woman washing hair in shower

Best Shower Head Filter for Hard Water

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If you have hard water in your home, it’s completely understandable that you want to do something about it so that your showers can be a lot more pleasant. But if you’re looking for the best shower head filter for hard water…

I have to tell you right up front that the solution is, unfortunately, not that simple — hard water requires a more complex process than a shower head filter can handle on its own.

However, there are a couple of products that I’ll list below that seem to have given users some positive results in improving their hard water.

(More details on these shower head filters below.)

Why Hard Water is Unpleasant in Your Shower

Hard water can lead to some very unpleasant showers that end up making you feel sort of yucky (yes, that’s the technical term for it!) and it can also make your shower get gunky with soap scum.

Soap Doesn’t Work Well

With hard water, soaps and shampoos don’t work the way they’re supposed to. Their cleaning ability is diminished and you’ll find that they don’t lather and can feel like it just doesn’t completely come off of your skin.

Skin & Hair Problems

Skin can become irritated and dried out because the soap is very difficult to remove entirely. Your hair can suffer from excess buildup and become limp and lifeless, and sometimes dryness is a problem as well. Hard water can leave you feeling, well, just not very clean.

A related question that a lot of people have is “Does hard water cause eczema?” There are all kinds of answers out there online but not a lot of them are from truly reputable sources. It seems logical, however, that eczema can flare up due to issues related to hard water.

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Hard water may not cause eczema per se but if you already have it, hard water can definitely be an irritant. I’ve been looking for a definitive study on this and haven’t found it, but what I did find is a UK study that links hard water to eczema in infants. You can check out the study right here.  Hard water breaks down our skin’s natural protective barrier, making it more susceptible to irritants.

Stains and Soap Scum on Shower Surfaces

Because the soap doesn’t want to wash away entirely, you can easily end up with a slimy, soap scummy shower area that will be very tough to keep clean. Soap scum is an insoluble substance that is formed when soap and calcium and magnesium ions meet. How delightful. In addition to the soap scum you can also see hard water stains develop.

To remove soap scum and stains, you can use white vinegar or a paste made of white vinegar and baking soda. Let the vinegar stay on the surfaces for about five minutes and then rinse with warm water. Repeat if necessary.

Deposits on Shower Head

Mineral buildup can be unsightly on your shower head, with its whitish or gray, crusty appearance. Just think about what could be accumulating inside your fixtures and pipes. This buildup can eventually turn to blockages that slow the flow or water, sometimes to a sad little trickle.

How Water Softeners Work

When discussing the potential for a shower head filter to soften water, it helps to understand how water softeners work and what needs to happen for water to actually become softened.

Water softeners are made up of a tall water softener tank and a shorter brine tank. The home’s water supply gets hooked up to the water softener tank, and the two tanks are  connected by a a component known as the fill tube. The softener tank also has a discharge hose that runs to a drain pipe.

Inside the softener tank are resin beads. The brine tank needs to be filled, and refilled periodically, with either salt or potassium chloride pellets. You can read more about water softener salt here. 

When water enters the softener tank, the negatively-charged resin beads attract the minerals in the water, which have a positive charge. This is called ion exchange. So you have minerals getting trapped by basically sticking to the resin beads. The water that’s gone through this process leaves the softener tank so you can enjoy the softened water in your home.

At a certain point the resin beads get completely full of minerals and can no longer attract any more, which means the tank needs to be regenerated. Regenerating basically just flushes everything out so the resin beads can start over with the mineral collection process — the ion exchange.

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The brine tank is used for this regeneration process. The salty brine tank water will fill up the softener tank and clean it out. The time between regenerating varies based on household usage. And as mentioned above, the salt needs to be refilled from time to time and the frequency again varies based on your household usage.

Why Shower Heads Can’t Effectively Soften Water

Shower head filters can’t soften water effectively because it’s a more complex process than a simple filter can accomplish. And if you read about the water softening process, above, then you know that the ion exchange and regeneration process are key parts of being able to soften water.

These filters don’t perform those processes. Having said that, let’s go over a couple of these that actually do have some very positive reviews regarding improving hard water.

Best Shower Filter for Hard Water

A lot of users say that these shower head filters have had positive results:

Jonathan Product Beauty Hard Water Shower Filter System
  • Removes copper and lead from tap water
  • As the system removes heavy metals it replaces them with healthy potassium ions to balance pH
Aquasana AQ-4100 Deluxe Shower Water Filter System with Adjustable Showerhead
  • Healthier Skin, Hair & Air - Reduced harmful chemicals means more moisturized skin, healthy shiny hair, and less chlorine in your shower steam.
  • Premium NSF Certified Filtration Media - Natural coconut shell carbon reduces chlorine, lead, iron and other harsh chemicals, while copper & zinc media enhances your water's PH balance.
  • Maximum Filtration & Water Pressure - Constructed with a unique up flow design which prevents clogging, increases contact time with media, and maintains water pressure.
  • 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. For optimal filtration, replace filters every 6 months.

Last update on 2020-10-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

These options are a lot less expensive than getting a water softener system installed, so you may decide that it’s worth a try to see what kind of results you get. Water softening really should not be possible in such a small and simple unit as a shower head filter, but maybe these filter out enough to make a noticeable difference.

You can see some reviews here to see what people are saying when it comes to softening water.

I mean to go from gross, slimy showers that make you feel itchy afterward and leave your shower surfaces looking unclean… for about $60 these shower head filters are probably worth a try.

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The Best Solution for Hard Water

The best solution is to get a water softener system for your home.

These will give you the best results and also help with solving the hard water issues that can occur throughout your home such as mineral deposits in pipes and fixtures and shortened appliance lifespan. These are all problems caused by mineral buildup from hard water. If your water is very hard these issues can be pronounced, everyday issues that affect your home’s everyday livability.

These systems are a little bit of an investment but the benefits are substantial, and these systems will last a long time. So if you average it out on a yearly basis the costs are low per year. The once we’re listing here range in price starting at around $500.

Here are some water softener systems to look into:

Whirlpool WHES40E 40,000 Grain Water Softener-Built in USA-Salt Saving Technology-NSF Certified

Fleck 5600SXT 48,000 Grain Water Softener Digital SXT Metered Whole House System

Tier1 Everyday Series 48,000 Grain High Efficiency Digital Water Softener

Tier1 Everyday Series 32,000 Grain High Efficiency Digital Water Softener

Best Shower Head Filters for Hard Water: Final Thoughts

Hard water is not pleasant for your showers, so you may want to try a shower head filter to see if they help. For an investment of about $60 you may find that it makes enough of a difference so you can have showers that you actually enjoy.

However, the ideal solution is a water softener system for your home. If you’re a homeowner this will probably be an investment that you and your family are very glad that you made.

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