How Do Salt Water Softeners Work? 

When it comes to water softeners, there are two different types: ion exchange systems that use salt and salt-free systems. Which one is best for you depends on a number of factors. 

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Ion-exchange systems

The most common type of water softener on the market uses a process known as ion exchange to remove hard minerals from water. During this process, calcium and magnesium ions are exchanged for sodium or potassium ions within the resin tank of the system. 

Once the water-softening media has removed all of the calcium and magnesium ions, it must be recharged with sodium or potassium salt. This regenerates the media so it can continue removing hardness minerals from your water. 

Salt pellets or blocks: The most common form of salt used in water softeners is salt pellets, which are small, cube-shaped chunks that are compressed and processed. The size of the salt pellets makes them easier to dissolve in the brine solution during the regeneration cycle. 

They also help reduce the likelihood of bridging, which happens when a layer of dissolved salt sticks together in the brine tank, creating a crust that remains suspended at the top of the water softener’s tank. For these reasons, it’s recommended that you replace the salt pellets regularly in a water softener. 

Depending on the model of your water softener, you may be able to select from other forms of salt. For example, some models feature solar salt crystals that are made by evaporating seawater and may be suitable for use in a salt-based water softener. 

If you opt for solar salt, be sure to check the label carefully before adding it to your system to ensure that it is the correct type of salt. You’ll want to avoid using a salt product that has been contaminated by industrial or agricultural waste or chemicals, as this could impact the performance of your water softener. 

In addition, it’s recommended to only use the highest purity salt available, as excess amounts of salt can clog up a salt-based water softener. A low-quality salt product can impede the effectiveness of your water softener and cause your pipes, fixtures, and appliances to corrode. 

Another disadvantage of salt-based water softeners is the fact that they can cause a problem for your septic system. Over time, the amount of sodium in the water can affect the bacteria in your septic tank that helps break down waste. 

This can lead to a buildup of bacteria that causes septic tanks to fail and overflow into the surrounding soil. For this reason, it’s important to make sure you know what the hardness levels of your water are and contact your local building department before installing a water softener in your home.