Upflow Versus Downflow For Water Softeners

by Jay | Updated on December 22nd, 2022

There are two ways by which water softener works: upflow or downflow brining. To put it simply, in an upflow water softener, the direction of the flow of brine is from bottom to top. On the other hand, the downflow system works from top to bottom. Generally speaking, the upflow design is superior to the downflow system.

Let’s know more about these two systems and the best options you can purchase in the market.


Key difference

Here are the main differences between upflow and downflow water softeners:

  • As stated, an upflow water softener takes the brine from the bottom up through the resin bed, while a downflow system pulls the brine into a salt tank before flowing to the top.
  • When recharging the resin with salt, upflow water softener is deemed 5% more efficient than a downflow system. 
  • Since the water flows up, an upflow water softener has no backwash control valve, unlike the downflow system.

Table comparison

TypesUpflow water softenerDownflow water softener
Tunneling and channeling issuesNoYes
EffectivenessMore effectiveLess effective

Top recommendations for Upflow Water Softeners

AFWFilers Combo Carbon Upflow Water Softener

The great thing about this is that it does not need much maintenance. The AFWFilters water softener has a one-inch porting that provides a maximum flow rate with pressure loss reduction. It also houses an upgraded 10% resin regenerated with an accurate and precise salt solution. You can rely on the efficiency of this water softener when it comes to water waste and salt usage since it gives more for every pound of salt put into the tank. Lastly, the water produced by this system is low in ion leakage. 


  • Upflow brining
  • Upgraded 10% resin
  • Fleck bypass valve
  • 48,000-grain capacity
  • Black 10-inch diameter tank


  • Decreased salt usage
  • Less water wasted
  • Water produced has less ion leakage
  • Requires minimum maintenance
  • Versatile due to the Fleck bypass valve


  • Some models have no user manual
  • It comes with one flex line only

ABCwaters Built Fleck 5600SXT Upflow Water Softener

You can depend on this water softener from ABCwaters to improve your water’s quality. It offers maximum flow rates with a concomitant decrease in pressure loss. The great thing about this model is that it utilizes a new age upflow brining technology that lets you save up to $220 a year from water and salt. In addition, the system calculates the amount of salt needed, so there’s less to waste. 


  • Upflow brining
  • ABC10 resin
  • 48,000-grain capacity
  • Fleck 5600SXT digital valve
  • Upflow carbon filtration


  • Maximum flow rate with less pressure
  • Reserves unused softening beads 
  • Calculates the exact amount of salt needed for regeneration
  • Provides safe, clean, and soft water without limescale buildup


  • Sometimes arrives with missing components
  • Higher price tag

Genesis 2 Premier Upflow Water Softener

The Genesis 2 Premier water softener is a digital-metered model using an upflow brining or regeneration system to improve salt and water efficiency. As discussed, the upflow brining is effective at preserving softening beads not utilized in the ion exchange process. Additionally, the system features 1.25 CF 10% crosslink resin that acts as an effective and efficient ion exchange medium, especially with its porous nature. However, the resin can get quite messy.


  • Upflow control valve
  • 40,000-grain capacity
  • Large 14×4 brine tank
  • 1.25 CF 10% crosslink resin
  • Direct flow design


  • Durable resin
  • Excellent chemical and physical stability
  • The system eradicates stagnant water to prevent bacterial growth
  • Upflow brining enhances water and salt efficiency
  • Conserves unused softening beads


  • Replacing the resin can be messy
  • Quite pricey

Top recommendations for Downflow Water Softeners

Aquasure WS-EM-64 Water Softener

A reliable and on top of our downflow water softener list is the Aquasure WS-EM-64. It houses a simple mechanical system that promises long life with little to zero maintenance. It has a complete bypass and a large brine tank with a salt grid and safety float. In addition, this unit houses a drain line that allows a steady stream when backwashing and rinsing. Keep in mind that if you set this to function at default settings, it will be using 30 gallons of water on complete regeneration. However, the drain line may not comply with your local plumbing codes, so confirm that first.


  • Digital control valve
  • 5-foot brine line
  • 14-foot drain line
  • 64,000-grain capacity
  • 1-inch high-flow threaded ports


  • Easy to install
  • No leakage
  • Easy-to-program and easy-to-read digital meter
  • Large grain capacity up to 8 people
  • Preloaded resin in the cylinder
  • Versatile due to the bypass valve


  • The drain may not comply with some local plumbing codes
  • We May have some missing fittings

Fleck 5600SXT On Demand Water Softener

This water softener from Fleck is simple to program yet holds the latest water softening features. Once you program it, you can forget it as it’s extremely low maintenance. This specific unit is great at removing hardness caused by minerals. The digital meter also conveniently lets the system know when it’s time to regenerate and will then draw the brine solution through the resin. A small downfall is that replacing the resin can get a little messy.


  • 8% crosslink resin
  • 40,000-grain capacity
  • Digital meter
  • Salt grid safety 
  • 2.4 GPM backwash rate


  • Easy-to-program control panel
  • Overflow prevention via the salt grid safety
  • System regeneration when necessary
  • Removes iron effectively
  • Easy and quick unit installation


  • Resin replacement can get messy
  • May arrive with missing accessories

Pentair WS48 56SXT10 Fleck Water Softener

With this machine, the co-current brining takes magnesium and calcium out to produce soft water. In addition, the 10% resin features more bonds to hold the beads together effectively. But always check your order as soon as it arrives because this can come with missing accessories. 


  • 10% crosslink resin
  • 14 GPM flow rate
  • Digital metered control
  • Bypass valve
  • Water consumption of 3.5 gallons/minute


  • 10% crosslink resin lasts longer
  • Preloaded resin decreases maintenance requirement
  • A bypass valve allows directing of water away from the system
  • Easy and quick installation
  • Easy-to-program digital metered control


  • May arrive with missing accessories
  • Some units come with a defective control head

What is the purpose of a water softener?

A water softener, also known as an ion exchange unit, is a piece of equipment that removes salts from water—the water softener’s filter exchanges minerals like calcium and magnesium for salt.

Hard water, or water containing minerals, can cause various issues, including clogged plumbing and a chalky film on your dishes. It might even cause your hair to dry and your skin to become irritated. By softening the water, a water softener prevents these difficulties.

What does the term “regenerate” on a water softener mean?

When a water softener regenerates, it flushes out the minerals filtered from hard water. This method enables water softeners to continue softening new water as it passes through them.

To avoid channeling, downflow water softeners require regeneration. This is when the filter’s efficacy is reduced due to tunneling in the filter media. However, regeneration isn’t usually required because channeling isn’t an issue with upflow water softeners.

Upflow vs. Downflow

Upflow water softener

With this technology, the resin is recharged from the bottom up and can be recharged only when depleted, making it more efficient. 

How does upflow water softener work?

An upflow water softener, as the name implies, softens water from the bottom up. Water first enters the tank and flows through an upper basket. Then, the water is delivered through another basket after passing through a riser tube.

At this point, the water is swirling through the filter medium. The filter’s purpose is to remove minerals like calcium and magnesium and replace them with salt. This technique softens the water so that mineral deposits do not form, which can clog plumbing and cause other problems.


  • Recharges only when depleted
  • It uses 65% less water
  • It uses 75% less salt
  • Hardness is pushed to drain it away from the resin


  • Maintenance can be time-consuming
  • Valve gets coated in the long run, especially with well water

Downflow water softener

Now, this is the opposite. The resin is recharged from the top down, and backwashing is typically necessary.

How does a downflow water softener work?

Water enters from the top and flows downhill in a downflow water softener. Next, water enters the upper basket and then flows down the tank. It then runs around the exterior of the distributor tube through the filter.

The water flows into the lower basket, up the riser tube, and out of the tank. This technique, like the upflow water softener, is designed to soften hard water. As the water travels through the filter, minerals are removed and replaced with salt.


  • Fewer parts needed
  • Cheaper technology 
  • Backwashing helps eradicate contaminants
  • Most effective at flushing out oxidized ions
  • Valves are not easily coated with well water


  • Tunnels may prevent the recharging of resin
  • Inferior brine or water efficiency

Water softener size

One important thing in setting up a water softener is to know what size you should get. Fortunately, there’s a formula you can use to do so, and you’ll need the following information:

  • Number of people in the household
  • Number of gallons consumed per person
  • Grains per gallon or water hardness (you may check with your municipality or purchase a water test kit)

To estimate, one person utilizes 75 gallons of water in a day. For instance, you have 4 members in the house, each using 75 gallons of water with a hardness of 10. The calculation then will be: 4 x 75 x 10 = 3000. This means that 3000 grains of hardness need to be removed daily. You may also check a chart to get the best system for your calculation, and specifically, for this estimation, you should use a 32,000-grain capacity system.

For more about sizing your water softener.

Downflow vs. Upflow: The detailed breakdown

In this section, we’ll compare upflow versus downflow water softeners in several ways. This should help you understand their parallels and differences.


An upflow water softener costs from $700 to $2000. Upflow water softeners are more expensive to install than downflow water softeners but are less expensive to maintain. Therefore, Upflow water softeners are more cost-effective in the long run.

Downflow water softeners can cost anywhere from $600 to $1500. Aside from the goods and installation fees, you will also have to pay more for water and salt. Furthermore, your energy expenditures are likely to be greater while using a downflow water softener.


Both upflow, and downflow water softeners have a 10- to 15-year lifespan. However, it is critical to maintaining your water softener to maximize its longevity properly.

Water Softening Method

Water softeners, both upflow and downflow, use filters to replace minerals in untreated water with salt. Upflow water softeners use a bottom-to-top flow of water, which is more sophisticated and necessitates more liquid engineering. As a result, the water and filter have more contact time.

The filter is not at risk of becoming compacted with upflow water softeners. On the other hand, downflow water softeners are simpler and do not require as much configuration. The water’s downward velocity might quickly begin to condense the filter medium.


A water softener can remove excess metals and minerals in the water. Calcium, iron, and magnesium are some minerals that harden water—using hard water in your home deposits minerals in your bathtub, shower, and toilet. The accumulation of such particles not only clogs but also corrodes your plumbing system.

Water softener manufacturers assist consumers in resolving such issues by providing two types of units, up-flow, and downflow water softeners. However, before we get into the distinctions, it’s worth noting that both water softeners are salt-based.

Though most prior models used downflow technology, the current models adopt upstream technology, which is thought to improve the effectiveness of the water softening system. An up-flow water softener conducts water upward, whereas a downflow water softener directs water downward.

A downflow water softener is intended to move water from the entry point through the upper basket. Such technology is thought to be inefficient and wasteful. Due to channeling concerns, such a unit utilizes a lot of water and salt. Choose an up-flow water softener if you want to save money. This unit allows water to flow upward from the tank’s bottom. It goes upwards in a swirling pattern through the resin. The upward regeneration of such a unit allows it to preserve a significant amount of potassium or salt. If you choose this water softener, you will not need a twin tank system.

Last words

There is a clear option between upflow and downflow water softeners. Upflow water softeners have numerous other advantages, not the least of which is lower cost. In addition, Upflow water softeners use less water and salt than downflow water softeners and are far more efficient.

Furthermore, upflow water softeners are more environmentally friendly than downflow water softeners, which produce a lot of chloride waste. Furthermore, backwashing is not required with upflow water softeners. Finally, channeling is not an issue because the water flows upward, fluffing the filter material regularly.

A downflow water softener may be a preferable option in some cases. However, upflow water softeners offer the best overall value and effectiveness.


Are upflow water softeners better?

In general, upflow brining is more efficient in terms of salt utilization and water waste. It has a higher “throughput” per pound of NaCl. A resin bed regenerated in an upflow pattern will produce water with lower ion leakage for longer service life. It has a higher level of “effluent.”

Which type of water softeners need backwashing?

Backwashing is required to increase the filter media in those designed with downflow technology. This is because the direction in which the water enters exerts pressure on the filter medium, compacting it. However, because the filter media is fluffed every time the hard water goes through your tank, an up-flow water softener does not require backwashing.

Are downflow water softeners effective?

Although this machine softens water, it is not as effective as up-flow water softeners. This is because water does not always reach the filter medium, reducing the efficacy of such a unit.

Which one can help you save on costs?

Choosing an up-flow water softener may appear expensive initially, but it can help you save more in the long term because such a unit uses less water and salt.


Jay is a health and wellness enthusiast with expertise in water quality and nutrition. As a knowledgeable advocate for holistic well-being, Jay successfully manages Type 2 Diabetes through informed lifestyle choices. Committed to sharing reliable and authoritative insights, Jay combines firsthand experience with a passion for enhancing health."