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What Is Salt Mushing in a Water Softener?

A water softener is one of the most effective tools you can use to remove excess minerals, including calcium and magnesium, from your water supply. While you might not think about your water softener every day, it can develop problems from time to time, which is why routine maintenance is so important. One example is called salt mushing.

Salt mushing takes place when dissolved salt in the brine tank recrystallizes at the bottom. Salt mushing can prevent your resin tank from refilling appropriately, meaning that you may have a difficult time exchanging calcium and magnesium for sodium ions. This is one of the most common problems that you may have with your water softener.

If salt mushing takes place, you need to deal with it as quickly as possible to prevent it from getting worse. Learn more about salt mushing below, and make sure you take care of your water softener if you want to prevent this issue from happening.

Water Softener Salt Mushing: What Is It?

So, when we are talking about salt mushing, what are we talking about? Salt mushing takes place when dissolved salt in the brine tank recrystallizes at the bottom. Then, it can clump together, forming granules that can make it difficult for your water softener to function properly.

Typically, you will see these salt granules at the bottom of your brine tank, and they can make it difficult for the brine solution to flow out of the tank during the regeneration process. 

When your water softener removes calcium and magnesium from your water supply, it replaces that calcium and magnesium with salt. The salt is released from your water softener, and the calcium and magnesium bind to your resin bed, removing themselves from your water supply.

Eventually, the resin bed will be totally saturated with calcium and magnesium, and your water softener will have to regenerate itself to make room for more calcium and magnesium. If you have salt mushing taking place at the bottom of your brine tank, your water softener may not be able to complete the regeneration process, which means that it will not function properly. 

Comparing Salt Mushing To Salt Bridges

Along with salt mushing, you may notice that your brine tank develops some salt bridges from time to time as well. Are these issues the same thing?

While they are similar, they are not identical. If you have a salt bridge in your water softener, you have a hard layer of salt forming at the top of the brine tank. If you have salt mushing, then you have salt forming at the bottom of the brine tank.

A salt bridge is a solidified mass that looks a bit crusty and crunchy. In contrast, a salt mush is a clump of soft salt that forms at the bottom of the brine tank.

In addition, they have very different causes. A salt bridge usually happens if you fill the salt tank too much. On the other hand, salt mushing can take place regardless of how much you fill up the tank.

Common Reasons Why You Might Have Salt Mushing in Your Tank

So, if salt mushing can occur from time to time, what are some of the most common reasons why it develops? There are a handful of reasons why you might notice salt mushing in your brine tank. 

Some of the most common reasons include 

1. The Water Is Too Cold

The temperature of the water can also result in salt mushing. The vast majority of materials, including salt, are more soluble in water at high temperatures. This means that it is easier for your salt to dissolve in water when it is hot instead of when it is cold.

If your water softener is in a room of your house that is not heated, and it has gotten particularly cold outside, then there is a greater chance of salt mushing developing. There is nothing wrong with placing your water softener in a room that is not heated, but you may want to insulate it if you want to try and prevent salt mushing from happening. 

2. You Used the Wrong Salt

When you hear about salt going into a water softener, the image that comes to mind may be table salt. However, there are multiple kinds of salt you can use, and you need to make sure you choose the right salt for your water softener.

If you use loose salt in your water softener, it is far more likely to crystallize. You need to use evaporated salt pellets, which are far less likely to crystallize because the salt is contained within the pellets themselves, preventing them from recrystallizing.

In addition, you might think you can save money by going with less expensive salt like rock salt, but remember that you will also experience a dip in quality. If the salt is not pure, it means that it has impurities that are not necessarily water-soluble. This can lead to salt mush.

How To Know if You Are Dealing With Salt Mushing

Given that salt mushing is relatively common for water softeners, how do you know if that is the problem you are facing?

There are a few signs and symptoms that could indicate that you are dealing with salt mushing. They include:

1. No Regeneration

If you find that your water softener is not regenerating as it should, it might be a sign that you are dealing with salt mushing. Salt can block the outflow tract of your brine tank, which means that it is difficult for your water softener to regenerate as it usually does. 

2. High Hardness Level

If your water softener cannot regenerate, it cannot remove calcium and magnesium from your water supply. This might mean that your hardness level has gone up again, so make sure you test your water from time to time to make sure it is still soft.

3. Flooded Water Softener

If you do not address the problem quickly, your water softener could flood because your crystallized salt will completely clog the water softener. If you think your water softener has flooded, it is time to fix the issue.

How To Remove Salt Mushing

Time needed: 30 minutes

If your water softener has salt mushing issues, you might be wondering how to deal with it. There are a few steps you need to follow to fix the issue.

  1. Turn off the water

    Start by turning off your water softener. You need to switch your water softener into bypass mode and divert water away from the system.

  2. Drain the brine tank

    Next, you need to drain all of the liquid from the brine tank to get rid of the salt in the brine tank as well.

  3. Clean the brine tank

    You will need to clean the brine tank thoroughly before you can restart it. Use a brush to get rid of the salt that has built up.

  4. Flush the system

    Then, flush the system thoroughly. Send the water into the water softener, and make sure all of the salt crystals have been removed from the resin bed.

  5. Refill the brine tank

    Now, you can refill the salt tank, turn the water softener on, and make sure it is working exactly as expected.

Contact DROP to Check Out the Best Water Softeners Available

Salt mushing is one of the most common problems your water softener might have, so you need to make sure you are vigilant. At DROP, we include salt grids in our brine thanks that help prevent salt mushing.

We have some of the most advanced water softeners and water filters on the market. Contact us today, and we can help you ensure you have safe water throughout your plumbing system, which can protect your health and your appliances.

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