Kenmore Water Softener Review: 2 Problems And How to Solve Them

Last Updated on December 10, 2020

In this Kenmore water softener review, I’ll start with the Kenmore 41,000 grain water softener. This is what you can consider to be an entry level water softener.

The price starts at $497, which makes it one of the most affordable softeners on the market. Yet despite its low price, the 41,000 grain capacity is large enough for the needs of a 4 to 6 person household.

Finally the Kenmore 41000 comes with full certification by the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation).

All of this sounds good but is it really worth buying?

Let’s see.

What Is Kenmore Like As A Brand?

The Kenmore company started in the 1920’s when they launched the “Wringer Washing” machine at Sears. This product was initially ignored by the stores. It wasn’t even included in the annual product catalog for the year it was released.
Pelican Standard Softener
This is also the reason why there are no recorded pictures of Kenmore’s washing machine for the year of its release.

Around 33% of all American homes currently own at least 1 Kenmore appliance.

3 Benefits of Kenmore Water Softeners.

  1. Their units are especially designed to allow you to save on floor space. This makes it an ideal choice for smaller spaces like condos and apartments.
  2. Kenmore water softeners are DIY friendly. They come ready to be installed by anyone with basic knowledge of plumbing.
  3. This also means that they are easy to maintain and repair without the need for an expert or professional plumber.

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Kenmore Water Softener Review – Top 3 Models

Here are the top Kenmore water softening products that are available today. From my perspective they all make good a choice. But the right one for you will depend on your specific needs and and circumstances.

So let’s take a look at each one in detail.

1. Kenmore 38420 – 41,000 Grain Ultra High-Efficiency Water Softener

A Kenmore 41,000 Grain Water SoftenerAs the name suggests, this model is designed to be very efficient. It will provide you with soft water but do it with less salt, water and electricity.

Apart from being super efficient, it is also super affordable. $450-$550 are the typical costs of this machine, which are a steal compared to the $2000+ that other companies like Culligan will charge you. Finally, customers love it.

I looked up 50 verified customer reviews and the average score was 4 out of 5.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the specifications:

    • It comes with an angled opening, which lets you load the salt very easily. It also stops you wasting salt through spillage.
    • The unit comes with something called “IntelliSoft2”. This feature allows the unit to use up to 37% less water and 35% less softening salts.
    • This machine also has an “Ultra Cleansing” feature. This is something that keeps the machine from building up large sediment particles.
  • It’s “Ultra-Flow” valve allows the unit to produce a better flow of soft water by 41 percent when compared to a standard high-flow valve.
  • It also comes with a smart water monitoring system. This keeps track of all your water usage every day.
  • Its automatic salt tank light (LED) informs you when and if the tank needs replenishment with new softener salt.
  • There is also a larger LCD screen, which displays all the settings in a way that can be visible in low light conditions.
  • Tested and certified by National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).

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2. Kenmore 300 Series Water Softener – High Efficiency Model 38300

A Kenmore 300 Series Water SoftenerThis is another high efficiency model very similar to the Kenmore 41,000 grain water softener. Apart from providing you with high quality soft water it saves you money too. How? Well, it saves you money because you will use less salt and electricity.

This unit is perfect for you if you have a small household of 1-4 people AND have a level 35 GPG of hard water. From 60 verified customer reviews, the average star rating is 4.5 stars out of 5.

  • The Kenmore 38300 has a standard high-flow valve.
  • This unit comes with something called “IntelliSoft2”. This feature allows the unit to use up to 20% less water and 32% less softening salts.
  • Its automatic salt tank light (LED) informs you when and if the tank needs replenishment with new softener salt.
  • There is also a larger LCD screen, which displays all the settings in a way that can be visible in low light conditions.
  • Tested and certified by National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).

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3. Kenmore Water Softener 38350 – 31,000 Grain

The Elite Hybrid Series model is one of the most popular models because it is the easiest to install. No DIY skills necessary. All you have to do is fill in the tank with around 200 pounds of regenerating salt. Once, you have done this, it will immediately and automatically start processing your soft water.

Another key benefit of this is that you don’t have to worry about device maintenance. Unlike other water softeners, the Elite Hybrid Series does not actually need a filter to soften water.

This is my favorite of all the available models and my top pick from the Kenmore brand.

This product receives an average of 4.5 star rating out of 5 from verified customer reviews. Here are some specifications and features that come with the Kenmore 31,000 grain water softener – elite hybrid series:

  • The unit dimensions are 21” x 48” x 1.25”.
  • Does not need a filter to generate soft water.
  • Automatic salt tank light (LED) which indicates when the tank needs to be replenished with a new supply of softener salt.
  • Despite not being a water filter, this water softener works will provide you with clean water that does not taste like chlorine and also remove any bad smells.
  • It has an ergonomic design that allows easy loading of salt.
  • It’s “Ultra-Flow” valve allows the unit to produce a better flow of soft water by 41 percent when compared to a standard high-flow valve.
  • it has a regeneration process time: of 2 hours and 4 minutes.

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Kenmore Water Softener Reviews Table

Kenmore Ultra High Efficiency Model 3842Kenmore 300 Series High Efficiency Model 38300Kenmore Elite Smart Hybrid Water Softener 38520
Kenmore Water Softener Review - A Kenmore 41,000 Grain Water SoftenerKenmore Water Softener Review - A Kenmore 300 Series Water SoftenerKenmore Water Softener Review - A Kenmore 31,000 Grain Water Softener
- Low salt indicator.
- LCD screen.
- Ultra flow valve.
- On demand generation.
- IntelliSoft2, which reduces water and salt consumption.
- Low salt indicator.
- LCD screen.
- High flow valve.
- On demand generation.
- IntelliSoft2, which reduces water and salt consumption.
- Low salt indicator.
- LCD screen.
- No filter required.
- Includes carbon that removes odor in water and any chlorine taste.
Medium to hard hardness.Medium to hard hardness.Medium to hard hardness.
NSF CertifiedNSF CertifiedNSF Certified
Check on kenmore.comCheck on

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2 Kenmore Water Softener Problems & How to Solve Them

So far in this Kenmore water softener review, I have mentioned all the good. But of course no brand is perfect so let’s look at some of Kenmore’s problems. From all the data that I have gathered and reviews I have looked at there are 2 main issues:Pelican Whole House Softener Filter Combo

Red CrossKenmore water softeners are prone to salt issues. This is largely due to the fact that they are combined together into one single container. The result is that the salt and resin tanks can easily become stacked up.

Red CrossWhen having salt issues, your salt storage can absorb all the moisture of both tanks. This leads to something called “salt bridging”. The end result of salt bridging is that it leads to salt build up. If solidified salt is not properly broken down then it will seriously affect the softening process. This will not only effect the quality of the water but also harm the machine in the long run.

How to avoid these Kenmore water softener problems?

To avoid the problems I have just mentioned always check your Kenmore softening water tank on a regular basis. When checking you should be looking for any traces of salt formations. Remove any as soon as you spot them. Doing this should prevent larger formations that could corrupt the system and cause an expensive service call or worse, a broken machine.

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Kenmore Water Softening Systems vs GE

GE vs Kenmore Water Softeners?
GE and Kenmore water softening systems are two of the most compared brands because they have so many similarities. Everything from design, specification, look, feel, performance and even price – are so similar.

I apologize in advance for the animation that follows because it is very wooden and slightly dull. However, I think the video below gives a very comprehensive comparison between Kenmore and GE devices.

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Need A Kenmore Water Softener Repair?

As previously mention that the start of this Kenmore water softener review, their machines are very user friendly. This means that if you’re a DIY enthusiast then you should be able to easily work out how to fix any issue.

If you’re doing it yourself, free online videos will be a great resource.

If for any reason you don’t want to do it yourself then you can consult Sears for more repair options. Contact Kenmore directly for service options through their helpline 1-888-KENMORE (536-6673). Or you can contact them by email through their contact form.

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Getting Kenmore Water Softener Parts

The best place to buy replacement water softener parts is always directly from the manufacturer. Luckily Kenmore sell products directly from it’s own website. Alternatively, you can check your local Sears if you need spare parts immediately.

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Kenmore Water Softener Manual

If you already have a Kenmore softener and need a replacement manual then it’s super easy to get. To get a manual all you need to do is go to the Kenmore website, find the specific product you need the manual for and download the .pdf version. Pelican Wireless

Alternatively you can visit the manuals library, which is a comprehensive resource for manuals for many brands.

The main thing is that you need to know the EXACT model number of your product. This can be found on the receipt or your order confirmation documents. If none of this is available, then you can do an internet search through Google images until you find one that looks like what you have. When you find it, visit the linked web page and find out your model number.

If none of this is possible then contact Kenmore directly and ask someone from their customer service team to email you a .pdf manual.

Kenmore Company customer service number is 1-888-536-6673

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Is A Kenmore Water Softener Worth It?

Everything that I have seen and heard suggests that Kenmore water softening systems are good value for money. Unlike other water softeners like Culligan, which have almost exclusively negative customer feedback online, Kenmore customers love them.

A quick online search reveals an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars for Kenmore softeners.

Is A Kenmore Water Softener Worth It

In my opinion, getting a Kenmore water softener system is perfect if you need something hassle free. They provide some of the most affordable softening devices on the market. All their units come with standard features and decent capabilities.

However, the main reason I think Kenmore is worth the cost is the quality of their customer services. As mentioned at the start of this section, Kenmore have some of the most satisfied customers in the market.

To be honest, good customer service is more important than machines that have all the bells and whistles.

Water softening machines always need some sort of regular maintenance and upkeep. Even if it’s just buying softening salt and regularly checking that the machine is in working order. Having a company behind the product that will take care of you when and if things go wrong is worth its weight in gold.

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Where Can I Buy A Kenmore Water Softener?

At your local supermarket. You can buy a Kenmore softening system from your local Sears or Kmart.

Direct from the website. You can also buy the device directly from the company through their website

Finally, you can buy a softening machine online from places like

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Aquasana Rhino: The Kenmore Water Softener Alternative

​One of the most annoying things about Kenmore is that it requires salt.

This means it will need some sort of on-going maintenance. And of course the on-going cost of purchasing salt.

Mr Water Geek ThinkingKenmore water softener systems also don’t filter your water.

Hence, it will give you perfectly soft water but will not treat any contaminants. The result is that you can’t drink this water without filtering it first.

So although Kenmore softener prices are pretty reasonable upfront, you will end up having to pay more overall.

This is because you will still need to pay for a water filter device to make the water drinkable. Thereby also adding to the complexity (because you will need to install 2 separate items) and cost.mrwatergeek winner badge

This is why I recommend salt free conditioners like the Aquasana whole house salt free conditioner and filter. It can effectively treat hard water that’s up to 25 ppm WITHOUT needing salt.

If your water is harder than this then you should consider a salt-based softener like Pelican.Aquasana Whole House UV Filter

Aside from effectively treating hard water, the Rhino includes a powerful filter.

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This treats everything from bacteria, viruses, chlorine, VOC’s, pesticides and much more. It does this at a very competitive price when compared to other filter/softener water combination systems.

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It also has a good capacity so can sufficiently provide treated water for the average home of 1-3 bathrooms.

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Takes care of itself (set it and for get it).See Customer Reviews Button

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Good at dealing with very hard water that’s up to 25 ppm.

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The Rhino is also ideal for easy installation with easy setup when you get the professional installation kit.

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Aquasana Salt Free Softener and Filter System

Pelican Whole House Filter & Salt Softener

Aquasana Whole House FilterPelican Softener with Filters
Treats hard water UP TO 25 ppm (low to medium low hard water).Treats hard water OVER 25 ppm (medium to extremely hard water).
- Powerful salt-FREE water softener.
- 1,000,000 one million gallon capacity.
- Aquasana Rhino exceeds NSF standards.
- Treats hard water WITHOUT salt.
- Removes chlorine, bacteria, iron, sulfide, manganese, mercury, lead etc.
- Includes pre-filter, copper-zinc and carbon filtration stages with standard fittings.
- 90-Day "Pure Satisfaction" Guarantee.
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- Powerful salt-based water softener.
- Also includes a multi-stage filter.
- Easy installation (inside or outside)
- No waste water, requires NO electricity or drainage.
- 90-day satisfaction, 5 year performance guarantee and limited lifetime warranty.
- Sufficient for 1-3 bathrooms.
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Ships to US and CA.
Ships to US, CA and Worldwide.
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  1. Our well water is perfect (no traces of lead, nickel, mercury or other toxic chemicals) except it’s hard – Calcium = 28.33, Magnesium = 12.68. The overall Hardness as CaCO3 is 123 mg/L. I understand the only way to remove the hardness is to get a salt based system, but what about the taste? What system do you recommend for the best tasting water?

    1. Hi Lucille

      Yes, that’s correct. A salt based water softener is the only guaranteed way to remove water hardness. However, soft water is generally not considered good for drinking especially over the long term.

      I think you have 2 main options 1) Get a softener and water filter combination so that the filter will make the water drinkable or 2) Use a salt free softener that will stop the negative effects of hard water e.g Pelican’s NaturSoft® can cope with hard wter that is up to 75gpg. (I calculate your CaCO3 is 123 mg/L of water hardness to be approximately 7.15 gpg).

      Stay hydrated,

  2. I installed a Kenmore 625.388800 water softener in 2004 and have done nothing to it other than adding salt since then. It’s finally stopped working, showing either Error #1 or #3. Contacted Sears and it would be $99 for visit and more based on parts required or $49.99/mo for service plan. Decided that it’s not worth trying to get it fixed. Only concern it that I’ve readthat current softener lifetime is 4-6 years.

  3. Do you have to bypass the Kenmore water softener when you shock the well, or will it not damage the softener if you run chlorinated water through it?

    1. Hi Joaquin,
      I’m not sure and wouldn’t want to take a guess and cause you more problems.
      Contact the Kenmore product question helpline: 1-844-553-6667
      Please comment back here again and share the fix/solution when you solve this as this will help others.
      Best wishes,

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