These are the highest quality salts to keep your system running in tip-top shape.
Morton Clean & Protect
Morton Clean & Protect Rust Defense
Morton Pure and Natural
Things You Need to Know
- It’s unlikely that you’re currently buying the best water softener salt available because you’re simply buying the cheapest product or looking for the best deals at your local hardware store.
- Many of our competitors focus too much on how affordable a softening salt product is. While price is an important factor to consider, low prices don’t usually equal the best value.
- Make sure you know which types of water softener salts are available to you. Cystals and pellets are popular options, and potassium chloride is a good sodium-free option.
- It’s important to consider your household water hardness, the type of water softener you own, your budget, and your preferred maintenance and upkeep before buying the best water softener salts.
Table of Contents
- 🥇 Best Water Softener Salt
- 📊 Comparison Chart of Water Softener Salt Options
- ⭐ Reviews – Best Water Softener Salt Options of 2023
- 🧾 Buyer’s Guide: How We Chose the Best Water Softener Salt
- 🤔 What is water softener salt and what does it do?
- 💭 When do you need to use water softener salt?
- 🆚 Softener Salt vs. Softener Potassium Chloride
- 🆚 Crystals vs pellets
- 🔎 How can you tell if your water softener needs salt?
- 📝How to add salt to your water softener
- 🛠️ Brine tank maintenance info
- ❔ Frequently Asked Questions
🥇 Best Water Softener Salt
- Best Overall: Morton Clean & Protect
- Best for High Iron: Morton Clean & Protect Rust Defense
- Best Natural Salt: Morton Pure and Natural
- Runner Up Natural Salt: Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals
- Great High-Purity Salt: Diamond Crystal Bright & Soft
- Best Potassium Chloride: Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets
- Runner Up Potassium Chloride: Nature’s Own Potassium Solution
📊 Comparison Chart of Water Softener Salt Options
|Product||Morton Clean & Protect||Morton Clean & Protect Rust Defense||Morton Pure and Natural||Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals||Diamond Crystal Bright & Soft||Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets||Nature's Own Potassium Solution
|Type||Evaporated salt pellets||Evaporated salt pellets||High-purity salt crystals||All-natural solar salt||Compacted water softener salt pellets||Potassium chloride||Potassium chloride|
|Weight||50 lbs.||40 lbs.||40 lbs.||50 lbs.||50 lbs.||40 lbs.||40 lbs.|
|Use for||2-4 bags/month||2 bags/month||3-4 bags/2months||n/a||1 bag/month||2-4 bags/month||2-4 bags/month|
⭐ Reviews – Best Water Softener Salt Options of 2023
Morton Clean & Protect
In our opinion, the Morton Clean & Protect is the best water softener salt available today. Why? Because this salt has an incredibly high purity (99.8%), so it’s more efficient than most other water softener salts on the market. Plus, it’s a fantastic value for money, costing just over $6 per 40-pound bag. Morton is one of the top manufacturers of water softener salt, and the Clean & Protect is the brand’s best offering.
- Evaporated salt pellets – The Morton Clean & Protect is evaporated salt pellets: the purest type of salt for water softeners available.
- 40-pound bags – You can buy Morton salt in 40-pound bags. 1-4 bags of salt can be added to your softener’s brine tank per month depending on your water usage and hardness.
- 4-in-1 benefits – According to Morton, the Clean & Protect reduces scale buildup, extends appliance lifespans, gives you softer-feeling skin and hair, and makes it easier to clean your fixtures and appliances.
People looking to invest smartly in the best-value water softener salt that’s purer and lasts longer than the majority of other softening salts you can buy today.
- Just over $6 is a really great price for 40 pounds of salt. The average family of four needs about one bag per month, giving an average annual cost of $72.
- Clean & Protect salt proved to dissolve best in water and left the least dirt and residue in the brine tank, significantly decreasing our cleaning duties.
- This salt also proved to be highly effective at softening hard water, preventing scaling and improving the efficiency of appliances. We used this salt to treat water with a higher-than-average hardness and it provided 100% effective softening from the get-go.
- Morton doesn’t offer larger bags for people who want to save and bulk-buy.
Morton Clean & Protect Rust Defense
The best water softener salt for iron-laced hard water is another Morton product: the Clean & Protect Rust Defense. This salt has the same makeup as the standard Morton softener salt, but with the added benefit of an additive that prevents rust and iron staining. A 40-pound bag costs about $9.50 – a fair price for the additional perks of rust defense (namely resin longevity).
- All-in-one salt and rust defense – Unlike other water softener rust removers, the Morton Clean And Protect Plus Rust Defense is a combination of salt and rust defense. You don’t have to add a rust removal additive to the salt in the brine tank since it’s already included.
- Evaporated salt pellets – This Morton water softener salt product uses the same high-purity evaporated salt pellets as the standard Clean & Protect. What can you expect? High-efficiency softening and reduced cleaning of the brine tank on your part.
- 40-pound bags – You can buy the Clean & Protect Rust Defense in 40-pound bags, costing just under $10 per bag.
Folks with hard, iron-rich well water who want to prevent scale and rust staining with the most effective, convenient, and purest product available today.
- We love that the Morton Clean & Protect Plus Rust Defense is already the perfect blend of salt and rust defense. You know you’re covered against the aesthetic damage from rust and hardness minerals, without the hassle of adding separate additives to the brine tank.
- Even though it contains an extra ingredient, you shouldn’t use any more of this Morton salt than usual. Morton recommends filling your softener with two bags of salt per month – that’s the same recommendation as for the standard Morton softener salt.
- The Clean & Protect Plus Rust Defense is a great all-in-one solution for tackling these common water quality issues without the need for separate systems.
- The iron removal feature comes at an extra cost, even if the value for money is still pretty good.
Morton Pure and Natural
We think the Morton Pure and Natural is the top choice for the best natural water softener salt. This salt is made from all-natural, high-purity salt crystals that contain no additives, so it’s a better choice than our top two Morton products for people who are serious about using the purest, cleaned, most natural water softener salts. The downside? It’s about $2 more expensive per 40-pound bag than our top pick, the Clean & Protect – and that extra cost will add up over time.
- High-purity salt crystals – We’ve read contrasting information about the type of salt used in the Pure and Natural product. Solar salt is our likely guess, but regardless of the salt type, what we do know is that you’ll find high-purity sodium chloride crystals in every bag.
- 40-pound bags – Again, you get 40 pounds of salt per bag when you buy the Pure and Natural. You’ll need to add 1-4 bags of salt to your softener per month, depending on your household size and your water hardness.
- 4-in-one benefits – Like Morton’s Clean & Protect, the Pure and Natural salt extends appliance lifespans, reduces scale buildup, reduces skin and hair dryness, and minimizes your cleaning duties.
People who want to spend a bit more on an all-natural, completely dirt- and additive-free water softener salt by a reputable brand.
- The Pure and Natural salt dissolves well in water and leaves little dirt residue in the brine tank – although to be honest, its performance is pretty much equal to the Clean & Protect in our eyes.
- We have no complaints about this softener salt’s ability to soften hard water and prevent scale. Even with very hard water, the salt proved instantly effective at softening.
- The great thing about all-natural salt is that it leaves no impurities that could clog the brine tank. Based on our experience using this salt, we don’t think you’d have to clean the brine tank for at least 12 months thanks to its high-purity, natural design.
- It might be pure, clean, and additive-free, but this Morton salt offers the same purity percentage (99.8%) as the Morton Clean & Protect, so we’re not sure the extra $2 per bag is worth it.
Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals
In our opinion, the Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals is the second-best natural water softener salt. This salt is sold by Diamond Crystal, another popular manufacturer known for its high-purity, easily dissolving, naturally-occurring salt products.
Why does the Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals salt take second place after the Morton Pure and Natural salt? Because this product isn’t quite as pure (99.6% versus 99.8%) and has slightly poorer customer reviews, although it is about $2 cheaper than Morton’s offering.
- All-natural solar salt – The Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals is made by dehydrating seawater with wind and sun. The result? Salt that’s completely additive-free.
- Multiple bag options – Depending on where you buy it from, this salt comes in 25, 40, and 50-pound bags, as well as a large 20-kilogram offering. The bigger the bag, the better the value.
- Scale-free softening – When you start using the Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals to soften your water, you can enjoy instant scale-free soft water, with all the usual benefits: improved appliance efficiency, softer skin and hair, and reduced maintenance and cleaning.
Folks with smaller budgets who don’t like Morton’s offering or would rather spend less money per month on natural water softener salt in a range of size options and with a decent purity.
- The Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals is another high performer. Being free from additives and with a 99.6% purity, this salt is resistant to scaling and mushing, so you can operate your water softener without the hassle of dealing with salt clogs.
- We appreciate that this Diamond Crystal salt product comes in multiple bag sizes, with the potential to reduce your cost per pound by buying a bigger bag upfront. Here’s where Diamond Crystal has an advantage over Morton, which only offers 40-pound bag sizes.
- Looking for a salt product with third-party approval? You’ll be happy to hear that the Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals is NSF certified to NSF/ANSI/CAN 60.
- The Diamond Crystal Solar Naturals’ 99.6% purity isn’t quite as good as the top Morton competitors’ purity – although only by 0.2%.
Diamond Crystal Bright & Soft
The Diamond Crystal Bright & Soft takes second place after the Morton Clean & Protect for the best high-purity water softener salt. Just like its Morton competitor, this Diamond Crystal salt product contains 99.8% pure salt and costs about $6.20 for a 40-pound bag.
There’s not much difference in performance between the Diamond Crystal Bright & Soft and the Morton Clean & Protect – but we personally noticed that the Diamond Crystal salt didn’t quite dissolve quite as well as Morton’s product, and had more of a mixed bag of customer reviews.
- Compacted water softener salt pellets – This type of water softener salt is pellets, not crystals, which are recommended for high water usage or narrow/single-tank water softeners to prevent mushing and bridging.
- Multiple bag sizes – As with other Diamond Crystal products, you can buy the Diamond Crystal Bright & Soft in several bag sizes.
- NSF certified – This Diamond Crystal salt isNSF/ANSI/CAN 60 for the safety and suitability of drinking water treatment chemicals.
People who have a higher-than-average water usage, or people with a single-tank water softener or a water softener with a narrow brine tank, who want to avoid mushing and salt bridges with a high-quality, affordable salt pellets product.
- The Diamond Crystal Bright & Soft exceeded our expectations in our dissolving and cleaning tests. The salt dissolved completely in water (although it took longer than the Morton Clean & Protect salt) and its high purity means you don’t need to clean the brine tank frequently.
- Salt pellets have an advantage over salt crystals: they can be added straight to your water softener without needing to be ground down to a fine powder, and they’re more suitable for all-in-one water softeners as they dissolve at a slower, more gradual rate.
- You can’t complain about the $6.20 price tag for a 40-pound bag. Plus, some stores sell bigger (up to 20 kg) and smaller (down to 25 lbs) bags, so you can buy according to your budget.
- These salt pellets don’t dissolve as quickly as salt crystals, which is great for all-in-one softeners, but not for softeners with separate brine and resin tanks.
Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets
In our opinion, the Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets is the best water softening salt alternative for ion exchange water softeners. Why? Because these pellets are virtually entirely sodium-free (containing at least 98.1% potassium chloride), so they’re ideal for low-sodium diets. Plus, you get all the perks of a Morton product, including exceptional quality and 100% water solubility.
- 98.1% potassium chloride – The Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets contain almost 100% potassium chloride, so they’re almost completely impurity-free.
- 40-pound bags – Nothing new here. Like all Morton products, the Potassium Chloride Pellets are available in 40-pound bags.
- Salt-free softening – This Morton salt-free softening solution softens water exactly the same as sodium. The only difference is that you need a bit more potassium chloride to do the same job as salt.
Households who want to minimize their salt consumption, or people with health issues who have been advised by a doctor to follow a low-sodium diet, and still want to enjoy soft water at home.
- Morton proves that you don’t have to compromise on performance by switching to potassium chloride. These pellets dissolved completely and removed virtually all hardness minerals from our water.
- 98.1% purity is as good as it gets for a potassium chloride product. Avoid salt bridging and minimize brine tank cleaning with this salt alternative.
- Just like salt, the Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets prevent scaling on pipes and inside appliances, and improve lather with soaps and detergents. We couldn’t tell the difference in our water quality when we switched to this product from salt.
- Because of the perks of salt-free softening, the Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets are significantly more expensive than Morton’s sodium chloride products. Cost per bag: upwards of $25.
Nature’s Own Potassium Solution
The Nature’s Own Potassium Solution is our runner-up potassium chloride choice. This salt-free softening solution is offered by Nature’s Own Water Care, an offshoot of the global brand, Compass Minerals.
Why does this Nature’s Own product take second place? Because we found the Morton Potassium Chloride lasted slightly longer and is more popular with customers than the Nature’s Own potassium chloride.
- No-salt softening – The Nature’s Own Potassium Solution softens water with the most effective salt alternative: potassium chloride. There’s no mention of what percentage of this product is potassium chloride.
- 40-pound bag – This potassium chloride product comes in a single 40-pound bag size, which should be enough for one month of softening for most people.
- Soft water benefits – With the Nature’s Own Potassium Solution, you can enjoy soft, scale0free water without the characteristic slimy feel of salt-softened water.
People who, for some reason, don’t like or can’t find the Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets, but want the same perks of salt-free softening.
- Like the Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets, these Nature’s Own potassium cubes offer all the benefits of salt-free softening, including suitability for low-sodium diets and no slimy-feeling water.
- The Nature’s Own Potassium Solution performed just as well as salt for ion exchange softening, with the added benefit of contributing to our dietary potassium intake.
- These pellets dissolved well in our water and didn’t leave any residue behind – exactly what you expect from a top water softening product.
- These potassium chloride pellets are another expensive option, costing around $26.50 per 40-pound bag.
🧾 Buyer’s Guide: How We Chose the Best Water Softener Salt
Consider the following factors when deciding on the best water softener salt for you. We used these factors to decide which shortlisted products would make this list.
Household water hardness
The type of water softener salt you purchase should depend on your household’s water hardness.
📌 Pellets are more efficient and less prone to bridging than crystals, so they’re a better choice for people with very hard water.
If you get through more water softener salts than the average person, look for deals on bulk-buying salt at a lower cost per pound.
Type of water softener
The best water softening salts can be used in all types of water softeners, but always read product descriptions before you buy to be certain.
Evaporated salt, solar salt, rock salt, and sometimes block salt for your system.
If you have an all-in-one softener, make sure to use pellets rather than crystals to prevent clogging.
🔎 Find a System
Need to upgrade? Read about the best water softeners for your home here in this guide
Salt-based water softeners only add a very small amount of sodium to your water, but if you don’t enjoy the taste of sodium-softened water, consider potassium chloride.
Potassium chloride offers the same softening benefits as salt without the salty taste, but it’s a lot more expensive.
Your budget may affect the brand and quality of water softener salts you can buy.
Generally, the more salt you buy in one go, the cheaper it is per pound. The average cost of a 40-pound bag of high-purity softener salt is $5-$8.
Potassium chloride costs about three times the price of salt, about $26 per 40-pound bag.
Softener maintenance & upkeep
Once you’ve filled your brine tank, you’ll need to schedule regular refills to keep the system working as efficiently as possible.
If you want to avoid maintenance as much as possible, buy a high-purity salt that isn’t prone to bridging and lasts longer between salt topups.
🤔 What is water softener salt and what does it do?
Water softener salt is the sodium that’s needed for the ion exchange softening process.
The salt is stored in a brine tank. During water softening, the salt is broken down, leaving just sodium.
Sodium is flushed into the water softener resin beads. When hard water flows through the resin tank, the hardness minerals are attracted to, and stick to, the resin. To balance out the water’s charge, equal amounts of sodium are released, softening the water.
💭 When do you need to use water softener salt?
If you have a salt-based water softener, you’ll need to use water softener salt. The only way to properly soften water is with ion exchange, and for that, salt (or potassium chloride) is needed.
You need to add water softener salts to your softener’s brine tank approximately once every 6-8 weeks.
🆚 Softener Salt vs. Softener Potassium Chloride
Salt is most commonly used in ion exchange softeners, but potassium chloride is becoming increasingly popular for its effective salt-free softening abilities.
Let’s take a look at these two softening options and how they vary.
Sodium chloride is standard softener salt, available in three forms: crystals, pellets and blocks. Sodium chloride is more common – and cheaper – than potassium chloride.
Types of sodium chloride are:
- Rock salt – Rock salt has the appearance of small rocks or pebbles. Rock salt is cheap, but tends to have a high amount of calcium sulfate, so it’s not ideal for for water softening. Generally, rock salt doesn’t dissolve well in water, and leaves behind a residue.
- Evaporated salt – Evaporated salt usually comes in pellet form, and has the highest purity rate of all salt types. It’s the most expensive and effective softening option because it contains few minerals that might leave a residue in the brine tank.
- Solar salt – Solar salt is naturally highly-pure, and is found in either crystal or pellet form. The evaporation of seawater forms solar salt. Solar salt should ideally be used for homes with low to moderate water hardness – it isn’t the best choice for treating very hard water.
- Block salt – Block salt is large blocks of salt, usually only recommended by plumbers in certain situations. If you use block salt in your water softener, make sure the brine tank’s water levels are high enough to fully submerge the block.
If you’re looking for a salt alternative for your salt-based water softener, consider potassium chloride.
📌 Potassium chloride is about as close to being sodium-free as you can get (around 99.9%). If you’re on a low sodium diet, or you don’t like the salty taste of sodium in your water, potassium chloride is a convenient, albeit costly, solution.
One other benefit of potassium chloride soft water is that it can be used to water plants, and it’s generally better for the environment than salt.
You’ll need to increase your softening tank’s programming settings by 10 to 15% to get the same water softening benefits as you can from sodium chloride.
🆚 Crystals vs pellets
The two main forms of salt that are used in water softener systems are crystals and pellets.
Salt crystals, or softener crystals, are produced by solar evaporation. A mixture of salt, brine and water is exposed to the wind, which eliminates the water, leaving just the salt.
Salt crystals are generally recommended for people with a low monthly water usage, or for use in a two-part water system. This type of water softener salt may cause bridging in single-tank softeners.
Water softener pellets are made through evaporation, using water and steam to form crystals. Once the crystals are dried and screened, they’re formed into pellets.
Many forms of pellets come with added citric acid. Citrus acid is a common cleaning agent that helps prevent the build-up of minerals in your pipes and water softening system.
Citric acid won’t alter the taste or quality of your soft water.
Pellets easily dissolve in water and are the preferred option for homes with a higher water usage. If you have an all-in-one tank system, pellets are also the better choice.
🔎 How can you tell if your water softener needs salt?
The size of your brine tank, your household’s water hardness, your water usage, and the type of water softening system you own will determine how much salt you go through on a monthly basis.
Here are the signs that your salt needs replenishing:
Salt levels are visibly low
The simplest way to tell when your salt levels are low is to physically examine the brine tank by lifting the lid and taking a look inside.
Once the salt levels have dropped below halfway, it’s time for a top-up.
Your water tastes hard or you notice limescale
Sometimes, you might think your water softener doesn’t need more salt because you’re fooled by a salt bridge at the top of the tank, which makes you think that the salt level is still high.
In reality, the salt may have completely run out without you realizing. Your water will lose the characteristic silky feel of sodium, and you may notice issues with limescale.
📝How to add salt to your water softener
It’s good to get into the habit of checking your brine tank’s salt level once a month, and adding salt when necessary.
To add salt to your water softener, follow these quick steps:
- Locate the brine tank. This is the larger tank with an easily accessible lid.
- Open the brine tank lid.
- Pour salt into the softener until it reaches the maximum fill line.
- Close the lid and program the softener to run a manual regeneration (if needed).
🛠️ Brine tank maintenance info
Regular brine tank maintenance will keep your water softener in great working condition, ensuring it lasts as long as possible with minimal repairs needed.
Here are the most important maintenance requirements for your water softener’s brine tank:
- Check the salt level of the brine tank after every 30 days and top up if necessary. It’s recommended that your salt levels are 4 inches higher than your water levels at all times.
- Check for salt bridging (a solid layer of salt over the top of the salt crystals or pellets). Get rid of a salt bridge by pouring hot water over the buildup and using the end of a broom to break it up.
❔ Frequently Asked Questions
What type of water softener salt is best?
The best salt for a water softener system is evaporated salt because it’s the purest salt option, so it’s more efficient and it won’t leave residue in the brine tank.
Related: What is the best water softener salt for sensitive skin?
Are pellets or crystals better for water softeners?
Pellets are better than crystals for people with an above-average daily water usage or people with all-in-one (single-tank) water softeners because they easily dissolve in water without clogging or bridging. Crystals dissolve more quickly and are more prone to bridging, but they’re more affordable than pellets.
Can I mix different salts in my water softener brine tank?
Yes, you can mix different brands and types water softener salt in your brine tank – but there are some exceptions. For instance, you should only use salt pellets in an all-in-one softener with a single tank, so you can’t mix different salt types. Also, water softeners with no salt screen on their base should use pellets and not crystals to avoid clogging.
Can I use any salt in my softener?
No, you can only use specially-designed softening salt in your water softener. Don’t use table salt or any other salt for food because their salt crystals or granules are far smaller and more likely to mush inside the brine tank.
Can I mix salt pellets with potassium chloride?
Yes, you can mix salt pellets with potassium chloride (such as if you’re switching from salt to potassium chloride). It’s best to try to match pellet size and type as much as possible to avoid salt bridging.