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Water Softener Salt Types

Have you ever stayed in a motel or hotel that softened their water? If so, you probably experienced that "soapy" feeling when you took a shower. In other words, you probably wasted 20 gallons of water trying to get the soap off your skin that had been rinsed off 5 minutes earlier. People accustomed to hard water showers often complain about the feeling of being soapy.

That is a small price to pay (even though all the soap is off) when you factor in all of the benefits of using soft water.

Hard vs. Soft

The water that comes out of the faucets in your home has lots of things in it. It very likely has some bacteria in it. It could also have dissolved gases in it such as oxygen or carbon dioxide. Dissolved gases are easy to see. Simply fill a clear glass with some hot tap water. Within a few moments you will see very tiny air bubbles cling to the inside surface of the glass.

The tap water also has, depending upon your water source, varying amounts of dissolved elements.

The dissolved elements most common in water seem to be calcium, magnesium, and iron. Often there are others. However, these three cause fits in many household plumbing systems.

Iron in water can cause stains on your clothes and plumbing fixtures. Calcium and magnesium cause the common white, hard water deposits on plumbing fixtures. These same deposits can form on the insides of pipes, boilers, hot water heaters, and plumbing fixtures.

The quantity of dissolved elements is not same for given sources of water. The water from a well in the country may have 5 times the dissolved minerals than water from a river or stream.

You measure water hardness by determining the amount of dissolved elements in a gallon of water. This measurement is usually referred to as grains, one grain equaling 1/7000th of a pound. The weight of one grain equals that of a singular standard grain of wheat. Evidently, it takes approximately 7,000 grains of wheat to equal a pound.

The Big Switch

The Soviets, back in the early 1900's, figured out that you could make hard water soft. They did this through a simple substitution. It seems that certain other chemical elements will readily take the place of calcium and magnesium. These being sodium and potassium. They will also substitute for iron. It is not quite unlike some athletic games.

In a nutshell, hard water enters a tank which contains small resin beads. The surface of the beads contains the sodium and/or potassium. As the hard water (containing the calcium and magnesium) passes by the beads, the sodium jumps in. Well, this forces the calcium and magnesium to jump onto the beads. BINGO, the hard water becomes soft. Eventually, the beads fill up with calcium and magnesium.

Through a regeneration process, the calcium and magnesium are flushed from the tank. During this process, the substitution process occurs again. Sodium, from a separate brine tank is injected into the resin bead tank. At this point, the tank is ready to start softening water again.

The Sodium Salts

Based upon the process I just described, you can see that you need to periodically "feed" your water softener with salt (sodium and or potassium). If you have purchased salt for a softener, you may have noticed that there are different kinds of salt.

There are basically three different types of salt that you can purchase for a water softener. While the purity of the different salts is similar, there are significant differences.

The least pure salt that you can purchase is standard rock salt. This is salt which is simply mined from underground deposits and crushed. It receives absolutely no processing. The highest grade of rock salt is found in mines in the state of Louisiana. There are other salt mines in the USA, however the salt is less pure.

The second type of salt you can purchase is solar salt. This salt has a higher purity than common rock salt. It is produced by evaporating sea water. This is done by pumping sea water into very shallow ponds. The sun and wind rapidly evaporate the water leaving salt behind. They continue this process for about one year until a thick layer of very pure salt has formed. The salt is scraped from the pond areas, washed, and then set out into the sun again to dry. It is then ready for crushing and packaging.

The highest quality water softening salt is a processed salt which comes in the form of processed pellets. This salt goes through a purification to remove almost all impurities. Furthermore, some brands are available with extra ingredients. These ingredients work inside the exchange tank of your water softener to cleanse and protect the resin beads. If the resin beads become fouled with impurities, they do not perform very well. It is a good idea to invest the extra money to purchase the salt which contains the resin cleansing chemicals.

At the very least, possibly alternate between the different salts, so that every other bag, you use the salt which contains the cleansing chemicals.

Pumping Iron

Many people who have wells pump iron each and every day, that is, they pump water containing high amounts of iron into their houses each day. This iron can stain fixtures and clothes, give the water a metallic taste, and even cause the water to have a harsh odor.

The salt manufacturers have a special salt that not only softens water but will help to remove massive quantities of iron from the water. It is a good idea to remove this iron, as it can damage the resin beads in your water softener.

Low Sodium Diets

There is a myth circulating that soft water contains massive quantities of salt. People on low sodium diets shy away from soft water. If you are such a person, have another talk with your doctor. Ask him (her) to review the facts. For example, if you have average hard water, an 8 ounce glass of water may only contain 35 milligrams of sodium. To put that in perspective, a 1 ounce serving (that's small, about one link!) of pork sausage has over 400 milligrams of salt. Now, when was the last time you ate just one sausage link at a breakfast. If you drank a half-gallon of soft water, you would have consumed 360 milligrams.

Is there an alternative? Yes! You can purchase a special salt for your softener. It doesn't contain sodium. It contains potassium. The salt is called potassium chloride. It usually is available from feed mill stores or other stores that specialize in water softening salts. It does the same job in softening water, but without the presence of sodium.

You will pay slightly more for this product. However, if you are concerned about your health, how can you put a price tag on this substitute?

Soft Water and Soap

Do you remember the last time you washed a brand new car? Did you let it air dry? Was it rinsed with hard water? If so, I'll bet you ended up with water spots on the hood. Those spots were the calcium and magnesium in the water. It is the same process that causes stalactites and stalagmites to grow in caves.

This same thing happens in your clothes. When you dry your clothes, the calcium and magnesium stay behind. After a period of time, colors fade because the dyes are simply coated with these elements. The dye hasn't washed away. White clothes turn dingy and an off shade of light grey. All because of hard water deposits.

What's more, hard water interferes with the cleaning action of soaps. Soap simply doesn't work well in hard water. You may find yourself using more soap than necessary to clean something.

Ask anyone who uses a water softener. They will tell you that they use small amounts of soap to clean themselves and everything else in their house. What's more, just about everything washed and rinsed with soft water looks good. Give water softeners serious consideration in your house.

Water Softening Salt Purity

The best water softening salt would be one that 100% pure sodium chloride. This means that there is absolutely nothing else being introduced into your softener. Well, it's almost impossible to get 100% pure sodium chloride. But guess what? You can get pretty darn close!

The lowest grade of water softening salt is often referred to as rock salt or salt crystals. Remember, this is the salt which is derived from underground mines. It usually contains 98.9% sodium chloride! The other 1.1% contains impurities.

The next highest grade of salt is solar salt, that being derived by evaporating seawater. This produces salt which is just slightly better. The sodium chloride content of solar salts is usually 99% or 99.2%. That's a little better, however there are still impurities.

The processed salts offer the highest purity available. They are very nearly pure. Just about each salt supplier boasts a purity of 99.8% for their processed salts.

The potassium chloride substitute salt has a purity of 99.1%

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