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Choosing The Right Water Softener Hardness Level


When you choose new water solutions for your home, you’ll get control over things you may not have thought about before — like your water hardness level.

Softened water comes with plenty of benefits, from healthier-feeling skin and hair to reduced mineral deposits around your showers, tubs and fixtures. But is it possible to “overcorrect” and have water that’s too soft? As it turns out, choosing a water softener hardness level generally comes down to personal preference.

Learn more about how water softening works and choosing your favorite hardness setting.

Choosing Your Water Hardness Level

Many people don’t know exactly what water hardness level they’re living with, but they certainly notice when something isn’t right. For example, hard water causes minerals to build up around your home and even in your plumbing, while soft water has a more slippery feel on your skin.

However, if you’ve never had a water softener, you might not know what water hardness level you prefer. That’s why it’s helpful to have hard water measurements for reference:

  • Soft: 0 to 60 milligrams per liter (mg/L)
  • Moderately hard: 61 to 120 mg/L
  • Hard: 121 to 180 mg/L
  • Very hard: 180 mg/L

Water hardness levels vary across North America, mostly based on the surrounding geography. That’s because both city and well water may pass through rocks, soil and sediment on the way to your tap. This allows the water to pick up minerals such as calcium and magnesium. That’s why hardness is particularly relevant for private wells, which tend to rely on groundwater sources that might come into more direct contact with these minerals.

Your Ideal Water Hardness Setting

You want to choose a water softener that lets you modify your home’s water hardness level. When your system is installed, your local water expert can recommend the best setting for your needs — so you don’t have to actively manage this. However, it’s important to be able to choose your own softness level when you want. After all, some people have different preferences for how their water feels, and your water softener shouldn’t make that decision for you.

Why the Right Setting Matters

Water hardness is about more than personal preference; there’s also your home to think about. Keep in mind that the higher your hardness setting, the greater the chance that you’ll notice issues such as:

  • Mineral buildup around your fixtures and faucets
  • Soap scum on glass and shower doors
  • Spots on dishes and cookware
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Reduced water flow
  • Impacted performance and reduced lifetime for water-using appliances

That’s why it’s important to experiment with different hardness settings and decide what works best for your whole home.

Softener Feature Spotlight: Dial-a-Softness® Valve

It’s good to know the basics about water softeners — and there are a few things you should prepare for ahead of time. For example, it’s helpful to know that, once installation is complete, you may begin to notice your skin feeling a bit slippery after a bath or shower. It’s a stark difference from bathing with hard water, which may leave a soapy film that results in dry skin and weighed-down hair.

This shift comes from the substances that cause hardness. A water softener removes calcium, magnesium and other dissolved mineral content, which causes the water to feel different. That might take some getting used to, but in fact, soft water is better for your skin as it doesn’t strip away moisture or block your pores like hard water can.

With a Culligan® water softener, you’re always in control. Our Dial-a-Softness® Valve allows you to customize how your water feels based on your preferences. This manual adjustment option allows for variable hardness bypass. This hard water bypass can be adjusted from 0% to 30%. In simple terms, what this means is that you can keep some of the hardness minerals in your water, putting you in control. That way, you can experiment with each hardness setting and choose what’s best for you.

The best plan here is to keep track of how your water feels at each level. Remember to give your plumbing and softening systems enough time to adjust and flush out all the water that was treated at a different setting. You can also reach out to your local water expert for advice or suggestions.

The Right Softener for Your Water

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing your ideal water softener. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

Your Water’s Hardness Levels

A good water softening system is designed to work hard. However, not every system can handle extremely high hardness levels. If you don’t choose one that fully aligns with your home’s needs, you may not get all the benefits you’re expecting.

For this reason, you shouldn’t start shopping for a water softener until you’ve had a professional water test and consultation. During this process, your local water expert will test your home’s water to determine hardness levels. You’ll also get information about other common issues such as chlorine and iron. Once the results are back — which should take around 30 minutes — your local expert can recommend the water softener solution that best fits your needs. They may also recommend a water filter system for taste, odor, appearance or identified contaminants.*

Your Water Usage Habits

Think about how many people are in your household and how many taps you might have running at the same time. These things impact water usage and flow rates — which, in turn, help determine which water softener is right for you.

Softener Quality

A water softener is an investment in your home’s water quality and comfort. As such, it makes sense to do your research and choose one that will keep its promises. Look for warranties and guarantees that help protect you from any potential reliability or longevity issues. You should also consider picking a water company with local service and a long history of experience and expertise in multiple areas of water treatment.

Smart Features

Some water softening systems do the bare minimum, but others give you control over even more elements of your water supply and experience. For example, the Dial-a-Softness Valve isn’t all you can expect from Culligan softeners. Our systems also have smart features like these:

  • Usage tracking: See how much water you’re using and when.
  • Water conservation goals: Reduce your water usage by setting and tracking progress toward specific, personalized goals.
  • Service reminders: Get automatic alerts when your water softener needs maintenance, service or salt refills.
  • Device integration: Get notifications and updates on your favorite smart device with the Culligan Connect app.


A water softener doesn’t usually require a lot of work on your part. However, certain things do come up — like the need to refill your system’s salt. Not all water partners offer options for ongoing support, salt delivery and other solutions, so think beyond the system itself to the partner to truly get the best deal.

Control Your Water Experience

Water is part of almost everything you do, so it makes sense that you’d want to be in control of how it looks, smells, tastes and even feels. While a water softener with our Dial-a-Softness Valve is a good place to start, there are plenty of additional water treatment solutions that can help make sure your home’s tap and drinking water is always in line with your personal preferences.

All you have to do is start with a water test and consultation. This will act as the roadmap that determines what your water quality problems are, which systems you need and how they’ll all work together.

Take control of your water experience today. Schedule your free, in-home water test and consultation.

*Contaminants may not be present in your water.

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