Best Salt for Water Softeners 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks

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salt for water softener

When it comes time to regenerate your water softener, the salt you choose to use will determine the quality of the water.

A good water softener salt will not only regenerate the resin in your system, but it will also clean your water softener. Moreover, some will protect your system, and others are meant specifically for water with high levels of iron.

So, which salt should you choose? To figure it out, we’ve tried many of these salts for ourselves. The following five reviews will compare our results to help make the decision easier for you as well.

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Morton Clean Water Softener Salt Pellets Morton Clean Water Softener Salt Pellets
  • Resin cleaning additives keep softener clean
  • Affordably priced
  • Protects the system against damage
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Morton Salt Defense Water Softener Pellets Morton Salt Defense Water Softener Pellets
  • Prevents rust
  • Removes iron from water
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Cargill Salt Water Softener Salt Cargill Salt Water Softener Salt
  • Clean salt with no channeling or bridging
  • Polybagged
  • Diamond Crystal Water Softener Salt Diamond Crystal Water Softener Salt
  • Large 50-lb. quantity
  • 2 handles for easy carry
  • Diamond Crystal Iron Fighter Salt Pellets Diamond Crystal Iron Fighter Salt Pellets
  • Removes heavy Iron from water
  • Handles make it easier to carry
  • The 5 Best Salts for Water Softeners

    1. Morton Clean Water Softener Salt Pellets – Best Overall

    Morton Clean and Protect II

    Safe, affordable, and effective, we think the Morton Clean and Protect II are the best water softening pellets available. More than just providing you with soft water, these pellets will help keep your water softener clean, thanks to resin cleaning additives that ensure your water softener keeps working at full capacity. This salt is also effective at removing iron, so it should help keep rust to a minimum. Morton Clean and Protect II salt goes a step further by protecting your system, lengthening its lifespan by keeping corrosion and buildup to a minimum.

    When using this salt, we experienced no clumping of any kind. It kept our water soft and devoid of harsh minerals and met all of our testing criteria. We would have preferred bags with a larger quantity, but 40 pounds is all that’s available. Altogether, we think it’s the best choice for water softeners thanks to its great performance and affordable price.

    Pros
    • Resin cleaning additives keep softener clean
    • Affordably priced
    • Protects the system against damage
    Cons
    • Would prefer a larger quantity

    2. Morton Salt Defense Water Softener Pellets

    Morton Salt Morton

    Morton really does salt well, so it should come as no surprise that their Clean and Protect/Rust Defense Water Softener Pellets are a close runner-up in our second position. They’re a bit more expensive than the Clean and Protect II pellets that earned our top recommendation, but they provide a bit of extra protection for the price. This is the salt to choose if your water has excessive levels of iron. If you’ve noticed rust on your appliances, water, or fixtures, then you may have higher than normal levels of iron in your tap water that this salt can help to remedy.

    The Morton Clean and Protect/Rust Defense pellets remove 15 times more iron than regular salt. In a home with heavy iron in the water, using this salt resulted in clear water with normal levels of iron. We were impressed by this great iron removal, but it’s only worth the extra cost if you specifically need iron removal for your home’s water. Otherwise, you’re better off saving a bit of money and getting the Clean and Protect II instead.

    Pros
    • Prevents rust
    • Removes iron from water
    Cons
    • More expensive than regular water softener sodium

    3. Cargill Salt 7304 Water Softener Salt

    Cargill Salt

    The Cargill Salt 7304 Water Softener Salt is a clean, food-grade salt that is meant for water softening systems. It’s available in 40-pound bags that are poly-lined for improved moisture resistance so you never get a bag that’s been compromised. In our testing, it worked just fine and never clumped or bridged. We were satisfied with the water that was produced after using it in our water softeners. However, there’s really nothing special about it. It doesn’t offer any special advantages over other brands, it’s just regular salt. For what it is, we think it’s a bit overpriced, which is why it’s only climbed to the third spot on our list.

    Pros
    • Clean salt with no channeling or bridging
    • Polybagged
    Cons
    • Nothing special, just regular salt
    • Overpriced for what it is

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    4. Diamond Crystal Water Softener Salt

    Diamond Crystal

    The Diamond Crystal Bright and Soft salt pellets for water softeners are an adequate product that we think is priced too high for what it is. It functions as advertised, providing soft and clear water after being used to regenerate our water softeners. We did appreciate the larger 50-pound quantity that the Diamond Crystal salt comes in. Furthermore, the dual handles made carrying it much easier, which we thought was a nice touch. That said, our best compliments were really about the packaging and not the product itself. Performance-wise, it was nothing extraordinary, but it was adequate. For the price, we’d rather save a few dollars and go with the proven Morten Clean and Protect II that earned our top recommendation.

    Pros
    • Large 50-lb. quantity
    • 2 handles for easy carry
    Cons
    • Expensive for salt

    The alternative: Salt-free water softening


    5. Diamond Crystal Iron Fighter Salt Pellets

    Diamond Crystal Iron

    For water that’s excessively high in iron, the Diamond Crystal Iron Fighter Pellets can help reduce that iron to an acceptable level. It’s a bit high priced for the 40 pounds that you get, so the cost is only worthwhile to those with this specific issue. For the price, we’d rather go with the Morton Rust Defense pellets in our number two position. That said, these Iron Fighter pellets do have some upsides, particularly in the packaging. The bag has two handles, one on each end. This makes it much easier to carry, but it was the only real positive that we could find for this salt over the Morton. In the end, we don’t think it provides the best value, which is why it hasn’t earned our recommendation.

    Pros
    • Removes heavy Iron from water
    • Handles make it easier to carry
    Cons
    • Expensive for what it is
    • Only good for water that’s hard in iron

    Buyer’s Guide

    Before making a purchase that you’re going to be forced to rely on, we think it’s important to understand which factors should go into the decision. All of these products perform the same basic function, regenerating your water softener system. Differences in packaging, performance, price, and more can all make one product preferable to another. Let’s take a brief look at some of these characteristics and what makes certain products a better choice.

    Carrying Handles

    It may not seem like a big deal, but carrying handles can make a big difference in how easy it is to transport your salt. Keep in mind that these bags weigh 40-50 pounds, so they’re pretty hefty. With a heavy-duty handle built-in, carrying them can be much easier. Some products even feature a handle on each end, making two-handed carrying possible. This may be a big advantage to those who lack the strength to carry the bag in one hand. This isn’t a make-or-break feature, but it’s a convenience factor that definitely makes a difference.

    Quantity

    Most water softener systems require 40-50 pounds of salt a month to regenerate. Naturally, manufacturers have adapted salt quantities to meet this need. Certain factors may cause your softener to use more salt than this though. If your water has very high levels of iron or is very hard, then you’ll likely use more salt than average. A larger quantity bag will allow you to go longer between trips to the store. Some manufacturers even offer 80-pound bags so that you won’t need to purchase more for up to eight weeks.

    High Iron Concentrations

    High concentrations of iron in your water can lead to a multitude of problems. First, they can cause fixtures and appliances to rust, shortening their lifespan and having a negative effect on the looks of your living space. The rust can also cause staining of tiles, counters, dishes, and more. You may also notice discoloration in the water, as well as poor taste. Water softeners will also go through far more salt trying to replace all of the excess iron.

    For water with high iron levels, you can get water softener salt that is specifically intended for removing excess iron. This will be far more effective than standard salt in such situations. These salts are a bit more expensive than regular water softener salt, but if you are experiencing rust and discoloration from excessive iron levels, then it will be worth the extra cost.

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    Cleaning and Protection

    Some of the best salts for softeners will do more than just regenerate your system. They can also clean your system out, prolonging its lifespan and reducing the amount of maintenance it requires. Moreover, they can protect the system against corrosion and build up. For us, the added protection and reduced maintenance is a great combination.

    Conclusion:

    Though they all perform the same function, some water softener salts perform that function better for a lower price. You’ve read our reviews and buyer’s guide so you should have a pretty good idea of which salts are worth opening your wallet for. For us, the Morton Clean and Protect II is the clear choice, which is why it’s our top recommendation. With resin cleaning additives that keep your water softener clean and protect against damage and corrosion, it’s the best performing salt we tested. Even better, it’s affordably priced so you’re not breaking the bank for the premium quality. The Clean and Protect/Rust Defense Water Softener Pellets also from Morton Salt were a close runner-up. They’re a bit more expensive, but they’re the perfect choice for water that has higher than normal concentrations of iron.