Holmes Ecowater

Salt Problems in Your Water Softener

Salt Problems in Your Water Softener

One of the most common problems with a water softener is the salt. Your water softener needs the right amount of salt to recharge and give you continuous soft water. If you think you are having a problem with your water softener – check the salt.


Breaking a Salt Bridge

Sometimes a hard crust or salt “bridge” forms in the brine tank.  This is usually caused by high humidity, temperature changes in the area of the water softener or the wrong kind of salt.  When the salt bridges, an empty space forms between the water and the salt.  Then salt will not dissolve in the water to make brine.  Without brine, the resin bed is not recharged and hard water will result.

If the storage tank is full of salt, it is difficult to tell whether there is a salt bridge.  A bridge may be underneath loose salt.  The following is the best way to check for a salt bridge:

Salt should be loose all the way to the bottom of the tank.  Hold a broom handle, or like tool, up to the softener, as shown here.  (Non Ecowater softeners frequently have a false bottom approximately 4” from the bottom of the tank – Take care to not penetrate this floor) Make a pencil mark on the handle 1” – 2” below the top of the rim.  Then, carefully push it straight down into the salt.  If a hard object is felt before the pencil mark is even with the top, it is most likely a salt bridge.  Carefully push into the bridge in several places to break it.  Do not try to break the salt bridge by pounding on the outside of the salt tank.  You may damage the tank.

Salt Problems


Salt Mushing

A related but more serious problem is mushing in the salt tank. Some salts have a tendency to absorb water higher than the water level and the large salt pieces break down into granules. The weight of the salt above then compresses these granules into a large hard block. You will be able to tell if this is your problem if you are unable to break a bridge as described above.


If this happens, the only cure is to dig out all old salt and replace it with fresh salt.


Salt Tank Operation

The best way to operate a salt tank, especially if you experience problems is to add no more than 1 or 2 bags of salt at a time. Let the salt get down to within a few inches of the bottom of the tank before adding more salt.


If you are purchasing our water softener salt, and you have any salt related problems, let us know and we will fix the problem at no charge.

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Comments (47)

  • Matt Reply

    I have a rental house that has what seems to be a solid block of salt. There is no careful insertion. I attempted to break through the salt but as more force was required, I became hesitant (it was a pole of solid aluminum — no way a broom handle would break it). Are there any suggestions or ideas what the problem might be? I need to fix it before new renters move in (about 1 week).

    April 9, 2016 at 5:24 pm
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      When salt gets that hard it can be a real chore to get it out. We have used a large screwdriver and hammer to break it up, and if it is real bad, an auger drill.

      You need to make sure that you don’t damage the side of the sides or bottom of the tank. Alos, depending on the model, there nay be a false bottom several inches from the bottom. Once cleaned out, the best way to operate a salt tank is:
      1. Never fill too full
      2. Let the salt almost run out before adding
      3. Add no more than 1 or two bags at a time – no more than a 2 month supply.

      April 10, 2016 at 11:29 am
  • Steve Reply

    Ken, first of all, thank you so much for the info. I have read several similar blogs that tell people to empty out all the salt in the tank. Is that really necessary, versus just breaking it up and pushing it to the bottom? It’s still salt, just a bit harder. Also, why not add hot water to break up the rock hard stuff? My inclination is to use hot water and then hit recharge a couple days in a row; but I’m probably crazy. My tank is about 1/4th full off salt, but it was pretty blocked at the top.

    May 22, 2016 at 11:05 am
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      Thanks for your comment.

      Our experience tells us that if your salt has turned to mush, it will never dissolve and needs to be cleaned out and thrown away. Any wet salt that you remove should also be thrown out to prevent future problems. You may reuse dry salt.

      If the salt has formed a bridge or hard lumps, you can break them up and keep the salt in the tank if it breaks up. It will need to be broken up regularly until it is gone.

      Under no circumstances should you pour hot water into the salt tank and water should also not be pours over salt. If you need to add water for any reason, pour it down the side of the salt tank.

      May 30, 2016 at 11:28 am
  • Vic Reply


    We recently purchased a home with a water softener that is over ten years old. We had a local plumber replace the tank and work on the electronics. After several months, we noticed the salt was not dissolving, so I broke up and removed the hard stuff.

    That said, over the past three weeks we have monitored the water and salt level, neither of which seems to be “going down”. We are in the Tamp Bay area and have yet to go through one bag of salt for two people since Dec. 2016. Any ideas as to what is or isn’t happening?

    April 12, 2017 at 8:03 am
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      If the salt has not formed a bridge, and it is reasonably loose, the issue will be with the control valve. The unit could still be on bypass from when the unit was serviced. Check to make sure it is plugged in and not on bypass. If that is ok, try a manual recharge. If this doesn’t take care of the problem, you will need someone that knows about your system to take a look.

      April 12, 2017 at 8:24 am
  • Irvie Martin Reply

    Hi Ken. When we bought our home, the water softener wasn’t working. We had it replaced and the man who installed the new one said that one of the problems was that the wrong kind of salt had been added. Instead of pellets, it looked like rock salt. That was 6 years ago. My husband forgot and when he bought salt to add, they didn’t have the right kind so he added the rock salt kind. It has been a few weeks and I just noticed it. Do we need to scoop all of the rock salt out? There were some pellets at the bottom. How thoroughly do we need to clean out the rock salt?

    July 21, 2017 at 1:28 pm
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      You should not have to scoop it out unless it mushes. I would just let it run down until virtually gone, then add the better salt

      July 22, 2017 at 10:49 am
  • Gary Reply

    Ken, when I add a bag of pellets, there is powdered salt at the bottom of the bag. Should I avoid pouring that into the tank?

    September 20, 2017 at 4:41 am
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      Gary,while a small amount of that prefer should not cause a problem, it is possible over time, so I would avoid it, but not working if some gets in the tank.

      September 20, 2017 at 5:18 am
  • Hashem Reply

    Hello Ken,

    I recently replaced the resign in my softer tank, and ever since then, the salt doesn’t seem to be dissolving. Do you think there might be a clog somewhere?

    January 17, 2018 at 11:43 pm
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      Hello Hashem,

      If the salt is not going down, first I would check to make sure the salt had not bridged or mushed in the bottom, make sure the softener is plugged in and not on bypass. If it’s none of that, the problem will be in the control valve and it needs service.

      January 17, 2018 at 11:50 pm
  • Sultan Reply

    Hello Ken,
    Happy to find website answering questions like this!

    Our problems are on reveres osmosis plant (desalination plant), that membranes are getting sold salts at end cup sides thus it makes replacing them need very hard effort and more time. The salt becoming like crystal shape (white and light green color) which makes end cup stuck with the vessel that we use cutter machine to take it off. I will be glad if you can advise me on how I can break this salt without damaging the vessel or the end cup.

    If you want to check some pictures please use my email to contact me.

    January 21, 2018 at 10:32 pm
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      It sounds like your problem is due to scaling in the membrane. Pulling the pure water from the inlet water increases concentrations of many scale forming compounds.

      You need to look at changing your pretreatment based on your raw water test.

      January 22, 2018 at 7:27 am
  • Michelle Reply

    What kind of salt would you recommend? You mentioned it could be the wrong salt that is causing the bridge.

    February 2, 2018 at 6:05 pm
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      Every area has different brands of salt – some better than others. The harder the salt the better. I would check with a local water treatment dealer.

      February 5, 2018 at 10:37 am
  • Dave Reply

    I have mushy salt. When I scoup some out it still has small pellet like pieces in it. Do u think I should dump the salt that is left? And one other thing I am using a different brand it is called Diamond Crystal salt pellets.

    February 8, 2018 at 6:38 am
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      If the salt is mushed – very small compacted pieces, it should be removed. If it still seems easily moved, it is probably ok.

      February 12, 2018 at 2:46 pm
  • S. Adams Reply

    When I first turn on water in my house in the morning I am getting a salty taste that goes away after just a minute or two but I never used to get this taste…..any ideas what is causing this???

    March 21, 2018 at 2:01 pm
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      The water from a properly functioning water softener on normal water should never taste salty. Salty water not only tastes bad, but it will be very corrosive to your plumbing and you need to address this right away.

      I would suspect a problem with the softener valve and it needs to be serviced.

      March 21, 2018 at 2:11 pm
  • Jayne Reply

    Hello Ken, We moved into our home two years ago, and began the battle of extremely hard water. We did end up having both a iron filter and softener installed.It was great to have soft water again.. That was…for about three weeks.Called the company was told,that we did have very hard water turn up the softner. Many calls and visits later,the softner is all the way up,and yet they can’t find any thing wrong with it..In fact I was told last visit, I may have to have a new well dug.(yeah, not happening) Upon looking at the unit myself,i found at the bottom the very mush you have spoke of, looks as though with a hard pack of salt underneath. A lot of time has passed,could this damaged the system? I am wondering should I be looking else where within the softner? Thank you for your time and this website.

    March 25, 2018 at 3:33 am
    • Ken Holmes Reply


      It’s hard to tell you for sure without knowing all the facts, but some general tips. First off, I would clean out that mushed and hard salt and throw it away. With water as hard as you say it is, especially if it is turned up to maximum, you should be using quite a bit of salt. If it not using a lot of salt, after cleaning out the brine tank, you either have a problem with settings or the mechanical operation of the valve. The water softener supplier should have been able to tell you if the well was too hard to treat, which is possible, but unlikely. In some very rare cases, the well water can get significantly harder. I would need to see a water analysis before I can offer an opinion on this. If your current service company can’t resolve the problem, you may need to look elsewhere.

      March 25, 2018 at 11:36 am
  • Herb Stoller Reply

    What is the best (and easiest) way to clean mushy salt out of a single-tank softener? Do I have to take the unit completely apart to empty the mush? Thanks.

    April 30, 2018 at 9:37 am
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get rid of salt that has mushed. It means someone has to dig it out. If it’s loose, you can use something like a coffee can to dig it out. The small amount remaining after that should not pose a problem.

      April 30, 2018 at 1:02 pm
  • Ken Reply

    Trying to figure why the water valves down stream of the water softener have crystallized salt on the valve wheels. The brine regeneration tank is completely full of salt. There is no water above the salt. Until I read this blog I had not thought of salt bridging, but I don’t think that is the problem because if I understand what salt bridging there is not enough salt in the brine regeneration. The salt crystallization on the valves down stream of the water softener leads me to believe there is too much salt. I am a regional engineer for a land management agency looking for technical assistance. The personnel at this office tell me they are replacing valves in the water system and sink faucets due to corrosion every two to three years. I have a photo of the salt on a valve wheel if you would like to see it. Thanks for your assistance. This is a great blog.

    May 15, 2018 at 8:10 pm
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      I’m sure the problem will not be salt bridging. You need to do water testing downstream from the water softener, immediately after recharge. If the softener is not rinsing out the salt, it will definitely be corrosive. If the water tests soft, you will need to look elsewhere for the cause of the corrosion.

      May 16, 2018 at 7:55 am
      • Ken Reply

        After the brine recharge/backwash through the ion exchange column is there a fresh water rinse cycle?

        May 16, 2018 at 7:14 pm
        • Ken Holmes Reply

          While the order sometimes varies for brine and backwash, and there may be some extra steps, every water softener that I know of will rinse as a last step. It makes sure there are no pockets of salt left in the tank and gets the resin bed in place.

          May 16, 2018 at 8:14 pm
  • Muriel C. Schuerman Reply

    Salt is hard and packed in right at the top. I don’t think a broom handle will do the job of breaking up the salt. I’m leaving toward using a long screw driver – at least to see if I have to clean out the whole mess and start over with a new bag of salt. Does this sound like a feasible plan to you?

    May 17, 2018 at 4:18 pm
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      Or service techs often use a long handle screwdriver to help break up hard salt. You just have to be careful to not damage any of the plastic or fiberglass parts of the water softener

      May 17, 2018 at 6:22 pm
  • Nicole Reply

    Can the wrong salt make your water pressure low

    October 11, 2018 at 6:48 pm
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      Salt is only used to recharge water softeners. Salt problems will result in hard water. Salt will not cause low pressure problems.

      If you are having pressure problems, first try bypassing the water softener to see if the problem goes away. If nit, then, yes, the problem is your water softener. Your water softener will need service.

      October 11, 2018 at 7:08 pm
  • LO Harnish Reply

    My EcoWater softener is a solid block of salt. I noticed last month it said out of salt in 180 days and it still says 180 days. I dug a hole in the salt block with a broom handle and screwdriver to about 12 inches from bottom without breaking through a bridge. Really slow going. I stayed away from sides and components but salt is solid around those, too. So now I have a solid block of salt with a foot deep and wide duvet in it. Softener is 1 year old. About 6 months ago water backed up and overflowed tank. Repairman installed better drain under warranty but did not remove the salt that had been submerged. I added a bag of salt about a month later when salt out indicator went below 100 days. I don’t think it has gone down much, if at all, since. Should I keep working to get salt block out? How to do that around sides and components? Your advice, please.

    October 17, 2018 at 2:24 am
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      The bad news is that all of that solid block needs to be broken up and removed. I would talk to your dealer and let them know what happened.

      October 17, 2018 at 6:10 am
  • G. Presto Reply

    Ended up with mush. Now that its all cleaned out whats next? Just add new pellets?

    December 26, 2018 at 9:50 am
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      After your salt tank has been cleaned out, most brands of water softeners should have 4″-6″ of water to the salt tank first, then add a bag or two of salt. After 4 hours, initiate a manual recharge. After that is finished, to get soft water right away, run your bathtub hot tap full blast until it’s cold.

      If you have an Ecowater softener, you do not need to add the water, or wait 4 hours.

      December 27, 2018 at 7:19 am
  • Bryan carroll Reply

    I bought a house with an eco water softener and I’m getting a salinity / almost baking soda taste in the water from time to time.. it comes and goes but when it’s here the water is just un-drinkable. I am unsure whats causing it and need some advice.

    May 7, 2019 at 8:40 pm
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      This taste problem would not always be caused by your water softener, but it is the most likely, and should definately be repaired. I would advise calling your local EcoWater dealer for service.

      There are a couple of troubleshooting things you can check if you wish. It sounds like salty water after recharge. The most common causes are too much water in the salt tank or too slow suction.

      Your EcoWater softener should have very little water in the salt tank between recharges. If you have more than a few inches, this is the problem. Lift the float valve from the tank and make sure no water is coming out and that the float moves freely. Another reason for to much water in the salt tank is a leak between the softener tank and the control valve. Either of these problems will require parts and you should probably call your local dealer.

      If there is not to much water in the salt tank, you can disassemble and clean the aspirator assembly as it shows in the manual, and see if that helps.

      This needs to be fixed as salty water is very corrosive to plumbing.

      May 7, 2019 at 10:12 pm
  • Jared Reply

    Hi Ken!

    I recently added salt to our softener and the cold water started turning brown. It clears up if you run it for a while, but every now and then it shows up again. The water in the toilet is consistently a shade of brown.
    I’ve never had a problem before. I wasn’t sure if it was because possibly adding the wrong salt or some other problem.

    May 17, 2019 at 10:38 am
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      Hi Jared,

      The type of salt you use should never cause color in the water. If the softener was not used for a long time, it could be color throw from the resin and the problem should go away. If the softener was run wiothout salt for a long period of time, it could be cleaning the resin, but the color should rinse out.

      I would recommend having a qualified service tech look at it.

      May 17, 2019 at 12:57 pm
  • Judy Jacobs Reply

    Hi Ken,

    We have an EcoWater softener and iron filter. We have been having issues with our power going out for a few minutes and then flickering off and on. Seems to happen a lot here in the summer at our place in Mountain View. I have to constantly reset the clock on the softener.

    My questions is: should the water softener regenerate before the iron filter or vice versa?
    And how much time should be set between the two before the other one needs to start.

    Also, my husband turns the pump off in the well whenever we leave the house for a few days and I’m wondering if that causes problems for the machines? Will they try to regenerate with no water to draw from and is that hard on the systems?

    June 29, 2019 at 1:21 pm
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      Judy, first off, the units should keep all of their settings except time of day when the power goes off. The odd time if there are voltage spikes, it could go back to factory default, but if it is common, we need to look at it. The units also normally keep time of day for a few hours.

      We like to allow 2 1/2 hours between recharges times, but either can go first.

      Lastly, you can check the softener screen before going away. If it does not say that recharge is scheduled that night there will be no problem. If it is scheduled, just recharge manually the night you return. Turning off the water will not damage anything.

      Please cunnydaddy us if you have issues.

      June 29, 2019 at 1:35 pm
  • Pete Reply

    Good afternoon. My wife and I purchased a new house 1 year ago. There was a newer whirlpool water softener installed in the basement. I noticed that the salt level never went down. Previous owner used cheap rock salt. Anyway, I found out it was a bridge. Broke it up and the softener worked great. Since then I have been using premium salt pellets. I have noticed that this month my salt level is still on 5. This was the level it was at when I added 2 bags last month. I heard pellets do not bridge, but I still wanted to make sure. My broom handle easily went all the way down to the bottom in to the water no matter where I sent it. I tried about 5 spots. There are no errors on the screen and it seems to be operating fine. As far as the digital water droplets showing for flow and recharge initiating without errors. I have also noticed the toilets getting a pink ring around them inside due to hard water. I have never owned or learned about softeners previously. Any idea what may be causing this? Could it possibly need just a good resin cleaning? The lady we bought the house from did not seem to do any maintaining. I mean, the house was fine structurally, but she clearly never changed the sediment filters, mowed the lawn, cleaned the sump well etc. I never knew that a cleaner was supposed to be added monthly until I read it today. She left no manuals. I ordered a gallon from amazon which sould be here saturday. I am mainly asking for piece of mind. Thank you.

    October 10, 2019 at 10:12 am
    • Ken Holmes Reply

      If the salt level is not going down, cleaning the resin will not solve the problem. Since the salt is not bridged, my recommendation would be to clean the Nozzle and Venturi.

      Here’s a Nozzle & Venturi Diagram

      If cleaning this does not solve the problem, I would recommend that you get a qualified service tech to look at it.

      October 10, 2019 at 10:37 am
  • Patrick Reply

    This has been very helpful. My water softener was using salt as quickly as it had in the past so I found this. I removed all the salt that was in it. Yes some of it was mushy and there were rock like particles on the bottom. I cleaned it all out. At this point, am I safe to add a bag of salt and see how it goes or should I do anything else?

    November 4, 2019 at 11:37 am
    • Patrick Reply

      To be more clear. It wasn’t using salt as quickly as usual over the past months.

      November 4, 2019 at 11:38 am
      • Ken Holmes Reply

        If your softener was not using as much salt as previously, mushing in the salt tank certainly could be the problem. Now that you have cleaned it all out, you can put it back into service.

        The way to do that kind of depends on the Brand of softener. If your softener normally has a foot or more of water in the tank, then add a couple of gallons of water to the salt tank before adding salt. Otherwise, do not add water before the salt. If you are not sure, just add the salt and run the softener through 2 manual recharge cycles.

        Under no circumstances should you pour water over the salt in the tank.

        November 4, 2019 at 6:56 pm

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