If you’re considering buying a water softener system but you want to understand exactly what your salt commitments will look like, you’ll find the answers you need in this article.
We’ll be sharing everything we know about water softener salt usage, including the amount of salt the average water softener needs, and the factors that affect the amount of salt that’s needed in a softener.
Most water softeners use about 30-80 pounds of salt per month.
Why is this such a broad range? Because it depends on the type of water softening system you have, the type of salt you plan to use, and more.
Table of Contents
📰 Factors that Affect How Much Salt to Use in a Water Softener
Whether your softener uses more or less salt than average depends on a number of factors:
The Type of Salt
There are several types of water softener salt available:
- Evaporated salt pellets
- Solar salt pellets
- Rock salt
- Block salt
Evaporated salt is the purest type of softener salt, meaning that it contains the highest concentration of salt, with minimal dirt or impurities. This salt is most efficiently used by your water softener, because the majority of the product dissolves into water, forming a brine solution.
If you buy a bag of salt that’s less pure, like solar salt and rock salt, your salt use will seem like it’s higher. You’ll get through that bag of salt faster than a bag of evaporated salt pellets.
Why? Because there’s more dirt and impurities weighing down a bag of solar or rock salt, so even though it feels like you’re adding the same amount of salt to the brine tank, you might end up with only 80% sodium and 20% impurities.
The Brand of Salt
Some brands of salt are purer than others. The purer the salt, the less salt you’ll need to add to the brine tank.
Some of our favorite water softener salt brands are:
- Nature’s Own
- Diamond Crystal
These brands have a reputation for providing consistently reliable, high-quality salt that’s ideal for most water softening systems. Look carefully at customer reviews when you’re choosing between salt brands, and avoid products with poor trending reviews.
Sodium Vs Potassium Chloride Pellets
How much salt a water softener uses also depends on whether you use salt at all.
An alternative to sodium chloride (water softener salt) is potassium chloride. Although potassium chloride is more expensive than sodium chloride, it doesn’t contain sodium, so it’s a good option for people who don’t want to increase the salt levels in their drinking water.
Potassium chloride is 20-30% less effective than sodium chloride, depending on the brand and the purity of the product.
Most water softener manufacturers tell you to set your water hardness 20% or 30% higher when adding potassium chloride to your salt tank, to accommodate this reduced efficiency. This means that your water softener will use 20-30% more potassium chloride than salt.
The Amount of Water Softened
The more water you use per day, the more water will need to be softened.
Water softeners soften your entire home’s water supply. That means that whenever you switch on the faucet, put a load of washing on, or take a shower, your water softener kicks into action, softening your water.
If your daily water usage is higher than average, your water softener will need to work more frequently than most softeners. The more water that travels through your water softener, the more salt will be released from the resin bed during the ion exchange process.
The Hardness of your Water
The harder your water, the more salt will be required to soften the water.
Hardness is a measure of how many calcium and magnesium ions a water supply contains. The more calcium and magnesium ions in the water, the more sodium ions need to be exchanged for these ions during the softening process.
If your water is hard or very hard, your water softener will use more salt per day than a water softener treating mildly or moderately hard water.
|Hardness Classification||Grains/ gallon||mG/L or PPM|
|Soft||< 1||< 17.1|
|Slightly Hard||1 - 3.5||17. - 60|
|Moderately Hard||3.5 - 7||60 - 120|
|Hard||7 - 10||120 - 180|
|Very Hard||> 10||>180|
The Age of the Water Softener
Older water softeners begin to lose their softening efficiency. They may waste more softener salt than necessary during regeneration, or fail to conserve salt during the softening process.
If your softener is more than 10 years old, it won’t be designed as efficiently as the newer models, either. Older water softeners use more salt than modern, efficient water softeners.
🚰 How to Conserve Water Softener Salt
Prefer to spend the bare minimum on salt per year? There are several ways to conserve your water softener’s salt level:
Buy a High-Efficiency System
Some of the best water softeners today use one or several processes to improve the efficiency of the system.
These processes include:
- Smart brining, which calculates exactly how much brine solution is needed for a regeneration cycle, preventing salt waste
- High-capacity brine and resin tanks, reducing the frequency of regeneration cycles
- On-demand regeneration, meaning that the system only performs a regeneration cycle when absolutely necessary – and not at a set time per day
Buying a softener like the ones in our best water softener guide will save you more money on salt per year than buying a cheap, inefficient softening system.
Reduce Your Water Use
It sounds simple, but reducing the amount of water used in your home will also reduce your water softener salt usage.
Be mindful of your water usage. Switch off your faucet when you’re brushing your teeth, replace inefficient appliances, and sort problems with leaking taps and constantly running water.
The less water you use, the less your softener will need to work – and the less salt it’ll use up.
Consider a Saltless System
This isn’t a good solution if you’ve only just splashed out on an ion exchange softener. But if you’re still considering your options, consider a salt-free softening alternative, like a water conditioner.
Water conditioners don’t physically remove hardness minerals from water, and they use a crystallizing media, not a softening resin. There’s no separate brine tank to add salt to, so you won’t just cut down on your salt usage – you’ll eliminate it entirely.
🧾 How to Calculate Salt Use
Sometimes, knowing something roughly isn’t enough. If you want to calculate exactly what amount of salt in the brine tank will be used, you need to know a few things:
- Your water hardness
- The size of your family
- How much water you use per day
Use this formula:
S = R x H x V
- S= total number of hardness grains to be removed
- R= number of days between your softener’s regeneration cycles
- H= the hardness of your water
- V= volume of water flowing through the brine tank (in gallons)
Finally, multiply this figure by 0.035274 to work out how many ounces of salt your softener uses per regeneration cycle.
💵 How Much does Water Softening Salt Cost?
If you’re wondering how much salt a water softening system uses, you’re probably also wondering how salt usage ties into the annual maintenance cost.
The cost of softening salt depends on the brand. Some manufacturers also offer bulk discounts for big batches of salt, so if you can afford to buy more salt than you need upfront, do it.
The average cost of a 40-pound bag of salt is $5-$30. Generally, the more expensive the salt, the better and purer it is.
Don’t be tempted to buy the cheapest salt, or offer for table salt (which doesn’t work; trust us). It’s worth investing in salt that will provide the fuel your softening system needs to work properly.
|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|
|Weight||50 lbs.||40 lbs.||40 lbs.||50 lbs.||50 lbs.||40 lbs.||40 lbs.|
🧠 Water Softening Salt FAQs
What happens if the salt level in the brine tank gets too low?
If the salt in the brine tank gets too low, your softener won’t have access to salt when the system regenerates, and you’ll no longer have soft water. You should try to add salt at least every 4-6 weeks, depending on the size of the brine tank and your family’s water usage. Make sure the brine tank is at least 1/3 full at all times.
Equally, you shouldn’t add salt higher than the maximum salt level. Too much salt in the brine tank can cause salt bridges, which is equally damaging to a water softener’s performance. If your brine tank has a big layer of encrusted salt across the surface, you might not even know when you run out of salt below. The resin bed won’t have access to brine, and the system will stop producing softened water.
How long should a bag of water softening salt last?
It depends on the size of the bag, the type of salt, the efficiency of the softening system, the size of the brine tank, your hard water level – and more! You should add salt based on your own observations and the information in your user manual. The average family gets through 1-2 40-pound bags of salt per 1-2 months.
Does salt for softeners expire?
Yes. Check the packaging, but most salt expires after around 5 years. So if you plan to bulk-buy salt, don’t overdo it. Make sure you only buy enough that you can get through within a few years, and have a “first in, first out” system to prevent old bags of salt from getting forgotten about.