If your home water softener uses a brine tank, then chances are, it also requires some form of water softener salt. The salt is intended to recharge the unit’s resin beads once they have been fully saturated with calcium and magnesium ions (hard mineral content) after several cycles. This is done through the unit’s regeneration cycle. When the regeneration cycle is complete, the brine solution from the water softener’s tank, as well as, the hard mineral ions, are flushed out through a drain pipe. And then the whole process can start again.
So you see, without salt, a tank-style water softener cannot remove hard mineral ions from a home’s tap water. Although your water softener’s manufacturers’ manual will suggest a certain type of salt to use in your particular make and model unit, you can choose any salt-type you like so long as it’s compatible.
Sodium Chloride and Potassium Chloride
There are a surprisingly large number of water softener salt options to choose from. The two main categories of water softener salt are sodium chloride and potassium chloride. Take note that no other type of salt should be used with a water softener.
Sodium chloride is the standard salt pellet mineral that homeowners are most familiar with. It comes in a variety of styles, including pellets, blocks, crystals, and cubes. It is the preferred option for water softener salt mainly for its lower price-point.
Potassium chloride works the same as sodium chloride pellets, except it is actually 99% salt free. Instead of replacing hard mineral ions with sodium, it replaces them with potassium. Potassium is a vital nutrient for human health, and provides the same incentive as sodium chloride hard mineral removal; but it’s more environmentally-friendly and reduces a household’s sodium intake.
Sodium Chloride Pellets:
Evaporated – Highest purity level, up to 99.9 percent. This means less insoluble matter causing mushing, bridging, buildup, and tank cleaning. Brands with highest ratings include Morton and Diamond Crystal.
Solar – Made from evaporated ocean water and generally comes as crystals or pellets. Not recommended for regions with high hard water levels. Brands with highest ratings include Morton and Pro’s Pick Solar Salt.
Rock – Generally comes in pebble or rock form. More economical but its high potency of calcium sulfate hinders its ability to dissolve well in water. This can cause problems with the tank. The brand with the highest review ratings is Morton.
Block – Block salt comes in large block-form. It should not be used unless specified by the manufacturer or water softener technician. This is because they have to be submerged in water inside the brine tank at all times to be effective. Brands with highest ratings include Morton and Culligan.
Also comes in pellet, crystal, or rock form. Pricier and more difficult to find in stores. Brands with highest ratings include Nature’s Own and Morton.