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A salt-based water softener is an excellent way to tackle the negative effects of hard water. These systems work via ion exchange, removing hardness causing minerals from the water and exchanging them with sodium ions. Compared to other water softening systems, salt-based softeners are proven to be more effective and efficient at what they do.
However, at the heart of the water softening process lies the salt and choosing the right salt for the system is important for optimal performance. With so many types of salt on the market, choosing the right salt for your water softening system as per your requirements and budget can be difficult. Which is where we come in.
In this article, we review the best types of salt for water softeners and provide a detailed guide to on what to look for when buying salt, highlighting the most important considerations.
Morton Clean and Protect II Water Softening Pellets
- Convenient and easy to use
- Great packaging – the package has an open tab and a hard handle which makes carrying the bag and pouring salt from it convenient
- Known to extend the life of water heaters and other water-based appliances
Morton is one of the top brands when it comes to salt, and you’ll find many of their products when searching for the best salt. The U266242S Pure Salt Crystals is one of the best salt for water softeners as its all natural and composed of high purity sodium chloride.
What we like about this product is its ability to prevent minerals from building up in your pipes and appliances, as well as alleviate other negative impacts of hard water. Unlike many other types of salt such as rock salt that leaves mineral residue and sediments in the brine tank, the U266242S Pure Salt Crystals cleans your tank thoroughly, ensuring that nothing will be left behind. This means less need for cleaning.
Apart from softening your water, the patented formula of this salt also does a great job in keeping your water softener system clean while effectively helping the resin beads to regenerate.
Since the usage in an average household amounts to about 40lb of salt pellets monthly, a 50lb bag of this salt would last for over a month.
Diamond Crystal Iron Fighter Pellets
- Speeds up resin regeneration
- Patented two-handle bag – no hassle with lifting and pouring out the salt
- Decreases risk of rust
- Contains FDA approved additive
The Diamond Crystal Iron Fighter Pellets is a versatile product that works well with most water softeners and is specially designed to soften water with high iron content. Although this product is more on the expensive side, we found it to be well worth its price as it effectively softens water while also fighting rust on appliances and fixtures.
The sodium chloride pellets are compact and formulated to prevent crystallization of salt in the brine tank from forming granules that can block the passage of water, known as mushing. It also keeps your tank free of bridging. This is the formation of a hard crust that prevents salt from dissolving into the water to make brine that rinses the resin in your water softener. By ensuring that this doesn’t happen, this product prolongs the life and enhances the performance of your water softener. It also is more cost-efficient as no salt is wasted.
The Diamond Crystal Iron Fighter Pellets is almost 100% water soluble which helps the resin beads to regenerate at a much faster rate. This is beneficial as it increases the resin bed’s ability to hold magnesium and calcium. As a result, your water will get a higher level of softening every time it passes through your softener.
Overall, we found this to be a great quality product which was very convenient and easy to use.
Morton Pure and Natural Water Softener Sodium Chloride
- High-purity sodium chloride
- Harvested naturally from salt water
- Convenient packaging
Another excellent and high-quality product out there on the market, Morton Pure and Natural Water Softener salt frees your water of harmful minerals giving you soft and delicious tasting water while also ensuring the longevity of your water softening system. It comes in the form of salt crystals and works well with all salt-based water softeners.
This product is made from solar salt (commonly known as sea salt), one of the best options for water softening since it’s more soluble than rock salt, with high purity levels up to 99.5%. This effectively softens water and prevents the buildup of scale in your plumbing system, successfully eliminating existing scale as well. Hard water spots on your dishes, appliances and household fixtures will no longer be a problem due to effective mineral removal.
The Morton Pure and Natural is all natural and makes a significant difference in your water. It even gives your skin and hair a softer feeling and causes less buildup of rust in your water-based appliances. You will also find that soaps and detergents lather better with this type of salt in your water softening system.
One bag of Morton Pure and Natural Water softener salt contains 40 lbs of white pure and natural salt crystals, sufficient for up to a month of water softening.
Cargill Salt 7304 Water Softener Sodium Chloride
- Polybagged for moisture protection
- Usable in the curing of certain foods
- No channelling, mushing or bridging
The Cargill water softener salt comes is one of the most popular and affordable salts for water softening systems. This product is made naturally from sea salt and its level of purity is 99.5%. Solar salt is also highly soluble due to its purity and dissolves faster than most other types of water softener salts, making it one of the best types of salt to use for water softening purposes. It’s also usually much cleaner and more efficient than rock salt. If your water softener system suffers from mushing or bridging, the Cargill water softener salt helps extend the life of the softener and lowers the need for regular maintenance.
We were satisfied with the performance of this product and noticed that it softened water perfectly without affecting the taste of the water in any way. It’s a very reliable choice for anyone dealing with hard water issues. Cargill water softener salt is available in poly-lined bags that feature moisture protection. Each pack weighs 40lbs.
Nature’s Own Potassium Chloride Crystal Cubes
- Lasts longer than regular salts
- No slimy feeling sometimes felt with sodium based salts
- Doesn’t leave any residue behind
If you’re concerned about using sodium-based products in your water softener and how it will affect your health, Nature’s Own Potassium Chloride Crystal Cubes is an excellent alternative. Although there is still little evidence that potassium salts are a healthier option than sodium, they do have a lot to offer.
This Nature’s Own product is excellent at maintaining the ability of your water softener to reduce or eliminate hardness in your water. It’s also better for the environment since potassium is one of the most important minerals for plants.
One of the best things about this Nature’s Own product is that it performs just as well as sodium-based salts while at the same time ensuring that it meets your recommended dietary intake of potassium, which is one of the main reasons people opt for it.
Apart from the fact that Nature’s Own Potassium salt is more on the expensive side than regular sodium-based salts, it’s an efficient product which performs well in all water softener models. It comes in 40lb bags of potassium chloride cubes which should be enough to use for up to one month.
Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets
- Specially designed for laundry
- Special packaging features – includes a plastic handle for easy carrying and an easy-tear opening.
Here’s our next pick for best water softeners: Potassium Chloride Pellets by Morton. This product is perfect for anyone looking for an excellent substitute for sodium-based water softening salts. It has no adverse effects, is healthy and does a great job of softening your water, removing harmful chemical and improving not only the taste but also how your water feels.
This product contains 98.1% of potassium chloride which means that its purity is high and that it’s virtually 100% water soluble. It can be used in all types of softener brine tanks and is compatible with all resins and softener components. Another plus point is that the Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets is clean and doesn’t contain any additives.
The product is great at preventing buildups in your pipes and all water based appliances, while at the same time removing occurrence of water stains in your bathroom and sinks. We were impressed by the packaging (40lbs) which is designed for easy carrying and handling.
In fact, the only negative that we noticed about this product is its price which is much higher than regular sodium salts. However, if you’re willing to spend some extra money on a great product, it is safe to say that this is one of the best water softening salts available on the market right now.
Impressa Water Softener Salt (for Dishwashers)
- Food-grade, vegan and non-GMO salt
- Universally compatible
- Perfect for dishwashers
- Weak packaging
The Impressa Water Softener salt is a little different from the rest on our list because it’s best suited for use in a dishwasher water softener. If you’re looking for pure and affordable water softener salt for your dishwasher to remove water stains and residue from your glassware, then this is it.
When it comes to finding the right salt for your dishwasher, you need it to be very coarse grain salt that doesn’t have any additives. Impressa water softener salt is 100% pure, coarse and effective. It cuts right through the residue from hard water, leaving both dishwasher and dishes clean and residue-free. It even eliminates limescale, which is a bonus. Your dishes will be sparkling after every wash.
One of the main advantages of this product is that it’s extremely convenient and easy to use. All you have to do is add the salt to the salt unit in your dishwasher, close it and you’re good to go. However, don’t forget to check the salt level and refill it when needed. The directions for use can change according to the model of your dishwasher, so it would be wise to consult the manufacturer for exact directions. It’s compatible with a wide range of models including Miele, Whirpool, Bosch and Samsung.
What we love about this water softening salt is its reliability and high-quality performance. The grain size is consistent and exactly right and since this salt doesn’t affect the taste of your water, we guarantee that using it will be a pleasant experience for you.
Why Do Water Softeners Need Salt?
We’ve covered the best salts on the market, so now let’s take a look at everything you need to know about water softening salt.
For salt based water softening systems, it’s the salt that allows the process of ion exchange to occur. When hardness minerals enter the water softening system and flow through the resin bed, the negatively charged resin exchanges the sodium or potassium ions for the positively charged mineral ions. This process takes out the minerals from the water, replacing it with the salt ions which then flow on into the pipes.
After a while, the resin bed becomes depleted of salt levels and of the capacity to attract and hold onto the hardness minerals. When this happens, the regeneration cycle is initiated to flush out the resin bed of impurities and replenish its levels of salt.
How salt is used to remove hardness minerals in the water
The salt is kept in the brine tank, in preparation for this regeneration cycle. It’s job is to cover the resin bed with sodium or potassium ions so that it can continue taking out hardness minerals from the water and thereby softening the water.
What are the Types of Salt?
As you’d have noticed from reading the reviews above, there are two types of salt – sodium and potassium.
This is the more popular option of the two. It’s also more affordable, easily available and is ideal if you want to keep the maintenance costs of your water softener low.
However, sodium chloride can be an issue if you’re on a sodium restricted diet. It may not be suitable for mixing with baby formula and not ideal for pets with sodium related health issues. Additionally, it can give water a slick feel.
There are four main types of sodium chloride:
- Evaporated Salt: This is the best type of salt because of its high purity (99.99%) and solubility. It’s also the most expensive variety of sodium chloride. Because the purity of the salt is high, it has less insoluble contaminants making it more efficient to use and reducing possible system issues like bridging and mushing.
- Solar Salt: Another high purity variety, solar salt is created when high saline seawater evaporates due to the sun. Solar salt also has high purity, but isn’t as efficient as evaporated salt.
- Rock Salt: This salt variety is the most affordable of all the options, but it’s best avoided due to its lower purity and solubility. It also contains calcium sulfate, which can be insoluble and result in residue. The insoluble matter in rock salt can cause issues and increase bridging and mushing in your system.
- Block Salt: So called because of their appearance, block salt is highly dense salt, pressed into blocks. This type of salt isn’t recommended unless approved for use as per your softening system. If you do use this type of salt, the blocks should be fully submerged in water so that it can form brine.
This is also a naturally occurring mineral and is equally effective in treating hardness minerals. Potassium does contain some sodium, but this is only about 0.01%, which is negligible. This is why potassium is often considered a healthier option for people on sodium-restricted diets. It’s also more suitable for watering plants and for pets to drink.
The downside is that potassium is much more expensive than sodium. Also, water softening systems may need to use up more potassium chloride when regenerating the system, which depletes your brine tank faster. The higher cost and lower availability can put some people off potassium salt, but if you’re health conscious, this is probably the better option for you.
How to Choose the Right Salt?
Let’s take a look at the factors you need to consider when choosing your water softener salt.
- Type: The first decision you’ll have to make is whether you want sodium chloride or potassium chloride. The determining factors for this decision will be your budget, dietary requirements and salt availability.
- Price: The price of the salt will be an important consideration, considering that you may use up to 40lbs or more per month. However, there’s a trade-off between affordability and performance, so you have to find the right balance. Cheap salt can have insoluble matter which can cause blocks in the system and contaminate the resin bed. Prices can also vary across brands. Potassium salt is more expensive than sodium, so if you’re on a restricted budget, sodium is the better option.
- Environment: If you want to minimize your negative impact on the environment, potassium chloride is the preferred option. Unlike sodium, potassium is better for the environment, as it’s a healthy mineral required by plants and animals. Sodium, on the other hand, can harm the environment and dehydrate plants.
- Health: This depends on your particular health requirements. If you have a sodium-restricted diet, you might want to avoid sodium chloride and opt for potassium chloride instead. On the other hand, potassium chloride can lower blood pressure, which can cause issues for people with blood pressure related health issues.
- Purity: When choosing your salt, stick to high purity salts, like evaporated salt. This will reduce buildup of salt bridges and salt mushing. It’ll make it easier to maintain the system and, even though expensive at the start, in the long run you’ll be saving time and money.
Adding Salt to a Water Softener
How to add salt to your water softener will often be outlined in your water softener manual. In general, all softeners follow a similar method.
Open the brine tank and check the condition of the salt. If you notice a lot of crusting, bridging or mushing, you’ll have to remove that first to ensure that the system can work properly. Break up any crusting and let it fall into the tank.
If it’s difficult to break up the salt crusts, use hot water to loosen the salt. Do this before adding any new salt.
Next, check the level of the salt. On average, a brine tank should be about three-quarters of the way full of salt. If the salt doesn’t have enough water and the tank is less than half full, refill with salt until it’s a little over half full.
Conversely, if the salt looks too wet and there’s a lot of water in the tank, fill the tank with salt until the salt is just above the water level. This will ensure the correct formation of brine and maintain the softener’s efficiency.
The Bottom Line
The right salt can make all the difference in your experience of using the water softener. It can reduce the maintenance required, enhance the efficiency of the water softener and give you perfectly softened water every time.
There’s a lot more to know about water softeners and salt, but the information provided above has everything you need to choose the right salt for your home.
However, if you want to learn more about water softeners and the salts they use, check out our related articles.