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The best water softeners in 2022

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Do you live in a hard water area? Banish limescale build-up from your washing and heating appliances with a water softening system

Does your area have hard or soft water? If you don’t know the answer to that, it's probably the latter of the two. That’s because if you live in a hard water area, you’ll almost certainly know about it. You'll be spending more time scrubbing limescale from your bathroom fittings, for one thing – and you may even have experienced a full-blown limescale build-up in your plumbing.

If that all sounds uncomfortably familiar, then you need the best water softener you can afford. Water softeners convert hard, mineral-rich water back into soft water, giving your stainless steel taps, your pipework and even your hair a break from the limescale onslaught. They connect to your home’s water supply, slotting under your sink and quietly cleaning the water before it hits your plumbing.

Water softeners are a mysterious thing, but they're also exceptionally useful, which is why we've put together this comprehensive guide. Below, you'll find detailed buying information followed by a round-up of the best water softener systems to buy.

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Best water softeners: At a glance

  • Best for medium-sized households: Water2Buy W2B200 (~£399) | Buy now
  • Best for large households: Best Water Technology WS755 (~£880) | Buy now
  • Best battery-operated water softener: Monarch Water Ultra HE (~£814) | Buy now
  • Best cheap alternative: Eddy Electronic Water Softener (~£140) | Buy now
  • Best for easy installation: BWT WS455 (~£648) | Buy now

How to choose the best water softener for you

What is hard and soft water?

The difference between the two is the number of minerals dissolved in the water. Rainfall water is soft. If it lands on non-porous rock and cannot penetrate the ground, it doesn’t absorb any minerals, and so it remains that way. If, on the other hand, it lands on porous rock (such as limestone or shale), the water passes into the ground, collecting minerals such as calcium and magnesium, and so becomes “hard” water.

The problem with hard water is that it causes limescale build-up in both plumbing and household appliances such as kettles, dishwashers and washing machines. That can make said appliances less efficient and ultimately, if left untreated, cause them to stop working. The effect of hard water on your pipes and boiler is something you don’t want to experience in the middle of the British bleak midwinter, either.

Fortunately, even those of us in the worst-hit areas can combat its potential effects by converting it back to soft water, protecting pipes and appliances in the process. You might also benefit from softer hair and softer skin.

Water softeners systems – what are they and what do they do?

A water softener is a clever box of chemistry tricks that attaches to your home’s water supply, before the water swills around your plumbing. When hard water enters the system it passes through a cylinder of sodium-packed ion-exchange resin beads, exchanging its magnesium and calcium ions for sodium ions, converting the water that enters your plumbing into harmless soft water.

Softener systems can only process so much hard water before running out of sodium ions, so after that capacity has been reached (which varies from system to system), the water softener regenerates itself by washing the ion exchange with a brine solution, which removes the collected calcium and magnesium ions and replaces them with more sodium ions, so that it’s ready to run again.

How do I know if I need one?

If you’re not seeing evidence of limescale build-up on appliances, taps or plugholes, but want to be certain, simply take a clear plastic bottle and fill it one-third full with tap water. Now add a few drops of liquid soap, stick the cap on and shake like you’re mixing a cocktail. Let it settle and if it appears murky with very few bubbles, you likely have hard water.

If I do have hard water, do I have to buy a softener system?

Well, it’s not mandatory, obviously, and they are quite expensive, but they might save you money in the long run. Damage to household appliances and plumbing may require expensive repairs or replacements, which may prove more costly than a softener. Of course, you can buy water softener/limescale remover tablets and salt from any supermarket, but again, the cost of using these with each and every washing machine or dishwasher load will soon stack up; plus, these don’t help your plumbing.

What type of water softener system do I need?

That all depends on your average household water consumption. Not to be Captain Obvious about it, a single occupancy household would use considerably less water each day than a family of four, so pick the capacity of your water softener system accordingly.

Budget also comes into play, as does one other very important aspect: space in the cupboard it needs to be stored in. On this final point, don’t forget to factor in the additional space required for connectors.

Basically, you have three options: timed, metered and non-electric. The first suits households where daily water consumption generally remains uniform, as it produces softened water at intervals. The wetered option produces softened water on a more “on-demand” basis, so suits homes where daily water usage fluctuates. The final option, non-electric, is a softener system that uses your water pressure alone to function, thus saving on power bills.

You’ll also want to make sure that your choice is approved by the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS), to ensure it complies with UK regulations. If it doesn’t, move on to one that does!

Once you’ve decided on a system (see our reviews below), you or a plumber can fit your water softener system and reap the myriad benefits of cleaner clothes and crockery, better hair and skin, and vastly improved longevity for your appliances and plumbing.

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The best water softeners to buy in 2022

1. Water2Buy W2B200: Best water softener for medium-sized households

Price: £399 | Buy now from Amazon

The metered W2B200 from Water2Buy is one of the most popular water softener systems in the UK. It’s a bit of a beast that states it can serve households of up to six members, but a family of four would probably be a more realistic expectation given its average daily water consumption rates.

Capable of generating an impressive 1,500 litres of soft, filtered water each day, the W2B200 attaches to the mains water supply and also requires a power source to run, but being energy efficient it only consumes roughly £20 of electricity per year.

Built to last from high-strength fibreglass and featuring a pre-fitted bypass valve that will maintain optimal water pressure throughout the home, the Water2Buy is self-cleaning, performing its regeneration cycle automatically when not in use. It features a handy digital meter to keep track of salt and water consumption, and even comes with a handy “easyConnect” installation app for your smartphone.

Key specs – Max daily capacity: 1,500 litres; Electric: Yes; Fully automatic: Yes; WRAS approved: Yes; Dimensions: 42 x 22 x 65cm

2. Best Water Technology WS755: Best water softener for large households

Price: £880 | Buy now from Screwfix

If you have a big household, or you’re just an average-sized household with an abnormally large water consumption rate, then you’re going to need to make sure that your water softener system can easily cope with your demand. Enter the WS755 from Best Water Technology, a metered softener that can process a whopping 4,167 litres per day – enough to keep even the whole Kardashian clan in soft, silky water.

Naturally, when you have a water softener capable of producing such a large volume of water, unit size is going to be considerable. The BWT WS755 certainly is a bit of a unit, standing 80cm tall, so make sure you’ve got enough space to install it.

Offering low operating costs and simplicity of use, the WS755 is our pick for sizeable households where the water demand is variable.

Key specs – Max daily capacity: 4,167 litres; Electric: Yes; Fully automatic: Yes; WRAS approved: Yes; Dimensions: 48 x 27 x 80.4cm

Buy now from Screwfix


3. Monarch Water Ultra HE: Best battery-operated water softener

Price: £814 | Buy now from Plumb2U

For those not keen on the idea of mixing water with mains electricity, or who simply don’t have a power point available near where their new water softener needs to be located, there is an option that can deliver all the advantages of powered softening without the need for a plug socket: the Monarch Water Ultra HE.

Powered by a single V9 lithium battery (included), this clever twin-tank meter system comes with Sof’N’polish, which gives the ion exchange double the contact time, leading to ultra-soft, silky water for the most luxurious baths and showers, incredibly efficient limescale protection and absolute relief to those who suffer skin irritation from hard water.

What’s more, Monarch’s unique resin beads have an increased surface area, which enables greater capacity per regeneration. It also uses the company’s proprietary Opti-Brining technology, which only regenerates the resin that’s been used.

The Ultra HE’s built-in CPP (Customer Protect Programme) detects leaks, learns water usage patterns to reduce salt and water usage during regeneration, and automatically adjusts to BST and GMT time changes.

Suitable for medium-to-large households, the Monarch Water Ultra HE can deliver 1,520 litres of softened water per day.

Key specs – Max daily capacity: 1,520 litres; Electric: 9V battery; Fully automatic: Yes; WRAS approved: Yes; Dimensions: 48.9 x 27 x 55.7cm

Buy now from Plumb2U


4. Eddy Electronic Water Softener: Best water softener for ultimate ease

Price: £140 | Buy now from Amazon

This distinctly unusual-looking device is not a water softener as such, but rather a means to prevent the build-up of limescale in your pipes and appliances. So, while it won’t give you the super-soft water that’s good for your skin and hair, it does provide a very inexpensive way to protect your washing machine, dishwasher, boiler and all associated connections from damage.

Easy to install to your incoming water supply pipe (metal or plastic) without any plumbing knowledge, Eddy uses wire coils to produce an electromagnetic field that your water is exposed to as it passes through. This alters the adhesion properties of limescale, meaning it no longer sticks as easily to kitchen and bathroom surfaces, nor builds up in pipes or appliances.

Better suited to smaller households, this is an easy-to-fit, low-maintenance, eco-friendly and very economical way to reduce limescale.

Key specs – Max daily capacity: n/a; Electric: Yes; Self-cleaning: n/a; WRAS approved: n/a; Dimensions: 17 x 3.5 x 9cm

5. BWT WS455: Best water softener for easy install

Price: £648 | Buy now from Amazon

The compact WS455 from BWT is the perfect water softener for the average family, serving up enough soft water on a daily basis for up to four people (the average UK household is only 2.39 people these days).

Designed specifically for UK homes and to fit into standard-sized kitchen cupboards with ease, the WS455 is a fully automatic option that’s both efficient and economic, working only when required in order to save on both water and salt.

It’s simple to install, with only inlet, outlet, drain and overflow connections to hook up, plus the electrical connection. Once plumbed in you can then set the time, water hardness and regeneration time via the unit’s keypad. Then you can simply leave it to get on with the job and enjoy superbly soft water on demand.

Key specs – Max daily capacity: 1,500 litres; Electric: Yes; Self-cleaning: Yes; WRAS approved: Yes; Dimensions: ‎‎48 x 27 x 53.2cm

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