Properly maintaining your water softener is crucial for ensuring it operates efficiently and effectively softens the water in your home. While it's recommended to have a professional service your softener annually, there are some routine maintenance tasks you can do yourself between service appointments. In this guide, we'll provide step-by-step instructions for manually regenerating the resin bed, cleaning the brine tank, sanitizing components, and testing salt levels. We'll also cover key safety tips and how often tasks should be performed.
When to Manually Regenerate the Resin Bed
The resin bed is the part of your softener that removes hardness minerals like calcium and magnesium from water. It eventually becomes saturated with these minerals and needs to be regenerated to restore its softening capabilities. Here's when and how to do this:
1. If you notice hard water returns before the softener initiates a scheduled regeneration.
Hard water can return early if you've used more water than normal. To manually start a regeneration cycle:
Locate the manual regeneration button on the control head. It may say “Regen” or have a clockwise arrow icon.
Press and hold for 5 seconds until the display indicates a regeneration has been initiated.
2. At least once per year.
It's good practice to manually regenerate the resin bed annually even if you haven't experienced any decrease in performance. This helps flush out any accumulated sediment and prevent channeling. Follow the same manual regeneration steps above.
How Often to Clean the Brine Tank
The brine tank holds the salt that is dissolved to form the brine solution used in regeneration. It should be cleaned out periodically to remove salt sediment and debris:
Every 3 months - Inspect the brine tank and use a shop vac to remove any salt sediment.
Annually - Completely empty the tank and scrub the inside surfaces with a mild detergent. Rinse thoroughly before refilling with salt.
Step-by-Step Brine Tank Cleaning Process
Follow these steps to thoroughly clean out your brine tank:
1. Shut off water supply and power to softener
Locate the shutoff valves for the softener's inlet, outlet, and bypass lines. Turn them clockwise to the closed position. Unplug the power cable as well.
2. Drain the brine tank
There will be an overflow fitting midway up the tank. Place a bucket underneath and remove the overflow fitting to drain the remaining brine solution.
3. Remove salt bridge or salt mushing
Use a broom handle or wooden dowel to break up any large chunks of salt that have mush together. The brine needs to flow freely through the salt.
4. Vacuum out sediment
Use a wet/dry shop vac to remove all remaining salt, dirt, and debris at the bottom of the tank. Vacuum the sides as well.
5. Scrub inside surfaces
Mix a mild detergent like dish soap with warm water in a bucket. Use a scrub brush attached to a broomstick to scrub the entire interior surface.
6. Rinse tank thoroughly
Rinse away all soap residue using a garden hose inserted through the brine well opening. Allow the tank to completely air dry.
7. Refill with salt
Add new salt pellets or cubes. Don't overfill - leave 6-12 inches of open space at the top.
8. Replace fittings and reconnect
Replace the overflow fitting and open the shutoff valves to restore full water flow. Plug the power cable back in and set the time/date if needed.
Sanitizing the Brine Tank & Brine Well
In addition to cleaning, you should periodically sanitize the brine tank to inhibit bacteria growth. Follow these steps:
Make a sanitizing solution by mixing 1 cup of household bleach into 5 gallons of water.
Add solution to brine tank until it reaches the overflow fitting.
Open the brine valve and allow solution to flow into the brine well for 5 minutes.
Close brine valve and let stand for at least 30 minutes.
Drain and rinse thoroughly with fresh water.
Sanitize the tank at least once annually or whenever you clean it. Bleach solutions are hard on metals, so limit contact time. Rinse thoroughly afterward.
Testing and Adding Salt
Here's how to verify salt levels and top off your supply:
Inspect Salt Levels
The brine tank should never be completely empty, as this allows air to enter the softener system. Check levels monthly and refill when salt drops below 6 inches.
Pour salt directly over the brine well, allowing it to funnel into the compartment. Add slowly to prevent a rush of salt from clogging the brine valve.
Don't fill higher than 6-12 inches from the top to leave room for salt to dissolve and circulate. Overfilling can cause salt bridging.
Use Proper Salt
Use only sodium chloride pellets or cubes. Avoid rock, granulated, and ice cream-making salt, which can contain excessive dirt and sediments.
DIY Water Softener Maintenance Safety Tips
While routine care and cleaning of your softener is straightforward, observe these safety measures:
Wear goggles and gloves when handling bleach or other chemicals.
Read warning labels and follow safe handling procedures.
Drain all brine thoroughly before drinking any water.
Keep children and pets away from opened brine tanks.
Lift tanks properly by squatting and keeping your back straight. Water softener salt can be heavy.
Take care walking on wet, slippery salt around the softener.
Ensure fittings are tightly sealed before restoring water flow and pressure.
Routine maintenance will keep your water softener functioning properly for years to come. But for occasional repairs or comprehensive service, contact our team of water quality experts at Aqua-Wise Water Treatment Solutions in Tampa. We offer maintenance contracts as well as discounts, promotions, and financing options on all replacements and upgrades. Schedule your free water test today to see how we can optimize your water softening system.