How Long Does Water Softener Salt Last?

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Wondering how long salt should last in a salt water softener? Or keen to know how long salt for water softeners typically lasts in storage?

We’ve shared what you need to know in this guide.

📌 Key Takeaways

  • Water softener salt usually lasts 2-3 months, but the best practice is to top up the salt tank with one 40-pound bag every month.
  • Factors affecting how long salt lasts in water softeners include your water hardness levels and iron levels, your water use, the quality and type of sodium chloride, and the softener’s regeneration frequency.
  • Salt for water softeners lasts indefinitely in storage, as long as the storage conditions are adequate.

📈 How Long Does Salt Last In A Water Softener?

The salt in a water softener lasts a couple of months – but you shouldn’t wait for all the salt to empty in the water softener tank before adding more.

👨‍🔧 Most manufacturers recommend adding about one 40-pound bag of salt to the tank per month. The exact amount of salt you should add depends on your water and salt usage, your softener’s regeneration programming, and the size of the brine tank.

Make sure there’s enough salt to reach the maximum salt level without adding too much, which could cause a salt bridge.

Water softener salt in the brine tank

📊 Factors Affecting How Long Water Softener Salt Lasts

There are several factors that affect how long salt lasts in a water softener, and how much salt your softener uses per year.

Your Water Hardness

Your water hardness is the first factor that affects how quickly salt gets used in the tank.

The harder your water, the more calcium and magnesium minerals it contains, and the more salt (sodium ions) will be needed to replace these minerals in the ion exchange process.

If you have very hard water, you’ll use salt at a faster rate than somebody with moderately hard water. That’s because your water softener will use more salt during the water softening process, and the resin bed will become depleted at a faster rate, so the softener will need to regenerate (a process that uses salt) more frequently.

HardnessGrains per Gallon (GPG)Parts per Million (PPM) & mg/L
Soft<1 0 – 17
Slightly Hard1.5 – 517 – 60
Moderately Hard3.5 – 7 60 – 120
Hard7 – 10120 – 180
Very Hard>10>180

Your Water Quality

Your water quality is similar to your water hardness and determines how long the salt in your softener will last.

👨‍🔧 Iron is the biggest water quality factor affecting salt usage in a softener. If your water contains iron, the softener will need to work harder to remove not only calcium and magnesium ions, but also iron, resulting in faster salt usage.

Most soft water systems can treat up to 1 PPM of iron in water. If you have very high iron levels, we recommend installing an iron removal water filter upstream of the softener, which will reduce your salt usage and protect the resin from fouling.

Read our reviews: Well water iron filters: Our top picks

Iron stains

The Quality And Type Of Salt

The quality and type of salt used in the water softener will also affect how quickly salt is used up, and how often you have to add salt to the brine tank.

High-quality, high-purity salt like evaporated salt lasts longer than low-quality salt like rock salt, while solar salt sits between the two.

💡 Why does high-purity salt last longer? Because it contains a greater concentration of pure sodium ions per bag, so you get more value from the salt you add to the softener tank.

On the other hand, low-purity salt like rock salt contains more impurities, which clog up the brine tank and can’t be used in the softening process. So, with less salt available, salt must be added more frequently to the system.

The Size Of The Brine Tank

The size of the brine tank affects how much salt can be added to the tank at once. The more salt the tank can contain, the less frequently you’ll need to add more salt.

While the size of the tank doesn’t affect how long the salt lasts in the system, it’ll reduce your salt top-ups because the salt level will take longer to drop.

Well filter and salt based water softener brine tank

Your Water Usage

Like your water hardness, your water usage affects how quickly the salt levels need replenishing in the resin bed, and how often the water softener must initiate a regeneration cycle.

The more water you use, the more salt will be used in the resin for ion exchange. Every time you switch on a faucet or a water-using appliance, water will travel through the softener and be softened before it flows into your pipes and appliances.

People who use a lot of water will need to add salt more frequently to their softener tank to accommodate for faster resin salt usage and more frequent water softener regenerations.

On the other end, if you use less water than average, your softener will regenerate less frequently, so your salt will last slightly longer.

The Softener’s Regeneration Frequency

Timer-based water softeners, or time-initiated softeners, regenerate according to a timer, rather than how much water flows through the system. This means that the softeners flush the resin bed even when it might not be necessary.

The frequency of a water softener’s regeneration cycles determines how much salt is used in the brine tank, and how long the salt will last.

When a water softener regenerates, salty water (brine solution) is sent from the brine tank into the resin tank, where it flushes the resin bed. This removes the hardness minerals and replenishes the sodium ions.

Frequent regenerations will mean the salt doesn’t last as long in the brine tank because:

  • Salt is needed more frequently to flush out the resin
  • Unused salt might be wasted in the resin

👨‍🔧 If your softener regenerates based on a timer, make sure it doesn’t regenerate too often. On average, a water softener should regenerate about once a week.

programming water softener regen cycles on electronic control head

📖 How To Know If A Water Softener Is Running Low On Salt

Wondering how to know when to add salt to a water softener? Here are the signs to look out for in most water softening systems:

Low Salt Alarm

Many water softeners have an alarm that sounds when the salt level falls too low in the tank. Hearing the low salt alarm is the most obvious sign that you need to add more salt to the water softener system.

Hard Water

Without salt, a water softener isn’t capable of working properly. The system won’t add salt to the resin during a regeneration cycle if there’s no salt to dissolve in water inside the brine tank.

You’ve probably become used to using softened water in your home. If the softener can’t regenerate with salt, you’ll notice hard water effects such as limescale buildup, spotting on dishware and glasses, and dry hair skin after showering.

Effects of hard water in a home

Unusual Noises

Water softeners are fairly quiet when they’re in operation. If you notice your water softener is making an unusual noise that you can’t link to any other issue, you might need to add salt to the tank.

⏳ How Long Does Water Softener Salt Last In Storage?

Water softener salt lasts indefinitely in storage.

Like all salt types, water softener salt doesn’t have an expiration date. That means you can store it for as long as necessary before using it in your softener.

Certain types of water softener salt may contain additives and anti-rust chemicals that expire at a faster rate than the salt. Check with the manufacturer if you’re unsure of a salt product’s lifespan in storage.

Does Water Softener Salt Expire?

No, water softener salt doesn’t expire – but it can become contaminated with rust and dirt.

Make sure you store your salt in a clean, dry location to prevent contamination.

How To Make Water Softener Salt Last Long In Storage

Are you a fan of bulk buying? You can often get a great deal on buying large batches of softener salt at once, but it would be a shame to ruin the salt with poor storage practices.

There are a few things you can do to ensure your water softener salt lasts as long as possible in storage:

  • Store the salt in cool, dry conditions – Humid or very hot conditions might damage your salt, causing it to clump together and form salt blocks. While you can still use this salt in your softener, the effort of breaking up the blocks might be too much for you, and you might end up wasting salt that could otherwise be used. You can prevent this by storing the salt in cool, dry conditions, ensuring it lasts as long as possible in its correct state.
  • Store salt in sealed bags or containers – Once you open a bag of water softener salt, you allow pollutants and impurities from the environment to get into the salt. This may be problematic if the salt is stored in an unclean location, such as a shed or an outhouse. You can prevent contamination of your salt by pouring the salt into bags or containers that can be sealed.
Adding salt to a kenmore water softener
source: Kenmore Water Softener Installation, Youtube, Uploaded by EcoPureHome

📑 Final Word

Water softener salt lasts about 2-3 months in the softener, but, to stay on the safe side, you should check and top up the tank once a month.

In storage, salt for a water softener lasts indefinitely, as long as it’s properly stored.

If your salt looks or smells wrong, throw it out and buy a fresh batch.

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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