Hard water can irritate skin, damage hair, and stain clothes. It often tastes unpleasant, too. Using a water softener is the most common method of removing the calcium and magnesium ions that cause hard water. If you have a water softener, then water softener maintenance enters your life. Water softeners work magic but they do need to have salt added regularly.
- What you need to know
- How to add salt
What You Need to Know
Factors such as the kind of water softener, household water consumption, brine tank size, and level of water hardness influence how often salt needs to be replenished and how much salt is needed. A brine tank more than 10 years old will likely use more salt than a newer tank.
This is really important: use only salt or potassium chloride specifically designed for water softeners.
Do not use de-icing or table salt. The purer the salt, the less likelihood that your water softener will experience some problems that can interfere with its proper functioning. This is a time when you don’t want to automatically purchase the biggest cheapest bag of rock salt you can find.
As long as you are working with your water softener, take a look for signs of these problems.
- salt bridging – this is a situation where the salt forms a crust over the water in the tank and an air pocket forms between that crust and the water. This means that the salt won’t dissolve in the water and your water softener won’t do its job. If your tank looks full, but your water is not soft, that can be a sign of salt bridging.
Salt bridging can form due to humidity or temperature fluctuations near the tank. It can also be due to using salt not suited for water softeners.
You can press gently on the top of the crust to see if it will break apart and then contact the water to dissolve.
- muddy tank – this is another issue that can be brought on by using the wrong kind of salt for a long time. Essentially, impurities build up in the tank from insoluble minerals or other debris contained in salt – most commonly in rock salt. A symptom of this problem is reduced effectiveness of the water softener even though the salt is added regularly.
How to Add Salt
Newer brine tanks take some of the guess work out of when and how to add salt by being equipped with low salt sensors and automatic salt replenishment systems. Regardless of the water softener system model, follow these tips for adding salt to properly maintain your brine tank:
- Use salt or potassium chloride specifically designed for water softeners.
- Add salt only when the previous salt level is nearly depleted.
If you forget to add salt or the salt runs completely dry, don’t panic. You haven’t destroyed your water softener system. As a rule of thumb, there’s always water in the bottom of the brine tank. Add the salt per the instructions above. It may take a few cycles for your water to be as soft as it was but it will get there.
The hardest part about adding salt to your water softener is remembering to do it (and lifting that block or bag of salt).
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Download our handy Home Maintenance Schedule checklist so that you never forget the water softener salt or any of the other important items in your home.