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How to Keep Your Water Softener in Great Condition

One of the things you might have in your home if you live in a hard water state is a water softener. Abrasive ‘hard’ water contains high levels of calcium and magnesium, causing lime scale buildup and interfering with soap’s ability to clean.  Water softeners can save you money, and increase the lifespan of many of your home appliances. In hard water states, the build-up of scale on the insides of pipes, water heaters, showerheads, and faucets can create a headache for homeowners. This often leads to costly repairs and maintenance.

Maintaining a water softener

There are two main components of a water softener: a brine tank and a resin tank. Some of the water softener models are both tanks in one, and some have the two tanks separate. Both need maintenance.

Right amount of salt

The main thing you should do to maintain your brine tank is to make sure you have the right amount of salt inside of the tank. Don’t let the tank run out of salt, but also don’t overfill it. That’s what creates annoying salt clogs or bridges, that will need to be taken care of.  A good rule of thumb for brine solution is to put salt into the tank when it has dwindled to about a fourth of a tank.

Right kind of salt

Know what kind of salt to add. Your water softening unit manual will tell you whether your machine runs on granular, tablet, or block salt. Granular salt is the most common type of salt because it dissolves most easily. Buy it in pellet form if possible, since ordinary salt crystals can easily clog the tank.

Salt bridges and piles

Break up salt bridges. Salt can form a solid layer or “bridge” in the brine tank. This prevents the loose salt on top from mixing with the water down below, preventing the softener from working. Push a long broom handle several times around the center of the tank, all the way to the bottom, to break up any solid layers that have formed.

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This type of salt can also form a soft pile at the base of the tank, causing the water to rise around it instead of mixing in. You can use a broom handle to break this up if it forms a large mound.

Keep the tank clean

It’s also important to keep the tank clean. Modern water softeners can go without cleaning for 5–10 years. Clean them only if your water has turned hard and the basic maintenance above doesn’t fix the problem within a couple days. Older water softening models can benefit from an annual cleaning.

When it comes to water softener cleaning, first empty all the water from the tank, then scrub and rinse the tank well before refilling with water. You can use a scrub brush and dish soap to scrub away dirt and residue.

Check the valves

Another item to check is the valves. About once a month, adjust the bypass valve in to temporarily cut off the softener from your water supply. (The bypass valve is usually a rod you push in to block water flow.) Twist the intake and outtake valves to the off position, then back to their original position. Return the bypass valve to its old position. This keeps the valves in good working condition. If a valve leaks or drips, take it apart and replace any washers or seals that are damaged. 

Closing thoughts

It is important to take care of your water softener appliance so that it can perform in top condition. Taking care of your hard water issues is important. Having a water softener system will save you time and money down the road.