How to fix a water softener: some helpful tips

September 15, 2015

Is your soft water not so soft anymore? You can often fix the problem yourself. Here are some helpful water softening tips to help you with this DIY job.

How to fix a water softener: some helpful tips

What you need to know

How water softeners work

  • All softeners, whether they have one or two tanks, work the same way.
  • As cold water flows through the resin tank, the mineral content — the hardness — is removed because the minerals stick to thousands of resin beads.
  • When the softener recharges, the flow of fresh water is stopped while salty water from the brine tank is sucked into the resin tank.
  • The salty water then dissolves the accumulated minerals and is flushed down the drain.

What to check before repairs

  • Before you tear apart your water softener, check the control settings — especially after a long power outage.
  • The timer clock has to show the right time so that the resin tank is cleaned and recharged when no one is using water (usually early morning).
  • Also make sure that your hardness setting is still correct — well water hardness can change over time.
  • To check that your setting's still right, bring a small container of your water to a water softener dealer for a water hardness test, then check the results against your settings.
  • If you have an older softener (20 years or so) and none of these fixes work, it may need a replacement ($500 and up).

Before and after repairs

  • Set the water supply to "bypass" before working on the softener.
  • Run the hot water after you turn the softener back on to flush out any hard water.

Look for salt problems

  • Check for salt problems in the brine tank.
  • Push a broom handle down into the salt to break up salt bridges (like a dome), blocking salt from dropping to the bottom of the tank.
  • If too little salt gets dissolved, the resin bed won't get clean and the water won't get softened.
  • Also, when the salt level is low (or at least once a year), check for a crust of salt mush at the bottom.
  • This thick salt paste doesn't dissolve well, reducing the salinity of the brine solution, and needs to be removed.
  • Don't use rock salt in your softener because it contains dirt and other impurities that can clog the softener.

Clean the resin bed

  • Clean the resin bed twice a year with resin bed cleaner (available at water softener dealers) if you have "clear water iron."
  • Otherwise the resin bed won't remove the iron.
  • You can tell if you have "clear water iron" if a glass of water turns cloudy or rusty after sitting for several minutes.

Clean the venturi assembly

  • The salty water flows through the venturi assembly from the brine tank to the resin tank.
  • If sediment clogs the assembly's screen and nozzle, the resin bed won't be cleaned and the water will stay hard.

Keep these helpful water softener tips in mind to help you when you fix your own water softener.

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