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How reliable are the following methods to treat hard water for home use?

Not looking for drinking purpose/RO, but for Bathing/Washing etc

  1. Electronic AntiScale System
  2. Magnetic Water Softener
  3. Salt Based/Resin Based Water softeners

Please do comment

From Coastal Area, Chennai, India

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Magnetic and electronic water softening devices do not reduce the level of calcium, magnesium, etc in your water. Don't waste your money on them.

Resin water softeners that require salt are the best way to continually soften all of your water.

Technically it's not the only way, a reverse osmosis membrane can also soften water, but typically not in the quantities needed without getting very expensive. A few gallons a day for drinking is usually the limit. I use RO water for the rinse cycle in my dishwasher, but I'd never be able to generate enough for laundry or showering.

A good rule of thumb is if the device used to soften the water never sends water to a drain, then it's very unlikely to actually reduce the level of water hardness. Even activated carbon water filters make a negligible difference in water hardness.

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    Good point about sending water to a drain. In many filtering processes, you are enriching one material while depleting another - e.g. an oxygen plant makes oxygen-enriched air and oxygen-depleted air. You must keep one and overboard the other. In this case you want to deplete water of minerals; you must overboard the enriched water. Lack of ability to overboard anything indicates an ineffective machine. – Harper May 31 at 15:46
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    I fully agree. However, I have found that there are some benefits of permanent magnets in our hard well water system. What they do is temporarily (2 weeks max.) precipitate the minerals out of the water, apparently softening the water among those coagulated mineral clumps. Whatever the case, we seldom have to run vinegar through our Bunn coffee maker to dissolve the mineral build-up and stop the lid-actuated valve from leaking. I used hard drive magnets on opposite sides of PVC water pipes. (Those other devices perform the same function, but can cause TV and radio interference). – Mike Waters May 31 at 18:00
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For what it's worth:

My household has been using for the last four months a three-stage filter system that includes a coarse particulate filter, an activated-charcoal filter, and a greensand iron/manganese filter.

This filter system is not advertised as reducing water hardness, but in our experience it does. Testing by our local lab shows that unfiltered, our water has a hardness (CaCO3) of around 70 mg/l. Filtered, the hardness is essentially eliminated (the test comes back as "not detected").

The downside? These filters are lasting a fraction of their advertised lifetime for us. The manufacturer tells us that the filters should work for 90,000 gallons, given our water condition (around 100 mg/l TDS, which apparently is the biggest thing they worry about in terms of effect on the filter, other than the substances actually being filtered). But in practice, we are seeing the efficacy of the filters reduced quickly under use, requiring replacement after around 9,000 gallons. I.e. they last only a tenth of the time they are advertised to.

The manufacturer has told us that they don't expect for the water hardness to be a problem, but they also say that the filters shouldn't be removing hardness from the water. My interpretation of our experience is that they are mistaken on both fronts, leading to the CaCO3 getting caught by the Fe/Mn filter, causing it to be saturated much more quickly than expected.

For us, the cost of the filter is high enough that we are looking into alternatives (but we're hoping to find a salt-free option). But depending on one's goals and existing hardness levels, it might be worth a try. The initial install cost was very low (the filter housing and three filters included is only about US$500). A salt-based system will be much less expensive, but our experience shows that it is possible to remove hardness without salt, albeit at increased expense (and since the bulk of the expense is the filter cartridge, an on-going expense, it will eventually exceed the cost of most other options, including reverse-osmosis).

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