Shower Head Water Softener: Functionality, Benefits, Types

Having hard water means that the content of calcium, magnesium, and other metals in water is relatively high. While hard water can cause a variety of issues, you can easily solve the problem by installing a water softener system.

Alternatively, you can get a special water-softening shower head, which is more affordable and can also help deal with hard shower water.

A shower head water softener looks like a regular shower head but has an in-built filter that removes hard minerals, making the water soft. 

In this guide, you’ll learn the basics of water-softener shower heads, from the uses and types to the benefits and tips to choose the right one for you.

Understanding Hard Shower Water

As groundwater makes its way through the soil that is rich in minerals, it collects calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese ions that contribute to the water hardness.

Depending on the major-ion chemistry concentrations in groundwater, you may have hard water at home. In fact, groundwater sources make water harder when compared to the water that comes from surface-water sources, such as lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

Water Hardness Scale

To determine how hard your shower water is, you should measure the mineral content in grains per gallon (GPG) or milligrams per liter (mg/L or ppm).

Based on the GPG and ppm values, water hardness can be classified as follows:

Water Hardness Grains/gal (GPG) mg/L or ppm
Soft 0 – 1 0 – 17
Slightly Hard 1 – 3.5 17 – 60
Moderately Hard 3.5 – 7 60 – 120
Hard 7 – 10 120 – 180
Very Hard 10+ 180+

Warning Signs that Your Shower Water Is Hard

Apart from measuring the mineral content in water, you can pay attention to a few signs that indicate the increased hardness of your shower water.

The signs of hard water include dry and itchy skin, clogged pores and breakouts, mineral buildup on hair and scalp, mineral residue in the shower, plumbing problems, and increased water bills. 

Here are a few easy ways to tell if you need a water-softening filter for your shower head.

Sign #1. Soap not Lathering 

One of the most obvious signs that your shower water is too hard is your soap not lathering. If your water is hard, mixing it with soap will form scum instead of foam.

Besides, you may also notice that the more you use the soap, the harder it gets for the soap to lather. This is because a layer of insoluble substance is formed on the surface of the soap, preventing it from dissolving in water properly.

This literature review highlights the impact of water hardness on the effectiveness of soap and shampoo.

Sign #2. Chalky Residue in the Shower

When the minerals in hard water react with the fatty acids in the soap, insoluble soap scum, also referred to as lime soap, is formed. It’s a sticky chalky residue, the removal of which can be quite tricky.

If you’ve ever noticed white soap scum on bathroom fixtures, shower doors/curtains, or tiling, you most likely have hard water.

Keep in mind that soap scum and limescale are two different things. In fact, limescale is solid chalky build-up on surfaces, which is also caused by hard water.

Depending on the iron concentration in water, the color of limescale can range from white to more yellowy or even reddish.

Sign #3. Dry and Itchy Skin 

Showering in hard water can also affect your skin by drying it out. The minerals in hard water damage the skin barrier and absorb the natural moisture out of your skin, leaving it flaky and irritable.

This literature review on the relationship between water hardness and atopic eczema concluded that children exposed to hard water have an increased risk of developing AE or worsening existing symptoms.

That being said, if you’ve noticed that your skin lacks hydration and is irritated constantly, you may be living in a hard water area.

Sign #4. Clogged Pores and Breakouts

There are many misconceptions about hard water causing acne. While washing your face with hard water doesn’t directly cause acne, it clogs your pores, which can lead to blackheads, larger pimples, rosacea, breakouts, or even chronic acne.

Besides, hard water can act as a contributory factor to the development of atopic dermatitis and worsen your overall skin appearance by damaging your skin barrier.

Sign #5. Mineral Build-Up on Hair and Scalp

When washing your hair in hard water, the minerals mix with shampoo, forming insoluble salts that leave a residue on your scalp and hair. The build-up prevents hair products from penetrating the skin, making them less effective.

Despite the fact that hard water makes it difficult for conditioners to moisturize your hair and scalp, research has concluded that hard water doesn’t interfere with the elasticity and tensile strength of hair.

Sign #6. Constant Plumbing Problems

Since hard water is rich in minerals, it causes limescale build-up throughout your plumbing system. That being said, you need constant maintenance and repairs to keep your pipes and other fixtures in good shape.

If the water flow rate has decreased and your drain is clogged, the chances are high that the water in your area is too hard.

Sign #7. Increased Bills

When hard water creates mineral build-up in your plumbing system, boiler, or heater, it may take longer for the water to heat up. Therefore, heating water will consume more energy, which, in turn, leads to increased bills.

How Does Water Softener for Shower Work?

A typical water softener filter for a shower is a showerhead with a built-in filter that removes hardness ions from the water.

The mechanism is based on the ion exchange process, during which hardness minerals in water (usually calcium and magnesium) are exchanged with soft sodium ions.

To replace hard ions with soft ones, water flows through negatively charged beads that attract positively charged hard ions.

Since these resin beads have a coating of positively charged sodium ions, they replace calcium and magnesium ions and are released into the softened water.

Despite the fact that most water softeners can automatically regenerate resin beads, shower head filters cannot be recharged. Therefore, it’s necessary to replace the filter every 3-4 months.

Benefits of Using Shower Head Water Softener

As we’ve explained how a shower head water softener works, let’s take a look at some of the benefits to highlight its importance in areas that have hard water.

#1. Makes your bath products more effective

First of all, using a shower head water softener makes your soap, body wash, and shampoo lather properly. This is because hard water reduces the cleaning capacity of bath products, making them less effective.

By softening your shower water, you’ll not only get a good lather but also decrease the amount of products you use.

That being said, a water softener for your shower head can increase the effectiveness of bath products as well as minimize your expenses.

#2. Prevents mineral deposits

As hard water dries, mineral deposits, also known as limescale, are formed on different surfaces. Removing mineral deposits can be quite difficult, so minimizing build-up is what you should be aiming for in the first place.

A shower head with a water-softener filter will ensure that water splashes won’t leave mineral residue on your shower glass, bathtub, mirror, or tiles.

#3. Minimizes soap scum formation and stains

Mixing hard water with soap produces insoluble precipitate, also called soap scum. It’s the product of a reaction between calcium or magnesium ions in hard water and soap molecules.

Along with producing a layer of precipitate around the soap and decreasing its ability to lather, soap scum can form on different surfaces in your bathroom.

Installing a water softener shower head will make it easier for your soap to produce bubbles and protect various surfaces from soap scum. So, it can make the soap do its job while minimizing the need for constant cleaning.

#4. Improves skin and hair health

As mentioned earlier, hard water can promote the formation of build-up on your hair and scalp. It can also cause dryness and irritation, which could worsen your skin appearance, especially if you have acne-prone skin.

The easiest solution to skin and hair problems influenced by hard water is installing a water softener shower head. In this way, you won’t be exposed to calcium and magnesium ions when showering, which can boost the overall health of your skin and hair.

#5. Reduces plumbing issues

Hard water causes a variety of plumbing issues, mainly linked with the mineral build-up in pipes and bathroom fixtures.

Due to the fact that a shower head water softener only filters the water coming out of the actual shower head, it cannot protect the entire plumbing system of your home.

However, it can still prevent the drain and pipes from clogging and corrosion.

Therefore, using a shower head water softener is an ideal option if you want to reduce plumbing maintenance and repair costs.

#6. Is an affordable option

Dealing with hard water using a whole-house water softener system can be quite expensive. If you’re on a budget, getting a water softener specifically for your shower head can be a more affordable option.

Shower heads with water-softening filters cost around $50 and can effectively remove hardness ions from water. This 15-stage shower filter is one of the top-rated water softeners that can remove chlorine, heavy metals, and other sediments.

#7. Can be installed in a few simple steps

Last but not least, installing a water softener in your shower is easier than setting up a whole-house water softening system.

In fact, you just need to remove the old shower head and replace it with the new one. There’s no need to involve a professional, making it even more affordable.

In the case of filtration systems that treat water from the main water line before it enters your home, you may have to hire an experienced plumbing expert, which leads to additional expenses.

Types of Shower Head Water Softeners

There are a few different types of water softeners, each using a slightly different mechanism to remove hard ions or recharge resin beads.

However, when it comes to shower head water softeners, the options are pretty much the same. The main difference is that some shower heads filter calcium and magnesium only while others offer chlorine removal.

Besides, some shower head water filters are designed to remove iron as well, making them even more functional. These filters are especially useful if your drain, pipes, or bathroom fixtures have rust issues.

Basically, the type of a shower head water softener depends on the composition of its filtration media. Most filters contain KDF-55, activated carbon, and calcium sulfite. Some water softeners may also include Vitamin C, activated carbon, zeolite, and ceramic balls to achieve better purification results.

Best Shower Head Water Softener Filters

If you’ve noticed that your water is too hard and needs to be softened, take a look at some of the best water softener filters for shower heads.

These shower heads with built-in filters are affordable, user-friendly, and incredibly effective when it comes to removing ions, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and chlorine.

The SparkPod 23-Stage Shower Filter for Chlorine and Heavy Metals

This shower head has a 23-stage filtration system, which includes KDF-55 beads, activated carbon, calcium sulfite, and Vitamin C balls. Therefore, the shower filter is ideal for removing chlorine and heavy metals.

Although it effectively flushes calcium and magnesium ions out, the shower head isn’t quite suitable for iron removal (based on the reviews). So, it may not be useful for individuals using well water.

The shower head has “a mode for every mood,” including therapeutic, power-focused, and full streams. Along with minimizing your exposure to hard minerals, this shower filter ensures that you stay relaxed.

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MakeFit Filtered Shower Head for Hard Water

If you’re looking for a high-pressure shower head to filter hard water, this one right here may be the best choice.

It’s an affordable option with 7 spray settings, including massage, rain, power mist, and intense modes. The other 3 stream modes are combinations of the above-mentioned ones, making it suitable for a wide variety of users.

The shower head features a 6-component filter media with calcium sulfite, KDF-55, redox media, Vitamin C, zeolite balls, and ceramic balls. Along with removing chlorine, fluoride, and heavy metals, this shower filter even combats other harmful contaminants.

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AquaHomeGroup 15-Stage Shower Filter with Vitamin C for Hard Water

This is an advanced shower head that offers 15 stages of filtration to successfully remove chlorine, fluoride, and hard minerals from water.

The filter includes stainless steel mesh, PP cotton, bacteriostatic balls, maifanshi balls, far infrared, calcium sulfite, KDF-55, activated carbon, magnetized balls, zeolite, alkaline balls, and vinyl chloride beads.

That being said, this shower head water softener can easily purify moderately to very hard water.

Along with offering advanced benefits, it’s relatively easy to install, making it suitable for all types of homeowners.

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MXBOLD Filtered Shower Head for Hard Water

This is another high-pressure shower head that offers 15 stages of filtration to ensure pure water with no chlorine, hard minerals, or other harmful substances.

As hard water enters the filter, it goes through ultra-fine and high-density stainless steel mesh, PP cotton, alkaline ceramic balls, maifan stones, KDF-55, microporous ceramic balls, Vitamin C, coconut activated carbon, germanium balls, calcium sulfite, and magnetic energy ceramic balls.

Due to the complex filtration system, the water softener shower head is capable of removing chlorine, calcium, magnesium, lead, mercury, nickel, and chromium.

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MXBOLD 20-Stage Filtered Shower Head for Hard Water

This shower head is quite similar to the one mentioned above, but it offers 5 additional stages of filtration. These include ion removal through zeolite, antibacterial balls, and tourmaline.

Along with filtering chlorine, heavy metals, and other impurities, this shower head removes unpleasant odors and reduces scale growth.

When taking a shower, you can adjust the spray settings, choosing between the massage mode, rain mode, or a combination of these two.

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Choosing the Right Shower Head Water Softener for You

There are many different shower head water softeners available on the market, but choosing the right one for you can seem tricky at first glance. In reality, you just need to consider a couple of factors to say goodbye to hard shower water.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Whole-house filtration system or shower head water softener. First of all, determine whether you need a whole-house water softener system or a shower head filter would be enough to deal with hard water.
  • Filtration technology and water softener media. Pay attention to the filtration technology of a given shower head. Does it remove chlorine and fluoride ions as well? Can it filter heavy metals? Is it suitable for iron removal from well water? What type of filtration media does it contain?
  • Visual features and overall design. Don’t forget to choose a shower head filter based on its appearance. While filtering shower water is important, keeping your bathroom aesthetically pleasing is also crucial. As there are many shower head water softeners available, you can easily select the one that suits your interior design.
  • Additional settings and modes. Most shower head water softeners offer a few different spray modes, making your showering experience even more relaxing. Make sure to check the stream settings and select the one that satisfies your needs.
  • Shower head material and durability. Shower heads are made of metal, plastic, stone, glass, or a combination of these materials. Choose the desired material so that it complements your bathroom design and offers enough durability.
  • Type of shower head attachment. There are stationary shower heads and flexible hand showers. Make sure you choose the correct one when shopping.
  • Lifespan of the filter. Before purchasing a showerhead water softener, check how long its filter is going to last. Then, consider your water usage and decide if the filter will work for you. Ideally, the filter should last for at least a few months before there’s a need for replacement.
  • Your budget. Always consider your budget. Most showerhead water filters for hard water are quite affordable, costing anywhere between $25 and $50. There are more luxurious options available as well, priced at $70 and above.


Summing up, a shower head water softener is an ideal option for families with hard water and no finances to install a whole-house filtration system.

It effectively removes chlorine, fluoride, calcium, magnesium, and other heavy metals from hard water, which, in turn, benefits you in numerous ways.

By installing a shower head water filter for hard water, you can improve your skin and hair health. Additionally, you’ll no longer have mineral stains in your bathroom, making the cleaning process pretty much effortless. And we shouldn’t forget to mention reduced scale build-up and minimized need for plumbing repairs.

Just take your time to find the best water softener shower head filter for you and say goodbye to hard water. And all the problems it brings, obviously!

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