If you’re new to having a water softener system, you may be wondering: How much salt in water softener is enough? It’s a common question to have that can lead to you making common mistakes if answered incorrectly.
Read on to find out the correct answer, as well as how to avoid five common mistakes when it comes to salt in your water softener.
How does the brine tank work?
Before we move on to the main topic of this discussion, it’s important that you know how the brine tank of water softeners works.
All water softening systems come with a separate brine tank that sits next to the mineral/resin tank. The continuous ion exchange process done in the mineral tank won’t be possible without the brine tank.
To break it down, the brine tank holds the brine solution, which is a highly concentrated solution of salt (sometimes substituted with potassium chloride). To create the solution, the water softener salt is added to the brine tank, where it mixes and then dissolves in the water at the bottom of the brine tank.
Once a regeneration cycle is triggered, the salt solution from the brine tank flows to the resin bed. This then replaces the ions of hardness minerals with sodium ions to “regenerate” the exhausted resin beads. In doing so, the ion exchange process can continue as normal.
When the brine tank runs out of salt, the regeneration cycle will be disrupted. To avoid this, more salt needs to be placed inside the brine tank. Otherwise, the regeneration process will fail and the water flowing in the softener system will no longer be softened.
How much water softener salt should be in your brine tank?
It would be best if you kept water softener salt levels at one-quarter full at all times and about six inches below the tank’s rim. The salt is always several inches above the water (which is often never 12 inches high). This is the general rule when it comes to the salt level in brine tanks. Doing this will ensure maximum efficiency for your brine tank and softening system.
Following this rule on how much salt the brine tank should have will also help you avoid these common mistakes:
Mistake #1: Putting Too Much (or Too Little) Salt In Your Brine Tank
Not putting the right amount of salt in the brine tank of water softeners can lead to multiple problems.
When you put too much salt, this can cause salt to bridge. Salt bridges appear as a hard crust or a single solid mass over the water in the brine tank. If the salt bridge is not removed, the water entering the bottom of your brine tank can’t reach the salt. Without salt to dissolve, brine won’t be made, and if there’s no brine, the resin bed of your water softener won’t be regenerated. This will result in hard water.
When you put too little salt, your softening system can’t make a brine solution. After all, it is a concentrated solution of salt (meaning there’s a lot more salt than water). And as you know by now, without this salt solution, your water softener system can’t soften water.
So, make sure the salt level in your brine tank is always just enough.
Mistake #2: Adding The New Salt Without Loosening Up The Previous Salt
You shouldn’t just willy-nilly add salt to the tank whenever the salt level is low. If you do, you’ll be losing out on efficiency or worse, make it so your water softening unit can no longer soften water.
Before adding salt to the tank, make sure you loosen up the remaining salt from the previous refill. Encrusted salt can stick to the edges of the tank, while some salt can form large blocks that can lead to salt bridging.
If you find yourself faced with a salt bridge, pour hot water over it. This will dissolve the salt and make it easier to remove. You can also use a broom handle to break up the hardened salt.
How much water softener salt should your softening system use?
Water softener salt usage will depend on your household’s water usage and the size of your water softening system. If you have the right system size installed, the water softener unit will consume around ten pounds of salt a week, coming at around 40 to 50 pounds of salt per month.
To ensure you always have enough salt in the tank, check the water level and salt level on a monthly basis.
Mistake #3: Having The Wrong Size Water Softener Installed
Having the wrong size water softener installed can have you spending a lot more than you would have if you calculated correctly. Your household’s salt usage and daily soft water requirement are just two of the affected matters by the size of a water softener. This is true for either getting a size smaller or a size bigger than what you require.
If you get a size smaller than what you need, your water softener will be going through the regeneration cycle a lot more often. This means your softener will go through a lot more salt in a short amount of time, as the resin beads will exhaust faster. Your water bill will also be affected by the regular regeneration cycles.
If you get a size bigger than what you need, you’ll be shelling out a lot more money. Bigger capacity water softeners will cost more. While you will have decreased salt usage and water usage, an oversized water softener still won’t be saving money.
The ideal scenario is getting the right water softener size. You’ll go through regeneration cycles at a normal pace, achieve maximum salt efficiency, have minimal to moderate water waste, and have a constant supply of soft water.
How often should you clean your brine tank?
Recommendations from manufacturers may vary, but in general, brine tanks only need to be deep cleaned once a year. Using the right type of water softener salt and regularly checking for salt bridging are important steps to take to make sure you won’t be needing to deep clean more often.
Mistake #4: Deep Cleaning Your Brine Tank Too Often (Or Not Often Enough)
Deep cleaning the brine tank of water softeners involves using a disinfecting solution (diluted bleach).
Cleaning your tank too often can risk having excess bleach flowing throughout your water softening system and in your drinking water.
Not cleaning your tank often enough can risk having bacterial contamination linger in the brine tank. Salt bridging and encrusted salt can go unnoticed until they build up enough to prevent the water softening process.
So, make sure to go through with every scheduled deep cleaning for your water softener brine tank. For more information, check out our previous post for step-by-step instructions on how to clean the brine tank.
What type of salt should your water softener system use?
Water softeners come in a range of sizes and each size will require a specific type of salt (e.g., salt crystals, salt pellets, salt cubes, and salt blocks). If you’re unsure as to what specific type your unit needs, contact the manufacturer.
Once you’re certain about the type of salt you’ll need, make sure to use high-quality salt for your softener system.
Mistake #5: Using The Wrong Type Of Salt For Your Water Softener
In an effort to save money, we can fall into the trap of using cheap salt for water softeners. Cheap salt can get expensive real fast as it contributes to the decline of your unit. Your unit will have constant clogs, softening inefficiency, and motor malfunctions.
Knowing that, opt for high-quality salt. By that, we mean purchasing the purest salt available to you. Check the label of the water softener salt you’ll purchase. As a rough guide, here’s a list of the salt you can choose from, starting from the purest:
- Evaporated Salt Pellets (99.7% to 99.99% purity)
- Solar Salt (99.6% to 99.8% purity)
- Rock Salt (95% to 98.5% purity)
Some water softener owners prefer to use potassium chloride pellets over sodium chloride for a number of reasons. Those watching their sodium intake will benefit from this salt substitute. But for most healthy people, the amount of salt in the water is negligible.
Potassium chloride also has the disadvantage of not truly softening water. It’s best described as a water conditioner since it crystallizes hard water minerals rather than removing them. This will prevent hard water from causing a buildup of calcium sulfate in your pipes and water-using appliances. But you’ll still be consuming and using hard water in your household.
Knowing how much salt you need for your water softener can help put things into perspective. You can use this information to carefully budget money for every bag of salt you’ll need on a monthly basis. This information can also help you identify whether you have the right water softener size installed.
Tons more questions could be swimming in your head when it comes to water softeners. So, make sure to check out all our other useful discussions. From water softeners to water dispensers, we’ve got your back.
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