Sodium Chloride Vs. Potassium Chloride Regenerant: Which One Is Right For Your Water Softener?

Most people don’t give much thought to the salt that is in their water softener. Many will not even be aware that there is more than one salt that can be used for softening water.

Sodium Chloride Vs. Potassium Chloride Regenerant Which One Is Right For Your Water Softener

So what do sodium chloride and potassium chloride do as regenerants and do they affect us or the environment differently?

What Is A Regenerant?

Regeneration is a process of restoring the medium through which ion exchange is conducted, as in a water softener. This process makes the medium reusable after it has been saturated with hard water ions from magnesium and calcium.

The resin bed in a water softener is composed of beads which are covered in sodium or potassium ions, depending on which salt is used.

The calcium or magnesium ions in hard water displace the potassium or sodium ions and attach themselves to these beads.

Once all the beads have become saturated with hard water ions, a solution of either potassium chloride or sodium chloride and water is sent through the system. This causes the magnesium and calcium ions to separate from the beads and get flushed out.

The resin medium is then ready to be re-used for ion exchange in the water softener. This solution is the regenerant as it restores the resin medium to a usable state.

What Are The Differences Between Sodium And Potassium Regenerants?

Sodium chloride and potassium chloride will both soften hard water. In their effectiveness as a water softening agent, there is little or no difference between the two. However, there are other areas to consider where the differences are pronounced.


Sodium chloride is cheaper than potassium chloride, as it is more abundant and as a result less expensive to produce. Potassium chloride is more expensive because the extraction process is more complex and therefore costs are higher.

Sodium chloride can be either extracted from the ground or obtained through solar evaporation ponds. Whereas, potassium chloride has to be mined and then purified.

A water softener will also need less sodium chloride than potassium chloride to soften equal quantities of water.

If you use potassium this will increase the cost as you will obviously need larger quantities, and as we have seen, it is already a more expensive product.



There are health and environmental differences between sodium and potassium chlorides.

For people who should adhere to a low sodium diet it may be advisable to use potassium as a regenerant although the percentage of sodium in softened water is minimal.

The human body cannot manufacture potassium and so relies on getting it from diet alone. Although the amount of potassium in water may seem small, we only need a couple of thousand milligrams per day to stay healthy.

When you flush your softening system, the water that is discharged will eventually get into the groundwater. Sodium chloride is therefore added to the water supply every time you do a regeneration cycle.

Plant and aquatic life can suffer from the disposal of sodium chloride softened water. Sodium has no beneficial effects on flora or fauna. In fact, it can be detrimental to the soil and to fresh waterways.

With regard to the environment, potassium is an excellent nutrient for plant life. Globally, potassium chloride accounts for around 90% of potash fertilizer in use today. It is essential for vigorous plant growth and healthy soil.

Maintenance Time

More potassium chloride than sodium chloride is needed in a water softener to produce the same amount of softened water. This means more work for you both in maintenance and replenishment.

Potassium is also not as efficient as sodium chloride, and so you will need to flush the system more often when using potassium chloride.

This will use more water, although you may be able to use the backwash from the water softener to water your plants, helping them grow.

Which Regenerant Is More Healthy?

Although the amount of sodium that enters your drinking water is minimal, it is less healthy for you than potassium, which is an essential mineral for the human body.

We cannot produce potassium ourselves and rely on our diet to get our daily recommended intake. Potassium is an essential nutrient and adults need between 2,600 mg-3,400 mg per day. Kids need between 2,000 mg-2,300 mg.

So even though the amount of potassium in your water may be low, it is still beneficial to you and your family’s health. In contrast, we are encouraged to reduce sodium intake.

While there are no differences in the effectiveness of either sodium or potassium regenerants there are clearly other considerations in terms of health, expense and the environment. We hope this guide has helped you in making a choice between them.

Mandy Anderson