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Ion exchange: which resin should I choose for my water softener?

By November 17, 2015 March 1st, 2021 No Comments


If you are researching water softener options you may have read about the different types of resin that can be used in a softening system. The ion exchange resin is the media that actually softens your water and so the quality of the resin inside your softener will in large part determine the life expectancy of the softener. So, what type of resin should you choose?


In short, we recommend using the High Capacity 8% Cross Link Resin. However, you may have already read about 10% Cross Link Resin and Fine Mesh Resin. These next few paragraphs will explain the differences between these three options and why we are recommending the 8% Cross Link.

Most water softener dealers in the Minneapolis area use what is called High Capacity 8% Cross Link Resin. In our experience at Peterson Salt, this type of resin will last for about 20-25 years on city water that is not pre-softened. If you live in Eden Prairie, St. Paul, Minneapolis or other another city that pre-softens the water, the life expectancy of your resin will be longer because the resin bed isn’t being exhausted as often. In most city water situations, the 8% Cross Link Resin is going to work the best.

Ion exchange resin beads

If you own a home with a personal well, we recommend Fine Mesh Resin, which is made up of smaller resin beads than the standard High Capacity Resin. The smaller bead size means that your water will have more surface area contact with the resin and therefore the resin will be able to better remove the added minerals that are present in unfiltered well water. For the Fine Mesh Resin, you will also need an upper flow basket for your water softener so that the resin beads do not “discharge” out of the softener when it regenerates.

You may have also read about High Capacity 10% Cross Link Resin. Lately, we have had a number of homeowners wondering if they need the 10% versus the 8% cross link. The “cross link” refers to the bonds inside the resin bead. The 10% resin has more bonds that hold the beads together so that they will last longer. Over time, resin beads will fracture and break down into a mush-like paste. When this eventually happens, either the resin or the entire softener system need to be replaced. In our opinion, the additional links in the 10% resin are not worth the dramatic increase in cost. You may pay up to 30-50% more for this slightly higher grade resin, but the added value you will get may only be a couple of years.