Your home's water softener works to remove the dissolved minerals, usually calcium and magnesium, which cause hard water from your water supply by replacing them with a sodium solution. However, just like all other appliances in your home, your water softener can begin to malfunction or lose its effectiveness due to a variety of different reasons. Understanding some of the most common water softener issues that you may experience, as well as what you can do to fix them, can help you keep your water softener and residential plumbing system working as intended again as soon as possible.
If your water softener is not actually softening your water supply, which is the arguably the worst and the most common problem that your water softener will experience, you likely have to either adjust your water softener settings or add in more salt. Simply open up the brine tank and see how high the salt level is: if the salt falls below halfway down the tank, you'll want to add in more until it reaches just past the halfway point.
However, if the salt level within your brine tank is at an adequate level, the issue likely lies with the settings on your water softener instead of some sort of malfunction within the unit. If you are using too much water throughout the day, you can quickly use up the entirety of your soft water supply, suddenly leaving your unit unable to deal with the demand for water. Try increasing the flow settings for your water softener, which should allow your unit to properly soften your water throughout the day from that point forward. Keep in mind that if your unit is already at the maximum setting, you may have to invest in a higher-capacity unit.
After an extended period of time, or due to environmental factors like high levels of humidity, salt bridges can build up within your water softener. Salt bridges occur when the salt within your brine tank hardens into a crust that prevents the salt from dissolving into the water, thus stopping your water softener from working at all. Salt bridges can be hard to identify, since they will likely have a layer of normal salt sitting on top of them. However, a salt bridge is likely to blame if your water softener is not softening water, and the salt levels within the brine tank haven't shifted over a significant period of time. In order to break them up, you can simply take a broom handle and gently but firmly press down on your salt to physically break the bridge and allow the salt to normally dissolve.