Getting yourself the best RV water softener is an easy way to avoid all the hassle and discomfort that comes with hard water hookups at the RV park.
Hard water can cause no end of problems for RV owners. Not only does it make it difficult to get a good lather in the shower, but hard water also causes dry, itchy skin, crusted faucets, stained glassware, and can wreak havoc on your RV plumbing systems and appliances.
Unlike your typical household water softeners, RV water softeners are specifically designed to be compact and portable, so that you can easily fit them into cramped spaces in your rig. But with so many models to choose from, how do you know which RV water softener is best?
In this article, we have reviewed three of the leading RV water softeners on the market and included an in-depth buying guide to help you find the perfect match for your RV.
What is an RV Water Softener
RV water softeners are small, portable water softeners that are specifically designed for use in recreational vehicles.
They work in the same way as traditional household water softeners, but they have a more compact design which makes them more convenient for the sometimes cramped conditions that come with RV living.
While traveling in your RV and using service hookups at different locations, there’s a good chance you will have encountered the challenges of hard water.
Hard water has a very high dissolved mineral content, with calcium and magnesium being the main offenders. This high mineral content makes it difficult to create a lather with soap, leaves a slimy feeling on your skin, can cause stains on your faucets and glassware and can make your scalp feel dry and itchy.
Hard water can cause other, more serious problems, though. Over time, a build-up of mineral scaling and soap scum can cause pipe blockages and create a nasty crust around your showerhead.
Luckily, RV water softeners are generally simple to install and offer an easy solution to the nuisance of hard water during your travels.
There are a few different types of RV water softener (as we’ll explain in more detail later) but the most common type of RV water softener uses a salt-based system. These models use a process called “ion-exchange” to draw out the excess calcium and magnesium present in the water and “soften” it before use.
Best RV Water Softeners
- On The Go Portable RV Water Softener
Buy from AmazonRead Our Review
- Mobile-Soft-Water Portable Water Softener
Buy from AmazonRead Our Review
- Watts Technologies Water Softener
Buy from AmazonRead Our Review
We understand that choosing the right RV water softener for your needs can be difficult, especially if you’re new to the world of RVing.
On The Go Portable 16,000 Grain RV Water Softener
First on our list we have the On the Go Portable 16,000 Grain RV Water Softener.
This highly portable model has a durable and compact design that’s the perfect size for RVing. It can be easily installed in very tight spots, has a built-in handle for easy carrying, and weighs just 32 pounds.
This salt-based model has a large capacity and also performs exceptionally well. In fact, it produces twice the amount of soft water than the standard version, so you get double the results with a smaller unit. It can handle a good rate of 3 gallons per minute and won’t significantly impact your water pressure, so you can protect your pipes without affecting the power of your shower.
Once installed, it will soften up to 1,600 gallons of water before regeneration is required. Regeneration is quick and easy, too. All you need to do is add two boxes of normal table salt via the wide mouth opening, wait 30 minutes, and you’re ready to enjoy soft water again.
This model has a cradle base and requires no additional tools or electricity to run, so you can get set up in your RV without any hassle. It comes complete with a back flush-adapter, 360-degree swivel for simple inlet hose connection, storage inlet and outlet caps, a 4-inch white drinking hose, and hose adapters – although it will fit all conventional hose/faucet hook up connections as standard.
Overall, the On the Go Portable 16,000 Grain RV Water Softener is a top choice if you’re looking for a compact, effective and simple to use solution to hard water issues while traveling. It may be a little pricey, but we think its performance makes it worth it.
Mobile-Soft-Water Portable Water Softener
Another great choice is the Mobile-Soft-Water Portable Water Softener. This model is highly durable, easy to use, and can regenerate without the need for any power connection, making it great for RVing.
Measuring just 10 x 10 x 21.63 inches, this compact salt-based water softener is simple to install in tight spaces inside your RV. As it’s a 16,000 grain unit, it has a large capacity and will soften up to 1,600 gallons of water per regeneration cycle – plenty enough to keep you comfortable on the road.
The Mobile-Soft-Water Portable Water Softener is capable of treating 5 gallons of hard water every minute. This means you can run your shower or faucet and it will remove total hardness and soluble iron efficiently at a high flow rate without adversely affecting water pressure.
Not only will this protect your pipes from a troublesome buildup of mineral scaling, but it will also reduce the strain on your appliances and keep your glassware and showerhead looking as good as new.
Another great feature of this RV water softener is its ease of installation. It comes complete with a user manual and is ready to fit right away. All you need is a standard female to female hose connector for your input and a short hose for the output. And when you need to regenerate, the wide opening at the top makes it simple to load salt without spilling.
Watts Water Technologies Water Softener
The Watts Water Technologies Water Softener is another great option for combating troublesome hard water issues while traveling. This model weighs only 24 pounds, and has compact dimensions for easy installation in tight spaces.
The Watts Water Technologies Water Softener is also a salt-based water softener, but it has a special valve design which makes the regeneration process easier. Thanks to this clever design, you don’t have to disconnect it completely to regenerate, so you can save yourself time and hassle on the road.
We like that this model has an efficient drain line flow restrictor, as this not only improves the quality of regeneration, but it also helps to increase the overall capacity of the unit by 55 percent above similar water softeners. This means you get a higher performance without the need for a larger unit.
This model also delivers a good maximum flow rate of 4 gallons a minute, and it will not affect your water pressure too much, so you can use your shower and faucets as normal without having to sacrifice water pressure.
The 10,000 grain capacity means it will provide up to 1,000 gallons of soft water before regeneration is needed, this is a little less than other models on our list, but should still be plenty for most users. It also comes with testing strips, so you can monitor the water hardness over time to check performance.
This model is easy to fairly easy to install and comes with a full cradle base for stability. The only downside is that the hose fittings are fixed and cannot be rotated, so you may find it a little awkward if you’re using long connection hoses.
Buyer’s Guide to Buying the Best RV Water Softener
Still unsure which is the best RV water softener for your lifestyle? Read our in-depth buying guide below to find out everything you need to consider before making your choice.
Price is always a key consideration when purchasing equipment for your RV, but it shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision.
Water softeners come in a range of softening methods and capacities, so the price can range fairly broadly depending on what type you go for. The usual price range for an RV water softener is between $150 and $300, but you can find very good options around the $250 price point.
Manufacturer reputation is an important factor when choosing an RV water softener. The market is packed with companies shouting the praises of their products, but some are better than others. If you want peace of mind, we recommend going with a reputable brand that has proven its worth – such as those we have reviewed in this guide.
Size & Portability
When choosing any product for your RV, size and portability are key considerations. Space is at a premium in RV’s, so the more compact and portable your water softener, the better.
You’ll need to weigh up the available space in your RV against your water usage to decide which size water softener meets your needs best. We recommend choosing a model that is lightweight and compact for easy transport and installation, as well as looking for other useful features such as carry handles.
Ease of Installation
Some RV owners are handier than others, so if you’re a little less confident in your DIY skills, it makes sense to look for a water softener that has a straightforward installation process.
Usually, water softeners are fairly easy to install within an hour or so. Most will come with an installation guide, alongside all the required parts to get them fitted in and working. If you find the installation guide confusing, there’s often tutorial videos online that can help you, and some manufacturers or outlets may offer an expert installation service, too.
All of the models we have reviewed are simple to fit, but we appreciate it’s not always easy to tell how difficult a model will be to install, especially when purchasing online. If you’re still unsure, we recommend checking out reviews from other customers or calling the manufacturer for more information before buying.
Water Hardness Level
Water hardness is measured by the amount of calcium carbonate present in mg/L (milligrams per liter). The level of water hardness varies across the US, but it tends to be hardest in mid-western and south-western states.
According to the United States Geological Survey, water hardness is classified as follows:
0-60 mg/L of calcium carbonate is classed as “soft”
61-120 mg/L is classified as “moderately hard”
121-180 mg/L is classified as “hard”
180 mg/L and above is classified as “very hard”
If you expect to travel to an area that has very hard water, we recommend choosing a water softener that has a high grain capacity, as the harder the water, the more frequently it will require regeneration.
Portability and capacity are two features that trade off each other. RV water softeners are smaller and more portable than household models, so as a result, their capacity is lower.
To decide what capacity is right for you, you’ll need to take into account your water usage and the hardness of the water where you will be traveling.
If you use a lot of water, then a high capacity water softener makes obvious sense; however, even if you don’t have a rig rammed with water-consuming appliances, you may still need a high capacity softener if the water in your area is very hard.
For most RV’ers, a portable water softener with a capacity of between 8,000 and 16,000 grains will be sufficient. We’d recommend opting for a model at the higher end of this range, as you will get a longer service time before needing to regenerate.
Flow rate is measured in “gallons per minute” or “GPM”. The higher the flow rate, the faster your water softener must be able to process the water flowing through it to remove the hardness.
If you’re unsure what your water flow rate is, simply place a gallon container under your faucet and open the flow as far as it will go. Time how long it takes for the container to fill.
If it fills in 15 seconds, divide this number by 60 to work out your gallon per minute flow rate – which in this case, will be 4. This means your water softener must be able to handle a flow rate of at least 4 GPM in order to effectively soften your water at full flow.
When choosing a water softener for your RV, you should consider how much maintenance a particular model will require to ensure it continues to work effectively.
Some models will need to be cleaned, have their filters replaced and tuned up on a regular basis, while others can be left to do their thing and simply backflushed and refilled with salt as required.
Be sure to investigate the recommended maintenance routine before buying. This way, your trip won’t be interrupted by unwanted maintenance issues and expenses.
Types of RV Water Softener
Water softeners are available in a variety of different types, each with its own softening methods. Let’s take a look at the most commonly seen options and how they work.
Ion Exchange (salt-based)
Also known as “salt-based” water softeners, ion exchange water softeners exchange troublesome mineral ions in hard water with salt, or potassium ions to soften the water. This method works well, but due to the high quantities of sodium involved, the softened water isn’t particularly good for drinking.
Salt-free water softeners don’t remove the minerals that cause hard water from the water. Instead, they use chemicals to change the behavior of soluble minerals, so that they cannot stick to surfaces and cause blockages or scaling.
As these types of water softeners don’t capture the offending minerals, they do not require salt or regeneration, but they can be less effective in areas where the water is very hard.
In a magnetic water softener, hard water passes through a magnetic field, which encourages the soluble minerals within the water to form crystals and lessen the impact on your plumbing.
They don’t remove all the magnesium and calcium ions from the water, but they get rid of most of it and are pretty effective at reducing the problems hard water can create for your RV lifestyle.
Hard water can damage your RV plumbing, limit the life of your appliances, and cause general discomfort and irritation. Installing a portable RV water softener is a simple and effective way to eliminate these issues and get the most from your adventures.
Any of the three models we have reviewed are great choices, but the best RV water softener for you depends on your water usage and the hardness of the water in your area.
If you have lots of water-consuming appliances or frequently travel to areas where the water is very hard, we recommend going for either the On The Go Portable 16,000 Grain RV Water Softener or the Mobile-Soft-Water Portable Water Softener.
Both of these models have a high 16,000 grain capacity, good flow rates and are easy to install into cramped spaces in your RV.
On the other hand, if you don’t use much water or tend to travel to places with moderate water hardness, the Watts Water Technologies Water Softener is your best bet. This model offers a smaller, 10,000 grain capacity and 4GPM flow rate, but due to its efficiency, it doesn’t need regenerating quite as frequently as similar models.