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Mold in Salt Water Conditioner

Greg Jackson

Many homeowners install a water conditioner, otherwise known as a water softener, as a response to the hard water that is available in their region. One type of water conditioner uses salt as a neutralizing agent to help soften the water in the home. A salt water conditioner is an effective tool for fighting hard water, but mold growth comes into play when these appliances are used.

Salt Water Conditioner Mechanics

Salt water conditioners may attract mold growth.

A water conditioner is designed to remove the elements that affect water negatively. Hard water makes it difficult for cleaners such as soaps and shampoos to perform, and also leaves a residue both on household surfaces and plumbing pipes. A salt water conditioner fights these reactions by means of a mineral tank and a recharging tank where the salt is typically located. The mineral tank collects ions from water molecules containing calcium, magnesium and any other element that affect the water and transfers these ions to the salt. The salt disposes of the ions during the recharging cycle.

Types of Salt Used

Sodium and potassium are the two chloride-based salts most often used in a residential water conditioner. Rock salt is the least expensive and most common; solar salt-derived from dehydrated sea water is one step up from rock salt in purity and cost; processed salt often contains ingredients to help the effectiveness of the beads in the mineral tank. Potassium chloride, the most expensive salt for a water conditioner, is often a choice for those concerned about high sodium content in their water.

Mold and Salt

The Food and Agriculture Organization, a subsidiary agency of the United Nations, reveals the relationship between mold growth and salt in a report from 1998 that studied food and vegetable fermentation methods and uses. The report found that mold tolerates high levels of salt, and that mold growth is likely to be found on foods with higher salt concentrations in them. Mold also needs high levels of moisture to thrive, so that a combination of ever-present water and salt in a water conditioner naturally leads to mold growth.

Mold Removal

One of the most common recommendations for removing mold growth, other than fungicide use, is mixing either soap detergent or bleach with water and wiping affected surfaces. However, soap and bleach may not necessarily be suitable choices in a water conditioner because both will have a negative effect on the water after cleaning, such as soap residue that tends to create suds in the water and the acrid flavor of bleach in the water. Water conditioner manufacturers recommend frequent and thorough recharging cycles to completely remove all salts from the system. This does, however, require more frequent replenishment of the salt in the water conditioner.