If a water softener runs out of salt, it will be incapable of producing soft water. This will make your home vulnerable to the numerous side effects of water hardness. To understand what happens to your home and softener if it runs out of salt, we will first need to talk about why a water softener needs salt to soften water.

How a Salt-based Water Softener Works

Water softeners usually have two tanks; the resin tank and the brine tank.

A water softening resin tank is also known as a mineral tank. It comprises a resin media made up of numerous resin beads interlinked to each other. When water flows through this tank, the sodium ions present in the resin beads will swap places with calcium and magnesium minerals through a process called ion exchange. This ion exchange process will result in the production of softened water because the hard minerals responsible for hardening your water will be eliminated.

The water softener brine tank, on the other hand, is known as the salt tank. This is where you add or top-up salt periodically. When the water softener regenerates, the salt from the brine tank flows to its resin counterpart in the form of brine solution.

In essence, this system is a salt-based water softener. Let’s remove water softener salt (sodium chloride) from the scenario. What happens if a water softener runs out of salt?

When a water softener runs out of salt, there will be nothing to facilitate the regeneration cycle. This won’t stop your softening system from operating, but it won’t be doing its job anymore. The ion exchange process cannot occur without the water softener salt because mineral ions need to be present to be swapped with hardness minerals such as calcium and magnesium ions.

So, your salt-based water softener won’t be hurt per se, but they won’t be capable of eliminating hard water minerals from your water supply, and hard water will still be an issue in your household.

What Happens if Water Softener Runs Without Salt?

Your home will be vulnerable to numerous adverse effects of hard minerals, including:

Damaged Water Softeners Control Valve

Softeners use soft water through their control valves to prevent the build-up of minerals from tampering with the control function. When hard water flows through your system’s shut-off valve, it may impair its function.

Cloudy Glass Shower Walls and Kitchen Glasses

Using hard water to shower will result in a film appearing on your bathroom shower glass, shower door, and mirrors. Using this water to wash dishes will result in a similar outcome for your kitchen glass.

Mineral Build-up in Your Household Appliances

Water fixtures such as your hot water heating system will be affected by the build-up of scale and iron stains. This will result in poor hot water pressure, making your water heater less efficient.

Decreased Pressure in Pipes

The accumulation of scales in your plumbing system will gradually result in less pressure.

Soap Scum on Your Bathroom and Kitchen Fixtures

Your kitchen and bathroom faucets and sinks will have soap scum on their surface. Soap scum is the result of hard water mixing with soap.

Skin Irritation and Dry Hair

Using hard water to bathe will result in dry skin and hair. Calcium and magnesium minerals will strip your hair’s luster and make it weak. It will also deplete your skin’s natural oils, making it dry and prone to irritation.

Clogged Showerheads

The accumulation of scales will also clog your shower head and reduce its water flow. It will also discolor it, giving it an unattractive appearance.

Reset the Water Softener After Adding Salt

Firstly, ensure that your water level is slightly less than the salt level in your tank. Water has to absorb the salt to create the right brine concentration. The water above the salt won’t be in direct contact with the salt. So there should be more salt than water in your brine tank.

water softener salt level

Avoid filling your tank with water or even keeping it half-full because it can generate problems. The brine float in your tank won’t be able to stop water from filling the brine tank. This is more likely with a non-electric water softener because non-electric water softeners rely on a control valve to prevent water from filling the salt tank.

Resetting the salt level indicator should be the next step whenever you add or replace salt in the tank. You can do this by pressing and holding the “recharge” button for about 3 seconds.

Hold till the display on the indicator begins to flash. A good salt alternative to fresh sodium ions is potassium chloride.

How to Ensure Water Softener Does Not Run Out of Salt?

Get a Smart Water Softener

Thanks to advancements in technology, softeners are equipped with a smart shut-off valve that can be remotely controlled via a Bluetooth app on your phone.

This app helps you monitor the salt levels in your system and notifies you when it runs out of salt.

Get Extra Salt Bags

Don’t just buy a bag for your current needs; stock up for future needs, too. Having extra salt bags is an effective way to ensure a regular salt supply for your system and improve water quality.

Avoid using too much salt in your tank. The amount of salt you put in your tank could determine if your water will taste salty or not.

Manually Check Your System

You can check your water softener sodium levels periodically, bi-weekly, or weekly depending on your water usage and how long your salt lasts.