Water softeners are commonplace in homes and businesses throughout the United States. These devices use salt to eliminate hardness in the incoming water, and since salt usage is vital for proper function, it is important to ensure that consumption is optimized.  

Causes of Excessive Salt Use: salt-crystals-1619762

Excessive salt use is often a result of improper controls or leaking valves. These can lead to brine systems to overflow that allows highly concentrated salt water to be lost before it can enter the regeneration process. Although your brine system may look good with no obvious leaks, it is still important to have it checked regularly.

Another cause of excessive use is improper programming. Your softener needs to be programmed, so the regeneration cycle is matched to the resin demands.  

Factors Impacting Salt Use: 

The optimal levels of required salt depend on three factors. These are:

Water Use: 

This is a linear, straightforward variable. The amounts of salt used directly depend on the amount of soft water being produced. Softeners often process a set amount of water before needing to regenerate. Less softened water requires fewer regenerations and results in less salt being used.

The Water Quality:

The overall level of water hardness and TDS also has a direct relationship with salt usage. High hardness levels require more salt for each gallon of water. For example, water of 500 ppm requires twice the salt for the same amount of water with 250 ppm hardness. The reason for this is that resin exchange sites become bound with the hardness ions at twice the rate. High TDS has a similar effect, but there is less of a linear relationship. While more salt is required in higher TDS water, it is only significant in water with a TDS of 500 ppm or more.

Resin Capacity:

Finally, the resin capacity needs to be assessed when attempting to optimize salt usage. There is a non linear relationship between grain capacity and salt use, but you will find that a lower salt dose and more frequent regenerations are likely to yield higher salt savings.  


Even a minor malfunction in your softening system can impact salt usage and cause waste. Therefore, it is important that your system is properly maintained. You will need to check for leaks in the valve head that are often a sign of internal wear and overflowing brine tanks caused by an intermittent malfunction. You should log your salt usage to monitor any potential issues. While slight variance due to water consumption going up and down is normal, large spikes are often a sign of an issue or malfunction. A professional water treatment specialist can not only advise you on optimizing your salt usage, but also assess your system for any potential issues that may be compromising performance. 

If you are interested in improving the efficiency and performance of your water treatment system, you should speak to an experienced professional. A fully certified WQA water treatment professional is not only conversant in water treatment systems that meet the industry standards, but also the most efficient ways to soften your water.

With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative. Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state.