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How to care for your water softener

Water Softener Care

You start by looking at your manufacturer’s manual, of course, but there’s a trove of tips you can find in protecting your water softener. A technician can do this for you, but you can make some of the maintenance yourself.

The cycle works like this – the water goes into a tank filled with resin beads, which captures any impurities that are in it. Once the water goes into your home system, the beads are recharged by salt water from a brine tank, and the process starts again. So what caring for your water softener mostly comes down is through those two tanks.

Check the Hardness

The first thing to do in maintaining your water softener is in checking the hardness in it. Besides telling you to use more soap or giving your skin that sensation of feeling less soft, it shows where you are at in your overall system.

Take out some tap water and take a few drops of a water testing kit. Depending on how the test instructions go for water color changes go, if it changes then there’s definitely a need for a water softening (14 parts per million is pretty high).

Next, check the status of the tank. If the amount of hard water is being used has increased being since you bought your tank, then maybe you need a bigger resin tank to deal with the increase.

All about the Resin

Well, water can have very high iron levels that damage the resin beads directly. There’s plenty of other reasons why the resin beads can stop working:

  • High humidity
  • Wrong salt for the softener
  • Temperature changes

Since the resin is plastic, the chlorine that enters the softener can also seriously affect it. The life of resin beads’ life depends on the parts per million of chlorine. 10 ppm total is the expected amount the resin can take before replacement. A lot of them go for ten to fifteen years – some more, some less depending on use and hardness of water.

There’s no real need to touch your resin tank during its use. When the water starts having the problem in removing hardness and the resin beads are worn out, it might be time to think about replace the entire system.

If you don’t have the budget to replace, then you can just replace the old resin beads with new ones. Remove the controller on top of the tank and empty out the worn out beads by washing it out. Once clean, add the resin beads to the right level according to the manufacturer’s manual (normally around a few inches from the top).

There is a way to limit a number of times you replace the beads. Buy water softener cleaner and pour it into the brine tank, then run the softener manually so that the cleaner goes through the resin beads. It helps keep the beads clean to absorb more impurities for a longer lifespan.

Know Your Salt

Salt replenishes the resin in preparation for more softening, so it’s a very important part of the process. If it doesn’t have enough, add more – not enough salt means not enough conditioned water. You should learn which salt you have to use on your system – rock, solar and evaporated (each of these can come in tablet, block or granular form).

  • Rock salt: the budget choice if you can’t afford other types but it contains more impurities that will stick to the tank
  • Solar salt: better solubility than rock salt that was made for marine sources, but might not work as effectively with high water hardness levels
  • Evaporated salts: The highest purity rate of salt available for softeners (99.9%) which mean less chance of build-up in the future
water softener
water softener
water softener

There is a salt alternative available as well – potassium chloride. This can be the choice you want if you’re looking to drop sodium intake for some reason.

Beware the Bridge

There’s a certain build-up of a hard crust in the brine tank of water softeners. It won’t allow the salt to come into contact with the water. These “salt bridges” will build up periodically in the brine tank and can lead to a speedy malfunction in your softener.

Break through the salt bridges a bit to get to the bottom of the tank – a broom handle is the simplest tool in your house for the job. What’s even more dangerous is the mush that forms at the bottom of the tank since it can block the regeneration process altogether. Remove that from the tank as well, then vacuum the tank at the bottom with a wet/dry vacuum.

To prevent future build-ups, replace the salt with higher-quality ones. Also salt levels it normal – about half full – so the older salt doesn’t stick to the walls. Check for humidity as well.

Controllers and Tubing

Check the time settings on your water softener controller. Many people change it depending on seasons or area – some people do it between hour intervals, some between days. You have to remember that you will have power outages that will mess up your controller cycle, and the water regeneration cycle by default. After the power comes back on, make sure to set it back to its normal schedule.

Check out the valves and exercise them once a month so the O-rings stay lubricated. This lowers the chance of leaking and dripping. If the exercising isn’t working, then replace the piping. Some of the dripping can come from the drain hose as well – make sure it is pushed into the tubing well until it is flush with the other parts.

Unforeseen Hardness and How to Deal With It

There might be times that sulfur seeps into your softener. This happens for a lot of well water sources in the US. While it’s not poisonous, it will give a funny taste and smell. You’ll need a stronger system that will purify that as well.

Your water heater can be the culprit for water issues as well. Rods installed in the heater can let particles into the supply and also need to be treated.

Make a Routine to the Softening

Don’t be erratic about cleaning or caring for your water softener. Something around 2-3 months is fine. By making it a normal part of your home maintenance, you’ll save yourself years of expenses. Best of all, you’ll get pure water for a much longer time.