If you’re looking for the best water softener shower heads, then you’ve come to the right place. If you’ve looked online for a water softener shower head, chances are you’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of choice there is. Do they do what they claim? And many of them look so similar, so what are the differences?
We’ve got you covered. We’ve combed through them all and selected the most reliable brands of water softener shower heads with the highest customer satisfaction rates so that you’ll be able to find something that meets your needs and your budget.
In this article, we’ll also touch on what exactly a water softener is and the benefits of installing a water softener shower head vs a whole home water softener or filtration system. Then we’ll take a moment to clear up some misunderstandings about water softener shower filters. We’ve done the footwork for you, so read on to find the best choice for your needs and your budget.
Water softener shower head filter reviews
Here is our list of the best shower water filters.
Best Overall: AquaBliss SF500 Heavy Duty shower filter
Although AquaBliss is a newer brand, they’ve taken the market by storm with a decent product for an average price and tens of thousands of sales and reviews. They’ve even upgraded their filter based on reviews and feedback to make this newer heavy duty version the best yet.
This latest version includes upgraded seals that won’t leak, new finer redox filter media (basically KDF) that works well in cold and hot water, 20-30% more filter media than the previous version, a sediment filter that’s easy to access for quick buildup cleaning and replacement, and a universal shower adapter to ensure it’ll fit any existing showerhead.
AquaBliss SF500 in line shower filters are 8-stage filters with three sections:
- Sediment removal:
- Sand filters that remove sediment, sand and limescale
- Ultra-fine stainless steel mesh for medium-sized sediment particles
- Microporous PP cotton mesh that removes fine sediment, dust and turpitudes
2. Impurity removal:
- Calcium sulfite removes chlorine in hot and cold water
- Redox media (basically KDF) reduces chlorine, reduces scale in hot water, and reduces pharmaceuticals and pesticides
- Activated carbon filter removes chlorine, trihalomethane (THM) and other toxic vapors (VOCs) and potentially harmful chemicals
- Microporous PP cotton retains trapped sediment and impurities
- Ultra-fine stainless steel mesh keeps everything else in place and allows for reversal of filter cartridge for backflushing
With other brands, many reviewers complain about potentially receiving knock-off versions of filters that don’t work as well as the ones they initially received. AquaBliss guarantees that your replacement filters will work as well as your initial filters.
With this updated filter version, you need to contact the company to receive replacement sediment pads. The company states that these will be available for purchase soon. Many people have said that changing these sediment pads every couple weeks makes a big difference in water pressure and in the longevity of the filter.
- Actual Heavy Duty Filtration - 48% Denser Media: Our top selling shower head filter is now even better. Cleverly engineered to maximize the space with 48% more shower media, this is the shower water filter to get if you want to make every shower a refreshing, cleansing experience free from the slime, scale, dirt, bad odors, rust, chemicals, chlorine & toxins that otherwise ruin your scalp, hair, nails & skin.
- Itchy to Soothed - Love Your Skin Again: Dry, Irritated scalp? Cracked, Scaly skin? Your water’s likely to blame. From big cities to tiny towns, recent water tests show an overabundance of the ‘yuck’ that dries out your skin, making this water filter shower head fixture the ideal way to support your body’s natural rejuvenation cycle - without dousing yourself in chemical-ridden creams, lotions and potions.
- Hair You Can’t Stop Touching - Frizzy & Falling to Naturally Silky Soft & Thick: AquaBliss water filter for shower leverages a proprietary blend of ultra-dense redox media, 2x strength calcium sulfite (strips, not cheap beads) and coconut shell activated carbon to quickly, easily and naturally reduce those nasty hair & scalp disrupting agents - the ideal well shower head filter to support thick, silky soft hair you can’t stop touching.
- Thriving Nails - Brittle to Strong: Your nails do a ton of heavy lifting for you every day, treat them well. AquaBliss quickly, naturally and effectively promotes a dramatic reduction in the chemicals and yuck that disintegrates nails normally tough exterior - so you can bathe in confidence, knowing you’re supporting strength & beauty, not diminishing your most naturally beautiful self!
- Fits Every Shower - 2x Replaceable Filters, Zero Tool, Twist On Installation: Know someone who can twist on and off a cap? Then you’re set! We guarantee this UNIVERSAL shower filter for well water, rain showers, standard showers & handheld showers delivers the superior results we’ve become known for, from the very first shower through the additional six months your easy-in replacement filter pads cover you, or your money back - no questions asked.
Best Overall Runner-Up: AquaBliss SF100 high output shower filter
AquaBliss also offers the SF100, a model that devotes 75% to filtration and 25% to rejuvenation (rather than 100% to filtration like the SF500 above). The filter is a 13-stage filter with the same media as the SF500 above, albeit less of it, with the addition of the following five rejuvenating components:
- Mineral beads: infuse beneficial minerals and oxygen into the water
- Zeolite: infuses beneficial minerals and chelates heavy metals
- Vitamin C: vitamin C reduces chlorine and is beneficial for the skin
- Tourmaline beads: enhance filtration and infuses hair-healthy minerals into the water
- Magnetic beads: energize and oxygenate water for hair, skin and nail health
With a whopping 85% 4 and 5-star reviews out of about 30,000, this filter is worth a try and potentially offers the best bang for your buck. Replacement filters are reasonably priced for a filter than should last 2-6 months with a bit of TLC.
- DAY 1 - IMMEDIATELY BEGINS REJUVENATING SKIN, HAIR & NAILS: HARD, chlorinated, chemical ridden water causing itchy skin, flaky dandruff, eczema, bone-dry hair and brittle nails? Let our UNIQUE, PROPRIETARY SYSTEMS MULTI-STAGE sediment filters, redox media, calcium sulfite, activated carbon and ceramic beads deliver MAXIMUM WATER FILTRATION to NEUTRALIZE ODORS, balance out your PH levels and INFUSE BENEFICIAL MINERALS into your skin, nails and hair from the first time you turn it on!
- ACTUALLY WORKS - EXPERIENCE THE CLEANEST CLEAN: MOST filters for showers eliminate some chemicals for a short time, but do nothing to restore the damage done to your hair, nails and skin. Our ADVANCED MULTI-STAGE HEALTH FILTER reduces Chlorine, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dirt, odors, helps control scale buildup plus restores what your hard, chemical filled water did to your hair, skin and nails!
- JUST .09 CENTS/DAY: WHAT is your HEALTH worth? What about LOOKING YOUR BEST? If you’re a savvy shopper, you’ve done your research so you know that most shower filter cartridge options for well or city water only last a few months, then cost a pretty penny to replace. AquaBliss “EASY SWAP” showerhead FILTER replacements last longer cost less - for CLEANER, CLEARER, BEAUTIFYING SHOWER TIME for LESS than .09 cents per day.
- “IT FITS!” - EASIEST NO-TOOL INSTALL: IF YOU can snap together Legos, you can easily remove your old shower filter or chlorine filter and replace it with this in minutes! Because we believe life should be EASY, we ENGINEERED the FITTING so IT WORKS with ALL SHOWER TYPES – including fixed, rain and handheld. No tools required.
- ADVANCED REVITALIZING SF100 VS HEAVY DUTY SF220: CUSTOMERS LOVE both of our AQUABLISS shower head filters. Here’s how to know WHICH ONE TO CHOOSE. If you’re simply looking for a HEAVY DUTY shower filter to target and reduce chemicals, sediment and chlorine – buy our SF220. If you’d love the BONUS BENEFIT of our ceramic beads, to RESTORE HEALTHY, itch free skin, shiny hair and strong nails then you’ll want to add this Advanced revitalizing filter to your cart now.
Longest Lasting: Berkey shower filter
The Berkey shower water filter is not considered a water softener. It is primarily designed to remove chlorine. However, we admire their honesty and integrity in only claiming what is true and that’s why they have made this list.
Berkey shower filters only use KDF-55 (kinetic degradation fluxion) as the filtration medium. KDF is made of granular zinc-copper alloy. Copper is not cheap, hence the higher price for the filter.
Unlike carbon which absorbs contaminants, KDF turns the chlorine into harmless chloride through an ionic exchange. KDF does the same to lead, mercury, iron and other heavy metals and also reduces microbial contamination such as bacteria, algae, fungi and mold.
Berkey is often recommended by hairstylists to keep dyed hair from turning orange, likely because it does a good job of filtering out chlorine and iron for a sufficient length of time.
Berkey does recommend backflushing the shower filter every couple months to remove built-up minerals and maintain adequate flow.
Berkey, along with its replacement filters, is on the pricier end of shower filters, but it is also expected to last for 20,000 gallons or one year, at least twice as much as most filters. And if you’re purchasing something reputable and reliable with 80% 5-star reviews, then you know it’s a good investment.
The Berkey shower filter works with any showerhead or it can also be purchased with a massaging shower head.
- Reduces up to 95% of chlorine
- Reduces chemical absorption and vapor inhalation
- Berkey shower filters typically last (approx.) one year or 20,000 gallons (whichever comes first) before a replacement is needed
- Reduces lime, scale, mold and fungi in showers
- Back flush attachment included to prevent premature clogging. Do not use with Shut-off valve
Best Chloramine Filter: Aquasana shower filter with shower head
Aquasana is another shower filter that does not claim to soften the water but primarily reduces chlorine. However, it made it on our list because it does what it says. And although it doesn’t claim to soften the water, chances are it does to some degree due to the filter composition.
The 2-stage filter media is coconut shell carbon and KDF-55, meaning it’s very effective at reducing chlorine as well as VOCs (toxic vapors), heavy metals, lead, hydrogen sulfide, pesticides and microbial contamination.
Aquasana filters out 90% of chlorine and chloramine, although the filter may not last as long if chloramine is present in the water. The reason it is more effective at reducing chloramine than other filters is due to the shape and size of the filter. To reduce chloramine, activated carbon requires longer contact time with the water, which this filter provides with its long, upflow design, which also helps reduce clogging.
The filter claims to last 10,000 gallons or six months. A one-year warranty on the unit is reassuring, as is the fact the company has been in business since 1998. Replacement filters are on the pricier end but are worth it if you know it will work for that period of time. You can also purchase this unit with a white-finished copper handheld wand or a chrome-finished iron handheld wand.
- Maximum Filtration & Water Pressure (2.5 GPM Flow Rate) – Constructed with a unique up flow design which maintains water pressure, prevents clogging, and increases contact time with media.
- Premium Carbon Filtration Media - Natural coconut shell carbon reduces chlorine, lead, iron and other harsh chemicals, while copper & zinc media enhances your water's PH balance
- Healthier Skin, Hair & Air - Reduced harmful chemicals means more moisturized skin, healthy shiny hair, and less chlorine in your shower steam
- Long Lasting & Cost Efficient Filtration - Our filters are some of the longest lasting on the market. Keep your water fresh for 6 months or 10, 000 Gallons and for as little as 25 cents a day
- Simple DIY Installation & Filter Replacement - Easily install showerhead in 4 simple steps. After installation run water for several minutes to flush carbon fines until water is clear. For optimal filtration, replace filters every 6 months
Best Filter Not Made in China: AquaYouth 2.0 shower head filter
The AquaYouth 2.0 is the only shower filter on the market that is NSF/ANSI 177 certified to reduce free available chlorine and NSF/ANSI 372 certified for low lead content verification and heavy metal reduction by the Korea Environment & Water Works Institute. The AquaYouth 2.0 is also one of the only shower head filters not made in China but in Korea.
AquaYouth prides itself in accurate claims, third-party testing and high quality, unlike many filters available online. The AquaYouth does not claim to soften the water or reduce TDS, however many users say it feels like the water is softer.
AquaYouth filters are made of coconut shell activated carbon, ceramic balls (which likely contain calcium sulfite) and a dual 5-micron PP mesh, effectively removing 99% of chlorine, 100% of rust and iron, 100% of mercury, 63% lead, 33% copper, other heavy metals, sand and other sediment.
Activated carbon also reduces herbicides, pesticides, and VOCs. AquaYouth will also reduce chloramine, but not as effectively as chlorine; and if your water supply contains chloramine, the filter will not last as long.
Replacement filters for the AquaYouth 2.0 are unique, brand name and have 95% 4 and 5-star ratings, unlike many other replacement filters available online. Because of its distinct features, you’ll know you’re getting the correct product that does the job right. The filters are rated for 4 months of use.
The AquaYouth 2.0 is on the pricier end of shower head water filters. But if you want to get a product that will last and do the job right, this unit is worth a try. In addition, their customer service team is reviewed to be very helpful.
- CERTIFIED & TRUSTED PERFORMANCE: In an industry saturated with unvalidated performance claims, you can rest assured knowing that AquaYouth has invested in third party testing and certification. The AquaYouth 2.0 shower filter is the only shower filter on the market that is NSF/ANSI 177 certified for the reduction of Free Available Chlorine and NSF/ANSI 372 certified for Low Lead Content Verification and confirmed the reduction of heavy metals by Korea Environment & Water Works Institute.
- POWERFUL MULT-STAGE WATER FILTRATION: The AquaYouth 2.0 shower filter very effectively targets chlorine, heavy metals, rust, sand, and other sediments for superior water purification.
- MAY IMPROVE HAIR & SKIN,: Unfiltered water can contain chlorine and other chemicals that are harsh on your skin and hair. These substances have been associated with excessive drying, which damages the skin and causes hair to lose its shine. Reductions of these contaminants results in softer hair and smoother skin.
- SUPERIOR DESIGN: AquaYouth's modern, sleek, and durable design built to last and will improve the aesthetic of any shower. The design also makes for easy filter replacements.
- SPA-LIKE EXPERIENCE WITH EVERY SHOWER: Showering with the AquaYouth 2.0 shower filter is like showering in spring water. You'll look forward to taking every shower.
Most Reliable: Culligan chrome shower head filter
It’s amazing to think that something so small could filter anything at all. But according to 80% of reviewers, somehow it does!
Culligan’s wall mounted shower head water filters are made of activated granular carbon and KDF and reduce chlorine, sulfur, rust and scale. Because of their composition, they probably also reduce other contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, VOCs, and microbial contamination to some degree.
Although it doesn’t claim to reduce the TDS, people say their water does feel softer, and likely some hard water minerals are being removed.
The filters last 10,000 gallons or six months and are said to be reversible, so if your water pressure drops, try turning your filter around. According to a tip in the reviews, this filter may also be recharged by soaking it in salt water to regenerate it and extend its life, similar to a conventional water softener regeneration process.
With a one-year limited warranty, over 80% 4 and 5-star reviews, and an average price for the unit and replacement filters, you can rest assured that Culligan, a brand that has been around for decades, will be worth a try.
The filtered showerhead can also be purchased as a chrome handheld wand.
- Provide your shower with ideal water for softer and cleaner skin and hair. FILTER LIFE: Up to 6 months or 10,000 gallons, depending on usage and filtration load
- FEATURES: Included WHR-140 filter cartridge reduces sulfur odor, chlorine, and scale; Patented filter media bacteriostatic that limits passage and growth of bacteria; Includes Teflon tape, cartridge reminder sticker, and installation instructions
- COMPATIBILITY: Installs on any standard 1/2-inch threaded shower arm; Culligan WHR-140 filter cartridge; 40°F-120°F temperature range
- CERTIFICATION: Tested and certified by IAPMO to ANSI standard 177; meets EPA WaterSense certification standard of maximum 1.8 gallons per minute or less; 1-year warranty
Best Luxury Shower Head Filter: ADOVEL rainfall shower head filter
If you’re looking for a spa-like 15-stage shower head water filter that comes with a luxury shower head with a rainfall effect, then this is for you. With 92% 4 and 5-star ratings out of 1,500, you’re going to want to give it a try.
The shower head is 6 inches across for good body coverage with 90 silicone nozzles that can be pressed in and wiped if blockages occur. It sits on a ball so that the shower head can move freely and be adjusted to any angle you like.
Although the filter is rate for 6 months, they do suggest you’re more likely to get 3-6 months out of it. Like most 15-stage filters, ADOVEL shower head filters contain:
- Several layers of ultra-fine stainless steel mesh and microporous cotton mesh to remove sediment
- Activated carbon for chlorine, trihalomethanes (THMs) & other chemicals
- KDF 55 for chlorine & heavy metals
- Calcium sulfite for odors, chlorine & heavy metals
- Vitamin C for chlorine removal and healthy skin, hair and nails
- Mineral balls and ceramic balls to release beneficial minerals
- Medical stone to remove odors
- Alkaline balls: balance the water pH
- Magnetic energy balls to oxygenate the water and your skin
Those who might want to try a different product are those with small hot water tanks. The water flow is higher, so taking long, hot showers might cause you to run out of hot water or run up your water bill.
The company promises good customer service, offering a 30-day guarantee and 18 months of support after your purchase. This comes with one extra filter (so two in total), and replacement filters come in packs of two. For an above-average priced water softener shower head, the reviews support the idea that it’s worth the price.
- Rain shower experience: ADOVEL 6 inch large top spray with 90 nozzles that has the density and strong water to bring you full coverage of the rain experience. It can make water spread your body completely to help you release all pressure. You will get rid of all the troubles of traditional showers and enjoy a healthy rain shower
- Softened and healthy water: The 15-stage filter effectively removes chlorine and fluoride, heavy metals, odors and other deposits to provide you with soft and healthy water that makes your family and children feel happy and healthy
- Rejuvenate your body: Water through the filter head rejuvenates and protects you from harmful substances. Increased water activity helps you release the itching sensation of dry skin, reduces scalp itching, dry hair and eczema, and improves skin's immunity
- Easy to install & replacement filter cartridge: Universal (G1/2) shower head and filter for any standard shower arm. It is easy to install without tools. We have prepared a high-quality fashion gift box with a filter and Teflon tape to help you save money and provide convenience
- Provide Support: ADOVEL, aiming for the great customer experience, additionally try our best to provide every distinguished client with first-rate aid and instruction: 30-day claim and 18-month support. If you have any questions, please let us know and we will solve itwithin 12 hours
Best Pressure-Boosting Filter: PureAction 2-stage water softener shower head
PureAction has several available shower filter models. This water-saving, high output shower head is made of clear plastic with a stainless steel sprayer end. The shower head has multiple massage settings.
The main selling points of this shower head filter are the chloramine reduction, the fluoride filtering, its water-saving capability and its ability to turn low-pressure showers into high-pressure showers thanks to the tiny sprayer holes. It is also one of the only shower filters that is purely calcium sulfite, which is the best chlorine-removing filter medium.
The filter is made of a hypoallergenic fine foam sponge and calcium sulfite ceramic stones which remove chlorine, chloramine, fluoride, rust, iron, sediment, calcium and heavy metals.
This shower head filter package comes with two replacement filter cartridges and Teflon tape. The filters are rated for 6 months or 10,000 gallons. Replacement cartridges are sold in packs of two. Not only is this handy, but if you’re purchasing it for chloramine reduction, then you’ll probably need to replace it sooner than later.
Its flow rate is 1.8 gallons per minute but is designed to provide higher pressure with lower water consumption. If the sprayer holes become clogged with calcium build-up or rust, soak it in vinegar for a few hours to remove the build-up.
A chrome handheld wand shower head filter is also offered by PureAction. It uses the same 2-stage filter, which is found inside the wand itself. This package is more of a luxury item and does not come with replacement filters.
PureAction is a 5-year-old company and offers a one-year warranty on their shower water filters, which means you can try their average-priced products risk-free. However, be sure to register your product upon receipt to be able to access this warranty.
- HARD WATER FILTER: Our shower head filter removes chlorine, flouride, chloramine and softens well water by filtering up to 99.9% of rust iron, heavy metals, calcium and sediments
- TAKES CARE OF YOUR SHOWER: Our filtered shower head is revitalizing your body and rejuvenates your hair, skin and nails. Reduces dry, itchy skin, dandruff, and eczema
- WATER SAVER SHOWER HEAD: Save water without sacrificing output pressure even at weak or low flow water pressure conditions for hotel spa shower experience
- EASY INSTALLATION: Our showerhead filter comes with 3 settings: rain, power rain, massage. Easily connects to any standard wall-mounted and fixed showers in minutes
- PREMIUM GIFT & BONUSES: Our water softener shower head set includes 2 FREE replacement cartridges + Teflon tape + luxury gift box and 1 YEAR WARRANTY! For replacement filters search B07D99ZB4V. Buy together and get 30% OFF immediately!
Best Budget Showerhead Filter: Densors Vitamin C handheld showerhead filter
This shower water filter is different: it’s a handheld wand with the beads loosely filed into the wand arm with a lemon-scented vitamin C cartridge to infuse spa-like vapors into your shower.
The vitamin C not only makes your shower smell amazing, but it also helps remove chlorine and offers benefits for your skin, hair and nails.
The beads inside the wand include the following media:
- Calcium sulfite which removes chlorine and metal ions
- Zeolite which removes heavy metals, fluorine and ammonia
- Maifan stones which adsorb impurities and mineralize water
- Tourmaline which oxygenates water and helps kill bacteria
The package comes with three additional vitamin C cartridges for a total of four. Unfortunately, the replacement beads may not be available; however, you can purchase similar replacement beads that should do the trick from PureAction (this pack has different aromas for the vitamin C cartridge which is nice) or other cheaper brands. Or, just buy another shower head for potentially less money (although this isn’t the most environmentally-friendly option).
The water pressure might be too much for some, but if your water pressure is low, it might be the nice boost in pressure you were looking for while conserving water.
Overall, if you’re looking for the best budget handheld water softener shower head, this is a unique and lovely option to try.
- MINERAL STONE SHOWER HEAD- Welcome home a pure-action shower filter that softens, filters & remineralizes your bath water without having to buy expensive water filters and water softeners. The hard water filter regulates the water’s pH level and provides multi-stage purification that accentuates your bath time benefits. filter showerhead
- VITAMIN C FILTER CARTRIDGE- The showerhead comes with a Vitamin C enriched filter cartridge that you can replace easily. The soothing citrus smell invigorates the senses, is relaxing, improves mood and boosts sleep quality aiding reinvigoration and rejuvenation. It comes with 3 refill filter cartridges.
- VITAMIN C FILTER CARTRIDGE- The showerhead comes with a Vitamin C enriched filter cartridge that you can replace easily. The soothing citrus smell invigorates the senses, is relaxing, improves mood and boosts sleep quality aiding reinvigoration and rejuvenation. It comes with 3 refill filter cartridges.
- EASY INSTALLATION & USE- The water softening shower head is easy to install that fits any type of standard shower; including wall-mount showers, dual spray, temperature combos, fixed and hand-held showers. All you need to do is remove your existing shower head and replace it with our product. You can also take the showerhead to accompany your travels.
- UNIVERSAL FITTING: Easy installation, simply screw onto any standard shower hose ( Hose not Included) . Can connect to any standard shower hose easily.
Worth Mentioning: AquaHomeGroup 15-stage shower filter with or without shower head
AquaHomeGroup was worth mentioning on our list. They make several products that have thousands upon thousands of rating and reviews with 80-90% of those being 4 or 5 stars.
Their main product is the 15-stage shower filter which you can combine with your existing shower head. This product is similar to the AquaBliss SF100 but costs a bit less. AquaHomeGroup filters differ in that they all have vitamin C built into the filter as well as separate replaceable vitamin C & E filter cartridges for added hair, skin and nail health.
Another product they offer is a wall-mounted shower head where the filter is built into the shower head. This option is nice if you’re not wanting to add much length to your shower head so you have enough standing room. This shower head filter is offered at a budget to average price. One of the main drawbacks to this model is that it doesn’t have a swivel ball joint if you like to be able to move your shower head around at different angles.
AquaHomeGroup also offers a luxury handheld rainfall shower head with a filter and a flexible wall-mounted luxury shower head. These products are priced above average and come in a beautiful gift box with an extra high-pressure spray plate, Teflon tape, shower caps, and the shower head (and a handheld shower head and hose with holder for the handheld model).
The filters and vitamin C & E cartridges should be replaced together every 6 months or whenever you notice a change in the water. Replacement main filter cartridges can be purchased as singles, or as a pack of two or pack of four, which is where you really save. The filters have an incredible 4.7 out of 5 stars out of thousands of reviews. And the company seems to have good customer service, unlike some of the cheaper brands online!
A note about filter replacements
One of the nice things about most of the 15-stage water softener shower head filters that you can find online these days is that they are of a similar size and makeup. So if you purchase one on this list such as the AquaBliss SF100 (but not the SF500), the ADOVEL, or the AquaHomeGroup, or another one not on this list that’s similar, they all use the same filter size. So if you purchase a filter housing but want to try another brand of replacement filter, you’re free to do so – it should fit!
Whichever brand you go with, we recommend purchasing an additional replacement filter at the time of original purchase to be certain you’ll have it on hand when your shower tells you it’s time to change the filter! For many people, the difference is night and day and you won’t want to go without it for long.
What is a water softener?
Conventional whole home water softeners use a large amount of salt and ion exchange resin beads to remove hard water minerals like calcium and magnesium from the water, exchanging them for soft water ions like sodium or potassium. A system like this requires regenerating to get rid of the waste and keep the system functioning optimally.
Why are we discussing this? Because it’s essential to understand how water gets “softened” if we are to understand whether products work the way they say they do.
A water softener might interest you for health reasons such as dry skin and hair, itching, dandruff, eczema or other skin conditions. Or, you might want to reduce your cleaning needs such as limescale formation and water spot residues in the kitchen and bathroom. Or, it might be essential to saving money and extending the life of your hot water appliances and pipes!
If it’s a necessity to keep your home running, you’ll want to install a whole home water softener or conditioner or some other filtration system like a reverse osmosis system.
Salt free water softeners, like magnetic conditioners or water descalers, take hard water minerals like calcium and magnesium molecules and bind them within the water to keep them from sticking to your pipes and appliances, turning your tap water into soft water. But they’ll still go on your skin in the shower.
Whole home reverse osmosis filtration systems take virtually everything out of the water, including hard water minerals, chlorine, fluoride, rust…everything! It’s almost the same as distilled water. RO will give you extremely clean tap water.
With a whole home water softener or reverse osmosis filtration system, you’ll need to shell out an investment upfront as well as regular costs to maintain your system. You’ll also use more water as both systems create wastewater from the filtration process. But, it will filter all the water in your home including your drinking water, appliances, kitchen and bathroom water.
However, if you desire healthier skin and hair and you want a simple way to keep your shower cleaner, a water softener shower head filter might be the way to go! It’s more affordable upfront, less costly to maintain (just replace the filter cartridge regularly), requires no home modifications and creates no wastewater. But…there’s something you need to be aware of first…
Is there such thing as a water softener shower head filter that really works?
Shower head water softeners do not soften water like a whole home filtration system does. A shower filter cannot remove nearly as much hard water minerals as a water softener or even a Brita filter which contain ion exchange resin, let alone a reverse osmosis filtration system. It may remove some however, and it should certainly remove chlorine.
If you read the reviews for any shower head water filter, you’ll find that many people have good experiences with them, but you’ll always find people who have tested their water before and after installing their “water softening shower head” with no difference in the results. Now what these people are usually testing for is chlorine or total dissolved solids (TDS).
Chlorine is not a hard water mineral, so that actually has nothing to do with hard or soft water. It is, however, a concern that most people want to filter out because chlorine is an irritant, dries out your skin and hair, fades hair coloring, and creates toxic vapors that you breathe in during your shower such as trichloroethylene and trihalomethane, contributing to or exacerbating breathing problems. So if you remove chlorine, your skin and hair will already thank you. So if your shower head water filter doesn’t even remove chlorine, then it’s useless.
Total dissolved solids (TDS)
Total dissolved solids represent the quantity of minerals, sediment and other organic and inorganic impurities in the water. No shower filter is designed to lower TDS to any significant degree.
Hard water minerals
Now what about removing hard water minerals? Some people claim that only ion exchange resin can soften the water, which then requires regeneration or flushing to work properly again. Removing hard water minerals with your shower filter might be possible to some degree. Activated carbon and KDF, the main filter media in most shower water filters, primarily filter out chlorine as well as some sediment, rust, minerals and heavy metals.
Effective 15-stage filtration?
Most shower filters are designed to accomplish such filtering, and some attempt to filter out much more by cramming up to 15 types of media into the filter. Now using a greater variety of media will filter a greater array of contaminants, but when the quantity of each type of media is spread so thin, how effective is the filtering, and for how long? Just read the reviews – you’ll see this varies for everyone as it depends on your water quality. And some of these filters are designed to add beneficial ions, minerals and vitamins back into the water, making TDS a moot point altogether.
Generalizations, tips and tricks
Before we close, let’s discuss a few generalizations, tips and tricks.
Water quality variables
Most small filters offer a 10,000-gallon or 6-month lifespan while the larger filters might give you 20,000 gallons or one year out of your filter cartridge. But the more sediment, rust, chlorine and other impurities are in your water supply, the shorter the lifespan of your shower filter.
So if you get 6 months out of your small shower filter, count yourself lucky, as some have to change their filter cartridge every month or two.
Most shower head water filters do not remove chloramine, or if they do, it will shorten the lifespan of your filter. Chloramine degrades filters very quickly compared to chlorine. So if you’re not getting the expected lifespan out of your filter, get a hard water test kit or call your water supplier to find out if chloramines are in your water supply.
Scale deposits and rust can form inside the shower head, affecting your water pressure or sprayer function. You may need to clean it out by soaking your shower head in vinegar and then cleaning off any debris, either regularly or when you change the filter.
Your shower filter may not recommend backflushing, but you might get a longer lifespan out of it if you backflush it once every month or two. Just reverse the filter in the housing and turn on the water for a few minutes to rinse out accumulated minerals and sediment.
Most shower heads and filter housings are made of plastic, possibly with a chrome coating. Do not expect a metal product.
The chlorine effect
Even if your shower head is mainly removing chlorine and not much in the way of hard water minerals, you will likely still feel like your shower water is softer and experience skin and hair benefits since chlorine is a major irritant.
With all that said, we hope that this information helps you make the best decision for your needs with realistic expectations.
Q: Do water softener shower filters exist?
A: Yes, to a degree. But they won’t soften the water like whole home sodium water softeners or reverse osmosis systems. Good ones will remove sediment, heavy metals, and some minerals, which will help. They will also reduce chlorine and other chemicals, which makes a big difference in itself.
Q: Can a shower head water filter reduce total dissolved solids (TDS)?
A: No. And in fact, TDS is not an appropriate test for shower filters. Lowering TDS would require a 2-micron filter, and the lowest available is 5 microns. And some shower head filters add beneficial minerals back into the water, which might even increase it. This doesn’t mean it isn’t removing some contaminants from the water that are tough on skin and hair.
Q: Are there any shower head water filters that aren’t made in China?
A: The AquaYouth 2.0 is made in Korea. Some other brands say the housing is made in China but the filter is made elsewhere, like in the Ukraine. Most are made in China.
Q: Which is the best shower filter for dyed hair?
A: The Berkey removes chlorine, iron and rust, which can turn dyed blonde hair orange. This one is commonly recommended for dyed hair.
Q: What’s the best shower filter media?
A: The best filter media is a mixed media. The more types of media, the more contaminants can be removed. The best filters will have the largest amounts of mixed activated carbon, KDF and calcium sulfite, and perhaps even vitamin C.
Q: Which shower filter requires the least hassle and maintenance?
A: Probably the Aquasana. However, you should not expect to not have to maintain your shower head filter, just like any other system you would want to last a while and work well.
Q: Do I have to buy the same brand of replacement filter for the system?
A: It depends on the brand. An AquaBliss SF100 filter will fit other similar housings, and other similar filter brands will fit the AquaBliss housing. You might be able to find knock-off versions for other types and brands, but we don’t recommend purchasing them as they don’t always work like they should.