How much salt do you put in a water softener? Maintaining your water softener should be a fairly easy task – especially if you have a newer water softener. All you should need to do is check your brine tank at least once a month and ensure it’s about half full with salt. But if you’re unsure and want a longer, more detailed answer, then keep reading!
How much salt should be added?
You can find online calculators that can help you determine how much water softener salt to add to your brine tank, or you can follow a few general guidelines included below.
If you have a wet brine tank or an older system that is meant to have water in it at all times (about several gallons or a foot of water on average), keep your brine tank a bare minimum of a quarter full of salt and a maximum of 4-6 inches from the top. The level of salt in the brine tank should always be a few inches above the water level so the brine concentration is right.
For a small family or a water hardness of under 20 gpg, half full should do it. For a larger family or a water hardness over 20 gpg, then three quarters full might be better.
Salt usage can range anywhere from 20-80 lbs per month. The average family of four with hard water (hardness level of 7-10 gpg) will go through 40-50 lbs of salt a month, which works out to about about one bag of salt per month or 10 lbs of salt per week.
What factors affect salt usage?
The more water you use and the harder your water is, the more salt you will go through. Also, if your iron levels are higher than 2 ppm, you may go through more salt. The capacity of your brine tank may also play a part.
Your water softener’s age makes a difference. Water softeners that are 10 years old or more might use more salt.
Newer water softeners are more efficient and use less salt, so the salt may only need to be added every 6-8 weeks. Newer systems also digitally monitor usage and regenerate based on usage rather than a set schedule, which is more efficient. They may also have salt monitors, low salt indicators and remote monitoring alerts.
Type of salt used may also influence salt usage. Potassium chloride might get used up more quickly than sodium chloride, so you might need to increase your salt dose program settings by ten percent when using potassium chloride.
Can you add too much salt?
Yes you can! Resist the urge to add more salt just so you don’t have to refill your brine tank as often. Adding too much salt may cause bridging or a hard layer of salt that forms above the water level so it can’t drop down and dissolve to regenerate the resin properly.
Keeping your brine tank half to two thirds full rather than full reduces the risk of salt bridging. The reason for this is that the tube inside your brine tank that contains the float assembly has a flat cover. This creates a perfect surface for a salt bridge to form upon. So if you keep the salt level below that flat cover, a salt bridge is less likely to form.
But if there’s too little salt, the brine solution may not have the right concentration to regenerate the resin either.
How do you know when to add more salt?
Once the salt level in the brine tank drops below half, refill it to half or three quarters, whatever your comfort level is.
If the salt looks wet or the salt is below the water level, then you need to add salt.
Of course, you’ll also know you need to add more salt if your water doesn’t taste or feel soft anymore or you start noticing the telltale signs of hard water such as dry skin, dingy laundry, water spots or soap scum buildup. But there’s really no need to get to that point.
Check your water softener brine tank salt levels monthly for sure, or twice a month to be on the safe side. All it takes is a quick lifting of the cover and a peek inside. Checking once or twice a month can’t hurt and can only save you potential headaches.
What happens if you run out of salt?
If you run out of salt or bridging occurs and salt isn’t dissolving, just add more salt or manually break up the salt bridge. No harm done, you just haven’t had softened water. Your system may need a couple days or several regeneration cycles to get back on track with soft water.
The salt is required to regenerate or recharge the ion exchange resin that softens your water. Your water softening tank is full of water softener resin beads that are negatively charged. Through an ion exchange process, the resin traps positively charged hard water minerals such as calcium and magnesium and exchanges the ions for soft water minerals such as sodium or potassium.
Once the water softener resin is full of hard minerals, it needs to be released and recharged so it can trap more minerals. Then the water softening system regenerates to flush out the hard minerals and recharge with sodium ions.
Your system will probably do a regeneration cycle every 12,000 gallons on average – more often with very hard water.
How do you add more salt to the brine tank?
Before adding more salt, manually break up any large chunks of salt or encrusted salt inside the tank. A broom handle is handy for this. If the salt has formed a bridge (or one solid mass), pouring hot water over it can help break it up.
Then simply lift the bag and pour it in to your desired level, or use a scoop and scoop it in if the bag is too heavy to lift.
The more pure your water softener salt is, the fewer impurities or water insoluble matter, the better your salt will dissolve, and the less maintenance you need to perform on your brine tank.
The form of the salt may also affect how well the salt dissolves. Salt crystals may dissolve more quickly, using more salt and requiring you to refill your tank more often.
Evaporated salt pellets are the purest, around 99.9% sodium chloride, so very few impurities. The best quality evaporated salt pellets generally contain small amounts of additives that reduce salt bridging and mushing and reduce maintenance. However, some people may have sensitivities to these additives. But for the most part, they work well for most people. Morton and Diamond Crystal are trusted household names.
Solar salt is sun-dried salt harvested from the ocean. It runs around 99.6% pure with slightly more impurities. It might be in crystal or pellet form.
Rock salt has the most impurities and it is found in crystals or pebbles. It often contains higher calcium sulfate which doesn’t dissolve well, meaning more brine tank maintenance for you.
Salt blocks should only be used if recommended by your water softener brand. They may not dissolve as well as crystals or pellets, making your system less effective at producing soft water.
Potassium chloride is a good alternative to sodium chloride for people who want to reduce sodium. It works just as well and may even have fewer problems with bridging and mushing, which is a plus. However, it is more expensive and you may go through more of it. But these trade-offs are no problem for the people who need to reduce their sodium for health or environmental purposes.
Your owner’s manual should provide instructions on recommended salt dose and backwash frequency, and it may also make recommendations on which type of salt to use.
Excessive salt use or regeneration cycles
If your water softener seems to be using excessive amounts of salt or regenerating more often than normal, you could try a few of the following things before deciding to replace your water softener:
- Test your water to see if your water hardness, iron levels or anything else have changed.
- Do a good check and clean of your brine tank to make sure nothing is clogged.
- Try a resin tank cleaning solution. This often works wonders.
- Try a new type or brand of salt. If you’ve been using rock salt, a salt block or solar salt, try evaporated salt pellets, perhaps with an additive to help maintain your brine tank. Or try potassium chloride, although this can cost more.
- Check out the condition of your resin tank. See if the beads are intact and normal or disintegrating.
- Try replacing your resin beads. This can run you around $100-$150, but it’s cheaper than a new system and might just do the trick for another few years. And while you’re at it, clean it out and make sure the bottom screen isn’t clogged.
Q: What are the different types of water softeners?
A: A cabinet-style water softener is where the brine tank and resin tank are both inside a single unit but in separate compartments inside. A single tank water softener has a separate brine tank and water softening tank which will need to regenerate periodically. A dual tank water softener has a separate brine tank and two water softener tanks so that while one tank is regenerating, the other can still supply soft water.
Q: What type of salt is best to use in a water softener?
A: Evaporated salt pellets are the favored choice to keep your system functioning at its best and to reduce maintenance. However, for sensitive skin, solar salt or potassium chloride might be better choices.
Q: Can you add too much salt to a water softener?
A: Yes. Too much salt can cause bridging, which reduces your water softener’s effectiveness. But if you don’t mind checking it more often and breaking up the bridges manually, then have at it.
Q: How much salt do you add to your water softener?
A: Enough so that the water softener brine tank is about half full. The average household consumes about one 40-lb bag a month.
Q: How much water should be in the brine tank?
A: In a wet brine tank, there may be several gallons or a foot of water. In a dry brine tank, there may be very little water or no water until an hour or two before the regeneration cycle begins.