Can you eat water softener salt?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat water softener salt?” and discuss why you should not eat water softener salt.

Can you eat water softener salt?

No, you cannot eat water softener salt. Most water softener salt is sodium chloride and, although it is safe to use in a water softener, it should not be consumed by humans or animals. 

If a high amount of water softener salt is accidentally swallowed, it may produce nausea and vomiting (1).

Why should you not eat water softener salt?

Water softener salts should not be consumed since they are not food-grade salts (2). In comparison to refined salt, unrefined salt contains many impurities that originate from its regional origin or were introduced during the collection methods. 

Water softener salts usually contain high amounts of potassium chloride, which can be toxic. It is uncommon for someone to become intoxicated from consuming potassium, as the body quickly eliminates it unless there is pre-existing kidney damage. 

Moreover, in most cases, consuming large amounts of potassium results in vomiting, which prevents the buildup of toxic levels in the body. However, the ingestion of water softener salts containing potassium has been reported to cause intoxication (4).

As a consequence, eating these impure salts may cause nausea, vomiting, chest tightness, diarrhea, hyperkalaemia, shortness of breath and heart failure (4).

What is the composition of water softener salt?

The composition of water softener salts vary and depends on the origin of the salt. Generally, besides sodium chloride, water softener salts contain soluble or insoluble impurities, calcium or magnesium salts, and potassium chloride (2).

It may also contain other substances, such as iron, manganese, sulfates and hydrogen sulfide.

What are the differences between table salt and water softener salt?

The main difference between table salt and water softener salt is the composition and the purity, which implies safety. Regular table salt has simply sodium chloride minerals and iodine, which are the only components in it. It is used in everyday cooking. 

Water softener salts, on the other hand, since they are not thoroughly cleansed, include sodium chloride and potassium chloride that have not been treated. Calcium chloride is also used in the production of water softener salts.

Softener salts don’t contain iodine, which is added to table salt. In addition, table salt often contains additives, such as anticaking agents, which are not suitable for water softening (3). As a result, salts used in water softeners and salts used in table salts are not interchangeable.

The refining process of food grade salt involves removing impurities and including additives. Prior to the mechanical evaporation process, the brine solution (mixture of water and salt from which salt is produced) is often treated with chemicals like sulfuric acid or chlorine to eliminate any impurities or minerals. 

The remaining salt is almost entirely pure sodium chloride with a final purity of food-grade refined salt typically ranging between 99.7-99.95% pure. Even if the salt is sourced from a polluted area, it is still classified as refined food-grade salt since all “impurities,” including beneficial minerals and elements, have been eliminated (3).

What to do if you become ill from eating water softener salts?

If you experience any symptoms after ingesting water softener salt, you should contact the Poison Control Center.

Poison centers help with poisoning emergencies and provide information to help prevent poisonings. Specially trained poison experts at these centers—nurses, pharmacists, and doctors—can be reached by calling the toll-free Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222), which connects you to your local poison center.

In general, sodium salts are not acutely toxic to humans, and sodium salts generally have low acute toxicity in animals. However, acute effects and death have been reported in cases of very high sodium intake (1).

Very high oral doses of sodium chloride may cause nausea, vomiting, inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, thirst, muscular twitching, convulsions, and possibly death (1).

On the other hand, water softener salts may cause intoxication due to the presence of potassium (4).


In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat water softener salt?” and we discussed why you should not eat water softener salt.


  1. United States Environmental Protection Agency, EPA. Drinking Water Advisory: Consumer Acceptability Advice and Health Effects Analysis on Sodium. 2003.
  2. Skipton, Sharon, Bruce I. Dvorak, and Shirley Niemeyer. G08-1491 Drinking Water Treatment: Water Softening (Ion Exchange). 2008. University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
  3. Wong, Gabriel. Authentication of Culinary Salt: Challenges and Opportunities. University of California, Davis, 2018.
  4. World Health Organization. Potassium in drinking-water: background document for development of WHO guidelines for drinking-water quality. No. WHO/HSE/WSH/09.01/7. World Health Organization, 2009.