The Best Citric Acid Water Softener for 2021

Whether you run on municipal water or well water, you can have hard water. In fact, about 85% of the US has hard water. Water is considered hard in the range of 7-10 grains per gallon (gpg), very hard at 10-14 gpg, and extremely hard over 14 gpg.  

The Problem with Hard Water

Hard water can cause scale buildup in and around your pipes and appliances, especially where water heating is involved. Hard water limescale can clog up things like your hot water tank, reducing its efficiency, increasing heating costs, and forcing you to replace it sooner than later, all of which cost money.

Your dishwasher is another appliance that often suffers a similar fate and increased costs due to hard water.  Hard water can degrade your clothing with each wash and increase your cleaning frequency, constantly leaving spots on every surface touched by water in your bathroom and kitchen.

Healthwise, hard water can also dry your skin, cause itching, and it can even make heart problems worse due to high calcium levels found in hard water.

How to Deal with Hard Water

In the case of extremely hard water (gpg of 14 or more), a water softener is a must. If your water is hard (gpg of 7-10), moderately hard (gpg of 3-7), or slightly hard (gpg of 3 or less), then it might be more of a convenience.

There are various ways to deal with hard water, and it will depend on what your main goal is. There are water softeners, water conditioners, water filters, and water purification systems. Some are single-step products, accomplishing one primary task, while others are multi-step, dealing with several of these issues at a time.

  • Water softeners: Water softeners physically reduce the grains per gallon of your water, flushing them out in wastewater. They also reduce limescale buildup.
  • Water conditioners: Water conditioners change the chemical structure of the minerals in your water, making them soluble and preventing them from clumping together, sticking, and causing buildup. However, they are not physically removed from the water.
  • Water filter: A water filter can remove things like chemicals, sediment, odors, color, and more particular kinds of minerals such as iron, depending on the type of filter.
  • Water purifier: A water purification system kills germs in your water and may also remove sediment and other minerals and contaminants.

Types of Water Softeners

There are different types of water softeners. Traditional water softener systems use salt in an ionic exchange process to remove hard water minerals which are then contained in a brine tank and flushed out.

Some newer water softeners use a different medium other than salt for the ionic exchange process that is a little more environmentally friendly while others use little to no extra water and use something other than salt for the ion exchange process.

What Is A Citric Acid Water Softener?

Citric acid water softeners are a newer type of saltless or salt-free water softener. Actually, according to our definition above, they are more of a water conditioner. This is because they don’t reduce the actual gpg of the water, and they don’t physically remove anything.

But, they do reduce limescale buildup and rust, and they do give your water a softer feel. For these reasons, many people consider them a water softener, and for the purpose of this article, we will too.

How Do Citric Acid Water Softeners Work?

Citric acid is a weak acid naturally found in citrus fruits. It is also used to help preserve food.

Rather than carrying out something called ion exchange like traditional water softeners, the citric acid in a citric acid water softener chelates or binds to mineral ions like calcium and magnesium, making them soluble and reducing their ability to stick to surfaces. This reduces scale buildup which is not only beneficial for your pipes and appliances, but it also eliminates a potential breeding ground for bacteria, making your home more sanitary.

Citric acid is safe to use because it burns at a higher temperature than your water will ever reach, around 307°F.

Advantages of a Citric Acid Water Softener vs a Salt-Based Water Softener:

Calcium, the main hard water mineral, can dry out your skin and hair and be hard on the cardiovascular system, but so can too much salt or sodium! Excessive salt in your water can also result in oily hair.

A citric acid water softening system has several advantages over a salt-based water softener, which you are certain to appreciate:

  • No salt! No more buying and lugging around heavy salt bags to and from your car and up and down the stairs
  • No more flushing and regeneration cycles, which means…
  • …No more wasted water! Which means…
  • Lower water bills! And…
  • …Better for the environment and the community!
  • No slimy water feel like soft water
  • Retains healthy minerals instead of removing them

Citric acid water softeners are non-electronic devices; they are merely a filter through which your water passes through.

In short, citric acid water softeners have less of an environmental impact than salt-based systems because they don’t flush excessive amounts of salt out into the environment, and they create no wastewater, meaning less of an impact on your wallet, water bill and electrical bill!

Legislations Regarding Water Softeners

In fact, some communities and entire states in the US have banned the installation of new salt-based water softeners because the discharge of their brine solutions has many negative implications. These implications include:

·        Wasting valuable water resources

·        Increasing water treatment costs

·        Causing ppm compliance issues for wastewater treatment plants

·        Reducing the potential usage of recycled wastewater for farming and industrial applications

·        Poorer water quality of groundwater basins

So if you are considering going the route of a salt-based water softener for your whole house water softening system, be sure to check what the regulations are for your area regarding the installation of new salt-based home water softening system.

What Have We Learned So Far?

If you’ve gotten this far, you now know why water hardness matters, the different ways in which hard water can cost you more money, and what you can do about it. You also understand a bit about salt-based water softeners and why salt-free citric acid water softeners are a viable alternative.

To get a better idea of whether a citric acid water softener would best suit your needs, let’s look at the best citric acid water softener available in 2021.

Nuvo H20 Citric Acid Water Softener

Nuvo H2O Manor Water Softener System,...

Nuvo has been perfecting its water softening technology for 25 years. One of their primary goals is to reduce water wastage and preserve our most valuable resource: water.

No Water Wastage

Traditional salt-based water softeners waste anywhere from 20-60 gallons of water once to several times a week in the regeneration process, a citric acid water softener wastes zero water.

With a citric acid water softener, there is no regeneration process and therefore no water wastage.

The Chelation Principle

Nuvo H2O citric acid water softeners use citric acid to chelate minerals like calcium and magnesium, binding to them and making them water-soluble so they can’t stick to surfaces. This prevents limescale buildup and rust formation, saving you cleaning efforts and money and protecting your appliances.

Like a Mineral Supplement

Because the citric acid simply binds to minerals to make them soluble, the minerals are still in the water. This means that you won’t get the limescale buildup or rust, but you’ll still get all the healthy minerals that “hard” water can provide.

One of the downfalls of traditional salt-based water softeners is that they strip the water of minerals.

While excessive amounts of minerals can be problematic, especially excessive calcium for those with heart problems, we do need some calcium from our diet for our bones, muscles and nerve function, and magnesium is an essential mineral that supports heart health, muscle relaxation, stress reduction, sleep, and more.

In fact, subclinical deficiencies in magnesium are widespread, and the majority of people could benefit from additional magnesium.

A More Neutral pH

While hard water has a pH closer to 8, the Nuvo H2O citric acid water softener brings the pH down to 7, keeping it closer to neutral, which is the natural pH of water. A neutral pH is also better for plants and for the environment.

Removes Previously Formed Scale

Another point that makes this product unique is that an independent study showed that it not only prevented limescale buildup, but it also helped remove previously built-up scale and helped restore efficiency in water heaters.

No other product does this. You may also notice that the scale on your faucets disappears after installing the Nuvo H2O.

In fact, if your home has older copper piping, you may notice a bluish or greenish tint to your water after the initial install. This is from the citric acid working inside your copper pipes to remove previously formed copper oxide.

Just run the water at each faucet for a few minutes after installing the Nuvo H2O to help flush out the pipes. This effect should dissipate within a few minutes to a few days at most.

Specifications

The Nuvo H2O Manor model is designed for homes 1,500 square feet or larger and for families of 4 or more. It has a compact design, making it versatile so that it can fit almost anywhere.

The unit is slim (about 6” wide) but long (24” vertically), so you’ll need to install it on a horizontal section of your piping that’s at least 2 feet from the ground. Although it’s easy to install, Nuvo recommends having the unit installed by a professional.

You can get different sizes of replacement cartridges depending on the number of people in your home. The Studio cartridge is for a single person, the Home cartridge is for a family of 2-4, and the Manor cartridge is for larger families of 4-7 people.

Cartridges should be replaced about every 50,000 gallons, which may be every 4-12 depending how much water you use, but on average it should be replaced every 6 months.  

Nuvo H2O Manor Water Softener System,...
  • MANOR HARD-WATER SOFTENER SYSTEM: This Nuvo H2O home system lets you win the war on hard water! Our filtration technology prevents and removes hard water–scale deposits, sediment, and chemicals from house water to give you soft, pure, odor-free drinking water.
  • SALTLESS WATER SOFTENER: This is the perfect whole-home water softener if you are concerned about reducing your environmental impact. The Nuvo water softener system uses no environmentally damaging salt or electricity and creates no wastewater.
  • COMPACT WATER SOFTENER: This whole-house water softener system is designed for filtering and conditioning water in homes larger than 1,500 square feet but is so compact that it fits almost anywhere. This product should be installed by a Nuvo H2O–certified plumber
  • SAVES YOU MONEY: Don’t let hard water, unwanted chemicals, and scale deposits ravage your fixtures and appliances! The Nuvo water system will enhance the performance and extend the life of your water heater, plumbing fixtures, and appliances.
  • THE NUVO H2O DIFFERENCE: We offer the industry-leading, all-natural citrus alternative to old-fashioned salt-based systems for removing hard water and scale deposits.

Should You Buy A Citric Acid Water Softener System?

Now that you know pretty well everything you need to know about a citric acid home water softener system, you should be able to decide if it’s the right choice for you. Here’s a brief review with some guidance to help you on your way.

A citric acid water softener IS for you if:

  • You like the taste of softened water…
  • …But you don’t like the slimy feel of soft water
  • You want to reduce or eliminate existing scale buildup in your water heater, pipes, and faucets
  • Your water is moderately hard to very hard
  • You want to clean less
  • You want a more environmentally-friendly method of softening your water
  • Salt-based water softeners are against the law in your area

A citric acid water softener IS NOT for you if:

  • You have very old copper pipes and the idea of temporary bluish-greenish tinted water makes you squeamish
  • If you have a heart condition for which your doctor has advised you not to take calcium supplements and you need to actually remove calcium from your water supply
  • You’re on a well and you don’t already have other water filtration systems in place
  • You have extremely hard water
  • You want to drink alkaline water

Citric Acid Water Softeners: Final Thoughts

A citric acid water softener conserves water, keeps wastewater usable for other purposes, and is not harmful for the environment.

It allows for easier cleaning by preventing scale buildup while even helping clear up previous buildup. It retains healthy minerals in your drinking water rather than stripping them. The water produced tastes and feels soft but not slimy like traditionally softened water and maintains a balanced pH.

If all of this sounds like a dream come true, then go ahead and try out a citric acid water softener.

If you have old copper pipes, extremely hard water, are on well water, or have a heart condition, you might want to do some additional research to see if this is the right system for you.

It is always a good idea to get your water tested to see exactly what you’re dealing with so you can make the most suitable purchase to meet your needs.

All in all, a citric acid water softener is certainly an environmentally-friendly upgrade compared to traditional salt-based water softeners. To top it off, citric acid water softeners are legal in all states and do not face any legislation issues.

FAQs

Can citric acid water softeners be used with well water?

While some customers say they have used the Nuvo H2O with well water, it is not designed for homes on a private well. If you want to use it with well water, you will also need additional water filtration systems that remove sediment, iron, germs and whatever else is in your water. The Nuvo H2O is also not designed to be used with closed-loop recirculation systems or wood-fired boiler systems.

How often do citric acid water softener cartridges need to be changed?

Nuvo recommends every 6 months or 50,000 gallons. But some people need to change them every 4 months while others change them once a year. It just depends on your water usage.

Is there anything to be aware of when changing cartridges?

You will probably have water spillage, so have a bucket handy. A bypass valve will be helpful during this process. You may also want to have an extra O ring or two on hand as these can wear out and cause leaking. The best time to change O rings is during the cartridge swap. Also, do not overtighten, as this is sure to accelerate wear.

Will a citric acid water softener work for any water hardness level?

While they should work, they may be best for water hardness levels of 10 gpg or less, which is considered hard water. It may be less effective for very hard water or extremely hard water.

Is a citric acid water softener easy to install?

Citric acid water softeners are easy to install and should only take about 15 minutes. No tools are necessary. However, it is always wise to have a professional undertake such a task if you’re inexperienced or unsure.

Does a citric acid whole house water softener system affect flow rate?

It shouldn’t, and most reviews say it does not affect flow rate.

Will a citric acid water softener reduce heavy metals?

No it will not. You would need another type of water filter for this.

Are whole home salt-free water softener systems expensive?

They likely average out to a similar price upfront. You won’t be buying salt and resin and paying for gallons of wasted water. But you will be changing cartridges about twice a year.

Nuvo H2O Manor Water Softener System,...
  • MANOR HARD-WATER SOFTENER SYSTEM: This Nuvo H2O home system lets you win the war on hard water! Our filtration technology prevents and removes hard water–scale deposits, sediment, and chemicals from house water to give you soft, pure, odor-free drinking water.
  • SALTLESS WATER SOFTENER: This is the perfect whole-home water softener if you are concerned about reducing your environmental impact. The Nuvo water softener system uses no environmentally damaging salt or electricity and creates no wastewater.
  • COMPACT WATER SOFTENER: This whole-house water softener system is designed for filtering and conditioning water in homes larger than 1,500 square feet but is so compact that it fits almost anywhere. This product should be installed by a Nuvo H2O–certified plumber
  • SAVES YOU MONEY: Don’t let hard water, unwanted chemicals, and scale deposits ravage your fixtures and appliances! The Nuvo water system will enhance the performance and extend the life of your water heater, plumbing fixtures, and appliances.
  • THE NUVO H2O DIFFERENCE: We offer the industry-leading, all-natural citrus alternative to old-fashioned salt-based systems for removing hard water and scale deposits.