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Do Water Softeners Need a Drain?

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

do water softeners need a drain

Do you have a water softener system at home? Then you are probably here to ask, ‘do water softeners need a drain.’ This appliance is present in almost all homes and has become a necessity. In detail, it removes hard minerals from the water, leaving you with a soft water supply. The salt in the system deals with mineral deposits, but what about the crud at the bottom? That is where the drain line comes into the picture.

There are several kinds of water filters that can prevent pipe scaling without needing a drain. However, this is only a tiny category since most water softener units need gutters and hoses to work.

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Do Water Softeners Need a Drain


The answer to that question is a definite yes. A drain line is necessary for the proper disposal of the spent water and to avoid any arising issues. Without the drain, the brine will try to go back into the hard water line. As a result, the discharge will overflow, and there will be water line issues. It is also crucial to have the proper setup and understanding to prevent any errors that could lead to headaches and added costs.

Another thing to note, two lines are needed when installing a drain for a water softener unit. Why? One line will be for the control valve and should be installed first. This will dispose of the backwash water during the regeneration cycle. The other line will be connected to the brine tank leading to the water softener drain and will serve as the overflow drain.

Where to Drain


There are different drain line options that you can consider for your water softener. But before you proceed with the installation, it is vital to know where to drain the brine. In most areas, regulations protect the community’s water. This limits where you can set up your water softener system.

There are certain areas where draining outside is allowed. But you need to consider if the discharge can make the soil unable to support plant life. Some people dig a dry well where the brine will be sent to avoid killing the lawn.

Draining into septic systems is authorized in some places. This is the most accessible location where you can install your drain line for your water softener unit. However, some homeowners don’t do it for fear of causing damage to the system. The information available points out that the damage is minor and is not worth worrying about.

Aside from these, other more common drain locations will depend on the drain type that you choose. If you can find a suitable option between these that won’t cause any hindrance, then go for it. Otherwise, you can come back to considering draining outside or to a septic system.

Types of Drains

The industry standard pipe size for a drain line is ½” pipe. It should be made of polypropylene, rigid yet flexible. To go with this, you have to choose the type of drain. Before settling on one, make sure to check local laws and restrictions on your area. Here are three of the most used drain options that work for a water softener system.

  • Laundry Tray

Some people call this a utility sink or laundry tub. It works as an air gap, so you don’t need to have it installed separately. Besides, the laundry tray is versatile and beneficial for other purposes. If you have enough space around your water softener system, this type of drain is worth considering.

  • Floor Drain

If you have an existing floor drain, you can use it to drain the brine from the water softener unit. Otherwise, you will need to check your local area codes if this type of drain is allowed. The strict rules are set to avoid the contamination of sewer systems, waterways, and sump pumps.

  • Properly Trapped Outlets

When tying directly to an outlet instead of a drain line, a properly trapped outlet is needed. This will keep the brine from coming back to the plumbing and keep the smell contained. A weekly regeneration is also required to ensure that the water has enough time to leach into the ground between uses.

Water Softener Not Draining

Why is my water softener not draining properly? There are several possible reasons behind this issue. Take a look at this list:

  • Hose Placement and Installation

Check if the draining line is connected higher than the water softener unit. Twisted pipes can also block the line and cause poor drainage. Don’t forget to inspect the exit end as it might be in the water, preventing a smooth flow of the brine.

  • Poorly Installed Incoming Water Lines

Are the incoming water lines hooked correctly? If there is any error during the installation, the water can flow in the wrong direction. This could affect the water count in the display and is likely to remain as it is without increasing.

  • Wrongly Programmed Timer

A wrong model code input in the faceplate or timer can mess up the programming. It might look like a minor fault, but it can cause the water softener unit not to drain correctly. The Venturi Assembly could also not work well in providing the pipe with suctioning, so don’t forget to check on it.

  • Dried Seals

There could be dried seals along that line that are hindering the pipe from draining. For cases like this, it is best to contact experts. Avoid opening the unit by yourself, especially when the warranty is still valid. You might damage the line and void the warranty.

Without a drain line, your water softener unit will not function properly. Running the regeneration cycle will fill up the brine tank. The salt solution will be too diluted, and the softener will not regenerate accordingly. Unless the safety float is engaged and drain lines are installed, the water will remain hard. Thus, you should learn more about the amount of salt to use for the water softener for best results.

Preventative Measures for the Best Water Softener Drain Line Performance

Knowing when and how often to drain your water softener unit is one of the essential things you should do. The amount of brine water to drain depends on how much water your home uses. The hardness of the water and the capacity of the resin tank also play an essential role.

On average, with an efficient water softener and regular water usage, the time-frequency of draining a water softener would be every three days or once a week. However, the water capacity could be lower for older units, so there is a need to regenerate more often, sometimes more than once a day. In this case, you’ll have to drain frequently.

Moreover, it is crucial to regularly clean the water softener components with a good cleaner. This will prevent the unit from filling up with water. You can also contact maintenance services if you are not confident in doing it yourself. Here are some of the upkeep they do:

  • Resin Bed Clean-Out
  • Regular Tune-Ups
  • Replacement of Parts
  • Water Softener Diagnostic Check
  • Water Softener Clean Out
  • Ultraviolet Light Replacement
  • Big Blue Filter Replacement

Remember that prevention is always better than dealing with the problems that the lack of it causes. This will also save you a lot of money in the long run. Every time you are unsure of what to do, ask experts and don’t tinker with your unit. You might end up spending more on repairs.

Final Thoughts

Water softeners require a drain. If yours doesn’t, then it is probably more of a water filter than a softener. For water softener units without a drain, it is crucial to understand the rules and regulations before setting up a line. Otherwise, you will encounter problems that will cost you time and money.

For drain line issues beyond your ability, it is always best to contact a professional and avoid nullifying the system’s warranty. Choosing the right cleaner for your water softener unit can do a lot to make it work efficiently.

Do the right thing and have a drain line installed on your water softener system. It is a small step you can take to make your everyday life better.

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