What is Table Salt?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Table salt is a form of salt that is designed to be used in cooking and at the table. This form of salt is refined to remove impurities and it may include some additives, depending on where it is processed. It is distinct from unrefined salt, which is allowed to retain its impurities. Unrefined salt can also be used for seasoning foods, and some are actually highly prized precisely because of the impurities they contain.

Iodine is a nutrient typically found in table salt.
Iodine is a nutrient typically found in table salt.

One source of sea salt is brine, with the salt being produced through evaporation. Table salt can also be produced from rock salt, in which case evaporation is not necessary for processing. The salt crystals are processed to remove any impurities that may be present and allowed to recrystallize. This process gives the salt a white to clear color, and allows the crystals to reform in very regular shapes. During processing, the salt may be iodized, meaning that iodine is added, and it can also be treated with anticaking agents to prevent it from clumping.

Table salt.
Table salt.

Iodized salt is sold in many regions to ensure that people get an adequate dietary supply of iodine, a necessary nutrient. Iodine deficiencies can lead to goiters and other health problems, and providing iodine in salt is an easy way to ensure that everyone in a population gets enough. Salt that has not been iodized is also available for sale, and it is usually required by law to be clearly labeled so that consumers are aware that the salt does not contain the nutrient.

Rock salt, which has bigger grains than table salt.
Rock salt, which has bigger grains than table salt.

Anticaking agents are not necessarily always added to table salt, but they are a common addition. Even with anticaking agents, salt can still tend to clump. Various tactics can be used to reduce clumping including mixing grains of rice in with the salt and using specialized containers that are designed to prevent moisture from getting to the salt.

Unrefined salt comes in a variety of colors and often has coarser grains.
Unrefined salt comes in a variety of colors and often has coarser grains.

Unrefined salt is sometimes sold as “sea salt” or “bay salt.” In fact, table salt can also be derived from the ocean, it's just been more heavily processed between the water and the table. Unrefined salts can be gray, white, pink, or clear, depending on the impurities they contain, and the crystals are often irregularly sized. Some people claim that unrefined salt has a distinctly different flavor, and food researchers have demonstrated that the irregular crystals cause it to perform very differently in food.

Instead of table salt, many chefs prefer to cook with sea salt because of its large grains and pure taste.
Instead of table salt, many chefs prefer to cook with sea salt because of its large grains and pure taste.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Dr.Leonard Coldwell states that "Table Salt is 1/3 Glass, 1/3 Sand and 1/3 Salt." Can this be true?


Salt is needed in life. We live our lives unaware of this. Most of our food already has salt added to it. But if you bake your own bread, or meal, it's obvious if you forget the salt. In Prehistoric times, the hunters would eat a lot of red meat, and they got their daily salt intake from the animal drinking from the lake or the sea.

Salt is a need for both the hunters and the livestock’s health. Sodium ions in salt help essential functions in the body. Chloride in salt helps the body absorb potassium, that plays an important role in the digestive process and assists in blood carrying carbon dioxide waste from cells to the lungs to get rid of.

Since the body cannot make salt, daily intake is needed to ensure healthy fluid levels. Lack of salt can cause loss of weight and appetite, inertia, nausea and muscular cramps. Excessive heat, as in desert summers, depletes the body of salt, leading to possible vascular collapse and death. That is the importance of salt!


I had to start lowering my salt intake when I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. It was really hard, because I had gotten used to salting everything on the table.

My doctor did tell me about a table salt substitute, though. He said I could use celery salt instead. It still contains salt, but the grains are really fine and they are mixed with ground celery seed.

It tasted a lot like table salt, but it had a hint of celery flavor. I now use it on everything that I previously sprinkled with table salt.


@cloudel – I found those in my table salt once, too! I think they are called weevils.

I had to throw away the salt, as well as a can of oats that they had gotten into. I also washed my shelves.

When I bought new table salt, I poured it into a container with an airtight lid. Those salt containers have gaps around the spout where bugs can get in, so they are not very good for storage.


I had to buy new table salt after my old container got covered by these tiny little bugs. They were all over the outside of the carton, and they even found their way inside to the salt.

Does anyone have any idea what these were? How can I prevent them in the future?


My husband and I go back and forth arguing the benefits of sea salt vs. table salt. He says that sea salt is better for you because it's unrefined, but I say that since I have to use more sea salt on food to get the same degree of saltiness, its benefits are null and void.

Sea salt chunks are bigger than table salt crystals, but because they aren't spread evenly across the food, you only get spots of saltiness. Table salt is great for getting an even distribution.

It also seems like when I grind sea salt into a pot of boiling water, it takes a lot more of it than table salt to get the right amount of saltiness. So, when I'm boiling vegetables in salty water, I generally use table salt.


@SarahGen-- My sister uses Himalayan salt as table salt. The one she has is a light pink color. I don't think there is anything special about this salt. It might be rich in minerals but it's salt so it's not going to help people with high blood pressure. Salt makes raises blood pressure.

There is also something called black salt from India. I've never tried this but I think it's similar to Himalayan salt, except that it's much darker. It's black in color.


@anon138441-- I'm not sure what kind of information you're looking for. But we were learning about the Indian independence movement in my class this week. My instructor was talking about how Gandhi helped the independence movement by teaching Indians how to make table salt from sea water.

So they were basically taking sea water in containers and putting it out in the sun for the water to evaporate. When all the water evaporated, what remained was the salt.

Things work differently now obviously. I'm guessing the salt is still evaporated out of the sea water but it must be purified before it is packaged and sold.


@anon56223-- I think there are many types of salt. Salt is categorized by its source like rock salt and sea salt, but it's also categorized by geographic location.

Lately I've been hearing a lot about a salt called Himalayan salt. I have a friend who has been using it for a while and speaks very highly of it. I guess it's a rock salt from the Himalayas. It's supposed to be more beneficial than regular table salt. I think it's recommended for people with high blood pressure although I'm not sure why.

I think there are lots of different types of table salt like this. And then there are also table salts approved by certain authorities. For example, there is something kosher salt that Jews consume. I don't know what the difference is between kosher salt vs table salt but maybe someone here who knows can explain.


can you please help me out? i need the information on the process of making table salt. it's given to me by my school, this is a project work on science. i need it by tomorrow. can someone help me out here? i would be very thankful. thank you.


Is table salt considered to be a food?


how many types of salt are there?


If you live in parts of the world with high humidity, put some uncooked rice into your salt shaker together with salt, it will be easier to shake the salt out.

I have seen this done in Italy, and it worked very well.

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