Hard water is a pain to live with. Your skin dries out faster, your hair becomes brittle and frizzy, and your clothes feel like stiff sandpaper after you wash them. What makes hard water even worse is the damage it can cause to your home’s plumbing by leaving mineral (namely calcium and magnesium) buildup in your pipes.
A home water softener helps fight against hard water by removing those damaging minerals. A water softener tackles skin problems by helping you stay hydrated. This means you’ll have fewer skin breakouts and dry itchy patches, and you’ll prolong the lifespan of your home appliances.
But once you get a water softener, which salt do you use? Learn how to choose water softener salt so you can get the most from your water softener.
What Are the Different Types of Salt for Water Softeners?
While there is a wide range of manufacturers, there are three primary types of salt for water softeners—sea salt, rock salt, and potassium chloride. Here’s what you need to know when choosing water softener salt.
As you’d expect, sea salt is mined from the sea. Traditionally, it’s mined by exposing seawater to sunlight and wind, evaporating the water, and leaving only the solid salts behind. This is why it occasionally is referred to as “solar salt.”
Because it only requires water and the power of the sun, sea salt is cheaper and more widely available than the other salt options.
The biggest problem with sea salt is purity. The quality of the salt can vary from product to product. Sea salts that have high levels of impurities and added minerals can decrease the efficiency of your water softener.
Rock salt is mined from subterranean salt veins. Rock salt is easily mined and is very common and easy to find. The main reason that it can be more expensive than sea salt is that it requires more labor and machinery to extract the salt from the ground.
Rock salt is the most impure salt on the market. Because it comes from mining rocks, it’s going to always contain additional metals and chemicals. In small amounts, like in cooking, this isn’t a problem. But an average family’s water softener will use at least 480 pounds of salt a year, which means those additional chemicals quickly add up.
The biggest threat of those impurities on your water softener is salt bridges. A salt bridge creates a physical barrier between the water and the salt, stopping any water softening. Luckily, identifying and removing a salt bridge is easy to do and can be part of the normal maintenance of your water softener as you refill the salt each month.
Chemically speaking, potassium chloride is still salt, but it’s different from the normal table salt, sodium chloride.
Potassium chloride pellets are most often used by families looking for healthier options than sodium chloride. One of the biggest reasons for switching to potassium chloride is if a family member has to watch their sodium levels for health reasons.
For most healthy people, the amount of sodium that gets introduced to water with traditional salt is negligible, and there is no need to ever worry. However, for some people who have to micromanage their sodium levels, even the smallest introduction of sodium can be dangerous for their health.
Unfortunately, potassium chloride is more expensive and doesn’t perform as well as true salt. It does prevent hard water from forming in your pipes, but it doesn’t provide the same softening properties as sodium chloride.
Which Salt Is Best for My Home?
For most homes, sea salt is the best option. It is widely available, budget-friendly, and can be the highest quality of salt on the market.
Start your shopping by looking for sea salt (or solar salt). While sea salt is going to be purer than rock salt, there is still the off chance that unwanted chemicals are added as part of the manufacturing process. Some companies choose to include purity percentages as part of their packaging and advertising. For the best results, find a salt that has a purity of at least 99.8%.
Which Salt Should I Avoid?
If you are tired of dealing with hard water stains, frizzy hair, and itchy skin, your water softener needs high purity salt. The salt that has the most additives is rock salt and should be avoided. In fact, it should only be considered as the last option because it is better than doing nothing at all.
How Often Should I Change the Salt in My Water Softener?
How often you add salt to your water softener depends directly on how much water you use a month. An average home needs to add one 40-pound bag of salt to its water softener every month. Depending on your home’s needs, you may need to add salt more often. When you first purchase your water softener, check your salt levels once a week to determine your personal needs.
If you’re finding it hard to remember to add salt each month, set a specific date, like the 12th, to be your salt day. Whenever it’s the 12th, make it a habit to go to the store, get a large 40-pound bag of salt, and add it to your water softener.
How Does a Water Softener Work?
Hard water is filled with small atoms of minerals. On their own, these atoms don’t do much, but in large quantities, they are to blame for all of the problems hard water is faced with. Water softeners use salt to remove magnesium and calcium from your water through a process of ion exchange.
Without being too technical, the sodium in the salt takes the place of magnesium or calcium. The final sodium levels are insignificant for most people. A single 8-ounce glass of softened water only has about 12.5mg of sodium. For those people who don’t measure sodium in micrograms, a single grain of salt has about 26 mg of sodium.
Absolute Air Can Help
Stop lowering your standards and putting up with hard water. Save your skin, hair, clothes, and home by making the switch over to softened water.
If you’re still unsure about which water softener salt to pick, call Absolute Air and speak to an expert. With our years of experience in residential plumbing, we can help you find the right water softener and salt for your home. If you’re still unsure, check out our customer reviews to hear firsthand from our satisfied customers.