A water softener can prove to be invaluable when the area of your residence primarily only gets hard water. But when installing a water softener, a consumer is presented with an important question; upflow or downflow softener?

So, what is the difference between water softener upflow and downflow? Which one should you pick for your home? To find out the answers to these questions and more, go through our water softener upflow vs downflow guide.

Upflow Water Softener

The upflow water softeners are named in such a way because they direct the water upwards. The general process is pretty simple in theory. When connected to the main water supply of your house, the water will enter the softener tank, and it will be directed upwards into an upper basket.

After that, the water will go through something called a riser tube, and it then gets dispensed out with the use of another basket. But here, the water has to go through the filter media where all the magic happens.

The filter requires water to be in a swirling motion and mix up with all the salt pellets inside. Hard water is filled with minerals like calcium or magnesium, and they happen to be negatively charged materials. Salt pellets in the filter carry positive ions of sodium or potassium that can easily replace the minerals in the hard water with salt.

This process will ensure that the water running through the entire plumbing system of your house will not be infested with unnecessary minerals and, in the process, turn hard water, soft.

Downflow Water Softener

Downflow water softeners work exactly in the opposite way; that is to say, the water flows downwards. From the main water supply of the house, the water will first flow into the upper basket, and the basket will move the water down to the tanks.

After that, the water passes through the filter that is located around the exterior of the distributor tube. The filter generally works in the same method replacing negative minerals with positive salt and then passing the water into the lower basket.

From there, the process is as simple as water going up the riser tube and being allocated for all the faucets or showerheads in your house.

Factors Of Comparison Between Upflow And Downflow Water Softener

In this section, we will present several factors of comparison between upflow and downflow water softener, which will help you make an informed purchase decision for your home. At the end of each factor, we will announce a winner, and at the very end, we will tally up the results and give you a verdict on which one you should pick.

  • Backwashing - During the backwashing process of a water softener device, water is forced upward via a resin tank. Because of the high speed at which it operates, iron minerals are flushed out from the resin bed into the drain.

It is possible to manually program the water softener to run an additional backwash and fast-rinse cycle just before the standard regeneration cycle.

Prior to the regeneration with salt brine, this will be used to clean the resin bed. You should only do this if your water supply includes sediments, and you must turn it off if you wish to preserve water in your home or business.

So, it is easy to assume how backwashing is an extra step that brings a lot of hassle in the process of maintaining a water softener. The good news is that upflow water softeners do not need backwashing. Due to the mechanism of how the upflow works, the filter media expands every time the water is flowing through.

Unfortunately, the continuous downwards flow of water can easily damage the resin material in a downflow water softener. So, this type of water softener will require backwashing every once in a while. To its credit, the process of backwashing is not very difficult, but it is still an extra step.

Winner: Upflow Water Softener

  • Plugging - The injector nozzle on any water softener is prone to get plugged with use over time. While plugging is not that common of an occurrence, either way, it is good to know that a downflow water softener has a thicker injector nozzle with a larger internal diameter than upflow models.

Common sense suggests that it is harder to clog or plug a tube that is bigger. So, just by the sheer girth of the injector nozzle, downflow water softeners win this round.

Winner: Downflow Water Softener

  • Complexity - The overall complexity of the appliance comes into play when you are going to install the device in your desired place. Sure, installation is not something you have to worry about as typically it is done by professionals anyway, but it is still an important thing to note.

Unlike downflow water softeners, upflow water softeners are more complicated to operate. In order to make the water flow upward, a significant amount of liquid engineering is necessary.

Winner: Downflow Water Softener

  • Longevity - This factor is probably the simplest to understand. How long your water softener will last from the day you buy and install it.

Whatever the marketing material of your particular model says, any typical water softener will last 10 to 15 years easily. That is for both upflow and downflow.

But the most important thing here is maintenance. The method your device works is not very important but how you take care of it is. So, this criterion is a toss-up.

Winner: Tie

  • Salt Conversion - This section has to do with how efficiently a softener can convert mineral water into saltwater. A upflow water softener forces the water to swirl around the filter media, which results in more surface area and time for the water to be in contact with the salt.

More contact simply means better conversion. Another important thing is leakage amount and when compared to downflow water softeners, upflow water softeners have about 90% fewer amount of leakages.

Winner: Upflow Water Softener

  • Brine Usage - Brine usage means how much salt or brine you need to efficiently convert hard water into soft water. So, the less brine usage, the better.

When compared to downflow water softeners, upflow water softeners utilize 15-30 percent less brine for regeneration, directly resulting in a 15-30 percent reduction in the quantity of brine needed.

Winner: Upflow Water Softener

  • Eco-Friendliness - Any appliance that runs on electricity should warrant a conversation on the efficiency or carbon footprint of the device. In that vein, some models of upflow machines do not even use electricity or drain lines.

Adding to that, downflow softeners also produce a significant amount of leakage – wasting a lot of salt and this salt releases chlorine in the drainage system. Combining all of this, a downflow water softener will leave a bigger dent in both your wallet and the environment.

Winner: Upflow Water Softener

  • Cost - We left the most important factor for a typical user for the very end. While thinking about the cost of the water softener, a user needs to think long term and not short term.

A typical upflow water softener starts at around $700 and can range all the way up to $2000, while its downflow counterpart starts from $500 and goes upwards of $1500. So, it might seem like a downflow water softener will be the easiest on your wallet, right?

Well, not quite. In addition to the upfront cost of buying and installation, a water softener needs constant maintenance. You need to buy salt and refill every month.

At the same time, downflow devices will produce more electrical charges and more wastage. Meaning you have to spend a lot more in the long run if you are using a downflow model.

Keeping all that in mind, it is important not to be shortsighted with the apparent $100-200 savings, as, in the process of maintaining a water softener, you will end up spending a lot more with downflow models.

Winner: Upflow Water Softener


If each of our factors of comparison is to be considered as a point, the upflow water softener wins by a landslide with 5 to 2. Not only will it be easier on your wallet and the environment, but it will also be easier to maintain and give you a more hassle-free experience.

So, who won the water softener upflow vs downflow debate?

Considering everything, we can safely say that an upflow water softener will be the best option for you.