NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  Learn More.

water softener

5 Common Water Softener Issues & How To Correct Them

Water softeners are a necessary appliance in any home with hard water.

But they are also complex systems that can fail to do their job properly unless properly maintained and sized correctly for the job.

Although local water softener service companies offer technical support for this eventuality, getting your softener system repaired is costly, and several problems can be solved easily by you in your home with common tools.

For example, the following issue is often found in salt-based water softener systems, but with appropriate usage, care, and maintenance, it happens very rarely. 

Water softener blockage


Any system which has something flowing through it has the potential for blockage to occur.

The same way that magnesium and calcium can accumulate and create deposits in your plumbing system, your water softener may also experience an accumulation of salt and minerals from the brine solution that removes hardness from your water.

These deposits block your lines inside the tank and prevent it from functioning as needed.

The two most common areas for blockage include the brine line and the filter screen.

One warning of a line blockage is if there is a rapid change in how much hardness is being removed from your water. Line blockages can easily be fixed, and details of how to resolve blockages on specific units are found in the user manual.

Salt Bridges

Along with mineral deposits forming inside your lines, salt can build up within the brine tank.

In the most extreme cases, a salt bridge can develop. This occurs as a result of sodium forming thick piles of residue at the bottom of the tank.

When the softener operates but doesn't soften the water, that probably means a salt bridge is preventing it from doing this.

A salt bridge is a solid crust of salt in the brine tank that covers the water. Salt bridges may also stop the machine from entering its regeneration cycle.

Once recognized, salt bridges are really easy to repair. Although solutions can be obtained, a much easier solution would be to use something sturdy like a broom handle to reach down to the tank and divide the salt.

Any salt build up which has formed around the edges of your tank should also be cleaned up to prevent the formation of a new bridge.

After you have cleared the brine tank of salt bridges, soft water should begin flowing into your plumbing system after a day or two.

Resin Beads

Only salt-based water softener systems use resin beads - this is why they are the best at dealing with hard water.

It's typical for resin beads to last as long as your systems life.

But like anything, they can break or not work to their full potential.

If your system requires frequent recharging, then may be a problem with the manner in which the resin beads are functioning.

A way to discover if resin beads are not working correctly is when you see broken resin particles floating in the water.

The solution to broken beads is simple. The resin beads just require cleaning or replacement. Details of how to do this can be found in your manufacturer's manual.


The motor of any appliance is critical. The motor of your water softener is no different; and, like the engine in your vehicle, it sometimes fail. There are some ways you can do to make sure your model's electric motor does not give up the ghost too soon.

Proper maintenance is the key to a safe and efficient system.

When the system fails to start or quits soon after starting, the problem is probably with the motor.

However, before making a decision, you should check that the power cables aren't damaged.

If everything passes your first review, contact your manufacturer who will arrange for a technician to replace your motor.

However, before getting a new motor, think hard about whether you should go ahead and buy a new system. 

Motor replacement in a water softener is an expensive job, often costing as much as buying a new system with a new warranty.

User Error

Some water softeners are really easy to operate, and others need substantial more technical knowledge and an understanding of settings.

But because several settings are used to avoid any water softener issues and adjust a softener, many things can go wrong. The slightest change in configuration can lead to a malfunctioning softener.

Make sure that you are fully confident with your softening system and the cases that may happen with it and if any problems arise, refer to the troubleshooting section of your manual.

To be extra sure, call a local water softening expert to aid you in your problem. Spending up a few more bucks can head of costly mistakes later on.

How to Fix your Water Softener Issues

common issues

Troubleshooting your water softener problems can be difficult for the inexperienced owner.

The best thing you can do is seeking the assistance of your manufacturer.

But if your device is no longer under warranty, you should seek support from a third party technician or plumber.

That said, certain things you can do on your own.

The following are simple steps you can perform yourself to make sure your system will operate efficiently for as long as possible:

  • 1
    Use only pure salt with an iron remover.
  • 2
    Don't refill the tank until all of the salt is consumed.
  • 3
    Each year, use iron-out to wash resin residue from the control valve.
  • 4
    Clean your brine tank annually.
  • 5
    Make sure that the water softener's drainage line isn't extending completely to the floor drain.
  • 6
    Be sure the drain line is over the grate of the pipe to prevent sewage from getting into the system.

Final Thoughts on Common Water Softener Issues

final thoughts

While hard water is not fundamentally bad for your health, minerals like magnesium and calcium accumulating in your plumbing system can definitely hamper everyday activities.

It's a fantastic thing that water softeners exist that can address this issue.

Unfortunately, water softeners are machines that will eventually fail or have problems. It might be caused by misuse, poor maintenance or your unit is just too old for the job.

When that time comes, it is far better to have at least some basic troubleshooting knowledge like cleaning the resin bed and the resin tank. You'll be amazed how doing this once thing periodically can prevent most problems and extend the life of your system.

However, we will say that when the day comes and your system fails, you can always seek the service of a local professional plumber to assist you in solving all your water softener issues.

Ed Carmichael

About the Author Ed Carmichael

Ed is a water specialist in Tampa, FL. He built to help his friends and family learn about DIY solutions to common water quality issues in the home.

follow me on:

Leave a Comment: