Salt-based water softeners are among the most effective and best softeners. This kind of softener eliminates hardness-causing minerals such as magnesium and calcium from the water using the ion exchange process.
In this case, the magnesium and calcium minerals are eliminated completely from the water and then replaced with sodium.
For this to occur, water softener salt must be used with your system
So what exactly is water softener salt and what is its purpose?
Water softener salt is the type of sodium that is needed in order for the ion exchange process to occur.
Salt is stored inside the system’s tank. It is broken down throughout the water softening process, leaving behind only the sodium (please note that salt in its total form is called sodium chloride).
The ion exchange process occurs inside the tank that contains negatively charged resin beads. Since the magnesium and calcium minerals contained in hard water have a positive charge, these minerals are attracted to the resin beads. The miners are pulled through by the resin beads and trapped to facilitate the ion exchange process.
Once the resin is filled with hard water minerals, then the water softener salt can start working.
Saltwater is positively charged as well and is run through the resin tank. This results in the sodium breaking free from chloride and then binds to the resin. That forces the magnesium and calcium ion to break free from the resin, and then flush out of the tank’s system.
What is left behind is soft water that only contains sodium ions but no magnesium or calcium.
Sodium does not cause the hard water problems that magnesium and calcium are notorious for. There is just a minimum amount that is added to the water throughout the ion exchange process.
There are various amounts of water contained in water, to begin with. However, the amount that is necessary for the salt-based softening process will depend on how hard your water is. Hard water containing more magnesium and calcium mineral is going to need more sodium for the ion exchange process.
Best Salt For Water Softeners:
- Nature’s Own Potassium Solution
- Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets
- Diamond Crystal Bright & Soft
- Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals
- Morton Pure and Natural
- Morton Clean & Protect Rust Defense
- Morton Clean & Protect
Why should you use water softener salt in your water?
If you do not add any salt to your water, then none of the hard water minerals will be removed from it. There are some sodium-free water softeners that are available in the marketplace, including magnetic water softeners. However, they do not actually remove magnesium and calcium.
All they do is change their composition to prevent them from causing limescale and clinging to surfaces That means that the magnesium and calcium still can cause hard water problems, and you will not receive all of the benefits that you can get from a standard water softener.
Salt is needed for the ion exchange process. No other minerals other than potassium chloride (which we will be covering more thoroughly later on in this review) and salt can be used just as effectively in order to bind to the resin other than magnesium and calcium.
You will need to buy salt that is designed to use in water softeners for your system to achieve the best softening experience. Using salt that is designed for cooking or standard salt will not work effectively in a water softening system, since this kind of salt has a different kind of composition compared to water softener salt.
Factors to consider when purchasing water softener salt
The hardness of your household water
The kind of water softener that you will need to buy will depend on how hard your household water is.
If there is a higher density of hard-causing magnesium and calcium minerals contained in your water, more salt will be needed to replace those minerals during the ion exchange process. That means more salt will be used at a faster rate compared to the average household throughout a single water softening cycle.
Although there isn’t much you can do about how hard your household’s water is, you may want to search for more affordable salt options or deals on bulk water softener salt in order to stick to your budget yet will achieve your water softening needs.
Purer salts also provide you with a better value for your money, since you will get more from the salt than you would from salt containing a higher level of insoluble material.
Different types of water softeners
You can use the best water softening salts in all different kinds of water softeners. However, in order to be sure, always read the product descriptions before you buy anything. You can use rock salt, solar salt, evaporated sales, and sometimes block salt if you own a salt-based water softener system.
Of course, salt is only necessary if you have a salt-based water softener. Salt-free water softeners do not use salt. A majority of them use TAC media to work. This changes the composition of the magnesium and calcium ions to prevent limescale from being deposited.
Saltier water taste
Only a small amount of sodium is added to water by a salt-based water softener. However, if you are picky about the water that you drink, you may not like how sodium-softened water tastes. If so, you might want to consider using potassium chloride salt, which doesn’t taste as salty as sodium chloride does.
Potassium chloride does tend to be at last three times more expensive compared to sodium chloride since you are paying for the benefits of being able to soften your water without having to use sodium.
The specific brand of salt that you use in your water softener will depend on the amount of money that you are able to spend on your regular salt purchases.
In general, the more salt that your purchase at once, the cheaper it will be per pound. There are some brands that offer higher-priced softening salt without necessarily providing a good reason. You can also expect to have to pay more for different types of salt that work more effectively in houses that use higher volumes of water.
You may be more comfortable purchasing softening salt from your water softener’s manufacturer. Search for customer deals that might be offered by your manufacturer, like money off savings and discounts. No matter who you purchase from be sure to buy a legitimate product from a trusted seller. If you don’t want to worry about buying salt on a regular basis consider purchasing a saltless water softener.
Softener upkeep and maintenance
After your sodium tank has been filled, you will need to have regular refills scheduled to ensure that your system continues to work as efficiently as possible.
Also, it is essential for the tank to regenerate whenever it is necessary, and you should make sure to check your system on a regular basis.
Some types of softener salt result in the build-up or bridging of salt on the bottom of a brine tan. That can prevent water softening from occurring in an efficient matter. You will need to break up the build-up on your own so that the salt can absorb into the brine water properly.
Softener Potassium Chloride vs Softener Salt
Although salt is the prefeed mineral option to use with a salt-based water softener, softener potassium chloride can also be used. The two compounds work exactly the same inside of the water softener resin. However, there are some noticeable differences when it comes to health factors and price that are worth examining.
This is the scientific term that is used for standard softener salt. There are usually three different forms that you can purchase: blocks, pellets, and crystals. Since sodium chloride is much common compared to potassium chloride, it is much less expensive to buy, and there are many more options available to choose from.
Let’s take a closer look at the four different kinds of sodium chloride that can be purchased to use in a water softener:
Rock salt – This type of salt looks like small pebbles or rocks. Rock salt has a tendency to have high levels of calcium sulfate, so it isn’t the best option to use for water softening. Many individuals discover that rock salt does not dissolve in water well, and can leave a residue behind. It is very affordable, but you get what you pay for when you purchase a cheap product.
Evaporated salt – Usually, evaporated salt is in pellet form. It has the highest rate of purity of all types of salt. That is why it tends to have the highest price and is the option that is recommended for a salt-based water filtration system. The main benefit offered by pure evaporated salt is that there are very few amounts of other minerals contained in it that could lead to the build-up of insoluble materials inside the resin tank and can affect the water softening process’s efficiency.
Solar salt – It can be found in pellet or crystal form. Solar salt is formed by the evaporation of seawater, which is highly pure naturally. However, it has not been proven that solar salt works well on water that contains high amounts of water-hardening minerals. Therefore for people who have harder household water, it isn’t the best option.
Block salt – This type of salt is really considered to be a viable option to use in a water softener. Block salt is literally a block of salt. It is usually only recommended for certain situations by plumbers. If you use block salt inside your water softener, then you need to ensure that the water levels in your resin tank are high enough to submerge the block completely.
If you are searching for a salt alternative to use in your salt-based water softener, then potassium chloride is the only other option that is available.
It can be used as a salt replacement, and still receive the same quality level of softened water out of the ion exchange process. In certain situations, potassium chloride may be the best water softening option to use.
One thing to note from the very beginning is that potassium chloride costs more than sodium chloride does. That is due to the fact that it is a rarer option that is available in the marketplace and it provides the benefit of providing salt-free water softening and removes magnesium and calcium minerals out of the water at the same time, which is why it is in such high demand currently.
Potassium chloride is as close to being sodium-free s you can possibly get (about 99.9%). If you don’t like the salty taste of the sodium contained in your water or follow a low sodium diet, then potassium chloride is an expensive, yet convenient solution.
Potassium chloride soft water can also be used for watering plants. By contrast, it is not recommended to use sodium chloride soft water to water plants. Potassium chloride soft water can also be given to pets for drinking water.
It is also harder to find potassium chloride compared to sodium chloride. Therefore, you do have to pay more for the additional benefits that you receive. You might also need to increase the programming settings on your softening tank by 10 to 15% which ensures you get the same benefits from water softening that you receive from sodium chloride.
Pellets vs Crystals
You may have looked at the various forms of salt that are available and wondered which option to choose. Different options will be more convenient for different budgets and also for different practicalities for various systems, such as usage of your softener’s water.
The form of salt used in your water softening system has a greater impact than you may realize. Therefore, it is worthwhile to know what is being offered.
Pellets and crystals are the two major forms of salt that water softener systems use. Other forms, such as the ones discussed in this guide earlier, usually are not recommended to use in water softeners.
Softener crystals, or salt crystals, are made in the solar evaporation process. It occurs when a combination of water, brine, and salt is exposed to the wind. The water is eliminated to leave only the salt.
Salt crystals have a white and hard appearance and usually are recommended to use if your monthly water usage is lower, or you have a two-part water system that you use. If salt crystals are used on a system that has a higher water usage level than a hard crust – a salt bridge – might form inside the brine tank and create an empty space between the water and the salt. This will prevent the salt from being able to dissolve in the water.
The resin beads cannot work properly within the ion exchange process with no sodium-brine water.
Evaporation makes water softener pellets by using steam and water to form crystals. After the crystals are screened and dried, they get formed into pellets.
There are many types of pellets that have citric acid added. This common cleaning agent prevents minerals from building up inside your water softening system and pipes to protect them against damage.
Citric acid does not alter the quality or taste of soft water.
For houses with high water usage, pellets are a preferred option, so if you have an above-average volume of water usage, then you will get a lot more of using pellets inside your water softening system. Pellets are also the best choice if you own an all-in-one tank system.
How can you tell if you need to add salt to your water softener?
Although it is obvious that a salt-based water softener needs to have salt in order to work correctly, it might not be as straightforward knowing when salt needs to be added. However, don’t worry. It is easy to find out when you need to refill your brine tank.
When it comes to getting your salt tank refilled, here may be some obvious factors to watch out for. However, keep in mind that the kind of water system that you have and the size of the brine tank will determine the amount of salt that you use every month.
The hardness of your household water also will affect how much sodium you use, and how soon you will need more. Those three factors need to be considered when you are determining the amount of salt and how often it needs to be added to your water softening system.
No matter what kind of salt-based softener you own, get into the habit of watching for the following signs that the salt needs to be replenished:
Visibly low salt levels
The easiest way to tell when the salt level is low is to lift the lid of the brine tank and physically examining it by looking inside.
After the salt level has dropped under fifty percent, you should top it off. Don’t ever allow the salt levels to fall under twenty-five percent if you would like your system to soften water effectively.
Older water softener
More salt is used by an older water softener to soften the same amount of water that a newer system uses. That is due to the fact that the water softeners that are made these days are a lot more efficient with ion exchange, which helps to reduce the necessity of having to top up the salt as frequently.
A newer model should be able to last 6 weeks to 2 months before needing to be topped off. With an older model, it will need to be checked on a regular basis and topped with salt whenever it starts to run low.
Your tank has bridging
At times, you may think that your water softener needs to have more salt since it does not appear to be softening your water effectively.
You may discover that you don’t actually need to add more salt. Instead, there is a bridging problem in your tank that is preventing the occurrence of ion exchange.
When a crusty, hard salt layer forms on the bottom of your brine tank, that prevent the salt underneath from being able to properly dissolve in the water. That means the water does not have enough sodium ions to swap with the magnesium and calcium minerals.
Bridging can be prevented by your softener being located in a place with low humidity, making sure your brine tank stays half-full consistently, and by using a high-quality salt.
How to add salt to a water softener
When your water softener’s tank has enough salt in it, it will regenerate itself naturally. The water will flow back through the softener, which clears out impurities and prevents rust and other types of tank problems.
Usually, the regeneration process is set or a time when your softener isn’t needed, like overnight. Normally, it takes 10 to 30 minutes for the system to completely regenerate.
However, if your water softener doesn’t have enough salt, you may have to manually regenerate your system. You will need a rag or cloth, and salt for the water softener (one to two bags of about 80 pounds in total weight).
Get your brink tank started, and use a wet rag or cloth to scrub the build-up of salt and brine on the inside part of the tank. Clean the tank as well as you can before more softening salt is added.
Next, more water will need to be added to the brine tank. The water level needs to be set based on your product manual’s instructions or according to what your plumber recommends.
Add salt to the brine tank next. How much salt is needed will depend on how big your system’s tank is. Your aim is to fill the tank a little over half-full. Be sure the salt is 3 to 4 inches over the water level unless the product manual says otherwise.
While you are adding salt, make sure it is free-moving and lose. Break any chunks of salt up that might of formed during the storage process before dropping them inside the tank.
Finally, locate your system’s control panel and press the button to manually regenerate. Then the system will start working on regenerating, which kes around 10 to 30 minutes to fully complete. Do not use water from your system until it is completely regenerated.
Even if you remember at all times to fill up your salt tank for the natural regeneration of the system, it is still recommended that you clean the tank out on a regular basis to allow the softener to effectively work and make sure it lasts as long as possible.
Brine tank maintenance information
Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple to maintain your salt-water softener as just purchasing some sodium chloride and then adding it to your system as needed. You will also need to watch the tan to ensure that everything is working properly and interject whenever something goes wrong with it.
In order to maintain your softener in top condition, soften your water more efficiently, and lengthen the softener’s lifespan, you need to know the following maintenance information:
Every 30 days, check your brine tank’s salt level. You need to ensure that the salt never drops too low. Otherwise, the system will not have enough sodium to replace the magnesium and calcium ions in the hard water. Thatmnas some hard-causing minerals may be able to pass through the resin, which will result in ineffective water softening. This can be avoided by salt being added to the system each time it regenerates.
Check to ensure that your water tank has plenty of salt. It may look excessive, however, it is recommended that the levels of salt be 4 inches higher at last than the levels of water at all times. It is time to top it off if it falls below that.
To achieve the best water softening experience, the salt needs to be 4 inches at last below the brine tank’s top area or lid. That means doing careful calculations to ensure that the levels of water are not too high since that can cause higher levels of sodium. If the tank falls under one-quarter full of salt, then the system will not be able to work correctly. It is critical to check the levels of salt on a regular basis to make sure they don’t fall too low.
If bridging happens, and a solid salt layer forms on the bottom of the resin tank, you need to break it up so the water and salt can mix correctly. The easiest way to do that is pouring hot water on top of the solid layer to crumble it apart.
There isn’t a lot to do to care for your brine tank. You just need to check it on a regular basis and add salt as needed. If you discover any problems, you can get them sorted out before they turn into some more serious. That way you won’t have any problems with maintaining the lifespan of your softener and making sure that effective water softening occurs. If you have any other products you would like us to review for the best salt for water softeners list be sure to let us know.