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Our house is not connected to a town water supply, we just have a water tank under our house (approx. 12000 litres / 3000 gallons). We have it filled from a water truck every 3-4 weeks. Apparently the water truck gets the water just from a rural well, and it is full of minerals (I've been told it's calcium, but I don't know for sure). These minerals are clogging up our pipes (mostly seems to affect the toilets and sinks).

A friend told us we could possibly add some kind of water softener to try and remove (?) the minerals to stop or reduce the clogged pipes. We went to a Home Depot and asked there, and they pointed us to Water Softener Salt Pellets (link to product on US HD website). The assistant at Home Depot said he believed it should do what we wanted (he got on google to figure it out...) but he couldn't find how much to add to our water tank. He said usually people have a water softener filter system and the stuff is added to that, but thought adding it directly to the tank should work. At this stage a water softener system isn't an option (at least the ones we looked at in the Home Depot store)

Will adding the Water Softener Salt Pellets to our tank actually help, and if so how much do we add? Would we just add it when we get the tank filled, or every day/week?

The water is not used for drinking/food (cannot be consumed), it is only used for bathrooms and laundry. We live semi-rural in the desert (not in the US); this is our only possible water source.

We live in Mexico and access to experts in our area is difficult, however we can travel into the US if needed to buy/import supplies.

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    Step 1: Get a water test kit and have a test done. When we first put in a water softener, every place we looked at gave us a kit and told us to bring it back for a free analysis. They tested the water for hardness and told us what softener would meet our needs.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 0:15
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    @FreeMan Interesting - the guy at Home Depot told us we may need to get it tested, but didn't suggest this could be done free or through them. I may need to find a more specialized place than HD
    – Midavalo
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 1:40
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    It would be good to find a place where the employees didn't advise you to salinate your water supply.
    – Sneftel
    Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 11:34

2 Answers 2

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Ignorant advice from Home Depot - confirmed to be ignorant. And wrong.

Water softener salt does not soften water.

Water softener salt displaces the calcium (and other) ions bound to water softener resin to "regenerate" it after it has exchanged all the previously bound sodium for calcium (and others) in the water it's softening.

After regeneration with salty brine, the brine (now with more calcium) is flushed away and the resin goes back to softening your water. The flushing process wastes some water, which you might not want to do in a desert-trucked-in-water situation.

All dumping salt in your water tank will do is make your water salty, and add corrosion to the problems you already have of mineral build up. Don't do that.

You'll need a water softener, which is basically a tank holding some resin, and another tank holding some brine, and a tiny computer (these days) measuring how much water you use and deciding when the resin needs to be regenerated, and operating valves to do that (generally in the middle of the night.) To figure out what size or capacity of softener you need, you'll need to test the water to see how hard it is. If you can't get competent help locally you can do that by mailing a sample, and you can order a softener over the web. Many of the web sellers offer free mail-in testing for basic parameters such as hardness. Or you can pay for more extensive testing done independently; that seems unlikely as you're not drinking the water.

There are a few alternative technologies you might consider instead of softening:

  • Template Assisted Crystallization (often mismarketed as "no salt softening" which is a lie - it does not soften the water - all the minerals are still in it) makes nanocrystals of the incoming dissolved minerals which do not then stick to pipes and fixtures.
  • Polyphosphate "filters" (more dispensers) add polyphosphates (or a blend of orthophosphates and polyphosphates) to the water which bind to the dissolved minerals and keep them dissolved.

Both require changing out the filter media, less often for the TAC and more often for the polyphosphate. How well or how long they will work will depend on what's in the water, which cycles back to getting it tested. Neither requires any additional wastage of water on flushing the filter, though.

Quite possibly for a tank situation you could get non-"filter" based poly- and ortho-phosphates for water treatment and just add a certain amount to the tank at each filling. Take whatever care is appropriate for handling such chemicals, of course. Per the linked site above they will actually remove scale after a period of several months of use.

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  • Thank you for your detailed answer - we will have to do some serious research now you've pointed us in the right direction. From your description the "alternative technologies" are also softener or filter type systems that we'd have to get installed (other than the potential non-filter based treatment you mention at the end) - have I understood you correctly?
    – Midavalo
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 1:39
  • Clearly we're going to have to spend something on a solution rather than what I had thought might be a quick fix each time we fill.
    – Midavalo
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 1:43
  • Other than the potential (I don't know how hard such chemicals are to obtain - they are common enough in industry, it's clear) bulk dosing at each fill, yes, the alternatives do install as a device water flows through to be treated. If that's not in your DIY scope that will be an additional expense.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 2:19
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Will adding the Water Softener Salt Pellets to our tank actually help, and if so how much do we add? Would we just add it when we get the tank filled, or every day/week?

Goodness, no. Water softener pellets are for water softening systems.


Based on your water analysis test, you should consider a whole-house filtration system such as this one:

Aquasana Whole House Water Filter System - Water Softener Alternative w/ UV Purifier, Salt-Free Descaler, Carbon & KDF Media - Filters Sediment & 97% Of Chlorine - 1,000,000 Gl - EQ-1000-AST-UV

The addition of reverse osmosis would likely make your water drinkable.

PRO+AQUA Elite Well Water Filter Softener Bundle Plus Reverse Osmosis Drinking System for Iron, Odor, Color, Hardness

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  • Thanks for your answer. For clarity's sake, your second link is a suggested option instead of the first link option, or in addition to it?
    – Midavalo
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 23:16
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    @Midavalo I offer it as one or the other. Research each component individually and buy what you need based on your water test results.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 1:28
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    But note that both these systems are for drinking water, so necessarily more complex and more expensive. If you don't drink it, something simpler will be enough.
    – Gábor
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 12:50

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