Best Water Softener Resin in 2019 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

Best Water Softener Resin

In most parts of the world, including the United States, hard water is a widespread problem. While water containing compounds of calcium and magnesium is believed to offer some health benefits, it does not readily form lather with soap and reduces the life expectancy of your appliances.

To help remove hardness in water, most homeowners purchase a water softener. These products, however, need quality resin to help replace the magnesium and calcium ions with sodium and salt.With hundreds of brands out there, choosing the best resin for your water softener becomes a lot more complicated.

Here’s the good news: We’ve done the hard part for you. Here’s a review of the 10 best water softener resins available.

In a Rush?

We’ve picked out three products that might be of special interest to you depending on your budget…

Best Pick

Best Value

Best Budget

1. DuraWater C100E Purolite C-100E Cationic Resin 

  • Crosslink - 8% standard cation.​
  • Crosslink - 8% standard cation.​
  • Color - clear, amber.​
  • Type - Standard ion exchange resin/cation.​

The Good

Treat hard water efficiently, compatible with most water softeners, strong acid cation, excellent chemical stability, efficient regeneration, and great kinetic performance.

Not So Good

The quality of the water greatly influences the longevity of the resin bed.




Overview

The Purolite C-100E is a premium, industrial-grade resin replacement. It’s designed to handle even the harshest water conditions. This makes it one of the best-suited water softener resins for those using a private well, which usually will have high iron content.

This product functions like every softener resin and even offers more perks. It will help reduce the hardness in your water, leaving your water tastier to consume and suitable to use with kitchen and bathroom appliances.

Studies have yet to link any health complications to drinking hard water. Therefore, the main selling point is the product’s ability to eliminate the aftertaste.

Several softener resins work properly with different brands of water softeners, but that does not mean that they will leave you with pure, high-quality cooking and drinking water.

2. ABCwaters SOFRES1 Water Replacement Softener Resin

  • Crosslink - 8% standard cation.
  • Size - 1 cubic foot.
  • Color - Black.
  • Includes a 1-year limited manufacturer guarantee.
  • Type - Standard ion exchange resin/cation.

The Good

Ideal for commercial and residential buildings, long-lasting efficiency, can dissolve suspended materials, high-capacity resin, and good value for money.

Not So Good

Not suitable for use with water containing a high concentration of iron.



Overview

ABCwaters SOFRES1 is a high-end resin suitable for use with all standard water softeners. It comes in a 1 cubic-foot bag, which should be enough for a standard 9-inch mineral tank.
Replacing this resin in your water softener is an easy task with an impressive shelf life of over 12 years.

This high-capacity, bead-form resin is a conventional gel polystyrene sulfonate cation exchange, which is ideal for both household and industrial applications.

It’s developed to remove hardness ions (magnesium and calcium), dissolved manganese, and iron, and also to suspend any other matter present in your water. It’s approved by FDA, NSF, and USDA, and comes with a high-quality 8% crosslink water softener resin.

3. LiquaGen Water Softening Ion Exchange Resin

  • Crosslink - 10% standard cation.​
  • Size - 1.5 cubic feet
  • Color - Black.
  • Type - Standard ion exchange resin/cation.

The Good

Longer life expectancy, higher crosslink for impressive results, funnel included, affordable price, great at handling water with high iron concentration, and excellent chemical stability.

Not So Good

Pricey for a 0.5 cubic foot or 26-pound pack.



Overview

This resin replacement is a top recommendation for individuals who often have their clothes and kitchenware ruined due to hard water. Unlike most standard water softener resins, this product has a 10% crosslink, which makes it better at removing excess iron molecules.

Another impressive feature of the LiquaGen water softening ion exchange resin is that it comes with a loading funnel, making it very easy to replace the resin in the mineral tank. Also, it helps save more on the resin since the funnel helps direct the formula into the water softener.

This resin is specially formulated for higher efficiency as well as excellent physical and chemical stability, thanks to its bead-form, premium-grade strong acid cation. Nevertheless, it has been tested for quality and safety.

4. Aquatrol Water Softener Resin.

  • Crosslink - 8% standard cation.
  • Size - 1 cubic foot.
  • Color - Amber.
  • Type - Standard ion exchange resin/cation.

The Good

Fine mesh resin bed, impressive longevity rating, excellent chemical stability, includes a pouring flap, and works with most residential water softeners.

Not So Good

Only efficient with residential water softening systems.



Overview

This brand, Aquatrol, is popularly known for developing resins for residential use. Its proprietary bead-form works with the majority of water softeners. However, it’s advisable to check the manual for compatibility and to determine the right amount.

Just like most resin replacements, this product can be a bit challenging to get in your system as it’s supposed to last between 15 and 20 years unless your water is extraordinarily hard.

The resin beads form a fine mesh for an 8% crosslink of divinylbenzene and polystyrene. It seems to have no problem catching sulfur, iron, and other excess minerals in your water without reducing the lifespan of the resin bed by much.

On top of that, this unit is a bang-for-the-buck favorite. While it may not be a high-end water softener resin, it scores better than most cheap resins in terms of efficiency and longevity.

5. AFWFilters Birm 1 cu. ft. black

  • Crosslink - 8% standard cation​.
  • Size - 1.0 cubic foot.
  • Color - Black.
  • Type - Standard ion exchange resin/cation.

The Good

Safe for residential use, high-capacity resin, long-lasting efficiency, can dissolve suspended materials, and good value for money.

Not So Good

You have to purchase the funnel for filling the resin into the system separately.



Overview

AFWFilters Brim is another high-quality resin replacement with impressive, long-lasting efficiency. While this product may not be the best choice for commercial use, it’s an excellent choice for residential use.

This resin is specially developed to remove excess minerals such as manganese and iron. It also filters sediment, rust, and dirt to help keep your drinking and cooking water of high purity.

Additionally, it’s safe to use in iron filter tanks without compromising the purity of your water supply.

6. Amanzi Cation-50-Box Water Softening Resin

  • Crosslink - 8% standard cation.
  • Size - 0.5 cubic feet.
  • Color - Amber.
  • Type - Standard ion exchange resin/cation.

The Good

Standard cation resin, a life expectancy of more than 10 years, easy to use, ideal for household water softeners, and optimized for performance.

Not So Good

Funnel for filling mineral and resin tank is sold separately.



Overview

Most water softening resins available on the market are cation-based, and others are fine mesh. The Amanzi cation-50-box water softening resin is cation-based, meaning it comes with the typical 8% crosslink. Thus, you should expect it to be as good as any of the standard cation resins on the market.

For those who are not sure what the 50 box means, it’s a mesh number referring to the size of the resin itself. Mesh numbers are the standard measure for cation resins, with 50 being the average.

This product’s mesh number is 50, so you shouldn’t expect a very fine mesh. As such, it’s great for only household uses and would work efficiently with most water softening systems installed in your house.

Amanzi is well-known for making high-quality resins to help eliminate hardness in water. For this reason, you get the same level of performance as you would with any standard-grade resin.

7. Resintech MBD-30 Nuclear-Grade Mixed Bed DI Resin

  • Crosslink - 8% standard cation​.
  • Size - 5.0 pounds.
  • Color - Green/Blue.
  • Type - Standard ion exchange resin/cation.

The Good

Easy to use, ideal for residential use, optimized for better performance, and high-capacity treatment.

Not So Good

Not ideal for commercial applications.



Overview

This is a high-quality resin from ResinTech, one of the top brands in the industry. Compared to the other top resins for water softeners reviewed in this list, there isn’t anything special about Resintech MBD-30. However, if you are looking to purchase a robust, reliable resin for your water softening system, then this is a good pick.

This resin comes with a standard crosslink of 8%. Although a 10% crosslink offers more benefits than 8%, the truth is that the latter will do just fine with most residential water softening systems. Again, unless you are dealing with an extraordinary level of iron or chlorine, this unit should help eliminate the hardness in water.

Just like other products on this list, you can get rid of the existing resin and replace it entirely with a cubic foot of ResinTech. All in all, this unit works excellently and is definitely recommended for household use.

8. Tier1 IER-100 Ion Exchange Water Softener Resin

  • Crosslink - 10% standard cation.
  • Size - 25 liter bag.
  • Type - Standard ion exchange resin/cation.
  • Multi-purpose: Suitable for use in both residential and commercial water softening systems.

The Good

Suitable for commercial and residential use, 10% crosslink, excellent chemical stability, and improved water pressure and appliance life.

Not So Good

Maybe a bit pricey for household systems.



Overview

This high-quality resin is designed to saturate your hard water until it becomes safe for your appliances and consumption. Eliminating the hardness in water helps increase the longevity of your appliances like dishwashers, coffee makers, boilers, etc.

While there is not any concrete evidence showing the adverse effects of drinking hard water, there’s no debate that it reduces your appliances’ life expectancy.

This resin bead has an impressive 10% crosslink, which makes it sought-after by both commercial and residential water softener systems owners. However, for a small 25-liter bag, it is pricey for household use, as the stuff can only occupy 0.88 cubic feet of the resin bed.

9. HydroTec Systems Water Softener Ion-exchange Resin

  • Crosslink - 8% standard cation.
  • Size - 1.0 cubic foot bag.
  • Color - Straw.
  • Type - Standard ion exchange resin/cation.

The Good


Food-grade resin replacement, impressive resin bed longevity, compliant with all US safety standards, and suitable for household use.

Not So Good

Storing this resin once it’s open is a bit challenging.




Overview

Although this product is not manufactured in the USA, its formula meets all minimum standards for water softening systems, including ANSI 61/NSF standards. As such, you can rely on this food-grade resin for highly pure drinking water.

You are right to be skeptical about replacing your resin with stuff made outside the United States. However, this resin formula was initially developed and used by a company in the US a couple of decades ago.

The resin beads have an 8% crosslink, designed for optimal performance. However, this product has a short shelf life because it’s particularly damp.

For effective results, avoid using this resin with well water, and use up the entire bag all at once. Once it’s in the system, you will be surprised at its longevity, as it lasts more than 10 years.

10. Nelson Fine Mesh High-Capacity Water Softener Resin

  • Crosslink - 8% standard cation.
  • Size - 0.5 cubic foot bag.
  • Color - White.
  • Type - Fine mesh resin.

The Good

Fine mesh resin bed, impressive longevity rating, excellent chemical stability, and works with most residential water softeners.

Not So Good

Small and not suitable for commercial applications.



Overview

This water softener resin is an ideal choice for treating water containing iron, manganese, or any other excess minerals as well as eliminating extreme hardness in water. This stuff can help fix low water pressure while providing you with highly pure drinking and cooking water.

In addition, this resin is capable of filtering more minerals than most standard resins out there. Nelson water softener resin comes with a very fine mesh that makes it more robust and stable to handle harsh water conditions.

Make sure that you use a fine mesh distributor tube when using fine mesh resin for optimal results. Using a standard turbulator or distributor tube with this stuff is not advisable.

What to Consider When Buying water softener resin

What is a water softener resin?

A water softener is designed to get rid of the hardness in your water with the aid of a medium called resin. This medium can be used up, and, as such, you need to purchase one of the best water softener resin replacements.

The resin replaces the positive charge (calcium and magnesium), leaving you with soft water for consumption and use.

Resins are mostly used with salt-based water softeners, and it plays an integral part in the production of soft water. These products are available in different types, colors, and sizes.

Working Principle of a Resin

As mentioned above, the resin is the medium. The resin beads, either small or large, form the resin bed, which water entering the softener system passes through. As it flows through the medium, calcium and magnesium (which are responsible for the hardness in water) are replaced with soft minerals such as sodium and potassium.

However, with time, the resin will reach its maximum capacity; then you regenerate the resin manually by adding potassium or sodium or purchasing a water softener system that regenerates automatically.

This process requires flushing the resin with a brine solution, which helps get rid of the hard minerals, and leaving potassium and sodium behind on the resin bed, which is then used to remove the hardness in the water again.

Fine mesh resin vs. standard ion exchange

While there are only two types of resin for water softeners, most people still get confused when trying to pick the best option for their water softener.

Let’s take a look at both types to help you make a better decision.

Fine mesh resin

This type comes with a unique formula featuring small beads, which is why it is best used to remove a high amount of iron (about 10 parts per million) and the hardness in water.

Since they come in small sizes, it’s imperative that you use an upper flow basket to keep the small beads from flowing out during regeneration.

Standard ion exchange resins

A majority of the water softeners available on the market are designed to use standard ion exchange resin, which is best used for removing hardness and iron between 3 and 5 parts per million. This type of resin regenerates using either potassium chloride or sodium chloride.

What Does 8% and 10% Crosslink Mean?

The crosslink is a measure of how much divinylbenzene is present in the resin’s formula. Since polystyrene is a lot cheaper than divinylbenzene, products with a higher crosslink (containing higher DVB) come with a hefty price tag.

Aside from the price difference, products with a low amount of DVB come with bigger beads, which tend to swell up more compared to small beads. The swelling makes the resin bed more vulnerable to several factors, including oxidative stress and resin attrition.

In short, this means that going for resin with a higher crosslink is essential for people whose water has high chlorine levels. This helps protect you from oxidation.

On the upside, a lower crosslink is capable of holding more water, which makes these resins more efficient at removing the hardness in your water. On the other hand, the lower the crosslink percentage, the lower the capacity.

Frequently Asked Questions

When Should You Replace Your Resin?

It’s advisable to replace the ion-exchange medium as soon as you finish setting up a new water softening system with an aftermarket resin. Why? Most resins found in new water softeners are of poor quality.
However, if using the standard system does not pose any problems, you can keep using it for a while. More importantly, always check your resin bed from time to time to spot any potential issues. Do that by monitoring your system’s rate of salt consumption.

If the salt consumption rate is at recommended levels, but you still have hard water, then the resin bed may have been damaged due to a high concentration of iron or chlorine in your water.
On the other hand, if your softening system has a low or high salt consumption rate, the valve is usually the culprit here. This means your resin bed may still be in excellent condition, but needs to be flushed with enough brine solution, which helps recharge the resin bed.

Aside from Softening Hard Water, What Else?

The apparent use of ion exchange resins is in water softening systems. However, are you aware of other essential roles these products play?

They play an integral role in purifying your water. Ion exchange resins remove organic contaminants, chlorine, and several heavy metal ions including cadmium, iron, lead, and copper from your water. Above all, replace them with potassium and sodium ions, leaving you with high-quality water.

How Often Should Resin Be Replaced?

Technically speaking, there should be no need to replace your resin for more than a decade. The organic coating of the resin and iron are two of the many things that eventually cause the resin to become useless over time.
Therefore, to know when you need to replace the resin in your water softener, you need to pay attention to the hardness in your water. Once you notice the water is no longer soft, but getting harder with time, then you need to start considering purchasing one of the best resins for water softeners.
However, before heading out to purchase one, check your water softener to determine if buying a new ion exchange resin is necessary. Nevertheless, buying and replacing the resin is usually a cheaper alternative irrespective of the uncertainties rather than consulting a specialist to inspect your water softening system.

Conclusion

The standard option for most people using their city’s water supply is the larger 8% crosslink resin. However, 10% crosslink resin is a better option for those relying on well water, as it handles a higher concentration of iron in well water better.

Also, don’t worry too much about how the resin works; just learn how to replace the resin, which is an easy task if you follow the provided manual.

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