salty water with water softener

CindyLouWhoJanuary 8, 2008

Before I get blasted, I have read all of the threads on water softeners--can't find the answer to these questions. So, TIA in advance for your patience!

Just had a MacCLEAN NS1001 water softener installed. It is doing a great job softening, but to me, the water tastes salty. Not ocean water salty, but just not good. Makes me feel sick. The plumber has checked the installation and assures me that no salt actually gets into the system and that this is basically in my head.

This is how he describes the system: Water passes through resin cleaning thingy (my word, not his:-)), then every 6 days the brine cleans the filters. This is flushed with massive amounts of water so there is no salt water left in the filter system. Says that after regeneration, the first cup of water could have the equivalent of 3 potato chips worth of salt total. Says that the old systems didn't flush as well so there was salt, but these new systems flush so thoroughly that no salt is left.

So, is this all in my head?

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Did your plumber taste the water?

Salt has a pretty distinctive taste. I've had softeners for decades and the product delivered does not have any hint of saltiness. If you're sure yours does, I wouldn't back off on this just yet. Improper flushing of the resin after regeneration can, indeed, result in salty taste which would indicate faulty operation of the unit.

I wouldn't have appreciated the "in your head" comment regardless but, with respect to that comment from your pro, I probably would ask other people to taste the water and solicit their opinions. Soft water tastes kind of flat but does not taste salty.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 12:04PM
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You could try Morton® "Potassium Cloride" Pellets next time. Ask your plumber if there is any reason you shouldn't use potassium in this softener. I believe you can use it in any softener, but I'd ask first.

Dan Martyn

Here is a link that might be useful: Potassium Chloride Info

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 12:58PM
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What kind of well pump do you have? Submersible or jet pump?

How far away does the drain line from the softener travel? Does it go up hill? How big is that line? 3/8", 5/8", 1/2"?

What size plumbing leads into the softener? 3/4"?

Was the softener built by the installer or purchased factory built?

Andy Christensen, CWS-II

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 2:12PM
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How hard is your water?

A water softener is an ion exchanger, it replaces the calcium, magnesium and other polyvalent ions with sodium or potassium ions, depending on what type of salt you buy. So the soft water will contain some salt from the exchange + the other salts in the water which are not removed by the softener. Most times people don't notice the small amount of salt added the water. Whoever installed it should be able to see if its functioning correctly.

How does the untreated water taste?

You may need additional water treatment to get good water. You should consider a reverse osmosis filter on the line for your drinking water. It will remove all the salts from the water. We use a softner for the whole house and use a RO filter on the line that feeds the refrigerator.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 2:26PM
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Chris8796 - Common misconception. Softened water does not have salt added, only sodium (or potassium). It should never taste salty if the rinse portion of regeneration is functioning properly. It will, certainly, taste different from hard water.

Cindylouwho - Many people object to the taste of soft water. I don't like it either. If you like the taste of your hard water, have a line run from upstream of your softener to a separate faucet for drinking water. Alternately, you could install a Revere Osmosis (RO) unit for drinking water. RO would cost less upfront, but has ongoing costs associated with filter replacement.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 4:23PM
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does an RO have any negatives besides cost/maintenance? I've conducted several taste tests today and the general opinion is that the water tastes bitter (rather than salty). So, would the RO make the water taste better or just eliminate taste? Does it add anything bad to the water (ie chemicals or funky tastes)?

Right now, I'm leaning towards installing an RO under the kitchen sink for drinking water and the fridge water/ice. Any reason to do the entire house?

Also, can I water houseplants and garden with softened water? I keep reading contradictory info. some say the sodium is bad, others say that it is no different from the hard water. I'm extraordinarily confused....


    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 7:16PM
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An RO forces water through a thin membrane. Water goes through and most of what is in the water can't. The larger the contaminant, the more of it that is rejected. A typical RO will remove 95 to 99% of whatever is in your water, virtually eliminating any taste. Nothing is added to the water. Some water washes across the membrane surface to keep it clean, which is why for every gallon of clean water you produce, approximately 3 - 5 gallons are sent down the drain. This is one of the reasons it is inadvisable to install an RO for the whole house. It would also cost thousands of dollars and would be aggressive for your piping.

You do not want to water houseplants with sodium-softened water. The sodium will eventually kill your plants. If you use potassium chloride to regenerate your softener, you can water your plants with that water. However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind: 1) Every once in a while you should water your plants with distilled water, 2) Your softener regeneration settings would need to be adjusted.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 9:12PM
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"Softened water does not have salt added, only sodium (or potassium)."

Neither of which are tasteless at high enough levels.
A distinction without a difference.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 9:58PM
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    Bookmark   January 9, 2008 at 10:45PM
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In response to Cindy,

"Right now, I'm leaning towards installing an RO under the kitchen sink for drinking water and the fridge water/ice. Any reason to do the entire house?"

No need to do the whole house, a big waste of money and water, only do your drinking/cooking water.

"Also, can I water houseplants and garden with softened water?"

I would water house plants with RO water and water the garden with hard water. While not usaully a problem, if your hard water contains alot of calcium, you may need to add magnesium to your garden. If the ratio of Ca to Mg becomes too high it will inhibit Mg uptake. You can find pictures online of what Mg deficency looks like in various plants. I supplement my garden plants by spraying then with an epsom salt solution (Mg sulfate).

Mg Deficiency in tomatoes

    Bookmark   January 10, 2008 at 12:07PM
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We have very hard well water, 36 grains, yes 36 grains of hardness. No iron though. Guess what? Even using potassium chloride, our water tastes rather salty. Always has. So we use a water cooler with distilled water for drinking and cooking.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 3:31PM
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"Water passes through resin cleaning thingy (my word, not his:-)), "

jdp38 this is in the original post, also, please don't shout.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 4:46PM
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I have a McClean unit that I purchased from Grainger 15 years ago. It is a 90,000 grain unit. I changed the resin about 3 years ago and use Morton salt all the time as before. Every two or three regenerations of the ion exchange resin, I get a strong salty taste from the faucet cold side which can be bled off if I run about 10 gallons. As mentioned earlier the hot water (Gas operated) has a lot of "air bubbles" that settle down and turn clear in a minute or two.
Someone suggested a Fleck 5600 to replace the original valve due to insufficient flush cycle! Any thoughts please? Why is hot water turbid upon dispensing?
Most Grateful

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 5:01PM
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Cindy who who

On your NS unit, check the little salt setting pointer on the backside of your noryl meter head. Make sure it is set or pointed at 6-8. On the front make sure the dials are aligned for the adjusted hardness you have and how many people are in household.

How many lbs of salt do you use per regeneration of your 1 cu ft softener, I bet too much. Check that pointer on back under cover.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 5:38PM
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The higher the hardness of the water being softened the greater the volume of sodium or potassium that will be exchanged into the softened water.

The greater the volume of sodium or potassium exchanged into the softened water the more likely a discerning palette will pickup that taste.

My water runs 26-30g hard and we use KCl. My wife says that the softened water tastes "salty" but when I question her she says "well not really salty but like salty". That is the taste of sodium or potassium in the softened water but SALT as in NaCl or KCL in water really tastes like SALT.

We have an RO in the kitchen and use that water for drinking, cooking, coffee, and the icemaker. No salty taste there.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 6:30PM
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The salty taste is from inadequate rinse, specifically the slow rinse. Can you adjust itto add a little more time to the slow rinse?

As to hot water turbidity, it sounds like you have dissolved gases (Carbon dioxide, oxygen, etc.) in your water. When the water is heated gas solubility decreases and the gases are released as soon as pressure drops (when you open the faucet), just like some bubbles are released when a soda bottle is opened. This is not a problem and I wouldn't worry about it.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 7:03PM
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Thank You for the response . Do you think that changing the valve would benefit the system. The rinsing issue (or lack of it) is sporradic ! Once every two or three REGEN cycles)?
The big problem is finding a suitable valve for a large system . I have contacted Fleck and Mc Clean and have not heard from either
I enjoy your forum
Thank you

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 8:04AM
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Gorilla, I have a fleck5600 and have the exact same problem as you. Air bubbles that last about 5 minutes and a very salty taste lasting about 20 gal of water every so often. No one else seemed to really address the problem, did you ever get any successful results/reply? Thanks, Larry

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 11:13AM
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I have a Whirlpool WHES40. I know- what was I thinking. Recently the water started coming out hard and salty after regen. I noticed the rinse cycle seemed weak from the way it sounded- not the usual high volume sound. The unit is about seven years old so I replaced the resin, cleaned venturi, checked all valves, etc. My water is still hard and salty. Salty as in marinate meat salty until it is run for approx 20 gallons. The rinse cycle still seems weak and to flow slowly. Anyone run into a similar problem? I'm looking for ways to fix this, not recommendations to throw it out and get a new model. Thanks all.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 12:25PM
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