that water treated with a salt-free system is not soft water in the real sense. With soft water, all hard water minerals have been removed. Salt-free conditioners can only reduce the scaling effects of hard water without actually taking out any calcium or magnesium.
Where’s the difference? Well, there’s no guarantee that all your hard water problems will get resolved: That your soap and shampoo usage goes down; that your clothes become whiter, brighter and softer; and that you see a difference in spotting.
Questions regarding the best saltless water conditioners? Ask away!
And keep in mind: We’ll add new salt-free water softener reviews occasionally. So come back for more!