Water softeners remove calcium and magnesium — the two main minerals that create hard water — but a whole-house water softener system costs an average of $1,500. While they won’t technically soften hard water, the best water softener shower heads can help improve the overall quality of your shower water by filtering chlorine, heavy metals, and other impurities that may cause itchy skin and dry hair. And if you’re willing to spend more, there are water softening systems available on Amazon that offer a compromise between filtering power, convenience, and price.
What To Consider When Shopping For Water Softener Shower Heads
When it comes to filtering shower heads, most options come with cartridges that have different layers of filtration to remove common water contaminants. For example, an activated carbon filter can remove chlorine and improve the smell of water, and studies have shown that vitamin C is another way to help neutralize chlorine. Similarly, Kinetic Degradation Fluxion (KDF) filters help remove chlorine, heavy metals, hydrogen sulfide, and iron — but while they can remove some minerals, a KDF filter won’t soften water on its own.
Whether you prefer a fixed or handheld design, shower heads are easy to install and maintain (you’ll just need to replace the filter cartridge every six months or so), and they’re an affordable way to make your water less harsh. But a large amount of resin is needed to soften water, and most shower head filters are too small for the task.
On the other hand, if your water contains high levels of calcium and magnesium, it might be worth investing in a water softener system. These will remove far greater amounts of hard water-causing minerals from your drinking and washing water, but because they connect to your home’s plumbing system, they’re not an option for most apartment dwellers.
Shop The Best Water Softener Shower Heads
In a hurry? These are the best water softener shower heads on Amazon:
- The Overall Best Shower Head Filter: SparkPod Filtered Shower Head
- The Best Handheld Shower Head: AquaHomeGroup Handheld Shower Head With Filter
- The Best Budget Shower Head: Dominow Vitamin C Filter Shower Head
- A Deluxe Filter System That Removes 90% Of Chlorine: Aquasana Deluxe Shower Water Filter System
While a shower head filter won’t totally solve your hard water problem, scroll on for the best water softener shower heads that can help by reducing many impurities — some options are also backed by NSF certification.
1. The Overall Best Shower Head Filter
This fixed shower head is outfitted with a 16-stage filtration system, which includes layers of KDF 55, activated carbon, and vitamin C to remove chlorine, heavy metals, and other contaminants. You’ll need to change out the filter every two to three months using one of the brand’s refill cartridges (sold separately). Though it’s a fixed shower head, you can customize the experience by adjusting the angle or choosing one of three spray modes: focused massage, mixed gentle rain, and therapeutic massage. There are five colors to choose from, including chrome, gold, and nickel.
One positive review: “Recently moved into an apartment with hard water and noticed over time my skin was itchy and hair flaky and oily. Realized it was due to the hard water so I purchased this (since I can’t add a water softener to my plumbing system) and the difference was night and day! Even though it doesn’t perform like the softener systems I’m used to in the past, my hair and skin feel very liberated and as close to normal as I can get. Wonderful results for such a small product. Totally recommend trying!”
Shower head design: Fixed | Lifespan of filter: 2 to 3 months | Spray modes: 3
2. The Best Handheld Shower Head
If you prefer a shower wand, this handheld option has a 20-stage filter that includes layers of KDF 55, activated carbon, vitamin C, and more. The sleek chrome shower head is easy to install and comes with a 59-inch stainless steel hose, giving you more flexibility, whether it’s to bathe pets, reach awkward spots, or clean the shower using the handheld wand. However, unlike the first pick, there’s only one water spray setting. You’ll need to replace the filter cartridge every four to six months (sold separately).
One positive review: “Love this shower head with the filter! It definitely softens the water and gets rid of the chlorine smell! We live in an extremely hard water area so spending $65 dollars over a $2000 water softening system is a win!”
Shower head design: Handheld | Lifespan of filter: 4 to 6 months | Spray modes: 1
3. The Best Budget Shower Head
The transparent arm of this handheld shower head is filled with mineral balls, while the shower head itself holds a fragrant, vitamin C lemon balm cartridge. This shower head helps to remove chlorine, ammonia odors, lead, chromium, rust, iron, and other sediments, so while it doesn’t have a 15-stage filtration system, it’s a good choice for those looking to spend less. The shower head has one water spray setting. It comes with three lemon balm cartridges and is pre-filled with mineral balls, and you’ll need to replace the filters every three months, according to reviewers. Also, keep in mind that a shower hose is not included.
One positive review: “I bought these for my bathrooms and my hair feels amazing. I usually have to use a detangler after I shower but, the brush went right through my hair. My skin is not dry as it was either! Love it!!”
Shower head design: Handheld | Lifespan of filter: Approximately 3 months, according to reviewers | Spray modes: 1
4. A Deluxe Filter System That Removes 90% Of Chlorine
This NSF-certified filter system uses coconut shell carbon to reduce the amount of chlorine, lead, and iron in your water, while a KDF copper and zinc blend work to balance out the water’s pH level. The attached adjustable shower head has several flow settings, including massage, though you can also buy the filtration tank on its own and use it with your own shower head. You’ll want to replace the filter every six months with the brand’s cartridges.
One positive review: “Houston TX has very harsh water so I bought this shower filter. Compared to when I first moved here and now my hair is no longer dry or breaking off. The filter really gets all chemicals and toxins removed. I am very grateful and glad I found this. I recommend buying even if you think your sink water is fine i guarantee you will see a big difference.”
Shower head design: Fixed | Lifespan of filter: Up to 6 months | Spray modes: 3, according to product images
Also Consider: A Whole-House Water Softener That Removes Calcium & Magnesium
A true water softener, this water regeneration system uses sodium to remove calcium and magnesium from your water while also filtering out chlorine, iron, and sediment. The NSF-certified water softener needs to be hooked up to your home’s main water supply, so it’s best for homeowners, and though it’s not a shower head, it will soften the water supply in your entire house, including the bathroom and the kitchen. The water softener automatically calculates how much sodium you’ll need based on your water usage, and a low salt indicator will let you know when it’s time to refill. The refill frequency varies by household, but one reviewer mentioned using half a bag of salt per month in a household of four. A step-by-step installation kit is included, but the system doesn’t come with salt pellets, so you’ll need to purchase a bag separately.
One positive review: “I have installed it a week ago and already noticed the difference. My water comes from private well and we had A LOT of buildup on our dishes and dishwasher. After a week of using it I see that my dishwasher is getting cleaner and dishes are crystal clear. No change to taste. Installation was simple, I used a lot of that silicon grease they provide to make sure nothing is leaking as I had concern about some connections being wobbly. All worked great.”
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