Tuesday, August 29, 2017

My Review and Experience with The Showerstick Water Softener (By Watersticks) Removes hard water minerals – unlike a shower filter!

*UPDATED! I have added my video review of this Showerstick. After the blog review, click the video below to see it all set up!*

Do you have hard water or soft water? If you have hard water, you will probably be well aware. You will most likely see soap scum or buildup accumulating on the inside of your shower or tub. You have to scrub and clean your shower/tub more frequently. You might also experience the effects of hard water such as dry, itchy skin, dry or brittle hair, hair loss, or hair color fading. I know from experience, that when I would use henna and indigo on my hair to naturally enhance my (level 2) dark hair (and to darken my sprouts of tiny silvers at my crown), I had to reapply my hendigo every 2 1/2 weeks. If you have used henna in the past, you know that it is a messy process (it is essentially black/blue/green mud) and time-consuming. I did not like that my hair could not keep the rich, deep shade for long. After 2 years of henna, I decided to end using it. 

I began using professional grade color that I purchased online. Box color is not good quality and is more damaging than professional products. However, after needing to color every 4 weeks (still too frequent for me), coloring my hair was still not going to work. I decided to attempt going blonde, as I had always wanted to be blonde. I knew that even though I would have dark roots that needed frequent lightning, I could potentially blend my small amount of silver hairs into the blonde and it would not be as drastic of a difference in color. I actually do not mind having some dark root shadowing against my bleached hair. I am now a level 9ish golden bleached blonde that I tone with a demi-permanent toner from Redken and purple sulfate free shampoo once a week. 

I started my blonding in a salon back in April and went through several treatments, color removal processes, and haircuts (the first 2 months) to remove the hendigo and dark brown/almost black from my hair. I went through stages of brassy orange/reds, and now am quite satisfied with the shade. However, I am now left with very damaged (and short) hair. I have been trying to heal it and nurture it with coconut oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, and Olaplex 1 and 2. I have been sulfate-free for about 4 years, and rarely use any heat on my hair. I curl my hair with vintage Goody plastic (and heat free) rollers.

Now, back to the original topic (hard water). The mineral build up and chemicals from our city treated hard water has been terrible for our hair (and our skin). Since I am "low poo," I only wash my hair 2-3 times a week, with low-sudsing, natural-ingredient shampoos. I am fond of Shea Moisture shampoo, conditioner and body wash. When water is hard, it produces less suds. My hair does not feel completely clean when I wash it in hard water. Sometimes my soaps or shampoos leave a sticky residue. In grade school and all through high school and college, I washed my hair every day and just missing one shampoo made my hair a greasy mess. A few years ago, I decided to go sulfate free and use natural products whenever possible. Sulfate free products do not suds up as much as sulfate laden products. Hard water makes soap and shampoo less effective. My hair would often look lifeless and dry. More soap, body wash, and shampoo/conditioner were needed and more money was spent buying items more frequently. 

I have tried various shower filters. Shower filters are great, however, they do not soften water. They remove sediment and some of the chlorine (depending on the quality of the filter) but do not soften hard water. Sadly, few filters actually remove chlorine or chloramine. 

From what I have read, Vitamin C shower filters can remove some amounts of chlorine and perhaps some amounts of chloramine.  We have a Sonaki Vitamin C filter in our other shower. There are some brands of shower filters that also claim to remove these chemicals. I have heard great things about ProPur, Pelican, and Berkey systems. (Further reading on how Vitamin C works to neutralize Chlorine.) I am not fluent in Scientific terms, please do your own research on this method. I am not sure if Vitamin C works or how it works.  (For your extended reading and research, here is more info from the San Francisco Public Utilities. )

Some filters advertise that they will give “soft water” or tell you that you will experience “softer skin and hair”, but this is not completely true. You may think you are getting experiencing soft water, but if you test it, the water sample will still show hard water. 

I was searching the internet for ways to soften the water in our home. It is quite expensive to soften water in the entire house, and even if we had the budget, we do not have a dedicated area that would fit even a small softener. I came across a company called Watersticks. The company has several small-scale, portable water softeners that can soften a shower, RV, or even an outside hose to water your car! I was drawn to the fact that it hooks directly to the shower and can be regenerated with simple table salt and warm water. 

I was drawn to the fact that this is a family-owned and operated business. They have a shop on Etsy, Ebay, and sell on their website. They started out in 2004, making a mini-sized waterstick to take along on RV trips. They improved it by making a larger stick for longer camping trips. A customer contacted them and asked about a stick for her shower, and so the Showerstick came into existence. I love how everything is assembled in the USA (California). 

Watersticks is a true water “softener” since it removes hard water minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron. The ShowerStick shower water softener will test as soft water when using a hard water test kit. For a more in-depth explanation regarding why shower filters don’t soften water, please follow the link from the company: Does a shower filter soften water? (on Watersticks website) If you want to still use a filter, a  KDF filter is highly recommended and is an optional accessory to be installed in-line with the ShowerStick. (information borrowed from Showersticks website.)

As mentioned, to have soft water you need to remove hard water minerals. You can do this by using a whole house softener or a shower softener. The Showerstick uses resin beads to soften water via a process called "ion exchange." Here is an explanation of the Showersticks Resin system, courtesy of Watersticks: "The resin beads attract hard water minerals such as calcium, magnesium,  and iron. As the minerals pass over the resin beads they stick to the surface of the beads which traps them inside the ShowerStick. After the resin beads collect all the minerals they can hold, the resin needs to be regenerated to flush out the hard water minerals the resin has collected." That is really amazing and impressive!

According to their website, most people regenerate the Showerstick weekly. It is easy to do, fun (for my daughter) and is budget friendly. About one cup of salt is dissolved in a liter to a liter and a half of warm to hot water. It is important that the salt is completely dissolved so it can fully regenerate the resin. The body of the Showerstick has a screw on cap. Unscrew this area and fill the canister with your dissolved salt water mixture. Before filling the Showerstick body with salt water, make sure the hand-held shower head arm and hose is laying on the floor of the shower. This allows the water to flow freely and drain out. It takes a few minutes to regenerate and drain all the water through. Turn the water on and let it run for 15-30 seconds to fill the ShowerStick back up with water (to keep the resin moist) and to rinse the residual salt through the resin to finish the regeneration process. 

I was given the opportunity to review a Showerstick from Watersticks. They sent it to me promptly and everything was packaged securely. I liked how the unit is pre-sealed with water sealant tape. This saves time (for those who are ultra excited to have soft water) and ensures that it is done correctly. The company provides extra tape if needed. I also appreciate how they printed out a highly detailed instruction page. Set up took about 20 minutes. I needed to hand adjust a few times to prevent leaking and I needed to add some extra sealant on an area of my shower arm. You do not need tools to install, in fact, they specifically say to hand tighten only since the pieces are plastic. My 6-year-old daughter wanted to hand items to me, and I was happy for the assistance. 

The Showerstick can be installed with the optional KDF filter (available to purchase on the website) or a similar size and shape shower filter. This KDF filter removes up to 95-99% of chlorine and about 98% of inorganic water-soluble heavy metals (lead, mercury, nickel, and chromium) are removed. This filter is different from others I have seen. I appreciate how it has a reminder ring. To ensure that you replace the filter correctly and have the freshest water possible, rotate the blue calendar ring to line up with the current month when you install the filter. Replace the filter the following year (for 2 people). Depending on how many people are using the shower, or how long of showers you use, and how much filtering your water needs, you may need to replace every 6 months. Not all users will need to purchase this filter, as some families have a whole house water filtration system or already have a filter for their bathroom. 

I have tested this for a month. I have to tell you, it is WORTH IT and TOTALLY NOTICEABLE. WOW. I am thoroughly impressed and in love. I have this in my shower and when I compare it to my husband's shower, this water gives me lush, foamy bubbles even with low sudsing, sulfate free, natural body washes and shampoo. I am using less product. I am having more luxurious showers (a must-have when you are a full time stay at home mommy of a 1-year-old, 3-year-old and 6-year-old and get very little sleep or alone time). Since my children are small, they do not use as much water. I am the only adult using this shower, and so I can get 2 weeks of soft water before I need to regenerate. After the 1 week mark, my water is not as soft as it is the first 1-7 days and I do notice a difference, but it is still much softer and gentler on my skin than my sink water or my husband's shower. I use 1 cup of table salt dissolved in 1 1/2 liters of warm to hot water. It is easy to regenerate, but it does take some practice and a steady hand to avoid spilling. 

According to the manufacturer, how often you decide to regenerate your Showerstick is your own personal preference and is based on how sensitive your skin or the level of skin issues you may have. Some people who have eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis will regenerate at 3-4 grains while others are fine regenerating at 7 grains. I love the way my water feels the first week (I feel like lotion or oil has been applied to my skin) and I may start regenerating every 7 days, however this month since I was using our own salt from our kitchen, I decided to stretch it to 2 weeks at a time and the water was still soft, but not lotion soft. At the 2 week point, my soap and shampoo still lather wonderfully. This softener is absolutely amazing!

*Update 11/2/17: I personally regenerate every 7-10 days for the best softening of my water.   Originally, I was waiting to regenerate at 2-weeks to 2 1/2 weeks, but I now prefer to regenerate as close to 7 days as possible. The freshly regenerated water is the most luxurious shower experience. The manufacturer recommends regenerating every week for best results. 

The company includes a small orange vial to test the water hardness. They also include a soap concentration to test the water. The soap concentration smells pleasant and similar to lemon citronella. The Hard Water Test Kit will show you how hard your water is in grains or ppm. It’s simple to use and performs approximately 50-100 tests. It is a fun science experiment for young kids as well, my 6-year-old enjoys watching me test my shower water. 

Testing kit straight from the package

This is unsoftened water from my Bathroom Sink, no soap solution

This is unsoftened water from my Bathroom Sink, with 1 drop soap solution, after it has been shaken vigorously

This is unsoftened water from my Bathroom Sink, with 7 drops soap solution, after it has been shaken vigorously. We have suds! 

This is softened water from my Showerstick, 1 day after regenerating.

This is Softened water from my Showerstick, with 1 drop soap solution, after it has been shaken vigorously. WOW look at the foam from ONE drop of the testing solution!

I have tested the bathroom sink water twice and one time it took 7 drops and the other time it took 8. Please note, that you start counting drops after the first drop. 

Water Testing Instructions: (Courtesy of Watersticks)

1. Add the water you wish to test to the etched line on the vial.

2. Add 1 drop of solution, cover with the lid and shake vigorously. If you see at least 1/4” of suds (bubbles) then you have completely soft water. If not, see #3.

3. Keep adding 1 drop at a time (shaking vigorously between drops) until you obtain 1/4" of suds (bubbles) - this is soft water. Every drop of solution (after the first drop that doesn't count) it takes to obtain 1/4” of suds is how many grains of hardness your water is.

(12 drops (after the first drop that doesn’t count) = 12 grains)

Soft water: 0-51 ppm, 0-3 grains

Moderately hard water: 51-119 ppm, 3-7 grains

Hard water: 119-170 ppm, 7-10 grains

Very hard water: 170-238 ppm, 10-14 grains
Extremely hard water: 238+ ppm, 14+ grains

Water districts measure water hardness in “ppm” (parts per million). Many water softening companies and hard water test kits measure water hardness in “grains”. 

grains x 17.1 = ppm

ppm/17.1 = grains

12 grains = 204 ppm

(Note: The solution bottle does not include a lid (and it does not need one). The vial that the solution bottle stores inside includes a lid.)

When I tested my bathroom sink (no softener attached), I had to put 7-8 drops of the solution to get 1/4" of suds in my tester vial. This is at the moderately hard to hard level. When I tested my shower water the day after it was freshly regenerated, I put one drop of the solution and had suds! I was amazed. 

I wanted to also show another method I used to test. We love using castile soap as it is all natural, has essential oils and carrier oils. We love how multi-purpose it is. We use it for body wash, face wash, cloth baby wipe solution, and floor and surface cleaner. I put a small squirt of castile soap in each of my 2 mason jars. One jar has water from my shower and one jar has water from my kitchen sink. 

Can you guess which jar has the softened water? Which water has a scum or cloudy film on it? Which jar has more bubbles? :) I think we have a clear winner! Notice how clear the left one is!

Waterstick Specifications: (Courtesy of Watersticks)
  • Comes with all the necessary hardware to hook up to your 1/2″ NPT universal shower head wall pipe
  • The ShowerStick body is made of durable 3” Schedule 40 PVC pipe
  • Dimensions of ShowerStick body: 4″ diameter (with end caps) x 17″ length
  • Fully assembled length from shower pipe to bottom of hose loop is 36″ and 20″ to bottom of ShowerStick body (41″ and 25″ with KDF filter installed)
  • Weight of ShowerStick when full of water with all additional parts is approximately 7.5 pounds
  • The lifespan of the resin is approximately 10 years if it’s regenerated as needed and is protected from chlorine if present. Otherwise, the lifespan may be shorter.
  • 2.5 GPM continuous flow
  • Available with regular resin or iron control resin (iron control resin is needed if you have well water or if you see a presence of iron in your water (an orange-brown residue around sink drains or toilets)
In the box:
  • ShowerStick true water softener PVC body with softening resin inside
  • Handheld showerhead and hose
  • Shower arm mount with Angle Connector attached
  • Hard water test kit
  • Regeneration port opening for easy regeneration of the resin

I like how the KDF filter has months on it so I can remember when I installed it.

Notice how the pieces that connect have water sealant/plumbers tape pre-taped. (Nice!)

They even tape the pieces together so that washers are not lost. 

The tubing will most likely have kinks or bends in it temporarily, as mine shows on the first day set up.  This may last for a week, but it straightens very quickly and easily. 

The water will have a rusty orange appearance the first time you turn the water on. This is normal! I also noticed a slight orange color on the second and third showers, however, I made sure to let it run about 30 seconds before stepping into the shower. The water runs completely clear after the initial 2-3 uses. The orange is the color throw from the resin beads. 

If you do not tighten enough, or if you need more sealant tape, you might experience slight leaking.  I was able to amend this by hand tightening a little more. Please be careful not to over tighten, and do not use tools. 

The handheld showerhead is convenient for showering kids, pets, and rinsing legs when shaving. I have a hospital type shower chair that I purchased years ago when I was pregnant. I use it almost every day as it is perfect for shaving and also for sitting while exfoliating my legs, heels, and feet. I like the pressure of the water. It is not adjustable, however, I always use just a simple flow even when I use a shower with multiple spray choices. 

This is my final set up, the position of the canister/body is where I need it and everything is hand tightened with no leaks. 


The Showerstick is covered by a 12-month warranty, however, it is built so well that it can provide years of satisfactory performance under normal use. The company sells replacement parts on their website.

Need assistance with installation? Watersticks made a few instructional videos that make installation a snap!

*Here is my video review of this Showerstick.*

*This was sent to me complimentary for review. I was not paid to review or endorse this product. I am not an affiliate of this company. I never promise a favorable review. I happen to love this product and highly recommend it. 

DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation for a product review and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I am always honest in my opinions and never promise a positive review. I only recommend products or services that I feel are beneficial to my family and my lovely readers. I enjoy testing out items and giving my readers an honest and descriptive account of how a product functions. My personal experience or view of an item may differ than yours.

*Minor editing for word and spelling on Nov. 2, 2017. Updated to include manufacturer's recommendation of regenerating at one week. Not all users will need the KDF add-on filter, it is listed as an optional add on from the website. Updated to include information on Vitamin C for Chlorine (and possibly Chloramine) neutralization. I am not a Chemist or Scientist, I have not tested Vitamin C with regards to how well it removes or lessens chlorine or chloramines. 

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