FAQs about Water Softener Brine Tanks

When it comes to water softeners, brine tanks are a common area of concern for homeowners. Many people have questions regarding their maintenance and care. Brine tanks are one of the most vital and influential components for a water conditioning system. Brine solution, or salt (either potassium or sodium chloride), is a necessary part of the ion exchange process that takes place when conditioning water. It regenerates the ion resins. Without proper brine solution levels and routine maintenance, water softeners can experience certain problems. Some water softener problems are simple to diagnose, while others require the expertise of a professional repairman or contractor. To learn some helpful facts about water softeners and brine tanks, continue reading and review the list of frequently asked questions below.

What is the Brine Tank and Where is it Located?

The brine tank is the plastic tank that is located directly next to the water softener unit. It creates the salt solution, or brine solution, that will eventually be flushed through the main tank to remove magnesium and calcium ions from hard water.

How Often Does Salt Need to be Added to a Brine Tank?

This all depends on several variables: the size of a home, the number of occupants, the local water table, and a home’s average water consumption. Larger homes with more occupants will need to refill the brine tank with sodium or potassium chloride (salt for water softeners) more frequently than a one bedroom apartment. The more a water softener regenerates, the more often the brine tank will need to be refilled. You can refer to your unit’s valve control panel, which calculates these needs for you, to determine how much salt has been used up and when to refill it. It is best to consult a professional water softener technician to discuss your home’s individual water softening needs.

How Much Salt Does a Brine Tank Need?

For optimal efficiency, it is recommended to have a brine tank 25% full at all times, and never more full than four to six inches below the top of the tank. You want the salt level to always be a few inches higher than the water level. When adding new salt to a brine tank, first loosen any crusted salt material from the sides of the tank and break apart any large pieces.

What Should I Do if the Salt in a Brine Tank Forms into One Big Mass?

This is called bridging and can be fixed with some hot water. Simple pour clean hot water over the block of salt and continue to manually break it apart until completely separated into smaller chunks again. Causes of bridging include using the wrong salt, increased humidity, temperature changes around the unit, and overfilling the brine tank with salt.

What is Mushing and How Can it Be Prevented?

Salt mushing is essentially the opposite of bridging. Rather than forming into one massive block, the salt instead dissolves and forms a sludge at the bottom of a brine tank. This can cause serious problems with a water softener because the thick sludge prevents the system from regenerating water properly, and causes draining problems and blockages that reduce a unit’s efficiency and overall performance. The only way to resolve a mushing issue is to drain the tank entirely, manually scoop out all the sludge, and refill the tank with fresh salt. Use high quality salt pellets to avoid this issue, check the brine levels monthly.

How Much Salt Should a Water Softener Use?

The amount of salt used in a traditional water conditioning system depends on a home’s average water consumption and the size of the unit. If a residential unit is properly-sized, the average salt consumption is generally around ten pounds of salt per week. This adds up to an average of 40 to 50 pounds of salt per month. Again, these percentages fluctuate depending on certain variables.

Should Water Always Be in a Brine Tank?

There should always be water at the bottom of a brine tank, but never more than a foot high or above than the salt level.

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