A Water Softener Salt Bridge: What Is It And How To Remove It?

When it comes to home appliances, a water softener can be extremely beneficial for households that have hard water. In these situations, water softeners are not only useful, they are also necessary. However, most homeowners do not know when and if their water softener needs to be repaired.

Even though these appliances are known for being extremely reliable, and require little to no maintenance, they can and do break. For example, if homeowners notice that the salt level remains the same in their water softener, or the water does not seem to soften even though the appliance is properly installed, chances are the appliance may have a salt bridge.

Before delving deeper into water softener salt bridge repair, it is important to understand exactly what a water softener is.

What Is A Water Softener?

As the name implies, a water softener is an appliance that softens hard water. It is able to do this by saturating the water with salt. The sodium removes all of the minerals in the water that causes it to be hard. Minerals such as calcium and magnesium can make water very hard, and a water softener prevents limescale build up in appliances, plumbing and sinks.

So, what should you look for to determine whether or not your water softener has a salt bridge?

Signs Of A Salt Bridge In A Water Softener

One of the first indicators that homeowners notice is that the household water is no longer as soft as it used to be. This means that the water softener may be working as normal, but the water feels hard. Another tell-tale sign is that soap, laundry detergents and dish detergents are not performing as they should.

These are all signs that there is a problem with the water softener during the regeneration cycle. During this cycle, the water is conditioned in the resin bed.

The first thing that a homeowner should do is to ensure that the water softener is not out of salt. If the salt level is normal, then there are some factors that have likely created the problem.

  • A blockage may have occurred if the salt crusted over and plugged the opening between resin tank and the brine tank.
  • If the water softener in the home is automatic, the control valve may be malfunctioning
  • There is a salt bridge in the water softener that is keeping the salt from going into the brine tank
  • These are some typical reasons for a salt bridge, but the reason that affects most home water softeners is a regeneration cycle failure.

How Should A Salt Bridge Be Removed?

There are several easy steps that should be followed when removing a water softener salt bridge.

  • The first thing that should be done is to turn off the appliance. The water softener can be shut off via the bypass valve or at the faucet.
  • Next, take a mop or another household tool with a long handle and gently hit the salt bridge until it starts to break up.
  • Take a hammer and tap on the sides of the salt crust. However, be sure you do not accidentally tap on the water softener.
  • Then, remove the salt crystals and the crust and place them in a container.
  • Use a wet/dry vacuum to clean the bottom of the appliance before turning the water back on. Make sure the brine tank is also refilled and only add enough salt to get the tank 2/3 full.

Water Softener - Maintenance

The old adage is true, "Prevention is worth an ounce of cure." By regularly maintaining a water softener, homeowners can drastically reduce the risk of getting a salt bridge in the softener.

It is important to use quality salt so the water softener can work efficiently. Quality salt will also increase the appliance's lifecycle.

Rock salt should never be used in a water softener. Even though it is a lot cheaper, rock salt contains many impurities. Over time, rock salt has the ability to add a few centimeters of sediment in the brine tank. Long-term sediment accumulation can lead to clogs and blockages.

Iron-out should also be used in the water softener at least every 12 months. Even the highest grade of salt can cause sediment build up, and iron-out will help keep the accumulation to a minimum.

Can Homeowners Can Save Money On Salt Bridge Repair/Removal?

Whether homeowners choose a DIY repair option or a professional repair option will depend on several factors. If the homeowner is confident in their skills and knowledge of salt bridge removal, then choosing to repair the Fleck water softener may be a choice.

On the other hand, homeowners who are not comfortable with this type of repair will likely decide to contact a professional contractor.

Another factor to consider is price. If the water softener is on the higher end, choosing repair may be a better choice than replacement. For example, removing a salt bridge and repairing a resin bed typically costs no more than $100. However, replacing the water softener can cost upwards of $1000 especially when including labor costs.

Homeowners should always compare quotes when choosing water softener repair or replacement. In other words, if the cost to repair and replace are comparable, replacement may be the best choice.

Signs That A Water Softener Should Be Replaced

The good news is that, when they are properly maintained, homeowners should not need to have their water softener repaired very often. The current models have been built to last up to 20 years.

However, if the water begins to smell or taste funny or limescale begins to accumulate around the plumbing, there may be an issue with the water softener.

If there is still a problem after it has been cleaned and restarted, a professional contractor should be hired to diagnose and fix the problem.

Water softeners are essential appliances in households that are located in areas with hard water. They can last for many years, but salt bridges, limescale and other sediment accumulation can cause problems that require repair or replacement. If left unchecked, the water softener will continue to regenerate hard water and the limescale can cause clogs and blockages.

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