Best Water Softener Resin To Make Your System Run Like New!

Investing in the best water softener resin will improve the quality of your water. We review the 7 best water softener resins alongside answering frequently asked questions.

Have you ever thought you had a potentially expensive replacement or renovation on your hands, only to find out it’s an easy, cheaper fix?

This might be the case with your water softener! If your water softening system seems to be on the brink of death, or if you think you might have to replace your pipes due to reduced water pressure, scale build-up or rust, check your water softening resin first.

The resin bed might be breaking down, and it might be time to change it!

Many people with water softener systems have been pleasantly surprised when, after doing some research, changing their water softener resin bed solved their water issues!

Water softeners have a long life span, and changing the water softening resin bed and a few parts with a bit of cleaning can make it good as new!

Choosing the best water softener resin replacement can be confusing.

This article will help you understand how water softeners and water softener resins work, why your water softening resin might need replacing, and what else you can do to reduce hard water, create soft water, and ultimately have high quality water.

We’ll also review the best water softener resins available in 2021 so you can make the most informed choice possible and get the best high quality resin for your needs.

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A Quick Overview on How Water Softeners Work

Water softeners remove hard water minerals such as calcium and magnesium (and some iron) ions from the water and replace them with sodium ions, creating soft water. This reduces the limescale build-up, rust and sometimes color and odor of your water.

Water softeners require a resin bed made up of tiny beads to function. These resin beads are generally made of divinylbenzene (DVB) wrapped in polystyrene strands, forming a non-recyclable crosslinked plastic.

These ion exchange resins attract cations (or positively charged ions) of calcium and magnesium from the water and release sodium ions to replace them. Once the resin beads are saturated with magnesium and calcium and other minerals from the hard water, the regeneration process must take place to eliminate the hard water minerals and make room for more exchanges to take place.

Sodium-rich water is flushed through the water softener tank, washing away the hard water minerals and recharging the resin with sodium so it can make soft water again.

Why Does the Resin Bed Need Replacing?

During the water softening ion exchange and regeneration processes, the beads expand and contract with the water and minerals running through them.

Over time, this expansion and contraction breaks the beads down, and chlorine speeds up bead degradation significantly. Other reasons for replacing the resin include fouled resin, contamination of the water softener unit, and a change in water supply.

How Long Does Water Softener Resin Last?

Water softener resin can last up to 10-15 years, or as little as 5 years with chlorine levels of 1.0 ppm or higher.

Removing chlorine levels above 1.0 ppm will enhance the softener flow rate and capacity, increase the lifespan of your water softener resin and may be more cost effective. In addition, mineral load or water hardness influences the life of the resin, as does the presence of copper and iron, ambient water temperature, and how often you regenerate the system.

You can purchase a water softener cleaner,  which may help extend the life of your resin if you’re under the 10 to 15-year mark.

The Significance of Regeneration

The regeneration process can both affect the lifespan of your water softener resin as well as be an indicator of the condition of your resin. Regeneration is commonly done about once a week.

However, if your water is very hard (30 gpg or more) or if your iron is high (over 1 ppm), you may need to regenerate every two to three days. Most systems require between 6 and 12 lbs of salt per regeneration, although some are designed to use less.

When Is It Time to Change Your Water Softener Resin?

If you’ve noticed the following issues and you’ve already tried changing the salt, cleaning the brine tank and regenerating your system with no improvement, it’s probably time to change your resin:

  1. Your water softener needs regenerating more often (like every day) or its regeneration process takes more time or requires more salt.
  2. You notice that your drinking water is harder than you’d like.
  3. There’s scale build-up on taps or in appliances including automatic coffee machines.
  4. There are reddish stains around drains and faucets. This can be caused by iron or tannins in your water.
  5. There’s a reduced water pressure in the shower or from faucets. This can happen not only from mineral deposits accumulating but also from the resin beads breaking down and clogging the water softener resin tank or even the screens on the faucets or from sediment/sand in well water.
  6. Your clothing has a scratchy feel, your skin and scalp itch, and you’re using more soap in general.
  7. Mineral spots are left on your dishes after washing them or in the bathroom once the water dries after using the sink or shower.
  8. Your hot water heating costs have increased, or you’ve found a lot of scale build-up in your hot water tank.
  9. Your water smells. This can be caused by algae growth in the resin bed, “fouled” resin beads from iron and organics, or from months to years of disuse.
  10. You’ve used a water softener cleaner and it hasn’t helped much.

I Know My Resin Needs Replacing: Now What?

Before replacing your water softener resin, the best place to start is to get a water testing kit so you know what you’re dealing with in your water. You’ll want to know what the water hardness is, or the grain per gallon (gpg).

You’ll want to know how much iron is in your water. You’ll want to know what other unpleasant compounds might be present that affect the taste and smell of your water, such as sulfur.

You’ll want to know if there are tannins in your water affecting the color. You’ll want to know if there’s sand or high sediment in your well water. And of course, you’ll want to be aware of any other contaminants, especially if you live in a farming, mining or industrial area.

Standard ion exchange resin removes cations, or mineral ions with a charge of +2, such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, some iron, and some others.

It does not remove mineral ions with a charge of +1, anions (which have a negative charge), or acid anions such as carbonate, sulfate, and chloride. A mixed bed water softener resin would help deal with all these additional contaminants. Once you know what’s in your water, you can select the best water softener resin.

Water Softener Resin Specs

There are different specs to look for when trying to decide on a resin replacement. Some of these include type of resin, crosslink percentage, mesh size and resin color. Let’s briefly review these types.

Type of resin

Generally, you’ll want to look for a high-capacity, strong acid cation, ion exchange water softener resin.

This is standard for residential water softeners. There are other types, such as mixed blend resins which contain both cations and anions, but these are used in more commercial settings where a spotless finish is required, such as car washes.

Even with a good water softener ion exchange resin in your home system, you’ll probably still end up with some water spots, but these water spots are from sodium rather than magnesium and calcium, making them easier to wipe away.

Crosslink percentage

Most resins for home water softening systems are an 8 percent crosslink resin, although crosslinking can range from 4-10%. The higher the crosslink, the smaller the beads, the more effective they are said to be and the longer their lifespan, being especially resistant to chlorine degradation.

However, some question the necessity and verity of a 10% crosslink resin, suggesting it may be more of a marketing gimmick or at least a less reliable indicator of quality.

Mesh size

Most resin for water softeners has a standard mesh size. A fine mesh resin is meant for higher iron levels as it helps remove more iron.

However, a common complaint associated with using a fine mesh resin is reduced water pressure due to the beads being smaller and thus allowing less water to flow through.

Also, you’ll need a specialized bottom basket with narrower slits to prevent the beads from slipping through into your water supply as well as gravel.

Resin color

Standard resin color ranges from amber to black and anywhere in between. However, you can get a white resin, but this is primarily for removing tannins and color from your well water and is generally mixed in with a standard resin.

Best Water Softener Resin: 2021 Review

Now that we understand what to look for when purchasing a resin replacement, how do you decide on the best water softener resin? Other water softener resin reviews are available, but some of these are older, and things change quickly in our fast-paced digital world.

We’ve looked at current manufacturer information available as well as customer reviews to come up with this list of the 7 best water softener resins available in 2021.

1. Aquatrol Ion Exchange Resin Review

Water Softening Resin Softener Media...

Aquatrol water softener resin is FDA-approved and NSF-certified. Like the rest on this list, it’s a 100% ion exchange, strong cation, high capacity water softener resin. Like the others, it’s said to have good physical and chemical stability. This is a standard mesh, virgin (new) resin made in China.

There’s seems to be some confusion as to whether it’s 8% or 10% crosslinked. It comes in a bag of 1 cubic foot or 50 lbs, which is approximately a 32,000 grain capacity (although some reviews say it’s a bit short of a cubic foot, more like 0.88 cubic feet or 25 L).

The bag has a funnel pour flap although people say you should still use a funnel. The price is more affordable for a good quality resin. Aquatrol has mostly positive reviews and high ratings.

Verdict

Best highly-used and highly-reviewed product per price point.

Water Softening Resin Softener Media...
  • High Quality Replacement resin
  • This quantity is perfect for 9" X 48" sized tanks
  • NFC Certified for use in treatment of food for human consumtion
  • High exchange and mechanical strength Uniform particle with good hydraulics characteristic
  • Good selectivity and thermotolerant characteristic Excellent physical and chemical stability

2. Purolite C100E Resin Review

Purolite C100E Resin C-100E Cationic...

Purolite C 100E cationic 100% ion exchange resin for water softeners is FDA-compliant and WQA certified for NSF/ANSI 61.

It’s a strong acid cation exchange standard mesh resin that’s good for residential and commercial use. Unfortunately, it’s crosslink is unknown.

It comes in various sizes, so be sure to order the size that’s suitable for your needs. The most popular size is 1 cu ft or 50 lbs. Although it does have a spout in the bag, most users recommend buying a funnel.

It’s pricier than other brands, but many people are willing to pay the higher price for a product that’s made in the U.S.A. Purolite has mostly good reviews and high ratings, although some people warn against cheaper, knock-off versions that do not seem to work and don’t seem to be made in the U.S.A.

Verdict

High-ranking primarily due to its popularity and number of good reviews, and Purolite C100E resin seems to be the standard that other brands compare themselves to. It also offers multiple sizes of bags.

However, the presence of knock-off versions is concerning. Also, it claims to be made in the U.S.A, but this seems questionable.

Purolite C100E Resin C-100E Cationic...
  • Package length : 18.0"
  • Package width : 14.0"
  • Package height : 8.0"

3. Indion 225 NaF Review

One (1) Cubic Foot, 50 lbs, single bag,...

Indion ion exchange water softener resin is distributed by HydroTec Systems in the U.S.A. It’s an 8% crosslinked virgin cation resin that removes calcium, soluble iron, heavy metals and arsenic.

Indion is currently made in India (although in the past it was made in China), but it’s based on a formula developed in the USA in the 1960s. It is tested and certified by WQA against NSF/ANSI standard 61 & NSF/ANSI standard 372.

It comes in a 1 cubic foot bag weighing 50 lbs. Indion resin has fewer reviews than some of the more popular resins, but it has received almost all highly positive reviews and seems to be a good price and a good quality.

Information about this resin is easy to find and readily available on the internet compared to other water softening ion exchange resins, and the quality of the information available is superior.

Verdict

Highly certified and excellent quality at an excellent price. The quality and availability of information increases trust in the product. Ranks as third place only due to its having fewer reviews than other popular brands.

One (1) Cubic Foot, 50 lbs, single bag,...
  • New Virgin Resin
  • Regenerated into Sodium (Na+) Form
  • Ready For use
  • Removes soluable calcium and soluble iron
  • Removes Hardness

4. AFWFilters SOFRES1 Review

1 cubic foot, single bag of High...

AFWFilters High Capacity Resin is distributed by HydroTec Systems Company, a respected water systems manufacturer. This is a strong acid cation standard mesh resin with an 8% crosslink. It’s made in India or China from a U.S. formula and is tested and certified by the Water Quality Association (WQA) as NSF/ANSI 61.

It is sold as 1 cu ft or 50 lbs, although many people say they receive 25 L, which is 0.88 cubic feet. The price for a cubic foot is about mid-range. It can also be purchased in 0.5 cubic feet increments for 1.5 cubic feet or more for convenience and may therefore arrive in 0.5 cu ft bags.

It may also arrive in a generic bag, and the color may vary. Unfortunately, some people report a plastic taste to their water. This resin has many good reviews and high ratings but does have some negative reviews regarding poor water taste or not reducing water hardness. Some people have also reported having difficulties contacting the company or getting issues resolved, but these were older reviews.

Verdict

Due to the high number of reviews which are mostly positive, this product ranked high on the list. However, due to the unpleasant taste some people have reported, the fact that you get less than 1 cubic foot in a bag, and the fact that the packaging and color can vary, this product ranked fourth.

1 cubic foot, single bag of High...
  • Water Softening Resin Certified NSF 61 for Drinking Water System for Human Consumption.

5. Tier1 Review

Tier1 IER-100 Ion Exchange Water...

This strong acid sodium cation resin has an unknown crosslink, although it’s likely a standard 8%. It’s sold as 0.88 cubic feet, which is equivalent to the other brands that offer a 1 cubic foot bag. Made in China, it’s WQA certified against NSF/ANSI 61.

Tier1 offers an unconditional guarantee for the life of the resin. Tier1 has mostly positive reviews, with the negative reviews centering around offering 0.88 cubic feet instead of 1 cubic foot; however, this volume issue seems to have been corrected now and is accurately represented.

Verdict

Tier1 has great reviews on its effectiveness albeit fewer reviews than other popular brands. It offers a good price and a fantastic guarantee, with a good online presence the helps establish trust in the company.

6. iFilters Review

Water Softener Resin Media Replacement...

iFilters ion exchange cation resin is a standard mesh resin, likely with a standard 8% crosslink. It is NSF certified and claims to be an equivalent to Purolite.

Both the resin and the customer service have received positive reviews. The main difference here is that iFilters sells this resin in 0.25 cubic foot per bags which can be purchased as a 2-pack to make it a half cubic foot. Its 8,000-grain capacity per bag is ideal for smaller households with lower soft water needs, for portable systems, or if you need to buy just a bit extra to top up your previous amount.

The price per cubic foot is a bit more than some, but for the convenience of being able to purchase smaller bags both for quantity requirements and for ease of use, this price is reasonable.

Verdict

This resin is ideal for those looking to buy a smaller quantity of replacement resin from a reputable company with good reviews at a mid-range price.

Water Softener Resin Media Replacement...
  • 1/2 Cubic Foot. Perfect for portable water softeners.
  • 16,000 Grain Capacity
  • High quality replacement resin.
  • NFC Certified for use in treatment of food for human consumption.
  • High exchange, mechanical strength and uniform particle with good hydraulics characteristic

7.     Amanzi FINE MESH Water Softening Resin Review

Amanzi FINE MESH Water Softening Resin...

Amanzi fine mesh water softening resin (distributed by Nelsen Corporation) is an 8% crosslinked cation fine mesh resin. Fine mesh resins are best for greater ferrous iron removal at iron levels of 6-8ppm.

Remember that you must use gravel and a fine mesh distributor basket with fine mesh resin. This resin is NSF 44 certified. It has few reviews and ratings but seems to be one of few fine mesh resins easy to find and purchase.

It is sold in bags of 0.5 cu ft, 0.75 cu ft and 1 cu ft, so be sure to purchase the correct amount. The price for 1 cu ft is comparable with mid-range standard mesh resin and comparable with other fine mesh resins.

Verdict

This product is ideal for those prepared to invest in a fine mesh water softener system designed to remove higher levels of iron.

Amanzi FINE MESH Water Softening Resin...
  • FINE MESH-75-BOX Fine mesh resin permits greater exposed surface area exchange sites resulting in higher kinetics than conventional resin yielding greater ferrous iron removal while providing the same softening capability

Still Confused Which Are the Best Water Softener Resins?

Many commonalities exist between the brands listed above, making it difficult to decide on the best water softener resin for you. Some of these commonalities include:

  • 8% crosslink resin
  • High capacity
  • 100% ion exchange resin (100IER)
  • Strong acid cation resin
  • High chemical and physical stability
  • Having to use a funnel, even if the bag has a spout
  • Potential bag breakage during shipping
  • Mostly positive reviews and ratings with some poor ones to boot

Highlights

Some differences that may help you decide on the best water softener resin for you include the following:

  • Bag size
  • Where it’s made
  • Whether reducing iron is a concern
  • What its certifications are
  • Price point

So Which Is the Best Water Softener Resin?

If you’re looking for a well-known brand of water softener resin that works for most at a good price, try Aquatrol.

If you’re looking for a better price but still high quality resin, try Indion. If you need smaller quantities, go with iFilters. If you need a fine mesh resin, go with Amanzi.

Water Softening Resin Softener Media...
  • High Quality Replacement resin
  • This quantity is perfect for 9" X 48" sized tanks
  • NFC Certified for use in treatment of food for human consumtion
  • High exchange and mechanical strength Uniform particle with good hydraulics characteristic
  • Good selectivity and thermotolerant characteristic Excellent physical and chemical stability
One (1) Cubic Foot, 50 lbs, single bag,...
  • New Virgin Resin
  • Regenerated into Sodium (Na+) Form
  • Ready For use
  • Removes soluable calcium and soluble iron
  • Removes Hardness
Water Softener Resin Media Replacement...
  • 1/2 Cubic Foot. Perfect for portable water softeners.
  • 16,000 Grain Capacity
  • High quality replacement resin.
  • NFC Certified for use in treatment of food for human consumption.
  • High exchange, mechanical strength and uniform particle with good hydraulics characteristic
Amanzi FINE MESH Water Softening Resin...
  • FINE MESH-75-BOX Fine mesh resin permits greater exposed surface area exchange sites resulting in higher kinetics than conventional resin yielding greater ferrous iron removal while providing the same softening capability

Water Softener Resin FAQs

How do I know whether to try cleaning the resin beads or just replace them?

If your resin has been fouled by iron or organics, you can try using a resin cleaner solution first. However, if your water softener has algae growth or has sat unused for periods of more than a couple months, it would be best to remove the resin, give it a good cleaning, and replace the resin.

When replacing the resin, how much resin will I need?

Check the user manual, or you can measure the resin tank and use an online calculator. A 9”x 48” tank generally takes 1 cu ft of resin.

What’s the difference between standard mesh resin and fine mesh resin?

Standard mesh resin creates soft water, while fine mesh resin will also help remove more iron.

How long does water softener resin last?

On average, about 10 years, although it can range between 5-15 years depending on water quality.

What do I do with my old resin once replaced?

Since the resin is made of divinylbenzene (DVB) wrapped in non-recyclable polystyrene, it should be disposed of in the landfill. Just put the beads in a sealed container and put it in the garbage.

What if my resin tank capacity takes a bit more than comes in the bag? Do I need to buy two bags?

According to reviews, if you’re a bit short, say by 0.05 cu ft, it’s not worth worrying about. With some softeners, you can adjust the resin tank grain capacity setting if you add a lower capacity than the tank takes. If you’re unsure, it’s best to check your water softener manual or call the manufacturer to find out.

Do I have to regenerate my tank before using the new resin?

At least one regeneration is required after replacing the resin, although sometimes it might take a couple rounds before you can drink it, otherwise it may have a funny color or flavor.

Why do some people say a resin works while others find it doesn’t work?

It is possible you got a bad batch. However, the main reasons why a resin wouldn’t work for some while it works well for most is either not accounting for other contaminants in the water or because some other parts of the water softener might need cleaning or replacing. Before you replace the resin, consider testing your water, and have a good look at your water softening system.

What else can be causing problems with my water softener system?

Other parts may need replacing when changing your resin media or resin bed. These include O rings or seals (these can become degraded from chlorine), the bottom distributor, center pipe, and control valve. Some people have been amazed at how much difference changing and lubing an O ring made!

What’s the difference between 8% and 10% crosslinking, or some other percent crosslink?

The standard is 8%. If you find a 10% crosslink, it will claim to hold up better against chlorine degeneration. Crosslinking percentages seem to be a bit of a moot point nowadays, as many companies don’t bother to list it anymore.

Are there other types of resins?

There’s a mixed cation/anion resin, which is best for spotless finishes, but these are not generally used for home water softening systems. Fine mesh resins will remove more iron, but they can also reduce your water pressure because they’re smaller and therefore require a distributor with more narrow slots to prevent the beads from leaking through. It also requires gravel and a special bottom distributor. Another potential issue with fine mesh resin is it may break down quicker and clog up your system. All of this results in a higher cost. White resins will remove tannins and color from your well water – this is usually mixed with your standard cation resin.

Can you mix different types of resins?

You can mix types, for example you can mix different brands of cation resins together, but you should not mix a cation resin with an anion resin or a blend unless you know what you’re doing. Do not mix standard and fine mesh sizes together.

What color is resin?

Resin colors can range from amber to black and anything in between.

Are any resin beads made in the U.S.A?

Not likely. Even some that claim to be made in the U.S.A. do not seem to be reliably so. Don’t buy resin just because it’s made in the U.S.A., or you may be disappointed. However, some companies use U.S. formulations, and most adhere to FDA and NSF/ANSI standards.