A Review of the SPOT FREE WATER SOFTENER / FILTRATION UNIT
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    Registered Member Rockpick's Avatar
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    A Review of the SPOT FREE WATER SOFTENER / FILTRATION UNIT

    The Spot Free Water Softener / Filtration System
    A Review by Rockpick
    © 2006

    Disclaimer – I have absolutely no affiliation with any of the vendors or manufacturers mentioned within this review. The information contained herein is solely of my own collection and presentation. Any variations, suggestions, or incurred information should be used at your own risk.


    After several posts in the past with me griping about the water quality that I have present in my neck of the woods, I have finally opted to bite the bullet and purchase the Spot Free Water Filter and Water Softener System. I purchased this unit from Auto Detailing Solutions (which is a Meguiar’s Distributor) a few weeks ago while gathering some Meguiar’s goodies (more Water Magnet Drying Towels, more Supreme Shine Microfiber Towels, and a Versa Angle Body Duster). At this point in the game, I was ready to try just about anything out there on the market in an effort to attempt to reduce the calcium carbonate levels in my tap water. Owning two ‘dark’ colored vehicles (a Black F-150 King Ranch Edition and Eddie Bauer Explorer (DK Green)), the necessity was clear and present. Add that to the fact that I detail vehicles on the weekend as a sideline and the choice was clear.

    I weighed a few options for a household water softening system but decided against it because I wanted something specifically for washing the vehicles. Further, I couldn’t justify the expense involved with the installation of a water softening system for the house as I simply don’t see us in this house more than a few more years and the tremendous lack of space for such a system…

    With that in mind, let’s take a look at this system from a standard review standpoint…

    1. PACKAGING – Bomb proof. This thing comes packaged in a box that could double as a casket. Further, the pre-filter, filter, hoses, test strips, and salt cartridge come zip-tied to a piece of painted plywood. The filter itself is secured at both the inlet and outlet with pieces of wood that are wood screwed to the plywood. Additionally, there is a metal strap that extends across the top of the filter from wood piece to wood piece to hold the filter in place. I really feel like you could give this thing some SERIOUS abuse in shipping and it would actually survive. On a scale of 1 – 10, this thing is packaged along the lines of a 15. It literally took me about 5 full minutes to just get everything out of the box – and that required the use of a pair of Craftsman snips and some elbow grease with a Phillips screwdriver. It’s a little bulky from a shipping standpoint – I honestly thought they had goofed and had sent me a ‘case’ of filters as it was packaged within another box for shipping. I don’t know the exact measurements but, it was large and it was around 40 pounds.

    2. INSTRUCTIONS – These are only average. Honestly, I’m disappointed in the level of instruction that they provide as this is a high dollar piece of equipment. The instructions consisted of a single page with a few bulleted/numbered items. I suppose they consider the purchaser to be of above-average confidence and intelligence when it comes to water filtration because, one could, pretty easily, be a little bit intimidated by making this thing work. In a nutshell, the only thing that the instructions really tell a person is to let it run for 2 minutes before initial use and to use the salt canister to recharge it around every 1000 gallons. To me, this seemed way too generic. I believe it would be beneficial if they would add a ‘packing’ list of some sort that showed a picture of the pieces along with descriptions. Also, a nice picture of the thing all hooked up would be nice (although, there is a generic schematic printed on the casket – urrr, box. On a scale of 1-10, the instruction packet gets a 4. Fortunately though, I felt confident enough to put it all together and make it work without having to go through much heart ache. One tip, if you do go with this filtration unit, unwrap the carbon filter that is in the pre-filter unit. It’s stuck in there but, it has plastic wrap on it.

    3. PARTS AND PIECES – There are seven pieces in the box. This consists of: two hoses (one two footer, one four footer), a salt cartridge, a carbon filter, a pre-filter housing, a bottle of Hach Hardness Test Strips, and, of course, the Spot Free Water Filter. All of the items are of impeccable quality and seem to be top notch. Everything feels sturdy. The hoses are very nice grade with brass fittings – the filter even has two ‘caps’ that screw on the inlet and outlet for storage. Long story short, it’s a very high quality product and, in my eyes, they didn’t skimp anywhere. On a scale of 1 – 10, everything, from a product quality standpoint, gets a 10.

    4. EASE OF USE – Ultra simple. Once you figure it out, there’s NOTHING to it… nothing. Basically, drop the carbon filter in (unwrapped), screw some hoses together, screw on your hose from the house and you’re good to go. As recommended and aforementioned, I allowed it to run wide open for over 2 minutes before the first use. I believe this is so all of the resin material in the filter unit is able to start becoming active and ‘wet’.

    5. OVERALL OBSERVATIONS – Impressive. When the folks who market/manufacture this sportmasters.com Sport Masters item came; they came to play. It’s literally as simple as hooking up a couple of hoses and you’re running. My water, I knew, was going to be challenging. After using the test strips, I was able to determine that my water was, at least, 425 ppm CaCO3. I should add that the test strip went ‘red’ just as soon as the water hit it – not after the recommended couple of seconds before reading the strip. I suspect that the concentrations are actually much higher than what this strip test was able to indicate.

    I screwed on my hose to the Spot Free Filter and pulled it over to the truck. The weather was a balmy 50 and it was sunny. I started around 3 pm. On the other end of the hose, I donned the Ultimate Hose Nozzle and I was set to go. Using my two-bucket system, I put in a pre-measured amount of Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner (my old standby workhorse of a shampoo – look at my truck and you’ll understand why it needed to be a workhorse – HA!). I put a stream of water to the bucket and, IMMEDIATELY, noticed a difference in how many suds were forming. For those of you who have a filter system or soft water, you know what I’m talking about here. The soap looked different… it actually sudded up very quickly and in a very free-flowing fashion. Heck, I didn’t get that much water in the bucket before the suds were overflowing. This isn’t something I was used to. Once I finally got my buckets filled, I moved towards a pre-rinse on the truck.

    Honestly, at this point, I really didn’t notice much. I did, however, notice that the hose pressure was still just about the same as what it was typically off of the outdoor spicket. My water pressure is really lousy and thus, I think I would’ve noticed a significant pressure drop across the filters – there wasn’t one.

    From here, I begin to wash from top to bottom. With typical fashion with the two-bucket method, I did half of the roof and went to my rinse bucket. I thought I noted that the mitt (a genuine Sheepskin Mitt) felt a little different but I couldn’t convince myself of this – maybe it was just in my head. I went to the other half of the roof and went back and noticed the same thing. Sure enough, this water actually ‘FELT’ different. I confirmed this repeatedly as I went forward with the washing cycles on each panel.

    After completing the wash – twice (yes, I washed my truck twice – look at it! The salt was THICK!), I went for a final rinse with the Spot Free treated water. This is where we were going to test to see if it was, indeed, spot free.

    I waited a few minutes and circled the truck. I listened to my neighbor gripe about how horrible his car looks now and how great it looked after I detailed it for him. I then watched the same neighbor drag out his hose and wash his Isuzu Rodeo – with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Needless to say, I was cringing. Keeping with the task at hand, I didn’t go over and offer much advice. About 5 to 8 minutes had elapsed and I was starting to see VERY (and I mean very) light spotting. I can’t stress how light they were.

    Upon recognition of this light spotting, I proceeded to pull out the Water Magnet Drying Towels and blot the rest of it dry but, I left the roof as that was going to be my testing ground for total drying without a towel or other mechanical method – I wanted to see how it would do…

    Just for giggles, while the roof was drying on its own, I turned the water off and disconnected the hose from the wall. I then took one of the water hardness test strips and did a quick experiment. I then took one from the filtered water directly out of the hose…Here’s the result…



    Obviously, the right is the untreated and the left is the treated. In short, the filter was actually knocking down the hardness to the tune of over 400 ppm and I suspect much more. I should also add that I used a LOT of water during this single wash as the truck was unbearably filthy. Not exactly sure of the total volume but, I’d estimate it somewhere in the vicinity of around 300 gallons – very rough guesstimate… mind you, the filter is rated for around 1000 gallons. With my water, I suspect it’ll be considerably less.

    Well, the water on the roof dried eventually and it yielded much along the lines of what I was seeing when it was air-drying elsewhere; that being very very slight water spotting.

    To say the least, I was AMAZED. If I had let my ‘tap’ water dry in that fashion, I would’ve been moving towards a chemical mixture to remove water spots or I would’ve been polishing it because of the etching that my water would’ve introduced. Trust me, this thing was working and working VERY well. I suspect that if you had only slightly hard water that you could, potentially, not dry with mechanical means (aka: only air dry).

    6. RECHARGING – One of the really nice things about this system is that it can be recharged over and over again. I’m not sure as to the limitations on recharging but, according to the box, this thing can last for years. To recharge, I’m assuming I simply take the salt cartridge and place it in the pre-filter in the place of the carbon filter. From there, I believe I just turn the water on and allow all of the salt to run through the Spot Free filter. I will, of course, allow this water to run on to my road rather than into my yard – I’d prefer to not have a great big dead spot due to saline water. Also, you’ll note that I say “I believe” and such through that description. Honestly, because of the lack of instructional information, I can only assume here. I believe it’s a safe assumption but, again, I really feel like it should say it.

    7. PRICE – Well, it’s not cheap. I gave around $300 from Auto Detailing Solutions. Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY. Every last Penny from what I can tell. I had been hesitating on buying this thing as I had researched several other brands including ion-exchange units and even a reverse osmosis unit. Both of the others that I researched were CONSIDERABLY more expensive and brought the additional expense of filters. After over a year of debate, this was the way for me to go. Unfortunately too, I could find NO reviews of this thing on the internet from a perspective that I really trusted. It was mentioned in a few places but, overall, no one was really discussing this unit at all. Hence, my long review… Pricing, on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s an 8.5. Sure, I’d love to see it be cheaper but, you’re really getting what you’re paying for.

    8. SUMMARY – This is a keeper. The unit comes packaged in a bomb-proof container and is constructed of very high-end materials. The unit performs as promised and makes a HUGE difference in how the water feels, reacts, and works. The mineral concentration drop across the filter was SUBSTANTIAL whereas the water pressure drop across the filter was nearly non-existent. Recharging appears to be a snap from start to finish. By this simple recharge (with common water softening salt in a cartridge), you’re able to recharge the resin material within the filter unit so that you can use it for ‘years’ to come. The price is reasonably fair for what you get and, overall, is much cheaper than comparable units out there. The only true weakness that I was able to isolate on the system was the bulky nature of the unit. Getting it from the garage to the hose spicket will take a trip or two but, overall, again, it’s worth it. The instructions that come with the unit are poor. I would really like to see Spot Free / Sport Masters come through with something that is more indicative of this high-quality unit. Other that that though, this thing seems SOLID. On a scale of 1-10, I’m going to go out on a limb here and give it a very solid 9.5.

    Here are a few pictures:



    This is what the unit looks like out of the shipping box. As you can see, it’s a rather large box (my pooch’s tennis ball is there for scale). I found it beneficial that the packaging was rather plain. Honestly, I hate paying for flashy graphics on the outside of a box. Also, note the zip-ties in the box holding everything in place. You *COULD NOT* move anything that was on the wood board without cutting zip ties. As I’ve said in the text, this thing was bomb-proof… definitely UPS and FEDEX proof – if that’s even possible.



    Same deal here. Tennis ball for scale. Again, note the zip ties and wood/metal binding over the filter unit. They package this thing for serious transport.





    Here’s the test subject. Note the heavy salt build up. Honestly, this is the dirtiest that my truck has EVER been. Obviously, this was a great test to be this dirty and on black paint… Double whammy. Oh yes, look at the snow in the reflection…



    This is the unit in action. From the house, there’s a four foot hose into the pre-filter. The pre-filter contains a carbon cartridge. From there, a two-foot hose goes into the main filter unit. From the unit – to the hose. I should note that the main filter is bi-directional in that it doesn’t matter which end is the inlet / outlet.



    The Spot Free Water Filter.



    It’s a crummy picture but, I took this because of the suds. I can’t really totally explain to you how ‘different’ the water felt and worked. For those of us who have hard water, it’s a joyous occasion to have soft water.



    The roof of my truck before everything had dried. If you’ll note in the near portion of the picture, you can see the VERY light spotting that I had noted. I’m honestly blown away by it being that light. As I said in the text, if that was straight ‘tap’, I’d be chiseling off the white calcium spots.



    A blurry end result. Sorry about the poor picture… the light was getting lower and the camera didn’t get tight on the focus. I should note that I had a couple of ‘runs’ (as usual) from the window seals. These runs were very typical as to the roof spots. A quick hit with a QD spray and they were history.

    Feel free to ask questions if you have them. I may not know the answer but I’ll do my best to try to help and/or get the answer.

    I hope you enjoyed this review! Please feel free to PM, post, or email me questions

    -----------Rockpick------------
    © 2006

    [Edited for Commercial links. Please refer to the MOL Forum Rules; 2hotford]
    Last edited by Rockpick; Feb 20th, 2006 at 05:54 PM.

  2. #2
    aka 2hotford Tim Lingor's Avatar
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    Excellent review Brad!

    You sure make it look tempting!

    Tim

  3. #3
    Registered Member Rockpick's Avatar
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    Originally posted by 2hotford
    Excellent review Brad!

    You sure make it look tempting!

    Tim
    Thanks for the kudos.

  4. #4
    Registered Member gb387's Avatar
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    RP.... Thanks for posting! Great reading, from time to time I entertain the idea of getting something similar, but I only know enough about them to really confuse myself and ask dumb questions.

    So..... Not being all that familiar with filters, does this one have any filters/cartridges that need replacing regularly? I know you say you can re-charge the filter(I would assume every 1000 gallons), so you are cleaning out the "Spot Free" portion with the salt cartridge, did I understand that right?

    Just trying to understand how it works, I know the directions you have are not the best.

    Great write up!
    Brandon

    2007 Black Chevy Avalanche

    My Albums: Avalanche
    Meguiars Online Acronyms - Meguiars Product List....

  5. #5
    Registered Member Rockpick's Avatar
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    Originally posted by gb387
    RP.... Thanks for posting! Great reading, from time to time I entertain the idea of getting something similar, but I only know enough about them to really confuse myself and ask dumb questions.

    So..... Not being all that familiar with filters, does this one have any filters/cartridges that need replacing regularly? I know you say you can re-charge the filter(I would assume every 1000 gallons), so you are cleaning out the "Spot Free" portion with the salt cartridge, did I understand that right?

    Just trying to understand how it works, I know the directions you have are not the best.

    Great write up!
    Hey gb387!! Good to see you...

    Great questions... and, in fact, something that I should include in the review...

    The filter that may need to be changed on a semi-frequent basis is the carbon pre-filter. This is a simple 'drop in' style filter that serves the general purpose of knocking out the 'big' stuff and helping with taste (even though I'm not drinking it). Think of this pre-filter as the filter that is on your fridge's water in the door feature.

    This is the only replaceable filter in the system.

    The regeneration process, as you suspected, is a very simple process. You simply pull out the aforementioned carbon filter and insert the salt cartridge (which can be refilled by the way) and kick the water on. The salt will dissolve via the pressure/movement of the water through the pre-filter housing (where the salt cartridge is located) and enter the resin filter (the big unit). The salt acts as a 'stripping agent' for the resin and causes the resin to release the CaCO3 and other minerals' ions that have become trapped on the resin. Obviously, this isn't anything that you want to free-flow on to your yard or similar. I'm not certain of the length of time required to regen as I haven't gone through the process as of yet -- I will update this thread when I go through that.

    Again, you're correct in that it's rated at around 1000 gallons. They also make two other units (a 2500 gallon and a 5000 gallon unit). Obviously, they're a tad larger in size and more expensive from a dollar perspective. They all work the same way though...

    Thanks for the questions! Take it easy!

    -RP-

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    Registered Member ebpcivicsi's Avatar
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    Could you use a pressure washer thus decreasing the amount of water needed per wash, increasing the life cycle of the filter? Seems as though that may be worth looking into.

    Loved the review, thanks for sharing!!!

  7. #7
    Registered Member Rockpick's Avatar
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    Originally posted by ebpcivicsi
    Could you use a pressure washer thus decreasing the amount of water needed per wash, increasing the life cycle of the filter? Seems as though that may be worth looking into.

    Loved the review, thanks for sharing!!!
    My pleasure... glad to have posted and, hopefully, helped someone out that has similar hard water problems -- trust me, my water is he11!

    As for the pressure washer, I certainly don't see why you couldn't do that... I have a little Campbell Hausfeld but I haven't tried it out with it as of yet. I can assure you this -- the pressure drop across the filter was mediscule at worst... in short, you're going to get near hose-pressure (at least at my house I did) on both sides of the filter.

    I'll give the p-washer a try this weekend if the weather holds -- although, it's not looking like it's going to...

    RP

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    Registered Member Tom Weed's Avatar
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    Great review Brad and I considered it to be very thorough and informative. I sent you an email about my thoughts on the CR system I just got.

    Good luck with the new filter and look forward to hearing how it holds up. I will let you know how mine is doing as well, that is as soon as it warms up.

    Hard water in LaGrange? No way...

    Take care,
    Tom

  9. #9
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    This is a great review! Let's keep this thread on topic and follow the rules a the same time.

    If we didn't know before, we now know that commercial links are not allowed. I realize this product does not compete against Meguiar's but the rules need to be to the point and easy to understand.

    No commercial messages will be allowed. This includes web site links, phone numbers and email addresses.

    With that said, this thread will be closed for a cooling off period for the next 24 hours. as of 7pm 2/21/06

    After the cooling off period I am going to strip this thread of everything that breaks the rules or distracts from the review to keep it a positive post that we can learn from.

    Your Meguiar's Online Team

  10. #10
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    Okay, this thread has been officially cleaned up! I didn't have the filtration unit so hopefully I didn't leave behind any spots...

    Let's keep on topic.

    The Meguiar's Online Team

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