Best Water Softener Salt

Updated December 2022
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Best of the Best
Morton Salt System-Protecting Softener Pellets
Morton Salt
System-Protecting Softener Pellets
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Customer Favorite
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Highly effective water softener salt that has earned a reputation for its reliable performance.


Top-selling water softener salt that is effective at neutralizing hard water deposits. Can improve the performance of appliances and increase long-term performance.


Some customers gripe that the price is inflated but are happy with the product's performance.

Best Bang for the Buck
Cargill Salt Water Softener Salt
Cargill Salt
Water Softener Salt
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Versatile Choice
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Useful salt crystals that are great for water softeners, but can also be used for other purposes around the house.


Natural salt crystals that are coarse and easy to use. Effective at treating hard water, but also versatile to use for other applications, such as melting sidewalk ice.


Pricier than if purchased at a store, but you get the added bonus of having it delivered.

Morton Salt Rust Defense Water Softener
Morton Salt
Rust Defense Water Softener
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Best for Iron Removal
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A multipurpose solution that is the water softener salt to choose if you need to reduce the level of iron in your water.


Formulated for water with high iron content, as it helps remove the mineral and reduces rust buildup. Makes water taste better and can increase appliance longevity.


Somewhat pricey. If your water supply isn't high in iron, consider other products.

CAI - DIAMOND CRYSTAL Bright and Soft Salt Pellets
Bright and Soft Salt Pellets
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Simple Yet Solid
Bottom Line

This water softener salt is effective at its job and has earned satisfied customers due to its reliability.


Great for most water softening systems, thanks to its effectiveness at reducing hard water particles. May improve appliance life. Dual-handle bag makes it easier to maneuver.


Price is a bit high, but the upside is having it delivered.

Morton Potassium Chloride Pellets
Potassium Chloride Pellets
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Alternative Option
Bottom Line

Worth considering as an alternative to typical salt for water softeners. Suitable for treating mild to moderately hard water.


Uses potassium chloride salt instead of regular salt to soften water. Is 99% sodium free. Adds essential potassium to a household's water supply.


May not be quite as effective at softening very hard water as classic salts. Expensive.


We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best water softener salt

If you have hard water — water with a significant amount of calcium and magnesium dissolved in it — a water softener can fix this problem. To remove the calcium, magnesium, and other minerals in the water, you can use water softener salt in your water softener appliance.

The salt creates a chemical reaction that eliminates the undesirable minerals that yield hard water. The chemical reaction results in soft water. 

As a trade-off, your soft water will have a higher concentration of sodium. However, this trade-off is desirable, as hard water can create scaly deposits that harm appliances like dishwashers and that create hard-to-remove scale on shower doors. Soft water creates softer skin and hair, and it allows clothes to get cleaner in the washing machine.

Although most water softener salt products have similarities, there are key differences to consider while shopping. Use our buying guide and product recommendations to find the perfect bag of salt for your water softener’s optimal performance and results. 

Best Water Softener Salt-Image-1
Chemist Thomas Scott discovered the first chemical treatment to soften hard water in the 1830s.

How to buy the best water softener salt

Crystals vs. pellets

Water softener salt that appears in a crystal format has a bright white appearance. One crystal does not have a uniform size and shape compared to other crystals in the bag. 

Crystals involve a lower amount of processing versus pellets for salt used in water softeners.

Generally, people who use a lower amount of water than average receive better results from the crystal format. If using crystals in a water softener with a greater-than-average amount of water usage, you may end up with a slightly higher chance of salt dams than when using pellets.

Water softener salt that appears in a pellet format has a cylindrical shape that is relatively uniform in size and shape from pellet to pellet in the bag.

To create pellets, manufacturers start with crystals. They then crush the crystals and add citric acid to them before creating the pellet shape and size. Soft water with citric acid can help to clean any buildup of minerals inside your pipes a little more efficiently than soft water without citric acid would.

If you use a higher-than-average amount of water in your home each month, pellets are a slightly better choice for your water softener than crystals. 

Ultimately, if you end up mixing crystals and pellets in the water softener because you purchase different bags of salt, it should not significantly affect the appliance’s performance in a negative way. It’s far more important to stick with a pure type of water softener salt to enhance performance.


To create the best results with your water softener, you want the purest water softener salt. Stick to known brand names to ensure a high level of purity.

If you use impure salt in the softener from a cheap brand, you may notice grimy or greasy spots appearing on the interior of the softener’s tank. Impure salt can lead to more frequent salt dams and other crusty clumps of salt that leave the softener unable to perform at the highest possible level.

Homes in the United States that are most likely to have naturally soft water that doesn’t require use of a water softener include areas near the Gulf of Mexico, New England, and the Pacific Northwest.


Important features and types of water softener salt

Sea salt or solar salt

Water softener salt manufacturers that sell sea salt mine the salt they use from ocean water. As part of the manufacturing process, the ocean water evaporates in the sun and wind, leaving only the salt behind.

The process to harvest sea salt results in an extremely pure type of sodium chloride salt, creating a desirable product to use in your softener. It also tends to cost less than specialty types of salt used in water softeners.

Rock salt

Rock salt used in water softeners involves mining the sodium chloride salt from deposits in the ground. Rock salt is an affordable option.

However, because of the mining process, rock salt will likely have more impurities in it than average water-softener salt.

Evaporated salt

Manufacturers that create their sodium chloride water softener salt using the evaporated salt method generate the purest possible salt for softeners. Having such pure salt should allow your softener to operate at the highest possible level. Using such salt also should reduce the number of times you have to clean the tank.

Rather than allowing natural evaporation outdoors, such as with sea salt, evaporated salt comes from an evaporation factory indoors. Evaporated salt can cost a bit more than other types of softener salt, however.

Potassium chloride

Potassium chloride is a specialty type of water softener salt that differs from the more common sodium chloride. Consequently, potassium chloride used in water softeners tends to cost quite a bit more than sodium chloride options.

Because potassium chloride creates lower levels of sodium in the soft water than sodium chloride, people who have significant susceptibility to sodium intake may prefer potassium chloride. (Understand that you would need to ingest a significant amount of soft water using sodium chloride water softener salt to significantly affect the sodium levels in the body).

One disadvantage of potassium chloride is that it doesn’t remove the minerals from the hard water as efficiently as sodium chloride. This means you may have a greater level of scaling in your pipes and appliances versus a sodium chloride product.

Best Water Softener Salt-glass of water
Did You Know?
When your home obtains its water from underground sources and wells, the chances of having hard water are significantly higher than water sourced from rivers and lakes.

How much does water softener salt cost?

Because salt for water softeners appears in different sizes of bags, the most accurate way to compare prices is by considering the cost per pound of salt.


Generally, the least expensive water softener salt comes in the largest bags and in multi-bag sets. When you purchase several bags in a set, you may pay as little as 25 to 45 cents per pound of salt.


The mid-range cost for salt for water softeners is 45 to 75 cents per pound of salt. This is the average cost for a single 40-pound or 50-pound bag. You can receive top-quality brands in this price range.


The priciest water softener salt can cost $0.75 to $2 per pound. Sodium chloride salt in this price range may appear in a single 25-pound bag.

Specialty types of salt also often are in this price range. For example, salt that provides the ability to prevent rust stains from appearing in your sinks or bathtubs may appear in this upper price range. Such salt attempts to help remove iron from your water.

Specialty chemical formulas in the water softener salt, such as potassium chloride (rather than the more common sodium chloride) may also carry a premium price.

Use a home water test kit with testing strips to test the hardness level of your water.


Tips for maintaining your water softener

Adding water softener salt to your softener appliance is only the starting point for making use of your water softener safely. You should perform a few regular maintenance tasks to ensure that the softener is working at the highest level and is delivering the desired results.

  • Avoid salt dams. Sometimes, your water softener may end up with crusted salt at the bottom of the tank. This is a salt damp or salt pile. The crusted salt could affect water flow through the tank, as well as proper absorption of the water softener salt. Break up these dams with a broomstick.
  • Dissolve stubborn salt crust. If breaking up the salt crust results in large chunks, you can pull the chunks out of the softener. Dissolve them in hot water and return them to the softener tank.
  • Check salt levels. Once or twice a month, you should open the lid on the softener and check the level of the salt. Filling the brine tank about halfway with salt is a good general guideline, but your particular softener model may specify another fill height to use.
  • Check for damage. Inspect the exterior of the tank at the same time you check the salt level. Look for cracks or bulges that could indicate a potential problem. (Such problems are extremely rare).
  • Only add the recommended type of salt. For the best results with your softener appliance, only add a type of water softener salt that the softener manufacturer recommends. Commonly, the softener can accept multiple types or brands of salt, giving you choices in what you buy.
Water softener with salt
Bags of water softener salt are typically available in 25-, 40-, or 50-pound sizes.


Q. Does it harm the water softener if it runs out of salt?

A. No, the softener continues to move water through it, even if it runs out of salt. However, without salt, the softener will not create soft water. The hard water from your water source simply travels through the softener and then to the remainder of the home as hard water.

Q. How often should I add salt to my water softener?

A. The amount of salt you should add each month depends on the amount of water your household uses and on the concentration of hard minerals in your water. On average, a 40-pound bag of water softener salt should last about one month for a family of four. However, if your water is especially hard or if you use more water than average, you will need more salt.

Q. Can I drink soft water or use it to brush my teeth?

A. Yes. Ingesting soft water typically does not harm your body. However, the added sodium in the soft water may cause it to taste funny. To eliminate the odd taste, people often install a drinking water filter in the kitchen that removes the sodium from the water. If you drink a lot of soft water and if you’re susceptible to salt intake, it could cause health problems for you, but this is a rare problem. 

Q. Should I only focus on the best water softener salt brands?

A. High-quality salt for water softeners gives you the greatest level of purity. Brands that are the most well-known among this type of softener salt include Morton, Cargill, Diamond, and CAI. Among those brands, Morton is the clear market leader.

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