What Happens if You Run Out of Salt in Your Water Softener?

Here is What to Expect if Your Water Softener Runs Out of Salt

Hard water in homes and businesses can cause an array of issues including decreased efficiency and increased costs. This is why water softening has become so popular for residential and commercial needs.

The most common and easiest way to prevent hard water is through the use of water softening systems. Water softeners use salt to eliminate the hard minerals and produce soft water. 

But what happens if your water softener runs out of salt? Keep reading to find out.

Here we explain everything you need to know about hard vs. soft water, water softening, and the consequences of running out of salt. 

The Difference Between Hard Water and Soft Water

Hard and soft water refers to two different types of water with different levels of mineral content. Hard water has higher levels of calcium and magnesium compared to soft water. 

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) ranks water softness and hardness based on calcium carbonate levels. Soft water has less than 60 milligrams per liter of calcium carbonate.

There is a spectrum for hard water. Water that has 61 to 120 milligrams per liter of calcium carbonate is classified as moderately hard water. Water with 121 to 180 mg/L is considered hard. Very hard water is water that has more than 180 mg/L. 

The hardness of water is highly dependent on the environment, plumbing, and water source. Water that is sourced from groundwater collects water-soluble minerals that occur naturally in rocks and soil. As the water moves through the ground, it collects more and more minerals.

Areas with a lot of rock and sandy soil such as the West, Southwest, and Appalachian areas of the U.S. tend to have very hard water. However, there are also areas in the midwest part of the country that have very hard water as well. Central Indiana is one place where the water hardness is often above 200 mg/L due to the natural levels of minerals in the soil. 

Overall, though, there is a lot of variation. You may find differences in water hardness in the same city because of differences in piping or water souring.

For example, water from groundwater wells will most likely be harder than water sourced from a municipal reservoir. Water that has to come from farther away has moved over and through more ground. So, it has more opportunities to collect minerals and is more likely to be hard.

How to Tell if Your Water Is Hard or Soft

You don’t need a fancy water-testing kit to know if your water is hard or soft. There are simple things to look for. 

One of the biggest giveaways of hard water is the residue that is left on glass dishes after washing. This is because soap interacts with the calcium and creates what is called soap scum. If you have hard water, you will notice white film or spots on your glassware after washing. The residue is from the high mineral content in the water. 

Heat solidifies the minerals making them even more apparent and more difficult to remove. This is why if you have a glass coffee pot and hard water, you’re sure to see the hard-water spots in your coffee pot. Using a dishwasher, too, will produce the white film that regular detergent has trouble removing.

Another sign that you have hard water is a feeling of filmy residue left on your skin after washing your hands or body. 

And an age-old trick to tell if you have hard water is to evaluate the level of “soapiness” of your dishwater. If there is a lack of bubbles after adding soap to water, and you see streaks and the water is cloudy, then you have hard water. Soft water will have a large number of fluffy bubbles and the water beneath the bubbles will appear clear. 

If you’re unsure or want to know the specific levels of the minerals in your water, we provide a free custom hard water analysis

Which is Better – Hard or Soft Water?

Water Softener SaltWhile hard water has the benefit of providing essential minerals to one’s diet (if you drink or cook with unfiltered tap water), there are many negative effects of hard water… some of which can be extremely costly down the road.

To start, it takes more soap, detergent, and sometimes special additives to get dishes and clothes clean. With laundry, hard water makes clothes stiff and reduces the effectiveness of the detergent. This means you have to spend more money on soap and fabric softener. 

Hard water also leaves mineral deposits in appliances and piping, especially when heat is involved. This can reduce the efficiency and life of appliances and equipment and cause clogging. In addition, hard water takes longer to heat meaning your water heater has to work harder for longer leading to higher heating bills.

Over time, minerals will build up inside pipes that move water causing the pipes to gradually close. This results in less water that can move through the pipe and lower water pressure. 

Lastly, consuming unfiltered hard water can cause kidney stones, bladder stones, and/or gout. These are painful illnesses that result when the body has too much calcium. The calcium solidifies into small stones.

Stones and gout are not only extremely painful but they can be very costly if surgery and long-term treatment are necessary.

Water Softener– The Hard Water Solution

A water softener is the most common solution to hard water. A water softener is a filtration system device that filters the hard minerals out of the water through chemical ion exchange. So, the water has been turned into soft water before it comes out of the faucet. 

How Does a Water Softener Work?

Water softener pellets, also called resin beads, are added to the water softener tank. The pellets/beads are negatively charged with a sodium ion. Sodium is a salt. This is why water softener pellets/beads are often called water softener salts.

When the water flows through the beads, a chemical reaction takes place. The magnesium and calcium attach and replace the sodium ions within the beads. Basically, the beads grab and hold onto the hard water minerals, and release sodium into the water. 

The hard water minerals stay inside the pellets in the resin tank, and the now soft water flows out. 

There are two main types of water softener salt. The most common is sodium chloride (NaCl). However, some softeners can work with potassium chloride. You should never use other types of salt (e.g., table salt) that are not specifically designed for water softener systems. 

What Happens if the Water Softener Runs Out of Salt

If your water softener runs out of salt, then the softening resin will become saturated to the point that no ion exchange can take place. Thus, the calcium and magnesium minerals will remain in your water. Sometimes, the water softener tank may even overflow. 

You can look for the traditional signs that your tank has run out of salt. If you see hard water spots on your shower door or dishes, or your water is not soapy, then you need to add water softener salt.

Water Softener Salt

The same consequences to having hard water apply — less efficient cleaning, heater, and appliances, mineral deposits left in pipes and appliances, and exposure to high levels of calcium.

Modern water softener systems will tell you when the levels are running low. If you have a less-advanced system, then you should check the salt levels every six to eight weeks. 

Our Solutions for Hard Water

Here at c and j water, we offer two types of water softeners. The single tank water softener only uses one tank and relies on salt brine. It is best for city water but can work with certain types of well water, too. 

We also offer the twin tank water softener. The benefit of the twin tank is that when your water softener is regenerating (which needs to happen from time to time), the second tank kicks on. So, you always have access to soft water even during regeneration times. 

The twin tank water softener systems also provide a greater quantity of water compared to the single tank option. However, if you’re only using the water softener for one small to mid-size family, the single tank will suit your needs just fine. 

We can help you figure out which water softener is best for you based on your water source and usage. In addition, we can help with installing the water softener system in your home or business. 

Contact us today to speak with our experts about the right water solutions for you. It’s time to say goodbye to hard water and start reaping the benefits of living with soft water.