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Home » Water Softeners » When To Add Salt to Water Softener and How Much to Add

When To Add Salt to Water Softener and How Much to Add

By: Craig Smith
Published on:
When To Add Salt to Water Softener

Salt plays a pivotal role in water softeners by aiding in the exchange of ions to remove minerals like calcium and magnesium, which cause water hardness. 

In this article, we’ll guide you through the essential steps to replenish the salt in your water softener, ensuring its optimal performance. We’ll also explore the costs, the best type of salt to use, and the importance of maintaining an adequate salt level.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the procedure to add salt to your water softener.
  • Identifying the right kind of salt and the cost involved.
  • Recognizing when and why it’s crucial to replenish the salt.

How to Add Salt to a Water Softener

Adding salt to your water softener is a straightforward yet crucial routine to ensure the efficiency of your water softening system. 

The process primarily involves checking the current salt level, selecting the right kind of salt, cleaning the brine tank if necessary, adding the salt, and regenerating the softener to utilize the new salt for softening. 

Keep Reading: How Does a Water Softener Work?

Let’s delve into each step to guide you through this maintenance task.

Step 1: Check Salt Level

Begin by inspecting the current salt level in the brine tank. This will help you determine the need for replenishment. 

salt softener

A general rule of thumb is to refill the tank once it’s down to a quarter full. However, it’s advisable to refer to the user manual of your water softener for the manufacturer’s recommendations concerning salt levels.

Step 2: Select the Appropriate Salt

There are three primary types of salt you can use for your water softener: solar salt, evaporated salt, and rock salt. Each has its own set of advantages and may be more suitable depending on your water softener model and the hardness level of your water. We’ll go into more detail about the types of salt later in this article.

For a brief overview, solar salt, derived from evaporated seawater, is usually more soluble than rock salt, which is mined from underground deposits. Evaporated salt is the purest form and dissolves best in water, making it a preferred choice for many homeowners.

Step 3: Clean the Brine Tank (If Necessary)

Over time, a crust of old salt (known as a salt bridge) may form in the brine tank, preventing the salt from dissolving properly in the water. If you notice a salt bridge or any dirt in the brine tank, it’s essential to clean it before adding new salt. 

You can use warm water and a soft cloth or brush to gently clean the inside of the tank. Ensure the tank is dry before proceeding to the next step.

Step 4: Add Salt

Pour the salt into the brine tank, ensuring it’s not overfilled. It’s advisable to maintain a level not exceeding three-quarters of the tank to allow for proper salt dissolution and water softening operation. 

Make sure to spread the salt evenly in the tank and avoid piling it in one area.

Step 5: Regenerate the Softener

After adding the salt, initiate a manual regeneration cycle to allow the softener to utilize the new salt for softening. This step ensures that the water softener system starts softening water immediately with the newly added salt. 

It’s advisable to refer to the user manual for specific instructions on how to initiate a manual regeneration cycle on your particular model of water softener.

Following these steps will ensure that your water softener continues to operate effectively, providing your household with soft water, which is gentler on appliances, plumbing fixtures, and your skin and hair.

Salt Consumption in a Water Softener

Understanding the salt consumption in a water softener is crucial as it directly impacts the efficiency of the softening process and your household’s soft water supply. 

On average, a water softener requires between 6 to 8 pounds of salt for each regeneration cycle, the specifics of which are influenced by the size of the system. This generally equates to one 40-pound bag of salt each month, totaling up to twelve 40-pound bags of salt over the course of a year

morton salt

Factors Affecting Salt Usage

The amount of salt a water softener uses can vary based on multiple factors, including:

  • Water Hardness: The harder the water, the more salt will be required to soften it. Water hardness is measured in grains per gallon (gpg) or milligrams per liter (mg/L). High levels of calcium and magnesium ions in the water necessitate more salt to facilitate the ion exchange process that softens the water.
  • Water Consumption: The volume of water used in your household also dictates the amount of salt your water softener will consume. More water usage means more hard water to soften, increasing salt usage.
  • Efficiency of the Water Softener: Modern water softeners are designed to be more efficient in terms of salt usage. High-efficiency models require less salt to soften a given amount of hard water compared to older, less efficient models.

Estimating Salt Requirements

Estimating the salt requirement can help you better plan the maintenance schedule for your water softener. Here’s a simple way to estimate:

  1. Determine Water Hardness: Get a water test kit to measure the hardness of your water.
  2. Track Water Consumption: Monitor your water bills or install a water meter to gauge the volume of water your household consumes.
  3. Consult Softener Manual: Check the user manual of your water softener to find out the salt efficiency rating and other specifications related to salt usage.
  4. Calculate: Use the data from steps 1, 2, and 3 to estimate the amount of salt your water softener will require over a specific period.

Through a keen understanding of the factors affecting salt consumption and keeping a close eye on your water softener’s salt levels, you can ensure a consistent supply of soft water in your household while optimizing salt usage.

Cost Breakdown of Salt for a Water Softener

On average, water softener salt costs range from $5 to $30 per 40-pound bag, depending on the type and brand. Considering the consumption of an average of 12 40-pound bags of water softener salt per year, you can estimate the cost at approximately $60 to $360 annually.

Factors Impacting Salt Costs

Various elements come into play when determining the cost of salt for your water softener. Being aware of these factors can help you budget more accurately and may also influence your choice of salt.

  • Type of Salt: Different types of salt come with different price tags. Rock salt is usually the least expensive option, while solar salt falls in the mid-range, and evaporated salt tends to be the most expensive due to its higher purity level.
  • Brand: The brand of salt can significantly affect its price. Renowned brands may charge more due to their established reputation for quality and consistency.
  • Purity: Higher purity salt often costs more as it leaves less residue in the brine tank, translating to less maintenance and better efficiency in the long run.
  • Form: Water softener salt comes in various forms, including pellets, crystals, or blocks. Pellets are often more expensive than crystals, while block salt typically falls between the two in price.
  • Packaging and Size: The packaging and size of the salt also impact its cost. Bulk purchases or larger bags may offer a lower price per pound than smaller bags or individually wrapped units.
  • Regional Pricing: Prices can also vary by region due to transportation costs, local taxes, and regional market conditions.
  • Retailer: Where you purchase your salt can also affect its price. Local retailers, big-box stores, and online platforms may offer different pricing structures, and it’s worthwhile to shop around for the best deals.

Understanding these factors can aid in making informed decisions while purchasing salt for your water softener, ensuring not only cost-effectiveness but also the efficient operation of your system.

Choosing the Right Salt for Your Water Softener

The type of salt you choose can impact the softening process, the maintenance of your system, and potentially the lifespan of your water softener. Here’s a closer look at the primary types of salt used in water softeners.

Type of SaltDescriptionAdvantagesDisadvantagesAverage Cost per 40-pound Bag
Rock SaltMined from underground salt deposits, contains more impurities compared to other types.Least expensiveLeaves more residue
Requires more frequent cleaning of the brine tank
$5 – $10
Solar SaltObtained through the evaporation of seawater, available in pellet or crystal form.More soluble than rock salt
Less residue compared to rock salt
Less pure than evaporated salt
May still require regular brine tank cleaning
$10 – $20
Evaporated SaltProduced by evaporating raw salt solution, leaving behind pure salt crystals.Highest purity
Leaves less residueMore efficient
Most expensive$20 – $30
Block SaltCompressed into blocks, requires a higher level of maintenance to ensure proper dissolving.Long-lastingRequires more maintenance
Not suitable for all softeners
$15 – $25
Potassium ChlorideAn alternative to sodium-based salts, ideal for individuals on a sodium-restricted diet.Sodium-free
Environmentally friendly
Less efficient in softening
More expensive Not suitable for all softeners
$25 – $35

Block salt and potassium chloride offer alternative options for different needs and water softener systems. While block salt is long-lasting, it necessitates more maintenance to ensure it dissolves properly. On the other hand, potassium chloride is a suitable option for those looking to reduce sodium intake, although it’s less efficient in softening and comes at a higher price point. 

Each type of salt serves distinct purposes and comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, which should be considered alongside your water softener’s specifications and personal preferences.

When to Replenish Salt in Your Water Softener

Here are some general guidelines and signs to look for that indicate it’s time to add salt to your water softener:

  • Regular Schedule: Establishing a regular schedule based on your water softener’s salt consumption rate is advisable. For instance, if your softener goes through a 40-pound bag of salt every month, set a reminder to check and possibly replenish the salt every four weeks.
  • Salt Level: Always monitor the salt level in the brine tank. It’s a good practice to check the salt level at least once a month. When the salt is below one-quarter full, it’s time to add more.
  • Water Softness: If you start to notice that the water is becoming hard, it’s likely time to add salt. Signs of hard water include spots on dishes, a filmy residue on skin and hair, or reduced lathering of soap.
  • System Alerts: Some modern water softeners come with features that alert you when the salt level is low. Pay attention to these alerts and replenish the salt as recommended.
  • Manual Regeneration: If a manual regeneration doesn’t result in soft water, or if the water softener regenerates but the salt level doesn’t change, it’s time to add salt.

By adhering to a regular checking schedule and keeping an eye on the signs of low salt level, you can keep your water softener functioning efficiently and enjoy the benefits of soft water in your home.

The Significance of Salt in Water Softening

Here are some key points that underline the significance of salt in water softening:

  • Ion Exchange Process: The sodium ions from the salt replace the hardness ions (calcium and magnesium) in the water, rendering it soft.
  • Prevention of Scale Buildup: Salt helps prevent scale buildup in pipes and appliances, which can lead to clogging and reduced efficiency over time.
  • Extended Appliance Lifespan: Soft water extends the lifespan of household appliances by preventing the accumulation of hard water deposits.
  • Improved Soap Efficiency: Soft water allows soap to lather better, thus improving its efficiency. This can lead to cost savings as less soap and detergents are required.
  • Skin and Hair Benefits: Soft water is gentler on the skin and hair, helping to maintain moisture and prevent dryness which is often associated with hard water.
  • Economic Benefits: In the long run, the cost of salt for water softening is outweighed by the savings on soap, detergents, and potential repairs or replacements of appliances and plumbing systems affected by hard water.

By ensuring a consistent supply of the right type of salt for your water softener, you are investing in the overall quality and comfort of your household.

Final Thoughts

From understanding the cost breakdown of water softener salt, choosing the right type of salt, and recognizing when to replenish salt, to comprehending the vital role salt plays in water softening, we’ve covered all of the key aspects to ensure optimal system performance. 

Your choice of salt and a regular maintenance schedule is pivotal for the efficiency of your water softener, ultimately contributing to the longevity of your appliances, the effectiveness of your cleaning products, and the overall comfort and quality of your household. 

Armed with this knowledge, you are well-equipped to make informed decisions that cater to your home’s water-softening needs.


How do you add salt to water softener?

Adding salt to a water softener involves checking the current salt level in the brine tank, selecting the appropriate type of salt, and pouring it into the tank, generally not exceeding three-quarters full. It’s advisable to initiate a manual regeneration cycle post-refilling to allow the softener to utilize the new salt for softening.

How often do you add salt to water softener?

The frequency of adding salt to a water softener varies based on the hardness of the water, the volume of water being treated, and the efficiency of the water softener. A common practice is to check the salt level monthly and replenish it whenever the salt level falls below one-quarter full.

How many bags of salt do I need to fill my water softener?

The number of bags required to fill a water softener depends on the size of the brine tank and the type of salt used. Typically, a standard water softener may hold about 200 to 300 pounds of salt, so 5 to 8 bags of 40-pound salt may be needed for a complete refill.

How do I know when to add salt to my water softener?

Observing the salt level in the brine tank, checking for any changes in water softness, or following a regular schedule based on past salt consumption are ways to determine when to add salt. Some modern water softeners come with low salt level alerts to notify you when it’s time to replenish the salt.

What happens if you forget to add salt to softener?

If you forget to add salt to the softener, the resin bed won’t be able to regenerate, leading to hard water. This can result in scale buildup in pipes and appliances, reduced soap efficiency, and potential skin and hair dryness.

How long does it take for water softener to work after adding salt?

After adding salt, a manual regeneration cycle should be initiated which usually takes about 2 to 4 hours. Post-regeneration, the water softener should start softening the water immediately, ensuring a supply of soft water.

How long does a 40 pound bag of salt last in a water softener?

How long a 40-pound bag of salt lasts in a water softener varies based on factors such as water hardness, water consumption, and the efficiency of the softener. It could last anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months. Keeping a regular check on the salt level and noting the consumption trend will provide a better understanding of how long a bag of salt lasts in your specific setup.

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Craig Smith
Craig got his start in water working in the swimming pool and spa industry. Water treatment would grow into his main career but he ended up working in the pool industry for over 26 years where much of his time was spent balancing the water in customer's swimming pools and installing water filtration equipment. Craig offers an abundance of water treatment knowledge after helping homeowners get pure water for 26 years.

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