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5 Best Ion Exchange Water Softeners: Top Picks for 2023

Scott Winfield
Last Updated on
by Scott Winfield

Ion exchange water softeners are the most effective water treatment devices for softening hard water. However, since so many different brands & models exist, it can be challenging to find the best one for your needs.

The best ion exchange water softener for city water supply is the Springwell SS+ water softener system which comes with 32,000 grain capacity, 11 GPM flow rate and 1 – 7 bathroom size. For well water supply, Springwell WSSS4 is the best ion exchange water softener and filter combo to remove hard water minerals as well as iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide contaminants from the water.

Here are the most important factors to consider in an Ion-Exchange water softener:

  • Your water source (tap or well water).
  • The water softener flow rate
  • The grain capacity
  • The product warranty
  • The price

Ion Exchange Water Softeners Comparison Table

Ion Exchange Water Softeners
Springwell SS+
Best for City Water
  • Price – $2,015.20
  • Flow Rate – 20 GPM
  • Grain Capacity – 80,000
  • Warranty – Lifetime warranty on tanks and parts
Springwell WSSS4
Best for Well Water
  • Price – $4,266.32
  • Flow Rate – 13 GPM
  • Grain Capacity – 48,000
  • Warranty – Lifetime warranty on tanks and parts
Whirlpool WHES40E
  • Price – $834.00
  • Flow Rate – 8.5 GPM
  • Grain Capacity – 40,000
  • Warranty – 1-year complete parts and labor warranty
Fleck 140-5600-SXT-100
  • Price – $1,189
  • Flow Rate – 10 GPM
  • Grain Capacity – 35,000
  • Warranty – 5-year valve warranty and 10-year tank warranty
  • Price – $279.95
  • Flow Rate – 4.5 GPM
  • Grain Capacity – 16,000
  • Warranty – Limited 1-year manufacturer warranty

Best Ion Exchange Water Softeners

1. Springwell SS+ Ion-Exchange Water Softener

Springwell SS+ is one of the highest rated ion exchange water softeners that offers 20 GPM high flow rate and 80,000 grain capacity to cater for more than 7+ bathrooms, which makes it ideal choice for very large homes or even small apartment buildings. The grain capacity also makes it a perfect fit for areas with very hard water since it can remove a large amount of calcium and magnesium ions at once before the resin needs to be regenerated.

On top of that, the system comes with a 5-micron pre-filter, which helps to remove sediment or soil particles that would otherwise get into the resin tank, stick to the grains, and make them less effective.

Springwell Salt Based Water Softener

The warranty is another advantage the Springwell SS+ has over it counterparts. It has a lifetime warranty on both the valves and the tanks, as well as a 6-months money-back guarantee.

For convenience, the Springwell SS+ also comes with an app that allows you to set the regeneration times remotely, view the water usage information from the system, change specific valve settings, and do many other things.

Springwell SS+
  • Price – $2,015.20
  • Flow Rate – 20 GPM
  • Grain Capacity – 80,000
  • Warranty – Lifetime warranty on tanks and parts
Pros
  • Large grain capacity
  • Additional filters can be attached easily
  • Comes with a 5-micron pre-filter
Cons
  • Pretty expensive

2. Springwell WSSS4 Well Water Filter & Ion-Exchange Water Softener

The Springwell WSSS4 is the best choice if you’re looking for a well water filtration system and ion-exchange water softener combo.

This system comes with two tanks; the first tank is the water softening component that removes calcium and magnesium hard water minerals, while the the second filtration tank uses air injection oxidation with greensand media to remove both ferric and ferrous iron. It can filter up to 7 ppm of iron, 1 ppm of manganese, and 8 ppm of hydrogen sulfide, as well as arsenic and radium contaminants.

Springwell WSSS4 Water Softener

Asides from the additional tank, the Springwell WSSS4 shares many qualities with the SS+. The reverse osmosis water system and the UV filter are also optional extras on this model, and they’ll set you back approximately $1,500.

The Springwell app is another shared benefit of both models, allowing you to easily pair your phone and tablet to the water softener via Bluetooth. The app is much more helpful here since well-water systems are more complicated thanks to the additional tank, so you’ll need to check their flow rates and valve connections more frequently to ensure everything is in order.

Yet another similarity between the two Springwell models is that this unit also comes with a detailed installation guide and a video tutorial showing you everything you need to do to install it.

However, even though the instructions are clear, this unit will be much more difficult to install. The additional tank and valve connections will be tricky to set up, so we recommend getting a professional to do it for you.

Springwell WSSS4
  • Price – $4,266.32
  • Flow Rate – 13 GPM
  • Grain Capacity – 48,000
  • Warranty – Lifetime warranty on tanks and parts
Pros
  • Very large grain capacity
  • Good flow rate
  • Comes with a convenient app
Cons
  • Takes up a lot of space
  • Very expensive

3. FLECK 140-5600-SXT-100 Water Softener System

Considering the product’s price, flow rate, and grain capacity, with the FLECK 140-5600-SXT-100, you’re getting incredible value. While other water softener brands have better prices or flow rates, with a flow rate of 10 GPM and a grain capacity of 35,000, the excellent balance the FLECK strikes between these three essential features and the additional add-ons makes this unit a great choice for most people.

This water softener comes with four regeneration settings:

  1. Immediate meter regeneration
  2. Delayed meter regeneration
  3. Delayed time clock regeneration
  4. Day of week regeneration

The four settings allows you to set the regeneration process to run whenever you need it. The first two options let the system decide when the process should start based on the amount of water passed through, while the other two allow you to set a time manually.

The internal computer will also record your settings and keep them for 48 hours in case of a blackout. This prevents the softener from deleting your preferred settings once the system boots back up.

The warranty of the FLECK model is another major selling point. You get a 5-year warranty on the valves and a 10-year warranty on the tank. This is a fantastic deal because the system costs only $1,000, yet you get a decade’s worth of coverage on the most crucial component.

If you’re looking for something with a flow rate high enough for large homes or a budget option, some of the other units on our list fulfill those criteria better. However, if you’re looking for a good all-rounder at an affordable price, this is the unit we recommend.

Fleck 140-5600-SXT-100
  • Price – $1,189
  • Flow Rate – 10 GPM
  • Grain Capacity – 35,000
  • Warranty – 5-year valve warranty and 10-year tank warranty
Pros
  • Comes with four different regeneration settings
  • 48-hour system backup
  • Great warranty
Cons
  • The flow rate and grain capacity are too low for homes with four bathrooms or more

4. Whirlpool WHES40E

The design of the Whirlpool model is very unique. While most ion exchange water softeners have two tanks connected to each other, this model has a sleek rectangular shape that contains both the sodium and the resin tank.

Because of this, the Whirlpool is ideal for small homes and apartments. It’s 48 inches high, 18 inches wide, and 19 inches deep. This means that it can fit virtually anywhere, and you don’t have to worry about space or pipe management.

Another good thing about its design is that the Whirlpool comes with an input and output valve at the back, which makes the installation for this unit significantly more straightforward than most ion exchange softeners. All you need to do is connect one end of your water pipe to the input valve and another to the output valve.

While there are other water softeners on our list with better flow rates, the 8.5 GPM that this unit can manage is more than enough for a small home with two bathrooms or an apartment with a kitchen and a bathroom. The 40k grain capacity is also pretty decent, and it even outmatches a few whole-house models like the FLECK.

That being said, one of the few downsides of this water softener is the sodium tank. Because the sodium and the resin tank were made to fit into a single casing, both are relatively small. So, you’ll need to change the salt in the sodium tank much more frequently than you would on a standard water softener unit.

The good news is that while you need to check the salt levels every few days, the process is straightforward. You’ll have to open the hatch right at the top, do a quick visual inspection of the salt levels, and add a bit more if necessary.

Additionally, this unit is affordable and just behind the On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT in price, which is understandable considering how much bigger it is.

Whirlpool WHES40E
  • Price – $834.00
  • Flow Rate – 8.5 GPM
  • Grain Capacity – 40,000
  • Warranty – 1-year complete parts and labor warranty
Pros
  • Doesn’t take up much space
  • Effortless to install
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Limited flow rate

5. On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT

The best thing about this water softener is its affordability. The $200 price tag is almost unrealistically low, and it makes the decision to buy two of these softeners very reasonable. This way, you can place one under the sink in your kitchen and the other in your bathroom and enjoy softened water in both rooms.

As the smallest unit on our list, this is the best choice if you’re looking for something that can fit under your sink. It can provide you with more than enough GPM for a single sink, and the 16k grain capacity can handle decently hard water.

On The Go is also the only ion exchange water softening unit you can take on vacation or on an RV camping trip.

Similar to the Whirlpool, it’s effortless to install since it only has an input and output valve that you need to connect to the water pipes. Although, On The Go beats Whirlpool thanks to the hose connection it comes with.

The small unit size makes it possible to quickly find a place for it in the cabinet under the sink. The hose connection allows you to attach the system to the sink without worrying whether the valves can reach the pipes or the faucet.

However, one major downside of this water softener is that you can only use it for sinks. It doesn’t have the capacity to soften the water from your shower or washing machine without severely reducing the flow rate and water pressure.

It also needs to be manually regenerated. The process is straightforward; you just need to open the top and add salt to the tank to start the regeneration process. However, the bigger problem is that the unit doesn’t tell you when you need to regenerate it, so you can only tell by testing to see if its efficiency is compromised.

On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT
  • Price – $279.95
  • Flow Rate – 4.5 GPM
  • Grain Capacity – 16,000
  • Warranty – Limited 1-year manufacturer warranty
Pros
  • Very easy to carry
  • Fits just about anywhere
  • Simple to install and use
  • Incredibly cheap
Cons
  • Limited grain capacity
  • Manual regeneration
  • No regeneration notice

How We Reviewed the Ion Exchange Water Softeners

These are the factors we took into account when evaluating ion-exchange water softeners:

Flow Rate

The flow rate of a water softener tells you how many faucets the device can be attached to. Smaller units will struggle to handle softening water that goes to 2 bathrooms, while the larger models can easily soften the water for up to 7 bathrooms.

While it’s not an exact science, we’d say that units with a flow rate of up to 10 GPM can only handle 1 to 3 bathrooms, units between 11 and 13 GPM can handle 4 to 6 bathrooms, and the 20 GPM on the Springwell SS+ model can handle 7 or 8 bathrooms.

Water SoftenerFlow Rate
FLECK 140-5600-SXT-10010 GPM
Springwell SS+20 GPM
Whirlpool WHES40E8.5 GPM
Springwell WSSS413 GPM
On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT4.5 GPM

Grain Capacity

Grain capacity refers to the maximum water hardness that a water softener can handle. The resin beads (the grain) have a specific limit to how many minerals they can hold until they need to be flushed. The higher the grain count in the resin tank, the more efficient the ion exchange process.

As certain areas will have water that’s harder than in other areas, you need to research what the situation in your area is before committing to a specific unit. Once you have that information, you can decide what grain capacity will be the best fit for you.

You’ll need a high grain count if you live in a place where the water is very hard, and if, on the other hand, the water in your area isn’t particularly rich in minerals, you can make do with any grain capacity.

Water SoftenerGrain Capacity
FLECK 140-5600-SXT-10035,000
Springwell SS+80,000
Whirlpool WHES40E40,000
Springwell WSSS448,000
On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT16,000

Price

Price is a significant factor when picking an ion exchange water softener. The good news is that, as you can tell by the chart below, the price range of the products we recommend varies so much that you can hopefully find something that fits your budget.

Choosing something within your price range is important, but you must prioritize the softener you need. The smaller units are more affordable, but that won’t help you much if you need a model that can work in tandem with your well system or if you have a large household. 

Water SoftenerPrice
FLECK 140-5600-SXT-100$1,189
Springwell SS+$2,015.20
Whirlpool WHES40E$834.00
Springwell WSSS4$4,266.32
On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT$279.95

Warranty

The longer the warranty, the more years of coverage you’ll have if something breaks. It won’t make your devices any more durable, but it’ll allow you to exchange or replace them if something goes wrong.

Smaller, on-the-go units like the Whirlpool have a short warranty, but they don’t cost much, so one year of coverage is pretty reasonable.

On the other hand, the Fleck and Springwell systems are a lot more expensive, so it’s a good thing that they have warranties on both the tanks and all of the parts. A lot of models don’t come with any coverage for the tanks.

Water SoftenerWarranty
FLECK 140-5600-SXT-1005-year valve warranty and 10-year tank warranty
Springwell SS+Lifetime warranty on tanks and parts
Whirlpool WHES40E1-year full parts and labor warranty
Springwell WSSS4Lifetime warranty on tanks and parts
On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFTLimited 1-Year manufacturer warranty

What Is an Ion Exchange Water Softener?

An ion exchange water softener removes hard minerals from your water through the process of ion exchange. This type of softener comes with a resin tank, a sodium tank, and sometimes a pre-filter that removes soil and sediment from the water before it enters the resin tank.

Large units have the resin tank and the sodium tank separate, but smaller units usually have both in a single container or casing.

How Ion Exchange Water Softeners Work

Ion exchange is the process of replacing specific molecules with others. These water softeners use a particular type of resin in their tanks that attract hard mineral ions and replace them with sodium ions.

The water is then sent out of the system, while the hard minerals remain in the tank and are flushed out after the regeneration process replenishes the sodium ions on the resin beads.

Since the hard mineral ions are removed from the water, it becomes soft and can no longer cause any of the negative side effects associated with using water with high mineral content.

Advantages of Ion Exchange Water Softeners

Ion exchange models are the only type of water treatment that actually softens the water. This means they can prevent common hard water issues, such as soap not lathering, clothes looking worn out after you wash them, limescale formation, stains on your glassware and plasticware, and so on.

Salt-free and magnetic models don’t remove calcium or magnesium molecules from the water, so the hard minerals remain. Both the TAC process and the electromagnetic field that the descalers generate make it so that the minerals don’t stick to the inside of the pipes, but the effects wear off almost as soon as the water hits the sink.

While reverse osmosis filtration units remove the hard minerals from the water, the filters can get easily clogged up by the minerals. When RO systems filter common water contaminants, the filter will likely last you for a month or two (depending on your water usage).

However, hard minerals will significantly shorten the life expectancy of the filters – maybe even down to a few weeks, depending on how hard the water is.

Disadvantages of Ion Exchange Water Softeners

Ion exchange water softeners use two tanks. The resin tank is where the water is softened, and the sodium tank is where the salt is kept for regeneration. It’s an incredibly efficient system, but it takes up a lot of space.

This makes them unsuitable for small houses and especially for apartments.

On the other hand, small ion exchange systems take up much less space, but they have a limited flow rate and can only really supply water to one or two sinks.

Ion exchange water softeners are also usually more expensive than most other water filtration units. This makes sense if you’re buying two large tanks, but even smaller water softeners still generally cost a thousand dollars.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cheapest ion exchange water softener system?

The On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT is the cheapest ion exchange system at around $200 price tag. This puts it in the same cost bracket as the magnetic water softeners, which is widely considered to be the most cost-effective method of water softening. This is especially impressive when you consider that the On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT actually softens the water, unlike descalers.

What is the average price of an ion exchange water softener system?

The average price of a water softener is $1,000 – $1,500. The price varies depending on the number of tanks the unit has, the grain capacity, the flow rate, and size of the system.
You also have to consider any additional filtration systems that it might come with, like a pre-filter or a reverse osmosis system, which can add a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars to the price.
The FLECK 140-5600-SXT-100 would be the best example of one such model. It’s a softener with a single resin and sodium tank, decent grain capacity and flow rate, and about the same size as most whole-house water softeners on the market.

What does installing an ion exchange water softener require?

The On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT and the Whirlpool WHES40E are incredibly simple to install since all you need to do is to connect the single input and output valves to your home’s water pipes, and the softener will do the rest. The other softeners require a lot more work, especially the unit designed for well water, as it comes with three tanks.

If you want to install a softener on your own, you’ll need to follow a detailed guide due to how complex the whole process is. You’ll need to make space for the water softener in your basement since that’s where your water pipes enter your house. Then you’ll need to turn off the water, remove a section of piping, and place the water softener where the removed section of pipe is located.

Once the unit is in place, you can connect the resin tank to the water supply and the sodium tank to the resin tank. Once all of that is done, you can start using your water softener. Keep in mind that we’ve oversimplified the process here, and it’s actually pretty difficult if you don’t know what you’re doing or if you’re not used to working with your hands.

Conclusion

Let’s quickly sum up our recommendations.

The FLECK 140-5600-SXT-100 would be a good pick for any home. The 48-hour system backup and the different regeneration settings are incredibly useful. On top of that, its decent flow rate and grain capacity make it the best choice for most people.

The Springwell SS+ has a very high grain capacity and flow rate, which makes it ideal for large, 7+ bathroom homes or even apartment buildings.

The Whirlpool WHES40E takes up very little space and has a decent grain capacity and flow rate for its size. Add to that the affordable price, and you have a great choice for apartments or small homes.

The Springwell WSSS4 is large and pricey, but you really need it if you use well water for your household. The resin tank will handle any calcium or magnesium minerals in the pipes, while the second tank will remove the potential ferrous and ferric iron.

The On-The-Go OTG4-DBLSOFT is the most affordable option on our list, and while its capacity is limited, it’s still a great option if you just need to soften water from one sink in your home.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
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