Water softeners are a must for houses with hard water. Hard water isn’t hazardous, but frequently drinking dissolved magnesium and calcium, among other minerals, can trigger countless health problems.
The quickest solution most people will come up with is getting a water softener. But buying and maintaining a water softener are completely different things; if you don’t know how to take care of one, you’ll lose a great investment and keep facing hard water problems.
Luckily, water softeners are quite long-lasting and don’t need much maintenance. However, keeping the appliance under check and ensuring it’s doing its job is something you can’t skip.
A water softener has an impressive lifespan but can dramatically reduce without maintenance. Unfortunately, not many water softener owners know how to maintain the appliance. This can be a problem because most people believe the appliance is faulty and spend hundreds of dollars on a new one, only to face the same problem.
A dry brine tank is one of the most common maintenance problems in a water softener. The brine tank is responsible for regeneration, where salt solution leaches minerals from the resin beads.
The brine tank contains a 100% sodium chloride (table salt) solution, which effectively pulls separated minerals so the softener can continue working. It is practically impossible for a water softener to work long-term without a filled brine tank.
You can quickly review these if you’re short on time:
- Water softeners are low-maintenance but require regular check-ups on the brine tank to run smoothly
- The brine tank cleans the resin beads and helps the water softener function properly, but it needs the perfect amount of salt to do this
- A brine tank won’t work properly if it has too much/little salt
- The brine tank should always have at least ¼th the level of salt
- You can easily add salt to the brine tank by measuring the required salt level and adding up to the salt line
- A salt level of less than half the tank indicates you need to add more
- Wet salt can form salt bridges and overfill the tank, preventing the softener from working properly
Although a water softener can work for a little while with a dry brine tank, the absence of salt will eventually cause a breakdown. Salt pulls away the minerals from the resins purifying the main water source, so the minerals will collect and damage water fixtures without it.
It can also be risky to drink water in such a case because the resin beads aren’t cleaned, so there’s a high chance you’re taking in a potentially dangerous concentration of minerals.
Most water softeners can run on a dry brine tank for a little while. However, this little endeavor lasts for a short while, and the softener stops working permanently.
Not many owners know they can fix a dry brine tank at home. While other water softener parts are a bit technical and may require professional help, the brine tank is quite easy to fix. All you have to do is refill the brine tank with a salt solution/salt, and the softener will be as good as new.
Replacing and adding salt in the brine tank isn’t hard, but it requires some basics. You should know the type of salt, the required level, and your appliance’s model to know how to add salt to a water softener.
Let’s discuss this in detail.
You should know a few things before adding salt to water softeners. Although most water softeners use a sodium chloride solution, you can’t just toss a handful of table salt and call it a day.
The type of salt suitable for your particular water softener and how much of it you need determines your entire process, so it’s best to stay in the loop. You can ask your water softener company for these details, but let’s discuss them briefly.
Brine tanks use sodium chloride (table salt), but the composition of sodium and chlorine in the salt makes its type. We can classify this salt into four main types:
Rock salt is pebble-like and comes right from underground salt mines. Rock salt is quite cheap, but it contains calcium sulfate, so it’s not the purest sodium chloride available.
I don’t advise using rock salt unless your water softener manufacturer recommends it; using rock salt in an appliance that works with other salt types can impact its ability to work.
It’s best to use rock salt with moderately hard water (61-120 mg/L of calcium carbonate).
We make solar salt from renewable sources (solar power), so it’s one of our only eco–friendly salts. Solar salt typically comes in pellets but is sometimes available in crystals.
Solar salt has a greater solubility than rock salt, but it only works against hard water with 121-180 mg/L of calcium carbonate.
Evaporating salt from natural water sources makes evaporated salt. Evaporated salt is extremely pure and has a high solubility rate. It comes in grains/pellets and crystals.
Evaporated salt is best for very hard water (calcium carbonate greater than 180 mg/L).
Block salt has a high purity and maximum solubility, so it’s one of the best salts for water softening at all levels. However, block salt is quite strong, so you should only use it when advised by the water softener manufacturer.
Knowing how much salt is in a water softener will tell you how much it needs. A water softener should typically always have at least ¼th of the brine tank full of salt; any less than ¼th means you must replace it immediately.
Simply lift the cover of the brine tank to check its salt level.
The salt level of less than ¼th of the tank means you need to add more. There are also other indicators:
It sounds weird, but the texture of the salt in the tank should neither be too wet nor too dry. Dry salt means your brine tank has run out of its fill and isn’t using it at all, while wet salt means you’re probably keeping too much salt in there.
Wet salt can make salt bridges or clogs, so it’s best to level the salt and ensure you’re not over-feeding your softener. Salt bridges can trick the eyes because it seems the softener has enough salt, while in reality, the level is much lower/higher than expected.
There should always be a ¼th salt level in the tank, but if it’s closer to a half, it’s a sign you should add more.
The salt’s texture and level in the softener tell you how much you need to add.
Wet salt typically means your softener is already filled with more salt than it needs, so it’s best to skip filling. Dry salt indicates you need to fill the brine tank immediately.
Less than a quarter of the tank means your water softener desperately needs more salt. However, you should only fill halfway if the salt is one-half of the tank.
It’s always best to fill the brine tank fully, leaving 4-6 inches to the top. Overfilling to the top without leaving space will mush the salt, creating salt bridges. Underfilling will work for a while, but you’ll need frequent fillings.
You can add salt to the water softener by following these steps:
Here’s how you fill salt in a water softener:
- Find your brine tank. The brine tank typically has a label with its name, but look for a smaller/shorter tank if you can’t find it.
- Check the salt level; a level of half-full or lower than it means you need to add more salt.
- Look inside the brine tank to ensure there aren’t any salt bridges or chunks. Move the salt within the tank with a wooden spatula to see if it’s stuck or mushy.
- Break any salt chunks with the spatula or another wooden utensil/stick.
- Slowly pour in the salt; don’t immediately dump all the salt inside the tank because you could overfill it.
- Gradually pour the salt until you reach the fill line (which will be drawn) or up to ¾th of the tank.
- Close the brine tank, and you’re done.
There are a few things you can keep in mind to prevent problems or malfunctioning in the brine tank:
I recommend checking your brine tank’s salt level once every month to ensure it’s running perfectly. Many people end up with a malfunctioning water softener because they aren’t quick to check the brine tank.
It’s best to thoroughly clean your brine tank once every refill to prevent contamination. Collected salts in the brine tank can create salt bridges, making it impossible for the water softener to do its job.
Clean out the brine tank at least once a month or get a professional cleaning service twice a year to ensure smooth running.
The resin beads in a brine tank aren’t permanent; you need to change them after 10 years. Although not all resin beads are durable enough to last 10 years, so it’s best to have a service provider check them after 5 years.
You can easily remove salt bridges by knocking them with a ladle or stick. Frequent salt bridges won’t go by simply knocking them out, so it’s best to get professional assistance.
Ensuring your water softener works perfectly needs more than just checking the brine tank; there are some precautions to prevent accidental damage to the appliance. Let’s take a look.
The salt in a water softener isn’t hazardous by any means, but you should still be careful around it.
Accidentally ingesting the salt can cause severe stomach ache because of its concentration, so it’s best to store it in a safe and locked place if you have pets or kids. I don’t recommend storing salt in a damp place because it can clump from moisture.
It’s best to handle the salt with care when adding it; salt bags are quite heavy, so it’s very easy to accidentally overfill the brine tank.
It’s important you don’t over/underfill salt in the brine tank, so always add salt gradually.
It’s best to pour salt with a big scoop instead of directly from the bag to prevent spillage from the weight.
Facing troubles with your water softener? Let’s see if we can help you out.
Modern models of water softeners have a salt alarm that lights up or beeps when there’s a problem in the brine tank. Typically, the salt alarm rings when the salt level is low in the brine tank, but if you’re frequently checking and there seems to be no problem, you’ll need a little help.
Don’t assume the brine tank has enough salt because you can physically see it. Wet salt can create salt bridges, which make it seem like you have enough salt. However, most of the time, the salt level is quite lower than visible.
In certain cases, the alarm also rings when it’s having trouble adjusting the salt within the brine tank. This happens when clumps of salt prevent the brine tank from doing its work or there’s a bigger problem.
The easiest way to solve the alarm problem is to empty the brine tank, clean and refill it with salt. A cleaned, refilled brine tank will effectively run after 3-4 hours, and the alarm will stop.
However, if the alarm keeps ringing even after you’ve cleaned the tank, it’s time to get professional assistance.
Typically, a water softener’s salt level goes down after regeneration. The level going down is good because it means your softener is using the salt at a healthy rate.
However, the salt level staying the same after regeneration means there are salt bridges with a crust thick enough to stop use. Since visibly seeing the salt won’t tell you if there are bridges, you can check the texture of the salt.
The salt in the brine tank should always be loose and cool. Salt that seems to be sticking/lumping together and isn’t loose is forming crusts, so it’s best to clean and refill the tank.
Removing the salt bridges will generally bring the levels back to normal. You should get professional help if your softener’s salt levels are still the same after refilling.
Your water softener might not run smoothly even after you’ve checked everything. The water is still hard if it tastes bitter after the softener.
It’s best to follow the given steps to find out the problem. You can contact the manufacturer for professional advice if the problem persists even when you’ve followed all the steps:
- Some water softeners have a bypass switch (which turns the softener off without disrupting water flow). The water softener won’t run if the bypass switch is on, so turn it off.
- Power outages can disrupt the water softener’s clock, so it won’t work. You can change or reset the clock by following your softener’s manual.
- Check the softener’s setting. The wrong time, salt level, or usage settings can prevent the softener from working.
- Manually begin the regeneration process; most appliances just need a push to work.
Conclusion | How to Add Salt to Water Softener?
A water softener won’t work if the salt level in the brine tank is too low/high. Over/underfilling salt in the brine tank can prevent the softener from running its cycle and will damage the appliance.
Solar and evaporated salt is the best for water softeners, but you can get rock or block salt if the manufacturer approves. Regularly clean your brine tank to prevent damage.
Filling a brine tank with salt is easy; you must check the salt level and pour the salt up to the salt line or ¾th of the tank. A half or less than half salt level means your brine tank needs a hearty refill immediately.
Wet salt can form salt bridges and prevent the brine tank from using salt; this often happens when the salt level is too high. Don’t overfill the salt and your brine tank should work normally.
Replace resin beads after ten years and get professional maintenance twice a year to prolong your softener’s lifespan.