What type of salt should I use in my water softener

What type of salt should I use with my water softener blog header

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. 

>>NOT SURE IF YOU HAVE HARD WATER? The authorized WaterTech dealer in your area can provide a free, in-home water test. Sign up today!

salt_bags what type of salt used in water softenerSALT: 

Let’s first discuss salt (sodium chloride).  Salt can come in three different forms:

  1. pellets
  2. crystal
  3. 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.

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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.

REIONATOR_Platinum_Brine_0780For optimal efficiency, we recommend the salt in the brine tank always be at least 3-4 inches ABOVE the water level, but less than four inches below the top of the brine 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.find a watertech dealer




116 Responses

        1. Hello S Stafne: Thanks for contacting WaterTech. Not all WaterTech dealerships run salt delivery routes and no dealership routes for zip code 55304.

  1. Can I use salt straight from the mine in my water softener. Like stuff used on highways

    1. Road Salt is indeed primarily sodium chloride. But the coarse mix used on roads and highways contains high levels of chemicals such as sodium ferrocyanide and ferric ferrocyanide that prevent caking during storage. Purchasing bags of high-quality evaporated salt pellets is your best bet. You’ll spend less time cleaning impurities out of your brine tank and have fewer maintenance issues. Plus, you’ll achieve better water quality results with your water conditioner when you use high-quality salt pellets.

  2. Hi Colette. We are in a rural subdivision and have a water well and aerobic septic system. I have two questions, please. We have been using potassium Chloride in our softerner for several years mainly because some of our outside faucets are running softened water and we use it to water our grass/plants. Can we switch to Sodium Chloride? Is one better than the other for our septic? The potassium Chloride has become very expensive. Thank you.

    1. Joanne, it’s true. Potassium chloride is more expensive than sodium chloride. But you’ll either want to re-plumb the lines so the softened water (if switching to sodium chloride) does not water your plants or stick with potassium chloride.

    2. I’m not sure where the advice against softened water on your grass is coming from. The old statements of “never use softened water” outside are kind of outdated. That goes back to folks who were trained in the industry when softeners were really inefficient or who are still selling single-tank, inefficient softeners.

      I wouldn’t use softened water on my prize orchids or something more delicate. But I wouldn’t use potassium chloride on my grass only because the costs of potassium chloride have skyrocketed. It’s kind of a double whammy–potassium chloride is less efficient in the softener and more expensive.

      Basically, if you have a high-efficiency water softener, the cost of salt is a rounding error in terms of operational costs.

      If you have an unfinished basement, sometimes bypassing those exterior hose bibs is a low-cost, easy option.

      1. Yes, using salted water has ruined my soil over time. It will eventually lose its friability and the plants will require daily watering, just to overcome the salt load in the soil. it takes years of rainwater to restore the salt balance.(or complete soil removal). I have now put in a pre-softener garden water supply with good success.

        1. To be fair, my comment that it isn’t a big deal in terms of cost and your singular example both fail to qualify as data.

          The sodium dose is equal to hardness * 17.1/2.18. That will yield mg of sodium per liter. It isn’t a high level of sodium, but what that’s being compared to would matter.

          So I did say I wouldn’t feed my prize orchids soft water. But I might have failed to point out that in Phoenix or something it would be a bigger deal. But their water bills would make the regenerative water water cost prohibitive, too.

          In my part of the country, the upper Midwest, it is nearly entirely a non-factor. We, for example, would never tear apart a finished basement to bypass a hose bib. The sodium cost, both in terms of softener and soil costs, is reasonably irrelevant. Watering is far less common here as we have pretty decent levels of precipitation.

          Although even the presence of a basement is pretty regional. It’s probably fair to say this one, like most water treatment discussions, varies regionally.

  3. A friend of mine has well water and you can smell it. What kind of Salt is the best to use for rust and the smell.

    1. HI J.C.: Thanks for the question. Table salt can easily clump together (the salt crystals may bond causing a thick chunk of salt to form in your brine tank). This clumping or “mushing” prevents proper resin regeneration –which is important since your system needs to regenerate in order to continue the softening process. Stick with pellets for best results.

    2. very late reply, but I would also add that table salt is often ‘Iodised’ to ensure that we dont get thyroid problems. While essential in our diet, Iodine is probably not very good for resin.. its a halogen like chlorine or bromine. And I’m pretty sure that these will shorten the life of resin beads,

      1. Andy, your point of halogen is probably warranted, but the chlorine on city water would probably be an issue first. That even ignores the health hazard that is chlorine.

        But it’s kind of like your driveway for the equator-challenged folks like me in Wisconsin: you could use table salt on your driveway, you wouldn’t because it would be a horrible idea in the context of cost.

        Table salt at my bulk reseller is slightly more for 25# as water softener salt is at 40#.

  4. What is your advice if i use Sodium chloride /Crystal Type of the salt for my system

    1. Hello Ahmad, we recommend salt pellets over crystals. Crystals are more soluble than pellets and therefore the crystals may dissolve too quickly to be effective. This is especially important when the water hardness level is very high.

  5. Hi! My softener (Kenmore 300 series) has about 10 inches of pellets on the bottom and I’d like to switch to salt crystals (Dimond Crystal). Should I remove pellets or can I just leave them there and add crystals?

    1. We recommend cleaning out the old pellets before switching to a new type. But if you don’t and you have a mixture, there shouldn’t be a problem as you switch over to different pellets.

  6. Is there truly a difference in the different salt to use. Dura cube vs Morton or any of the other brands.

    1. Hello Eileen: The brand of salt makes no difference, but the purity level is what counts. When you’re at the store comparing bags of salt, look at the purity level and go for the higher purity level. Evaporated salt pellets have the highest purity rate and that means not only less water-insoluble matter, but also less chance of “bridging”, “mushing”, or insoluble buildup in the bottom of the tank that will need to be cleaned out later. These impurities can also cause your softener to malfunction. So yes, the salt you use can make a difference.

  7. I have a 50 gallon RO Smith hot water heater and also a water softener system. When we purchased our home in May 2011, we noticed that the water was not very hot and when
    I checked the settings on the hot water heater It was set at the C setting which is for the very hot water setting. I flushed the hot water tank but the water was clean. I noticed that there was salt granule residue in the water and discovered that the previous tenant had been using salt granules instead of the salt pellets which is specified in the manual. I switched to salt pellets. I contacted RO Smith and sense the Hot Water Heater was still under warranty, they sent me a new gas element which includes the probe which senses the water temperature. I had a contractor install the gas element in July 2011. I am now having a similar problem in that I had to set the temperature setting on the hot water heater just past the “B” setting. I previously had it set at “A” setting. Do you have any idea what the problem may be? When I lived in Colorado Springs for nearly 15 years, I never had this problem but I also did not have a soft water system there. Thank you.

    1. It’s not uncommon for lower grade media (6% x-link that they use in cheap systems) to exhaust in 3-5 year. The system may not be softening any more.

      It’s important to have a water specialist do an annual service of your water softener to ensure all parts are working properly and that the system is softening. There are moving parts in a softener that can wear out and need to be replaced every few years (Piston, stack, o-rings). If the water softener system is not softening the water, calcium could be building up in the water heater and coating the elements. The buildup will reduce the efficiency of the element and its ability to transmit heat through the system which may require increased heat to product the same amount of heat of a clean element.

  8. we have just moved to a home with a water softener. Since living here the only thing different in our routine is this softner. I have broken out in a rash literally from head to toe that iches like crazy. It went away when I recently stayed with family for a week. Is it possible to be allergic to the contents of my softner unit? What do I do if I am? We are renting the home so I can’t just pull it out plus I think it’s here because it’s truly needed. Any advice?

    1. You might try switching the type of salt you’re using. If you have sensitive skin and are using a salt pellet with a low purity ratio, the contaminants might be what’s irritating your skin. You might also try potassium chloride pellets. If all this doesn’t improve the situation. You might want to look into a salt-free water conditioner.

      1. Also you may be developing exima. I had that issue from hard water though. My dermatologist said it may be from the lack of being able to wash off the soap you use. Just make sure you rinse well and turn down the softener level if possible.

        1. Turning your softener “down” isn’t possible. It simply influences the volume of water between regenerations.

          Chlorine is the most common skin irritant, hard water a close second, and the combo being a nightmare for people with sensitive skin.

          In essence, turning it down, say setting it for 10 grains on 20 grain water would just mean soft water for the first half of the volume, hard water for the second half. That would increase, not decrease, the irritation caused by the hard water not rinsing clean.

  9. We are building a brand new home. If I use potassium chloride pellets instead of sodium: 1. Will we notice any taste difference in the water? 2. Can I run my the softened water to all my lines, including outside spigots and still water plants and grass? 3. What is the affect of my refrigerator filter–will I even need one? 4. Will we still feel the effects on our skin, we like it?

    I am tired of the sodium issue and not being able to use my kitchen faucet to water my indoor plants.

    I live in zip code 50021. Very hard water, usually above 14 gpg. Iron content not bad in this area. Still considering a whole house filtration at the entry point, then into the water softener (KCL?) then to water heater (cold straight from softener) and finally throughout house.

    Does this make sense and is this a good set up?

  10. I was told by my hair stylist that sulfates are bad for my hair and hair color. How do I know if there are sulfates in my water softener? The last time I bought water softener I bought Western Family Water Softener Salt.

    1. Hi Wendy: Sulfates show up in water usually from agriculture fertilizer runoff or from the decomposition of plants. Sulfates are not a problem unless the concentration level is high. Concentrations of 500-750 mg/L or higher may cause a temporary laxative effect and can be toxic to animals and plants. The best way to find out the sulfate level in your water is to schedule a free home water test (http://www.watertech.com/free-water-test/) with a local water treatment professional http://www.watertech.com/find-a-dealer/. If levels are high, an RO system might be recommended. Since it sounds like you already own a water softener, adding RO might be a great fit. A water softener and an R.O. system are a great combination because while the softener will give you soft water throughout the entire home by removing minerals that make your water hard, an RO system will give your household outstanding drinking water by removing most impurities (including hydrocarbons, sulfates, cadmium, pesticides and more). Hope that helps.

    1. Hi George,
      Yes, you can mix potassium and sodium.
      But there really is no benefit to doing so.
      Thus, it may not be worth the extra expense of potassium.

  11. I have been using potassium for last 4 years in our softener. At $28/20kg bag I’m feeling I may change to salt. Averaging 3/4 – 1 bag per regen and am manually regenerating my softener approx 12-18 day intervals.

    My understanding of the salt or potassium is regenerating the zeolite beads in the softener. Beads are a positive ion and calcium/magnesium is a negative ion. After so much hard water running through zeolite it is time to flush them back with salt to a positive ion charge.

    If that is the way and salt isn’t actually added to your water supply then it’s just abit of carry over in water. I can’t see salt being a problem in water for watering plants etc. if your softener is working correctly there should not be much salt / potassium as carryover

    1. You have some sort of resin. So, sure, some fancy word like polystyrene divinylbenzene beads. Ignore the cation and anion geeky stuff.

      Basically the beads/resin has a stronger affinity for the calcium than the regenerate (some salt, sodium chloride, potassium chloride)

      So you regenerate by throwing a ton of sodium or potassium ions at the resin knocking the “old” calcium to the drain along with the excess sodium/potassium and the chloride half of the original salt.

      Then the new, hard water comes over the bed. The calcium is way sexier to the resin. So the resin drops the sodium ion, takes the calcium ion. The sodium ions really exist in two ways, some went to the drain during the regen. The balance are on the media/resin/beads, whatever you want to call it.

      The quantity to your water supply is roughly equal to:

      Hardness (as grains) * 17.1 / 2.18 = sodium as mg per liter.

      Or, since you reference kg in your post, you might be in an area where hardness is measured in ppm, then the formula is simply:

      Hardness as ppm / 2.18 = sodium as mg/L.

      It’s not going to kill your grass. It’s most likely not ideal for your prize orchids. It’s not bad from a human perspective and the total approaches zero coming out of a reverse osmosis system.

      And that’s probably what you are drinking from as you’re going to want to filter for insecticides, herbicides, pesticides, metals, MTBE’s, whatever.

      I really don’t understand this board’s fascination with potassium chloride. It’s less efficient and super expensive.

      Dunno if that makes sense or answers your questions.

  12. We have a water softener system in our home which has salt pellets. We also have osmosis systems in our kitchens. My question is this. Does any of the salt used in the softening system, get into our drinking water?

  13. I have been using salt in my softener for years and have always had a problem with a bad odor in my laundry. The laundry smells fine after washing but if it gets wet from bath water, sweat, etc, it develops a strong and unpleasant smell. When my water softener stopped working and we were without softened water for a while, there was no more smelly laundry. My theory is that the salt gets deposited in the clothes and when they get wet, it activates a smell. We’ve had this problem with every softener we’ve had. We’ve tried everything to deal with this including a thorough cleaning, changing soaps, etc with no luck. At this point, I’m ready to hook the laundry machine up to unsoftened water altogether, but I know that would be bad for our machine. Do you have any suggestions for how to combat this problem or do you think switching to potassium would make a difference? Any input would be appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Hi Diane: Your issue with odors is something that we’ve never heard of before. Our guess is that it isn’t connected to the salt. We recommend that you have a local water treatment professional check out your system. It’s very rare, but there have been isolated cases when a softener tank has gotten some sort of bacteria in it.

      1. We have the same issue with smelly laundry – it is a mildew-type odor. We did not have a problem before purchasing our water softener over a dozen years ago, and once or twice recently, when our softener was non-functioning, we did not have any loads with odors. It is not an issue of clothes sitting wet in the machine, and our softener has been serviced annually.

        1. Hi Danny, Have you contacted the manufacturer of your water softener? If this smell issue has been a problem for the manufacturer, they may have suggestions. That would be step #1. If the manufacturer can’t help you, we’d recommend calling a water treatment professional in your area. Ask to have a thorough water test conducted to see if there’s now a constituent in your water–that perhaps wasn’t there 10+ years ago when you bought the system. (Municipal plants can change their treatment level for certain contaminants as long as treatment falls within EPA guidelines). The professional should also thoroughly check out your unit to make sure that the unit is completely sanitized and free of impurities that could be building up–and are possibly the culprit of your problem.

        2. You’re supposed to change the resin around once every 8 years. You probably have something growing in the resin at this point. Needs to be replaced..

    2. I use a 1 cap of bleach for my towels, That eliminates the smell. I know it’s not best, but that’s what has worked for years.

    3. You probably need to replace the anode rod in your water heater. If the original one is corroded away, the softened water will aggressively attack any exposed metal in the tank, leaving your hot water with various metal ions.

  14. Using potassium chloride in a softener just under a year old. We’re starting to notice milky streaks on our glasses out of the dishwasher, and a sulphur smell when running clothes washer. Likely causes?

    1. Hi Jeremy: The first thing I’d recommend is getting your water tested. http://www.watertech.com/free-water-test/
      If you’re smelling sulfer, you may have Hydrogen Sulfide in your water. Unfortunately, a basic water test won’t test for Hydrogen Sulfide so ask for a water test that will do that specifically.
      If you do indeed have hydrogen sulfide, do not install a reverse osmosis system as hydrogen sulfide will destroy RO membranes. The best solution is a prefilter such as WaterTech’s OxiMax Air. http://www.watertech.com/product/specialty-water-treatment-systems/
      The water test might also reveal why you’re getting milky streaks on glasses, etc. too.

  15. We have a water softener in place, we have well water and a septic tank.

    We are new to all of this. What type of softener would you recommend?


    1. Hi Cathy: Just to be clear, do you already own a softener? Because every well-water situation is unique, the first thing we recommend is calling your local water treatment professional to test your water. Knowing the constituents of your water will help determine what needs to be done to make sure you have great water. A softener might be all that is needed. Or test results might indicate that a pre-filter or RO unit is needed. You can find a WaterTech dealer by going to: http://www.watertech.com/find-a-dealer/. Please let us know if you have additional questions.

  16. I live in Nigeria. Do have any dealer on your products here. I need the salt tablets, sodium chloride crystals to be precise.

    1. Hello Mrs. Okafor: WaterTech operates only in the United States of America at this time. Thank you.

  17. I have a home water well with the following minerals

    Boron (ppm) 0.87 < 2.4
    Calcium (ppm) 79.36 No Guidelines
    Chloride (ppm) 2558.83 < 250 ppm (#)
    Copper (ppm) < DL* <1.3 ppm (#)
    Iron (ppm) < DL* < 0.3 ppm (#)
    Magnesium (ppm) 29.32 No Guidelines
    Manganese (ppm) 0.10 < 0.05 ppm (#)
    NO3N (ppm) < DL* < 10 ppm (#)
    Potassium (ppm) 6 No Guidelines
    Sodium (ppm) 1729.31 No Guidelines
    Sulfate (ppm) 1.70 < 250 ppm (#)
    Zinc (ppm) 0.02 < 5.0 ppm (#)
    EC (μmhos/cm) 8440 No Guidelines
    Hardness (ppm, 17.1 ppm = 1 grain/gal) 318.6 No Guidelines
    Hardness Class Very Hard < 120
    pH 7.8 6.5 – 8.5 (#)
    Sodium Percentage (%) 92.2 No Guidelines
    Total Soluble Solids (TSS) (ppm) 5570.4 <500 ppm*

    As you can see it is primarily a sodium chloride water well. What do I need to do to make this water useful for home and garden pursuits?



    1. You have extremely hard water and need a water softener. You also have a lot of sodium in the water and will need an RO System. RO is really the only way to reduce sodium levels that high. If you are only concerned about drinking water, then you could do an under the counter RO unit for drinking water at the kitchen sink. Or to have drinkable water throughout the house you will need a whole-house RO system.

  18. I recently had a water softener installed that uses potassium, but it is hard to find here. Can I use salt instead or does it take a different system?

    1. Hi Jerry, yes, you can use either potassium or sodium chloride pellets in most systems. Check the user’s guide for your system, but generally the vast majority of water softeners operate with salt.

  19. Hi we want to switch from potassium to salt to reduce expenses. We have a culligan system. Can we just start using salt, with no issues. Also how can I tell I my system bypasses outdoor faucets.

    1. Yes, you can switch from potassium to salt at anytime. For the faucet question, we recommend checking to see if the indoor faucets and outdoor spigots have the same hardness. You can buy water test strips at Home Depot. If the water on the outer spigots has high hardness, then they were bypassed.

      1. I have Whirlpool water softener and want to switch from potassium to salt also. When you say you can switch anytime does that mean even if there is still some KCl in the water softener you can just add salt and just change the water softener setting from potassium to salt?

        1. Yes, you can just start adding Sodium Chloride on top of the potassium. As far as settings on the Whirlpool system, we can’t speak to that. Perhaps call Whirlpool directly or consult your owner’s manual.

  20. looking for some sound advice or suggestions. We are on a well. Our system was due for a carbon recharge (they called us). Keep in mind, our water was fantastic and the softener was working fine but we agreed. We have used salt from Lowes all along but this time we bought direct from Culligan. After the carbon was replaced, about 24 hours later, our water developed a strong metallic smell and taste (with a stinging feel on our tongues, lingering long afterwards). The toilets began developing a pink ring around the water line within days. Their reply was to send their guy back, something called IRON OUT” – they dumped some into the salt reservoir. Now the salt reservoir smells strong, almost like wintergreen and our water tastes worse than ever! Maybe the salt is causing the problem? What could have gone so wrong? We are devastated that they ruined our water supply and need to figure out a plan to fix it. The won’t return our calls.

    1. Hi Rosie, our best suggestion would be to get your water tested. When you have a well, it’s good to get the water tested every few years as water can change. The sudden change in your water is pretty odd, but hopefully a water test will give you some answers as to what’s really in your water and what needs to happen to make it clean and delicious again. Many of our WaterTech authorized dealers offer free water tests, if that helps. http://www.watertech.com/free-water-test/ We don’t have dealerships in every city, but if we have a dealer in your area, we’d love to help you out.

  21. Does potassium chloride extend the life of a water heater compared to the use of sodium chloride? Our water heaters seems to have very limited lives and our plumber said the salt from the water softener shortened the life of the water heater.

    1. I would recommend a new plumber.

      A plumber who is a member of the Water Quality Association will both be able to solder AND will understand the equipment.

      Out of curiosity, what are the cost differences between sodium and potassium salts near you?

      Near me, potassium salts are 5-6 times more and potassium chloride is either 30 or 35% less effective, can’t remember/long day… So you’d use a lot more.

    2. In some instances a water softener can create a scenario where the water becomes corrosive and can affect the anode rods in a water heater. This can occur when the pH, water temperature, calcium level (or lack of) and alkalinity all combine to create corrosive (not necessarily acidic) water – or water that is “hungry” to dissolve things. In a water heater, the high heat makes this scenario more possible but not probable. Sodium chloride or potassium chloride used in a water softener do not affect this scenario either way.

  22. this is great information, however what’s the difference between regular and rustout salt. Is the rustout more harmful, if you drink the water?

    1. Rust Out is meant to clean the resin bed of your softener, but I do not believe it is meant to soften the water as potassium or water softening pellets will. Make sure softening pellets are always in your water softener’s brine tank, and if needed, occasionally use a product such as Rust Out to remove iron and rust build up.

  23. Hi!
    Your instructions are contradictory. You say that one should always have the tank at least 1/4 full, and also say that the salt should be 4″ below the top of the brine tank. Which is correct? To keep it that full would require filling it with partial bags very often!
    Thanks very much

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Kay. You’re right, we could have explained that better and have updated the post. Basically, for optimal efficiency, we recommend the salt in the brine tank always be at least 3-4 inches ABOVE the water level, but less than four inches below the top of the brine 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.

  24. I didn’t know that there are two main types of salt used for water softeners. It sounds like potassium chloride is more specialized, and meant for people with specific health requirements. Because sodium chloride will be cheaper and easier to find, I think I will stick with this option. Hopefully it will be easy to find a delivery service, because it doesn’t sound fun to pick up giant bags of salt at store.

    1. It would be extremely hard to find a strong reason to use potassium chloride. The sodium equivalent from sodium chloride fits a Mayo Clinic / 2,000 mg/day diet unless you’re running huge degrees of hardness.

      Otherwise, you should have a drinking system anyway. If the sodium unsettles someone more than insecticides, herbicides, or (pick anything, arsenic, nitrates, etc.), that’s weird.

      The softener is probably necessary. You want it to be efficient, something potassium chloride is not. You want the lowest cost of operation, something potassium chloride is not. You’re drinking from a drinking system anyway so the softener regenerate is a non-factor.

  25. We’ve been using Morton’s rust remover salt but the store ran out, and we bought store brand instead (Meijer). We haven’t yet put it in, do you think we should worry?

    Thanks BTW for providing this forum

    1. You’re welcome, Tad. The brand of salt makes no difference, but the purity level is what counts. When comparing salt, look at the purity level and go for the brand with the higher purity level.

  26. Hi,
    I have 2 questions:
    1) We have well water and septic system and need our water softened. I was told that the only option is a water softener since we have a well. I had hoped to get a salt-free system. Does this make sense?

    2) Do you know if the salt used in water softeners is treated in anyway? I know you stress looking the purity of the salt, but I am concerned about chemical treatment or additives to the salt.

    1. Hi Mindy, If you know your water is hard, then you probably need a water softener. There are salt-free alternatives, like the Salt-Free Max (http://www.watertech.com/product/saltfreemax-water-conditioner/).
      But if you are on well water, I highly recommend that you have a lab analysis done on your water (if you haven’t already) simply so you’ll know the constituents of your water and how to best address what’s in the water. Many on well water put in a pre-filter for sediment, followed by a softener to remove hardness, and finally an ultraviolet system to guard against waterborne virus and bacteria. As far as what goes into the production of water softening pellets, there are so many different brands out there, it’s hard to say. Sorry to say the only suggestion we can give is what you already know–to pay attention to the purity level so you don’t get a bunch of extra additives.

  27. We are on a septic system with city water. I have been advised to use a certain salt in the softwater system but can’t remember what was recommended? Can yoiu advise what type of salt to get? Thanks

    1. Some recommend potassium pellets for water softening. There are benefits to the potassium pellets, but they generally cost 4x’s as much as traditional softener salt pellets. Many people on septic/city water use regular salt softening pellets.

  28. I just had a Water Softener installed in the house and the installer was very clear saying that I should use Rock Salt only in their system. When I go to stores near me I only see Crystals and pellets. When I called them they said as long as its a blue bag its ok so I assume crystals are ok. I am confused reading this page saying the rock salt and crystals are no good compared to pellets. Is this guy lying to me to cause more maintenance work he can do or can it be true that pellets should not be used?

    1. We’d suggest going with whatever your water softener installer & manufacturer recommend. We tell our customers to use water softening pellets (with a high purity rate) and pellets are what is commonly found in home improvement stores. But perhaps your installer has a good reason for recommending rock salt.

  29. What is the difference in using “extra-coarse” salt vs. pellets? I get that the purity level is the key concern. Thanks.

    1. Course salt is another name for rock salt. We recommend water softener pellets with a 99%+ purity rate. Rock salt or course salt has a lower purity rate.

  30. I just bought and added the Morton pool salt to my water softner. Is this OK to use and
    If not how do I get it out of there? Thank you!

  31. Hi – hoping you can help. We have a water conditioner and use Morton’s salt pellets from Loews which seems to be working fine. However, my husband has been diagnosed with spongiotic dermatitis which is basically eczema caused by an allergic reaction. This type of eczema is caused not by a food allergy, but by something you come in contact with. My husband underwent testing by a dermatologist and one of the things that came back that he was highly allergic to is Potassium Dichromate, a form of chromium. We’re trying to find out if the salt pellets we’re using contain chromium salts or chromic acid salt. Do you know if the salt pellets we’re using contain any of that, or can you recommend something that may work better? I see in the blog that potassium chloride might be a better option? I’m wondering if we should just buy a new salt-free conditioner – your thoughts please!

      1. Hi Isaac – can you let me know what’s the least abrasive salt product to use for sensitive skin? Is there an alternative product that can be used in place of salt pellets in our existing water softener? We just purchased and had our water softener installed last August … don’t really have the funds right now to purchase a brand new unit. Thanks for any suggestions/ideas you have. Thanks!

        1. Kathy,
          If you are on city water, many of the dermatologists I work with are primarily concerned about the chlorine first. The natural ability of the skin to defend against irritants is compromised when the first component of the water is an irritant, namely that chlorine.

          That product is a relatively inexpensive dechlorinator.

          After that, the residual sodium (not salt) is often a non-issue. You’ll still want the water softener as there is no such thing as a salt free softener. So people with sensitive skin usually see worse issues with that equipment as now you’re introducing the congratulated soaps and surfactants.

          1. Hi Issac – we have well water which is very hard, so we started with just a neutralizer (plumber recommended and installed), which seemed to help a bit, but the water was still turning the sinks/tubs/shower stalls green. The water softener was then recommended and installed. The water is now fine, but my husband’s skin is really taking a beating…. I wish there was another alternative.

  32. Hey, I am planning to change from rock salt to evaporated salt , any rough estimate of reduction in salt usage (kg) per year ? need to convince my spouse that it is useful apart from the fact that I got to do less cleaning

    1. Hi Tom: We don’t have those stats. I’d recommend that you call or go to the website of the manufacturer of the evaporated salt pellets you’re looking to buy. We’ve seen better results over the years in water quality with evaporated pellets and less maintenance headaches, but don’t have exact stats on usage reduction.

  33. I just moved into this House and have never had well water. I have a water softener system. I understand to get the salt brine with the highest purity level. My water does have a lot of iron residue. There is a filter before the softener apparatus. I saw at lowes that they also have pellets that are specifically for iron removal, can I mix a bag of the salt pellets with a bag of the pellets geared for Iron purification. The water does taste good. I don’t want to mess up a good thing. The Iron is not a problem, as far as drinking and doing laundry, but I see it when I change the filter the entire filter is coated with it. I don’t want it to become a problem.

    1. Hi Risa, It shouldn’t hurt to change to salt with iron cleaning additive – mixing salt types isn’t a problem.

  34. Where does one find the purity figure on the bags of salt pellets?
    I am using Diamond Crystal “advanced formula” salt pellets, and nowhere on the
    bag does it mention the purity.
    The only thing it says is that the packaging is 50% recycled. Big help.
    Are they required to post the purity on the bag or do we have to go to their website
    to investigate?

  35. We used sodium chloride in our previous house. We are now using potassium. Our bathroom spouts are collecting hardened water on the ends. Does it make any difference on plumbing fixtures as to which is better? These spouts are at the “end of our plumbing line”. Our kitchen sink is fine.
    Do I possibly need to have the softener adjusted? Also, we are getting a buildup of water spots on our clear glass shower doors, in all of our bathrooms. We have never owned a clear shower door before, so we don’t know if this is typical.
    Thank you.

    1. Jacquie, it simply sounds like your softener isn’t working. The type of salt you use will not make the kind of difference you’re talking about. I’d call your local water treatment specialist and have your softener serviced/repaired.

  36. I recently had my water softener serviced by the manufacturer. The source water (well water) testing results showed:
    Hardness: 21 GPG
    Iron: 2 PPM

    The treated water testing results were:
    Hardness 1 GPG
    Iron: 0 PPM

    It was recommended that I use Iron Out to help clean out the iron that was likely depositing in the resin.

    Do you recommend the use of such a product to extend the life of the resin? He said to pour ~3 oz down the brine well (as opposed to spreading it over the top of the salt) four times a year. The rinse cycle should clear all of this (and anything else) out safely before it gets distributed throughout the house after a regeneration, right?


    1. Hi Tim, We recommend Resup with a Resup feeder on your brine tank to keep softening resin from iron fouling. You can get it from your local WaterTech dealer (watertech.com/find-a-dealer) or online at various places.
      What you’re describing may be an appropriate solution using Iron Out. However, we don’t sell the Iron Out product and don’t have any specifics on how/when it should be supplied.

  37. I purchased Diamond Crystal Splash Ready pool salt (for a $1.00 per 40lbs bag–killer deal) and would like to use it in my home water softener. Will I have any problems using it?

    1. We don’t recommend using pool salt. Stick with water softening pellets for best results.

  38. I’m allergic to sulfa and sulfates, I’ve had very itchy skin lately. We have a new water softener system and I’m wondering if this could be the cause to my skin problem. My water system guy said that the system uses air to oxidize the iron to sulfate….. have you heard of an issue like this before?

    1. Jenny, I don’t mean to make light of the more serious allergies, but step 1, I’d get a new water guy. Your current one somehow believes himself to be an alchemist.

      Sulfur is an element. So is iron.

      It sounds like you’re describing an air injection iron filter. When we introduce oxygen to oxidize your iron, you end up with oxidized iron or “iron oxide.” Of note, that is removed from the water anyway, but that’s not sulfur. It’s still iron.

      There is absolutely nothing about an iron filter that does, or even can, make sulfur. That’s like these crazy claims of saltless softeners that reorganize the water molecule using magical crystals.

      Now, even if you have sulfur in your well water, that iron filter will oxidize the hydrogen sulfide into sulfur dioxide, a solid, and then filter it. So that form of sulfur would also be removed.

      As an entirely separate beast, of your total dissolved solids that is used as an indicator of drinking water suitability, many of those underlying items in the water can be sulfates and other sulfur-containing compounds.

  39. I recently had my tap water which is fed thru my water softener and also had my unfiltered outside spigot water tested. The water that went thru the filter had a Sodium test result exceeding 42.04(mg.L). The maximum recommended level is 20.

    Since too much sodium results in various negative effects on one’s health, I am thinking that there must be some other type of product that I could put in the brine tank and reduce the sodium. Any ideas?

    1. If your tanks been empty for a while, simply clean out your brine tank and then fill with high-quality evaporated salt (purchased from your local home improvement store).