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

water softener maintenance

How to Maintain Your Water Softener?

Water softeners are low maintenance mostly. Although, to make sure your system continues to run smoothly and at peak performance for years to come, you can do more than pour fresh salt into the salt solution tank now and then.

Regular water softener maintenance will also increase longevity and reduce repair costs. And the great thing is that it is easy enough for each homeowner to look after.

Want to learn more? The following guide will give you all you will need to know.

Refilling Salt

No need to make things more complicated than they have to be. Just check the level of salt in the tank of your water softener once every month. Refill when it is under the 1/4 mark. Do not fill up to over 2/3 to avoid bridging.

Drain the Salt solution Tank 

what size water softener do i need

Draining a salt solution tank is essential for sanitizing, cleaning, and cleaning.

Thereby we need to differentiate between pre-and post-fill water softeners:

A post-fill water softener will refill its salt solution tank automatically at the end of every regeneration ration cycle. Therefore, it always has water salt solution inside.

If there's no water in the salt solution tank, that means that you have a pre-fill device, and there isn't any need to drain it, of course — as long as it is functioning correctly.

There are various options for ways to drain a post-fill water softener.

For instance, you could scoop the water into a bucket. This way, you'll be able to pour it back into the tank when you're done cleaning that you're doing. This only makes sense if the water isn't too dirty.

Alternatively, you may use a wet vacuum. An alternative would be to begin a manual regeneration ration cycle. Throughout the training stage, the softener will automatically suck water out of the salt solution tank.

(Depending on your model, you may activate regeneration ration by pushing and holding the three-cornered"-button. When regeneration begins, push the button one more time to jump to the salt solution cycle. When the salt solution tank is empty, skip the other cycles to get back into service.)

Your last option is to drain all water in an appropriate drain. Before you move the salt solution tank, though, don't forget to place your softener into bypass. Next, detach the fill tube, which joins the salt solution tank into the head valve and the salt solution tank's overflow hose.

If your water softener comes with a salt grid, it is a fantastic notion to take it out. You'll also have to remove the salt solution well -- that's the other tube within the salt solution tank, which stores the float assembly. First, take out the float. Then destroy the overflow elbow if there's one and eventually pull the tube out.

Now you can use carefully tip over the tank. But beware that if you empty it in your yard, the grass will turn brown and die.

How to Clean a Water Softener

A typical water softener has to be cleaned once a year to every five years based on the conditions. But if all of a sudden output, water hardness level rises, or the water is stained or smells odd, it is undoubtedly a great idea to clean the whole system when possible.

Cleaning the Salt solution Tank

reverse osmosis schedule

The best time to clean out the salt solution tank is when it's nearly run out of salt. This way, you do not need to scoop it all out, and the tank is lightweight so that you can move it around for simple access. Perhaps you even need to take it out where you do not have to be super careful about building a water mess.

After they reduce the salt level, you can see any dirt or mold in the tank's bottom.

Further Information: The dirt is found in the softening salt — cheap rock salt specifically. Because sediment can't dissolve, it grows over time as you continue refilling the salt solution tank. After a time, the salt solution may seem like sludge. This is the primary reason for cleaning: So that the sediment doesn't clog your system. It might also stop salt from dissolving correctly.

In case the salt level remains high, and you do not need to wait, you must take it out. Usually, any salt over the grid (if there's one) is worth saving for later usage. Anything under the plate is crap.

If you have a post-fill water softener that refills automatically, you also must drain all water.

As we said, there are various options for how you can do this.

Got rid of all the water? Great! The rest of the cleaning process looks like this:

1. Eliminate any residual salt + sludge

2. Clean inside

3. Add fresh salt (and water using post-fill softener)

4. Establish a regeneration ration cycle for the coming night

In case you have not already removed the salt solution well and salt grid now's the time to do so.

To remove any remaining salt or sludge, you may use a shovel or whichever tool you find appropriate. But take care not to damage your tank. Again, a shop vac is terrific for this. If the salt is too harsh to vacuum, you can break it loose with a broom handle. Use a hose to wash the tank's inside and vacuum the salt, sediment, and water.

For the actual cleaning, mix water with great old dishwashing detergent with no hard chemicals — or mold removed if need be and use a brush to do some scrubbing. Keep in mind that there's not any point in trying to make the tank look brand new. And do not forget to rinse thoroughly after.

Pro tip: This is the best time to check the float switch is straight and move freely up and down. Ensure that they do not plug it to suck in salt solution while regeneration rate (soak in warm water to unclog).

When everything is clean and friendly, putting the pieces back together and adding fresh salt is time. Two or three bags should do just fine. However, first, put the salt solution tank back in place as it'll be quite heavy soon.

Remember that using a post-fill system, you also must include about 3 gallons of water. Do not worry. The device will adjust its water level with time.

Last, set your water heater to regeneration rate the next night, and you'll be back in service the next day.

Sanitizing: Can You Add Bleach in Your Water Softener?

troubleshooting water softener

Water softener and its polymer can become polluted with biological organisms such as bacteria for various reasons, one being a polluted water source. But if it disinfects your water at the origin, microbes can enter at any stage before the softening unit.

Above that, iron, sulfur, and other impurities may encourage intrusion. Typical signs are a change in color, foul taste, or rotten egg odor in your water. Mildew may form in the salt solution tank, which may also result in an unpleasant odor.

It significantly affects newly installed systems and those out of service for a while, or runs for more extended periods between regeneration rations.

Bottom line: Following the regular cleaning procedure, you might choose to use 2 ounces of unscented household bleach combined with 3 gallons of water to sanitize the salt solution tank.

Just allow the solution to sit for around 15 to 20 minutes to eliminate any mildew or mold. Then scrub with a brush. Tip: Concentrate on the float assembly.

Dump the Mix and Rinse Carefully with Clean Water.

Alternatively, what you can do is to sanitize the entire system. Some softeners will need periodic disinfection every 3 to 12 months during their everyday life.

Again, 5.25% sodium hypochlorite (bleach) is best suited to this. I may use it with zeolite, polystyrene polymers, and greensand.

One manufacturer suggests adding 1.2 fluid ounces — that is less than a quarter cup — a cubic foot polystyrene polymer to the salt solution well after/ before back-washing the softener. The bleach will mix in the salt solution and then be squeezed into the polymer during the brining cycle. Continue with normal regeneration ration.

You may also have to add 2-3 gallons of water to the salt solution tank based on your softener. This typically entails unplugging the unit for 20 to 30 minutes during the brimming phase to allow all salt solution to be utilized.

For complete sterilization, the bleach must stay in contact with the polymer for a minimum of one hour.

And to ensure that none of it ends up in the water that you're going to use later, I must rinse the polymer bed with a minimum of 75 gallons of water per cubic foot. This will also eliminate any disinfection byproducts which might have formed.

3. Some More Tips:

1. Do not mix bleach and polymer cleaner. Doing this may produce possibly toxic fumes. If the latter is already on your salt or salt solution, you need to disconnect the salt solution line and suck the bleach from a bucket.

2. Chlorine reduces the softening capacity of the polymer bed. Why then use bleach for sanitization? Because of long-term chlorination, as will be the case for many municipal supplies and lots of private wells, a stable concentration for a brief time will cause minimal damage. The pros surpass the cons. Chlorine is one of the very best and most economical sanitizers available. When bacteria are within the polymer bed, random shocking is the better of the two evils.

3. There are NSF & EPA certified sanitizing products that kill 99.99% of harmful germs and a broad range of viruses.

Cleaning the Copal Tank

What do you want to be doing to maintain the polymer bed in incredible shape? Not a good deal typically, unless your water is nasty.

Municipal water is adequate. Well, water can be hazardous if it contains multiple levels of iron or manganese. Both may foul the polymer because they're not entirely removed during regeneration ration.

The accumulation of organic chemicals, most commonly tannin and humic acids, can happen in houses with shallow wells. When these compounds precipitate, they become caught between the polymer beads.

Here, cleaning a fouled base using a specific copal cleaner will restore the softening capacity for reduced water and salt use, prolong polymer lifetime, and ensure that all other system parts work smoothly. It may even help to enhance the taste of your water and boost flow prices.

How often to clean? Most specialists recommend periods of 3 to 12 months, based on the state of your water.

Water Softener Polymer Cleaners

There are many polymer cleaners for you to choose from, Iron OUT being the most popular for removing iron deposits.

Iron OUT activates a chemical reaction that adds iron ions back into the solution. The essential reagent is sodium hydrosulfite. Other products may use hydrochloric or citric acid, for example.

Unluckily, not every iron remover or other technical cleanser will be appropriate for your softener and polymer. So, you wish to discover which ones you're allowed to use first. The manufacturer will supply you with all the needed info.

Then all you need to do is follow the directions on the item. Some of you dissolve in water and put-on top of the salt. Others go in the salt solution well until you begin a green cycle. Some are liquid, some dry. Some need loads of salt in the tank. Others can only be utilized if the salt level is low.

For some, you may also use a container that you mount to the side of your salt solution tank. The dispenser will trickle feed 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce of softener cleaner to the salt daily for constant maintenance. It cleans the polymer with every regeneration ration, and it limits fouling.

How to Eliminate Salt Bridges

water softener salt not going down

With salt bridging, a.k.a. salt clogging, an encrusted bridge prevents the salt from reaching the bottom of the salt solution tank and getting in contact with the water to form a salt solution. This, as a result, hinders your softener from regeneration rating well.

To Clarify: When a salt bridge has shaped, your salt solution tank may still seem like they fill it. However, all salt under the bridge is likely gone. Therefore, you must watch out for this happening when you refill the tank.

The bad news is that problems with salt bridges are becoming more common lately. Why? Since today's water softeners are a lot more salt effective than they used to be.

Because of this, they use less salt, which means it has more time to clog. Other reasons for bridging involve high air humidity and using the incorrect sort of salt (consult the manual to be sure you're using the right one).

By the way, the most apparent sign of a salt bridge in the salt solution tank salt level isn't going down. Also, hard water may come from the system?

You can quickly test for this by smoothly hitting the salt solution tank's face to determine if it moves or whether it is substantial. The latter is a sign for a salt bridge. You could also take a broom handle and attempt to push it to the bottom of the tank. If you cannot, then you have a bridge.

Crush any encrusted salt and massive clumps that may have formed. Again, you may use a broom handle for this or any other instrument that's not so sharp — be careful not to break the salt grid in the bottom.

What you could also do is knock around the side of the tank using a rubber mallet. As soon as you've removed the bridge, start a manual regeneration ration cycle.

In more critical cases, loosen and take out as much salt as possible. Then remove all salt solution that's left in the tank (it's dissolved as much salt as possible).

Next, pour 2-3 gallons of warm tap water and salt. This may already be enough for the salt bridge. Pour another 1/2 gallon into the salt solution well.

Within the next few hours, the water absorbs some salt. After about 4 to 5 hours, you may hit the green button.

The other day, poke around in the salt solution tank. Has the bridge dissipated? Otherwise, try to loosen up some more salt and activate another regeneration ration cycle. You may need to do these two or three times in a row.

If you've used the wrong sort of salt, there's absolutely no way to replace it.

How to Prevent Bridging

A simple rule to reduce salt from bridging is to fill your salt solution tank around 2/3 and include no more salt until the amount is down to approximately 1/4.

In humid regions, you need to test adding much less but more frequently. And you don't need to combine cubes, pellets, crystals, or block salt with each other.

As long as you continue doing so, you will probably never have problems with salt bridges again.


Salt mushing is a different type of problem. It happens when salt dissolves and recrystallizes to form a thick layer of sludge at the bottom of the salt solution tank.

Rather than mixing with water, the mush can clog the salt solution well and cause the tank's water level to rise with every even cycle. Finally, it will float.

You can use the broom handle and attempt to break up the mush or scoop out it to fix this.

You do not unquestionably need to discard the salt, mainly if it is not overly dirty. Alternatively, you can dissolve it in warm water and put it back into the salt solution tank — think to recycle.


If you prefer not to take care of those maintaining yourself, you can hire a firm to do it for you.

Charges for water softener maintenance programs that include monthly salt delivery and inspection system begin at USD 120 each year.

About the Author Ed Carmichael

Leave a Comment: