The best type of water softener salt, in terms of its purity level and compatibility with the majority of water softening units, is evaporated sea salt.

Finding the right salt for water softener systems can be challenging. In our water softener salt reviews, I will discuss the different types of salt for water softeners, the best water softener brands, and everything you need to know about water softener salts.

Best Water Softener Salts Comparison

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Product

Features

Price

Morton Salt Rust Defense Water Softener Pellets

  • Improves the taste of water

  • Prevents rust stains

  • Prevents scale build-up

Morton Clean Water Softening Pellets

  • Keep water softener clean

  • Damage protection

  • No clumps

Cargill Water Softener Salt Crystals

  • Clean salt crystals

  • No channeling

  • Polybagged

Diamond Crystal Iron Fighter Salt Pellets

  • For homes with hard water

  • Removes heavy iron in water

Finish Dishwasher Water Softener Salt

  • For dishwasher with softener container

  • Reduces water hardness

  • Cleaner dushware

SureSoft Water Softener Salt Pellets

  • Affordable price

  • 100% natural

  • Cleans resin beads

COMPASS MINERALS Water Softener

  • Potassium water softener cubes

  • Softens water without adding salt

What Does a Water Softening Salt Do?

Salt is essential to salt-based softeners. Without it, the water softener can’t treat water hardness. Hard water contains a high amount of calcium and magnesium minerals, which results in soap suds and other negative effects on pipes and appliances. The water softener salt is the catalytic agent used to trigger ion exchange (which swaps calcium and magnesium ions for sodium ions). The “water hardness” minerals are then eliminated, and you have soft water.

Type of Softener Salts

Sea Salt

As the name implies, sea salt is harvested from the sea or a body of saltwater. It’s also referred to as solar salt because of how it’s manufactured. This salt is harvested through a process known as solar evaporation. Solar evaporation takes place when seawater is exposed to wind and sunlight.

These weather elements will trigger the body of water to increase in salt concentration till the salt contained develops into a solid mass embodying salt crystals. Sea salt is more common and affordable than other types of salt. It also has a higher purity level than some salts, such as rock salt. Therefore, using sea salt for your water softener will reduce the likelihood of salt bridges forming in your salt tank.

It’s important to note that the quality or purity of sea salt is not uniform. It depends on the product or water softener salt manufacturer.

Rock Salt

This type of salt is derived from prehistoric mineral deposits under the ground. The formation of these deposits took several millennia. A significant defect can be observed when using rock salt in your water softener. Rock salt, just like sea salt, is quite common.

Certain water softener brands can even deliver rock salt to their customers on request. It’s relatively affordable. It’s the least pure salt among water softener salt pellets. Rock salt is usually mixed with various minerals, triggering salt bridging and clogging your brine tank. The purity of rock salt is hugely dependent on the salt mine it was harvested from.

It will involve more maintenance on your water softener. In addition, salt mines are an environmental concern because they pollute the ecosystem and trigger the development of sinkholes.

Potassium Chloride

Potassium chloride pellets are the recommended alternative to salt softeners for those with high blood pressure. Food manufacturers regard it as an alternative to sodium chloride because it tastes similar to table salt, with the side benefit of not enhancing your daily salt intake.

Potassium chloride is mostly used in salt-free water softeners by people who have specific health issues and are watching their salt intake. Using sodium chloride to soften water for these people is risky because salt ions can access the home’s water supply from the brine tank. For healthy individuals, this has no impact because it’s an insignificant amount of salt that seeps into their water supply from the tank.

Potassium chloride pellets are regarded as water conditioners because they transform water hardness minerals into crystals. Though this will prevent or minimize the build-up of scales in pipes, on surfaces, and in appliances, it’s not as effective as other softening salts. This is because the ion exchange process must be carried out for water to be truly soft. Potassium chloride is also more expensive than other types of softening salt. So unless you’re watching your salt intake, you’re cutting yourself short.

Best Water Softener Salt Brands Reviewed

Morton Water Softener Salt

Morton Water Softener Salt

Morton is one of the leading water softener salt manufacturers. Its headquarters is located at River Point, Chicago. Their product portfolio is diverse, including potassium chloride and evaporated sea salt. Morton salt received very positive reviews and excellent ratings on several retail sites such as Amazon, Home Depot, etc. They also produce salt for other applications such as deicing roads or highways, agriculture, food manufacturing, etc.

Their products are also considerably affordable and can work with most available water softeners. Morton’s best water softening salts include Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets and Morton Clean and Protect Rust Defense.

Finish Salt

Finish Salt

This is one of the best dishwasher salt brands. Their products completely protect your dishwasher from the adverse effects of hard water, such as scale build-up. In addition, they help in preventing staining or spotting on your kitchenware. This salt is not to be used with water softeners for the entire house. It’s specifically for your dishwasher. The Finish Dishwasher Water Softener Salt for Bosch Dishwasher is one of their best products.

Diamond Crystal Water Softener Salt

Cargill Salt

Cargill salt is another leading water softener salt brand. It’s part of Cargill Incorporated, a global food brand. Its headquarters is located in Minnetonka, Minnesota. They are one of the few brands producing Kosher salt speaks volumes about their reputation and products quality.

Diamond crystal water softener salt has a proprietary bag-handling design, making it very easy for you to turn the salt into the water softener’s brine tank. This feature is great news, especially for those who have spilled salt on their floor in the process of topping up salt. Some of their best products include Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals, Diamond Crystal Iron Fighter, and Diamond Crystal Bright & Soft Salt Pellets for water.

SureSoft Water Softener Salt

SureSoft Water Softener Salt

This is one of the brands that sell water softener salts. Their products are affordable, and using them doesn’t only ensure your appliances perform optimally, but they also enhance their lifespan. You can purchase their products at Lowe’s, QC Supply, etc. Try out their SureSoft Pellets Plus or SureSoft Extra Coarse if this is your go-to brand.

Compass Minerals

Compass MineralsCompass Minerals is a leading salt-free softener brand. You can purchase it on online retail stores such as Amazon, Walmart, Lowe’s, etc. One of their best products is Nature’s Own Potassium Water Softener Cubes.

How Do You Know If You Need Water Softener Salt?

There are various ways to know if your water is hard, but conducting a water hardness test is the most effective way. This is because certain regions have higher mineral content in their soil than others, and this reflects in their water. According to Citizens Energy Group, states like Indiana have about 200-350mg of hard minerals for each liter of water.

Specific indications can also show that you’re using hard water in your home. These indications include stains in your bathtub, cloudy water, and lesser efficiency in all your water-based appliances such as your laundry machine, water heaters, dishwasher, etc.

How to Add Salt to a Water Softener?

This is very easy to do. You have to locate the brine tank, open or remove the lid (depending on how it was designed), and then top up or add salt. The brine tank is very easy to access in most water softener systems, so adding salt to your water softener when it’s due shouldn’t be a problem.

How Much Salt Should I Add to the Water Softener?

Firstly, the current water softeners on the market are very salt-efficient, unlike the older ones. However, there are some things to consider concerning the quantity of salt to add. For instance, one has to consider the size of the brine tank. To keep it simple, your brine tank should always be one-quarter full of salt.

It shouldn’t be farther than 6 inches from the top of the brine tank to ensure the water softener is performing optimally. The salt level should always be a little above the water level. The brine tank may require up to 8 pounds of salt during regeneration, and several water softeners regenerate weekly. Following this estimation, it can be calculated that you’ll need about 40 pounds of salt each month to run your water softener.

Also, ensure that you use pure sodium chloride (with at least 99.5 salt content).

Buying Guide

Water softening salt brands manufacture their softening salts differently, hence, the water quality and performance of the system are not the same. To ensure you get the best, you have to know what to look for. The chemical makeup of the salt used for softening hard water is essential because not all salts are suitable for softening drinking water.

The best water softener salts are usually compatible with any water softener on the market. It’s also versatile and leaves virtually no taste in your water. Getting such a water softener salt isn’t easy, so you’re in luck with reading this.

If you’re yet to own a water softening system and are in the market for one, you need to consider certain things before purchasing a salt-based water softener. They include:

Chemical Makeup

Most water softener salt brands use sodium chloride, the scientific name for table salt. Sodium chloride is a mineral that occurs naturally, and it can easily be found in solar evaporation ponds or salt mines. During regeneration or softening, sodium chloride and water combine to make a brine solution that flows over the resin tank, draws out hard minerals, and replaces them.

Potassium chloride pellets or potassium salt work similarly to sodium chloride, but it treats hard water with potassium ions instead of sodium ions.

Purpose

Why you want to use the softener salt is another big factor to consider. Do you want to soften the hard water coming to your kitchen faucet or dishwasher? Do you want to soften your drinking water?

There are various salts for various purposes. For example, you can buy the dishwasher salt if you specifically need a softener salt for your kitchenware. It differs from regular softener salt and table salt. It has a very coarse texture but doesn’t interrupt the operations of your dishwasher.

It’s the closest salt to 100% natural sodium chloride. When used correctly, it doesn’t leave a mess, and it’s good in preventing clogging of the pipes.

Sodium chloride (or sodium-based salts) is versatile, but it’s not considered the ideal option for softening drinking water. The reason is using sodium chloride pellets to soften drinking water enhances your sodium intake thrice more than your standard rate. Potassium chloride is a healthier option for softening drinking water. However, this salt is predominantly used for agricultural purposes.

Aside from limiting your salt intake, it also offers other benefits such as proper functioning of the muscles, the nervous system, and your body organs. People usually take their daily dosage of potassium by consuming bananas, veggies, lean meat, and dairy. Using potassium chloride is another way to enhance their potassium intake through their drinking water.

If you want to soften water for activities such as gardening, brushing teeth, bathing, or laundry, sodium chloride is the best option. Aside from being an affordable water softener salt, you don’t have to worry about your sodium intake since you won’t be using it for drinking or cooking.

Special Features

Thanks to the constant technological improvements, the water softener salts are not limited to just water softening. They protect home appliances and plumbing systems from corrosion and clogging. The best water softener salts also play a huge role in preventing scale and rust build-up in pipes and appliances.

You should consider the special features before buying water softener salt.

Salt Pellets Vs. Salt Crystals

Salt Pellets vs Salt Crystals

The type of salt you buy impacts how well or poorly they function with your water softening system. Either water softener pellets or crystals function well with the water softener, but crystals are more compact. This enables quicker and easier dissolution in the water softener’s brine tank. They also take a longer time for triggering build-ups.

Salt crystals are easily formed from evaporated saltwater. Most of them are natural salt crystals. As for salt pellets, they can be formed from any type of salt. However, they are usually made up of evaporated salt. Water softener salt pellets are more processed than salt crystals. They also take longer to trigger build-ups but are more prone to containing additives.

However, these additives are approved by the FDA and NSF. This means the soft water produced through salt pellets is safe for usage.

Budgeting

One thing is for sure; you’ll need to replace, top up, or add salt periodically. How much you’re able to spend is another factor to consider. Firstly, it’s better to buy locally than purchase from a particular brand that’s located far from your city. Opting for potassium chloride salt (e.g., Morton potassium chloride pellets) over sodium chloride means you will spend more. Lastly, try to purchase from wholesalers to cut costs.

FAQs

Will the water softener salt affect the taste of my drinking water?

Your drinking water is safe. Salt for water softener has the only purpose to regenerate your water softener’s resin beads and flush out the accumulated water hardness minerals in the resin tank. This doesn’t give your water a salty taste.

Between pellets and solar salt, which is better for my water softener?

Solar brine is slightly less dissolvable than evaporated salt pellets. With this in mind, consider the level of salt usage, the water softener’s make and model, and the softener regeneration frequency. For instance, if your softening salt usage is moderate or light, you can be interchanging between both water softening salts. On the other hand, using solar brine will mean the insoluble matter will accumulate faster if usage is heavy. This automatically means you will need to increase the frequency of the brine tank clean-out, which is an unpleasant task.

How often should I add salt to my water softening system?

The more you clean out the brine tank of your water softener, the more salt you’ll need to add. For adequate monitoring, ensure you check your water softening system every month. To ensure your water softener consistently processes soft water, always ensure your minimum salt level is half-full. Please also avoid overfilling.

Will rock salt work in my water softener?

Yes, rock salt can work in a water softener, but you will have to clean out your brine tank more often. The reason is rock salt is relatively rich in the insoluble matter. On average, a household water softener using rock salt will be cleaned out every 4 or 6 months, depending on usage.

I’ve been using solar brine, and it tends to stick together or form salt bridges. How can I prevent or tackle this?

If this occurs frequently, you can tackle it by reducing the amount of salt in your brine tank. For instance, if you usually add four 40-pound salt bags of salt to your brine tank, cut it down to 2 salt bags. Alternatively, you can switch to pellets, which are less likely to form salt bridges because their particles are larger.

Do I need to clean out my brine tank?

This is not necessary unless the water softener salts you’re using do not dissolve in water, or there is a malfunction such as mushing or bridging. Some people prefer to let all the salt dissolve in their water softening system once every year to inspect it for any build-up visually. Once a build-up is detected, you should clean it out to prevent your water softener from malfunctioning. However, this procedure is not compulsory.

What’s the best water softener salt for my water softener?

The best salt for water softeners largely depends on the make and model of your water softener. Certain water softener salts are preferable for certain water softeners than others. For instance, if you have a cabinet-style softener, you should buy salt easily soluble in water. Side-by-side water softeners with individual brine tanks are easier to clean as they allow you to choose your preferred water softener salt. A general recommendation for any water softener is any salt that’s at least 99.5% pure.

Does it matter what kind of water softener salt I use?

The kind of water softener salt you use is significant. Though all types of salt soften hard water, pellet salts do it better because it’s purer than other types of salt.

Which water softener salt is recommended between pellets and crystals?

Many water softener manufacturers of single tank-water softening systems or all-in-one systems usually recommend water softener pellets. This is because the brine tank also contains the resin tank, and using crystals may result in the formation of crust in the resin tank. This will keep the salt from lowering to the water level.

For water softeners without a salt screen at the base of their brine tank, the manufacturers may advise you to opt for pellets to prevent crystals from being absorbed into the draw pipe of the brine tank. The best recommendation is to adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions on the type of salt you should use for your water softener.

Why are salt-based water softeners banned?

Some states in America implemented restrictions or even a ban on salt softeners because of their negative impact on the environment. When treating hard water, they initiate a process referred to as ion exchange. This involved exchanging naturally occurring mineral ions in water, such as calcium (calcium sulfate) and magnesium.

These salt-based water softeners flush out a brine solution (water + a heavy salt concentration) into the city’s sewage system during regeneration or clean-out. City water treatment plants cannot treat this type of water, resulting in a salty wastewater stream. In addition, agriculture largely depends on recycled water for irrigation in arid regions, but briny or sodium-rich water is harmful to plants.

In summary, salt-based water softeners were banned to protect the wastewater used for agricultural purposes.

The pellets I purchased look a bit discolored, unlike previous purchases. Does that mean that they are dirty?

No. Pellets are either processed from compacted, evaporated salt or compacted solar sea salt. The latter option is a bit darker in color, hence the color of the pellets you bought.

I found tiny black specks in my salt deposits when using solar salt. Is that a bad thing?

Not at all. Solar salts are naturally harvested from the earth through evaporating seawater. This means it will come with sediments such as pebbles, dirt, etc. The density of these sediments differs from that of the salt, so they will consequently be the remnants in the salt keeper. Sediments of a lighter density that may follow the brine solution during the regeneration process will be flushed out from the resin tank.

Can I use block salt in my water softener?

A: Ideally, it’s meant for salt keepers that have been specifically designed to accommodate it. To keep the softening process smooth, the water levels are increased in the salt keeper to ensure the block salt remains immersed in water. This will result in adequate brine formation. So, if you intend to start using block salt, make sure that you enhance the water level in the salt keeper.

My salt is not dissolving in water. How do I solve this problem?

A: First, check the salt at the water level to know if a solid mass of brine has formed (salt bridging). Also, check if there’s fine salt at the bottom of the salt holder (salt mushing). If it’s a salt bridge, gently break the mass so that it can drop into the water below it.

If it’s a case of salt mushing, take out the good pellets, then get rid of the mushy salt. Once done, put back the good pellets. If the water softener salt holder is vacant when you want to add salt, look at the water level in the tank. If the water level is lower than it should be, it may mean the salt got stuck within the internal side column. You can tackle this by removing the cover and checking the mechanism to know if it’s working well or not.

If it isn’t, contact the service department of the softener manufacturer and arrange for a technician to come and fix the issue.

Conclusion: What Is the Best Water Softener Salt?

Sea salt, evaporated salt pellets, or solar salt is considered the best salt for water softeners because it’s been distilled to attain a purity level of 99.9%. It’s easily the purest/cleanest salt on the list. One way to enhance sea salt production is by ensuring water flows into salt deposits beneath the ground. Then the water softener salt will be pumped to the surface using vacuum equipment and treated with heat.

Using sea salt or evaporated salt will ensure that your water softener will function more efficiently, last longer, and require much lesser maintenance.

About the Author

Lucas Greer

Lucas vs. Wild - Lucas is a true nature lover and survivalist. When he's not teaching science at school, he can be found in nature, hiking, climbing, camping, and rafting. He knows all the tricks and DIYs for making unclean water drinkable with simple means in an emergency. At school, his students love him for his exciting water filtration projects.

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