If you’ve realized that your household has issues with hard water, you might be looking for a solution of this problem. Even if you haven’t, it might be a good idea to get your water checked, as there’s a high chance that this is an issue for you as well. After all, hard water is the norm for 90% of American households, according to the Salt Institute.
Water softeners can do wonders when it comes to this. Among the different types of water softeners , salt-based ones seem to be the most popular and effective. They’re very capable and can ensure that your entire home is free of hard water.
If you’re considering buying or if you already have a salt-based water softener, it’s important that you learn all there is to know about water softener salt, which is required to regenerate your softener. Choosing the right one can make a world of difference, as they are not equally effective on every machine. Also, some of these salts might not be good for you if you’re suffering certain health conditions.
This guide will help you avoid choosing the wrong salt. Here you’ll see all the factors that you need to take into account when buying salts for your water softener. But before that, let’s go over some of the best water softener salts on the market.
Top 6 Water Softener Salts
Even though there are a large number of choices, there are only a handful of manufacturers that you can trust. It’s important that you choose good-quality salt, as failing to do so can damage your water softener, not to mention that you might not be satisfied with the results.
To make sure that doesn’t happen, take a look at some of the best salts you can buy right now.
1. Morton SALT System Saver II Pellets
You may know Morton from your table salt, but the company is also the leader in water softener salt, so expect to see a number of Morton products on this list. The first one is the System Saver II from the System saver series, which has gained a lot of popularity with consumers over the years.
What’s so great about this salt is its ability to prevent buildup of minerals in your water softener’s brine tank. Many types of salt, especially rock salt, tend to leave mineral residue and sediment in the brine tank. This salt can ensure that doesn’t happen by cleaning the tank thoroughly.
As far as water softening goes, the formula of this salt does a great job. Aside from keeping the system clean, it also helps the resin beads regenerate with great efficacy.
The bag contains 50lb of salt pellets, which should be more than enough for a month of usage, since the average usage in a household is around 40lb a month.
2. Morton Pure and Natural Water Softener Salt
Unlike our previous choice, this one doesn’t come in pellets. Instead, you get water softener salt crystals that can both free your water of harmful minerals and ensure the longevity of your water softening system.
The is a high purity salt that can effectively soften your water to prevent the buildup of scale in any part of your plumbing system. As you may know, such an effect can be especially devastating to your boiler and water heaters, and the Morton Pure and Natural salt works great with your water softener to eliminate this problem.
Due to its purity, this one is great for all water softeners. Besides problems with your appliances, hard water can cause dry and damaged skin and hair. It also makes washing your clothes and cleaning the dishes easier and more effective, as the detergent would work more efficiently.
The bag contains 40lb of salt, which should last for about month in an average household.
3. Diamond Crystal Bright and Soft Water Softener Salt Pellets
This versatile salt is great for all water softeners. It has numerous properties that benefit users. The purity of 99.9%, which makes it very effective at regenerating the resin beads in your water softener.
The compacted pellets are formulated to ensure that the brine tank remains free of bridging and mushing, which prolongs its life and enhances water softening abilities. It also helps prolong the lifespan of pretty much every appliance that uses water.
Its purity allows it to be almost 100% water-soluble, which helps regenerate the resin beads at a fast rate, resulting in higher ability to hold calcium and magnesium. This means that every pass of your household water through your softener will result in a higher level of softening.
For added convenience and ease of use, Diamond Crystal patented a two-handle bag which allows the user to lift and pour out the salt hassle-free.
4. Nature's Own Potassium Chloride Crystal Cubes
Sodium-based products are not for everyone. Some people are concerned about its effect on kidney function and other potential health issues. Even though there’s no evidence that using sodium-based salt can affect an average person’s health, those with kidney problems might want to stay away from them. You don’t have to be suffering from a kidney-related disease, this is a great alternative if you want to avoid sodium in general.
Some would consider potassium salts to be a healthier option than sodium, but the jury’s still out. In any event, potassium-based salts have a lot to offer.
First of all, they’re equally good at maintaining the water softener’s ability to reduce or eliminate water hardness. They’re also better for the environment, since potassium is much healthier to plants than sodium.
Potassium-rich water is also good for making sure that you meet your dietary potassium goals, which is one of the main reasons people choose it. When it comes to performance, this one isn’t all that different from a sodium-based salt, so you can expect good results.
The bag contains 40lb of potassium chloride. You can expect this option to be on the more expensive side since the production of potassium salts doesn’t have the economy of scale of sodium salts.
5. Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets
The industry leader Morton is also in on the act to offer consumers a choice of going sodium-free. The Morton potassium chloride pellets are specifically designed to let you enjoy all of the advantages of switching from sodium to potassium.
First of all, these pellets result in 20% lower chloride discharge compared to their sodium-based counterparts, which means you can use less water to regenerate your water softener. The 99% purity ensures great performance and provides users with sufficient levels of potassium, which is an important nutrient.
The lower chloride discharge makes these pellets very eco-friendly, since there is far less wastewater that is released into the environment.
As outlined above, you can expect to pay more for potassium-based water softener salts. However, the quality of this Morton product may well justify the price. It comes in a 40lb bag to last give or take a full month.
6. Windsor System Saver II
If you’re looking for an affordable water softener salt, this can be a great choice. Windsor’s sodium-based System Saver II at a purity of 99.7% is great against hard water. The coincidental product name with Morton’s notwithstanding, this one ensures fast resin regeneration.
The reason for this is that this formula contains additives that clean the resin beads very effectively, which in turn enhances the effectiveness of your water softener. In case your wonder, Windsor has been careful not to include harmful chemicals in the composition of the additives.
Having soft water at home prevents the buildup of scale in different appliances, especially water heaters. You can expect all your cleaning tasks at home to be easier and faster.
The Windsor System Saver II is by far the most affordable solution on our list, but remember to adjust for the fact that it comes in a 20kg bag.
Water Softener Salt Buyer’s Guide
Now that you know some of the best water softener salts on the market right now, it’s time to go over everything that you should know before you go out and buy one for your water softener. In this guide, we’ll go over every factor that you need to take into account. But before we do that, let’s take a look at the role of salt in water softeners.
What Does Water Softener Salt Do?
First of all, don’t think that it’s the salt that softens water in.
The resin beads in your water softener are the ones doing all the softening. When hard water reaches them, a process called ion exchange happens. Basically, the negatively charged resin beads, which hold sodium ions (or potassium ions if you go with potassium salt), draw in the positively charged magnesium and calcium ions in your water.
At the exchange site, magnesium and calcium ions displace the sodium (or potassium) ions. In doing so you rid your water of the hardness-causing minerals. In exchange, your water picks up soluble sodium or potassium salt.
After a certain amount of time, the resin beads would run out of sodium or potassium ions and need to be regenerated. That’s when the salt comes into play. It’s used to make brine solution to be stored in the brine tank. Regeneration produces waste hard water that contains higher levels of minerals than your municipal water.
Not every type of salt does an equally good job at ensuring that your water softener runs smoothly. This is why you need to understand the differences between them. To help you with this, let’s go over the main types of water softener salt.
1. Rock Salt
This type of salt is commonly mined underground. It has formed as a result of hundreds of years of rains, which cause the soil to erode. When this happens, salt deposits accumulate underground.
Among all types of salt used in water softeners, this is the rawest. There is some controversy around it, since not everyone can agree that it should be used in water softeners. This is because it contains other minerals as well, which might be counterproductive. The presence of positively charged minerals theoretically wouldn’t be as effective at regenerating resin beads.
At the end of the day, every water softener manufacturer agrees that this salt is perfectly fine for use in water softeners. There is no evidence that it harms water softeners or affects the softness of the water. It also happens to be affordable.
Many water softener manufacturers package and sell this salt as well. It should be noted, however, that you might have to do some extra maintenance if you decide to use rock salt. This is because the excess minerals tend to stay behind in the brine tank. In general, the affordability of this salt outweighs its maintenance needs.
Rock salt is great for many water softeners and does a good job of regenerating the resin beads.
2. Solar Salt
Solar salt, more commonly known as sea salt, is a result of sea evaporation. Manufacturers collect sea salt into a certain area and leave it to dry out. As it dries, salt crystals start appearing, which is the reason behind the name. The crystals are then harvested and shipped away for all kinds of uses.
Solar solt can get up to 99.5% pure and is highly soluble compared to rock salt. However, solar salt is still slightly less pure than evaporated salt (as discussed in next section) but cost less.
You can find solar salt pretty much everywhere, and the type that is used in water softeners is usually in the form of pellets.
3. Evaporated Salt
Out of all sodium-based water softener salts, evaporated salt is the purest. It comes from the reduction of raw salt crystals to pure sodium chloride. After that, special heaters are used to get rid of the excess moisture.
The product of this process is 100% pure salt that can be used for many purposes. When used in water softeners, it’s very effective due to its purity. It’s usually sold in pellets, but you can probably find it in other forms as well.
4. Potassium Chloride
Potassium chloride is an alternative to sodium chloride that has only been developed recently for use in water softeners. There is always a lingering fear that people have about sodium chloride, the table salt (although by scientific definition potassium chloride is also a salt, the product of reaction between an acid and a base).
Even if you discount the health concerns, there is a possibility that the buildup of salt can harm both the softener and the softness and quality of water.
If you believe that this might be the case, potassium can be a good alternative. The pellets contain little to no sodium, so if anyone in the house has a health condition that necessitates the reduction of sodium intake, this can be a good choice.
In addition, studies show that the intake of potassium can reduce the well-known negative effect of sodium on blood pressure. This research shows that a higher intake of potassium lowers blood pressure.
Hydrogen Peroxide (For Maintenance Only)
Although it’s not a type of salt, people have started using hydrogen peroxide for both water softening and water softener maintenance. What’s good about it is that it not only softens water but also disinfects water and removes bacteria. It’s most suitable for people who are very health conscious.
Aside from this, it can be a great solution for cleaning the tank. Many people consider this to be among the most affordable and convenient ways of maintaining their water softeners.
How to Choose the Right Type?
The type of salt that you go for will mostly depend on the intended use and your personal preferences. Each of them does something better than others, so it’s just a matter of priorities.
If you want an affordable solution, rock salt is the one. If you want the most effective, then evaporated salt is your safest bet, with sea salt coming in at a close second. And if you want to steer clear of sodium altogether, potassium chloride might be the best one for you.
How Much Salt Do You Need?
This is really a question of how often you’ll have to add salt to the brine tank. The answer depends on two main factors: water hardness and the amount of water your household uses on a daily basis.
As an industry basis, a four-person household with hard water of 7-10 GPG (grains per gallon) use around 9-10 pounds of salt on a weekly basis, or a bag of 40lb water softener salt each month. Note that one grain is equivalent to approximately 0.0648g.
Of course, this is just an estimate, but you can use this to calculate the actual amount of salt that you’ll have to use. Keep in mind that most water softeners allow you to adjust the amount of salt needed for the machine to operate, so you can change this with time.
If you notice that you’re using more than that, here are the possible reasons:
If you can’t figure out the amount of salt your softener requires, you can always consult a professional or give the manufacturer a call. They can give you a detailed overview of all the important factors and help you determine the salt requirement.
How to Add Salt to a Water Softener?
Now that you know all about the types of salt and how to determine the amount, it’s time to go over the process of adding salt to your water softener system. Even though this is a straightforward process, there are some things that you need to pay attention to.
Once you have your salt, open the lid and check the state of the tank. Look for any salt deposits, sediments, or anything that looks out of the ordinary.
Also, check the salt level. This is how you can determine if you’re using the right amount of it, and if the water softener is using the salt efficiently. After you do this, simply pour the salt in the tank until there’s a sufficient level of it.
Factors to Consider Before Buying Water Softener Salt
Aside from the type, there are some other things that you might want to take into account when choosing the right salt for you. To help you with this, here are the factors that you need to consider:
Water Softener Salts FAQs
By now, you’ve learned pretty much everything there is to know about water softener salts. Still, there are more questions and answers that can point you in the right direction.
Can I Use Food-Grade Salt for Water Softener?
Technically, yes. However, it’s not recommended to do this. Even though cooking salt is sodium salt which has the power to regenerate the resin, it contains many impurities that can harm your machine. The risk depends on your particular water softener, but it’s always a good idea to buy salt designed specifically for water softeners, which is not too much more expensive than table salt on a weight basis.
Another reason for this is that fine table salt is of much smaller crystals, which can lead to mushing. If you can’t find proper water softener salt in the stores near you, order it online.
Is It OK to Mix Different Salts?
Since all water softener salts serve the same purpose, mixing them shouldn’t cause any harm. They can work together, so you don’t necessarily have to stick to just one particular product.
Still, it might not be a good idea to mix sodium-based salts with potassium-based ones. The interaction of these minerals can lower the efficiency of the resin beads at the exchange sites, which means that your water might not end up as pure and soft as you want it to be. If you want to mix multiple salts, make sure that they have the same mineral in them.
What If I Don’t Add Salt for Some Time?
If you forget to replenish the levels of salt in your brine tank, you won’t have soft water anymore. The most obvious sign is the occurrence of hard water spots on your dishes (and all other effects of hard water). If you’ve been using soft water for a long time, you might also notice the change in taste, as hard water can have a metallic taste.
In case this happens, make sure to add salt as soon as possible. Keep in mind that you won’t get soft water back immediately, and it may take around 2-3 days for your entire household to start using soft water again.
To avoid this, always make sure that the brine tank is half full. Check the level every couple of days, since one full tank can last for about a week.
My Water Is Discolored. What to Do?
If you notice any change in color or traces of dirt in your water, you should check the brine tank first. The most common cause is a dirty brine tank. Here are the possible reasons for this:
Why Does My Water Smell Like Rotten Eggs Despite Using a Softener?
If you notice this smell, there’s a high chance that your water contains too much sulfur. Another possible reason is that there are germs in the water that make it look and taste weird. Unfortunately, many water softeners are not equipped to solve this issue, so you’ll need a different filtration system for this, which can be added downstream or upstream of the water softener.
Sometimes, cleaning the brine tank might be enough, as there’s a chance that the contaminants are forming inside it. What you can do here is add some hydrogen peroxide to the tank, and the problem should go away.
What to Do About Salt Bridges Forming in the Tank?
If you notice any salt bridges, don’t worry, as there’s an easy way to fix this. The easiest thing to do is use a broom stick or a similar object to simply break the bridges. Make sure to do it until there are none of them left, as they can prevent efficient water softening.
If you notice the bridges forming the first time, chances are you’ll see them again, and probably often. To prevent this, you can try switching to a different make and model of salt or have your system checked out.
What If I Don’t Want to Use Salt at All?
If you want to stay away from salt altogether, you can find other types of water softeners that are not salt-based. Each of them comes with a set of advantages and shortcomings, but in general many of them do a good job of softening your water.
Some machines even come with stages of water filters to also purify and disinfect your water.
If you haven’t already bought a water softening system, you can buy different devices that can help with hard water at points of use, instead of installing a whole-house water softener at the point of entry. These include water softener shower heads , taps, and other devices.
The Final Word
As you can see, there are many things to take under consideration when buying water softener salt. Keep everything in this guide in mind if you want to make sure to find the right one.
The most important decision you’ll have to make is regarding the type of salt to use. Read the instruction manual of your water softener to check whether the manufacturer recommends a particular type or brand. If not, consider the pros and cons of each type and choose accordingly.
Last but not least, follow the maintenance guidelines outlined above and your water softener should work properly for years to come.