A water softener removes hardness from water and makes it safe for daily use. However, it is also prone to malfunctioning if not appropriately maintained. This guide discusses the most common water softener problems and how to fix them.
1. Salt Bridging
Salt bridging occurs when a hard and crusty layer forms over the salt surface in the brine tank. It usually happens when the salt level is too high, or the softener is installed at a humid place.
Solution: You can remove the salt bridge with a wooden stick or a broom’s handle by banging it on top of the salt bridge. Once the bridge is broken, pour 1-2 liters of boiling water to break down the salt’s consistency so it can drain. This trick is particularly helpful for dissolving salt clogs at the bottom. Using a garden hose with a spray head to break and flush out salt particles.
The tank may fill while doing this. Please ensure that the discharge tube is placed in a drain or a container big enough to handle all the water going into the brine tank.
Alternatively, you can use a mesh or a strainer to remove salt particles.
You can prevent salt bridge formation by installing the unit in a non-humid place and never adding salt beyond the fill line.
2. Excessive Water in the Brine Tank
Water dissolves the salt in a water softener, but excessive water results in overflow. An overflowing water softener can happen due to the following reasons.
- Wrong Setting of Floating Valve
The floating valve controls the water level in the tank. A wrong setting will result in water overflowing or a too-concentrated brine tank.
Solution: Every water softener is different and requires a different float setting as per the water consumption and hardness level. Check the user manual and adjust the settings accordingly.
- Old Water Softener
Water softeners older than 8 years fail to function optimally due to wear and tear.
Solution: Replace your water softener if it is 8-10 years old.
- Broken Water Entry Valve
The water entry valve controls the amount of water entering the brine tank. Too much water will overflow the water softener.
Solution: Replace the water entry valve if it is broken.
3. Salt Mushing Due to Salt Crystallization
Salt mushing happens when salt breaks down into smaller granules that can’t dissolve in water. These granules deposit at the bottom of the brine tank and affect your softener’s functionality. It prevents the brine solution from moving into the resin tank.
Solution: Empty the brine tank and scrub the leftover salt. Add new salt. It is recommended to use high-quality salts to avoid this problem.
4. Not Enough Water in the Brine Tank
A Low water level in the brine tank is another common water softener problem. It can happen due to the following reasons.
- Clogged Brine Line
The brine line can get clogged due to sediment buildup, kinks, or blockages. It may have a leakage as well.
Solution: Examine the brine line for any kinks or blockages. You can flush the pipe to remove sediment buildup. Replace the pipe if it is broken.
- Float Valve Setting
A too-low setting on the float valve will not allow water to reach the optimum level.
Solution: Adjust the valve setting as per the user manual’s instruction, water consumption, and hardness level.
5. Soft Water Contains Granules (Damaged Resin Beds)
The resin bed in a water softener comprises small particles that usually start breaking after a few years. This is indicated by the presence of small particles in water leaving the softener.
Solution: The only and best solution is to replace the resin bed in your water softener.
6. The Water Softener is Unable to Use Salt
The water softener cannot use salt if the valve motor is faulty. The valve motor controls the amount of water entering the brine tank. If water does not enter the tank, salt will not dissolve; as a result, no brine will be formed.
Solution: You can fix this issue by replacing the faulty valve motor. However, it isn’t an easy DIY task. You may need to hire a professional.
7. Water Softener Won’t Regenerate
The regeneration process flushes out the minerals and refreshes the softening salt. Any problem in its frequency and timing can disrupt the softener’s functioning. Regeneration problems usually happen due to the following reasons.
- Wrong Regeneration Settings
Modern water softeners let you pick between a metered regeneration cycle or a customizable setting. These settings can go bad due to a system error or unit reset.
Solution: Check the system settings on the control head.
- Broken/Faulty Regeneration Timer
Older models have a regeneration timer that may stop working after some years. A broken or faulty timer will force the softener to regenerate sporadically or not at all.
Solution: Check the regeneration timer by setting it to a particular time. If the softener regenerates before or after the pre-set time, you need to replace the timer.
- Clogged Tubes
Another possible reason is tube clogging. The water softener will regenerate as usual, but it will stop making the water soft because the hard water minerals will not be removed during the regeneration cycle.
Solution: Remove the tubes and flush them to clear any obstruction.
8. Salty Taste of Soft Water
Excessive salt, lack of water in the brine tank, improper regeneration cycle, and wrong settings make the water salty.
Solution: You need to pinpoint why your softener produces salty water and then fix it. One way to fix the problem is by flushing the pinch drain hose on the water softener.
9. Soft Water is Brown
Brown water from a water softener isn’t a softener’s problem. It happens due to excessive sediment in water or pre-softener sediment filter failure. Sometimes, iron bacteria can also make water reddish brown.
Solution: Check the sediment filter installed before the water softener. Private well owners must get their water tested for bacteria. You can kill bacteria in water with chlorination or UV treatment..
10. Unusual Noises From Water Softener
Unusual sounds from a water softener indicate that something is not working properly in the system. It is a tell-tale sign that your softener needs an overall maintenance session.
Solution: Check all components of the water softener system, including valves and water lines, and also check the timer, motors, and air valves. If you find any of them faulty, replace or repair them as needed.
11. Incorrect Settings/ Wrong Installation
Many people opt for DIY installation over professional installation but often end up with a wrong installation, damaging sensitive parts, or setting up the unit incorrectly. It results in improper working, excessive salt consumption, or failure to soften water.
Solution: You must not go for a DIY water softener installation if you don’t know how plumbing and water treatment machines work. Moreover, if you know how these things work, it is recommended to follow the user manual. Some manufacturers don’t allow DIY installation; keep this in mind while installing the unit.
12. Water Softener is Leaking
Leaking is indeed one of the worst problems associated with water softeners. If you see that your water softener is leaking, immediately check all the connections between tanks, water pipes, and other parts. Incorrect installation could be the possible cause of water leaking. Besides this, worn-out parts could be the other reason.
Solution: Check the installation carefully and tighten the fittings and connections first. Also, check for the old and damaged components that might cause water leakage and replace or repair them. Call a professional if you fail to locate the issue.
13. Water Softener Is Reducing Water Pressure
Water softeners may reduce pressure due to clogged resin, sediment buildup, or reduced water inlet pressure.
Solution: Check incoming water pressure before checking the water softener. You can do this by opening any tap before the water enters the softener.
You don’t need to check your softener if the pressure is slow in that tap. If the pressure is fine, check your water softener for salt bridges, clogging, or kinks in pipes..
Common Water Softener Problems for Popular Brands & their Solutions
SpringWell Water Softeners
Leakages and low pressure are the most common problems reported by SpringWell users. Here’s how you can fix them.
- Check the O-rings and plumbing connections in the unit.
- Replace the o-rings if they are worn.
- Tighten the connections if required.
- SpringWell offers a lifetime warranty on its softeners. Contact customer support before making any repairs.
Low Water Pressure Problems
- Bypass the water softener and check the incoming water pressure. High pressure without a water softener means something is wrong with the unit.
- Check the sediment filter before the water softener; clean it if it is clogged.
- Check the pressure from the water softener. You may need to replace or clean the resin beads to restore the pressure if cleaning the sediment filter doesn’t help.
Whirlpool Water Softeners
The most common issue with a whirlpool water softener is excessive water in the brine tank. It usually happens due to a damaged rubber gasket. Here’s how you can deal with it.
- Set the unit to bypass mode and unplug it.
- Remove all the salt from the brine tank, disassemble the nozzle and replace the gasket.
- Assemble the nozzle and run a test cycle without salt to check if it is running correctly.
- An optimum working system will have 2-2.5 inches of water in the tank.
GE Water Softeners
The common problems with GE water softeners are error codes and a stuck control panel.
You can fix error codes with the help of the user manual. A stuck control panel is often fixed by restarting the unit by unplugging it and then plugging it back. You may need to replace the touch panel if restarting doesn’t work.
Culligan Water Softeners
Culligan users report that low pressure and constantly draining water are the common issues they face.
You can fix the low-pressure problem by bypassing the unit and checking the pressure. You may need to clean or replace the pre-sediment filter or clean resin beads to remove any blockages that may hinder water flow.
Culligan water softeners constantly draining water happens when the unit is stuck in the regeneration cycle. Contact customer support to get the problems fixed.
Maintenance Tips to Avoid Water Softener Problems
- Ensure you buy a system sized correctly for your home.
- Always use high-quality softening salts.
- Look out for clogging, salt bridges, and kinks in pipes.
- Never DIY install the unit if you aren’t a pro at handling plumbing connections.
- Clean the resin tank when recommended.
- Clean and inspect the Venturi valve as it sends brine solution from the salt tank to the resin bed during regeneration.