How to fix a water softener

Last updated on: April 1, 2024.

A water softener or water filtration system removes hardness from water by exchanging ions between the water and a salt solution. The exchange process is known as ion exchange. The water softener uses the ion-exchange process, exchanging the hardness-causing ions in the water (calcium and magnesium) with sodium or potassium ions. This process makes the water softer because it removes the hardness-causing minerals. Water softeners are used in many households because hard water can cause a number of problems.

Hard water can cause limescale buildup in the plumbing, pipes, and fixtures, making them less efficient and more likely to break. It can also make clothes feel stiff and scratchy and cause skin irritation. A water softener may be a good choice for you if you have hard water. Water softeners can be purchased at most home improvement stores. Make sure you follow the instruction manual for installation and use.

In spite of following these instructions and maintaining the water softener as required, you may face a few challenges. For instance, your water softener can stop functioning correctly, and you may be faced with a few tough decisions. First, let us understand what causes your water softener to fail.

What happens when a water softener goes bad?

What happens when water softener goes bad

You may notice that your water is not as soft as it used to be or that your dishes aren’t getting as clean. These are both signs that your water softener may have gone bad. A water softener is a device used to remove hardness minerals from water. These minerals can build up on your pipes and fixtures and can make your water feel gritty. If you think your water softener may have gone bad, there are a few things you can do to check.

First, check the salt level in the softener. If it’s low, that could be the problem.

Second, check the hardness of your water. If it’s higher than it used to be, that could also be a sign that the softener isn’t working.

If you find that your water softening unit has gone bad, you’ll need to replace it. This is a relatively simple process, and there are many different types of softeners to choose from, but be sure to do your research to find the best one for your needs.

There are a few common water softener problems that you can fix by yourself. We will discuss this in detail with tips on handling such issues.

6 Common Water Softener Problems and How to fix them:

How do you unclog a water softener?

Water softeners can become clogged over time and will need to be unclogged. There are several ways that you can unclog a water softener, depending on the cause of the clog. If hard water deposits cause the clog, you can try running a solution of vinegar and water through the softener to break up the mineral deposits.

Vinegar and Water solution can unclog Water Softeners

If the clog is caused by sediment, you can try flushing the softener with clean water to remove the sediment. If the clog is because of something else, you may need to call a plumber to have the softener professionally cleaned.

How to fix a leaking water softener?

Water softeners are installed in our homes to remove minerals from water. These hard minerals can cause a number of problems in households, such as hard water stains on fixtures and clothing. A water softener will use a process known as ion exchange to remove these minerals from the water. Sometimes, the water softener may have sprung a leak that needs to be fixed quickly before it becomes too large to handle.

How to fix a leaking water softener

The first step in fixing a leaking water softener is to determine the source of the leak. If the leak is coming from the unit itself, it will likely be due to a faulty valve. The best way to fix this type of leak is to replace the valve.

If the leak is coming from the connections to the unit, it is likely due to a loose connection. The best way to fix this type of leak is to tighten the connection. Once the source of the leak has been determined, the next step is to repair the leak. 

How to fix salt bridge in water softener?

Salt bridges are caused by an accumulation of salt and other minerals that can form inside your water softener. It can happen if the water in your area is high in minerals or if the softener isn’t properly maintained. A salt bridge can cause your softener to work less efficiently and can even lead to damage. If you suspect that you have a salt build up, you’ll need to remove it before it causes any further problems.

The first step is to shut off the power to your softener. Next, remove the salt from the salt or brine tank. You can take it out with a spoon or by using a wet/dry vacuum. You may need to break up the salt bridge with a broom handle.

Once the salt is removed, flush the brine tank with fresh water. It will remove any residual salt and minerals that could cause the formation of new salt bridges. Finally, restart your water softener and check the brine tank to ensure the salt level is correct.

How to fix a water softener that won’t drain?

If your water softener doesn’t drain, it could be because of a clog in the drain line. You will need to clear the clog to fix this problem.

Start by disconnecting the power to the water softener. Working on a water-using unit is unsafe when it is connected to a power supply.

Next, locate the drain line. It is usually a clear plastic tube that runs from the water softener to a nearby drain.

Once you have located the drain line, use a plunger to try and clear the clog. If this doesn’t work, you would need a plumber’s snake to clear the line.

Once the drain line is clear, reconnect the power to the water softener and turn it on. The unit should now be able to drain properly.

How to fix water softener noise?

A few different things can cause water softener noise.

First, check to see if the unit’s placement is level. If it’s not, adjust the legs until it is.

Second, check the brine tank to ensure the salt level is high enough. If it’s not, add more salt.

Third, check the inlet valve to see if it’s clogged. If it is, clean it out.

Finally, check the control valve to see if it’s set properly. If it’s not, adjust it accordingly.

What to do when water softener is causing pressure loss?

What to do when the water softener is causing pressure loss

If a water softener causes water pressure loss, the first thing to do is check the device settings. If the settings are incorrect, the units can use too much water and not function properly. If the settings are correct, the next thing to do is check the salt level. If the salt level is too low, it can cause the water softener to not work properly. The next thing to do is check the filters. If the filters are clogged, they can cause the water softener not to work properly.

However, clogging caused by limescale can also reduce water pressure. Therefore, regular maintenance of the water softener is imperative.

How to prevent water softener issues:

One of the most common water softener issues is that the system can become overwhelmed and overloaded with minerals. It can lead to a decrease in water pressure and increase the time it takes for the water to flow through the system.

In some cases, the water can become so hard that it can damage your home’s pipes and fixtures. If you notice even one of these problems, it is important to contact a professional to have your water softener repaired or replaced. Read on to understand how to prevent water softener issues:

Use a wet vacuum to clean the brine tank

wet vacuum cleaner

A wet vacuum cleaner is used to clean the brine tank by removing all the water from the tank. The vacuum cleaner then sucks up all the dirt and debris from the bottom of the tank. To use a wet vacuum to clean the brine tank, first, make sure that the tank is empty. Next, attach the vacuum to the tank and turn it on. Slowly move the vacuum around the tank to remove any residual brine.

Water softeners that regenerate themselves are the best to buy

Water softeners that regenerate themselves are the best to buy for a number of reasons:

  • They are more efficient than manual models, meaning they use less water and salt.
  • They are easier to maintain since you don’t have to remember to regenerate the unit manually.
  • They are less expensive in the long run since you don’t have to buy salt to regenerate the unit.

Make sure the settings are optimal.

It is vital to check the settings on your water softener regularly to ensure they are still optimal. This is because the settings can change over time, affecting how well the softener works.

If the settings are not optimal, it can lead to water hardness, which can cause a number of problems. You will need to consult the user’s manual for your specific model to check the settings.

Salt should be of good quality.


There are many benefits to using good quality salt in the water softener. Salt is an integral part of the water softening process, and using good quality salt can help improve the efficiency of the softener and the water quality. Good quality salt can also help extend the softener’s life and keep it working properly.

Don’t hesitate to contact a professional when in doubt.

Before you call a professional to fix your water softener, you may want to rule out some of the common problems that may cause your water softener’s failure to function optimally.

Does it have electricity?

Sometimes, the problem is straightforward but also very common. We don’t realize that the electricity is off because we have unplugged the system. Check to ensure that your unit is plugged in and that the outlet is hot. Also, check to see if the breaker switch has been thrown.

Check the bypass valve and switch.

Water softeners have a bypass valve that directs water into or away from them. If one of the handles is pointing in the wrong direction, it means that the water is not getting filtered or softened. Close the bypass valve.

When Does it Regenerate?

If the timer is set incorrectly or has failed, your water softener could be regenerating at the wrong time of day, or it may have stopped regenerating. Typically, a single-tank water softener should be set to regenerate at night when the water usage is low. If it comes on during the day when water use is higher, you may find that the unit can’t keep up with your usage.

Only a dual-tank water softener can give you softened water because one tank will undergo the regeneration process while the other will continue to soften water. You must also test the timer by setting it for a daily cycle and check if the unit comes on at night. 

Is there enough (Or too much) salt?

Generally, the salt level should be three or four inches above the water. The system won’t work properly if the salt level is too low. Maintaining an optimal salt level is the ideal solution here. Furthermore, using the wrong type of salt can cause salt bridges to form above the water level in the tank, thereby affecting the water treatment process.

To remove a salt bridge, tap on the bridge with something hard and blunt, like a broom handle. Be careful not to tap on the tank. You can scoop out the crusted salt more easily or run fresh water and let it drain out. If your water tastes funny or a little too salty, the unit is using too much salt — or the drain hose is clogged and doesn’t flush the brine solution fully.

Is there enough (Or too much) water in the tank?

Water flow into the brine tank must be without any obstruction and then back out just as easily if the water softener is doing its job. A float switch regulates the water level. If this float valve malfunctions, the tank may collect too much water and not empty. You’ll have to scoop out the water by hand. When it functions properly, you won’t be able to see the water in the tank. If the float valve is fine, the problem may be a clog in the drain control or the hose or a problem with the timer.

If you find that the water is not entering the tank, you may need to check if the float switch is stuck. The float mechanism may need to be replaced if taking out the excess water and cleaning doesn’t fix the problem.

Has the resin depleted?

Over time, the tank’s resin beads can deplete because it is saturated with hard minerals, and your unit may need resin replacement. It reduces the effectiveness of removing unwanted chemicals from the water. While the regeneration process refreshes the resin beads to enable cleaning water, older water softeners tend to show signs of wear and tear and need measures to replenish the resin beads. After years of hard water flowing through the tank, the resin can wear out, at which time you may need a new water softener. 

Maybe the motor is faulty

You may need to check the motor to see if it is running properly. The water softener cannot function correctly if it is sluggish or not running fast enough.

These simple checks can be helpful before calling in a professional and spending money on their services. Knowing the problem is half the battle. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Who do you call to repair a water softener system?

If your water softener isn’t working properly, there are a few things you can check before calling a repair person. First, check the power supply to ensure the unit is plugged in and receiving power. Next, check the salt level in the unit. If it’s low, you’ll need to add more salt. If the unit is plugged in and receiving power and the salt level is fine, you would need to call customer service or the dealer to arrange for a water softener maintenance person.

2. How do you know when your water softener needs to be replaced?

If your water softener isn’t working efficiently, it may need to be replaced. Here’s how you will know that your water softener needs to be replaced:

  • Your water feels harder than usual.
  • You’re using more soap than normal to get things clean.
  • Your dishes and laundry aren’t as clean as they used to be.
  • You’re seeing more mineral deposits around your home.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to replace your water softener. Otherwise, you’ll continue to have water hardness, which can damage your plumbing and appliances.

3. What happens if you run water softener without salt?

If you run a water softener without salt, the unit will not be able to remove the hardness from the water. It can also lead to several other problems, including decreased water pressure, reduced efficiency of the unit, and an overall decrease in your water quality.

4. What is the average lifespan of a water softener?

A water softener typically has a lifespan of about 10-20 years. However, the actual lifespan will depend on several factors, such as the quality of the unit, the type of water it is used with, and the level of maintenance.

5. Should there be water in bottom of water softener?

Water softeners are built to remove hardness-causing minerals from water, but many homeowners are not sure if there should be a little water in the bottom of their unit. The answer is yes; water should be in the bottom of your water softener. This is because the water in the bottom of the unit is used to remove the hardness from your water.

Without water in the bottom of the unit, the water softener would not be able to function correctly.



Many regions across the country are forced to endure hard water thanks to the hardness-causing minerals and other contaminants that enter the water supply.  It is only natural that there is an increase in demand for high-quality water softeners. However, it is not enough to buy a new water softener if you don’t know enough about how to fix the more common issues that may come up.

It is best to know how to handle a few things by yourself so that you don’t lose time waiting for the professional and spending money on something you could have fixed easily if you only knew how. This article aims to give you a few tips on what to look for and how to fix your water softener before looking at replacement or professional assistance.

About The Author

Our Web Producer

Judith— a passionate water treatment specialist — is a waste water management enthusiast, clean drinking water advocate, and someone with deep personal experience and knowledge about various water equipments. Her work was mentioned in countless notable water associations. Previously she was an editor at Water Alliance.