By Mark Nelson — President, Nelson Water

With more than 30 years’ experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Mark Nelson is a Class 1 Drinking-Water Operator and a CBWA (Canadian Bottled Water Association) Certified Plant Operator. As founder and president of Nelson Water in Ottawa, Mark focuses on dealing with challenging water treatment system designs for problem water. He also heads the largest water bottling plant in the city of Ottawa with a delivery network throughout the Valley. 

Many people add some salt to their water softeners brine tank and then soon after it looks like they need to add even more. When this occurs, it can be easy to believe that the softener isn’t working correctly because it’s using too much salt. When you have a water softener, it will need to be checked every month to make sure that you have enough salt. The level of salt in the tank should be three or four inches above the water level. Let’s take a closer look at how much salt a softener should be using and how often it needs to be added.

How Often Should Salt be Added?

The amount of salt that you need to add to your brine tank will depend upon how hard your water is and the amount of water that’s consumed in your home. An industry standard guideline is that a family of four with hard water will use 9-10lbs of salt each week or a 40lb bag of salt per month.

Now, this is a rough guideline. Many water softening systems can be adjusted to use more or less salt each month depending upon your needs. The amount of salt that will be used for each regeneration cycle will determine how many gallons of water can be softened before there is a need to regenerate.

Essentially, there is a trade off; you could increase the amount of salt used for each regeneration cycle and decrease the number of regeneration cycles. Alternatively, you could reduce the amount of salt used in each regeneration cycle, but increase the frequency of regeneration cycles over time.

An Increase in Salt Use

There are a number of reasons why you may be using more than a 40lb bag of salt each month.

  • The water in your area may be very hard (over 10 grains per gallon).
  • You could have a larger capacity water softener.
  • Your water may have an iron level above two parts per million.
  • Your family size may have increased recently, and water usage in the home has risen
  • A local water treatment expert adjusted your control valve settings.
  • There is a local drought, and you have made adjustments to conserve water.

The valve controls on many modern water softeners and conditioners are very helpful. They will perform all of the calculations related to when you need to regenerate. Then all you need to do is top up with salt as necessary.

Quickly Dissolving Salt in the Brine Tank

Sometimes there may be a difference in how quickly the salt in your brine tank is dissolved. This is often caused by a change in the type of salt that you are using. Different types of water softener salt can dissolve at a variety of rates because some salt types are denser than others and this may be noticeable. If you’re not sure which salt to use, check with a local water treatment professional or consult the owner’s manual. As a rough guide choose a salt that has a purity level above 99.5%, and this will cut down on bridging, mushing and insoluble salt problems that require additional cleaning and maintenance.