If you have hard water, a water softener is an essential appliance for your home. Water softeners work by removing the minerals like calcium and magnesium that make water "hard." To function properly, water softeners need to be regularly recharged with salt. But with so many types, shapes, and brands of salt available, how do you choose? This buying guide will discuss the different water softener salt options to consider and provide tips on selecting quality salt that avoids problems like caking.
The Two Main Types of Water Softener Salt
The two most common salts used in water softeners are sodium chloride and potassium chloride.
Sodium Chloride Salt
Sodium chloride, commonly known as table salt, is composed of 40% sodium and 60% chloride. This type of salt is typically produced through mining or evaporation. Sodium chloride is the most widely used salt in water softeners. It effectively removes hardness minerals and is inexpensive compared to other salts.
However, there are some downsides. The sodium content adds to the total sodium levels in softened water, which can be a concern for people on low-sodium diets. Also, the chloride component can have corrosive effects on metal pipes and fixtures over time.
Potassium Chloride Salt
Potassium chloride salt contains potassium instead of sodium, so it is a sodium-free option. The potassium works similarly to sodium to eliminate hardness minerals without increasing sodium intake.
Potassium chloride is a more expensive alternative to sodium chloride. The cost per pound can be two to five times higher. Potassium salt is a good choice for people who need to watch their salt consumption but still want the benefits of a water softener.
Water Softener Salt Shapes and Sizes
Water softener salt comes in various shapes and sizes:
Salt bricks are compressed blocks of salt, typically weighing 25 to 80 pounds. The bricks have indented sides to make them easy to handle.
Compact, efficient shape for packaging and transport
Sturdy form is less messy to load into the softener
Heavy to lift and slower to dissolve than loose salts
Prone to mushing and caking if exposed to moisture
Salt pellets are small, cylindrical-shaped pieces of compressed salt. They are around the size of pellet ice cubes. Bag sizes typically range from 40 to 80 pounds.
Loose form loads easily into the softener tank
Faster dissolving than salt blocks
Not as compact for storage and transportation as blocks
Can cake if moisture is present
Solar crystals are evaporated salt flakes with sizes ranging from fine grains to coarse chunks. They dissolve rapidly in water. Bags usually contain 40 to 80 pounds.
Quickly dissolves and regenerates the softener
Less potential to cake or bridge compared to pellets
Messier to load into the tank than block salts
Can be more expensive than pellet salts
Major Brands of Water Softener Salt
There are a few major brands that dominate the market for water softener salt:
Morton Clean and Protect Water Softening Crystals
A widely available and affordable sodium chloride pellet salt. Morton adds an anti-caking agent to prevent clumping.
Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals Water Softener Salt Crystals
This brand uses evaporated solar salt flakes. The irregular shapes and wide size range allow it to flow freely.
Cargill Water Softener Salt Pellets
Cargill produces sodium chloride pellet salts marketed for water softeners. They have less than 1% insoluble matter.
Potassium Chloride Salts
As discussed above, potassium chloride salts are sodium-free options. Major brands include Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets and Diamond Crystal Potassium Chloride Red-Out Salt.
Tips for Choosing Quality Water Softener Salt
Here are some tips for selecting a salt that will work effectively in your softener without running into quality problems:
Check the purity level - Look for salt with at least 99% sodium chloride content. Higher purity means less insoluble sediments that can clog your softener.
Avoid additives - Some salt has additives like anti-caking agents or cleansers. Be cautious with additives as they may cause problems with your particular model of water softener.
Look for certification - The NSF has a certification program for water softener salt. NSF-certified products have met independent testing standards for purity and performance.
Read reviews - Check online reviews to see real customer feedback on how well the salt works and avoids clumping and bridging issues.
Buy sizes you can use before deterioration - Buy only as much salt as you can use within a few months, as it can pick up moisture from the air over time.
Check for signs of caking - Inspect bags for signs of caking before purchasing. Reject any with obvious clumping or salt bricks fused together.
Store salt properly - Keep your salt supply in a cool, dry area away from moisture. Place it on pallets or shelving so it's not directly on the floor.
Avoiding Caking and Bridging
"Caking" is when salt clumps together from moisture exposure. "Bridging" occurs when a blockage forms from salt fusing together over time. This prevents proper softener function. To avoid these problems:
Inspect salt before adding it to your brine tank. Break up any clumps.
Keep the brine tank lid closed to prevent moisture absorption.
Allow pellets or crystals to fully dissolve between regenerations to limit bridging.
Avoid direct contact of salt with water.Elevate on a rack above the brine level.
Purchase salt enhanced with anti-caking agents.
Use solar crystals instead of block or pellet salt. Their irregular shapes resist fusing and bridging.
Properly maintaining your softener with quality salt will keep it working optimally to handle hard water issues. Consider factors like salt type, shape, purity, and anti-caking ability when purchasing. With the right salt, your water softener will reliably provide the softer, cleaner water your home needs.
Recommended Water Treatment Systems From Aqua-Wise
In addition to a water softener system, Aqua-Wise recommends the following water treatment solutions for optimal water quality:
AquaLux Water Softener - Removes hardness minerals and prevents scale buildup
AquaCarbonGuard Catalytic Carbon Filter - Reduces chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, chemicals, tastes and odors
AquaBlue Whole House Filter System - Filters sediment, rust, sand, silt, dirt from all water sources
AquaGuard UV SYSTEM - Disinfects against viruses, bacteria and microbial contaminants
HydroClear Ozone Generator - Oxidizes iron, manganese, sulfur and other hazardous contaminants
AquaRevive Reverse Osmosis System - High filtration for lead, heavy metals, salts, chemicals, and more
WellFusion Well Water Treatment - Complete water solution for private well owners
Contact Aqua-Wise Water Treatment Solutions to learn more about creating clean, pure water through professional installation and service of industry-leading treatment systems.