Various grades of water softener salt.
Rock salt is a mined product that comes from ancient salt deposits. The salt is crushed and graded to a certain size. This was the only product available to regenerate water softeners decades ago. Rock salt contains insoluble material such as stones or sand that can interfere with or damage the control of a water softener. Brine tanks must be cleaned frequently when using rock salt. Toledo Water Conditioning never recommends the use of rock salt in softener brine tanks.
Solar salt takes salty seawater, traps the shallow water into lagoons and then the sun evaporates the water leaving salt – hence the name “solar” salt. The solar salt contains insoluble material such as silica sand or coral that can interfere with or damage the control of a water softener. Since solar salt is processed in open lagoons, anything that swam through it or flew over it will deteriorate the quality of the product. Solar salt will often have a very “organic” smell – like a bad day at the beach. Toledo Water Conditioning never recommends the use of solar salt in softener brine tanks.
Block salt is a product that is often used as a salt lick for livestock. It is a fairly clean solid brick of salt. Block may have some dirt in the product and sometimes the paper cover on the block salt sticks to the salt and then gets into the brine tank – this can cause problems with the softener. In addition to these problems, the reduced amount of surface area with block salt can cause improper brining concentrations – resulting in long term damage to the softener resins. Toledo Water Conditioning does not recommend the use of block salt in softener brine tanks.
Granulated salt is a product that is used for your salt shaker, food processing, and sometimes for swimming pool ionizers. The small crystal structure does not work well with water softeners. Toledo Water Conditioning never recommends the use of granulated salt in softener brine tanks.
Pellet or Nugget salt is a better quality salt with much less impurities. These salts are processed and are white in color. The processed salt is liquefied and poured into little molds and then dried. The nuggets or pellets look like little pillows or building blocks. This salt is not always well compacted and may have a lot of salt dust in the bag. Salt that is not well compacted tends to mush up (like a solid mass of mashed potatoes) under the water level in the brine tank or bridge (like a dome of hard salt) above the water level in the brine tank. Either problem can create problems for the operation of the water softener. Toledo Water Conditioning recommends not filling the brine tank to the top with nugget or pellet salt – but only use a bag or two at a time – to reduce the likelihood of bridging, mushing, or caking in brine tanks.
Cube salt is an outstanding quality salt with much less impurities – this is almost food grade in quality. These salts are processed and are pure white in color. The processed salt is liquefied and poured into flat sheets, compressed, and then dried. The cubes look like pieces of pure white granite that has been cracked into smaller pieces. There is very little salt dust with this process. This salt is very hard to break by hand but dissolves properly when immersed in the water of a brine tank. Cube salt can be used in any type of water softener. Toledo Water Conditioning highly recommends this type of salt and handles the Dura-Cube brand. Dura-Cube is available as a standard pure salt or available as a Red-Out salt for those with high iron contents.
Other recommendations using clean salt is important for your water softener. Highly efficient softeners like the Kinetico systems use very little salt compared to old fashioned timered water softeners. It is best not to load the brine tank to the top with salt. Salt is “hydroscopic” meaning it seeks moisture. Salt can absorb moisture from the humidity in the air causing any salt to crust or harden. You can minimize this by only filling your brine tank halfway.
Excessive water in the brine tank may be an indication of a problem with your water softener. This is especially true for electrically operated softeners and may be an indication of scale or debris clogging critical components within the softener.