Many porous materials are damaged by pressure exerted by salt crystals growing in their pores. This is a serious issue in conservation science, geomorphology, geotechnical engineering and concrete materials science. In all cases, a central question is whether crystallization pressure will cause damage. Here we present an experiment in which the crystallization pressure and the pore saturation are varied in a controlled way. We demonstrate that a strain energy failure criterion can be used to predict when damage will occur. The experiment considered is the most widely used means to study the susceptibility to salt crystallization, so quantification of this test has far-reaching implications.