Which Salt Is Best For Water Softeners? Buyers Guide
Refilling the salt in your salt-based water softener is a major part of its ongoing maintenance. These particular systems use a brine solution to wash away the hardness minerals and regenerate the sodium-charged resin beads – which are essential to the water softening process.
If you notice that the salt in your brine tank is running low, you’ll need to refill it as soon as possible. You will likely come across common types of water softener salts like crystals, salt pellets, and potassium chloride. But which one do you choose? Salt pellets or potassium chloride pellets? Solar or evaporated salt pellets?
To answer those questions, let’s look at each type of water softener salt and what situation each works best in.
Softener Salt or Softener Potassium Chloride: How Are They Different?
Ideally, water softeners work best with salts that are specially designed for softening water. That means no dicing, table salts or any salt of that kind.
Usually, when you want to change the salt in your water softener, you can choose from either sodium chloride (crystals, pellets and block salt) or potassium chloride.
The type of salt you use can affect the efficiency of your water softener and the regeneration process. It can also impact the amount of sodium that gets into your softened water, the cost of salt changes, and how often your brink tank needs to be cleaned.
Salt pellets, crystals and block salt are the three different forms of sodium chloride. Apart from being readily available in a variety of forms, sodium chloride is widely used because of its lower cost and effectiveness.
Salt pellets are the most common and are generally less expensive than potassium pellets. Here is a breakdown of the available options:
Evaporated salt pellets have the highest purity rate of the aforementioned salts and are generally the most expensive. The higher the purity of your salt (we prefer 99.9% pure salt), the less water-insoluble matter, which means less chance of “bridging”, “mushing”, or insoluble buildup in the bottom of the tank that will need to be cleaned out later.
Evaporated Salt Pellets (Our Top Pick): Evaporated salt is the purest form of sodium-based salts for softening water. And as you’d expect, it’s the most expensive type listed here. This type of salt forms when raw salt is converted to sodium chloride and all the moisture has been removed. What’s left from this process is 100% pure salt. Because of this pure state, evaporated salt pellets are highly effective at treating hard water and making it soft.
Evaporated salt is manufactured by dissolving underground deposits to brine and evaporating the moisture. It has a purity level between 99.6% to 99.99% along with a water insoluble level of less than O.O1%.
It comes in the form of pellets and is the overall highest quality. When faced with a choice of solar salt vs pellets, you will want to go with pellets.
Solar salt pellets is most commonly sold in the crystal or pellet form and is made through evaporating sea water. Solar salt is more soluble than rock salt, but may not work as well as evaporated salt when your water hardness level is very high. Many solar salt brands contain 99.6 pure salt.
Solar salt: Solar salt (more commonly known as ‘sea salt’) is a byproduct of evaporated seawater. It is naturally produced when the sun dries out the highly saline seawater. This type of salt is 99.6% pure. Also, it is highly soluble, even more than rock salt. That means it is able to dissolve much faster than other types of water softener salts. You can use it if your system suffers from frequent salt buildups, “mushing”, or “bridging”. Using this type of salt can help extend the life of your softener and lower the need for frequent maintenance.Solar salt is a natural product created by evaporation of seawater or inland brine. It has a purity level of 99.5% or higher and a water insoluble level less than 0.03%.
It usually comes in the form of crystals but can also be in the form of pellets or blocks. If you have a big household or very hard water, this will not be your best choice. This type of salt is more likely to create a buildup or a salt bridge.
Rock salt resembles small rocks or pebbles. Although this form of salt is more economical, we don’t recommend using as it contains a high amount of calcium sulfate which means it won’t dissolve well in water and can cause maintenance headaches.
Rock Salt: As the name suggests, rock salt resembles small rocks or pebbles. It is mined underground and forms when salt deposits accumulate. Rock salt is the rawest kind of salt on this list, which means that the salt crystals from the salt itself may contain other traces. Even though rock salt is more economical, it has a high amount of calcium sulfate, so it may not dissolve well in water and may lead to constant maintenance headaches. Literally.
Rock salt a naturally occurring mineral obtained from underground salt deposit by mining methods. Its purity level vary from 98% to 99% with a water insoluble level of 0.5 to 1.5%.
It is not recommended for your water softener. The insoluble particles will create a buildup in the tank which will have to be cleaned several times a year.
Block salt should not be used unless your WaterTech dealer recommends and raises the water level in the brine tank to ensure the blocks are fully submerged for maximum brine formation.
Like most things, it’s best to spend a little more up front for high quality. Purchasing bags of high-quality evaporated salt pellets will mean fewer cleaning and maintenance issues and will also help you achieve better results with your water conditioner.
Block Salt: Block salt is on the list of salts that are not ideal for water softeners. Some companies add a bonding agent to the salt to form the blocks, which is just more impurities being added to the salt. Therefore, we do not recommend using it.
How much does water softener salt cost?
The brand of salt you use for your water softener may depend on how much money you can contribute to regular salt purchases. Generally, the bigger the quantity of salt you buy in one go, the cheaper it is per pound. Some brands offer more expensive softening salt without necessarily giving a reason why. You’ll also expect to pay more for different forms of salt that work better in homes with high-volume water usage.
You might be more comfortable buying softening salt from the manufacturer of your water softener. Look out for customer deals your manufacturer might be offering, like discounts and money off savings. No matter where you choose to buy from, make sure you’ve found a trusted seller and a legitimate product.
1. MORTON SALT CLEAN & PROTECT 50 LBS.
Most Endorsed by Top Brands of Softeners
Helps prevent Mineral build-up
The patented Clean & Protect Pellets from Morton is the improved version of the regular evaporated salt and is endorsed by many reputed brands of softeners.
They are the best water softener pellets from Morton, and will keep your water softeners running longer and cleaner by eliminating most of the buildup. They also eliminate more iron and are phosphate-free. Morton water is undeniably softer, safer, and undeniably refreshing. It pampers your skin and hair and makes cleaning a whole deal easier. Morton’s Clean and Protect essentially charges the resin beads, and an added bonus is that they reduce buildup enhancing the longevity of your home appliances.
In the long run, you will reduce the amount of salt needed and this will reduce the overall cost and the cleaning of your tank will be easier. Morton’s salts come with a 4-star rating and enjoy exclusive popularity. They are made from evaporated sodium chloride pellets using a patented formula. The water is safe to drink but is not especially safe for plants.
It’s NSF certified, is well-packaged, and also comes in 40 lbs. bags... They come in 50-pound packs, which is about the average household consumption.
2. SOLAR NATURALS WATER SOFTENING SALT, 50 LBS.
Household & Commercial Use
In filtered Brine form
Moisture protected package
Solar Naturals Salt Crystals by Diamond Crystal has a purity of 99.6%. They have been evaporated by the sun and the wind and are naturally white and opaque.
They have a fairly low insoluble content for softener salt crystals and will minimize the tank residue and bridging.
It’s been certified by the NSF. One bag can last up to 3 months and is suitable for water that is not too hard or a small to medium household.
3. DIAMOND CRYSTAL IRON FIGHTER PELLETS BAG, 40 LBS.
Great for High Iron Content Water
Helps fight rust
Water smells better
Iron Fighter Evaporated Salt Pellets from Diamond Crystal has been specially designed for water with a high iron content. A good indication of a high iron content in your water is rust stains on laundry, fixtures, sinks, and tubs. This is a common problem in cities and private wells.
They are more expensive but are well worth the price to help fight rust on your appliances and fixtures. It contains an FDA approved additive. You will find that your water smells better and your skin becomes softer.
They are virtually 100% water soluble and will leave your tank clean and free of bridging much longer. They are suitable for most types of softeners. Their patented two handles bag makes it easier to carry.
4. CARGILL SALT 40# POTASSIUM CHLORIDE PELLETS 7376
Low Sodium but Pricey
Alternative for Sodium pellets
Suitable for all water softeners
This Potassium Chloride Pellets from Cargill are the best alternative to softener sodium pellets.
If you need a low-sodium diet, this is a must for you. They have a purity level of 99.1% which means that it has a low insoluble content. The buildup in your tank will be minimized and your health preserved. These are suitable for all kind of water softeners.
Potassium chloride is a great alternative to salt (sodium chloride), especially since it is 99.9% sodium-free. While this makes it perfect for those who are looking to reduce their sodium intake, the potassium is not healthy for people with hypertension or a history of this condition in their family. Also, potassium chloride pellets are usually more expensive and are not as accessible as salt pellets.
If you are thinking about switching from salt to potassium chloride pellets, you might have to increase the salt dosage program setting on the valve by about 10% to make sure that the system regenerates properly.
If you’re looking for a salt alternative for your salt-based water softener, your only other option is potassium chloride.
You’ll be able to use this as a salt replacement, and still get exactly the same quality of softened water from the ion exchange process. In some cases, potassium chloride might be the better water softening option for you.
Something to note from the start is that potassium chloride is a lot more expensive than sodium chloride. This is because it’s a less common option on the market, and it also provides the benefits of salt-free water softening while still removing calcium and magnesium minerals from the water, which puts it in high demand.
Potassium chloride is about as close to being sodium-free as you can get (around 99.9%). If you’re on a low sodium diet, or you don’t like the salty taste of sodium in your water, potassium chloride is a convenient, albeit costly, solution.
One other benefit of potassium chloride soft water is that it can be used to water plants, whereas sodium chloride soft water isn’t recommended for plant watering. You can also give potassium chloride soft water to your pets for drinking.
Unsurprisingly, potassium chloride is harder to find than sodium chloride, and you’ll need to be prepared to pay extra for its additional benefits. You may also need to increase your softening tank’s programming settings by 10 to 15%, ensuring you get the same water softening benefits as you can from sodium chloride.
How long does a 40 lb bag of water softer last?
How much salt you’ll need to purchase and add each month will depend on the level of “hardness” in your water and the quantity of water your household consumes. Industry standard is that the average family of four with typical water hardness (roughly 7-10 grains per gallon hardness level) will use about 9 to 10 pounds of salt each week or one 40-lb bag of salt each month.
Regularly check the salt level in your brine tank (at least every month). Once the salt in the brine tank falls below one-quarter full, you run the risk of not having softened/conditioned water.
For optimal efficiency, keep the salt in the brine tank at least three or four inches above the water level, but no more than four inches below the top of the tank.
Loosen any encrusted salt around the brine tank and ensure that the large blocks are broken up before added any new salt to it. Adding hot water to the salt blocks will help break them up.
Softener Maintenance and Upkeep
Once you’ve filled your sodium tank, you’ll need to schedule regular refills to keep the system working as efficiently as possible.
It’s also important for your tank to regenerate whenever needed, and you should get into the habit of checking your system regularly.
Some forms of softener salt lead to bridging, or the build-up of salt in the bottom of your brine tank. This can prevent water softening from taking place efficiently. You’ll need to break apart the build-up yourself to allow salt to properly absorb into the brine water.
How can you tell if your water softener needs salt?
While it’s fairly obvious that salt-based water softeners need salt to perform properly, knowing when to add salt might not appear as straightforward. Don’t fret, though – it really is quite simple to find out when your brine tank needs refilling.
There might be some obvious factors to look out for when it comes to refilling your salt tank, but remember also that the size of your brine tank and the type of water softening system you own will determine how much salt you go through on a monthly basis.
Your household’s water hardness will also affect how much sodium is used, and how quickly it is needed. Consider these three factors when you’re determining how much salt to add to your water softening system, and how often.
No matter what type of salt-based softener you have, get into the habit of looking for the following signs that your salt needs replenishing:
Salt levels are visibly low
The simplest way to tell when your salt levels are low is to physically examine the brine tank by lifting the lid and taking a look inside.
Once the salt levels have dropped below halfway, it’s recommended that you top them up. Never let your salt levels fall beneath one quarter full if you want your system to effectively soften water.
Your water softener is older
An older water softener uses more salt to soften the same quantity of water than a newer system. This is because the water softeners being manufactured today are far more efficient at ion exchange, helping to reduce the need to top up with salt as often.
A newer model should last between 6 weeks and 2 months before it needs a top up. If you have an older model, you’ll need to check it regularly and top it up with salt whenever it’s running low.
There’s bridging in your tank
Sometimes, you might think your water softener needs more salt because it doesn’t seem to be effectively softening your water.
You may actually find that you don’t need more salt, but there’s a bridging issue in your tank that’s preventing ion exchange from taking place.
When a hard, crusty layer of salt forms at the bottom of the brine tank, it prevents the salt underneath it from being able to dissolve into the water, which means there aren’t enough sodium ions in the water to swap with the calcium and magnesium minerals.
You can avoid bridging by keeping your softener in an area of low humidity, using good-quality salt, and ensuring your brine tank stays consistently half-full.
Brine tank maintenance info
Unfortunately, maintaining your salt-based water softener isn’t as simple as buying a batch of sodium chloride and adding it to the system when it’s needed. You’ll need to keep an eye on your tank to make sure everything’s working as it should, and interject if something’s wrong.
If you want to keep your softener in the best condition possible, helping to lengthen its lifespan and more efficiently soften your water, here’s the maintenance info you need to know:
Check the salt level of your brine tank after every 30 days. You need to make sure the salt never falls too low, or there won’t be enough sodium in the system to replace the calcium and magnesium ions in your hard water. This means that some hard-causing minerals might be able to pass through the resin, making for ineffective water softening. Avoid this by adding salt to your system every time it regenerates.
Make sure there is plenty of salt in your water tank. It might look excessive to you, but it’s recommended that your salt levels are at least 4 inches higher than your water levels at all times. If they fall below this, it’s time for a top up.
For the best water softening experience, your salt needs to be at least 4 inches below the lid or top area of the brine tank. This means doing some careful calculations to make sure the water levels aren’t too high, which will also result in higher sodium levels.
If the tank falls below one quarter full of salt, the system won’t work properly. It’s important to check the salt levels regularly to ensure they don’t ever drop too low.
If bridging occurs, and a solid layer of salt forms in the bottom of your resin tank, it’s your responsibility to break this up to allow the salt and the water to mix properly. The simplest way to do this is to pour hot water over the solid layer, which should cause it to crumble apart.
There’s not really much to looking after your brine tank – it’s just a case of checking up on it regularly and adding salt when necessary. If you spot any issues, you’ll be able to sort them out before they turn into something bigger. In this way, you’ll have no problem maintaining your softener’s lifespan and ensuring effective water softening can take place.
Is it worth it?
To recap what we have seen in our certified water softening salt reviews, the best salt is one with a high purity level and a low insoluble content level. Solar salt and evaporated salt are both suitable if your water is not too hard. If your water is very hard, we would recommend using evaporated softener salt, which contains less insoluble content.
And ultimately, remember that you usually get what you pay for. What you save on your softener salt, you will pay in maintenance later on. Make sure to keep your best water softener in great working shape with the right accessories.