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How to remove the salt clog from your water softener the easy way!

How to Remove Water Softener Salt Clog

This video by Gary the Water Guy explains How to remove the salt clog from your water softener.

With the pure salt pellets most of us are now using for our water softeners we have noticed a new problem that occurs fairly often. When the salt gets wet often without being used up the salt begins to bind together.  Over time the salt forms a solid mass at the bottom of the salt tank which stops water from flowing into or out of the salt tank.  The softener stops softening water and stops using salt to make brine. Without brine, the resin bed does not regenerate and you will have hard water.

When this happens the salt pellets on top will probably look normal, but underneath them is a hardened mass of salt.

How do you know if you have this problem?  Your water will be hard and you will not be using up any of your salt.  Another way to check is to get a broom, mop or something else with a long handle. Turn it upside down and put it inside the water softener.  If the end of the broom goes through the salt right to the bottom you do not have the salt problem, just stir up the salt with the handle and you are done.  If, however, the broom only goes into the salt a short way and then stops your water softener brine tank is clogged with salt and needs to be cleaned out!

To remedy this problem, start by turning off the water to your water softener. You can turn it off at the incoming faucet or by using the bypass valve.

Tap the salt with the handle until you break up what ever salt that you can.

Remove the loose salt pellets from the top with a plastic container or scoop of some kind. Chink away at the salt crust but be very careful not to puncture a hole in your softener. Stay away from the sides. Break up small chunks and remove them by scooping them up and putting it into a bucket.

There will usually be water in with the salt so vacuum the water out of the bottom of the softener with a wet/dry vacuum. 

Pour about 2 gallons of hot tap water over the remaining salt mass and about a quart into the brine well (the smaller cylinder inside the salt tank) after removing its cap.  Turn the water to your softener back on.  Let it sit for about 4 hours. 

Follow the instructions in your water softener instruction manual for regenerating your softener. 

The next day after the softener has regenerated try breaking up the salt again with the stick.  Do not add any more salt until this salt clog has been totally used up!  You may need to repeat step #6 several times before the salt clog is removed.

Once the salt clog is gone fill the salt tank 2/3 full of new water softening salt but do not top up the salt again until it is down to the ¼ full level.  This will minimize the chances of this happening again in the future.

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Video Transcript

Gary The Water Guy:
Hi, I'm Gary Beutler from the Water Stores Group. And I own the Water Store in middle of Ontario. Today we're talking about salt clogging in water softeners. Over recent years, it's become a little bit more common that the brine tank and water softeners become clogged with salt. And why that occurs is because water softeners are far more efficient now than they used to be. They use a lot less salt. So because of that, the salt doesn't turn over as often. And quite often it happens that if the salt doesn't turn over often enough or might just simply be because the salt tank is just kept too full, that we end up with a salt clog. So how do you know if you have a salt clog? Well, the most common symptom is that the water softener stops using salt. It just isn't absorbed the water, the brine just isn't being made. And so because of that, it's just not using up the salt.

Gary The Water Guy:
The other way that people notice is that their water is hard. All of a sudden they're getting staining, they're getting hard water problems because the water softener just isn't softening their water anymore. So how do you check this out? Well, the simplest way to check it out is by grabbing a stick, like a broomstick or something like that. And then trying to push that stick through the brine well, through the salt. And if you can push it all the way down on the bottom, then you don't have a salt clog, but if you can't, if it only goes down partway, then you probably have a salt clog. So cleaning that out to remove that salt clog is not a difficult process if you use water to do it. And that's what I'm going to describe right now.

Gary The Water Guy:
So the first step in doing this is put your water softener on bypass. That's a good safety feature. The next step is to remove any loose salt that's at the top of here. So use a garden trowel or some kind of a little scoop and scoop out as much of that salt as you can into a bucket. The next step is to grab your broom handle or your stick, and try to loosen up as much of that salt. Poke around that salt and break up as much as that as you can. And again, whatever you've broken up, scoop out of the brine tank and put into a bucket to remove it.

Gary The Water Guy:
Then by this point, you should see some water in the bottom of the brine tank. So that water needs to be removed because it's actually brine right now. It's absorbed as much salt as it possibly can. So remove that. A shop vac works great, or you can scoop it up with some cups or something like that. Then what you need to do is again, grab your bucket, put in about two or three gallons of hot tap water. Dump that on top of the salt. Also, the brine well which is this part here, remove the cap from the top and put about a half gallon of hot water inside there too. And that will start absorbing the salt. Start to remove it. Now, what you need to do is let that sit for about four hours. That's the time it takes for the water to absorb as much of the salt as it's going to absorb.

Gary The Water Guy:
After that put your water softer back into service, take it out of bypass in other words, and regenerate your water softener. A water softener like this, you just hold down the regeneration button for five seconds or more and away it goes, it'll regenerate. So it'll suck up that brine, that water that's in here, will suck that up and as it's going through the regeneration process and it'll refill it with some new water. That new water will again make brine by absorbing the salt and it'll work at removing that salt clog in there. The next day, grab your stick and poke around there some more. Loosen up some more of that salt and again, press the regeneration button. Let it go through the process. You may need to do that two or three days in a row to get rid of that salt clog.

Gary The Water Guy:
Now don't put any more salt into this tank until you've used up all of that salt from that salt clog. Once you've done that, refill the salt tank or the brine tank about two thirds full with salt, but don't refill it again until it's down to about the quarter full level. As long as you keep doing that, you'll probably never have the salt clog problem ever again. And that's the process. If you like what you saw today, please check out our website at

And again, I'm Gary Beutler for the Water Store in Midland, Ontario. Thanks for watching.