Water is not just, well, water! When talking about water and appliances, you have to take into account hard and soft water. If you didn’t think that water can be hard, we’re here to tell you the contrary.
In fact, the so-called hard water may be the one responsible for the watermarks, stains, or filmy residue that you might have on your bathtubs and sinks. But, did you know that hard water can also decrease the lifespan of the appliances that use water, as well as of your home’s plumbing? This is because hard water comes with magnesium and calcium – in short, it has high mineral content. The presence of these minerals can seriously affect industrial settings, such as cooling towers, boilers, and so on.
How do you get rid of the hard water? Well – you don’t! Instead, you install a water softener for your water supply and then buy the appropriate salt for it. Appliances equipped with the best salt for water softeners will ensure that only soft water is used.
Let’s now take a look at some reviews of salts for water softeners, after which we’ll tell you everything that you need to know about the salt that you have to put in your water softener!
What Exactly Do Water Softener Salts Do?
Most water softeners on the market are based on ion exchange items. This means that the hardness ions – those responsible for turning water into hard water – are exchanged for salt ions.
Obviously, the salt is the main catalyst here – a water softener will not work unless it is fed salt.
- The exchange mentioned above takes place within the water softener’s resin tank.
- As water flows through the softener’s tank, it will come in contact with small resin beads that are covered in salt ions.
- When water flows through these resin beads, hardness ions trade places with the salt ones, making for soft water – and for higher salt content as well.
Now, given that you use water daily, it goes without saying that the resin beads responsible for holding the hardness ions still will wear out, so to speak. Here is where the salt bags we have reviewed earlier come into play!
The resin beads can actually be recharged by adding salt bags/tablets/crystals/pellets to the water softener’s brine tank. When recharging the beads, the hardness ions will swap places with the salt ones within the brine tank and any excess minerals will be rinsed into the wastewater drain.
How Can You Tell If Your Water Softener Needs Salt?
You’ve now learned that salt is quite essential to the process of water softening. Therefore, it is very important for you to know when to add more salt to the system. Keep in mind that the size of the brine tank, the type of water softener, the household water usage, as well as the water hardness level determine how much salt you have to add – including how often you need to replenish the salt supply.
However, you can figure out when your water softener needs more salt added to it if you take into account the following things:
The Inside of the Tank
You have to check this and determine the salt level within it. You can do so by lifting the cover of the brine and looking inside the tank. If the salt appears dry and the brine tank is less than half full, then you have to refill it until it is just over half full. On top of that, if the water level is above the salt or the salt itself appears wet, you should fill the tank about half full.
The Age of the Water Softener
Salt usage is affected by the age of your water softener. For example, a 10-years-old softener may use more salt than a brand new one. This is because an older system is not that efficient. Newer models usually need new salt every six to eight weeks, while older models have to be regularly checked to figure whether they need more salt or not.
The Issue of Bridging
Bridging affects water softeners by limiting the salt the latter gets. This is why it is strongly recommended that you inspect the brine tank every two or three months, to make sure that salt bridges didn’t form inside it. A salt bridge is likely to appear if the salt level in the tank doesn’t go down after months of use or when you simply notice that you don’t have soft water. Bridging may also be avoided by having your water softener in a low-humidity area, using only high-quality salt, and by keeping your brine tank exactly half full of salt.
Of course, you may also consider adding new/more salt to your water softener when you notice that you don’t have soft water available anymore. Given that you will most likely notice the difference between hard and soft water once you install a water softener, you will be able to easily determine if your softener needs more salt added.
Best Salts for Water Softeners Comparison Chart
Morton Salt 1501 Clean Protect System Water Softener
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Morton Salt Morton F124700000g Water Softener Pellets
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PRO RUST OUT Water Softener Cleaner
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Morton U26624S Pure AND Natural Water Softening Crystals
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Cargill Salt 7304 Water Softener Salt
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Diamond Crystal Water Softener Bag
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Reviews of the Best Salts for Water Softeners
1. Morton Salt 1501 Clean Protect System Water Softener
These water softener pellets from Morton come with a rating of four stars, making this product one of the best in terms of salt for water softeners. On top of that, this particular item is the number one seller in the water softeners category.
Therefore, you may want to give it a try. However, before you make your choice, let’s take a look at this product’s pros and cons, as you can’t possibly make a decision without knowing such information.
- 50lb bag full of water softener salt pellets.
- Manufactured in the US
- Very easy and simple to use
- Can extend the life of water heaters
- Improves the efficiency of water-based appliances
- The package comes with an open tab and a hard handle, making it easier to carry the bag and pour salt from it.
- Some customers found the product a bit too pricey.
- Reportedly, some users found the bag too heavy and recommended a hand cart for those suffering from arthritis or such.
2. Morton Salt Morton F124700000g Water Softener Pellets
The second product on our list comes from Morton as well – this time, with a tad better rating, of 4.5 stars. This time, the bag is 10 lbs. lighter, making transportation easier.
The product can improve the taste of water and can also prevent rust stains on laundry and appliances.
- It prevents rust stains on appliances and laundry.
- It can also prevent scale build-up in pipes and water heaters.
- Most consumers stated that they are very happy with this product and didn’t feel like trying others.
- It comes in good packaging material.
- Even if it is ten lbs. lighter than the previous Morton product, some users still claim that the bag is too heavy and it’s difficult to carry.
- Again, there were some customers stating that the salt bag is a bit overpriced.
3. PRO RUST OUT Water Softener Cleaner
The Rust Out water softener cleaner from Pro Products is specially designed for high-iron water. On top of that, the label claims that this specific type of salt can restore the performance of the water softener.
It is made in the USA and it is capable of removing rust stains from sinks, toilets, showers, and tubs.
- Reportedly, it can clean the water softener’s resin bed of the iron build-up.
- Very easy to use.
- As mentioned above, this cleaner can maintain your water softener at peak effectiveness and efficiency.
- It doesn’t make a difference right off – you have to use it for around 3 weeks for the first results and 8 weeks for the best results.
- The product is reactive – so make sure where and how you mix it before pouring it into the water softener.
- It is recommended that you use a dust mask when pouring it, as you don’t want to breathe its dust particles.
4. Morton U26624S Pure AND Natural Water Softening Crystals
The third Morton product from our list comes in the form of crystals and, once again, in a 40 lbs bag. Yes, the bags are quite heavy, but given that you have to use one bag every single month, it’s only natural that it would contain a lot of salt.
This is an all-natural product and can even provide your skin and hair with a softer feeling. Moreover, soaps and detergents will lather better with this kind of salt in your water softener
- Less rust build-up within your water-based appliances.
- Easier laundry and dish cleaning – since soft water does not leave hard residue on them.
- High-purity sodium chloride.
- Some users reported a strange sulfur smell to their water after using this product.
- Slightly overpriced – mainly because shipping heavier products costs more.
5. Cargill Salt 7304 Water Softener Salt
This Cargill water softener salt comes with a 4-star review. The product is labeled as solar natural salt crystals and it is polybagged, weighing 40 lbs. Some people decided to use solar salt crystals because they are usually cleaner and more efficient than the usual rock salt that most products feature.
The good thing about this product is that it requires no channeling, mushing, or bridging. Moreover, this item can also be used for poultry and meat processing if required.
- More efficient and reportedly cleaner than rock salt
- Usable in the curing of pickles and olives, as well as in the quality-grading of sensitive vegetables.
- The package features moisture protection.
- Again, some users complained about the product’s price – mainly its shipping costs.
- A few customers reported that it is not as effective as Morton’s salt for example. However, the majority of people found both salts good for their intended use.
6. Diamond Crystal Water Softener Bag
The Diamond Crystal water softener salt is labeled as a salt substitute, as it actually is potassium chloride. Reportedly, it works in all types of water softeners. This specific product comes with a five-star rating on Amazon.
It is considered a proper alternative choice to the usual sodium chloride – potassium chloride can be used in the water meant for plants and animals. Thanks to it, household fixtures and appliances will no longer have yellow/rusty stains on them. Moreover, the pipes and valves won’t get clogged as often as before.
- Helps brighten and whiten laundry
- Detergents and soap will clean better after pouring such salt into your water softener
- The product is based on potassium chloride, which has low insoluble content
- Some customers stated that shipping was a bit rough for their bags, as they showed up banged and dented – however, this did not affect the salt bags.
Water Softener Salt Buying Guide
If you own a high-quality water softener, you shouldn’t just assume that you will need salt for it. Some have made the mistake of buying tens of salt bags in advance for their water softeners – only to find out that they’ve purchased a salt-free water softener.
Before buying softener salt, make sure that your water softener is salt-based and works via the ion exchange process. Salt-free water softeners use the Template Assisted Crystallization process to turn hard water into soft water.
Make sure that you can handle a tad saltier water before buying water softener salt. If you do not enjoy such a taste, then you’ll want to buy potassium chloride salt, as it isn’t as salty as sodium chloride.
When using salt in your water softener, you will have to schedule initial timing parameters for both regeneration and the monthly salt refilling. Unlike a water storage container, the tank of a water softener will have to be checked regularly.
When it comes to the water softener salt itself, there are not a lot of things that you should take into consideration.
The only thing you have to choose is the type of salt – either potassium or chloride – depending on how and where you want to use the water provided by your water softener.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that you should forget about the maintenance that comes with the use of salt and of a water softener: you will have to check the tank for salt mush, salt bridge, and humidity.
Softener Salt vs. Softener Potassium Chloride
As we mentioned a couple of times above, choosing the right type of salt for your water softener means choosing between the usual softener salt and softener potassium chloride.
You’ll usually find people refer to salt as sodium chloride – as opposed to potassium chloride. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two types of salt, as well as the advantages they come with.
Sodium chloride can come in three forms – namely pellets, block salt, and crystal. Salt pellets are usually less expensive than potassium chloride pellets, making the former the most common products on the market.
With sodium chloride for water softeners, you have the possibility to choose between four types of salt:
Evaporated Salt Pellets
They come with the highest purity rate and are usually the most expensive when compared to other types of sodium chloride. Higher-purity salt is recommended because it has less water-insoluble matter in it. This makes for decreased chances of mushing, bridging, or insoluble build-up in the tank’s bottom.
Solar Salt Pellets
These are usually sold in the form of either crystals or pellets. Solar salt is made via the evaporation of seawater and is much more soluble than rock salt. Even though most solar salt comes with a high purity level – 99.6 – it doesn’t perform so well when exposed to high water hardness.
Obviously, this type of salt resembles pebbles or small rocks. Despite this form being known as economical, most people don’t recommend its use, mainly because it contains a rather high amount of calcium sulfate. This means that it doesn’t dissolve that well in water and can cause residue.
A literal block of salt should not be used in a water softener unless your plumber recommends it. He should also raise the brine tank’s water level to make sure that the block is fully submerged.
Potassium chloride is the other option in terms of salt for your brine tank. It has no problem in replacing sodium chloride and, depending on certain circumstances, it may be the better choice for you.
For example, potassium chloride is 99.9% sodium-free, making this type of salt perfect for those that wish to reduce their sodium intake – certain conditions require little to no sodium intake. On top of that, water with medium to high salt levels is not suitable for plant watering or for pets. Therefore, if you want to be able to use proper soft water for your plants and animals, then you will have to buy potassium chloride bags.
Remember that this type of salt for water softeners is a bit hard to find, as well as more expensive than sodium chloride. You may also have to increase the salt dosage program settings on the softener’s valve by roughly 10%, in order to ensure the resin’s proper regeneration.
Softener Crystals vs. Pellets
Naturally, the form that the salt comes in is important for your water softening system. After all, you wouldn’t have to worry about so many things if you just had to pour a bunch of salt in your water softener.
In this respect, we mention water softener crystals and pellets. Each of the aforementioned is recommended for different types of household and usage, as you will see in the following lines.
Softener crystals are usually 99.6% solar-produced sodium chloride. They are made through the process of solar evaporation, which is achieved by exposing a salt, brine, and water mixture to the wind, which removes the water. The result is a bunch of coarse white crystals.
Softener crystals are recommended for those households that have lower-than-average water consumption or that use a two-part water-softening system. If you use softener crystals in systems with high water usage, you may soon be faced with bridging within the brine tank.
Naturally, softener pellets help reduce bridging and are, obviously, fit for systems with high water usage. They are the best choice for households with moderate to high volume water usage, as well as for all-in-one tank system users.
Some pellets out there come with citric acid in their composition as well. This addition protects your appliances, building systems, and pipes from any mineral build-up, as citric acid is a cleaning agent.
In short, crystals are for the people that don’t use a lot of water, while pellets are for those big families that put their plumbing through a lot every single day!
Brine Tank Maintenance Tips
Buying salt and adding it to your water softener doesn’t mean that your job is ready, and you can freely enjoy soft water from now on! As mentioned above, you will have to regularly check your brine tank and make sure that everything is in order.
Here are some water softener maintenance tips that will help you keep the salt, softener system, and water in pristine condition:
- You should check the salt level of the brine tank at least once a month.
- Basically, you need to check the tank and add salt to it as many times as your system regenerates.
- It is recommended that the salt in the brine tank is at least 3 to 4 inches above the water level at all times.
- On top of that, it must also be less than 4 inches below the brine tank’s top.
- If the salt levels happen to drop low, you risk not having conditioned water.
- You should not let the salt level of the brine tank fall under one-quarter full of salt.
- Make sure to loosen any encrusted salt before adding a new one to the brine tank. Encrusted salt usually adheres to the perimeter of the salt keeper. Any large pieces are to be broken up.
- In the case of bridging – salt forms as one solid mass – you can and should manually break the solid mass. This can be done by pouring hot water over the area affected by bridging.
As you can see, brine tank maintenance is not hard at all. The only thing you should be doing is actively check the brine tank. If you do so, you will be able to spot any issues and fix them before they become a real problem and affect your entire water-softening system.
Therefore, keep in mind to fully check the brine tank at least once a month!
How Do You Add Salt to a Water Softener?
Water softeners usually regenerate themselves. However, if you forget to add salt to the water softener’s brine tank, then you may need to engage in manual regeneration. To do this, you will need a wet rag and roughly two 40-lb bags of salt for water softeners – depending on the size of the water softener.
Then, you will have to:
- Clean the walls of the brine tank from build-up – using the wet rag, clean all the build-up that has accumulated on the brine tank’s sidewalls. Your tank should now be clean the next time you add more salt to it.
- Pour salt into the water softener unit – depending on the size of the water softener, it is recommended that you pour no more than two bags of salt in the brine tank. Make sure that the tank is only half-full.
- Manually regenerate the water softener – once again, this depends on the model of softener that you have. Most softeners come with a control panel on their main unit. This control panel comes with a regeneration button that you will have to hold down until the machine starts the regeneration process.
It is important to mention that water softeners, while able to regenerate themselves based on used gallons, do require manual regeneration, in order to ensure that the unit cleans itself properly.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is softened water safe to drink?
Yes, of course. A lot of people think that, once they add something to their water or use certain systems to alter its course, it is no longer fit for consumption. However, a water softener simply removes the minerals that cause rust within plumbing and stains on the sink and bathtubs. You can even soften water at home on your own, without a softener!
- How much salt is in sodium chloride water softener salt?
Given that there are people suffering from kidney or other renal issues, it is important to know exactly how much salt is in water softened with sodium chloride.
For example, in the case of moderately hard water – roughly 8 grains per gallon – if you drink 2 liters of softened water in a day, you would ingest the same amount of sodium that you find in a slice of bread, namely approximately 125 mg of sodium.
- Can I use food-grade salt in water softeners?
Food-grade salt, also known as table salt, is not recommended for use in water softening units. This is because food-grade salt is made of crystals that are much smaller than those in salt designed for water softeners. Smaller crystals are usually susceptible to the formation of mushing within the softener’s brine tank.
- Can I mix several types of salts in my water softener?
You may not find the same salt brand or type you previously bought when you need to refill your softener. In this case, you will have to mix two or more types of salts within the softener.
In general, you can have all types of salts inside the softener and they will work just fine together without causing any harm or issues. However, there may be instances when you’ll have to double-check some things.
For example, softeners come as a single tank or all in one water softeners. These types will have pellets recommended for use, as they prevent salt crust around the tank. On top of that, water softeners that don’t come with a salt screen on the bottom may work better with cubes or pellets in order to avoid crystals drawn into the salt draw pipe.
- What setting should my water softener be on for optimal salt use?
Most, if not all water softeners will require you to set the water hardness level so that the softener will be able to use the salt you feed it at an optimal rate. Water with higher levels of hardness will, obviously, require more salt.
The hardness of the water is measured in GPG – grains per gallon – and goes from 0 up to 35. You can determine water hardness via two methods:
Water Hardness Test Strip – these can be bought at a local home improvement store or online.
Contact the Local Municipality – cities will usually provide information to their residents regarding the community’s water hardness.
Now you know more about the best salt for water softeners and how to use it. We hope that the salts for water softeners reviews will help you choose the right salt for you and your water softener. On top of that, we hope that the information we’ve provided you with so far will help you prevent and avoid any water softener issues!
As you’ve seen, using such a system is not hard at all. In fact, it is actually convenient, with some sources claiming that a water softener can actually help you save money. In the end, we remember you to carefully pick the salt that you are going to use in your water softener. Make sure to refer to our article whenever you come across a certain type of salt so that you know whether it is good for your unit or not!