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How to Soften Shower Water

If you notice that your skin and hair feel dryer after showering, it may be because the water you are using is too hard. Hard water contains high levels of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, which can strip away natural oils from your skin and hair.

Aside from the effects on your body, hard water causes mineral buildup in your pipes, limescale deposits in your shower and bathtub, decreased efficiency of your water-using appliances, and pronounced soap scum – and this is only within the confines of your shower!

When trying to soften your water, many people will look for a quick-fix solution, such as shower filters, sometimes referred to as shower head water softeners.

But before you go out and click that ‘Buy Now’ button, you may want to read on and know a few things about shower filters and how they work.

What is a Shower Filter?

A shower filter is a device placed between your shower arm and shower head and contains different filtration media to remove impurities from your water.

Many different types of shower filters rely on KDF (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion), carbon, vitamin C, ceramic balls, or a combination of media to filter your water.

What Do Shower Filters Remove?

Shower filters are good at neutralizing chlorine and removing herbicides and pesticides; some can even remove heavy metals like lead and mercury. Shower filters can also reduce the amount of scale buildup on the fixtures in your shower.

So, Do Shower Filters Soften Water?

Not exactly. While they do act as a filter to remove certain minerals and metals, they don’t actually soften water.

To soften water, you need a water softener, which is a device that removes the minerals such as calcium and magnesium from your water, commonly through an ion exchange process (although other types of water softeners exist).

Water softeners are usually installed at the point of entry, where water first comes into your home and will treat all the water that comes into your home, not just the water that comes out of your shower head.

Test First – Act Second

But before you contact a plumber or go out and buy a water softener, you should test your water to see if it is hard. There are plenty of ways to test the hardness of your water.

You can buy a do-it-yourself water testing kit from a hardware store or have your water professionally tested by a state-certified testing laboratory. If you choose the latter, the EPA has an excellent resource where you can find a state-certified testing laboratory in your area.

Water testing kits are relatively inexpensive and can tell you the hardness of your water in grains per gallon (gpg) or milligrams per liter (mg/L). Here’s a conversion chart if you need help.

Grains Per Gallon (GPG)Parts Per Million (PPM)U.S. Geological Survey Classification
1 – 3.5Less than 60Soft
3.5 – 7.060 – 120Moderately Hard
7.0 – 10.5120 – 180Hard
10.5+180+Very Hard

Additionally, here’s a map that the U.S. Geological Survey put together that shows the general hardness of water throughout the United States:


If your test results come back and your water is indeed hard, then it may be time to start looking for a water softener.

Are Shower Filters a Solution?

While we recently reviewed the best shower filters for hard water here, know that limitations do exist. The main thing to remember is that a shower filter is not a water softener but can help remove some impurities from your water.

If your water is only mildly hard, then a shower filter may be all you need to help reduce the effects of hard water. But if your water is too hard, then a shower filter alone will not be enough, and you’ll need to look into getting a water softener.

Temporary Living

We understand that everyone reading this may not live in a home but a rental apartment or house where adding a water softener isn’t an option. In that case, we recommend that you consider getting a shower filter as it’s a more affordable and more accessible solution to help reduce the effects of hard water without violating the terms of your lease agreement.

Benefits of Soft Water

Once you begin using softened water, you’ll immediately see the benefits. Not only will your skin and hair feel better, but your appliances and plumbing fixtures will too.

Some of the benefits you can expect from softened water include:

  • Skin & Hair: Softer, more hydrated skin less prone to irritation, eczema, and dryness. Your hair will also feel healthier and appear shinier.
  • Appliances: Laundry will come out cleaner, dishes will be spotless, and your water-using appliances will last longer since there won’t be as much mineral buildup.
  • Exterior Plumbing Fixtures: Soap scum, mineral deposits, and scale will be significantly reduced, and your fixtures will function more efficiently and look newer for longer.
  • Interior Plumbing: You’ll use less soap and shampoo, have fewer clogged drains, and see a decrease in water bills. The pipes within your walls will not have continuously added minerals, which will help extend their lifespan.


If you’re dealing with hard water, a shower filter may be a good start, but it’s essential to test your water first to see if a water softener is also needed. We hope this article has helped you understand more about the water you bathe in daily and given you some options to improve it.

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Mark Williams

Mark Williams is a renowned author and expert in the field of shower filters, with an extensive background in plumbing. With over 20 years of experience, Mark has dedicated his career to helping people improve their water quality and overall well-being by providing reliable and efficient shower filtration solutions.

Before embarking on his writing journey, Mark honed his skills as a certified plumber, working on numerous residential and commercial projects. His vast knowledge and experience in plumbing have given him a deep understanding of water filtration systems, making him a highly sought-after authority in the industry.

Mark's passion for water quality and filtration led him to pursue a successful writing career, focusing on shower filters. In his work, he shares valuable insights on the latest technology, installation techniques, and maintenance tips, empowering homeowners, contractors, and fellow industry professionals seeking advice on shower filtration systems.