Cleaning Your Water Softener - An Easy Step By Step Guide

When you have a water softener system in your home, it is always important that you keep it clean and running as smoothly as possible. Just like so many other vital appliances in your home, the water softener system is used regularly, so you need it up and running as expected at all times.

Have you been noticing that you are beginning to have issues with higher levels of minerals in your water? If so, then regular cleaning of your system needs to be a priority. While it may seem a bit complicated to work on your water softener system, this is a do-it-yourself project that most people can complete on their own. What makes it even better is that you can tackle a DIY water softener cleaning project with very few tools, with most people merely having to use a screwdriver to get it done.

It is essential to have the unit cleaned, and it may seem a bit more complicated than it is. Cleaning out a water softener system is nothing more than refreshing it by making sure that the resin that is inside the brine tank gets cleaned out. The reason why it is best to make sure that the resin is cleaned frequently is that it can start to attract a variety of minerals like magnesium, calcium, and others. Once this happens, the resin can start to become saturated.

These are the most important steps for cleaning out your home's water softener system:

Select A Quality Resin Cleaner

You will often find that a commercial resin cleaner is going to be the best option when you start your DIY water softener cleaning. It is also best that you only add in the amount recommended for your system. After you add in the resin cleaning agent, all of the mineral ions are then replaced with sodium. If you are going to be purchasing a commercial cleaner for your system, just be sure that you are selecting one that is crafted to remove all of the mineral buildups.

When it comes to the commercial cleaners available on the market today, some of them are made to focus on a singular element, such as iron. If you notice that the resin beads seem to have too much of a buildup of one mineral, in particular, think about buying the cleaner that addresses that mineral. These will be more efficient for your system if you are able to pinpoint the exact mineral element. However, there can be some disadvantages that can come with picking a specific cleaner if they are known for only covering one aspect.

Feeding The System

When it comes time to pour the cleaner into your system, it is important that you take the time to read up on the recommended amount to add before you feed it into the system. This should be clearly listed on the package. If your system does not have a brine tank, then you would put the cleaner right into your salt tank. With this step, you should be adding it when the level of the salt is at the lowest point.

Regeneration Process

With many of the conventional water softener systems, there is a control knob that you will find on the valve. This is what helps to regulate regeneration mode. You can turn this on by screwing the knob in a counterclockwise motion. After the system goes into recovery mode, there is a reversal of water flow. With this step, the tank and membranes are rinsed clear of any leftover debris. Once this is complete, a solution rich in sodium is released throughout the tank to help clean the resin beads.


Once the regeneration process completes the first time, it is a good idea to turn it back on to run one more time. If you double up on this process, you can ensure that all of the remaining debris is purged out. Should you see a layer of calcium or iron left on the bed of the tank after a second regeneration step, you can run it a thirst time. It is best to repeat this process until you are able to get the results you need before you move onto the next step.

Turn 'Normal Operation' Back On

You can do a visual inspection of your tank to ensure everything is finished up, then turn the knob clockwise. Your unit should stop the regeneration process and normal mode should resume.

Final Step

When you get to the final step, it is crucial that you remember to run some water through your system for approximately 10 minutes before you begin using it again. A span of 10 minutes should be ample time for your water softener system to get a full rinsing with fresh, clean water. If at any point you notice that the water seems to have an off taste, you can always run your tap for another 10 minutes to see if it clears up.

Pro Tips:

Scheduling Water Softener Cleaning

If you want to be sure that you are always able to keep your water softener in good condition, it is best to think about being on a cleaning schedule at least once each year. Annual cleaning is something that works best for most households. However, the timing that is often recommended will be around every 6 months. No matter what, if you are able to remain consistent on a schedule, you should not see many issues arise with the condition of your water softener.

What If My Water Softener Is Not Using Any Of The Salt?

Should you notice that your water softener runs regeneration cycles and the salt levels within the mineral tank are not lowering, it could be that there is something known as a salt bridge that is developing. This is a crust that can form in the brine tank. If this happens, the crust can keep the salt pellets from dissolving in your water that is supposed to be regenerating the resin beads of your softener system.

Salt bridges can form if you overfill the tank with salt, if you are using the wrong kind of salt in the system, or the temperatures are too humid. If you happen to live in an area that is more humid than most, you can prevent this crust from forming by filling up your brine tank with less salt on a more frequent basis. What this does is allow your water softener to use up some of the salt before allowing the humidity to form a salt bridge.

If you notice that you have a thickened sludge at the bottom portion of your brine tank, this is known as salt mushing. This can actually obstruct water intake at the base. Once the valve clogs up, your tank will take on more water with each of the regeneration cycles, eventually leading to overflow. You can clean the salt mush up by scooping it out and discarding it, followed by routine cleaning of the brine tank to make sure that all mush traces are fully removed. This is a good time to reevaluate the type of salt pellets that you have been using, as they could be the reason for the sludge buildup.

Brown Water

Should there be brown water coming from the softener, it is usually due to manganese and iron that is building up and fouling your resin. There could also be sediment building up in the tank. If you still notice brown water after a cleaning and inspection, it may be time to think about replacing the softener system.

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