Salt Bridge. Sounds like a magical structure in a fairy tale land, doesn’t it? But here in the REAL world it is a big problem for homeowners if left untreated.

What is a salt bridge?

A salt bridge is what happens when a crust-like structure forms in the brine tank of an ion exchange-based water softener system.

First of all, let’s review. This crust creates an empty space between the water and the salt in the brine tank. When this happens, salt cannot dissolve into the water in the brine tank. This means the water softener won’t make the brine needed to rinse out the resin in the water softener. Without brine, the resin beads can’t do what they are meant to do, which is soften water.

How do I know I have a salt bridge?

If the water softener is malfunctioning, there will be signs indicating this. Some thing to look out for would be how quickly the soap and/or detergent runs out. If the water softener has a salt bridge in the brine tank, its basically like the house is running on hard water again. The excess minerals in hard water drastically counter-act the way the household soaps and detergent perform. Another way to tell is by the appearance of clothes and dishes. If the dishes have a foggy or musty look to them, or the clothes are dingy and stiff, that means that the water softener is not working. Salt bridges prevent the water softener from regularly regenerating, which in turn halts all of the other functions.

What are some things that can cause salt bridges?

Thankfully, there are only a few reasons why there would be a salt bridge in the brine tank. The first reason might be because of the type of salt that was used. Make sure to purchase the right type of salt for the home’s water softener. Another reason might be because of high humidity levels. When the humidity level rises, the condensation in the brine tank affects the way the salt interacts with itself. Condensation causes the salt crystals to clump together, thus creating a salt bridge. The simplest reason though would be that too much salt was put into the tank and it can’t dissolve it all in a timely manner.

How to fix a salt bridge problem

Fortunately, this is an easy fix that shouldn’t require the help of professionals. First, make sure that the water is shut off to the water softener. The next thing to do would be to find either a broom or a mop with a sturdy handle. Gently use that handle to break the top of the crust of the salt bridge. After that, use some a plastic container like a bowl or Tupperware, to remove the salt pellets from the brine tank. Continue to break apart the salt bridge, careful to avoid scoring the walls of the tank, as this can cause more problems. Gently hammer away at Salt Bridge, staying away from the sides of the tank. Use the plastic object to remove the excess chunks of Salt Bridge from the tank. Then take a wet/dry vacuum and suck out all the remaining pieces of salt. Turn on the water supply to the water softener. Add new salt, being sure ft follow the instructions on how to refill the salt. It should be no more than 2/3 filled in the brine tank.

What comes next?

Salt bridge repair is a pretty easy DIY fix. We know DIY is not for everyone, though. Give us a call and we will get someone out right away to take care of the problem. Once you have your water softener up and running again, enjoy your water! If you notice a pattern of salt bridge formation, give us a call. We will be happy to provide a free exam and consultation for your system and help you figure out the best way to proceed.