You might say that, to your water softener, brine is the elixir of life – that perfect balance of water and salt that allows your appliance to transform hard water into soft. So, if your water softener is not using salt, or it’s using too much, things won’t go well. There are a number of possible reasons your water softener might not be using the right amount of salt, and fortunately, most are easy to fix.
Here are some common problems related to salt, along with our tips on how to correct them.
Salt Build-Up or Bridge
Is your water softener working, but not softening? Is it not regenerating as expected? Look inside your brine tank. If you see salt collecting on the interior wall, there may also be a salt bridge – a hardened crust of salt that forms above the water when the sodium sticks together instead of dissolving. This prevents the salt and water from forming the brine required for softening.
To fix, you can try removing the lid, grabbing the brine tank and shaking back and forth to see if that removes the bridge. If that doesn’t work, you can try using a sturdy but not sharp tool such as a broom handle to carefully break up the salt deposits. (Tempting as it might be to use an ice pick for this, you could easily damage or even puncture the tank.) Then scoop out the chunks and wipe any salt residue from the tank interior, and your water softener should be back in business. (Tip: After you do this, make sure to refill the salt!)
If your drinking water tastes salty, check to make sure that there is not a pinch in the drain hose. It’s also possible that minerals have built up in the drain hose (especially if you have rusty water), which can cause pressure problems resulting in salty water. (If so, remove the hose, then clean and replace it.)
Salt Level Is Too High (or Water Is Too Low)
Your water softener uses salt as it works, but you should see about 3-4 inches of salt above the water level in your tank. Less than that – especially if you can see the water surface – means it’s time to replenish the salt. More than that could mean you’re adding too much salt, which is wasteful and encourages crusty build-up.
Ideally, you should fill salt to an appropriate level for your household, then let the salt drop until you see the water level in the brine tank. Then refill to half-full or full depending on how fast salt is used in your home.
It’s also a good idea to check the float valve that controls water level/intake, to be sure the water level itself is correct and that water can flow in and out as required. If the float valve is faulty or out of adjustment, there’s a good chance you can fix it yourself.
Check for Running Toilets
Remember, your water softener is connected to the rest of your water system. If it’s using a lot of salt, it might mean you have a toilet that’s running constantly. This will deplete the salt very quickly and can be quite common if you have a bathroom that doesn't get much use.
Double-check the settings. For example, if your unit has a clock-style timer, it may be scheduled to regenerate more often than necessary.
The Salt Itself May Be the Problem
- Right Size – Table salt and other fine-grained salts dissolve too quickly to use in a water softener (and block salt doesn’t dissolve fast enough to maintain the proper brine). Salt crystals and pellets are the most efficient. Pellets are least likely to clump up and form salt bridges.
- Right Type – Rock salt retains mineral content other than sodium. That reduces its effectiveness when it comes to ion exchange, which is vital to water softener function. Solar salt (evaporated naturally from seawater) is about 99.6% pure, but even that small amount of remaining impurities can interfere with optimal operation.
Here at Haferman, we recommend evaporated salt. It is virtually 100% pure because moisture is extracted using heat, so it is the most efficient type of salt and least likely to cause salt bridges.
Finding Your Salt Balance
You may know that dual tank water softeners like the Kinetico models go through a lot less salt than single tank softeners. In fact, the Kinetico Premier Series S650 XP was recently named the World’s Most Efficient Water Softener, based on NSF/ANSI Standard 44 testing for grains of hardness removed per pound of salt.
Still, we realize things can go wrong with any water softener. If you aren’t able to troubleshoot or fix your salt problem on your own, we’re here to help. It’s easy to give us a call, and you can be sure you’ll get the right diagnosis and solution.