Along with the best of us, you will eventually, or might have already, run into salt mushing within your water softener system.
Salt mushing can occur when using either too much or the wrong type of salt in your water softener and, much like salt bridging, 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 mushing by using the right salts and keeping the salt in your brine tank at the right level.
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?
Although initially a bit of salt mush in bottom of your water softener doesn't pose 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 crystallization easier than with larger pellets the undissolved salt is locked up in the pellets and thus can't crystallize. Correctly storing your water softener salt can also help avoid any crystallization due to humid conditions during storage.
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 crystallizing.
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.
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 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!