Pros & Cons of Using Potassium Chloride for Water Softeners

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Potassium chloride is an alternative to salt that can be used in ion exchange water softeners.

Here, we’ve discussed the main advantages and disadvantages of using potassium chloride in your water softener.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • Potassium chloride water softener pellets can be used in place of sodium chloride pellets in a salt-based water softener.
  • The advantages of potassium chloride are that it helps you limit your sodium intake, it’s used in the same way by water softeners and produces the same result, and it’s better for the environment than sodium.
  • Some of the disadvantages of potassium chloride in water softeners are that it’s costlier and less efficient, so you’ll use it at a faster rate than sodium.

✅ Advantages Of Potassium Chloride For Water Softeners

1) No Additional Sodium Intake

You might hear potassium chloride referred to as “potassium chloride salt”, but it actually has no relation to sodium salt.

So, using potassium chloride in your water softener means you won’t end up increasing your daily salt intake through your drinking water habits.

If you’re concerned about your sodium intake or you’re on a low-sodium diet for medical reasons, using potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride water softener pellets allows you to still benefit from softened water without the possible health effects.

Potassium chloride is particularly beneficial in water softeners owned by people with certain health conditions, like hypertension or kidney problems, who have been instructed by their doctor to limit their sodium consumption.

Woman drinking potassium chloride softened water

2) Produces The Same End Result

You may have considered salt-free water conditioners but ultimately decided they weren’t for you due to their inability to properly soften water.

Potassium chloride works in the same way as sodium chloride in an ion exchange softener. The water-softening process doesn’t change – potassium ions are pre-loaded in the softener’s resin beads, where they’re exchanged for calcium and magnesium ions in your water supply, which softens the water.

That means you end up with the same soft water, with all the benefits that it brings – including better lathering with soap, no limescale or soap scum formation, softer laundry, no water spots on dishes, and healthier skin and hair.

3) Environmentally Friendly

Potassium chloride water softener pellets are made from potassium, a naturally occurring mineral that’s considered more environmentally friendly than sodium chloride.

Both potassium and sodium chloride eventually end up in the environment after use in a water softener. If you’re concerned about how high levels of sodium in your water softener brine might affect the environment, you’re better off using potassium softeners.

The environmental impact of potassium chloride is generally seen as less harmful, and potassium actually has some positive effects on the ecosystem (see below).

4) Good For Plant Growth

You can safely use water softened with potassium chloride for irrigation or watering plants in your garden. Potassium chloride provides a source of potassium, which is a beneficial nutrient for plant growth.

Potassium allows plants to process their water uptake and convert plant sugars into nutrients, supporting root, shoot, and leaf development.

In contrast, using sodium-softened water for irrigation probably won’t have any negative effects, but it may lead to an accumulation of sodium in the soil, potentially harming plants in the long run. Check out our guide to watering plants with soft water for more information.

Watering plants with soft water

5) Can Be Used In All Ion Exchange Softeners

You don’t need a special type of potassium chloride water softener if you want to switch from sodium to something healthier.

If you have an existing ion exchange water softener, you can use potassium chloride in your sodium tank. It looks the same and behaves the same, so it shouldn’t have any negative effects in your softener (i.e. clogging and bridging).

Just make sure to buy a high-quality, high-purity product, as you would with sodium chloride.

⛔️ Disadvantages Of Potassium Chloride For Water Softeners

1) More Expensive

The main disadvantage of potassium chloride salt for water softeners is that it’s pricier than salt.

On average, potassium chloride is about 2 to 4 times more expensive than a similarly sized sodium chloride product.

So, a single bag of sodium chloride may cost $20, while the same-sized bag of potassium chloride may cost $40, or even $80, depending on the brand.

Why is potassium chloride more expensive than sodium? We think the main reason is that it’s not as readily available as sodium. Plus, due to its sodium-free advantages in water softeners, manufacturers know that they can charge more for potassium chloride, and lots of customers will happily pay the price.

2) Reduced Softening Efficiency

Another key disadvantage of potassium chloride salt in water softeners is that it’s not as efficiently used in the ion exchange softening process.

Potassium chloride isn’t quite as effective at softening water compared to normal water softener salt. That means you’ll need to increase your water hardness by around 20% when using potassium chloride in your water softener system.

Its reduced efficiency means that more potassium chloride is needed compared to sodium chloride in a water softener, so you’ll go through potassium chloride at a faster rate. Not ideal when potassium products are already more expensive per bag!

Using potassium for water softener regen

3) Not As Widely Available

While you’ll find salt for water softening systems in most big-box stores and numerous online marketplaces, potassium chloride is harder to come by.

Having fewer options available means there’s less of an opportunity to tailor your purchase to your exact needs or preferences. You’ll have to settle with one of a handful of brands that currently sell potassium chloride today.

While there are plenty of high-quality potassium chloride products out there, you may still prefer to have more options.

4) Increases Potassium Intake

Just as some people may be medically advised to limit their salt intake, some people may be advised to limit their intake of potassium.

People who take certain medicines or who anyone who has chronic kidney disease may be instructed by a doctor to follow a potassium-restricted diet, limiting their daily intake of potassium to below 2,000 mg per day.

So, while most people prefer to use potassium instead of conventional water softener salt, it might not be an option in some situations.

Woman with chronic kidney disease holding a glass of potassium softened water

📑 Final Word

For most people, potassium chloride water softener salt is the preferable alternative to conventional sodium water softener salt.

The tiny amounts of potassium chloride added to soft water might not be enough to have obvious health benefits, but it helps you to avoid adding any more sodium than necessary to your diet.

If you can justify the price, you’ll probably want to use potassium chloride in your water softener instead of traditional sodium softener salt.

❔ FAQs

Is potassium chloride better for your water softener?

We couldn’t find any evidence to suggest that potassium chloride is better for water softener longevity than sodium chloride. The benefits of potassium chloride salt are that it’s preferable to increasing your intake of sodium while producing the same end result, and it’s better for the environment.

Can you drink water softened with potassium chloride?

Yes, you can drink water that’s softened with potassium chloride. Just like regular softener salt, potassium is only added to water in very small amounts. That means your soft water is safe for consumption and won’t make a huge difference of your potassium RDI.

Is it better to use salt or potassium in a water softener?

If you prefer a more affordable option, you don’t mind adding small amounts of sodium to your water, and you want to use the most efficient regenerant available, salt is the best choice for you in your water softener. If you have a bigger budget and are willing to spend more on a salt-free regenerant that has higher maintenance costs and is slightly less efficient, potassium chloride is better for you.

How many bags of potassium chloride for water softener?

You’ll need around 20% more potassium chloride for the same softening effects as sodium in a water softener. So, if your water softener usually takes 1 bag of of salt per month, it’ll take around 1.2 bags of potassium chloride. The amount of regenerant required depends on the concentration of hard water minerals and your daily hard water usage.

  • 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.

7 thoughts on “Pros & Cons of Using Potassium Chloride for Water Softeners”

    1. Avatar for Brian Campbell

      I beg to differ. Many folks who treat their water with a water softener also use the same water for drinking, hygiene, cooking, etc., as the water is treated at the point of entry.

      1. Avatar for Brian Campbell
        Mark E Kinghorn

        Actually, most water systems in new construction that will have a water softener, have a bypass line to the kitchen sink(s) so that most of the water you consume is not softened.

    1. Avatar for Brian Campbell

      No, the discharge from regeneration using potassium chloride shouldn’t be harmful to plants. In fact potassium is an essential nutrient for plant growth

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