Potassium Chloride Vs. Sodium Chloride

The secrets of coexisting in a competitive world

Some people prefer sodium chloride, while others prefer potassium chloride. Even though these two products compete for sales in the softening salt market, the fact is there’s plenty of room for both to thrive.

In water softener salts – as in life – there’s no accounting for taste. Some people prefer sodium chloride, while others prefer potassium chloride. Even though these two products compete for sales in the softening salt market, the fact is there’s plenty of room for both to thrive. This fact has implications for your operation, because if you’re not carrying both products, then you’re missing an opportunity to increase profits and attract more customers. Let’s look at some of the differences between these products, why customers make the choices they do and how you can leverage this knowledge to improve profitability in the category.

Sodium chloride is a naturally occurring mineral found in the earth and comes from underground salt mines or solar evaporation ponds. It’s the most commonly used salt in water softener brine tanks. When the brine solution containing sodium chloride washes over the resin, the hard mineral ions in the water are replaced with sodium. Sodium chloride brands are commonly available in a variety of forms including blocks, crystals, pellets and cubes. Beside the fact that it’s widely available, sodium chloride often is the customer’s preferred softener salt because of the comparatively lower price.

Potassium chloride also is a naturally occurring mineral and is used primarily in agriculture. It works in softeners the same way sodium chloride does but replaces the hard water minerals with potassium instead of sodium. Potassium chloride is an essential nutrient for human health and plays an important role in the functioning of organs, nerves and muscles. It can be found in a wide variety of foods such as dairy products, meat, fruits and vegetables. In addition, potassium chloride is important to the healthy growth of plant life. Because extracting potassium chloride from the earth is more costly than mining sodium chloride, potassium chloride is more expensive.

Generally, customers tend to perceive that all water softener salts are the same and, therefore, they spend very little time thinking about which variety to buy. But as we have just seen, there are some significant differences between sodium chloride and potassium chloride, and you can use this information to help your customers choose the right salt for their lifestyles.

For price-sensitive customers and for customers with no sodium-related health concerns, sodium chloride is an excellent choice. It’s effective, inexpensive, easily obtained and usable in any water softener.

On the other hand, potassium chloride would be a better choice for other kinds of customers. For example, customers on sodium-restricted diets and customers who are concerned about their overall sodium intake might be more comfortable choosing a potassium chloride brand. Potassium chloride also may be the softener salt of choice among customers who are especially health conscious or concerned about the environment.

This brings me to another important point: the value of actively educating your customers on the differences between sodium chloride and potassium chloride. For instance, it’s a certainty that few if any of your customers are aware of the role potassium chloride plays in maintaining good health or that potassium chloride contributes to plant vigor and soil stability.

By pointing out these facts to your customers, you may be able to up-sell a sodium chloride customer to a potassium chloride brand. Don’t underestimate your power to influence a customer’s choice of softener salt. More often than not, a customer will buy the product recommended by the salesman.

When assisting customers, be sure to ask them lifestyle questions that will help you guide their softener salt selection.

  • Are you health conscious?
  • Do you watch the amount of sodium in your diet?
  • Are you aware of the health benefits of potassium chloride?
  • Do you know the environmental benefits of potassium chloride?

Finally, knowing some of the demographic variables that align with certain softener salt preferences can help you steer customers toward the right product. For example, elderly people and women often are especially interested in the health benefits of using potassium chloride.

Remember, both sodium chloride and potassium chloride softener salts have a role to play in your operation. Your input can carry a lot of weight in the customer’s product choices. By sharing your product knowledge with customers you can maximize the sales potential of both kinds of products.

Potassium vs salt

I have used are you salt water conditioner for years and have switched to potassium seven months ago. My hair feels and looks drier than it ever has, could the potassium be causing this?

Stock answer seems to be "ask

Stock answer seems to be "ask a professional". Are there web sites where you can get professional answers?

Re: Stock answer seems to be "ask

When commenters ask questions about their specific situations, I generally recommend getting in touch with a local water treatment professional because every situation is different when it comes to water quality, type of system and household needs. The only way to get a truly accurate answer in these cases is to have a professional visit your home to test the water and evaluate the softener or water filtration system. The Water Quality Assn. website (www.wqa.org) is a good resource for additional information on water contaminants and water treatment.


Kate Ferguson
WQP Editor-in-Chief

Potassium Chloride vs sodium chloride

Will the same amount of potassium chloride last any longer in the softener than the sodium chloride?

making a best choice

We are currently switching to a softener system that will remove iron as well as soften the water. After reading some of the above comments I am a bit confused as to which is the best product for us.
We will be drinking this water, as well as our cats/dog. Also will water indoor plants. So which salt would be the best in this case?
Also, I had not heard previously of the potassium clogging up lines. Could you please expand on this?

Thanks for now,

You really should take a look

You really should take a look at your municipal annual water quality report. Water softeners simply use ion exchange to replace calcium and magnesium with either sodium or potassium based on what you put in your brine tank. In theory, potassium would be the better alternative for you based on watering indoor plants. There are typically far bigger concerns with drinking water though (arsenic and uranium are very common) that water softeners don't address.

As far as potassium clogging up lines, I've never heard of that creating an issue.

Potassium in drinking water

How many glasses of water a day is safe. We have the potassium chloride as a water softener. Heard you shouldn't overdue potassium. If. You hydrate with the water are you pushing your luck?

Your drinking water

You can drink the same amount you drank before, just don't overdue your drinking. Check amount of water consumption a day health guide and go from there.

Potassium vs sodium and septic systems

I purchased a whole house softener system a couple of years ago through a major home improvement store. The salesman sold me on the clarity of the water and the reduced amount of detergents/fabric softener. Here's what I'm being told about Softener systems and Septic Systems. Since the water we use goes into our septic tank and the system itself dumps into the septic tank, there is a greater amount of salt in the tank which raises the cost of pumping my tank because the disposal site charges more or can fine the pumping company because of the salt in the load. Another story I'm hearing is Municipal Water Districts are discouraging ownership of water softening systems for the same reason, excess salt they are having to dispose of through the district disposal site, which costs more.

If that is true, do potassium pellets leave less salt residue than sodium pellets in my septic system?

Re: Potassium vs sodium and septic systems

You are correct - the discharge from your softener ends up in the septic system. This has been a major topic of discussion in recent years in the water treatment industry, and a few years ago the Water Quality Research Foundation conducted a study on the effects of softeners on septic systems. In a nutshell: Efficient water softeners, such as demand-initiated regeneration models, led to efficiently operated septic tanks. You can find more detailed information here: http://www.wqpmag.com/septics-salt-results-septic-study

On the municipal side, some water districts have indeed banned ion exchange water softeners. The concern is generally over the amount of chloride being discharged to the environment, as wastewater treatment plants often are not equipped to remove salt from water. The Water Quality Research Foundation recently did a study on this as well, in conjunction with the city of Madison, Wis. Again, the results found that high-efficiency softeners were the answer - the use of these softeners helped reduce the amount of chlorides in the waste stream. You can find more information here: http://www.wqpmag.com/softening-softening-impact-salt

As to your question regarding potassium pellets versus sodium pellets, the answer is I am not sure. Both would impart chloride to the waste stream (the full names are potassium chloride and sodium chloride, after all). My ultimate recommendation is to get in touch with a local water treatment provider. He or she will be able to evaluate your softener system, ensure it is running efficiently and answer your questions regarding salt. You can find a local provider here: http://www.wqa.org/find-providers

Kate Ferguson
WQP Editor-in-Chief

Skin peeling repeatedly

We got a new water softener. Since the soft water my skin dries out like a crocodile and then peels off. Any hope?

Re: Skin peeling repeatedly

Soft water normally helps dry skin. If you installed the new softener yourself, I would recommend getting in touch with a local water treatment professional, who can test your water and ensure that the softener is operating properly. You can search for certified water professionals here: http://www.wqa.org/find-providers.

If your softener was installed by a water treatment professional, I would recommend asking him or her send a technician out to service the unit and ensure it is working properly. Either way, a local professional will be better able to answer your questions based your specific water quality and softener unit.

Kate Ferguson
WQP Editor-in-Chief

sodium vs potassium

We have a whole home water softener system and just in a few months we noticed how our skin is dry and has been weight gain my sister and brother in-law are diabetic and of course she can't have fish in a tank cause of the water but in reading about the potassium chloride build up in pipes etc kinda makes you wonder if we should've just kept using the hard lime water

It is important to understand

It is important to understand that your fish will not get dry skin or gain weight on this type of softening system. That said, it is generally known that a diet high in omega-3 is beneficial in creating conditions for weight loss, which, in turn, helps with diabetes. For these reasons, I recommend you stock the fish tank with salmon.

Mixing the two types?

Can you mix the two types of product in a softener? And, if so, what would the effects on water quality be?

The higher cost of potassium

The higher cost of potassium chloride is also offset (Though certainly not a selling point for companies) in that you do not need the under sink reverse osmosis unit. The removed cost of a RO, install, and filters pretty much offsets the increased cost of potassium chloride over sodium chloride.

Problems using potassium chloride in soft water loop systems

We purchased a soft water loop system and selected the potassium chloride over the sodium because of the health and environmental benefits. However, after using the system over the course of a year, the system clogged or caked-up 2 or 3 times and had to be repaired. The repair man recommended changing over to sodium. He advised us that the potassium was a problem with the soft water systems. After using the sodium chloride for a couple of years, the sodium levels in my blood had risen too. And, this is just from showering as we don't drink the soft water. We use a reverse osmosis system for the drinking water and for cooking. As a result, we have had to stop using the soft water loop altogether. If we had known the potassium was going to be a problem to use in the system, we wouldn't have purchased the system at all. Lesson learned the hard way. $$$

sodium vs potassium

A friend of mine said when summer came her husband used potassium chloride in their water softener system instead of sodium chloride. She claims that since he forgot to do this this last year her plants didn't do well.
Is it ok to substitute potassium chloride for the sodium chloride in the summer months when we are trying to raise such things as tomatoes?
Can I ask my Culligan man to put potassium chloride in the water softener during the rest of the summer months?

glenda ross

Re: sodium vs potassium

Dear Glenda,

I would definitely recommend getting in touch with your Culligan dealer about this topic - he or she will be able to give your more information specific to your system and region. Best of luck with your tomatoes!

Kate Cline
WQP managing editor

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About the author

This article was written by Don Oster, product manager, A & I of IMC Salt, which manufactures K-Life potassium chloride and Pro Soft White Diamond sodium chloride water softener salt.