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Most Common Water Softener Problems and How to Fix Them

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

most common water softener problems

Water softeners, like any machinery, can face issues. When the unit starts acting up, its ability and efficiency in delivering soft water are affected.

Contacting a certified company for technical assistance can be expensive. Fortunately, the most common water softener problems can be easily recognized and addressed. But before anything else, one should know how water softeners work. Read on to find out about the common issues that these units can encounter and tips on how to deal with them.

Table of Contents

Most Common Water Softener Problems and How to Fix Them


To determine the seriousness of the issue and properly address them, it is crucial to measure the hardness of the water. You can do this by testing the feed water and the output water using test kits that are inexpensive and can yield accurate results.

From the result of that test, we can proceed to the first problem that is often experienced by many water softeners.

1. It does not soften water

When the water test results reveal that you have hard water, there are several things that you can do.

  • First, check if you have plugged or powered the unit. These are simple things, but we sometimes forget to do them.
  • Next, examine if there are leaks in the bypass valve. To address this, replaceable o-rings are needed. Contact a professional for this.
  • Inspect the water in the tank. There could be salt mushing or debris in the brine container, or there are draw cycle defects. Manually run a regeneration cycle.

2. It does not regenerate

There are several reasons for your water softener’s improper regeneration cycle. This includes a lack of electrical power, a power failure that caused an inappropriate setting of the clock, and a defective timer. Have the faulty parts replaced for the cycle to work again.

3. It makes noises

Any appliance, including your water softener unit, is made of many moving parts. When you hear some loud noise, it doesn’t automatically mean it is malfunctioning. But it is always safer to check and address any issue.

Inspect the tubing or valves to see if there is anything clogging them or if they are broken. It could also be loose parts of a worn-out timer. Replacements are needed for torn parts and cleaning for clogged lines.

4. It’s brine tank does not empty and overflows

When the saline water is unusually high, the common causes could be the following:

  • A blocked injector or educator
  • Damaged piston
  • Clogged drain line

Cleaning and replacing the parts will fix the issue. Always remember that you shouldn’t fill the brink container to the top. In addition, unless the tank is very low on salt, the bottom should always be on view.

5. It experiences loss of water pressure

This could be due to the iron build-up inside the conditioner or its supply piping, resin depletion, or clogged control inlet. The problem with resin loss can be determined when there is a noticeable decrease in pressure while using faucets and showerheads. For build-up issues, cleaning them is the solution.

6. It produces stinky water

The rotten-egg odor of your water is caused by hydrogen sulfide or sulfates. A water filter will not solve this problem when it is caused by bacterial contamination. The only option to address this is a chlorine injection system. A careful diagnosis is needed before the treatment, and it is best done by a professional.

How Long Before You Need to Replace Your Water Softener


On average, it could last for 10 to 15 years. The lifespan of your water softener could vary depending on the kind and standard of the water softener that you have. For a single tank electric unit, it could last for 12 years, while other high-end and pricey units can reach 20 years before needing a replacement.

However, one should note that no appliance is eternal. Once your unit reaches 5 years, and you start to notice hard water symptoms or any of the issues mentioned above, it is time for replacement.

But this doesn’t mean that you should ignore your water softener system until the symptoms show up. It is necessary to do regular maintenance to keep it in optimal working condition and to extend its lifespan.

Lengthen Your Water Softener’s Lifespan

Here are some things you can do to give your water softener a long and healthy life:

  • Change the filter or your unit following the manual.
  • Don’t let your softener run out of salt solution. Refill before the water is noticeable in the brine container.
  • Use high-quality pellets. While it costs more, it has less residue build-up, saving you money in the long run.
  • Flush the resin bed once a year to maintain the efficacy of the resin beads.
  • Refill the salt supply before the tank is ⅓ full. Don’t fill it to the brim but leave 4 to 6 inches of space.
  • Check for salt bridges and remove them when you are adding salt to the drum.
  • Don’t force the unit to work too hard. Make sure that the setting is on an appropriate level to properly soften your water. Anything higher than that will cause undue wear.

Regular water softener maintenance will go a long way in extending your unit’s life. Besides, it will save you money in having issues fixed, which could’ve been prevented with a routine upkeep schedule.

When to Replace Water Softener Unit

When an issue occurs on your water softener, the first thing you should do is examine and see if you can still fix it. Otherwise, it would be best if you had it serviced or replaced with a new system. There are several tell-tale signs that you need to purchase a new water softener unit:

  • Change in water pressure
  • The system runs continually
  • Presence of sand-like particles in the output water
  • The system does not regenerate or constantly regenerates
  • There are crusty build up around faucets and pipes

Some of these issues were given a solution in the section above but think about getting it serviced when you cannot fix it yourself. If your softener experiences two or more of these, it is a clear indication that you need to replace your unit.

There are also circumstances where the unit is working correctly but is nearing or past its life expectancy. You should consider the latest water softeners such as portable water softeners, citric acid water softeners, smart water softeners to maximize performance and protect your family’s health.

Final Thoughts

All of the above are the most common water softener problems. Any water softener problem can disrupt your daily routine. Thus, it is always handy to have water hardness test kits ready. Keep the tips above in mind to address common issues and have the unit fixed as soon as possible. However, if the problem persists, it could be an indicator that you need to replace the unit with a new one.

If you feel that your skill level cannot take on the task, you can always contact a professional. The last thing you want is to permanently damage your water softener unit.

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