5 Best Water Softeners for Apartments (+3 Salt-Free Water Softener Alternatives): Reviews and Buying Guide

The benefits of a water softening unit are not limited to homeowners. There are some compact water softeners on the market that you can use in your apartments. Most of these are portable water softeners designed for RVs. However, if you can’t find a suitable water softener for your apartment, consider installing a salt free conditioner.

Below is a review of the 5 best water softeners and 3 best salt free water softener alternatives for apartments. The article also provides a comprehensive buyer’s guide to help your find the right one.

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5 Best Water Softeners for Apartments

Below are reviews of the best salt based softeners for apartments

Key Features

  • Type: POE
  • Dimensions: 21 by 9.5 by 9 inches
  • Weight: 26 pounds
  • Grain capacity: 10,000
  • Flow rate: 4GPM
  • Resin type: High capacity
  • Salt type: Table salt
  • Regeneration time: 20 minutes
  • Warranty: 10-year on the tank, 5-year on the valve, and 1-year on the head

Although the Watts RV PRO-1000 Portable Water Softener is primarily marketed as a water softener for RVs, it also works well for small households and apartments. It may not be the most sophisticated portable softener on the market but it is highly functional.

The compact water softener measures 21 by 9.5 by 9 inches and weighs around 26 pounds. It comes loaded with 0.33 cu. ft, pre-treated resin beads. Therefore, you can connect the water softener immediately after it is delivered. The resin beads have a 10,000 grains capacity. 

One of the most outstanding features of this water softener is that it can be regenerated using any type of table salt. Each regeneration cycle requires about two pounds of table salt. Since table salt is easily accessible and cheap, the unit’s maintenance costs are quite low.

Another outstanding feature of the Watts RV Pro-10,000 is a built-in drain line flow restrictor that optimizes the regeneration process. It also has a custom-designed flow valve that allows the unit to regenerate without needing to disconnect it. The full cradle base ensures that the tank stands firmly and securely.

This tank comes with hardness strips that you can use to measure the supply hard water level. This POE water softener can withstand a flow rate of up to 4GPM and does not cause a drop in the water pressure. The manufacturer provides a 1-year warranty on the head, 5–year warranty on the valve, and a 10-year warranty on the tank.

  • Compact and portable
  • Efficient
  • Made in the USA
  • Sits stably and securely on the floor
  • Comes pre-filled with treated resin beads
  • Comes with hardness strips
  • Does not cause a drop in pressure
  • Does not require electricity to operate
  • Easy to install and use
  • Uses ordinary table salt for regeneration
  • Efficient regeneration
  • Plug wears out quickly and it can be difficult to find a replacement

Key Features

  • Type: POE
  • Dimensions:5 by 6 by 9 inches or 21.5 by 10
  • Weight: 26 pounds or 40 pounds
  • Grain capacity: 8,000 or 16,000
  • Flow rate: 4GPM
  • Plumping size: ¾”
  • Resin type: High capacity
  • Salt type: Table salt
  • Regeneration time: Up to 30 minutes
  • Warranty: Lifetime warranty

The SoftPro RV water softener is made in the USA and has premium quality. It is available in two-grain capacities: 16,000 for 2 people and 8000 for one person. The manufacture offers various upgrade options, including a sediment water filter and reverse osmosis system. The tank color is either black or almond.

It is easy to install and comes with quick hose connections. The connectors fit the standard ¾” pipes. You should regenerate it every few weeks using ordinary table salt. It comes loaded with 8% premium resin.

The water softener has a lifetime warranty on the valve and tank. The manufacturer offers free shipping and live customer support. Qualitywatertreatment.com offers an interest-free payment plan in 4 installments.

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Easy to regenerate
  • Free shipping
  • Does not require electricity to operate
  • Uses ordinary table salt for regeneration
  • Made in the USA
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Live customer support
  • Payment plan available
  • May require a professional plumber to install
  • Some customers did not receive a manual with the product

Key Features

  • Type: POE
  • Dimensions: 10 by 10 by 20 inches
  • Weight: 34.3 pounds
  • Grain capacity: 16,000
  • Flow rate: 5 GPM
  • Plumping size: ¾”
  • Resin type: High capacity
  • Salt type: Table salt
  • Regeneration time: Up to 30 minutes
  • Warranty: Not indicated

The Pro Aqua Portable RV is a mobile premier water softener. It is designed in California and made using NSF-certified materials. It has a sturdy, durable build. Its inner shell is made of premium quality polyethylene and reinforced with fiberglass. The tank houses NSF-certified food-grade premium resin.

For an easy installation, the water soft in a unit comes with 3/4-inch high flow in and out garden hose ports and a removable head. It comes fully assembled with the riser tube and premium quality top and bottom distributors. The resin beads come charged and ready to use. It has a wide 10-3/8″ base that offers maximum stability even on rough surfaces.

The portable water softener has a capacity of 16,000 grains. It provides up to 40 days of salt and water depending on the hardness level. It has high flow ports that minimize pressure drop. The unit has a 5GPM flow rating. It works well for both city and well water and removes a wide range of heavy metals such as calcium, magnesium, lead, iron, and radium.

It is easy to regenerate in under 30 minutes using two boxes of table salt. For an easy generation, use the 2-in-1 WS-P-REG-KIT water filter and regenerating Kit. However, the unit comes with a female-to-female adapter to enable you to backwash the resin tank even without the WS-P-REG-KIT Pre-filter/Regenerating Kit.

  • Compact size
  • Lightweight
  • Wide base
  • Premium quality
  • Made in the USA
  • Reinforced interior for durability
  • Comes ready-to-use
  • Removes a wide range of contaminants
  • Optional WS-P-REG-KIT 2 in 1 pre-filter/regenerating kit
  • Uses ordinary salt to regenerates
  • Easy to installation
  • Up to $100 more pricey than most portable water softeners
  • The regeneration kit comes at an additional cost

Key Features

  • Type: POE
  • Dimensions: 10 by 10 by 20 inches
  • Weight: 34.3 pounds
  • Grain capacity: 16,000
  • Flow rate: 5 GPM
  • Plumping size: ¾”
  • Resin type: High capacity
  • Salt type: Table salt
  • Regeneration time: Up to 30 minutes
  • Warranty: Not indicated

The On the Go OTG4-DBLSOFT Portable RV Water Softener has a compact, space-saving design shall I go to fit it even in that type of space. It measures 22” H x 9.50” W and weighs 32 pounds. It can withstand high flow rates and does not cause a pressure drop.

The 16,000-grain unit is easy to regenerate in less than 30 minutes using two boxes of common table salt. It has a wide mouth that enables you to add table salt without spilling and a leak-proof cap.

It comes with garden hoses for easy installation. It is also fitted with a handle for easy transportation.

It also comes with a backwash adapter for a quick reverse connection whenever necessary. The manufacturer provides free hardness testing strips to help you determine the hard water level before and after softening. Initially, the water softener used to come with a shutoff valve but it is now discontinued.

  • Compact
  • Can withstand high flow rates
  • Easy regeneration
  • Comes with the backwash adapter
  • Manufacturer provides free hardness testing strips
  • Uses common table salt to regenerate
  • Pricier than most portable water softeners

Key Features

  • Type: POE single tank whole house water softener
  • Dimensions: 9 by 40 inches
  • Weight: 95 pounds
  • Grain capacity: 40,000
  • Flow rate: 5 GPM
  • Plumping size: 1.25”
  • Resin type: High capacity
  • Salt type: Water softener brine
  • Regeneration time: Up to 30 minutes
  • Warranty: Lifetime warranty

GE Appliances GXSH40V premium water softener has a more sophisticated design that incorporates several smart features. It also has a built-in, self-cleaning sediment filter that protects your home’s plumbing system.

It may require a professional to install or expert plumping skills for a DIY installation. It needs to be connected to a power source to operate. The connectors fit up to 1.25″ pipes.

The model is available in different green capacities including 30,400 and 40,000. The 40,000-grain water softener has a salt capacity of 230lbs. It can withstand up to 125 GPG water hardness and 8ppm iron content.

It features an exclusive custom select blending valve that enables you to determine how soft you want your water to be. It also has GE exclusive salt saver that minimizes salt consumption during the regeneration process by up to 34%.

The GE exclusive days to empty keeps your toes on when to refill the salt tank. It Smartsoft Technology learns your water use patterns and ensures you have enough softened water on demand. The smart water softener has an easy-to-use electronic control feature that indicates salt levels in the tank.

  • Sophisticated design
  • Whole house water softener
  • Numerous smart features
  • Electronic control
  • Highly efficient
  • High grain capacity
  • NSF certified
  • On-demand regeneration
  • Reduces salt consumption by up to 34%
  • High water hardness tolerance
  • Can withstand iron levels of up to 8ppm
  • Comes with a self-cleaning sediment filter
  • Requires a professional plumber or expertise skills to install
  • Requires electricity to operate
  • More elaborate maintenance procedure
  • Very pricey

3 Best Salt-Free Water Softener Alternatives for Apartments

Here are three alternatives for salt-based water softeners for your apartments

  • Power rating: 4W
  • Max Hardness: 25GPG
  • Max pipe size: 11/2”
  • Weight: 2.27 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2X3.5X1.6 inches

The HQUA 5000E Electronic Water Descaler is a high-performing water softener alternative. It delivers great value at a budget price. It conditions your water to eliminate existing limescale and prevent the accumulation of new limescale.

It has an elegant, compact design that fits even in limited spaces within your apartment.  It can fit in small apartments as well as condos.

It operates by producing frequency-modulated electromagnetic waves that are transmitted through two cable bands to the water pipes. Through resonance, the natural frequency causes calcium and magnesium ions to precipitate into a crystal-like, non-adhesive consistency.

It has a power rating of 4W for low power consumption. It costs approximately 5-7 dollars a year in electricity bill to operate the HQUA 5000E descaler.

The unit is easy to install and you can do it yourself in about 5 minutes. The product package comes with all the parts you need to install the electronic water descaler including the main unit, self-adhesive pads, power supply, cable ties, antenna cable, and a detailed product manual.

Install it on the main supply line inside your apartment. It fits well on 1” or 1 ½” water pipes. You could mount it directly on the supply line on the wall. The cables are compatible with all types of plumbing including plastic, galvanized, stainless steel, copper, and iron.

It has three green lights that indicate when the system is properly set up and running.

  • Quite affordable
  • Simple, elegant design
  • High-efficiency cables
  • Effective at preventing limescale accumulation
  • Gets rid of previously accumulated limescale
  • Cable fits both 1” and 1-1/2” pipes
  • Works well with all types of plumbing
  • Easy to install and does not require a plumber
  • Energy efficient
  • Come 1-year 100% money-back guarantee
  • It may take a few weeks or months to see results

Capacity: 10GPM

Up-flow/Down-flow: Up-flow

Max water hardness level: 75GPG

Plumping size: 1”

Upgrade options: None

Warranty: 5-year, 2-year, and 1-year

Guarantee: None

If you are looking for a water conditioner that is also a water purification system for your apartment, the Watts Oneflow Plus is a great option. It is a two-in-one scale prevent and water filtration system.

As a conditioner, it has a TAC media with a capacity of up to 250,000 gallons. The media has a lifetime of up to 3 years and can condition water hardness of up to 75GPG. At the center is a 20-micron radial flow carbon block filter that removes chlorine, bad taste, odor, and sediments. The carbon filter has a dirt holding capacity of 2.2lbs.

It is easy to install. It can be mounted on the floor or wall and fits 1” pipes. Its compact size of 19.3 x 9.2 x 9.2 inches ensures that it fits even in limited spaces.

It has a high-quality build. Both the carbon block and anti-scale media are WQA certified to the relevant NSF/ANSI standards. The manufacturer offers a 5-year warranty on the tank, a 2-year warranty on media, and a 1-year warranty on the cartridges.

  • Two in one conditioner and filter design
  • Budget-friendly
  • Easy to install
  • Tank, TAC media, and cartridge warranty
  • WQA certification
  • Easy to maintain
  • Effective at preventing scale build-up
  • Gets rid of chlorine, odor, and bad taste
  • No satisfaction guarantee

This whole house softener descaler is made of neodymium magnets, which are the most powerful commercial magnet. Unlike most other magnetic descalers, it does not have a plastic casing. It produces a 360-degree magnetic field which changes the molecular structure of any metallic ions in the water. Consequently, it prevents scale buildup and gets rid of any existing scale.

It is easy to install and fits any type and size of the pipe, including copper, iron, ABS, and PVC. The magnet is 3-1/2” inches long. It is available in 7 other sizes. It is best suited for low water hardness levels.

  • Quite affordable
  • Efficient for low water hardness levels
  • Made in the USA
  • Strong magnets
  • Easy to install
  • No maintenance
  • Does not use electricity
  • Not efficient for extremely hard water

Buying Guide for the Best Water Softener for Apartments

Why Do I Need a Water Softener for My Apartment?

Up to 90% of Americans have to deal with hard water irrespective of whether you live in an apartment or a large home. Most apartments rely on city water, which has fewer contaminants than well water. Although city water is treated to meet EPA health standards, it still contains dissolved calcium and magnesium minerals that make the water hard.

Therefore, you may notice limescale build-up in your faucets, fixtures, and water appliances. It could also cause a loss of efficiency in your water heater and washing machines. It prevents soap and washing agents from lathering. Your tap water may have an unpleasant taste. Or maybe your skin and hair feel dry after showering.

Installing water softener systems in apartments gets rid of the magnesium and calcium deposits to prevent the residue buildup and improve the overall quality of the water.

This enables the normal flow of water without reducing the water pressure. Also, soap lathers better when used with softened water. Besides, softened water tastes better.

What is the Right Type of Water Softener for an Apartment?

The best water softeners for apartments are compact. Since most apartments have limited space, the traditional water softener with a separate brine tank and resin tank would take up too much space. As such, single-tank whole house water softeners and mobile water softeners are most suitable for apartments.

Point of Entry (POE) Vs Point of Use (POU) Water Softener for Apartments

When deciding the installation location for your water softener inside your apartment, you need to establish whether you want it to be a POE or POU water softening device.

POE units are also known as whole-house systems. They are installed at the point where the main water supply line enters your home. A whole house water softener ensures that all the water coming into your house is softened protecting the entire plumping system.

However, a POE water softener may be difficult to set up especially if the main water supply line is hidden in the wall. Even if it is exposed, you may need to seek authorization from your landlord to install it.

On the other hand, as a POU water treatment device, your water softener is set up directly on the faucet or showerhead. It is small and compact. It is quite easy to install. However, you may need to install severally, one at every point of use. 

How Does a Portable Water Softener Work?

Just like other salt-based water softeners, portable water softening systems get rid of calcium and magnesium deposits in water through the process of ion exchange.

A portable water softener has one tank, that primarily serves as the media tank. The media tank is filled with resin beads that contain sodium ions. Hard water flows over resin beads where ion exchange takes place.

When hard water comes into the tank, the positively charged calcium and magnesium ions bind to the negatively charged resin beads. The sodium ions detach from the resin beads into the water. As a result, the outlet water is free of hard water ions. But, it contains higher levels of sodium.

Portable water softening systems need to undergo a regeneration process every so often to wash out hard water ions on the resin beads and replenish the beads with sodium or potassium ions.

Water Softeners Alternatives in Apartments

If for one reason or another it is not viable to install a water softener in your apartment, consider other water conditioning options such as descalers and salt-free water softeners. Maybe, you do not have room to fit a water softener or the main supply line is hidden.

Or, perhaps salt-based water softeners are banned in your state. Use of sodium or potassium-based water softeners is prohibited, in states such as Michigan, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Texas. They release brine to the sewer line inhibiting the efficiency of the system in disposing of the sewer waste. 

Electromagnetic Descaler

Electromagnetic descalers, also known as electronic descalers are among the best salt-free water softener options for apartments. They are small and compact and can fit even the tightest spaces. They are also easy to install and are virtually maintenance-free. You do not have to hire a plumber or handy many for installation.

Electronic descalers operate by producing an electromagnetic wave that changes the molecular structure of the hard water ions. It either has an in-built capacitor or magnet. The electronic conditioner has copper cables or wires attached that transmit the wave through the water pipe to the water.

To install an electromagnetic descaler, just wind the cables around as per the manufacturer’s instructions on the main water supply line to your apartment. Ensure that the electromagnetic descaler is installed near a power socket. Plug in the adapter and the descaler will be functional. You do not have to program it.

The best electromagnetic water descalers are effective. They prevent new limescale build-up and get rid of the old scale. They do not alter the water flow rate or pressure. You should see a change in the quality of the water within a few weeks.

Magnetic Descalers

Magnetic water softeners work by transmitting magnetism to the water pipe and into the water. They are usually strong magnets and do not need a power source. They are simply fastened around the pipe. Some have a plastic cover. They are compact and are design to fit the standard pipe size.

Catalytic Salt-Free Conditioners

These work through the process of Template-Assisted Crystallization (TAC). Usually, they have a single tank design and do not require electricity to operate. The tank is filled with conditioning media and most have an up-flow design.

When hard water comes into contact with the media, the shape and structure of dissolved calcium and magnesium minerals change to prevent them from adhering to surfaces. As such, they flow easily with the water preventing limescale build-up in the entire plumping system.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Water Softener for Apartment

Here are the key factors to consider when determining the best water softener for an apartment.

Grain Capacity

The appropriate water softener gain capacity for your apartment will depend on the hardness level of the water and your demand for softened water. Most portable softeners have a grain capacity of 8,000 or 16,000.

The 8,000 grains water softeners are most suitable for apartments with only one occupant. Whereas, 16,000-grain water softeners are suitable for apartments with 2-3 occupants.

The units require regeneration once a week for full-time use or every few weeks for part-time use.

If you are keen on a high-capacity water softener, consider various single tank, whole house water softeners such as the Whirlpool or GE Appliances GXSH40V Water Softener. These take up more space, require electricity to be operated, and have a more comprehensive regeneration procedure but their grain capacity options include 20,000, 30,000, and 60,000.

Before buying a water softener, do a hard water test on your water. The higher the hardness level, the higher the grain capacity you require.

The most accurate way to determine how much grain capacity you require is by first determining your daily water usage. If you live with other people in the apartment, multiply your daily usage by the number of people. Then, multiply the total daily consumption by the hard water level.

Ease of Installation and Maintenance

Ideally, you want a water softener that you can install and regenerate yourself. Since most water softeners for apartments do not require electricity to operate, they are fairly easy to install. However, if you find the installation process too complex for your DIY skills, hire a professional plump.

Available Space

The amount of space available in your apartment will be a critical factor in determining the size and type of water softener to install.

Whole house single tank water softeners are best suited if you have ample installation space and easy access to the main supply line and a power source. Mobile water softeners and TAC salt-free water softeners are smaller but also require a bit of space and access to the main water line.

Electronic and magnetic water softener descalers are quite small and can fit even the tightest spaces. They can be installed as either POE or POU water softeners.

How to Regenerate a Portable Water Softener

Mobile water softeners should be regenerated every few weeks. Most need to be regenerated manually using ordinary table salt. The manufacturer indicates the specific amount of salt to use depending on the grain capacity of the softening unit.

To regenerate the unit, follow the following steps.

  1. Turn off the main water supply.
  2. Disconnect the outlet hose connector from the water line.
  3. While keeping the cap on, turn the water softener upside down and drain the excess water.
  4. Place the water softener back in an upright position.
  5. Open the cap and add salt and then close the cap securely.
  6. Turn on the water supply to the softener’s inlet hose connector and leave the outlet open.
  7. Run water through the softening system.
  8. Allow only a little amount of water to trickle in and out of the water softener.
  9. The regeneration process can take a few minutes up to 30 minutes.
  10. After the regeneration, increase water flow to the softener for up to minutes to rinse out any excess salt.

You will know that the resin beads are fully regenerated if you taste the water draining out and it is clean and not salty. You can also use a hardness strip to measure the hardness level of the water. Softened water is 0-3GPG. Once the regeneration process is complete, connect the outlet hose connector back to the main line.

Please note these are general regeneration instructions for most portable water softeners. However, there might be slight differences from one model to another. Check your manual for regeneration instructions specific to your model of water softener.

How to Install a Portable Water Softener in Your Apartment

Below are the steps for installing a POE portable water softener in your apartment:

  1. Turn off the main water supply to your apartment.
  2. Open one faucet fully. Let all the left-over water in the water line flow out. It also helps to release pressure from the water line.
  3. Gather the necessary installation tools and the water softener. The water softener package should contain all the necessary parts for setup. However, you may need additional tools such as a wrench and a pipe cutter.
  4. Find a suitable sport in your water line for installing the portable water softener. If a section of the water line is a hose pipe with connectors, install the water softener at that point. Otherwise, have to cut a section of the inlet water pipe to install the water softener.
  5. Install the water softener ensuring all the connection points are secure. Turn on the water supply and a faucet to ensure that water is flowing in and out of the water softener into the faucets. Check for leaks along the connection points.
  6. Flush the system. Most new water softeners need to be flushed before using them. To flush, turn on the water supply partially. Allow a small amount of water to run through the water softener. Open one faucet and allow water to drain. Leave the water running for as long as the recommended regeneration or flushing time as instructed by the manufacturer.

All portable water softeners are not built the same. Therefore, always refer to your model’s instructions manual for the specific installation procedure.


Water softeners are compact and space-saving. They have a lower capacity than traditional whole house water softeners but they are efficient. If you have very limited space in your apartment, or salt-based water softeners are banned in your state, consider installing an electronic or magnetic water softener instead.

Are Conditioners Water Softeners?

Water conditioners are not true water softeners. However, a water softener is a water conditioner. In broad terms, a water conditioner is a water treatment system that alters the molecular structure or chemical composition of water to prevent limescale formation. Both water softeners and water conditioners prevent limescale buildup.

A salt-based water softener works through the process of ion exchange to get rid of the dissolved calcium and magnesium ions completely. Consequently, it changes the chemical composition of the water by replacing the hard water ions with sodium ions. Softened water has a slick texture and a salty taste due to the excess sodium or potassium ions from the ion exchange process.

On the other hand, salt-free water softeners work by changing the molecular structure of the water. Catalytic conditioners use TAC media, electronic descalers produce an electromagnetic wave, while magnetic descalers produce a magnetic field.

What is the Difference Between a Conventional Whole House Water Softener and a Portable Water Softener?

The traditional whole house water softener is more elaborate. It has separate brine and resin tanks. These tanks are bigger than the standard tank size for portable water softeners to ensure the whole house water softener has the capacity to meet the high demand for water in bigger houses. As such, these water softeners require more installation space and stringent maintenance procedures.

On the other hand, a portable water softener has a compact, space-saving design. They are easy to carry along even on an RV trip. Most portable water softeners use table salt for regeneration so you don’t have to worry about storage space for long large sacs of water softener salt.

Traditional whole house water softeners also vary from their portable counterparts in the regeneration process. Since they have a separate brine tank and resin tank, the brine has to flow from the brine tank to the resin tank during the regeneration process. There is a valve that controls brine flow to the resin tank.

As for mobile water softeners, you pour table salt into the main tank manually for the regeneration process.

Can You Use Potassium Salt to Regenerate Your Portable Water Softener?

Yes, you can use potassium chloride to regenerate your portable water softener. It works the same way as sodium chloride in the ion exchange process only that the outlet water will have high levels of potassium ions rather than sodium ions.