How to Maintain a Water Softener System (Step-by-Step Guide)

After buying a salt-based water softener (such as a traditional or cabinet style) and installing a water softener the next thing you should put in mind is how to maintain a water softener system.

How to maintain a water softener system

An ion exchange water softener lasts for years with little maintenance, but regular check-ups and cleaning can make the softener work efficiently and last longer.

What is that little maintenance that a water softener requires? Read this article from beginning to end to learn how to maintain a water softener.

The new Ion exchange water softeners are easy to install with simple instructions. You can do it yourself without hiring a plumber or professional. They are also small in size and do not require a large space.

You only need to get into the habit of checking the salt level once a month and cleaning the brine tank and resin tank yearly. This helps your system to work properly and improves its lifespan.

Water softener maintenance checklist

  • Always check salt and water level once a month. Make sure the salt level is at least half full and keep it 3 inches above the water.
  • Clean both resin and brine tank once a year. This help to prevent problems such as salt bridging. Cleaning also prevents bacteria growth in the tank.
  • Check for salt bridge and mushing every month. Apart from cleaning the tank, you need to inspect the brine tank whether there is salt bridging or mushing. A salt bridge is caused by high humidity, the wrong type of salt, and high temperature.
  • Use the right salt – before adding the salt check the system manual to know the right salt that will work well with the unit.
  • If your water has a high presence of iron make sure you clean the resin using resin cleaner after every four months.

How to maintain a water softener system

Maintaining a brine tank

Cleaning the brine tank

The brine tank needs to be cleaned at least once per year, and this is an activity you can enjoy doing on a weekend.

Step by step on how to clean the brine tank

Set the system to bypass mode. In bypass mode, the water will not enter the water softener for a period so that cleaning can be done.

Disconnect all the lines (resin tank to brine tank) and electricity from the water softener.

Take the brine tank out

Pour all water out of the brine tank and remove the remaining salt.

If your system has a brine grid, pull it out.

Mix a few drops of dish soap with 1-2 gallons of water to form a soap mixture.

Pour the soap mixture into the brine tank and scrub the tank using a scrubbing brush or long-handled brush.

Dump and rinse the soap mixture with water

How to sanitize brine tank

Pour one cup of household bleach such as vinegar, and three gallons of water into the brine tank. Stir until the solution mixes well, and let it sit for 15 minutes to kill any pathogens (the bleach is used to sanitize the tank) after that scrub the tank, dump the bleach mixture, and rinse with clean water.

Put the brine tank in place and connect all the lines of the water softener.

Add water up to 5 gallons and, lastly, water softener salt. It is recommended to keep water softener salt levels at least six inches space from the top of the brine tank

Check the salt level at least once a month to make sure it’s at the right point. For common use, fill the brine tank at least half full with salt and keep the salt levels at least six inches below the top to avoid overly salty or 2/3 full of salt.

Choose the right type of water softener salt to add to your unit. Make sure, before adding salt, to check whether the brine tank has a salt bridge.

The salt bridge is one big block of salt that prevents the salt from getting to the bottom of the tank to form the brine solution, therefore, blocking your system to regenerate properly.

Ensure you break the salt bridge into small pieces.

You can manually break it by pouring warm water on it to loosen it and break it easily. Also, you can use a broom handle and gently hit the salt bridge until it breaks.

Another thing you need to check is whether there is salt mush. Salt mushing is when the dissolved salt recrystallizes and forms sludge in the bottom of the tank.

If the brine tank has salt mushing, you need to clean the tank and replace it with fresh salt. Salt mushing prevents brine solution from flowing in the resin tank.

Maintaining resin tank

This involves cleaning a resin tank, and cleaning and replacing the resin beads. Cleaning resins requires you to have a resin cleaner and it is recommended you do it every 3 months.

Replacing resin can be done when the resin beads get worn out and are not giving out soft water

  • Remember to sanitize your tank after cleaning using bleach to prevent bacteria growth.
  • Cleaning resin tank injector/ Clean the venturi valve

The resin tank is also another essential part of the water softener. They must be cleaned and the resin beads replaced on a regular basis.

If your water has iron, the iron deposit can occur on the resin beads, making it not operate properly. 

Also, over time, your resin beads can be overcoated with silt, heavy metals, and organic compounds which cause the resin beads not to soften water properly.

In such a case, the resin beads need to be cleaned regularly to restore and peak their efficiency.

Just use the resin cleaner recommended by the manufacturer to clean the beads without having to replace them. If that doesn’t solve the problem, you’ll need to replace the beads.

Pour the resin cleaner into the brine tank and regenerate the system manually. The cleaner is flushed out of the resin tank using the drain.

Replacing the resin

Make sure you have bought the resin, gravel, distributor tube, and funnel.

Put the tank into bypass and take off the resin tank.

Remove the distributor tube and pour the resin out of the tank.

Put the new distributor tube inside the resin tank and cut it to the correct height (an inch above the tank top). Tape the top of the distributor so that gravel and resin won’t get inside. Install the new gravel first, followed by the resin. Make sure gravel or resin does not get inside the distributor tube.

Return the resin tank to its place and reconnect it.

How To clean resin tank & Replace Your Water Softener Resin, Media, Beads Video

Cleaning resin tank injector/ Clean the venturi valve

This is part of the water softener that people forget to clean. The tank injector creates the suction to move the brine solution from the brine tank to the resin tank.

Over time, the valve gets sand and dirt, which needs to be cleaned to operate effectively.

The injector needs to be cleaned after every six months to prevent resin beads from contamination.

How to clean resin tank injector

Turn off the softener and disconnect the power.

Drain the water and release pressure from the tank. Unscrew the panel to get to the injector line. Remove the injector and trace the filter panel. Use dishwasher detergent to clean it before you return it.

Cleaning the venturi valve should be done twice a year.

Check whether the O-ring is in good shape; if not, replace it. You can buy water softener parts here.

Check for salt bridge and mushing every month

A salt bridge happens when the hard crust forms in the brine tank. The crust forms a barrier between water and salt, preventing salt from dissolving, which is used for regeneration.

Salt mushing happens when the dissolved salt recrystallizes and forms sludge at the bottom of the tank. To solve the mushing problem, you need to drain everything in the brine tank and dig out the salt at the bottom. Clean the tank and replace it with new salt.

Regular checking and maintaining of your water softener help improve the system’s performance and extend lifespan.

Can I put vinegar in my water softener?

It is advisable to sanitize the brine tank, and the recommended liquid to sanitize is household bleach, such as vinegar.

How often should you clean a water softener brine tank?

Once a year.

How do you maintain a water softener system? Share with us in the comment section below.