Salt storage is one of those less-than-glamorous topics for a preparedness blog but there’s no denying how useful and necessary salt is.
Food grade salt is a combination of the elements Sodium and Chloride or NaCL.
These two elements play a variety of crucial roles in our bodies. Sodium is necessary for proper nerve impulses to and from the brain and helps our muscles (including the heart) to contract. Chloride’s function is to help the blood to carry carbon dioxide from respiring tissues to the lungs, help digestion and preserve the acid-base balance in the body.
Salt also inhibits the growth of microorganisms making it ideal for curing and preserving food.
Food grade salt is defined (by Codex Standards) as having a minimum Sodium Chloride content of 97%. Most US manufacturers keep the NaCl content above 99%.
“Iodized Salt” is usually fine grain, food grade white salt with a small amount of sodium iodide or potassium iodide added to prevent disorders caused by iodine deficiency.
“Pickling or Canning Salt” is very finely grained food grade salt without any anti-caking ingredients or iodine. It is especially susceptible to clumping from moisture absorption. The salt is kept as pure as possible to keep from discoloring foods after the canning process.
“Kosher Salt” is also very pure. It is coarser grained than table salt.
“Water Softener Salt” is a vague term. Some softener salt is actually very pure, while others are not. It’s best to verify the type before purchasing.
Bulk salt designated as “Rock Salt”, “Solar Salt” and “Sea Salt” may have naturally or unnaturally occurring additives and the actual ingredients should be verified before consuming. Some manufacturers add ingredients to keep the salt from clumping up in salt-spreading equipment or to enhance ice melting.
Food grade salt is determined by it’s purity. The current minimum level of purity is 97%. All of the water softener salt that I’ve been able to find meets or exceeds that minimum level. Most state that they are 98.5% pure salt or better. However, there are a few things about some of these softener salts that need to be examined a little closer.
Salt companies offer several different varieties, or formulas, of salt for water softening. They’ve developed salts for just about every type of water problem known. This was confusing for us and it meant researching the claims and trying to establish just what made these salts different from each other so we could determine which is best to put into storage.
The first aspect to packaged bulk salt that we ran across was the different “solubility” characteristics. Some salts are processed in ways that enable them to dissolve more easily in water. This is definitely a character trait that some preppers should be aware of. Right off the bat, rock salt would seem to be the preferred form of salt for preppers in humid areas. This type of salt was constantly mentioned as the slowest to dissolve.
Solar Salt, Crystal Salt and Evaporated Salt share the trait of being easily dissolved in water which could possibly increase the odds of clumping or creating corrosive vapors in or near the salt storage area. Salt companies are proud to point out that their “special” salt products are fast to dissolve so this information should be printed somewhere on their label.
One point that should be mentioned is the fact that EVERY salt packaged for water softener must pass FDA regulations. This could be both alarming and comforting, depending on your point of view. To us, it was a definite sign that these products are not just “salt” but have other things added to achieve a specific result.
Thankfully, a couple of these manufacturers have placed their MSDS sheets online and it appears that they are adding things like citric acid, sodium carbonate and sodium hexametaphosphate (SHMP). You’ll have to decide if that is something that you want to have in your salt stores. I could see it being a potential problem when canning foods.
You may have read posts and blogs that recommend against consuming softener salt or storing for the intention of consuming it later. It’s my opinion, with proper information, some types of softener salt are an excellent choice for long term storage. It’s inexpensive and easily acquired plus it’s already packaged in heavy plastic bags. Just like anything else, you have to pay attention to the details.
How much salt should be stored?
Bulk quantities of food grade salt should be part of everyone’s long term food plan.
A widespread disaster in the US could impede food production and/or cripple the trucking and railroad industry.
The pre-packed food that you have in storage may get you thru the initial disaster but you may need to rely on preserving local meats and produce after your food reserves are gone.
You will need a large supply of non-iodized salt for food preservation.
Some general estimates:
Sauerkraut: 3/4 cup salt (about one half pound) for every 8 quarts of cabbage.
Pickled Vegetables: 1/2 cup salt for every 12 cups of brine.
Meats use up to 1 ounce of salt for every pound of cured meat.
Salt can’t spoil but it can become contaminated so it’s crucial to store salt away from toxic substances.
Store your salt in water-proof packages away from rodents. Most vendors offer their salt in thick plastic 50 or 80 pound bags.
If the salt does collect water it can be dried and crushed again.