A Detailed Guide For Buying The Best Salt Pellets For Water Softener

Hard water is no longer uncommon as it seems to have seeped into the water supply across the country. Households are experiencing the consequences of hard water in their daily lives. They notice increasing wear and tear of household appliances, including washing machines, water heaters, and their plumbing systems. Moreover, their kitchenware and glassware also show signs of hard water with white or grey spots. Taps, showerheads, faucets, and other bathroom fixtures show scale build-up and have lost their shine. Sadly, the impact of hard water doesn’t stop there. Our skin becomes dry and itchy because of the soapy residue after a bath or a shower. Hair has lost its luster and feels brittle. 

While hard water is not known to cause ill health, it is certainly something that needs to be fixed. 

Some regions experience more hardness levels than others. Irrespective of the difference, the water quality can do with a few improvements. With hard minerals such as calcium and magnesium entering the water, they hasten the breakdown of appliances and plumbing systems with limescale. There is no telling if the quantities of hard minerals will increase in the years to come. But, by then, you will be looking to save your household appliances from further damage and to keep the impact of hard water on your body to a minimum. 

The above reasons are why water softeners are in such demand. Almost all households have gone looking for ways to soften water and are scouring the marketplace to find the one system that will suit their water softening needs. The increasing demand has brought in more suppliers than ever before, and the market is filled with manufacturers selling new and advanced water softeners. 

There are two types of water softeners – salt-based and salt-free. 

Water Softener Types

Salt-based water softeners use sodium ions to swap with the hard mineral ions and remove the minerals from your water. It uses an ion exchange process through a polymer resin bed. The resin beads trap the hard minerals and swap them with sodium ions, thereby softening the water. 

In contrast, salt-free water softeners use potassium to transform the minerals. Crystalizing the hard minerals with potassium ensures that the hard minerals are altered and cannot stick to surfaces and precipitate scale build-up.

The important thing to remember here is that the hard minerals are not removed, only changed. Therefore, salt-free systems are, in effect, water conditioners and not softeners. 

For the purpose of this informative guide on the best salt pellets in water softeners, we will focus on the different types of salt, factors you should consider before buying the necessary salt, and a shortlist of the best salt pellets available today. But, first, let us understand the difference between salt pellets, cubes, and crystals.

💧 100% water soluble💧

Diamond Crystal Bright and Soft Water Softener

Product Dimensions: ‎3.5″L x 15″W x 22 “H
Size: 
40 lbs
Item Weight: 40 Pounds
Salt: Pure sodium chloride
.

💧 Phosphate free-salt 💧

Morton Morton-40D System Water Softener

Product Dimensions: 18.0″ L x 16.0″ W x 10.0″ H
Size: 50 lbs
Item Weight: 50 Pounds
Salt: Pure sodium chloride

💧 Prevents rust stains 💧

Diamond Crystal Iron Fighter Pellets Bag 40 Lb

Product Dimensions: 4″L x 16″W x 24″H
Size: 40 lbs
Item Weight: 40 Pounds
Salt: Remove iron from water.

What is the difference between salt pellets and crystals?

salt pellets vs crystals

For the salt-based water softener to work, you need to add some form of salt to the brine tank as that is the catalyst that prevents scaling on our appliances and fixtures. But, the form of salt can vary between pellets, cubes, and crystals. 

Water softener pellets are made of smaller salt granules and compacted to form a pellet or cube. The only difference between a pellet and a cube is in their shape. The former is rectangular and looks like a tiny pillow. The latter is cube-shaped. When the small granules are compacted, they become less susceptible to forming a salt bridge in the tank. 

Water softener crystals are made out of evaporated saltwater. Thanks to the sun and wind, the water around shallow outdoor ponds evaporates and leaves a layer of natural salt crystals. 

While salt pellets and crystals can be used interchangeably in water softeners, it is still best to read the user’s manual from the manufacturers to ensure that you have got the right type of salt for your unit.

While both work to soften water, salt pellets are usually preferred. That is because there are considered more convenient in the long run. Additionally, the crystals will work well enough if you have a two-part water softener or low water usage. On the other hand, pellets are more suitable for an all-in-one water softening unit.  

Crystals also have calcium sulfate that does not dissolve in water. It settles in the brine tank and forms sediment during regeneration. It takes less time and effort to process coarse rock salt than to make salt pellets. Therefore salt crystals are less expensive. 

Salt pellets are considered the purest form of salt. It is also the most expensive first to convert raw salt crystals to sodium chloride. It is then heated to remove excess moisture. Salt pellets are the better choice as they prevent salt bridging in the brine tank. 

Now that we know the basic differences between salt crystals and pellets, there are a few factors to keep in mind before buying the right salt for your unit.

4 Factors To Consider Before Buying Water Softer Pellets:

Water softeners require refilling their brine tanks with salt periodically so they can continue to soften water through the process of ion exchange. Salt is an affordable commodity that you can purchase easily, but the quality of salt you use can impact the performance of your water softener and water quality. In order to keep your water softener running at peak efficiency, you should consider these factors before buying salt pellets.

Type of salt

Salt comes in different forms, all with varying levels of quality. Before buying salt pellets for your water softener, you should be aware of the different types of salt.

Solar salt
diamond crystals

Solar sea salt is formed by evaporating seawater. This type of salt is more soluble and cheaper than others and has the most impurities. 

Salt crystals
morton crystals

Salt crystals are formed when water evaporation leaves behind sodium chloride deposits. This type of salt is prone to bridging and is better suited for smaller households and low water usage. Families using a two-part water softening unit will find salt crystals effective enough. 

Rock salt
rock salt to soften water

Rock salt consists of irregularly shaped salt pieces. This type of salt contains more amounts of calcium sulfate that cause it to dissolve poorly. This may cause residue in your brine tank that will have to be cleaned regularly.

Evaporated salt pellets
Morton Clean And Protect Salt Pellets

Evaporated salt pellets are salt crystals that have been refined into pure sodium chloride. This type of salt is nearly free from impurities and works best for your water softener. While this type of salt may be more expensive, it is of superior quality making it worth the cost. 

Purity

Salt often has impurities that compromise its quality. Water softeners use pure sodium chloride to operate. Salt that has other minerals mixed in can lead to your water softener being less efficient. The higher the purity of salt, the better it will work for your machine. Salts that are over 99.5% pure are favored for use in water softeners.

Water hardness

The type of salt you use should be determined by how hard the water is. Households with extremely hard water should opt for evaporated salt pellets for greater efficiency. Homes with softer water can use cheaper salt with less consequence. The amount of salt you use depends on water hardness as well.

Extremely hard water requires more salt to soften. High-quality salt can allow you to get the most out of each load of salt if your water is very hard. The type of salt you get for your water softener should match the hardness of the water supply.

Maintenance

The most regular maintenance you conduct on your water softener is refilling the brine tank. The quality of salt you use in your water softener will make an impact on its performance. Poor quality salt can cause an issue called bridging, where salt hardens and forms a crust in your brine tank. This causes the water flow to be disrupted and decreases your water softener’s performance.

High-quality salt will cause fewer maintenance problems for your water softener. Maintenance is an essential factor to consider before considering which salt pellet you should get for your water softener.

List of 5 best salt pellets for your water softener

1. Diamond crystal bright and soft salt pellets

Diamond Salt Pellets

Diamond crystal provides a specially formulated salt pellet that can reduce mushing and bridging in your water softener’s brine tank. They are high-quality products that contain very few impurities.

You are guaranteed 99.8% pure salt that will work with any salt-based water softener. Diamond crystal provides a patented bag that weighs forty pounds with two handles to make transporting the salt pellets easier.

Pros

  1. Diamond crystal’s salt pellets are of high-quality salt and free from impurities.
  2. They are specially formulated with anti-mushing properties.
  3. They come in a patented two-handle carry bag making it easy to lift or carry.
  4. One bag will last several regeneration cycles.

Cons

  1. More expensive than other salt pellets.

2. Morton 40D System water softener salt pellets – Runner-up

Morton Clean And Protect Salt Pellets

Morton offers an enormous fifty-pound bag of salt pellets. Their product guarantees no build-up and easier cleaning. These salt pellets can work in any salt-based water softener. You are guaranteed a high-quality product with minimal impurities.

Pros

  1. The Morton’s 40D System saver has high-quality salt pellets.
  2. It is known to have minimal impurities.
  3. They prevent salt bridging and mushing.
  4. It is made in the U.S.A. and is long-lasting.

Cons

  1. Morton’s 40D System saver is more expensive than other options.
  2. It is difficult to order online due to the weight of the product.

3. Morton Rust-40 salt pellets – A budget-friendly option

Morton iron removal salt pellets

Morton tweaks their formula in this product to cater to houses with high amounts of iron in their water. Their specially formulated salt pellets can remove up to fifteen times more iron than plain salt.

Rust stains in your infrastructure and appliances are reduced as an added benefit to softened water. This forty-pound bag offered by Morton is essential for households that use well water or have a lot of metal contaminants in their water source.

Pros

  1. Morton’s Rust-40 salt pellets are of superior quality with minimal impurities. 
  2. It can help remove iron and reduce rusting.
  3. It prevents bridging and mushing.
  4. It is long-lasting.
  5. It is budget-friendly

Cons

  1. It may come in a 40-pound bag only, making it difficult to order online due to the product’s weight

4. Diamond Crystal Iron Fighter Pellets Bag 40 Lb.

Diamond Crystal Iron Fighter

Diamond Crystal’s ‘iron fighter’ line of salt pellets also has additional benefits. Their specially formulated salt pellets handles iron in the water and stops the staining/obstruction of appliance.

Along with softened water, rust stains in your infrastructure and appliances are reduced. This forty-pound bag offered by Morton is essential for households that use well water or have a lot of metal contaminants in their water.

Pros

  1. Diamond Crystal’s ‘Iron Fighter’ salt pellets are of high quality.
  2. They prevent bridging and mushing.
  3. They remove iron from water.
  4. Appliance manufacturers recommend these salt pellets.

Cons

  1. Two – four bags will be required each month.

5. Morton potassium chloride pellets

Potassium Chloride salt pellets

Morton has an alternative to sodium chloride in this product. Instead of sodium, water softeners can also use potassium. It has additional benefits as potassium is a mineral that improves health in the human body.

This is particularly useful for people with low sodium tolerance. People on low sodium diets can opt for this product instead of using salt pellets. Morton offers reliable, high-quality potassium chloride pellets that will work well in your water softener.

Pros

  1. Morton potassium chloride pellets are 99% sodium-free. 
  2. It comes with a built-in handle that makes it easy to lift and pour into the water softener. 
  3. It is value for money.

Cons

  1. The water softener may need 2-4 bags every two months. 
  2. It is more expensive than regular salt pellets.

How to use water softener salt pellets?

The use of salt pellets largely depends on the water softening system. It may be added manually, automatically, or adding them only when needed. However, it is essential to ensure that the salt levels don’t run lower than the water in the tank.

While you can change the type of salt, it is still good to know that different types have different impacts on water softeners. But, mixing different types at the same time is not a good idea. 

You would need to check the user manual of the water softener to know the right way of using salt pellets in the unit. 

How often to refill salt in water softener?

Generally, a bag of salt pellets needs to be added every month. However, you must monitor the brine tank regularly to check the salt usage and adjust the quantity accordingly. There are a few points to consider to know when to refill the brine tank. For instance,

  • Water usage in the household
  • Hardness levels of the water
  • Water softener system and user instructions
  • How old is the water softener
  • The size of the brine tank. 

A Scenario: When you don’t put salt in a water softener?

when you dont put salt to water softener

Running the salt-based water softener without the salt would defeat the purpose of softening water. In effect, the water softener will continue to send the water, but it would not be soft water.

You will notice that the water has begun to leave white spots on appliances and other surfaces. You will also see that you are using more soap and shampoo to get enough lather, and you leave your shower with a filmy residue on your skin. Another consequence of running out of salt in the unit is that you will have clogged pipes due to scale build-up. 

Salt pellets are necessary to prepare the brine solution. The role of salt pellets is to wash the mineral deposits off the resin beads.

Therefore, the first thing that will be affected is the resin bed. The resin beads will not absorb the hard minerals and will have no sodium ions to swap to soften the water. 

What are alternatives to salt pellets for water softener?

An alternative to salt pellets is potassium chloride. Potassium crystals are made out of 99.1% pure potassium chloride and contain a lower insoluble content. They work in the same way that salt pellets do and swap hard water minerals with potassium. Potassium crystals are considered a good salt substitute for those that are on a low-sodium diet. 

The Verdict

Our verdict is that the best water softener salt pellets is the Diamond crystal bright and soft salt pellets. It is our top pick because of its superior quality with 99.8% purity. While they may be a little more expensive than other products, they are well worth the cost. They last longer and don’t solidify into salt bridges at the bottom of the brine tank, thereby making it easier to monitor and refill without scraping out the crusted salt in the brine tank. 

The runner-up is the Morton 40D System water softener salt pellets. It also prevents mushing and salt bridging. It is made in the U.S. and works well with any salt-based water softener. 

Morton offers a large fifty-pound bag of salt pellets. Their product guarantees no build-up and easier cleaning. These salt pellets can work in any salt-based water softener. You are guaranteed a high-quality product with minimal impurities.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Is water softener salt edible?

The simple answer is No. While water softener salt is made of sodium chloride, it is not considered safe for consumption. Using water softener salt for cooking or drinking, be it for humans or pets, must be avoided as it may cause stomach upsets. 

2. Does Epsom salt soften water?

Epsom salt can certainly soften water, but only in small quantities. For instance, one or two cups of Epsom salts in the bathtub can help soften the water and make you feel the difference in water quality. But, Epsom salt will not do in a water softening system. 

3. Do salt free water softeners really work?

Salt-free water softeners are misnamed as they are more of a conditioner than a softener. Salt-free water systems cannot use the ion exchange process critical to removing hard minerals. There will be no sodium ions to replace the calcium and magnesium ions without salt, which is the only way to soften water. 

4. Is water softener salt safe for dogs?

Water softener salt’s primary purpose is to soften the water through ion exchange. The salt acts on the resin beads and exchanges sodium ions for the calcium and magnesium that come in the water. While softened water is safe enough for humans and pets alike, the salt used in water softeners is not safe to give our dogs. In fact, it is very harmful, and the water softener salt pellets must be kept out of reach of pets. Even small sodium levels can put elderly dogs, and those with heart or kidney ailments can be risky.

5. Can you use pool salt in water softener?

The DIR water softener measures the water usage, average water hardness and determines when it should regenerate. The DIR water softeners are more efficient because they reduce water and salt usage. It is why DIR water softeners are considered a better choice for septic systems. The amount of water that gets discharged by a DIR is around the same amount of water as a load of laundry.
Moreover, there is no overload of backwash from the softener. The discharged solution has a greater ratio of magnesium and calcium ions to sodium. 

6. Do you need to periodically clean your salt based water softener?

Like any other household appliance, water softeners do need maintenance. And, like any other device, a neglected system will start losing its efficiency over time and gradually stop working altogether. Therefore, a routine check to monitor the salt levels, formation of salt bridges, etc., is critical if you want the water softener to last long and keep up to high-performance levels. There are other concerns due to a poorly maintained water softener. For instance, the water softener will have to work harder to ensure the water pressure is steady and the valves are functioning as they should. 

7. Do potassium chloride water softener salt pellets last longer than salt?

Using potassium chloride means that the water softener will regenerate more frequently than sodium chloride. If your water softener is potassium-based, you may need to set your water hardness levels at 20% more. Potassium chloride also does not work on hard minerals, i.e., it conditions the water instead of softening it. So, they probably can last longer than the salt pellets that work more vigorously to exchange hard minerals for sodium. 

8. Can you use water softener salt pellets on ice?

There are several ways to melt ice, especially during the winter months when the roads need to be cleared of ice. Some people use sand to prevent slipping on the ice. Others use table salt. However, table salt is not eco-friendly because large quantities of salt get washed into water bodies once the ice melts. Some use rock salt, although it is a more expensive option and not as easy to come by. These methods are to protect you and not to remove the ice. Yes, you can use water softener salt pellets on ice, and it has become a common practice in winter. Plus, they are cheaper. 

Conclusion

Most households indeed feel the need to have a water softener installed in their homes because of high hardness levels in their water. The only question is which water softener to buy – should it be salt-based water softeners or should it be salt-free water conditioners. If you are looking to remove the hard minerals from the water, you will go for the salt-based water softening system. Then comes the question of the type of salt to use in your water softener to ensure a steady supply of softened water. 

Now that you have all the pertinent information about different types of salt and a list of the most popular ones in the market, choosing one of them should be easy. 

About The Author

Our Web Producer

Judith— a passionate water treatment specialist — is a waste water management enthusiast, clean drinking water advocate, and someone with deep personal experience and knowledge about various water equipments. Her work was mentioned in countless notable water associations. Previously she was an editor at Water Alliance.