Frequently Asked Questions - Water Conditioning

Can salt enter my drinking water?

No. Salt's sole purpose in your water softener is to regenerate the resin beads that actually take the hardness out of your water. This exchange does not make your water taste salty or significantly increase your sodium intake.

Back to top

What is mushing and why should I avoid it?

Occasionally, if you use salt pellets or cube-style salt which are too loosely compacted, they may revert to tiny crystals of evaporated salt - similar to table salt. These crystals may bond, creating a thick mass in your brine tank. This mushing may interrupt brine production - the key element for refreshing the resin beads in your softener. Without brine, your softener can't produce soft water.

Back to top

What is bridging?

Bridging is a condition that sometimes occurs in the brine tank when salt sticks together forming a "bridge" that prohibits it from coming into contact with the water in the tank. You can eliminate bridging by using a 100% water soluble pellet product in your brine tank.

Back to top

How often should I add salt to my softener?

The more often you regenerate, the more often you'll need to add salt. A good general rule of thumb is to check your softener once a month. To maintain consistently soft water, keep your salt level at least half-full at all times, but do not overfill.

Back to top

Which Diamond Crystal® salt should I put in my softener?

The answer depends on your softener, your type of source water, and how much maintenance you are willing to do on your softener. In general we recommend Diamond Crystal® Pellets with Softener Care™ Additive or Diamond Crystal® Sun Gems®.

Back to top

What is the difference between the types of water softener salt I see in the store?

Three types of salt are generally encountered in the retail store: rock salt, solar salt (crystals) and evaporated salt (pellets).

Rock salt is a naturally occurring mineral which is obtained from underground salt deposits by traditional mining methods. It exhibits a variable chemical purity, running from 98% to 99% sodium chloride. It has a water insolubles level of about 0.5% to 1.5%, the chief component of which is an impurity called calcium sulfate.

Solar salt is a natural product obtained through the evaporation of seawater or inland brine sources. It has a sodium chloride content of 99.5% or higher, and a water insolubles level of less than 0.03%. It is most commonly sold in a crystal form, but also may be sold in the form of compressed pellets or blocks.

Evaporated salt is manufactured by solution mining underground bedded salt deposits of dissolving salt to form a brine and then evaporating the moisture using energy in the form of natural gas or coal. Evaporated salt (in the form of compacted pellets, sheeted salt - called cubes, or blocks) has a sodium chloride content ranging from 99.6% to 99.99%. Water insoluble matter generally is less than 0.01%.

Back to top

Should I use pellets or solar salt?

Since solar salt contains slightly more water insoluable matter than (evaporated salt) pellets, consideration should be given to salt usage, softener cleanout frequency and softener design. If salt usage is light one could probably use the products interchangeably. If salt usage is heavy, insoluables will build up faster when using solar salt, and the need to more frequently clean the brine tank/reservoir will be increased. Brine tank cleanout can be a messy task.

Back to top

Rock salt is less expensive in the store. Will it work in my softener?

Rock salt will work in a softener; however, because of the relatively high level of water insoluble matter present in rock salt, it is recommended for use only if the consumer is willing to perform routine brine tank cleanout. For the average home softener this can be required 2 to 3 times per year.

Back to top

The salt in my softener has formed one large mass. What should I do?

This condition, known as "bridging" or "mushing" will require manual break up of the salt mass to facilitate brine flow. A handy person can probably accomplish this task, but alternatively, a service call may be arranged through a water conditioning dealer.

Back to top

I have a cabinet softener and use solar salt. It sticks together and sometimes I have to knock it down with a stick. Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening?

If this condition presents itself with some frequency, you may reduce the tendency by limiting the amount of salt added to the "salt-keeper" (e.g. if currently adding four 40 lb. bags, reduce to two bags) or by changing to Diamond Crystal® Sun Gems® or Diamond Crystal® Pellets with Softener Care™ Additive which are less prone to bridging due to their larger particle size.

Back to top

Should I clean out my brine tank?

Unless the salt product being used is high in water-insoluble matter, or there is a serious malfunction of some sort (e.g. bridging), it is usually not necessary to clean out the brine tank. Some individuals choose to allow all of the salt to dissolve in their softener unit once per year so it can be visually inspected to insure no build-up has occurred. If there is a build-up, it should be cleaned out to prevent softener malfunction. However, an annual inspection is not mandatory.

Back to top

I'm using your Diamond Crystal® Red-Out® Pellets with Iron Fighter® additive and still have rust stains on my toilet bowl, sinks, and laundry. Why isn't it working?

Iron removal through the use of an iron fighting additive is limited to water containing 2 ppm (parts per million) iron or less. With iron levels that are higher, a strong single-dose cleanser (usually available through water conditioning dealers or hardware stores) should be used periodically, and may be used regularly to supplement the Red Out Pellets. We recommend a product called Super Iron Out®. For additional information go to www.ironout.com. If your water has a significant level of iron, you may have to install a special iron filter.

Back to top

What type of salt should I buy for my softener?

The type of salt best suited to a particular softener will vary in accord with softener design. Usually, cabinet-style self-contained softeners require salt that is low in water-insoluble matter, while side-by-side units with separate salt holding tanks are easier to clean and therefore allow more flexibility in choosing a salt product. Usually, however, we recommend Diamond Crystal® Pellets with Softener Care™ Additive which are of a high salt purity.

Back to top

I'm finding some little black specks in my solar salt. Will it hurt my softener?

No, solar salt is a natural product made by evaporating seawater. It is harvested much like an agricultural crop and consequently may contain minute inclusions such as earth, small pebbles, and other naturally occurring materials.

Since these inclusions are of a different density than the brine in the bottom of the salt keeper, they are generally left behind in the salt keeper. Lighter density materials, should they accompany the salt brine during regenerations, are usually flushed from the resin during the rinse cycle which follows regeneration.

Back to top

The pellets I'm buying look slightly discolored compared to others I've gotten in the past. Are they dirty?

Pellets may be made from compacted evaporated salt or compacted solar salt. The latter product is usually slightly darker in color.

Back to top

Can I use blocks in my softener?

Normally, blocks are used in specially designed salt holding tanks. For proper operation, the water level in the holding tank is raised to keep the blocks submerged for maximum brine formation. If you want to switch to salt blocks you may have to reset the water level in the salt keeper.

Back to top

My water smells like rotten eggs. Is there a type of salt I can use to remove it?

The smell of rotten eggs is generally associated with hydrogen sulfide gas that may be present in the water supply. Salt does not remove this odor or the gas. You must take other steps to remove the gas.

Back to top

My salt doesn't dissolve, what should I do?

Check the salt at the water level to see if a solid mass has developed (called a "bridge"), or if fine "mushy" salt is lying at the bottom of the tank (called mushing). If a bridge, carefully break up the mass to allow it to drop into the water below. If mushing, remove the good pellets, scoop out the "mushed" salt, and reload the good pellets.

If the salt keeper was empty at the time of fresh salt addition, check the water level in the tank. If lower than normal, the float may be stuck in the internal side column. Remove the cover and check the mechanism to determine if it is working freely. If not, call the service department of the water softener manufacturer and arrange for a service call.

Back to top

The salt dissolves too fast in my softener. Why?

This question often accompanies a switch from one type of water softening salt to another, e.g. going from pellets to solar. What you are seeing perhaps is related to a difference in bulk density between the two products. The closer the crystals pack together, the less volume they occupy. This would give rise to the perception that the salt is dissolving too fast. In addition, if the initial water level in your unit was set to use pellets, it may be too high to use solar salt (i.e. too much water in the tank dissolves more salt) and may need to be lowered. Follow your softener manufacturer's instructions.

In reality, salt can only dissolve to the extent that it produces a saturated brine (26.4% by weight). It doesn't matter what salt is used. When the brine is saturated with respect to salt, no more can dissolve. Therefore, even though appearances may suggest otherwise, salt usage is the same regardless of the salt product type or form that is used.

Back to top

I've put salt in my softener but I still don't have soft water. What's wrong?

It could be that the salt had too little residence time, i.e. the salt was dumped into the salt keeper and the softener regeneration cycle initiated immediately. It could also be the result of a softener malfunction or possibly salt bridging or mushing which reduces or eliminates brine formation.

Back to top

Recently I changed to your product, and now my laundry isn't as clean?

Unless the softener had a malfunction, or the salt has bridged or mushed and the ion-exchange resin has not been regenerated, there is nothing associated with the change that would reduce laundering capability.

Back to top

I've been using cubes in my softener. Is there a comparable substitute product?

Diamond Crystal® Pellets with Softener Care™ Additive are an appropriate substitute.

Back to top

If I sprinkle your water softener salt on my driveway to remove ice will it harm the concrete?

The best practice is to purchase a product that is specially designed for snow and ice removal and then to closely observe the directions for use as shown on the package. Diamond Crystal® Solar Salt Extra Coarse and Diamond Crystal® Rock Salt may be used to remove snow and ice from concrete sidewalks, parking lots and asphalt surfaces. Diamond Crystal® Pellets with Softener Care™ Additive, Diamond Crystal® Red Out® Pellets with Iron Fighter® Additive, Diamond Crystal® Sun Gems® and Diamond Crystal® Red Out® Sun Gems® are not recommended for this use due to their large size.

Directions for Use: Remove excess snow. Spread 1/2 to 1 cup per square yard evenly over ice and packed snow surfaces. Quantity and melting action will depend upon temperature and thickness of the ice and packed snow. Reapply as necessary. When ice and snow soften, remove slush and any excess ice melter from pavement for good concrete maintenance. Notice: All ice melting agents work by reducing the freezing point of water. This can result in more frequent freeze-thaw cycling of the melted snow and ice, which can cause spalling (surface scaling of concrete). As such, use only on properly placed, cured and sealed, air-entrained concrete. To lessen the possibility of freeze-thaw cycling and potential damage, promptly remove slush as it is formed. Do not use on porous or improperly cured concrete, concrete less than one year old, wood or other porous materials. As with any ice melting agent, particular care should be used when grass and vegetation are adjacent to the deicing surface as excess application may cause damage. Use this product at your own risk.

Back to top

Can I use deicing salt in my softener?

We do not recommend it. Note that deicing salt has a higher amount of insolubles and will require more clean-up of the brine tank. Also, the smaller particle size of deicing salt is not suitable for water softeners.

Back to top

I understand there is something else besides salt that will regenerate my softener. What is it?

Diamond Crystal® Potassium Chloride may be used for ion-exchange resin regeneration. It is a different type of salt that uses potassium in the ion exchange process instead of sodium. It is a more expensive product.

Back to top

How do I know if I need to replace the resin in my softener?

When seemingly all other avenues such as problems with the salt being used and/or basic mechanical malfunctions of the softener components are exhausted and the water is still not soft enough, it may be time to consider replacing the resin, or the softener. Experience has shown that, depending on water usage, most ion exchange resins last 20 to 25 years.

Back to top

I have brown/black sludge/oily substance in my softener's brine tank. Is it from the salt?

Over time, water-insoluble matter from salt or the water supply may accumulate in the salt holding tank. This water-insoluble matter may have the appearance of a brown or black sludge or appear oily. It is usually the result of natural mineral inclusions contained in the salt, and is generally inorganic in nature.

Back to top

Will brine from my softener hurt my septic system?

Studies performed by the Water Quality Association indicate that a properly placed septic tank with an adequate septic field is in no way impaired in operation by brine discharged from a water softener. This is primarily due to dilution factors and septic field drainage.

Back to top

Can I discharge the brine from my softener on my lawn?

Direct discharge of either sodium or potassium chloride brine should be avoided. Brine alters the osmotic pressure that grasses (plants) rely upon to regulate water needs. Imbalance in water supply will result in browning and eventually destruction of the grass. A diluted brine ratio of 20 parts water to 1 part brine may be used.

Back to top

Are some salts more pure than others?

Yes. Evaporated salt ranges from 99.7 to 99.99% pure sodium chloride. Solar salt is typically 99.6 to 99.8% sodium chloride. Rock salt used for water conditioning may run from 95 to more than 98.5% sodium chloride, depending on the source.

Back to top

Can I use water softening salt in my ice cream freezer?

Salt lowers the freezing point of water making it possible to achieve below freezing temperature when applied to ice. Any type of salt, including table salt, may be used for this purpose. Since the salt will eventually melt the ice, coarse salt would be preferred because it dissolves more slowly. Rock or solar water softening salt tends to be coarse and will work well for this purpose. Pellets and Sun Gems® are too coarse and should not be used.

Back to top

Is there a difference between cube and pellet type salt?

Yes, from a physical standpoint. Cube salt runs uniformly thick at about 1/4" and is varied in length and width. Pellets are pillow or cough drop shaped and may vary in thickness. From the standpoint of chemical purity and functionality, there is little difference to be observed, although cubes may be slightly more durable.

Back to top

What exactly is "Softener Care" additive?

The Softener Care™ additive is a surfactant called sodium hexametaphosphate. In the pellets, it provides added durability, thus reducing the tendency towards mushing and bridging which can interfere with normal softener operation.

Back to top

Can you use softener salt with food, such as canning or with meat packing?

Although water softener pellets may be made from food grade salt, the pellet press process, itself, does not meet the criteria required to call the finished pellets "food grade". Therefore, direct application of pellets in food processing is not recommended. Other water softening salt products like solar salt, rock salt and brine blocks are not recommended for food application for the same reason.

Back to top

Is it harmful to mix different kinds of salt in the softener?

Generally speaking, no; however, certain water softeners are designed for specific water softener products and may not function as well using alternative products. For example, use of rock salt in a cabinet model softener is not recommended because this type of softener is not easily cleaned and rock salt leaves a residue of insoluble matter. It can also bridge. Mixing of coarse and fine products (for example pellets and rock salt) is not recommended as bridging could also result from this practice. It is recommended that you allow your unit to go empty (or nearly empty) of one type of salt before adding another to avoid these problems.

Back to top

When filling the water softener tank, should the water level be above or below the salt level?

The water level should be set according to your owners manual or at your water conditioning technician's recommendation. The salt level should be maintained a minimum of 3 to 4 inches above the water level, unless otherwise directed by the owners manual or water conditioner technician.

Back to top

Other than keeping the salt level at half, is there any other good rule of thumb to use as far as filling the softener is concerned?

Loosen any encrusted salt that may be adhering to the perimeter of the salt keeper, making sure that any large pieces are broken up. Distribute the salt evenly across the salt keeper. Make sure water level is appropriate for optimum operation.

Back to top

Can the water softener salt be used to make bath salts?

Only solar salt would be recommended. Optimum sizing of salt is 'medium' in gradation. Most solar salt used for water softening is coarse or extra coarse, which is larger in gradation.

Back to top

Is the water softener salt in any way harmful to animals?

As with food considerations, water softening salts are not intended for human or animal feeding. The particle size is inappropriate for small animals. In addition, water softening salt may have additives that are inappropriate for animal feeds.

Back to top

What stores in my area carry your salt?

Please call 1-888-385-7258 and ask them to forward you to the Cargill inside sales representative in your area. The Cargill inside sales person can give you the name of a retailer in your area. For water conditioning salt link to the Water Conditioning Product Locator.

Back to top

Are there any chemicals in your salt?

Some of our products contain additives (primarily to keep it from getting hard or to iodize it) and others do not. Please refer to the product packaging or request a technical data sheet.

Back to top

Can I put softener salt directly into my well or cistern and get soft water?

No, to soften water, you need a water softener. The salt used in the brine tank of a water softener does not directly soften the water, but is used to regenerate the resin beads in your water softener. These actually soften the water from your well by removing the hard water ions, calcium, magnesium and iron.

Back to top

What is the difference between sodium (chloride) and potassium (chloride)?

Both do the same job. They replace calcium and magnesium on the softener resin during the regeneration process. When you use sodium chloride, sodium will be added to the soft water during use and when you use potassium chloride, potassium will be added to the soft water. People whose physicians have advised them to eliminate sources of sodium from their drinking water normally use potassium chloride. In some people who have kidney or other renal problems, potassium can aggravate those problems. Most healthy people(>97%) can use sodium chloride without trouble and sodium chloride is less expensive. If you have any questions, consult your physician.

Back to top

How much sodium do I get from softened water?

It depends on the hardness of your water, but on average less than 3% of your sodium intake comes from drinking softened water. It is estimated that the average person consumes the equivalent of two to three teaspoons of salt a day from various sources. Assuming a daily intake of 5 grams (5000 milligrams) of sodium in food and the consumption of three quarts of water (i.e., coffee, tea, fruit juices, and drinking water), the contribution of sodium (Na+) in the water from the home water softening process is minimal compared to the total daily intake of many sodium-rich foods. The formula for calculating the amount of additional sodium follows: mg of Na / quart of softened water = grains of hardness X 7.5 mg Na / grain of hardness.

Back to top

.