There’s a lot of misinformation floating around the web regarding water softener salt. In this article, we’re going to cover the most frequently asked questions about the salt that you put into your water softener.
What is Water Softener Salt?
What is water softener salt made of? And is water softener salt the same as table salt?
It’s basic sodium chloride, so yes, water softener saltispretty much the same as table salt -- except table salt is definitely ground a bit more finely. However, that doesn’t mean you can use table salt instead of water softener salt. If you use table salt in your water softener, you’re going to create salt bridges, and then you’re going to have to call in someone to fix it.
Anway, why do you need salt at all?
Magnesium and calcium are positively charged, and they make up the majority of hard water. There’s a negatively charged resin inside of your water softener that attracts the positively charged magnesium and calcium ions so that they bind to it. Then, in order to regenerate the resin, a strong brine solution (salt) is washed through the resin, so that the magnesium and calcium can bind to it again.
So water softener salt is the same salt that you have on your table, except, since the chlorine is negatively charged, it’s just discharged along with the magnesium and calcium.
Is Water Softener Salt Edible?
As we talked about above, water softener salt is the same as table salt, except water softener salt is much more coarse. The crystals arewaybigger than table salt.
So, yes. Youcouldeat water softener salt, but considering 103 million Americans suffer from hypertension, you should probably avoid extra salt whenever possible. If you’re hungry, opt for a healthier snack than what you feed your water softener (as in: don’t cook with it, unless you blend the salt into smaller crystals first).
Pool Salt Vs Water Softener Salt
In much the same way that ion exchange salt-based softeners need sodium in order to regenerate resin, backyard salt water pools (which make up roughly 34% of all pools in the States) need chlorine in order to sanitize the pool. Saltwater chlorinators separate the sodium and the chlorine so that the chlorine can float freely around the pool, destroying germs.
So, in that case, what’s the difference between pool salt and water softener salt? Can you use both interchangeably?
There are conflicting answers on this, so it largely depends on whatever the salt manufacturer says. Pool salt is designed to dissolve as quickly as possible, while water softener salt will take a little bit longer to dissolve. However, unlike table salt, pool salt and water softener salt are usually ground to a similar coarseness. As long as the salt is pure (you can look at it without seeing any pink or brown lumps), you should be okay.
Types of Water Softener Salt
Two types of water softener salt are the most popular: sodium chloride and potassium chloride. Potassium chloride is going to be much better for your health, but it’s also going to be much worse for your wallet.
The average family of four to five will usually go through $300-$500 worth of salt per year just to refill their water softener. However, if you use potassium chloride, it might be even worse. This is all a rough estimate because it depends on the efficiency of the water softener itself, but you can usually expect to pay anywhere from two to three times as much for a bag of potassium chloride salt versus sodium chloride.
Best Water Softener Salt
Where can you find the best water softener salts? Is there any noticeable difference in quality.
You can find water softener salts at your local department store or on Amazon, and the best quality salts are the ones that are labeled “99% pure.” Whether it’s potassium chloride or sodium chloride, you don’t want to see any other minerals hiding out in your water softener salt. The lower the quality, the more salt bridges will likely form.
What’s a Salt Bridge?
A salt bridge is a bit like limescale, except instead of magnesium and calcium forming a hard crust, it’s sodium. The water in your water softener can’t flow properly through the system, and it won’t be able to regenerate as easily, or at all.
You might have to call in a professional to take care of the salt bridge, and maintenance can sometimes be costly. You’d be better off to simply go with a higher-quality salt -- even if it’s going to cost you a little bit more.
Are Water Softeners Bad for the Environment?
Some would argue that yes, water softenersarebad for the environment. Ion exchange softeners discharge chlorinated hard water back into the water supply, wasting water and pawning their hard water problems off on someone else. Remember how saltwater backyard pools use the chlorine in salt in order to sanitize the pool? Well the chlorine in the water softener has to gosomewhere after the sodium binds to the resin, so it’s discharged with the magnesium and calcium ions.
To make matters worse, some counties (especially in California) arestarting to ban salt-based softeners since they waste water -- which no one wants during a drought -- and they waste salt -- which is technically a non-renewable resource.
However, thereisanother option…
Are There Any Alternatives to Using Salt?
Is there any way that you can avoid using sodium chlorideandpotassium chloride? Is there any way you can get rid of all of your hard water problems without a salt-based ion exchange softener?
Yes. We actually sell template assisted crystallization water conditioners here at FilterSmart. Instead of removing the magnesium and calcium from the water, template assisted crystallization changes the nucleation sites of the magnesium and calcium so that they’re less likely to cling to surfaces.
That way, you don’t have to refill the salt tank and there’s virtually no maintenance.
Check outour store here.