Mar 232012
 

Buying a water softener isn’t just about deciding whether to use salt, but also what type of salt to use. If you use a conventional salt-using water softener (as opposed to a salt free system), then your choice of salt could have an impact on your checkbook, your health, and even the environment. We look at the various water softener salt types so you can choose the best option for your home and family.

To appreciate the different types of salt available, it helps to understand how water softeners work. In a nutshell, they take out the minerals that cause hard water and replace them with different minerals that place nice with your pipes and appliances. These “soft water” minerals come from the salt you choose for your water softener.

Sodium vs Potassium Chloride

Diamond Crystal 40 lbs Salt Potassium Chloride

Diamond Crystal Potassium Chloride (click image to view at Ace Hardware)

Most people use sodium chloride salt in their water softeners. This type of salt replaces hard water minerals with sodium. Though the amount is tiny, adding sodium to your tap water obviously isn’t ideal – especially if you happen to be on a low-sodium diet. Nevertheless, because this type of salt is relatively cheap and widely available, it’s the most popular choice.

However, most newer water softener systems also provide the option to use potassium chloride. Adding potassium not only isn’t bad for your health, but is actually beneficial (how many monkeys do you know with heart disease?). Using potassium is also better for the environment, as it results in less chloride in your softener’s waste water. The only trouble is potassium is much more expensive and harder to find than sodium.

Of course, this discussion doesn’t matter as much unless you drink unfiltered tap water. Most people don’t like the taste of softened water, especially if it’s laced with a lot of sodium. As a result, people often pair their whole house water softener with a water filter that produces clean-tasting water.

Rock, Solar, or Evaporated?

Water softener salt comes in three different forms. In most cases, you should be able to use any of them in your water softener, but check your manual to make sure one isn’t preferred over the others.

Rock Salt. This type of salt is not heavily processed, and therefore is often cheaper. However, because it contains impurities that can build up in your water softener tank, you will need to regularly clean out your system.

Morton Solar Salt

Morton Solar Salt (click image to view at Walmart)

Solar Salt. This is salt evaporated from seawater. It contains less insoluble matter than rock salt, but more than evaporated salt. Therefore, the tendency for buildup within your system tank is somewhere between the two. However, if your softening needs are minimal, you aren’t likely to notice the difference between this and evaporated salt.

Evaporated Salt. This is basically a more processed version of rock salt, in which the moisture is evaporated out. If you have really hard water, or use a lot of water per day, then this is the type of salt you want to use because it has the lowest tendency to form buildup.

Again, check your water softener’s manual to see if it’s designed to be used with a particular type of salt. If so, that should take precedence over everything else.

Morton Water Softener Salt and Other Brands

At a lot of the retailers where you find water softener salt, Morton will be the only brand available. Morton sells a wide range of products, including both sodium chloride and potassium chloride. You can find a lot of other water softener salt products and brands at online retailers.

Water Softener Salt Types – The Choice

Without a doubt, the best water softener salt is the one that works best with your system. However, if your softener works equally well with different options – and you’re willing to go out of your way – choose potassium over sodium. When it comes to the form the salt comes in, favor evaporated over solar and rock salt.