What is Salt’s Role in a Water Softener System?
With years of innovation, water softeners have become more efficient and user-friendly. But even with the many advances, the core idea of how a water softener works remains the same. They require a salt brine tank to perform the critical cycles that keep the system properly performing its work of softening water.
What is the purpose of a Water Softener’s Brine Tank?
The term “brine” typically refers to sea water or any type of salty water. A common misconception is that the water from a softener that flows throughout the home is salty. While the brine tank IS connected to the water softener, the salty water doesn’t enter your plumbing system.
When you own and/or operate a water softener, you’ll need to remove the lid from the brine tank to add salt as needed. The tank draws water when the system’s regeneration process begins, and it dissolves some of the salt as they are in contact. From there, the brine tank holds the salty water while it dissolves and flushes minerals that were in the hard water.
What Type of Salt is Used in a Brine Tank?
The salt used in softeners comes in a variety of different forms, including pellets, blocks, and crystals. The kind of salt your specific softener uses depends on how it was designed and what the manufacturer recommends.
Some salts contain additives designed to handle other residential water issues, including removing iron. Note that if your system is not designed for these additives, they could damage the unit. We always recommend it is best practice to use the purest form of water softener salt you can find.
In the factory, water softener system salt is formed into pellets or bars. Naturally salt wants to form crystal shapes. So, the manufacturer needs to add a substance to form it into shapes that are practical for use in your system. The bars and pellets made for water softeners aren’t simply compressed salt, but use an adhesive that allows them hold their shape. If it weren’t for this the salt would be similar to the table salt in your cupboard.
As these shaped salt products dissolve, that adhesive dissolves into your water as well. This sticky substance can clog vital parts and mechanisms inside your equipment – eventually reducing the system’s efficiency. That is why we urge finding the purest form of salt products in your unit.
Absolutely NEVER use road salt or rock salt in your water softener system as they are considered very low in purity standards. Because ice melt salt does not need to be clean – it’s going on the pavement to melt frozen water – it is often found to be contaminated with bits of dirt, dust, and gravel. That’s not a problem for a road, sidewalk, or driveway, but imagine how dirty your brine tank would get if these ended up in the system.
The purest type of water softener salt available is labeled “solar salt.” This is appropriately named because it is made by drying out natural saltwater under the sun, making pure salt crystals.
How Does Salt Soften Water?
It is not technically salt that softens water, but the media in your water softener tank that reduces hardness in water. When the water coming into your home from a municipal water supply enters the water softener tank, it encounters thousands of tiny resin spheres (or zeolite crystals like Crystal-Right®). These are designed to capture and hold onto the hard minerals like magnesium and calcium in your water. Over time, the spheres fill and come to their capacity to hold any more minerals. It is then when the water softener introduces the salty water from the brine tank, which renews (or “regenerates”) the media. The sodium in the salt releases the calcium molecules – and then the system flushes this out and down the drain. The now-clean and regenerated media is ready to catch more minerals and allow softened water throughout your home.
What Happens if your Brine Tank runs out of Salt?
When a water softener system doesn’t have salt the media will fill up and then be unable to capture the heavy minerals – meaning it will act as if you had no water softener at all. Adding solar salt crystals back in brine tank allows the system to start regenerating and providing your home with clean, soft water again.
For our customers’ convenience, we offer salt services so they never need to worry about purchasing the correct type of salt or ever running out of salt for the system. We have affordable salt delivery options where we can bring the right type of salt for your system to you – including hauling it down to your desired location in your home!
If you have an older soft water system in your home and would like us to check it out, or if you’re considering getting a new one, please call our water pro team at Futuramic’s Clean Water Center. We will come out for a no-obligation review and consultation.