Here’s Why Your Water Softener Not Using Salt

You check your water softener brine tank regularly and are worried that the salt level in your water softener is the same as it was before.

That means, your water softener is not using salt, in other words, you are not getting filtered water.

During the regeneration process, the softener makes a brine solution which is required to be flushed through the resin beads tank to rejuvenate resin beads for capturing dissolved mineral particles.

If the salt is not being used by the softener, the whole process of filtration and softening has been put to a halt.

Well, there can be more than one reason why your softener is not taking up the salt. The most common reason is a salt bridge.

In a salt bridge, a solid layer of salt crust creates a blockage that spans the entire diameter of the brine tank.

This crust prevents salt from mixing or coming in contact with the water at the bottom of the brine tank.

I am not saying it is the salt bridge that is preventing your softener from using salt, it can be anything different.

So, in this post, we are going to discuss the most common reasons for your water softener not using salt, as well as their solutions.

Water softener not using salt

How to Know if it is a salt bridge?

As I mentioned, in most cases where the softener is not using salt, it is a salt bridge. In the salt bridge, as I explained, a crust of salt forms on the top of the brine tank which prevents salt from mixing the hard water at the bottom.

So, if it is a salt bridge you will stop getting softened water, your faucets, showers, and pipes will have hard water.

The limescale will start to build in the water system, your doors, glassware will have an echo of limescale on them. In simplest words, your water is not being softened.

Don’t worry, you are not required to hire professionals or expertise just to remove the salt bridge.

Take a long stick, a broom, or mop handle and push that down through the salt.

Don’t go rigorous at the start, because the brine tank is a delicate tank, and if you go very hard, you may make a hole in it.

But if the stick is not moving downward, that means it is a pretty big crust and you will have to use the force here.

Anyway, if it is a real salt bridge, it would not let you pass the long stick through it easily, you will have to follow some methods or techniques to remove it unless it is just forming up.

How to remove the salt bridge?

As I mentioned, if it is a salt bridge, it would not let you pass the stick through the salt. So, how would you remove that bridge, follow these steps, I am sure you will get it rolled on.

If you hardly do maintenance or clean your water softener, and you did not notice the salt tank for a long time, chances are, there would be a pretty big salt bridge.

Step #1: Turn on the bypass valve, water would be available no, not cleaned or filtered though.

Step #2: Remove the pile of salt from the top of the bridge in a bucket, you can use a plastic cup, small bowel, or a garden shovel to remove it, don’t put it in the garbage, store it, you are going to use it again, it is not wasted.

Step #3: Now, hit the top of the crust, you can use a hammer, but don’t be very hard, you can use the broom handle, and try to break the crust very carefully. Take the big pieces, they are still useable, don’t throw them away.

Step #4: I am sure you will remove the bridge, once you do that, you will see water at the bottom, use plastic cups or other bowls to remove as much as you can.

Step #5: Now, you may still have the crust on the edges and sides of the brine, to remove those, you can use hot water. Take a bucket of hot water, submerge all the remaining crusty area, hot water will sit in the bottom and absorb all the salt within a few hours.

Step #6: Check if there are any left crusts on the edges or sides, if there are, use hot water again, and leave for a few more hours, anyway, in the first iteration of hot water submerge, all the crusts will be removed.

Step 7#: Now turn the bypass off, let the softener take water, and manually regenerate the water softener.

Don’t be lazy, have a check on your water softener, and see if there are any clamps of salt at the top or bottom of the softener, the easiest formula is, to use a broom handle if it is passing through the brine tank with a little force or no force at all, all is well.

So, this is when the water softener has formed a salt bridge, and salt was not being used for the reason. What if there is no salt bridge, and still the salt is not being used by the softener, or the level is not going down.

Tips for prevention of salt bridge

If it is not the first time the salt bridge build in the brine tank, maybe you are doing something wrong.

I am here with some useful tips, to make you never let your softener build up a salt bridge again.

Actually, a salt bridge forms when the salt crystals bond to each other. When you top up the brine tank with more than the required salt, a very little salt is being used and the extra remains there in the tank, the crystals start to make the bond with one another, and if it is for a long time, they make a crust.

If you are living in a high humid area, the chances of a salt bridge are high. To prevent it from forming, you can use the ventilation method. You can create some ventilation for your brine tank, or use a dehumidifier if possible.

Maybe the salt you are using is not rinsed well, lots of debris or contamination is still in their crystals.

The salt crystals get mixed in the hard water, making brine solution, but the debris and contaminations stay there and make a crust.

If you are using a cheap brand of salt, its crystals particles would not be cut down into even pieces.

Big brands take this thing very seriously and cut the pieces into even sizes, which prevents them from forming a bond, even if they stay in the salt tank for a long time. On the flip side, uneven cut pieces, make bonds easier and easily stick to one another.

And most common of them all is, if you top up the tank with more than recommended level of salt, high chances are, the crystals will easily stick to one another, and the chances of bridging will be increased.

Don’t let the salt tank below one-quarter of salt, and above three-quarters full.

Water softener not using salt (if not salt bridge)?

If you have checked and witnessed that it is not the salt bridge causing the issue, what else it is then. There can be more than one reason if it is not a salt bridge.

Salt bridge is relatively easy to fix, diagnoses what is the other issue other than a salt bridge is really something that takes time.

It can be nozzle venturi, the nozzle that takes brine solution out of the brine tank, if this part clogs or stop functioning, the brine solution will not be able to be pulled out, so it would not be using salt anymore.

Dirty screen or injectors

Maybe it is a dirty injector or screen that is causing your softener not to use salt. For that, you will have to bypass the water softener and check the injector and screen.

If you are a DIY enthusiast you can do it yourself, it would not be that difficult, you can read the user manual.

The injector and the screen are found under a cover with screws on the top and bottom. They are on the right side of the valve, just their tank meets the head.

Again, in some systems, they can be at some different locations, for that too, you should first check the user manual guide, and follow-through that.

Using the Wrong Salt

If your water softener is not using salt, another reason for that could be the wrong size and type of salt.

Yes, the type, as well as the size of the salt, also influences the efficiency of the water softener.

Salt type

If you are using cheap salt such as rock salt, the chances are that, if you have a modern water softener, it might not mix the salt that efficiently.

It still will be mixing but the ratio will be minimum, and you would not be getting the desired results. As the impurities in the rock salt are high, they contain other minerals apart from sodium.

Solar salt is the best, it contains 96 percent sodium, and is the purest salt to use in the water softener.

Consider using evaporated salt, which contains 100-percent sodium, and the purest form. Here all the impurities get extracted using heat, and other methods, making 100-percent pure salt.

Salt Size

Many think that they can use fine-grained salts such as table salt or other mixed salts, but here they are not useable, and they are going to put more damage than benefit. They dissolve very fast when used in the water softeners.

Block salt dissolves slowly, and can’t maintain the right texture of the brine solution. So, you should use salt pellets, or crystals recommended by the experts and mentioned by the manufacturers.

If you use fine-grained salt, you would not be getting any result of softening water too.

Can I use table salt in my brine tank?

No, you can’t use table salt or other mixed salts in your water softener.

Table salt crystal size is smaller than softener salt, it would not be able to adhere on the top of the resin beads well, resulting in no capturing or attracting the mineral particles.

The table salt would not be used, it will settle down on the bottom of the resin tank, blocking or clogging different parts.

Check if the system is using brine?

Again, after you are done fixing the issue, you should manually do the regeneration.

You can use the dedicated regen button in the water softener, press the button until you hear the motor starting sound.

If your system does not have a dedicated button, you may go with a large knob.

Turn the knob and press the red button near the knob, and you will see brine draw or brine word on the screen.

If it is not a digital system or not a modern system, there may be a dial-in it.

If you can’t see it through the digital window screen, you can still manually check it from the salt level in the brine tank.

You will clearly see if the brine solution is flowing through the resin bead.

How to know if my softener used salt?

It is very easy, not rocket science. You can use a yardstick, measure the level of salt in the brine tank and measure again after the regeneration cycle, you can easily learn whether or not your water softener is using the salt or not.

If the salt level is down, that means the salt is being used, and if not, there is a problem, you can read the above-mentioned problems and their fixing, and follow through with them if your softener is not using any salt.

Keep in mind, if your softener is not using salt, that means, it is not softening water. If the hardness level is below average in your area, you might not feel it immediately.


If your water softener is not using salt, it is not a serious problem. There can be more than one reason for that, the first one is the salt bridge.

The salt bridge forms when salt crystals make a hard crust on the top, and stop water on the bottom from mixing the salt. You can easily fix that; I have mentioned in detail how to do that.

There are other reasons for the same, such as if the valve is clocked, or the screen is dirty, and in some cases, it could be the wrong size and type of the sale.

Keep in mind that you can’t use table salt or fine-grained salt, use only recommended salt in size as well as type-wise.

Emily Davis

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