Along with the best of us, you will eventually, or might have already, ran into salt bridging or mushing within your water softener system.

These are the two major symptoms of too much salt in your water softener that should not be ignored. But don't worry, if you've caught it in time you can easily resolve it.

Let's look at how we can resolve and avoid future salt bridging and mushing by using the right salts and keeping the salt in your brine tank at the right level.

What Is A Salt Bridge In A Water Softener?

A salt bridge is pretty much what it describes, a bridge of solidified salt within your brine tank. This solid block of salt in your water softener can hurt the performance of your system and even cause leaks or flooding.

This solid block of salt usually forms at the top of your brine tank thereby obscuring the contents of your tank below.

Why Is A Salt Bridge In Your Brine Tank A Problem?

Because of the bridge, you won't be able to accurately assess whether your brine tank needs more salt, which could lead to your system eventually running out of salt and therefore to stop working.

A salt bridge could also affect your system's ability to measure the water level within its brine tank. In a best-case scenario, this will lead to your brine tank drying out.

However, worst case, your system will continuously keep filling the tank even as it overflows thereby flooding your basement or shed until the bypass valve is activated or the water main is shut off.

What Can Cause A Salt Bridge In A Water Softener?

The main reason for a salt bridge forming within your brine tank is because there is too much salt within the tank.

Although it might seem convenient to fill your brine tank to the rim so you don't have to look at it for as long as possible, there's certainly something like overfilling your water softener with salt.

When there is a lot of salt above the water line in your brine tank your run the risk of it starting to touch the outer sides of the tank.

Because of the humidity within the tank, the salt will then start to stick together and the tank walls eventually forming a solid connection to the tank sides.

Over time the salt beneath the water line is dissolved and washed away, leaving behind a solid bridge stuck to the sides of your brine tank.

How To Get Rid Of A Salt Bridge In A Water Softener

To fix the problem you will have to remove the solidified salt bridge from your water softener.

When crushing the block be careful not to rupture your brine tank as the hardened salt can be tougher than the plastic.

You can help the salt along with some warm water to help it dissolve. A hammer and ice pick can also help to chisel away most of the biggest chunks.

What Is Salt Mushing In A Water Softener?

When salt mushing occurs it causes a brown sludge of small particles of solidified salt to gather at the bottom of your brine tank. Not to be confused with a bacterial infestation of iron-oxidizing bacteria that can form an algae-like brown sludge.

Why Is Salt Mushing In Your Water Softener A Problem?

The solidified salt particles are small enough to be flushed away during a backwash cycle but could be big enough to get stuck in the piping or worse the resin cartridge in your water softener system.

When the pipes in your system get clogged up it could stop your system from working or cause your system to overflow and flood your house.

When the particles get into the resin cartridge they can start to grow and eventually permanently damage the resin.

What Causes Salt Mushing Water Softener?

With mushing, salt crystallizes from the water to form larger chunks in the bottom of the tank. This process can be caused by a drop in temperature as the temperature of the water influences the solubility of salt.

Using loose salt induces crystalization easier as with larger pellets the undissolved salt is locked up in the pellets and thus can't crystalize.

Impurities in the salt can cause crystallization of the salt because it binds to the impurities and thus is no longer soluble.

Higher quality salt has fewer impurities and thus has a lower chance of crystalizing.

Morton Sodium Chloride Water Softener Pellets

How To Unclog Your Water Softener

To resolve a case of mushing, either turn your water softener by shutting off the main valve or turning the bypass valve to bypass mode.

Step 1. Empty your brine tank and wash out all the salt that remains on the bottom.

Step 2. Scrub the tank to get rid of all the salt crystals (these could start the process all over again)

Step 3. Hook the brine tank back up, turn on the main valve or switch the bypass, and flush the system with clean water before adding any salts back to the brine tank. This helps to clear the resin from salt crystals.

Step 4. (Optional) Flush your system with a water softener cleaner, these can help clear the resin bed from any tougher salt crystal deposits as well as clear any iron, rust, or dirt.

Morton Universal Water Softener Resin Cleaner

Step 5. Fill the brine tank with the right amount of water softener salt.

Your system should now be ready again to softener your water. Below you can see the steps in a video.

If you continue having issues with the performance of your water softener the damage to the resin bed could be permanent. Depending on your system's make and model this could mean you will need to replace either the resin bed or the whole system.

Most Important Tips For Avoiding Salt Bridging And Mushing

If you follow these tips most of your troubles can be avoided.

  • Don't overfill your brine tank - Too much salt is the fastest way to cause issues with your system. If you are not sure it is better to stay on the lower side and take an extra trip to your water softener every once in a while to fill it up with salt.

  • Use the right salt - Make sure the salt has the right pellet size and does not contain any impurities.

  • Check your system regularly - Despite your efforts salt bridging and mushing can never be fully avoided, therefore it's essential to always keep an eye on your system to avoid any bridging or mushing to start forming before it's too late!