Saveourh2o is supported by its audience. When you purchase via our links, we may get a commission. Learn more

The Best Ion Exchange Water Softeners for 2023

Writen by Ronald Brown

Fact checked by Natalie Bridges

If you want the best ion exchange water softener, you’re in luck. We’ve searched the market and performed a comprehensive evaluation of today’s best-selling and most popular ion exchangers. These products can help solve many of your hard water-related problems.

best ion exchange water softener

Bathing will be a lot more pleasant. You will no longer feel embarrassed with the stains on plates and utensils every time you serve food and drinks to your family, friends, and guests. Best of all, you will be ensuring the integrity of your water appliances and fixtures for a much longer time.

Ion exchange water softeners are similar to salt-based water-softening systems, making them straightforward to choose from. Nevertheless, consider these three factors if this is your first time buying a water softener.

  • Capacity: The top-tier ion exchange water softener should be able to remove as many hard water minerals as possible between regeneration. As a rule, the higher the ion exchange softener’s grain rating, the better it is. For instance, an 80,000-grain ion exchanger is more efficient than a 48,000-grain option.
  • Salt Requirements: Ion exchange softeners use sodium chloride salts to recharge or regenerate the resin beads, allowing them to treat the water. Some products need about 40 pounds of salt, while others might only require 30 pounds. A product with a lower salt requirement is more cost-effective than a system demanding more salt.
  • Flow Rate: Choosing the right ion exchange water softener can guarantee a substantial water supply for the household. Buyers should check their home’s average water flow rate and compare it with the product’s maximum flow rate. The device should not undermine water movement throughout the house.

Can’t wait to check out the top-quality water softeners that use ion exchange technology, can you? Read on then.

Top-Rated Products

Best Overall

Aquasure Harmony AS-HS32D


Editor’s Pick

 AFWFilters Fleck 5600SXT


Best Value for Money

Pentair WS48-56SXT10


Table of Contents

Top-Quality Ion Exchange Water Softener Reviews

1. Aquasure Harmony AS-HS32D Water Softener

Fans of advanced technology are sure to appreciate the Aquasure Harmony Series AS-HS32D water softener.

This device gives you soft and scale-free water in a reliable, efficient, and dependable manner. It works a lot like a high-end General Ionics water softener but at a fraction of the price. Imagine if you can get this NASA-worthy system in your home. That would be great, wouldn’t it?

What attracted me most to this product is its bright, blue-backlit display. Other systems only have a grayscale screen, which can make viewing the different settings quite tricky. The backlighting of its control unit allows for instant viewing of essential water softening parameters.

Under this space-age-looking control unit is an intelligent system. While most products only come with a single regeneration method, the AS-HS32D provides three different options: meter-delayed, clock-delayed, and meter-immediate controls. This is fantastic since you have the chance to choose the top-rated regeneration method for your situation.

I also find maintenance to be ideal for those without much time to spend on such things. The control unit makes accurate computations as to the amount of water required for treatment and backwashing. You don’t waste water this way.

It is also worth mentioning that this system features a resin tank lined with fiberglass, ensuring many years of continuous use.

Unfortunately, this product may not be as easy to install as it seems for a beginner. Also, it is not ideal for large homes or those with exceptionally high levels of water hardness. The good news is that you can always choose a Harmony Series with a higher grain capacity. The 32,000-grain capacity of this model is sufficient for a 3-person household.

I still believe that the Aquasure Harmony Series AS-HS32D is a lot better than so-called salt-free systems, like the Springwell Futuresoft salt-free water softener. It does a great job of removing the minerals that harden water, while also giving you all the beautiful benefits of soft water for your family and home.

What We Like
  • Softens water more efficiently than other systems
  • Provides three types of optimum regeneration methods
  • Solid and remarkably sturdy construction that can last years
  • System is easy to clean and maintain
  • User-friendly smart controls for maximum water softening efficiency
What We Don’t Like
  • Requires basic plumbing knowledge to install
  • Better used for small to medium-size homes than large homes

2. AFWFilters Fleck 5600SXT Water Softener

If you’re like me, who only wants the most suitable for my family, then you’d also pick the Fleck 5600SXT over any other system. This water softener ensures top-quality of water coming from your water lines and makes controlling and managing the system so much easier.

One of the things that I like about the 5600SXT is its digital controller. It eliminates the guesswork for regenerating the system. Once you plug it in, the device goes to work even without you putting in substantial inputs.

The controller has an operational lifespan of 27 years. It also has internal backup power. You’d still get continuous water softening in your medium-sized home, even if you don’t have power for 48 hours.

Of course, what’s the use of installing the most trusted ionics water softener if it cannot remove as many grains of dissolved calcium carbonate and iron from your water?

This is another aspect of this product that I admire. It can accommodate up to 48,000 grains before it automatically regenerates. This translates to significant savings in the number of salt bags you need to regenerate the system.

It also helps that the unique design of the AFWFilters Water Softener doesn’t affect the rate of water flow in your home. You can still enjoy a modest average of 12 gallons per minute, peaking at 28 GPM. What’s more, there won’t be issues with replacement parts, as you can quickly obtain one from your favorite supplier.

While the system is easy to install, you’ll need basic plumbing knowledge to get the different components right. I found a lot of YouTube how-to videos that are very useful in this regard.

It is also worth pointing out that the system doesn’t have a built-in filter. You might want to install one in your home if you have issues with sediments and microorganisms.

Overall, I consider the AFWFilters Fleck 5600SXT system to be the best ion exchange water softener you can have for your home. It is durable, easy to maintain, and does an excellent job of softening water.

What We Like
  • Good for small to medium-sized homes
  • Effective in softening water with moderate to high hardness levels
  • Comes with an efficient and accurate digital control system
  • Durable construction that will last many years
  • Easy to get replacement parts
What We Don’t Like
  • Some people may find it tricky to install
  • No built-in water filtration system

3. Pentair WS48-56SXT10 Water Softener

If you’re ready to give up on your existing water softener, I would like to recommend the WS48-56SXT10 from Pentair. This is a lot similar to the 5600XT Fleck water softener of AFWFilters in that both systems use the same control unit. The difference is that the WS48-56SXT10 has a slightly friendlier price.

I love the control unit of this Pentair product. And you should, too. It makes controlling the different parameters of your water softening activities a lot easier. You can decide on the flow rate and the grain capacity of the system, depending on your needs.

This system can provide you with up to 14 gallons of flowing water per minute, although it can also reach a peak of 24 gallons. This is perfect if you have people who are using soft water at the same time.

I read many customer reviews, saying how Pentair could reduce the total dissolved calcium carbonate in their water. This water softener can handle 48,000 grains with each regeneration.

I need to point out here that the resin of the Pentair WS48-56SXT10 can last about 2 to 3 years longer than a similar system that only has 8% cross-link signification. This also translates to less frequent regenerations. A once-weekly regeneration is often enough to keep the system in tip-top shape.

I was surprised to find out that the WS48-56SXT10 doesn’t come with an ionics water softener manual. Instead, you’ll get a USB drive. The problem here is that you will need to plug this into your computer to check how to install the system properly. Also, there are no pictures in the installation guide. It’s plain text.

Installing the system the correct way is crucial to avoiding leaks. Good thing Pentair already includes a complete installation kit with the package.

What We Like
  • Very useful in the softening of water
  • Requires fewer regenerations than other systems
  • Already comes with an installation kit
  • Provides good value for money
What We Don’t Like
  • Installation instructions are given without pictures

4. Tier1 Essential Series Water Softener

There are some brands of water softeners that have very confusing codes to operate the system. You won’t get any of that from the Tier1 Essential Series. This digital water softener uses advanced ion exchange technology to eliminate magnesium, calcium, and other minerals that can render your water hard.

The top-tier part is that the control unit doesn’t come with instructions that only Martians can understand.

I guess I am oversimplifying things. I know you want your water softener to be as easy to operate as your smartphone. You can run it even without spending time going through the pages of the manual. That’s what you get with the Essential Series.

And get this. The Essential Series is one of those few products that are easy to install. And if something breaks – which is very rare – replacing the damaged ionics water softener parts is never a problem. The customer service of Tier1 is ready to assist you, just in case you cannot find the components in your local store.

While I did mention that the Tier1 Essential has a straightforward control interface, I did wish that the backlighting came in color. I would also like to warn you that this system’s flow rate is a tad lower than conventional water softeners. It has a rated water flow of about 11.2 gallons per minute.

Nevertheless, I know you will still find the system’s 48,000-grain capacity to be more than adequate for your needs.

You can even customize the regeneration settings to get the most out of the system. Everything depends on the level of water hardness in your home. If you have very high water hardness levels, you can expect that this product’s regeneration cycle will be more frequent than others.

I know you would also want the Tier1 Essential Series water softener for your home with all these fantastic features. It’s worth it.
What We Like
  • Energy-efficient when it comes to softening water
  • Regeneration cycles can be adjusted or customized
  • Easier to install compared to other brands
  • Comes with a smart, effortless-to-operate design
  • Easy to find replacement parts
What We Don’t Like
  • The screen display can be challenging to view under harsh lights
  • Lower water flow rate than other systems 

5. Whirlpool WHESFC Pro Series Softener

In case you haven’t noticed, most of the water softeners I reviewed here do not have a built-in water filtration component. The products I have shared with you so far are standalone water softeners that require an additional water purification system if you want top-quality of water for your home.

That changes with Whirlpool’s WHESFC Pro Series Softener.

I am not saying that this hybrid water softener can replace your RO and UV filtration systems. It won’t. However, it is good enough for households who want to improve the quality of their drinking water.

You see, the WHESFC doesn’t only remove calcium carbonate. It is also a significant water softener for iron removal. It can remove three parts of iron per minute. This translates to fewer reddish-brown stains on your water fixtures and appliances.

Another thing I like about WHESFC is its unitary design. Most systems on the market have a two-tank design that can take up space. This product has a control unit well integrated into the canister. If you look at it, the product seems like a very slim or tall washing machine.

Its 31 000-grain capacity is enough for medium-sized households, delivering a remarkable ability to remove 120 grains of calcium carbonate per gallon.

While the WHESFC is easy to operate and maintain, it can be challenging to install and costs more than others. However, if you do manage to get your hands on this system, you’d be glad for every penny you spend on it.

Its unitary design makes it one of the most trusted possible solutions for space-strapped households. It also has an ingenious hybrid technology that already addresses one of the most common issues of water softener owners – the addition of a water filtration system.

What We Like
  • Not only softens water, but it also removes iron
  • Has a built-in water filtration capability
  • Very elegant, unitary, single-tank design
  • Suitable for small to medium-sized households
  • Very easy to clean, operate, and maintain
What We Don’t Like
  • Commercial-level price may not be ideal for some homes
  • Not as easy to install as it looks

6. Discount Water Softeners Water Softener

If you’re looking for a water softener that can function as a General Ionics water conditioner, I suggest considering the Genesis 2 Premier Water Softener.

Like any other ion exchange product, this device’s main advantage is that it knocks calcium and magnesium found in water. It replaces these minerals with chloride ions. Water conditioners don’t remove calcium and magnesium. They only prevent these minerals from sticking to the inner surfaces of your water appliances and fixtures.

One thing you should know about Genesis 2 is that it is a two-tank system. If you’re looking for a one-tank system, then this isn’t for you. I would also like to point out that the system’s crosslink resin is a lot better than other systems that can only provide 8%. This system gives you 10%, allowing the system to last up to 10 to 20 percent longer than other products.

I also like the fact that the system has an automatic system to refresh technology. You’ll never have to worry about having to regenerate the system every few days. You can have this as infrequently as once every 7 to 8 days.

Do you know what this translates to? You get to buy bags of salt less often, giving you ample savings in the long run. This system also has an adjustable regeneration cycle. You can further extend your savings if you want.

At 48,000-grain capacity, the Genesis 2 is perfect for 3- to 5- person households. The system also has one of the highest flow rates on the market at 15 gallons per minute.

Genesis 2 will indeed require less salt for each regeneration than the average water softener. However, for that function, the price tag comes a bit higher than that of other products.

The Genesis 2 Premier Water Softener remains a highly-recommended product. It works as intended and can provide your family with all the fantastic benefits of soft water.

What We Like
  • Effective in softening the water of a medium-sized household
  • Features fully adjustable regeneration cycles
  • Comes with a durable and high-capacity crosslink resin
  • Provides optimum water flow rate for the household
  • Allows for easier installation than other products
What We Don’t Like
  • Not as cost-efficient as other systems

Outdated Products

DuraWater 48K Mechanical Fleck 5600 Metered Water Softener (Outdated)

Some of us prefer mechanical devices rather than fully automated or digital products. If you’re like these people, I may have the right water softener for you.

The DuraWater 48K Mechanical Fleck 5600 is almost similar to the AFWFilters Fleck 5600SXT system. Their only difference is that the DuraWater employs a mechanical controller, instead of a digital one.

One advantage of going mechanical is that you get more accurate and more valid water softening parameters. Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of computers and computer technology. However, as we all know, a bug can cause a computer system to go haywire. This can produce erroneous readings and give us false information about our devices.

You will not experience such problems with the Fleck 5600. Its mechanical design eliminates such glitches.

Of course, the only downside to this is that you don’t get that visual feedback that is very characteristic of digital systems. You will also need to physically turn a knob, instead of merely pressing a button. And if you have very poor eyesight, you might not be able to see the markings on the Fleck 5600 as well.

Other than that, this system works like a marvel. And I have yet to touch on the ion exchange water softener price. This system is more affordable than your average digital system. And if you consider its 48,000-grain capacity and efficient control system, you get a water softener that can give you significant savings in the long term.

I also find this system to be easy to maintain.

Installing this system in your home takes careful planning. It’s the only way you can maximize its efficiency. If you’re not sure how to install it, then I suggest getting a professional plumber to install the system for you.

I recommend the DuraWater Mechanical Fleck 5600 for those who want reliability and durability in the long run. It is the right solution for softening water and allowing small to medium-sized homes to take full advantage of the system’s many benefits.

What We Like
  • Fully mechanical design, eliminating digital programming errors
  • Efficient water softening capability for small and medium households
  • Provides more significant savings in the long term
  • Easier to control and maintain than other systems
  • Durable and reliable construction that will last a few decades
What We Don’t Like
  • No digital controls and display
  • Requires careful planning of its installation

Ion Exchange Water Softener Buying Guide


Supposed some of the products I reviewed and listed above may not be to your liking, or you may have a particular brand or model in mind. Don’t worry. I’m still here to help you figure out the top-rated possible ion exchange water softener you can ever install in your home. Here are some of the essential things you should do.

Consider the Capacity of the System

This is the most crucial factor that you need to consider when buying an ionic water softener. Water softening systems always have a capacity rating that describes how much water they can accommodate in a given amount of time. It also describes the amount of grain of dissolved calcium carbonate that the system can handle at any given time.

For example, one product can handle 48,000 grains, while another system can only handle 31,000 grains. If you live in a place where the water hardness level is high, then you will need to choose the product with the 48,000-grain capacity.

Always check how much grain the system can remove per gallon. For example, a system with a 120 GPG (grains per gallon) rating is better than one with a 100 GPG rating.

Check the Water Flow Rate

Another rating that you need to look for in a sound ion exchange system is the water flow rate. Some products have high grain capacity, but with mediocre water flow rates. You may want to check the current water flow rate in your home. You don’t want a system that will reduce this rate of flow.

Check the Other Features

All products have distinct features that set them apart from their respective competitors. Some have built-in filters that can eliminate the need for an additional purchase of water filters. There are also those systems that feature digital meters and controls and automatic regeneration capabilities. Pick one that offers you the most benefits.

Read Consumer Reviews and Reports

Besides the ionics water softener price, it is always advisable to read consumer reports and reviews, regardless of how biased most of these can be. Make sure you understand the different circumstances on which a particular consumer is basing his review on. Some folks may have an experience that is very different from others. Put yourself in the reviewer’s shoes. Would you make the same conclusion about a particular product?

Check the Installation and Maintenance Requirements of the System

Water softeners that use ion exchange technology require regular maintenance. However, some systems provide a handy feature for taking the hassle of frequent Ionics water softener service and care. It would be wise to check the recommended maintenance routine of the system.

It is also essential to check the ease of installation of the system. Some products come as a whole-house, pre-installed system. All you ever need to do is connect one end of the system to your main water line and the other end to your water distribution line, and you’re done. Other products can be more complicated to set up.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long do ion exchange water softeners last?

The top-quality ion exchange residential water treatment systems can last up to a quarter of a century with periodic maintenance and proper care. Meanwhile, the average salt-based water softener can last ten to fifteen years.

However, several factors can impact an ion exchange water softener’s longevity. Learning and appreciating these parameters can help estimate how long a whole house water softener will last.

Families living in Texas, Southern California, Kansas, and other areas with unusually high hard water mineral levels can expect their water softeners to last not as long as others.

Water consumption can also impact the softener’s longevity. It is worth noting that ion exchange systems can only accommodate a predetermined volume of hard water minerals. In other words, the more water you consume per day, the shorter the softener’s lifespan.

Additionally, installation quality and water softener maintenance can affect how long an ion exchange water softener will last.

Which is better: reverse osmosis or ion exchange?

Ion exchange water softeners and reverse osmosis systems are two of the most efficient water treatment technologies. However, determining which is better depends on what you wish to improve in your water.

The CDC describes the ion exchange process for water softening as essential in reducing magnesium, calcium, and other hard minerals. Some can also remove iron, manganese, nitrates, arsenic, sulfates, selenium, chromium, heavy metals, and some radionuclides. However, the CDC says these softeners don’t remove viruses, bacteria, and protozoa.

Meanwhile, reverse osmosis water treatment systems can remove any microorganism and substance with a diameter of at least 0.0001 microns. This technology is highly effective in removing protozoa (i.e., Giardia, Cryptosporidium), bacteria (i.e., E. coli, Salmonella), and viruses (i.e., hepatitis A).

RO systems can also remove aqueous salts and metal ions, including lead, chromium, copper, chloride, and sodium. The CDC says RO filters might also reduce calcium, magnesium, nitrate, phosphorus, potassium, fluoride, radium, sulfate, and arsenic.

Hence, if your objective is to “soften” the water, an ion exchange water softener is better. However, if you want germ-free and contaminant-free water for the family, an RO system is your go-to water treatment system.

How much is an ion exchange system?

The cheapest ion exchange water softener can cost families around $500, while the most expensive versions can set them back at $6,000. That said, the price tag of a good-quality ion exchange system is only about $1,500. These systems can soften the water for the household.

Point-of-use ion exchange water softeners are less expensive. For example, the ShowerStick from WaterStick will only cost families around $300 or less. This ion exchange water filter for shower systems might be pricier than a shower filter, but its water-softening capabilities are superior.

Where to buy the most efficient ion exchange water softener?

The most trusted place to buy the most efficient ion exchange water softener is from the manufacturer’s official website or trustworthy retailers. You can research the best-performing water softener to determine which brand and model is the top-tier replacement for your ion exchange water softener.

Alternatively, you can read customer reviews on leading online commerce sites. User experiences might vary, but you’ll have a general grasp of the product’s performance. You can buy the most efficient ion exchange water softener from these e-commerce platforms.

You can also check product review blog posts that offer a comprehensive assessment and analysis of leading ion exchange water softeners.


I consider the AFWFilters Fleck 5600SXT as the best ion exchange water softener you can buy. It has a reliable computer system that automatically sets and monitors the different water softening parameters for you. Its capacity is also suitable for the majority of American households. Its average and peak water flow rates are also ideal for many household applications. Its construction is robust, and its water-softening abilities are something you can always rely on.

In case you disagree with my recommendation, I’m sure the other water softeners on this list would appeal to you. You can always consider my pointers for buying an ion exchange water softening system, if not. Your choice of the right water softener can bring you many benefits. Take time to study each product that you are entertained to buy. You will want it to be useful in reducing the hardness level of your water.

5/5 - (2 votes)