Enter your Zip Code to find your nearest dealer:

Why do Water Softeners need Salt to Work?

hands holding solar salt crystals

Water softeners are specialized pieces of equipment. After decades of innovation, modern water softeners are more intelligent, more efficient, and better looking than ever before. Years and years of updates, adjustments, and advances have not changed the core idea of how a water softener works, though. Each one still needs a brine tank to help complete critical cycles that keep your system working correctly.

What is a Water Softener’s Brine Tank for?

If you’re familiar with some basic nautical terms, you’ve already heard of the term “brine” used to refer to seawater or salty water. Either the owner of the water softener or a service professional will take the lid off the brine tank to add salt regularly. The tank pulls in water on its own at the beginning of the water softener’s regeneration process, and that water dissolves some of the salt every time water goes in. This is where a common misconception comes from. Although the brine tank is connected to the water softener, the salty water isn’t added to your drinking water or shower water. Long story short, a brine tank holds salted water so the water softener can use it to flush out all the minerals that it caught while softening your water.

What Kind of Salt Goes in a Water Softener Brine Tank?

As necessary as salt is for a water softener, you shouldn’t just throw any salt you can find in the brine tank. Water softener salt comes in various forms, including pellets, crystals, blocks, and more. Are they all the same? Not by a long shot. Some manufacturers have released salts with additives designed to tackle other water problems, like removing iron, but these additives can damage some water softeners. Ultimately, the best choice is to find the purest type of water softener salt available.

Let’s say you’re perusing the hardware or grocery store shelves and see water softener bars, pellets, and crystals. Which one should you pick, or does it matter? First off, yes, it does matter, and it matters for the same reason as before: purity. Salt does not naturally form into pellets or bars. The substance has a chemical structure, meaning it wants to create crystal shapes. Imagine dumping a pile of table salt in a bowl and trying to pack it into the shape of a ball; it would be impossible without adding something to the salt to make it take shape. The pellets and bars sold for a water softener aren’t simply compressed salt. They are made with an adhesive that makes them hold their shape. As shaped salt products dissolve, that adhesive gets added to the water, too, traveling into your softener. This glue-like substance can start clogging important mechanisms inside your equipment, reducing the system's efficiency. Purity is always the best choice when it comes to salt.

Never use rock salt or road salt in your water softener, as these types do not have high purity standards. The salt some areas use to melt ice on roads and sidewalks in harsh winters is made to be thrown out on the ground, so it isn’t cleaned as thoroughly during manufacturing. If these salts are contaminated with bits of gravel, dust, dirt, or all three, it wouldn’t be a problem for your driveway. Imagine how dirty your brine tank would become if you threw gravel in the tank every few months, year after year! The purest kind of salt offered is called “solar salt.” Made by drying out natural salt water over time under the sun, solar salt crystals are the best for your water softener.

How Does Salt Help Soften Water?

To be as technically correct as possible, it isn’t the salt that softens the water but the media inside the water softener tank itself that does most of the work. Let’s review the whole process. It all starts when water comes from your city’s water supply or well into the water softener tank. Inside the tank are thousands of tiny resin spheres or zeolite crystals like Crystal-Right®,  designed to catch and hold onto hard minerals like calcium and magnesium suspended in your water. Eventually, the resin or zeolites (known as ‘media’) fill up and can’t hold any more minerals. At this point, the softener brings salty water from the brine tank to “regenerate” or refresh the media. The sodium from the salt dislodges the calcium molecules, then it all gets flushed out down the drain, so the media is ready to catch more minerals and keep the water in your home nice and soft.

What Happens If You Forget to Add Salt to Your Brine Tank?

Assuming you forget to add salt to your water softener’s brine tank for a few months, you will probably get worried about what happens to your water softener and the water in your home. If there is still some salt in contact with the water in the tank, you should have time to add more salt in the next day or two. If you don’t, the media in your water softener will fill up and cannot stop heavy minerals like calcium and magnesium from getting into your regular water. If you don’t notice the difference immediately, your water will return to being as hard as before the water softener. The sooner you can get some solar salt crystals back in your brine tank, the sooner your system can regenerate and provide you with clean, soft water again.

Many authorized Evolve dealers offer salt services, so you never have to worry about buying the correct type of salt or running out of salt and ending up with hard water again. Ask your local dealer about salt delivery options; they will bring the correct type of salt to you and haul it down to your basement for you! Contact the Evolve dealer in your area to learn more.

Company logo Water quality logo

Every feature of the Evolve® water treatment systems has been designed to provide better water for your home and family. Our complete line of innovative water treatment products combines efficiency and flexibility to create the brilliant water you can trust.

© Copyright 2024 Evolve®. All Rights Reserved.