Water Softener Alternatives

Illustration showing a faucet with a  drop of water pouring from it, the drop containing a red question markNo doubt about it: water softeners are a pain. They’re expensive. Installation can be complicated. They’re illegal in some places. And worst of all, you have to keep them continually stocked with water softener salt. If you have a hard water problem, but can’t get – or simply don’t want – a conventional water softener, you need options. Here are some water softener alternatives to consider.

The Tankless Water Softener

Also known as saltless water softeners, salt free water softeners, or descalers, these systems aim to do the job of a traditional water softener without the salt. Many of them cost as much as a salt-based system, or even more. However, a lot of the other downsides of owning a water softener are avoided: there’s no large tank, no salt, and they’re legal everywhere. You can find out a lot more about salt free tankless water softener systems throughout this site.

The Shower Head Water Softener

If your main problem with a whole house water softener is the complexity of installation and size, then consider a more limited, point-of-use water softener. A shower head water softener attaches to your shower valve and softens water just for showering purposes. If your main concern with hard water is the number it does on your hair and skin, then one of these mini-systems could be right for you. Installation is a snap, so even the least handy people can generally manage to put one in.

The Dishwasher Water Softener

Similar to the shower head water softener, a dishwasher water softener solves a specific problem with hard water without resorting to a whole house system. In this case, the softener is integrated into the dishwasher, rather than being installed separately. If your main issue with hard water is spotting on your dishes, then you may want to look into getting a dishwasher with a softening system included.


If nothing else will do and you have to get a whole house water softener (assuming this is even an option for you), then there are some things you can do to mitigate the downsides. For one thing, you can hire a water softener service to deliver the salt for you and make sure everything is running smoothly. If something goes wrong with your water softener, they will likely notice it immediately and may even be able to perform the repairs themselves.

There are also a lot of things you can do to reduce the amount of salt you use. The most obvious is to turn your softening level down to the lowest setting that will keep your water soft. Another is to buy a water softener that regenerates only when the resin beads are depleted, rather than based on a timer.

Now the Bad News

It could be that none of these alternatives address your problem. If you live in an area where water softeners are banned, then getting a tankless water softener may be your only option. Unfortunately, they’re generally not recommended for extremely hard water. As for point-of-use systems, they work well and can solve your most visible hard water problem. However, if you have hard water issues in one part of your house, you probably have it in your plumbing as well – and these systems do nothing to help that.

If you have a serious hard water problem, you should consider a whole house ion-exchange system. If that’s not an option – or your water hardness isn’t that bad but you want to avoid the hassle of a salt-based system – your next best option is probably a salt free system. To help you decide, you may want to have a look at our salt free water softener reviews.