Overview: Check the control settings
Is your soft water not so soft anymore?
You can often fix the problem
yourself. However, if you have
an older softener (20 years or so) and
none of these fixes work, it may need
replacement ($500 and up).
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, where it
dissolves the accumulated minerals and is
flushed down the drain.
Before you tear apart your 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 the hardness setting is
still correct—well water hardness can
change over time. Bring a small container
of your water to a water softener dealer for
a water hardness test, then check the
results against your settings.
Note: Set the water supply to “bypass”
before working on the softener. And run
the hot water after you turn the softener
back on to flush out any hard water.
Step 1: Look for salt problems
Check for salt problems in the brine tank.
Start by pushing 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
Don't use rock salt; it contains dirt and
other impurities that can clog the
Step 2: 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” (dissolved
iron makes a glass of water turn
cloudy or rusty after sitting for several
minutes). Otherwise the resin bed won't
remove the iron (photo).
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Step 3: Clean the venturi assembly
The salty water flows through these parts
from the brine tank to the resin tank. If
the screen and nozzle get clogged by sediment,
the resin bed won't be cleaned and
the water will stay hard (photos).