The swelling behaviour and hydraulic conductivity of Na-bentonite powder and bentonite-sand mixtures (10 and 20% of bentonite by dry weight) have been measured with distilled water and various salt solutions (0.01, 0.1 and 1 mol/1 concentrations). It was found that in dilute solutions, the bentonite in mixtures subjected to small confining stresses swells sufficiently to separate the sand particles and reach a clay void ratio similar to that achieved by bentonite alone. At high stresses, or in strong solutions, the bentonite in a mixture has insufficient swelling capacity to force the sand particles apart and swelling is limited by the sand pore volume. The hydraulic conductivity of a mixture depends on the bentonite void ratio, and the porosity and tortuosity of the sand matrix. A design model is proposed to predict the engineering properties of a mixture over a range of confining stresses from the properties of its constituents and the permeant.