The Salt Bridge – A Common Water Softener Problem

The Salt Bridge – A Common Water Softener Problem

Large home appliances require a little bit of maintenance and attention to keep them running efficiently. Your water softener system is no exception to ensure it provides softened water throughout your home. Fortunately, the system typically has pretty basic tasks, mostly revolving around remembering to keep enough salt in the brine tank. With our connected digital devices, setting a regular reminder for yourself can make this much easier.

Salt plays a vital role in making sure your water softener continues to reduce hard minerals for your home. Having peace of mind knowing that softened water is prolonging the life of your water-using appliances makes that occasional trip to the basement to check salt levels well worth it.

Water softener system problems will go unnoticed until the normally softened water in your home starts to feel different – a sign the softener is not providing treated water. A common issue that causes this is called “salt bridging.”

What Exactly is a Salt Bridge?

Salt bridging happens within the brine tank, the large tank next to the softener that creates a brine solution which recharges the resin beads in the primary media tank. When you have a salt bridge, a solidified layer of salt spans the entire diameter of that brine tank. This crust creates a solid blockage, preventing the salt on top of it from coming in contact with the layer of water in the tank below.

To understand how this happens and why it can deter the function of your water softener, you will need to understand how a brine tank works. In all Evolve Series water softeners, salt is added to the brine tank and stored until the water softener enters a state of regeneration. We call this “dry storage,” meaning water is only in the tank during periods in which it is needed.

During regeneration, a measured amount of water enters the brine tank from the bottom and remains for enough time for the salt to dissolve into the water, creating that brine solution. This brine solution is then pumped into the main softener tank, where it comes in contact with the resin beads inside, recharging or regenerating them. This process resets the media beads, allowing them to function again to do their job of removing hardness from the water supply to your home.

As the water is dissolving the salt, the formerly solid salt crystals sometimes clump back together and form a solid layer that holds its shape after the saltwater leaves the brine tank. That is what we call a “salt bridge.” 

When this occurs, the solid, crusty layer of salt creates a barrier between the salt and the water that flows into the brine tank from the bottom. Because the water level cannot reach the salt above because of that salt bridge, the vital brine solution is not produced. With salt a critical part of the regeneration process, the raw water doesn’t recharge the resin media within the other tank. This means the system is unable to remove the hard elements in the water, leaving it unconditioned, and hard water to flow through your home.

How to Tell if You have a Salt Bridge?

If your water begins to feel like it did before you had a water softener installed, it’s likely you have a salt bridge. Other telltale signs your softener system may not be functioning properly include:

  • The water feels different to the touch.
  • Your hair seems more frizzy and course.
  • Your skin is drying out quickly.
  • Your soaps begin to not perform as well as they typically do.
  • You see scale around faucets.

If these occur, we recommend you check on the brine tank. Be aware that a salt bridge can be disguised by resting below a fresh layer of salt and may not be visible. Inspecting with an object with a long, thin, sturdy handle, such as a broom, can often determine if a bridge is present.

How to Fix A Salt Bridge

If you find that you have a salt bridge, it is usually very easy to fix. Simply scoop out the loose salt that is above the bridge, then using a long-handled item, break the crust “bridge” and remove the large, chunky pieces and discard them. Following that, clean the brine tank and refill it with the proper amount of salt so regeneration can begin.

Your water softener team at Futuramic’s is always available to answer questions and assist in the removal of a salt bridge if you suspect one has developed in your brine tank.

Preventing Salt Bridges

Bridges tend to form more often in humid environments – so reducing humidity (especially in our humid summer months) in and around your water softener system can help prevent them from forming. You can also avoid moist, warm air from entering your system by ensuring that the brine tank lid is always on tight and secure.

Always us the correct, manufacturer-approved salt in your brine tank can help prevent bridging (and other problems) from occurring.

Finally, be sure you are not overfilling the brine tank. For example, Evolve softener brine tanks should usually be kept 1/3 to 2/3 full.

Being educated about the common problems associated with your water softener and/or purification system makes you better equipped to deal with any issues you may face. If you have questions or issues with your water quality or underperforming, please call (402) 453-5730 and talk with the water experts at Futuramic’s Clean Water Center.