As a sea captain, now having hung up my sea-boots, this is a bit bewildering. And again I reside in an area where the groundwater is polluted with high arsenic levels and is particularly very hard. I realized that only after eating up soaps pretty rapidly in trying to lather and n number of bad hair days, not to speak of dry skin. Whoa! This was turning into a high maintenance nightmare.
So I googled up, knew where it was coming from. Foolish, all the locals knew about it, and before you can say Rumpelstiltskin, there appeared a guy and did what was needed. Bottom line- you need soft water, both for the health and well-being of your appliances. He smirkingly suggested adding ‘potash’ meaning potassium chloride, the best salt for water softener. Thanks to the good man’s advice, I retained a good deal of my locks.
What Exactly Does Water Softener Salt Do
Let us consider the water cycle. As rain falls, it is soft water inherently. The water then percolates through layers of gypsum and limestone, picking up appreciable quantities of magnesium and calcium carbonates, bicarbonates and sulfates. Hard water is preferred for drinking because of its high mineral content and flavor. Soft water tastes salty. So what is all this hoopla about soft water? Hard water is what comes out of your taps. Boiled, it assumes a different avatar. It evolves into a tiresome devil. The clothes come out of the wash looking pretty dingy, a bath is a sloppy affair, soaps don’t lather, your hair feels terrible your bathtub starts building up a thin film of hard scum, and more trouble.
For household use, the water has, has to be soft. Simply put, the sodium has to be retained and all other traces of magnesium and calcium removed. And that is the realm of Water Softener Salts.
A water softener is loaded with resin beads. The calcium and magnesium ions percolate through the resin beads. An exchange of ions takes place by a process called reverse osmosis wherein the magnesium and calcium are neutralized leaving the sodium back. The resin beads are negatively charged. They hold the potassium or sodium ions depending on which you have chosen. They draw in the positively charged calcium and magnesium ions exchanging them for potassium or sodium ions. The water is thus rendered soft.
How Much Salt Do You Need?
In America, the incidence of hard water is as high as 90%. That’s way high. The first step is to get a qualified analyst to take water samples and arrive at what type of hardness you are up against.
Okay, the water is hard, very hard according to the analysis. What next? You can go and dunk a whole lot of rock salt from Trader Joe’s or whatever into your tank. Is that what you were thinking? Well, think again. This by itself, is going to clog up the system as the impurities will settle. What you need is a salt that charges the water and does not leave any traces. We intend clearing up one problem, not creating another.
To recharge the beads, the average household in the US requires about 40 pounds monthly. There are a lot of manufacturers for these salts which we will get to, but they are essential in keeping the plant going efficiently without fouling.
Things to Consider When Buying Water Softener Salt
You need to consider a number of points carefully before opting for the best water softener salt for your home. Of course, professional help is always around but why not have an informed opinion on the subject. Some pointers:
Salt Crystals Vs Salt Pellets
A high concentration of dissolved minerals makes water hard. These can be eliminated by using
salt in either crystal or pellet form.
Salt crystals are basically seawater or mined sodium chloride, exposed to the sun and by solar evaporation reduced to 99% moisture-free crystals. These coarse crystals are suitable for households with less than average water consumption.
In households where the water consumption is high, salt crystals result in a phenomenon called ‘bridging’. Bridging occurs when a layer or crust of hardened or consolidated salt forms at the surface of a brine tank leaving a void space below where the salt has been depleted. The obvious result is that water passes through the tank without being softened.
Water softener pellets bypass the bridging effect. Additionally, they are infused with citric acid, a cleansing agent that protects against plaque build-up in piping and keeps your appliances protected.
- Evaporated Salt Pellets- Evaporated salt is of 100% purity, the purest form of all sodium-based water softener pellets. It is derived by reducing raw crystals to pure sodium chloride using special heaters to get rid of moisture completely. Of a high purity, it is suitable for numerous uses. When used in water softener pellets it is highly effective.
- Solar Salt Pellets- Tapping seawater in salt pans and allowing the water to evaporate naturally results in the formation of solar salts. The derived crystals are about 99.5% pure, highly soluble and when used as a water softener is usually as pellets.
- Rock salt- This forms over centuries as underground salt deposits and is mined. Because of its other considerable mineral content, there is a lot of debate on its suitability though manufacturers are of the contrary opinion and main it is perfectly suitable as a water softener. It is fairly low-priced.
- Block salt- Very pure salt is utilized to make block salt and it is widely used in the food industry and as a water softening agent for human consumption as also for the food industry. It has many various uses such as food salt, deicing, swimming pools, bath salts, etc.
1. Purpose- Potassium Chloride has of late become the choice and gaining ground as a water softener. This stems from the niggling reservations people harbor about sodium chloride. The answer is in not choosing sodium, but potassium instead. My plumber was not wrong after all when he grinned and said, ‘potash’. Potassium based crystals are particularly relevant for those who have health issues, and secondly, sodium is not environmentally friendly. Potassium has many positive health benefits and is an essential nutrient, not only for human beings but also a vital role for the growth of plants. A potassium imbalance in your body can cause a life-threatening situation. However, potassium pellets come at a slightly higher price. We, after adequate research, think it to be a good choice.
2. Environment- Sodium infiltrates and primarily causes dehydration, going on to foliage damage. Osmotic stress deprives roots of nourishment, leading to stunted growth and improper fruiting. Salt disrupts a plant’s natural ability. Nutrient absorption is hindered, it causes the damage to seed germination and flowering capacity cycles. This paves the path for salt-tolerant species like cattails to take over. Many manifestations of aquatic life are threatened by water sources that have chloride which is a toxin. They are a serious worry for fish, macroinvertebrates; in general, non-human life species. Sensitive aquatic forms of life are severely affected by salinity stress which in turn takes its toll on aquatic diversity.
3. Health and Purity- People have reservations about sodium chloride. Low sodium in drinking water is desirable for hypertensive people. Secondly, excess sodium leads to kidney stone formation. The US Environmental Protection Agency has capped sodium content at 20mg sodium per liter. Water hardness has a direct correlation.
Of special concern here is your pet health too. Deicing salt combined with rainwater, runoff from melting snow, road splash and so on, find their way into vegetation and groundwater. The poor chump will lick the water and then his paws which are contaminated from water contact, with disastrous consequences.
4. Performance- Needless to say, a good water softener system should have quality constituents. A complete assay by a qualified expert will determine what kind of plant will be ideal. A metered-style valve is a vital part. That way, your system will be in peak performance conditions, wastages are minimized. Top-quality components will be a bit more expensive but over time will pay for themselves. The metered style valve gives you the freedom to adjust levels of hardness, depending on how many people are at your home. When set optimally, the system will self-adjust cleaning times automatically making it super-efficient as also cost-effective.
5. Softener maintenance-
- Check salt levels. This is of paramount importance as otherwise, with depleted levels of salt, you will start gathering hard water. The recommendations are to check every four to six months. But the frequency of inspection depends on the type of equipment, the hardness strength and so on.
- Salt Bridges Formation. With regular use of the softener, a hardened strata called a salt bridge may be noticeable. This is usually the result of high temperatures and humidity as well as the use of sub-standard salt. These salt bridges bar the resins from regeneration. The solution is to inspect and clean the tank at regular intervals to prevent the formation of salt bridges. Exercise caution when cleaning the brine tank as improper methods may damage the softener walls.
- Brine Tank Cleaning. In modern softener systems, a brine tank rarely needs to be cleaned. However, to work around any problems, it is a safe practice to clean the tank regularly. The approved interval for cleaning is every 6 months or yearly.
- Inspect Water Purifier Routinely. Checking the level of the salt level alone does not guarantee an efficient system. Close-up softener inspection should be done every 3-4 months.
- Pick The Correct Salt. Many folks are wont to use any kind of cheap salt available for their water softener. This is a cardinal mistake. To achieve choice results, the right type of salt must be used either in the form of cubes or crystals. Your plant instruction manual will tell you which to use.
- Resin Bed Flushing. Resin beads derive their charge regularly from the salt. Using a water softener cleaner, you should once every while flush the bed of resin. A water softener because of iron present, as well as organic compounds, and heavy metals gets compromised in functioning effectively. Flushing a resin bed will ensure continued smooth performance.
How Do You Add Salt To A Water Softener?
Water softeners revitalize themselves normally. If you, for some reason have forgotten to add salt to the brine tank, it has to be manually accomplished. You will require a wet cloth and two 40 lb bags of salt for water softeners. This, of course, is conditional, depending on the size of the water softener. So let’s get down to it.
- There will be some amount of build up on the walls of the brine tank. Using the wet cloth, scrub the sidewalls of the tank as thoroughly as possible to clean out all traces of build-up. The tank is now clean for taking a charge of salt.
- Taking into consideration the size of the water softener, restrict the quantity that you add to the brine tank, no more than two bags of salts. The tank should be about half full only.
- Regenerate the water softener manually. The process varies from model to model. Be familiar with yours. A control panel is located on the top of the main unit which incorporates a regeneration button. Keep it depressed till the plant regeneration process kicks in.
Water softeners are able to regenerate themselves but also require manual regeneration to ensure that proper cleaning of the unit is achieved.
Brine Tank Maintenance Tips
A few handy tips to keep your system in top shape:
- Your brine tank needs to be cleaned regularly. First of all, check for a hard crust at the surface of the brine tank. If one has formed, bridging is occurring. Break up the crust and remove it. It is also a sign that your dosing is either excessive or too frequent. Drain the tank, clean thoroughly with soap and water, rinse well and replenish.
- If your water contains iron, it will foul the resin bed. Flush the entire system with a material called Iron-Out, commonly available at any supermart. Most reliable brands have this as an ingredient.
- Clean the resin tank injector.
- Use pure salt which has iron remover. Rock salt, etc. are less expensive but considering that they contain other impurities, it’s going to be costly for you in the long run.
- Refrain from adding salt to the brine tank unless it is nearly empty. When topping it up, just fill it to two thirds.
- Definitely use Iron-Out once a year to flush the resin bed and clean out the control valves.
- Make it an annual routine of cleaning the brine tank.
- This step is implicitly important. Don’t force your outlet pipe into a floor drain. It should be above, repeat above the grate. There have been occasions where the sewage was siphoned into the system, destroying it completely.
Brine Tank Cleaning
- Read the instructions in the operating manual. A bypass mode is provided which allows the softener to be bypassed for a short period of time to facilitate cleaning.
- Disconnect all hoses connecting the softener and the brine tank.
- Dump or siphon out the contents of the brine tank. Dispose safely and not on plants or your lawn. The saltwater mixture may cause harm.
- Scoop out all remaining salt and discard.
- If a salt bridge has formed (a big block of salt) break it out by first using warm or hot water to dislodge it.
- Pull the brine grid out if one is provided. It is a platform or a mesh at the bottom of the tank.
- Create a soapy mixture by emptying a few teaspoons of dish soap into 1-2 gallons of water.
- Pour the soap solution into the tank, scrub thoroughly with a long-handled brush and rinse repeatedly to remove all traces of soap.
- Pour 2-3 gallons of freshwater into the tank and add half a cup of household bleach. Let it sit for about 15 minutes. Scrub the insides well with a brush and chlorine water.
- Dump everything out and rinse again.
- Put the tank back in place, connect up the lines and take the system out of the bypass mode.
- Pour 5 gallons of clean water into the tank.
- To finish off, add the water softener salt, at least two 50 lb bags. For best results, the brine tank should be at least a quarter full of softener salt at all times. Don’t fill the tank up to the brim. At least 6 inches of space should remain.
It has been our endeavor to analyze, review and weigh the different salt softeners available. Through detailed descriptions of not only the products but also the maintenance and upkeep and there is to know about the various salts. Mortons is a brand that has stamped its authority on research and has on their team specialists, water treatment engineers and professionals who are doing stellar work. Their softener salt range is easily the best salt for water softener systems. KCL salt is another with tremendous potential as people are now very conscious about sodium intake and the health perils attached to excess sodium consumption.
We hope to have educated you sufficiently so that when you make a choice of what softener system to install, it will be a well-informed decision.
1. Why do I need to soften my water?
Hard water is not unhealthy per se. It is a bother both from scale buildup to irritable cosmetic nightmares; frazzled hair, a bath that leaves you unrefreshed; the list is unending. It is healthier in plain speak.
2. Is it safe drinking softened water?
Yes, soft water is very safe for consumption. It contains essentials minerals for well-being. There is some evidence that people find the taste a bit bland. The safe limit is pegged at 200mg/liter of sodium in the water you drink the upper limit not exceeding 300mg/liter. Hard water can have considerably higher limits. A low sodium diet is always advisable. Soft water is not suitable for infant milk formulations as the sodium content is considered high for them.
3. What proportion of salt is present in sodium chloride water softener salt?
Depending on the type you opt for; rock, evaporated or solar salt, it can vary from 98 to 99 % sodium chloride.
4. Is using salt that is food-grade recommended for water softeners?
Technically you can but it is not advisable. This is because salt that is food grade, also commonly called table salt, contains impurities and has a smaller crystal size than in salt used in water softening plants. This will end up with mushing in the brine tank.
5. How can you tell if your water softener needs salt?
Open the top cover of the tank and take a peek inside. If it is less than half full and the salt looks dry, fill the tank till it is slightly over half full. Salt that appears wet or if the water level is just above the salt, half fill the tank.
6. Can I mix several varieties of salts in my water softener?
Yes, you can. There is no harm in that. All classes of water softening salts work well together. However, rock salt should not be mixed with evaporated salt or a sodium-based salt with one containing potassium. This could clog the reservoir. It is best for one to be depleted before you add a different type of water softener salt.
7. For the optimal use of salt, what should be the setting on the water softener?
To do this correctly, you will first have to measure the hardness of the water. Test strips are available at your local home store or the information can be obtained from the Local Municipality for your area. The unit of hardness is GPG, which ranges from 0-35. Choose the obtained setting as the optimal.
8. What is to be done if discolored water is a result?
A common cause of brown water from your tap is a build-up of sediment, minerals, and rust in the water mains. If for some reason there is an increased flow rate in the line, it stirs up the sediment. Also, the brine holding tank should be inspected. If you find the brine dirty, a common cause is rock salt or parts of the water softener leaking.
9. In spite of utilizing a softener, a rotten egg smell persists in my water. Why?
This is caused by sulfur bacteria which has formed hydrogen sulfide, hence the rotten egg smell. The remedy is to have the tank cleaned thoroughly.
10. What to do about salt bridges forming in the tank?
Water softening salt blocks are a fail-safe bet here. Both ‘mushing’ and ‘bridging’ are done away with.
11. Fifty lbs of salt at one go is excessive for me. Are any small-sized bags that are available?
Many manufacturers offer small packs. For example, Impresa water softener salts come in 4.3 lb packs. Many others offer 40 lb packs.
12. Do sodium or potassium ions really have a noticeable taste?
This is a common misconception. The regeneration process that occurs in the softening is an electrical exchange of ions adding a very minute amount of sodium to the water. Your taste buds won’t find anything amiss.
13. What if I don’t add salt for some time?
If you have not replenished the salt in your tank, you bear the risk of running out of soft water. Salt mushing is the result. This happens when dissolved salt forms a sludge at the bottom of the tank after recrystallizing. It will be readily apparent by water spots appearing on glass surfaces and hard water has a metallic taste to it. To put it in short things will get messier for you.
14. What if no salt is used at all?
There are water softening systems that are non-salt based. Of course, they have their own positives and negatives but will get the job done. But do install a system. Not only will it affect your daily life but pipelines and such will slowly start rusting with serious consequences.