Home Up Water Basics Softener Basics Hard Water Basics Hard Water Sources

 

Frequently Asked Questions

About Water Conditioning

 

 

Can salt enter my drinking water?

 

What is mushing and why should I avoid it?

What is bridging?

How often should I add salt to my softener?

What is the difference between the types of water softener salt I see in the store?

Should I use pellets or solar salt?

Rock salt is less expensive in the store. Will it work in my softener?

The salt in my softener has formed one large mass. What should I do?

I have a cabinet softener and use solar salt. It sticks together and sometimes I have to knock it down with a stick. Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening?

Should I clean out my brine tank?

What type of salt should I buy for my softener?

I'm finding some little black specks in my solar salt. Will it hurt my softener?

The pellets I'm buying look slightly discolored compared to others I've gotten in the past. Are they dirty?

Can I use blocks in my softener?

My water smells like rotten eggs. Is there a type of salt I can use to remove it?

My salt doesn't dissolve, what should I do?

The salt dissolves too fast in my softener. Why?

I've put salt in my softener but I still don't have soft water. What's wrong?

Recently I changed types of salt, and now my laundry isn't as clean?

How do I know if I need to replace the resin in my softener?

I have brown/black sludge/oily substance in my softener's brine tank. Is it from the salt?

Will brine from my softener hurt my septic system?

Can I discharge the brine from my softener on my lawn?

Can I use water softening salt in my ice cream freezer?

Can you use softener salt with food, such as canning or with meat packing?

Is it harmful to mix different kinds of salt in the softener?

When filling the water softener tank, should the water level be above or below the salt level?

Other than keeping the salt level at half, is there any other good rule of thumb to use as far as filling the softener is concerned?

Can the water softener salt be used to make bath salts?

Is the water softener salt in any way harmful to animals?

Are there any chemicals in salt?

Can I put softener salt directly into my well or cistern and get soft water?

How much sodium do I get from softened water?

 

Can salt enter my drinking water?   BACK TO THE TOP

No. Salt's sole purpose in your water softener is to regenerate the resin beads that actually take the hardness out of your water. This exchange does not make your water taste salty or significantly increase your sodium intake.

What is mushing and why should I avoid it? 

Occasionally, if you use salt pellets or cube-style salt which are too loosely compacted, they may revert to tiny crystals of evaporated salt - similar to table salt. These crystals may bond, creating a thick mass in your brine tank. This mushing may interrupt brine production - the key element for refreshing the resin beads in your softener. Without brine, your softener can't produce soft water.

What is bridging?  BACK TO THE TOP

Bridging is a condition that sometimes occurs in the brine tank when salt sticks together forming a "bridge" that prohibits it from coming into contact with the water in the tank. You can eliminate bridging by using a 100% water soluble pellet product in your brine tank.

How often should I add salt to my softener? BACK TO THE TOP

The more often you regenerate, the more often you'll need to add salt. A good general rule of thumb is to check your softener once a month. To maintain consistently soft water, keep your salt level at least half-full at all times, but do not overfill.

What is the difference between the types of water softener salt I see in the store?  BACK TO THE TOP

Three types of salt are generally encountered in the retail store: rock salt, solar salt (crystals) and evaporated salt (pellets).

  1. Rock salt is a naturally occurring mineral which is obtained from underground salt deposits by traditional mining methods. It exhibits a variable chemical purity, running from 98% to 99% sodium chloride. It has a water insoluble level of about 0.5% to 1.5%, the chief component of which is an impurity called calcium sulfate.
  2. Solar salt is a natural product obtained through the evaporation of seawater or inland brine sources. It has a sodium chloride content of 99.5% or higher, and a water insolubles level of less than 0.03%. It is most commonly sold in a crystal form, but also may be sold in the form of compressed pellets or blocks.
  3. Evaporated salt is manufactured by solution mining underground bedded salt deposits of dissolving salt to form a brine and then evaporating the moisture using energy in the form of natural gas or coal. Evaporated salt (in the form of compacted pellets, sheeted salt - called cubes, or blocks) has a sodium chloride content ranging from 99.6% to 99.99%. Water insoluble matter generally is less than 0.01%.

Should I use pellets or solar salt?  BACK TO THE TOP

Since solar salt contains slightly more water insoluable matter than (evaporated salt) pellets, consideration should be given to salt usage, softener cleanout frequency and softener design. If salt usage is light one could probably use the products interchangeably. If salt usage is heavy, insoluables will build up faster when using solar salt, and the need to more frequently clean the brine tank/reservoir will be increased. Brine tank cleanout can be a messy task.

Rock salt is less expensive in the store. Will it work in my softener?  BACK TO THE TOP

Rock salt will work in a softener; however, because of the relatively high level of water insoluble matter present in rock salt, it is recommended for use only if the consumer is willing to perform routine brine tank cleanout. For the average home softener this can be required 2 to 3 times per year.

The salt in my softener has formed one large mass. What should I do?  BACK TO THE TOP

This condition, known as "bridging" or "mushing" will require manual break up of the salt mass to facilitate brine flow. A handy person can probably accomplish this task, but alternatively, a service call may be arranged through a water conditioning dealer.

I have a cabinet softener and use solar salt. It sticks together and sometimes I have to knock it down with a stick. Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening?   BACK TO THE TOP

If this condition presents itself with some frequency, you may reduce the tendency by limiting the amount of salt added to the "salt-keeper" (e.g. if currently adding four 40 lb. bags, reduce to two bags).e to their larger particle size.

Should I clean out my brine tank?  BACK TO THE TOP

Unless the salt product being used is high in water-insoluble matter, or there is a serious malfunction of some sort (e.g. bridging), it is usually not necessary to clean out the brine tank. Some individuals choose to allow all of the salt to dissolve in their softener unit once per year so it can be visually inspected to insure no build-up has occurred. If there is a build-up, it should be cleaned out to prevent softener malfunction. However, an annual inspection is not mandatory.

What type of salt should I buy for my softener?   BACK TO THE TOP

The type of salt best suited to a particular softener will vary in accord with softener design. Usually, cabinet-style self-contained softeners require salt that is low in water-insoluble matter, while side-by-side units with separate salt holding tanks are easier to clean and therefore allow more flexibility in choosing a salt product. Usually, however, we recommend Morton Solar Salt.

I'm finding some little black specks in my solar salt. Will it hurt my softener?  BACK TO THE TOP

No, solar salt is a natural product made by evaporating seawater. It is harvested much like an agricultural crop and consequently may contain minute inclusions such as earth, small pebbles, and other naturally occurring materials.

Since these inclusions are of a different density than the brine in the bottom of the salt keeper, they are generally left behind in the salt keeper. Lighter density materials, should they accompany the salt brine during regenerations, are usually flushed from the resin during the rinse cycle which follows regeneration.

The pellets I'm buying look slightly discolored compared to others I've gotten in the past. Are they dirty?

Pellets may be made from compacted evaporated salt or compacted solar salt. The latter product is usually slightly darker in color.

Can I use blocks in my softener?   BACK TO THE TOP

Normally, blocks are used in specially designed salt holding tanks. For proper operation, the water level in the holding tank is raised to keep the blocks submerged for maximum brine formation.

>My water smells like rotten eggs. Is there a type of salt I can use to remove it?  BACK TO THE TOP

The smell of rotten eggs is generally associated with hydrogen sulfide gas that may be present in the water supply. Salt does not remove this odor or the gas. You must take other steps to remove the gas.

My salt doesn't dissolve, what should I do?  BACK TO THE TOP

Check the salt at the water level to see if a solid mass has developed (called a "bridge"), or if fine "mushy" salt is lying at the bottom of the tank (called mushing). If a bridge, carefully break up the mass to allow it to drop into the water below. If mushing, remove the good pellets, scoop out the "mushed" salt, and reload the good pellets.

If the salt keeper was empty at the time of fresh salt addition, check the water level in the tank. If lower than normal, the float may be stuck in the internal side column. Remove the cover and check the mechanism to determine if it is working freely. If not, call the service department of the water softener manufacturer and arrange for a service call.

The salt dissolves too fast in my softener. Why?   BACK TO THE TOP

This question often accompanies a switch from one type of water softening salt to another, e.g. going from pellets to solar. What you are seeing perhaps is related to a difference in bulk density between the two products. The closer the crystals pack together, the less volume they occupy. This would give rise to the perception that the salt is dissolving too fast. In addition, if the initial water level in your unit was set to use pellets, it may be too high to use solar salt (i.e. too much water in the tank dissolves more salt) and may need to be lowered. Follow your softener manufacturer's instructions.

In reality, salt can only dissolve to the extent that it produces a saturated brine (26.4% by weight). It doesn't matter what salt is used. When the brine is saturated with respect to salt, no more can dissolve. Therefore, even though appearances may suggest otherwise, salt usage is the same regardless of the salt product type or form that is used.

I've put salt in my softener but I still don't have soft water. What's wrong?  BACK TO THE TOP

It could be that the salt had too little residence time, i.e. the salt was dumped into the salt keeper and the softener regeneration cycle initiated immediately. It could also be the result of a softener malfunction or possibly salt bridging or mushing which reduces or eliminates brine formation.

Recently I changed types of salt and now my laundry isn't as clean.   BACK TO THE TOP

Unless the softener had a malfunction, or the salt has bridged or mushed and the ion-exchange resin has not been regenerated, there is nothing associated with the change that would reduce laundering capability.

How do I know if I need to replace the resin in my softener?  BACK TO THE TOP

When seemingly all other avenues such as problems with the salt being used and/or basic mechanical malfunctions of the softener components are exhausted and the water is still not soft enough, it may be time to consider replacing the resin, or the softener.

I have brown/black sludge/oily substance in my softener's brine tank. Is it from the salt?   BACK TO THE TOP

Over time, water-insoluble matter from salt or the water supply may accumulate in the salt holding tank. This water-insoluble matter may have the appearance of a brown or black sludge or appear oily. It is usually the result of natural mineral inclusions contained in the salt, and is generally inorganic in nature.

Will brine from my softener hurt my septic system?  BACK TO THE TOP

Studies performed by the Water Quality Association indicate that a properly placed septic tank with an adequate septic field is in no way impaired in operation by brine discharged from a water softener. This is primarily due to dilution factors and septic field drainage.

Can I discharge the brine from my softener on my lawn?   BACK TO THE TOP

Direct discharge of either sodium or potassium chloride brine should be avoided. Brine alters the osmotic pressure that grasses (plants) rely upon to regulate water needs. Imbalance in water supply will result in browning and eventually destruction of the grass. A diluted brine ratio of 20:1 may be used.

Can I use water softening salt in my ice cream freezer?  BACK TO THE TOP

Salt lowers the freezing point of water making it possible to achieve below freezing temperature when applied to ice. Any type of salt, including table salt, may be used for this purpose. Since the salt will eventually melt the ice, coarse salt would be preferred because it dissolves more slowly. Rock or solar water softening salt tends to be coarse and will work well for this purpose.

Can you use softener salt with food, such as canning or with meat packing?

Although water softener pellets may be made from food grade salt, the pellet press process, itself, does not meet the criteria required to call the finished pellets "food grade". Therefore, direct application of pellets in food processing is not recommended. Other water softening salt products like solar salt, rock salt and brine blocks are not recommended for food application for the same reason.

Is it harmful to mix different kinds of salt in the softener? BACK TO THE TOP

Generally speaking, no; however, certain water softeners are designed for specific water softener products and may not function as well using alternative products. For example, use of rock salt in a cabinet model softener is not recommended because this type of softener is not easily cleaned and rock salt leaves a residue of insoluble matter. It can also bridge. Mixing of coarse and fine products (for example pellets and rock salt) is not recommended as bridging could also result from this practice. It is recommended that you allow your unit to go empty (or nearly empty) of one type of salt before adding another to avoid these problems.

When filling the water softener tank, should the water level be above or below the salt level?  

The water level should be set according to your owners manual or at your water conditioning technician's recommendation. The salt level should be maintained a minimum of 3 to 4 inches above the water level, unless otherwise directed by the owners manual or water conditioner technician.

Other than keeping the salt level at half, is there any other good rule of thumb to use as far as filling the softener is concerned?  BACK TO THE TOP

Loosen any encrusted salt that may be adhering to the perimeter of the salt keeper, making sure that any large pieces are broken up. Distribute the salt evenly across the salt keeper. Make sure water level is appropriate for optimum operation.

Can the water softener salt be used to make bath salts?   BACK TO THE TOP

Only solar salt would be recommended. Optimum sizing of salt is 'medium' in gradation. Most solar salt used for water softening is coarse or extra coarse, which is larger in gradation.

Is the water softener salt in any way harmful to animals?  BACK TO THE TOP

As with food considerations, water softening salts are not intended for human or animal feeding. The particle size is inappropriate for small animals. In addition, water softening salt may have additives that are inappropriate for animal feeds.

Are there any chemicals in salt?   BACK TO THE TOP

Some of our products contain additives (primarily to keep it from getting hard or to iodize it) and others do not. Please refer to the product packaging or request a technical data sheet.

Can I put softener salt directly into my well or cistern and get soft water?  BACK TO THE TOP

No, to soften water, you need a water softener. The salt used in the brine tank of a water softener does not directly soften the water, but is used to regenerate the resin beads in your water softener. These actually soften the water from your well by removing the hard water ions, calcium, magnesium and iron.

How much sodium do I get from softened water?   BACK TO THE TOP

It depends on the hardness of your water, but on average less than 3% of your sodium intake comes from drinking softened water. It is estimated that the average person consumes the equivalent of two to three teaspoons of salt a day from various sources. Assuming a daily intake of 5 grams (5000 milligrams) of sodium in food and the consumption of three quarts of water (i.e., coffee, tea, fruit juices, and drinking water), the contribution of sodium (Na+) in the water from the home water softening process is minimal compared to the total daily intake of many sodium-rich foods. The formula for calculating the amount of additional sodium follows: mg of Na / quart of softened water = grains of hardness X 7.5 mg Na / grain of hardness