As a water softener owner, you can see the salt in your brine tank is running low and it’s time to pick up some more. Like many people, you may be baffled by all of the water softener salt choices you see at the store: crystals, block, table, rock, and pellets. What is better: solar or evaporated salt pellets? What about salt pellets vs. potassium chloride pellets? What should you buy? What is best?
First of all, only salt or potassium chloride specifically designed for water softeners should be used. Do not use dicing or table salt.
Softener Salt vs. Softener Potassium Chloride
Water softeners and conditioners work effectively with either sodium chloride (commonly referred to as salt) or potassium chloride (actually a type of salt, also).
Some of the softening salt pellets sold at the supermarket or home improvement store contain a high level of water-insoluble matter or impurities. This insoluble matter can cause buildup in the reservoir or cause your softener to malfunction. If you notice buildup, the brine tank will need to be cleaned more often. So as you shop for softening salt, look for labeling on the salt pellet sack that indicates you’re getting the highest purity level.
Let’s first discuss salt (sodium chloride). Salt can come in three different forms:
- block salt
Salt pellets are the most common and are generally less expensive than potassium pellets. Here is a breakdown of the available options:
- Evaporated salt pellets have the highest purity rate of the aforementioned salts and are generally the most expensive. The higher the purity of your salt (we prefer 99.9% pure salt), the less water-insoluble matter, which means less chance of “bridging”, “mushing”, or insoluble buildup in the bottom of the tank that will need to be cleaned out later.
- Solar salt pellets is most commonly sold in the crystal or pellet form and is made through evaporating sea water. Solar salt is more soluble than rock salt, but may not work as well as evaporated salt when your water hardness level is very high. Many solar salt brands contain 99.6 pure salt.
- Rock salt resembles small rocks or pebbles. Although this form of salt is more economical, we don’t recommend using as it contains a high amount of calcium sulfate which means it won’t dissolve well in water and can cause maintenance headaches.
- Block salt should not be used unless your WaterTech dealer recommends and raises the water level in the brine tank to ensure the blocks are fully submerged for maximum brine formation.
Like most things, it’s best to spend a little more up front for high quality. Purchasing bags of high-quality evaporated salt pellets will mean fewer cleaning and maintenance issues and will also help you achieve better results with your water conditioner.
There is one last option for your brine tank—potassium chloride. It may be used in place of salt (sodium chloride) in the brine tank to regenerate the softening resin. Potassium chloride is 99.9% sodium free and an alternative for those who are looking to reduce sodium intake.
Be aware that potassium chloride pellets are generally more expensive and not as easy to find as salt pellets. If switching from salt to potassium chloride pellets, it may be necessary to increase salt dosage program settings on the valve by 10% to ensure proper regeneration of the resin. Contact your local WaterTech dealer for assistance.
Brine Tank Maintenance Tips
We recommend that you check the salt level in your brine tank at least monthly. The more often your system regenerates, the more you’ll need to check and add salt to the tank.
When salt levels drop too low, you run the risk of not having conditioned water. Regularly check your salt levels and don’t let the salt in the brine tank fall below one-quarter full of salt.
Before adding new salt to the brine tank, always be sure to loosen any encrusted salt that may be adhering to the perimeter of the salt keeper and make sure any large pieces are broken up. If the salt has formed one solid mass (known as bridging) you can manually break up the mass by pouring hot water over the salt bridging– making it easier to break up and remove.
Not sure about the level of hardness in your water? Request a free home water test or download WaterTech’s helpful HARD WATER GUIDE to learn more about the signs and symptoms of hard water–and possible solutions.
If you still have questions about water softening, salt usage or the hardness level of your water, contact an authorized WaterTech dealer in your area.