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.