In certain areas, water has a higher mineral content than in others. Even though hard water provides a few dietary benefits, it may contain chemicals that are dangerous for our health. Besides, hard water can damage your pipes, faucets, and other fixtures due to scaling.
To make your tap water softer, you can install a water softener device or set up a whole-house system. Whatever the case is, your machine will require some additional components, including the salt that goes into the brine tank.
Many manufacturers recommend using the purest form of evaporated sodium chloride to effectively remove the minerals and regenerate the resin beads.
While all water softener salts have essentially the same purpose, some are better than others.
Keep reading to learn more about why your water softener needs salt and how to choose the best one in a few easy steps.
Why Do You Need Water Softener Salt?
In any water softener device, hard water travels through resin beads that are necessary for the ion exchange process.
Water softener resin is charged with soft ions that are later replaced by hard water ions, such as calcium and magnesium. As a result, we get soft water free of hard mineral ions.
As seen in this video, salt doesn’t actually soften the water. Instead, it plays a key role in the regeneration process.
By adding salt to your water softener, you create a salt-water solution (brine) that flows through the resin tank and rinses the resin beads. This process removes collected mineral ions and replaces them with soft ions, usually sodium or potassium.
That being said, the addition of salt to your water softener device is essential for renewing or regenerating the resin beads that are responsible for the ion exchange process.
Types of Water Softener Salt + Pros and Cons
While sodium chloride is the most common water softener salt, there are a few other options.
The different types of salt for a water softener device are sodium chloride, potassium chloride, solar salt, evaporated salt, and specialty water softener salt.
Here’s what you need to know to choose the right one for you.
#1. Sodium Chloride
Sodium chloride is one of the most effective salts for water softeners. It effectively charges resin beads with sodium ions, making the regeneration process quite straightforward.
The main benefit of using sodium chloride is that it’s more affordable than other options.
Besides, less sodium chloride is needed to be used in a water softener for the brine solution to do its job. Therefore, utilizing sodium chloride becomes even more cost-effective.
When it comes to the disadvantages of sodium chloride as a water softener salt, it may not be suitable when having certain health conditions, especially those related to high blood pressure, heart, and kidney diseases.
Another drawback of using sodium chloride in a water softener is its negative environmental impact. According to research, high concentrations of potentially toxic ions (Na+ and Cl–) can be harmful to plants and even fatal to some aquatic animals.
#2. Potassium Chloride
Potassium chloride is widely used in water softener brine tanks as an alternative to sodium chloride.
In fact, NaCl and KCl are pretty similar when it comes to effectiveness, but there are a few differences that you should consider when choosing between these two.
Potassium chloride is usually used when someone in the household has health-related issues and wants to limit sodium intake.
Moreover, potassium chloride doesn’t affect the environment as much as sodium chloride does. In fact, potassium plays a vital role in all processes involved in the healthy growth of plants.
So, potassium chloride is a more eco-friendly option that won’t deal much damage to plants, fish, and marine creatures.
In terms of cost-efficiency, potassium chloride is generally more expensive than its alternatives. So, if you’re looking for a water softener salt on a budget, KCl isn’t the best choice.
Another disadvantage of potassium chloride is that you may need to increase the dosage of the salt to achieve successful regeneration. This makes using potassium chloride even more expensive.
#3. Solar Salt
Solar salt is created by pulling salt water into large interlocking ponds and then evaporating it under the sun.
Solar salt is also a popular choice for water softener systems, but it may not work for everyone. Take a look at its pros and cons to find out why.
Solar salt is an eco-friendly option as it’s produced using renewable energy resources, such as sun, wind, and time.
Solar salt is also relatively pure (~99.6%) and can dissolve in water more easily than some of its alternatives.
Lastly, solar salt is an affordable option that works just fine for the majority of water softeners.
Solar salt is suitable for water softeners that soften moderately hard water. If the level of water hardness is high, solar salt may not be effective for the regeneration process.
Solar salt isn’t as soluble as evaporated salt, meaning that it can create an insoluble build-up that requires additional cleaning.
Solar salt may contain contaminants that can damage certain water softener devices, which will increase your maintenance costs.
#4. Rock Salt
Rock salt, also known as halite, is sodium chloride. The difference is that it has a lower purity than sodium chloride in water softener salt. So basically, rock salt is in its natural form, with all the impurities present.
While rock salt can also be used in water softeners, some manufacturers recommend not doing so. Here’s why.
The only evident advantage of using rock salt in your water softener is its low price. Rock salt is generally the cheapest option you can get on the market.
Rock salt is less pure than any other water softener salt. It contains impurities, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sulfate.
Depending on the manufacturer, the purity of rock salt ranges from 90 to 98%.
Rock salt is not quite as soluble in water as its alternatives, meaning that it can easily lead to mineral residue and clogging throughout the system.
That being said, although rock salt is cheap, you’ll end up spending more on maintenance and repairs.
#5. Evaporated Salt
Evaporated salt is produced by purifying rock salt through refinement and evaporation to remove all residues and impurities.
Along with being used for food preparation, evaporated salt is an ideal option for water softeners.
Here are the pros and cons to keep in mind.
Evaporated salt has the highest purity level, meaning that it can easily dissolve in water without producing water-insoluble by-products.
Due to being highly pure and soluble, evaporated salt causes minimal build-up.
Maintaining your water softener becomes pretty easy as you won’t really have to clean the mineral residue.
Since evaporated salt is so pure, it’s the most expensive salt choice for a water softener.
However, although you pay more, you also minimize the risks of damaging your equipment. Hence, purchasing evaporated salt can be a cost-effective decision in the long run.
#6. Specialty Water Softener Salt
Some brands advertise their water softener salts as being designed for iron removal, created to fight rust, or having the power to clean and reduce build-up.
The truth is that salts won’t be able to get the iron out of the system. Instead, you should use a mild acid recommended by the manufacturer to remove rust from the tank.
Keep in mind that water softener salts are meant to recharge resin beads, which in turn are responsible for filtering hardness. You shouldn’t expect them to remove iron as well.
When buying a high-purity water softener salt, you can definitely minimize build-up and clogging. But this doesn’t mean that you need a special salt. Just opt for an evaporated salt, sodium chloride, or potassium chloride with high levels of purity.
Types of Water Softener Salts: Summarized
|Water Softener Salt Type||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|Not suitable if you want to limit sodium intake
Negative environmental impact
|Potassium Chloride||Minimal health-related issues
Less environmental impact
Need to increase dosage
Can promote plant growth
|Solar Salt||Produced using renewable energy resources
Moderate purity and solubility
|Not suitable when softening water with a high level of hardness
May contain contaminants that can clog your system
Not as soluble as evaporated salt
|Rock Salt||Cheapest option
Not as soluble, causing build-up and clogging
High maintenance and repair costs
|Evaporated Salt||Highest purity level
Causes minimal residues
Helps you save maintenance and repair costs
|Most expensive but cost-effective in the long run|
Tips for Choosing the Right Type of Salt for Your Water Softener
Some water softener salts perform better than others, but choosing one depends on your personal needs and preferences.
There are a few factors to keep in mind when shopping and here are 5 essential tips to start with.
Tip 1. Always check the owner’s manual first
Before you even start exploring the types of salts to use in a water softener machine, make sure to check the user manual.
Manufacturers often indicate the desired composition and purity of the water softener salt required to not only make the regeneration process effective but also protect the device from scaling and clogging.
Note that you may not always get details about specific brands to trust. However, knowing what type of salt to use and how pure it should be is totally enough to find the best option for your system.
Tip 2. Consider the type of your water-softening device
Another important tip is to consider the kind of your water softener, including its model, characteristics, mechanism of action, and even quality.
If your device requires a special salt, the owner’s manual will definitely have further information about the requirements.
If you have a high-end water softener, you should avoid purchasing cheap salt as it may damage your device, increasing maintenance and repair costs.
Tip 3. Select the right water softener salt ingredient
Next, you should think of the suitable ingredient for the water softener salt.
For example, you may need high-purity salt that readily dissolves in water and minimizes the formation of scale.
Besides, you may also need a strong type of water softener salt to effectively regenerate resin beads after the water of higher hardness goes through the tank.
In addition, the type of salt should be selected based on your maintenance preferences. If you don’t mind cleaning your water softener regularly, then you can choose a cheaper option. If you prefer saving your time, energy, and money, then investing in a higher-quality salt would be a better choice.
Don’t forget to think of your dietary requirements as this is key to choosing between sodium and potassium chloride. If you need to limit sodium intake, go for KCl. If you have health problems related to potassium ions, NaCl should be selected instead.
Tip 4. Choose the suitable water softener salt size/form
Water softener salts are available in 4 different forms, including crystals, cubes, pellets, and blocks.
Salt crystals are made by evaporating salt water, whereas salt pellets, cubes, and blocks are produced by compacting salt granules together.
In most cases, crystals, pellets, and cubes can be used interchangeably. However, salt blocks may only be suitable for certain water softener devices, especially those with large salt tanks.
Depending on your water usage, you can choose between salt crystals and salt pellets or cubes. Salt crystals are ideal for households with low water consumption, while salt pellets and cubes are applicable to homes with moderate or high water usage.
Tip 5. Don’t forget to consider your budget
Last but not least, always take your budget into account when shopping for a water softener salt. There are many affordable options available on the market, making it easier to find the right one for you.
If you prefer spending less and cleaning more, cheap water softener salts will do the job. Contrarily, if you prefer making a reasonable investment and cutting down on maintenance costs, you should opt for a higher-quality salt instead.
In the long run, pure water softener salts are more cost-effective as they won’t damage your equipment and minimize the need for constant maintenance and repairs.
The Top 10 Water Softener Salts
If you’re trying to find the best water softener salt, below we share the top 10 customer-trusted options in different price categories.
|Water Softener Salt||Formulation||Form||Size||Price Range|
|Pur Plus Water Filtration System||Sodium Chloride||Crystals||40lb||$|
|Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals Salt Crystals for Water Softeners||Solar Salt||Crystals||50lb||$$|
|Morton Potassium Chloride Water Softener Salt||Potassium Chloride||Pellets||40lb||$$$|
|Morton Potassium Chloride Water Softener Salt||Sodium
|Morton Professional Water Softener Pellets||Sodium Chloride||Pellets||50lb||$$|
|Diamond Crystal Potassium Chloride Water Softener Salt||Potassium Chloride||Powder||40lb||$$$|
|Diamond Crystal Iron Fighter Salt for Water Softeners||Sodium Chloride||Pellets||40lb||$|
|Morton Pure Natural Water Softening Crystals||Sodium Chloride||Crystals||40lb x3||$|
|Morton Clean Protect Water Softener Salt||Sodium Chloride||Pellets||25lb x3||$$|
|Morton Clean Protect Rust Defense Water Softener Salt||Sodium Chloride||Pellets||40lb x3||$$|
To help you better understand the dos and don’ts of water softener salts, we answer a few commonly asked questions below.
Q1. Does water softener salt expire?
Unlike food products and household chemicals, water softener salt doesn’t have an expiry date. It won’t go bad if you keep it properly stored.
However, if you store your water softener salt bag in certain conditions, its quality and performance will most likely be affected.
It’s recommended to store the water softener salt in dry and cool areas to minimize exposure to moisture. You should also keep it away from other chemicals to prevent contamination.
Morton Salt provides the expiration guide for different types of salts and the “recommended used by” dates range from 2 to 5 years.
Q2. How often should I change the salt in my water softener?
The frequency of adding salt to your water softener mainly depends on the usage of water. The more water you use, the more frequently you should add salt to the tank.
You should also consider the type of water softener you have. Some require more salt, whereas others can regenerate resin beads using less brine solution.
If you have the latest water softener system, it may even indicate whether you need to add salt.
Generally speaking, water softener salt typically lasts 6-8 weeks, but it’s recommended to add/change the salt every 1-2 months.
Q3. Does Water softener salt alter the taste of the water?
Despite the fact that water softeners use salt, well-functioning devices won’t make your water taste salty.
This is because the salt you add to the machine doesn’t actually go into the water supply that travels through the resin tank. It simply rinses the resin beads to recharge them with soft ions.
If you ever notice that your softened water tastes salty, there has to be something wrong with the system. On many occasions, problems with the brine line or the control system alter the taste of the softened water.
Aqua Professor explains why your softened water tastes salty and provides easy solutions for beginners.
Q4. Can I use table salt in my water softener?
Even though table salt is sodium chloride and many water softener salts are also formulated using pure NaCl, using table salt in water softening systems isn’t recommended.
As table salt crystals are way too small, they can damage the brine tank, increasing your maintenance and repair costs.
Q5. Does the purity of water softener salt matter?
Yes, it does!
High-purity water softener salt contains fewer contaminants and is more water-soluble, meaning that the formation of build-up at the bottom of the tank and fixtures is minimized.
While purity is also linked with higher costs, it’s a worthy investment as you cut down the cleaning and maintenance expenses.
Q6. What happens when you mix different types of salt in a water softener?
There’s no particular danger of mixing different types of salt in a water softener tank. As long as you stick to the same salt form (crystal, pellet, cube, blocks), there’s nothing to worry about.
Be sure to check the owner’s manual for further information.
The Bottom Line
Summing up, there’s no best salt that works for every water softener device and every household.
However, high-purity sodium chloride, potassium chloride, and evaporated salt are some of the top choices.
At the end of the day, it’s all about your water usage, device type, budget, and personal preferences.
There are a few different water softener salt manufacturers, but Morton Salt and Diamond Crystal are two leading brands trusted by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
Do your research, consider your needs, and choose wisely!