When you don't add salt to your water softener your system's performance will slowly start to decline until it eventually completely stops softening your water.
Water will still be coming out of your faucets, however, the hardness level will be the same as it is straight from your water supply.
Prolonged periods without salt could eventually lead to permanent damage to your system.
What Happens If Your Water Softener Runs Out Of Salt?
As your water softener filters out the calcium and magnesium ions from your water, the filter, a resin cartridge, slowly fills up with the filtered ions until it can take no more.
In normal conditions, in a system where salt is added, just before the resin cartridge is full and thus no longer effective, the cartridge is 'washed' with salt. This 'recharges' the cartridge so it regains the ability to soften your water.
If no salt is added to the system, the washing process will have no effect as the salt is not there to wash out the calcium and magnesium. Therefore the resin stays full and will no longer be able to filter out any of the calcium or magnesium ions.
This will result in hard water coming out of your faucets and all the disadvantages that come along with it.
Will Using A Water Softener Without Salt Ruin It?
While prolonged salt deficits are not an immediate problem you should pay attention if you have an iron-rich water source. Like calcium and magnesium, a water softener will also filter out some of the iron ions from your water.
Without salt, these iron ions are no longer washed out of the filter and if they are there too long they will solidify and start corroding, thereby permanently damaging the resin.
If this occurs the only option will be to replace the resin cartridge with a new one. If this is not possible you will need to replace the system as a whole.
When Should You Refill Your Water Softener Brine Tank?
By now you know it is essential to keep your water softener provided with salt. To do this it's best to regularly check whether or not there is enough salt left in your water softener's brine tank.
This might be a bit of guesswork in the beginning, but if your household's water usage is fairly regular this will quickly become a simple routine.
How much salt you should put in water softener depends on your system.
If you're worried about keeping your system filled with the right amount of salt there are salt level monitors available that will give out a signal when low salt concentrations are detected.
How Long Do Salt Blocks Last In A Water Softener?
How much salt your water softener should use can depend on various variables.
Type of Salt - The lower your salt purity the more salt your system will need to use to reach the desired water softness. If you're using potassium instead of sodium your system will use around 25% more salt.
Recharge cycle length - Every time your system recharges it uses salt, therefor to keep salt usage as low as possible it is best to keep the amount of recharges to a minimum.
If you have a timed system make sure you set the recharge cycle to a period as long as possible. Metered system will actually keep track of the amount of water that has been softened by the system thereby ensuring recharging will only take place when necessary.
System Efficiency - Modern systems are more efficient in the amount of salt and water needed for a recharge cycle, thereby reducing the amount of salt used.
Water hardness - Because the salt is used to replace the calcium and magnesium ions, which are the cause of hard water, the harder the water from your supply is the more salt it will take to soften it.
Amount of water used - The most important factor will be how much water you will actually use as the more water you use the more your system will need to 'recharge'.
Be sure to check your house for any leaks, as even small leaks can quickly add up to substantial volumes of water.
Can You Overfill A Water Softener With Salt?
Yes, you can overfill a water softener with salt, as with anything else, too much is not a good thing. However in the case of a water softener, too much can be a very bad thing.
The main risk of adding too much salt to your system is that it can cause bridging and mushing in its brine tank which will severely reduce its efficiency and could cause it to stop working altogether.
Besides the hassle of cleaning out your system the possibility of needing to replace your system should best be avoided!