Water Softener Pellets or Crystals: Which Should You Use?

There are several different kinds of water softener salt, and most come in one of two forms: water softener pellets and crystals.

If you want to soften your water the most efficiently, keep your water softener healthy, and save money in the process, you might be wondering whether crystals or pellets will help you best do this.

In this guide, we’ll be comparing water softener pellets vs crystals, helping you to choose the best option for your situation.

🤔 Should You Buy Water Softener Pellets or Crystals?

Salt crystals and salt pellets both soften water, so they can both be used safely in your water softener.

As long as the salt product is intended for use in a water softener system, you can use it. But that doesn’t mean you’ll have the same experience with both types of salt.

So, when should you use salt crystals, and when should you use pellets?

Deciding between salt pellets vs salt crystals

Crystals are ideal in a two-part water softener, or for homes with low water use, while pellets are best suited to all-in-one water softener systems, or for homes with medium-to-high water use.

Take a look at the different salt options below.

Salt Pellets

Salt pellets are made of pure sodium chloride crystals that have been processed to form refined pellet-like structures.

The major advantage of salt pellets is that they dissolve quickly and easily in water. This means you’re less likely to experience issues like bridging or clogging in your brine tank with this type of salt, and your water softener will need less maintenance over the months of operation.

Salt pellets are typically the most expensive type of water softener salt because of the processing that’s used to make them.

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Ranking1st2nd5th
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Weight50 lbs.40 lbs.50 lbs.

Salt Crystals

Salt crystals are made from saltwater, which is evaporated by the wind, producing nearly 100% sodium chloride.

Most salt crystals are processed with additives. Two-part water softeners do best with crystals. If your home has high water usage, it’s best to avoid crystals, which are more prone to bridging.

Still, the advantage of crystals is that they’re more affordable than pellets, so they’re good for small budgets.

📖 How to Know Whether to Use Salt Pellets vs Salt Crystals In Your Softener

Unsure whether to use evaporated salt pellets or water softener crystals in your softening system?

First, determine the type of system you own. Is it an all-in-one water softening system, or a two-part unit?

If you’re not sure, bring out your user manual. This should tell you what type of system you own.

The user manual should recommend the best type of salt to use in your brine tank. It might even recommend a particular brand that has worked well in the manufacturer’s testing.

Still unsure? Contact the manufacturer of your water softening system. They’ll be happy to give you tips on buying salt, so you can get the best use out of your system.

How to determine whether to use salt pellets or crystals

🧠 Water Softener Pellets or Crystals FAQs

Why is salt needed in a water softening system?

Without salt, a softener couldn’t form soft water.

Let’s quickly look at how the softening process works. Water flows into the brine tank (where the salt is kept), and salt dissolves into the water, forming a brine solution. The brine solution then carries these sodium ions into the resin tank, where they’re attracted to, and stick to, the resin bed.

When water from your pipes flows through the resin tank, the sodium ions are released, and are replaced with water hardness ions (calcium sulfate and magnesium). This process continues until all the sodium ions are used up, and the system regenerates, transferring more brine water from the salt tank to the resin tank.

Are water softener salt pellets or crystals more affordable?

The most affordable type of water softening salt is crystals. However, because crystals are more prone to bridging in homes with high water use, they may not be the most affordable solution for you. If you have to scrape away a salt bridge every couple of weeks, you’ll probably end up wasting so much salt that you may as well have spent a bit more on a bag of pellets.

Which is more widely available: water softener crystals or pellets?

Both of these water softening salts are widely available, and you should be able to find both options in your local hardware or big box store. If your local options are limited, shop online. You can usually get a much better deal on salt for water softeners when you shop around on marketplaces or buy directly from the manufacturer.

Can I mix water softener salt crystals with pellets?

Yes, you can mix pellets and crystals in your brine tank. Both salts dissolve in water to form a brine solution, which then travels to the resin tank – so it doesn’t technically matter whether you use one salt or a combination.

Is rock salt in crystal or pellet form?

Rock salt doesn’t take on a crystal or pellet shape. Instead, this salt is shaped like small rocks or pebbles. Rock salt mostly resembles pellet salt. However, this type of sodium is usually sold without additives, while pellet salt usually contains compounds that help to keep the water softener clean and remove low concentrations of iron.

Rock salt

What are the best brands of sodium crystals and pellets for water softeners?

We’ve tested tens of salt products for water softeners over the years, and some of the consistently reliable brands are Morton, Nature’s Own, and Diamond Crystal. If you’re keen to use the highest-quality salt in your water softener, consider these brands. We’ve reviewed some of their best salt products here.

Is solar salt crystals or pellets?

Solar salt is actually sold as pellets or plain salt crystals, so you can buy it in most forms. Solar salt pellets are typically more expensive than solar salt in crystal form and are less likely to form bridges in the brine tank.

Is potassium chloride in crystal or pellet form?

Potassium chloride isn’t actually a type of salt (sodium chloride), but it’s usually available in pellet form. If your water softener is best suited to salt pellets and you want to keep your salt intake low, this is a good option for you. Just make sure to increase your hardness setting on your water softener because more potassium is needed to soften water than sodium.

Can I swap salt pellets for crystals?

Yes, in most cases, you can swap pellets for crystals in water softening systems. Just keep in mind that this might go against your manufacturer’s recommendations. Check the user manual to see if there’s a certain type of water softening salt that’s best suited to your system design.

📌 Takeaway

Whether you use water softener salt pellets or crystals in your softening system, you’ll still get the desired end result: soft water.

But there are certain instances when you’ll benefit from using a particular type of salt in your water softener brine tank.

Water softener crystals are best for all-in-one systems, though they’re prone to clogging in the brine tank in homes with high hardness or high water usage.

Water softener pellets are better for two-part water softening systems or homes with a high water (and therefore salt) usage, because they’re less prone to clogging the brine tank.

Which is better, salt pellets vs crystals? It depends on what your water softener needs. Contact the manufacturer or check the user manual for more information.