Best Water Softener Salt for Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin, you have probably already invested in a water softening system since it’s well known that hard water can irritate your skin. Perhaps this has solved your problem.

However, there are those who find that even when they’ve installed a water softener system, their skin continues to be itchy and irritated. If you are reading this article, chances are you are in this group of exceptions.

Your skin may be even more sensitive than most. And perhaps you’ve tried everything to reduce your skin issues to no avail. Perhaps you didn’t know that some water softener salts can actually irritate your sensitive skin?

Even with soft water, you need to know what’s in everything: especially your water softener salt.  

So, you’re looking for the best water softener salts for sensitive skin that won’t irritate your skin and leave you feeling itchy. This article will help you understand the differences between various water softener salt forms and brands as well as why you may have purchased a trusted brand only to still have itchy, irritated skin.

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Water Quality and Sensitive Skin

Hard Water

Hard water, or water containing a high amount of minerals, especially calcium and magnesium, can cause skin irritations.

Hard water causes you to use more soap and detergent, and it doesn’t remove laundry detergent from your clothing as easily, leaving you with clothing that will irritate your skin all day long.

It may cause you to have to use more lotions and creams for your dry, flaky skin, which may further irritate your skin, leading you to buy special, expensive creams and lotions to try and soothe your sensitive skin.

It’s a vicious cycle, that hard water. Not only that, but it’s hard on your pipes, faucets, and appliances like your hot water heater, washing machine, and dishwasher, increasing your water bill and resulting in more maintenance.

Chlorine

Then there’s the chlorine in your water. Chlorine is a known irritant, drying out your skin and hair, burning your eyes, making you itchy, fading and wearing out your clothing, and probably not helping your GI tract either.

Softening your water should definitely help your sensitive skin. However, you’ll need to remove the chlorine to reduce the dryness, flaking and itching. Ensure you’ve got a whole home water treatment system installed in addition to your water softener to drastically improve the condition of your skin.

Other Factors

Your water may also contain iron (rust), sediment, or other factors that can irritate your skin. If you have sensitive skin and you’re on a mission to find and reduce all irritants, it would be best to test your water hardness and quality to see what you’re dealing with.

Theories: Why Your Water Softener Isn’t Helping Your Skin

So you have sensitive skin, and you’ve installed a water softener, hoping it will solve your skin issues. But it doesn’t, or maybe not as well as you had hoped. Don’t give up yet! Here are some theories on what could be happening.

The “soap scum barrier” theory

This one seems a bit far-fetched, but one suggestion that surfaces on the internet is that when you first install a water softener, your body has a build-up of soap scum.

But because soft water helps soap work better, the soft water removes the soap scum from your skin and pores which actually acted as a barrier to chlorine absorption by your skin.

This then leads to higher chlorine absorption by your skin, irritating it and making it itchy. The other theories seem much more likely.

The chlorine theory

This one isn’t a theory, it’s fact. However, some people’s skin is more sensitive to chlorine than others’. If your skin is sensitive to chlorine, it might be best to install a whole-house carbon filter as well since although a water softener will remove hard water minerals, it won’t remove chlorine.  

The “water quality” theory

Okay, so there might be other things in your water irritating your skin besides hard water minerals and chlorine. If you’ve done a water test and you’ve treated your water accordingly, then you can rule this one out.

The “secret additives” theory

This is the secret, the hidden gem of this article. What many people don’t realize, and what some companies fail to disclose or acknowledge (although some do), is that additives in water softener salt could be irritating your skin.

What?! Additives? What for? Well, salt has this annoying capacity to cause mushing or bridging in your water softener.

Mushing is when the salt crystals break down into a mush that doesn’t dissolve. This can clog up the screen in your water intake valve and coat the bottom and will require cleaning out probably more frequently than you would like.

Bridging is when a hard crust layer of salt forms above the water and prevents salt from dropping down into the water and dissolving. This can be broken up, but if it goes unnoticed, then you won’t have very soft water.

So, some water softener salts contain very small amounts of flow agents and detergents or surfactants such as sodium hexametaphosphate. This provides durability for cubes and pellets and helps prevent mushing and bridging which can interfere with the normal function of the water softener.

The problem is that people with sensitive skin and skin problems like eczema are sensitive to detergents. Detergents irritate their skin, which is why they probably have a water softener and special laundry soap in the first place.

So, someone with sensitive skin using a popular brand of water softener salt might be shooting themselves in the foot, inadvertently adding irritants to their water supply.

The Big Question

The question now is: what types of water softener salts contain these additives? Let’s look at the various forms and types of water softener salts to determine which might be best to use and what to look out for.

Type of Salt

There are so many types and forms of salt, it can make your head spin. Which is the best to use? Well, this depends on what your motivation is: natural, environmentally friendly, cheaper, better for sensitive skin, less maintenance, etc. Let’s have a look at the different types and forms with their benefits and potential issues.

Block Salt

Block salt is exactly as the name implies: it comes in large blocks of salt. The blocks are meant to dissolve in the water from the outside in. Blocks are a very affordable type of salt. It does not matter if they’re broken, they can be used just as easily.

However, what many people find is that blocks may stick out of the water, causing it to not dissolve in proper proportions, making it less efficient at softening your water.

With blocks, you would need to monitor your system a little closer to ensure you are continuously getting soft water. As such, most water softening companies do not recommend using block salt, although it is compatible with any brand of water softener.

Rock Salt

Rock salt is a coarse form of salt that looks like little rocks or pebbles. Don’t confuse this form with pellets or cubes.

Rock salt is very natural, and probably less expensive than other forms of salt. However, it likely contains high amounts of calcium sulfate, which doesn’t dissolve very well in the water, meaning you’ll need to clean out your brine tank more often to keep it functioning well. It also may cause a slight sulfur smell.

Solar Salt

Solar salt is salt formed by naturally evaporating sea water by the sun. Solar salt does contain a slightly higher level of impurities (less than one percent generally, usually around 99.6% purity), making crystals slightly less efficient at softening your water, but probably not by any noticeable difference.

The main issue with using crystals is that they can cause bridging and mushing, requiring a higher level of maintenance to break up the salt bridges or clean out the mush that can clog up your softener. These are the issues that pellets and cubes were invented to solve.

Solar salt can be found in crystal form as well as in pellet form. If you can find the pellet form, this will probably cause less maintenance issues in your water softener.  

Evaporated Salt Pellets/Cubes

Water softener salt pellets or cubes are formed by through a boiling or steaming process, screening it for impurities, and then pressing the crystals into shapes to make them more durable. This process actually removes more impurities, making pellets or cubes more efficient than other forms of salt.

Most well-known water softener brands recommend this form of water softener salt because it maintains efficiency, reduces maintenance, and ensures their water softener systems continue to function well.

The issue with most brands of pellets or cubes, especially the most popular brands, is that they may contain small amounts of additives such as detergents or flow agents.

Detergents ensure that the salt works well in hard water. Flow agents reduce caking or the salt, reducing bridging and mushing. These additives are what make these salts work so well and are the reason why they are such highly respected brands.

But some people with sensitive skin, such as those with severe eczema, are sensitive to these additives.

Now the amounts of these detergents and flow agents are so minimal that the salt retains a high level of purity. These additives might not even be listed on the packaging or informational material.

The manufacturers do not believe that such miniscule amounts of such additives should irritate the skin. This might be true for some, but there are always exceptions.

The companies do recommend (either openly on their website or if you speak with a customer service representative) that if your skin does seem to be irritated by their products containing such additives, to try their salts without such additives.

Based on the number of positive reviews these popular brands receive, they are likely correct in saying that the additives don’t bother most people.

However, if you notice your skin reacting, contact the company to ask whether your salt contains additives and whether they offer a salt without additives, or consider one of the products without additives mentioned in this article.  

Potassium Chloride Salt Substitute

While all other water softener salt is sodium chloride, potassium chloride is an alternative water softener salt substitute.

Potassium chloride is 99.9% pure but still contains a miniscule amount of sodium.

Potassium chloride is more expensive than sodium chloride. However, it is a good alternative for those looking to reduce their sodium intake due to heart or blood pressure concerns, to reduce their environmental impact, or to reduce skin sensitivity issues.

It appears that potassium chloride salt generally does not contain additives that can irritate sensitive skin.

Although potassium chloride poses less maintenance issues for your system, you may need to adjust your water softener salt dose program settings up by 10% to properly regenerate the resin, resulting in slightly higher costs in running potassium chloride.

Side note about potassium chloride: In the U.S., many areas and states have actually banned the installation of new water softener systems that use sodium chloride for the regeneration process. This is because sodium chloride is terrible for the environment, and in areas that already have water conservation issues, the water used in the regeneration process cannot be recycled and it contaminates groundwater.

Now although potassium chloride is better for your health and for the environment, it does still use a lot of water for the regeneration process. So if you’re still in the research phase trying to decide whether or not to install a water softener and which salt to use, make sure you’re in an area where this is still legal!)

Review of the Best Water Softener Salt for Sensitive Skin

If you have a conventional water softening system, you need resin beads and salt to carry out the ion exchange process to capture the hard minerals like calcium and magnesium from the water. These minerals and most of the salt is then flushed out of the brine tank, and regenerating your water softening system.

Now that we’ve looked at what can cause skin irritations even with water softeners and the pros and cons of the various forms and types of salt, here’s our suggested list of the best water softener salt for sensitive skin based on what we’ve discovered so far.

1.      Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals Salt Crystals for Water Softeners from Cargill Salt

Cargill Salt 7304 Water Softener Salt,...

To begin with, Diamond Crystal Salt is an American company founded in 1886. They’ve been making salt for a long time and they know what they’re doing.

In addition, their website openly states which Diamond Crystal water softener salt products contain additives and which don’t, along with an abundance of other excellent information, which establishes transparency and trust.

Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals Salt Crystals is exactly as the name implies: naturally sun-dried (solar) salt crystals. This salt is sourced from the U.S. and the Caribbean and packaged in the U.S. It’s NSF/ANSI/CAN 60 certified by the Water Quality Association (WQA), so you can be sure it’s safe for drinking.

It’s 99.6% pure with a low insoluble content. According to reviews, it seems to dissolve well and doesn’t cause bridging.

Diamond Crystals Solar Naturals has mostly good reviews. It’s available in 25, 40 and 50-lb bags, so the smaller size is great if you can’t lift or manage heavier bags.

This is also the most affordable water softener salt on this list, giving you the best bang for your buck.

Pros:

  • Natural
  • No additives
  • Doesn’t cause bridging
  • Affordable
  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • Transparent manufacturing
  • Available in 25-lb bags

Cons:

  • Lower purity
  • May require more frequent maintenance
Cargill Salt 7304 Water Softener Salt,...
  • CARGILL SOLAR WATER SOFTENER SALT
  • 40 lb. crystals
  • Cleaner & more efficient than rock salt
  • No channeling, brigging or mushing
  • Polybagged

2.      Morton Pure and Natural Water Softener Crystals

Morton U26624S Pure AND Natural Water...

Dubbed America’s #1 salt brand, Morton Salt has been making salt in America since 1848. Morton is a trusted household brand of salt for various purposes and is recommended by many brands of water softeners and appliances.

Morton Pure and Natural Water Softener Crystals (formerly known as Solar Salt) are harvested naturally from salt water and solar evaporation. This product contains no additives and is 99.7% pure.

Being crystals, the potential for bridging is there, but there don’t seem to be many complaints about this. Reviews say it works well and arrives very fast with quick shipping.

Some reviews say there might be a slight sulfur taste to the water due to a higher amount of calcium sulfate being present in the product. Being a natural crystal product, it is slightly less pure.

Morton also offers a free test strip so you can test your water and be sure you’re getting the right treatments and products to produce the best water.

Pros:

  • Natural
  • No additives
  • Trusted brand
  • Made in the U.S.A.

Cons:

  • May require more frequent maintenance
  • Possible mild sulfur taste
Sale
Morton U26624S Pure AND Natural Water...
  • Morton solar salt water softening crystals
  • Harvested naturally from salt water
  • Works in all water softeners

3.      Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets

Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets - 40...

Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets are an excellent alternative to sodium chloride salt. It is 99% sodium free and contains no additives.

Being pellets, this product is slightly purer than crystals and reduces bridging and mushing.

Potassium is a healthy essential mineral. Since salt is not good for pets or plants, this might be a better option for people who plan on giving their softened tap water to furry friends or greenery.

Using potassium chloride reduces chloride discharge by up to 20% compared to sodium chloride softened water. However, you may need to boost the hardness setting on your water softener by about 20% because potassium chloride isn’t quite as efficient as sodium chloride.

This product has mostly good reviews saying that it works as it should. Some customers think it works better than sodium chloride water softener salts.

Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets are currently the most affordable potassium chloride water softener salt available.

Pros:

  • Healthier water softener salt
  • More environmentally friendly
  • Pellets reduce bridging and mushing
  • No additives
  • Most affordable potassium chloride salt available

Cons:

  • More expensive than sodium chloride salt
  • May use more per month than sodium chloride salt

4.      Diamond Crystal Potassium Chloride Water Softener Salt Substitute from Cargill Salt

Diamond Crystal Water Softener Bag 40...

Diamond Crystal Potassium Chloride Water Softener Salt Substitute is a trusted American brand, as mentioned previously. They are a transparent manufacturer with good information and many questions answered on their website.

This product is sourced from Canada and packaged in the U.S. and WQA-certified to NSF/ANSI/CAN 60.

Being potassium chloride crystals, it contains no additives. This product is 99.1% potassium chloride with a small amount of sodium and a low insoluble content.

Apparently, this potassium chloride salt contains less sodium than other potassium chloride salt substitutes, although the amount would be minimal.

Some people think using sodium chloride to soften their water makes their water taste salty, and when they’ve switched to potassium chloride, they say the salty taste is gone.

Potassium chloride is better for your health, the environment, recycled water uses, and your plumbing.

Diamond Crystal Potassium Chloride Water Softener Salt Substitute crystals come in a 40-lb bag and have all 3 to 5-star ratings.

Pros:

  • Healthier than sodium chloride
  • Better for pets, plants, & the environment
  • No additives
  • Less sodium than other potassium chloride brands
  • Transparent brand

Cons:

  • Crystals
  • Price
Diamond Crystal Water Softener Bag 40...
  • Cargill Salt 40# Potassium Chloride Pellets 7376
  • CARGILL SALT

5.      Morton Clean and Protect Water Softener Sodium Chloride Salt Pellets

Morton Salt System Saver II Club Bag -...

Obviously a trusted American-made brand as discussed previously, Morton has the most ratings of any water softening salt on Amazon and mostly high ratings.

This patented water softener salt pellets formula helps prevent bridging and mushing. It cleans and protects your pipes and appliances, improving the efficiency and life of your water heater. All of this means less maintenance and better functioning of your home systems.

Unfortunately, this evaporated salt pellets product accomplishes this task with the help of additives. While the amount of additives is miniscule, the additives may bother those with sensitive skin. However, its amazing effectiveness, lower price tag, and popularity earned it a spot on this list.

This product is also available in 25, 40 & 44-lb bags. The smaller size bag makes it easy to carry compared to the typical 40-lb bags.

Pros:

  • Water softener pellets prevent bridging and mushing
  • Also available in smaller 25-lb bags
  • Trusted brand
  • Recommended by major brands of appliances and water softening systems
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Contains additives
Sale
Morton Salt System Saver II Club Bag -...
  • 40 lb. Exclusive club bag
  • Patented formula improves efficiency and extends the life of water heaters
  • Helps prevent mineral buildup in pipes and appliances
  • Easy open tab and hard handle make carrying and pouring more convenient
  • Limited With the good housekeeping seal

6.      Nature’s Own Potassium Cubes from Compass Minerals 

Nature's Own Water Softener Potassium...

Nature’s Own Potassium Cubes from Compass Minerals are potassium chloride water softener cubes. Like pellets, cubes are purer and reduce bridging and mushing.

Made in China, this product contains no additives and is NSF/ANSI 60 certified.

Some reviews state that potassium chloride does not produce a slimy feeling like sodium-based softened water does.  

Like other water softener salts, especially potassium chloride salt substitutes, this product is on the pricier side, but seems to work well and has good reviews.

Pros:

  • Healthier than sodium-based salt
  • Cubes reduce bridging and mushing
  • No slimy feeling from softened water

Cons:

  • Made in China
  • Price
Nature's Own Water Softener Potassium...
  • This product adds a great value
  • Product is highly durable and very easy to use
  • This product is manufactured in China
  • This product adds a great value
  • This product is manufactured in China

The Main Complaint with Water Softener Salts

Most of the water softener salt products listed here have mainly positive reviews, with the primary complaints being the price.

The convenience of ordering water softener salt online means that you don’t have to deal with lifting and lugging around heavy bags of salt from the store to your vehicle to your house. You’ll only need to deal with getting it down the stairs to the water softener unit.

This saves your back and helps those for whom a 40 or 50-lb bag is too heavy. Ordering it online has also proven to be handy if you’re on a time crunch, if your store has run out or stopped carrying it, and for those who need to drive a fair distance to pick some up.

So consider your needs, do your research, and see what suits you best.

Wrapping It Up

Hopefully this article has helped you understand how to choose the best water softener salt for sensitive skin. Let’s recap:

If your main concern is your sensitive skin and you don’t want additives, go with a natural, sodium-based crystal salt like Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals Salt Crystals or Morton Pure and Natural Water Softening Crystals.

If, on top of having highly sensitive skin and wanting a salt with no additives, you also want a water softener salt that’s healthier and more environmentally friendly, and you don’t mind paying a bit more, go with a potassium chloride pellet or crystal such as Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets, Diamond Crystal Potassium Chloride Water Softener Salt Substitute, or Nature’s Own Potassium Cubes.

If your skin does well with regular sodium-based water softener salt, you want less maintenance, and you also want to clean and protect your appliances, then go with a high purity sodium-based pellet with additives like Morton Clean and Protect Water Softener Sodium Chloride Salt Pellets.

If you want a smaller 25-lb bag that’s easier to lift, carry, and pour, then choose Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals Salt Crystals or Morton Clean and Protect Water Softener Sodium Chloride Salt Pellets.

We’ll wrap it up with some frequently asked questions below.

FAQs

Q: Do all water softener salts that come in pellet or cube form have additives in them?

A: No they don’t, which can make it hard to determine which ones do. The best way to find out is to contact the manufacturer or visit their website. However, if the product claims to reduce or prevent mushing or bridging, it likely contains additives.

Q: Is too much potassium chloride harmful to your health or the environment?

A: Too much of anything will offset the balance and become harmful. In terms of the environment, potassium is good for plants. Healthwise, excessive potassium might be a concern if you have kidney problems, have had a heart transplant, or your doctor has advised you to reduce your potassium intake. In such cases, sticking with a sodium chloride water softener salt might suit you best.

Q: How is solar salt different from evaporated salt since they both undergo evaporation?

A: Solar salt is produced through evaporation by wind and sun. Evaporated salt is done in a plant using boiling and steaming processes where the salt is also screened for impurities.

Q: How many bags of water softener salt will I go through in a month?

A: This will vary based on your water usage, but on average, you’ll use about a bag a month.

Q: How full does the brine tank need to be?

A: Keep the tank half full of salt, and keep the water level a few inches above the salt.

Here’s a recap of our top 6 picks:

Cargill Salt 7304 Water Softener Salt,...
  • CARGILL SOLAR WATER SOFTENER SALT
  • 40 lb. crystals
  • Cleaner & more efficient than rock salt
  • No channeling, brigging or mushing
  • Polybagged
Sale
Morton U26624S Pure AND Natural Water...
  • Morton solar salt water softening crystals
  • Harvested naturally from salt water
  • Works in all water softeners
Diamond Crystal Water Softener Bag 40...
  • Cargill Salt 40# Potassium Chloride Pellets 7376
  • CARGILL SALT
Sale
Morton Salt System Saver II Club Bag -...
  • 40 lb. Exclusive club bag
  • Patented formula improves efficiency and extends the life of water heaters
  • Helps prevent mineral buildup in pipes and appliances
  • Easy open tab and hard handle make carrying and pouring more convenient
  • Limited With the good housekeeping seal
Nature's Own Water Softener Potassium...
  • This product adds a great value
  • Product is highly durable and very easy to use
  • This product is manufactured in China
  • This product adds a great value
  • This product is manufactured in China