When we talk about “hard water,” we’re not talking about ice. We’re talking about water that contains high amounts of minerals like calcium and magnesium. Hard water isn’t harmful, but it has plenty of bothersome side effects, including:
- Impact water taste
- Dry out skin
- Leave residue in hair
- Clog up your pipes
- Affect your water’s ability to lather in the shower, sink, washing machine and other devices
A water softener is the only way to remove minerals from your water and prevent problems like these. After the water softener has been used over and over again, the filter needs to be recharged with more salt to continue working effectively.
When you need to put your water softener through a regeneration cycle, you’ll need water softener salt, or sodium chloride. You can only use salt that is designed for water softeners, not table salt or deicing salt. Water softener salt is specially designed to work for your water softener and make it efficient.
Water softener salt comes in forms like crystals, blocks or pellets, which enable more effective regeneration. You already know you need salt for your system, but did you know not all salt is created equal? The right type of salt can help your water softener perform better and prevent damage to your appliances and water softening system. Here’s a look at various types of water softener salt and what to consider with each one.
Evaporated salt is salt made by an evaporation process using water and steam, which produces salt in a crystallized form. Salt crystals are then processed using a drying and screening process before they are formed into pellets.
Pros of Evaporated Salt
Evaporated salt generally has the highest purity rate. A high purity rate of water softener salt means there will be less water-insoluble matter in the salt, which means less buildup in the bottom of the tank to clean out.
Cons of Evaporated Salt
Because evaporated salt is so pure, it is often the most expensive type. But when you weigh the up-front cost of the salt compared to future costs of cleaning and maintenance issues caused by using low-quality salt, you may be better off with evaporated salt.
When to Use Evaporated Salt
Evaporated salt is best to use when you have very hard water. According to data from the U.S. Geological Survey, water is considered hard or very hard when it has 61 to 120 mg/L (milligrams per liter) of calcium carbonate or higher. Though hard and very hard waters are found in water sources throughout the country, the hardest water shows up in Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Arizona and southern California. Homeowners in those areas may consider investing in evaporated salt.
Additionally, evaporated salt can help your water softener’s performance in the long run, and avoid water softener problems like salt bridges, which are salt crusts extending through the brine tank, and insoluble buildup.
Solar salt is salt that’s made by evaporating sea water using sunlight. Solar salt is most commonly found in pellet or crystal form. It has high solubility, but if you have particularly hard water, you may be better off using more soluble evaporated salt.
Pros of Solar Salt
Solar salt is created with renewable energy sources like solar power, so it’s more eco-friendly than other types of salts. If you’re particularly eco-conscious, this may be the ideal choice for you.
Cons of Solar Salt
Solar salt has a lower solubility level than evaporated salt. Many available brands have 99.6% or above salt contents. However, its insoluble level is around 0.03%, which means it may cause problems like insoluble buildup and a salt bridge, which will need to be cleaned.
When to Use Solar Salt
If you have moderately hard water and don’t need to worry as much about salt solubility, you may have success with solar salt.
Rock salt is mined from underground salt mines. It typically comes in pebble or small rock form and goes through very little processing.
Pros of Rock Salt
Rock salt tends to be cheaper than other types of water softener salt.
Cons of Rock Salt
Rock salt contains a high amount of calcium sulfate and is less pure than water softener salts like evaporated salt or solar salt. It’s not as soluble as other types of water softener salts, which can cause buildup and require more frequent water softener maintenance.
When to Use Rock Salt
Rock salt is generally acceptable when the water softener manufacturer recommends using it.
Block salt comes in the form it sounds like: blocks. It’s a highly pure form of water softener salt, around 99.8% pure salt, and is virtually 100% water-soluble.
Pros of Block Salt
Block salt is very pure, and is created to resist bridging and mushing in the brine tank.
Cons of Block Salt
In order for block salt to be used, the water level in the brine tank must be raised to ensure the blocks are fully submerged.
When to Use Block Salt
Block salt should only be used when your water softening company recommends it.
Potassium Chloride (Salt Alternative)
Potassium chloride is a sodium alternative that is 99.9% sodium-free. Potassium chloride generally comes in pellet form and can be used to regenerate the softening resin.
Some people prefer using potassium chloride if they have a sensitivity to salt and have certain dietary restrictions that require significant reduction in sodium intake. But again, for those worried about the taste of salt, know that salt used in water softeners does not make water salty.
Pros of Potassium Chloride
Potassium chloride is a safe salt alternative for those who do not want to or cannot use salt with a water softener. Potassium is also a nutrient that plants and flowers rely on to grow, so you might prefer having that in your wastewater versus sodium.
Cons of Potassium Chloride
Potassium chloride is generally more expensive than sodium chloride. You may also need to increase the salt dosage program settings during regeneration. It’s best to consult with a water softener expert if you want to use potassium chloride in your water softener.
When to Use Potassium Chloride
If you would prefer to have potassium rather than sodium in your water — especially if you have dietary restrictions or health concerns related to sodium intake — potassium chloride for water softeners may be an option.
Specialty Water Softener Salts
In addition to these basic types of water softener salts, there are also specialty water softener salts with specific purpose, including:
- Rust removal and iron removal: Iron in water can lead to rusting pipes and rust stains. Some specialty salts are specially designed to remove high amounts of iron.
- System cleaning and buildup reduction: These salts fight buildup to extend the life of your water softener and cut down on maintenance required.
How to Choose the Right Type of Water Softener Salt
The type of water softener salt that will work best for you and your family will depend on a variety of factors. It helps to talk with your water softener installer to get their recommendations based on your unique needs. Some factors to consider include:
- How hard your water is: As mentioned, some salts are purer and have higher solubility levels than others. Water in greater Phoenix is considered very hard, so salt purity may be a consideration for you if you’re an Arizona homeowner.
- The size and type of water softener system: Certain water softener systems are more compatible with certain types of water softener salt. Ask a water softener expert or consult your manual to determine which is best for your system.
- Your overall water usage: If you have lower levels of water usage, you may not require stronger types of water softener salt.
- Your maintenance preferences: Whether or not you mind cleaning your water softener system often may influence your choice. If you believe that time is money, you’ll be better off paying for a higher-quality salt that cuts down maintenance time.
The salt you choose for your water softener is an important decision that impacts your softener’s performance and longevity. Selecting a lower-quality salt could cause costly problems and negatively impact your water quality. Remember: Cheaper is not necessarily better regarding water softener salt.
Many systems can use any type of salt, but we do not recommend any salt that comes in pellet form. Pellet-style salt uses adhesives that allow the salt to bind together which can create problems with your water softening system. The adhesive can promote bridging or caking and also can gel to the bottom of the brine tank and clog floats. Clear Water Concepts recommends using coarse or crystal salt always. While it’s not as pure, it works best over time and offers a more maintenance-free experience.
Get Help Choosing the Right Water Softener Salt
A water softener expert can help you choose the right type of softener salt based on your needs. The type of water softener system you have, your water usage, how hard your water is, how much maintenance you’re willing to put in and other factors will all influence which choice is best.
Our team at Clear Water Concepts is here to help. We’ll guide you through choosing a softener salt or finding a water softener for your home. Contact us to learn more.