Water Softener Maintenance: Problems, Settings & Tips 2023

If you are using a water softener and enjoying all the benefits, don’t take it for granted.

It requires regular maintenance, other than just topping up the salt. Like any other home appliance, a water softener requires regular maintenance and cleaning.

This maintenance is more important than any other home appliance for the reason water is constantly running through the system.

Otherwise, not only the expensive system itself but other parts such as faucets, pipes, and many others can build up rust, and other types of residues.

But don’t worry, this regular maintenance would not be that expensive.

In water softener, buying the system and installing it, is the most expensive part, after that, it would not be as expensive unless you don’t take maintenance and cleaning very seriously until the system starts showing big issues.

In its maintenance sometimes, just looking at the system if it is working fine, topping up the salt on time, and checking the water level in the brine tanks are enough.

And on an occasional basis, you might have to hire a professional for servicing to prevent the system from bigger damages.

So, in this post, we are going to help those who use a water softener for soft water to extend the lifespan of the water softener by following the mentioned tips or techniques.

Before we get into the maintenance let’s learn the top problems water softeners have to face if regular maintenance is not done.

Water Softener Maintenance Tips

Common Water Softener Issues

The most important part of any household does get issues and sometimes gets broken if regular maintenance and cleaning are not done.

Like any machinery, they can malfunction. These are the top most common problems, malfunctions, or issues your water softener can have.


If you experience that soften water supply has suddenly been decreased, the most common issue would be clogging or blockage.

Blockage can happen in water softeners like any other system that handles flowing substances.

Over time, salt, minerals, and many other substances, from the brine tank gather or accumulate, blocking the tank.

In starting you might not experience any decrease in soft water, but over time, when the build-up grows, it can even block the entire path through the tank, maybe then you notice it.

The most common areas where blockage can happen are a brine tank and a filter screen.

In case of blockage in the brine tank, you experience it with the shortage of soft water supply, and in the case of the filter screen, you experience or sense it with the hard water.

related: Water Softener System Cost

Motor Fault or Mechanical Issues

The average age of water softeners is around 10-15 years. But with time, like any other gadget, they wear out.

Like any piece of machinery, the motor of your system may fail, or any mechanical part may fail. When a water softener system fails or wears out, the most possible reason is its motor.

But I am not saying that, if your water softener is not working you should go and replace the motor. Go check cables, cords, and other things, see if they are intact a working fine.

But if you have been getting your mechanical issues fixed over and over again. And your softener as well is old around 10-years, it is better to buy a new one, rather than getting that fixed again and again. If it is a tiny mechanical failure, then go ahead, get it fixed.

Resin beads are worn out?

In water softeners, resin beads have to be replaced 3, 4 years after. In some cases, they may last as long as the system lasts.

But, if in your area, the hardness scale is very high, above 10 then chances are the resin beads may wear out or stop functioning.

How would you know if it is the resin beads causing issues, or if the resin beads have reached their lifespan?

Simple, if you are charging your resin beads more than frequently, then it is because resin beads are not working properly.

Or if you get particles in the softened output water, this too is an obvious sign that resin beads are worn out.

Don’t worry, it is not always the replacement of the resin beads to make them work all over again. Sometimes cleaning them, is enough to make them function all over again.

You can hire a professional plumber, or you can do it yourself. Check your water softener user manual guide, I am sure there will be a detailed guideline about the same.

Problem with the mineral tank, or salt bridge

You may get issues in the mineral tank. Maybe the person who use to care for your water softener is on vacation, and you did not top up the brine tank with the salt.

In a salt-based water softener, to replace magnesium and other minerals, the softener requires salt.

If you don’t upgrade it with the salt, it runs out of salt, and the system would not be functioning.

Before you call for a plumber in rush, take a good deep breath, and check if you need any more salt in the water tank.

One more thing that goes wrong with the salt is the salt bridge Sometimes, the brine tank when topped with more than required salt build-up the salt bridge.

In this salt bridge, a hard crust is formed on the top of the brine tank, which prevents water from getting to the bottom. In other words, the water softening process is stopped or halted.

If you see that the water softener is working, but the output water is not soft, most of the time, it is because of the salt bridge.

Filters expired

Another thing that can go wrong with your softer is, that the filters are expired. Well, filters get expired, and you get to check them, if they are expired, or completely clogged, go replace them.

Filters remove larger sediments from the water. If your filter is old or expired, the water softener tries to remove not just the minerals which are they designed for, but other components or intoxications as well.

And in that doing, they don’t get succeed, if it continues happening, in the longer run, it is your system that gets more damage.

Important Water Softener Regeneration Maintenance Settings

In water softeners, most of the maintenance things revolve around regeneration and its cycles.

To get efficient performance and smooth softened water flow, it is recommended to get the regeneration cycles properly maintained and cleaned.

Once the resin beads exchange their salt ions with water particles, and cling to minerals such as calcium and magnesium, before the next cycle initiates, the beads must be regenerated.

All the minerals which are attached to the resin beads should be flushed out so that the same cycle could be repeated and water softening could be carried out.

On the other hand, there is a brine tank. The brine tank is responsible for brine solution aka salt mixed water that goes into the resin beads container, to recharge the resin beads with positive sodium ions. Making the resin beads read for the next ion exchange or softening.

So, at every stage you require maintenance. In the brine solution tank, you take care of controlling the salt or brine solution, in the resin beads container you properly rinse the beads and recharge them again for the next softening.

Let’s learn the right regeneration process for making our water softener work smoothly, and what maintenance is required here.

Regeneration Cycle

Maintaining the right frequency of the regeneration cycle in itself is maintenance.

Usually, the frequency of the regeneration is either set manually, once a week, or seven times a week.

Or you buy a water softener with an automatic regeneration frequency setting, which initiates the regeneration when it finds it right.

Mostly it is set manually, it is up to your consumption though; the frequency of the regeneration. If you are a big home, your regeneration might be once a day.

If you find that even though the regeneration frequency is set once a day, and you are getting hard water, you should check the brine tank.

If it’s once in seven days, and you are getting hard water change it twice a week. If you think the frequency is right, maybe your brine tank is not getting the right salt.

If there is no required salt, the brine solution would not be enough for ion exchange. Increase the level of salt, and you will start experiencing softened water all over again.

Time of the regeneration Cycle

The time of the regeneration cycle is also important. First, during the regeneration cycle, there would not be any new softened water production.

So, if it is set in the day, when your family consumes water, you would not be able to get soft water.

Plus, if you are doing it in the right, it is going to produce lots of noise which surely going to disrupt your family’s peace as well as your neighbors.

For me, I schedule in the day, I work at night, and sleep on days, for me it is always better to schedule it in the night.

Length of the regeneration Cycle

In most modern water softeners, you also get to set the length. For instance, if you want quick soft water production, and your resin beads are already saturated, you set the length for the lowest time, like 10-minutes.

But an average regeneration cycle takes around 30-40 minutes, depending on your water softener size.

Salt Dose for Regeneration

The optimal Salt dose is the single most important feature in regeneration cycle maintenance. Well, you should read the manufacturer’s manual guide to learn the specifications.

Once you set the salt dose, it’s not ended here. You should check the softened water, and measure its hardness. If you find water is still hard, you can set the dose again.

For the areas where the hardness level is exceptionally high, you might require the highest dose settings, even more than recommended settings.

Most Important Water Softener’s Maintenance Tips

To get the most out of your water softener, it should be in optimal conditions.

It requires regular maintenance, and if you follow these recommendations or tips, I am sure you enjoy its longest lifespan possible.

Spot the Problem

The most important tip I can ever give to any consumer using a water softener, and interested in maintaining it well is to learn to spot where the problem is.

Learn the problem, and spot it even before it arises. Check the brine tank on regular basis, and see if there is any issue building up there.

You should keep your eyes open always, check and monitor the hardness level of the softened water on a regular basis.

If you sense that you are consuming more soap or detergent than it use to be, measure the water hardness right away.

If you find the taste is different than it uses to be, go get your water kit and check its hardness.

It can be monitoring your faucets, pipes, stiff launder, and more than usual regeneration cycles, to learn the problem before it goes out of hand.

Salt Bridge Forming

Salt bridge forming is another problem that happens if you overfill the brine tank with salt.

A brine tank is what produces sodium solution, this solution goes into the resin beads tank to replace the negative charge on the beads with a sodium positive charge.

If you overfill the brine tank with the salt, it forms a solid layer on the sides, and in between.

Once this solid layer forms, it prevents water from passing through the brine solution, preventing salt from mixing with the water.

This lowers the effectiveness and efficiency of the entire system, and you would not get as much softened water as you use to get before.

So, if you regularly perform maintenance, and keep a check on the brine tank, you would not get the salt bridge or salt smushing formed, and even if it starts you will find it before it grows bigger and removes it to prevent further damage.

Quality of the Salt

Don’t just choose any salt for the brine tank or water softener, be selective. The right salt not only makes a difference in the quality of water softening but its effectiveness.

There are three different types of salt to choose from:

  • Rock: Rock is the most widely consumed salt for a water softener for its inexpensiveness. It is the cheap price that makes it widely popular. But there is a trade here, the rock salt comes mixed with impurities such as sediments, dirt, and many other contaminations. Although these contaminations, can easily be captured in the brine tank, if you don’t maintain the brine tank and clear it on regular basis, it might form a sled layer.
  • Solar salt: It is also one of the most widely followed salt. It is gathered through the evaporation of seawater. It is not that expensive and comes in crystal as well as pellet form.
  • Evaporated Salt: If you are concerned about your and your family’s health, go with evaporated salt. This salt is gathered through evaporation, the purest but most expensive pick.

Clean the resin beads

Although resin beads get cleaned in the regeneration process, and continuously regenerated with positive ions, still after months, extra cleaning is needed.

Over time, users experience that due to continuing to use them for capturing minerals, they lose their efficiency and become ineffective.

You can clean the resin beads using a water softener cleaner. You can read the user manual guide to learn how to clean the resin beads, and in what quantity you can use the cleaner to clean the resin beads to make them effective all over again.

Cleaning the water softener

Water softeners are one of the low-key appliances. They require minimal maintenance and once a month of cleaning.

If you want them to perform at their peak, it is better to clean them or hire a professional service for optimal cleaning.

I am not in favor of hiring cleaning services, but if you can’t do it yourself, or don’t know how to do it, better to hire any services to get better results.

Clean the brine tank

I am not saying that you should start cleaning the water softener by cleaning the brine. You can form your strategy, this is my strategy, the way I do.

The best time to clean a brine tank is when it is empty. The first benefit is, that you would not have to empty out the brine tank, waste your salt stored, and go through the rigorous cleaning process. Remove the brine tank from the water softener first then clean it out.

Or clean the brine tank when you see there is a lot of debris, or contaminations have been gathered. Don’t try to clean the brine tank when it is within the water softener.

In this way, you will have to use more water than usual, and you spread water through your home.

Cleaning the resin beads tank

Cleaning the resin beads tank is usually simple and would not involve much labor work. Here, you can simply pour a cleaner, or iron removing solution and rinse it off.

Or you remove the resin beads tank, use a cleaning solution such as bleach and cleanse it off.

Don’t forget to unplug the water softener before you take out the resin beads tank. Unscrew the bolts using a screwdriver, and disconnect the valve before reinstalling the tank.


Water softeners, to get their performance to reach their peak, you must follow regular maintaining and cleaning routines.

We have elaborated in detail on how can you keep up that maintenance, and how if you don’t maintain it can make your system stop functioning and have a shorter lifespan than expected.

It is always ideal to have yourself involved in the maintenance. You must learn how to do that; a user manual guide of any water softener would be a big help.

Plus, it is also recommended to occasionally hire expertise for cleaning and looking at your water softener. Maybe you are overlooking some things or symptoms that in long run can raise a big problem for you.

FAQs About Water Softener Maintenance

What happens if my water softener runs out of salt?

If the water softener runs out of salt, the whole mechanism of water softening would stop. The system would not simply work. It is not like something that damages your system.

Actually, it is the salt that goes through your whole system, the brine solution is a sodium solution that replaces the minerals dissolved in the water. So, if the salt runs out, the whole system will stop.

What happens when resin beads stop working?

First thing if the resin beads stop working is you should check if your system runs out of salt?

It is the salt or sodium solution that charges the resin beads, and clings to the water particles, removing the minerals dissolved.

If it is not the salt running out the issue, then you should take the resin beads section out and clean it thoroughly using a cleaner.

If you still don’t get any improvement, maybe you should buy resin beads and replace them with the old ones.

Because the current ones have lost their effectiveness, they would not perform the way they should now.

How Long Does Water Softener Last?

Water softeners like any other home appliance have a lifespan. Over time they lose their efficiency and gradually become incapable to remove the hard mineral particles dissolved.

Water Softener lasts for around 10-15 years on average. If you take good care of your water softener, and regularly maintain it, you can extend the lifespan up to 20-years.

Emily Davis

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