Cleaning is not always enjoyable but can often pay dividends that we only see through consistently cleaning and doing proper maintenance on our systems. Cleaning Water softeners are no exception to this rule, even more so since they collect and clean our water so well and so reliably for us when they are taken care of properly.
Proper water softener maintenance will also increase longevity and lower repair costs. And the good news is that it’s simple enough for every homeowner to take care of.
How to Clean Water Softener System
A standard water softener needs to be cleaned once a year to every five years, depending on the circumstances. However, if all of a sudden output water hardness increases or the water is discolored or smells funny, it’s a good idea to clean the entire system as soon as possible.
1. Detach All Pipes
Before you go ahead, disconnect all the pipes connecting to the water softening unit. Once that’s done, throw away all the water that’s present in the resin tank. You can drain it all out, but make sure not to drain it on your plants or the lawn.
2. Get Rid Of The Old-Salt
Check if there’s any leftover salt present in the tank, as you will need to throw it away. If there are big chunks of salt, you can pour some hot water into the tank and scoop it out. Make sure that all the salt is thrown away.
3. Pick A Trusted Resin Cleaner
For cleaning your water softener, always go by the manufacturer’s recommended brand of resin cleaner. Choosing a commercial resin cleaner is your best bet, and use an appropriate amount.
Once you do that, it automatically replaces all the mineral ions with sodium as it’s designed to remove mineral residue.
You can choose a commercial cleaner that cleans out a particular element, such as iron. If you feel that your water softener has too much iron build-up, choose a commercial cleaner. If your softener unit has other mineral residues, make sure to use another cleaner that helps remove them.
4. Add The Cleaner
Now, add the cleaner to the water softener brine tank. If your softener unit doesn’t have a brine tank, add the cleaner to the salt tank. Make sure to add the cleaner when the salt is low.
5. Optional Bleach Cleaning
For a deep clean, you can add bleach to the water softener unit. Here’s how you can do it. You need to mix ¼ cup of household bleaching element such as vinegar into approximately 5 liters of clean water in a tub. Stir it well and leave for 15 minutes.
Now pour this mixture into the water softener and scrub nicely with a long-handled brush. Let it stay around 10 minutes before you dump the bleach water.
After draining the unit, rinse it thoroughly with enough clean water. Feel free to use this bleach solution for cleaning the resin bed and the brine tank.
Bleach is excellent at sanitizing the entire unit and neutralizing bacteria that exist in the water. Just remember to keep the bleach solution at 50-100 parts per million (or mg/liter).
6. Activate The Renewal Process
You will find a control knob on the valve in most water softener units that control the regeneration mode. Just screw the knob counter-clockwise to turn this mode on. Once you do this, the water flow is reversed.
Now, the membranes and tank water are rinsed out automatically, and all leftover debris is removed.
7. Activate The Regeneration Once More
You can also turn on the regeneration process once more to give the unit a complete deep clean. Doing this helps all the remaining debris to go away. If your water softener tank bed has a calcium or iron layer, you can do this process for the third time.
8. Set Up Normal Operations
After you complete the tank inspection, turn the regeneration knob clockwise. Doing this will stop the regeneration process and set the unit back into normal mode.
9. Reassemble The Water Softener
After completing all the earlier steps, you can reassemble the water softener unit. Pour about 55 gallons of water into the salt or brine tank.
10. Add The Right Quantity Of Salt
In a typical water softening tank, you can add a 100-pound bag of salt. Always make sure to maintain about one-quarter of water softening salt. Avoid adding salt up to the brim. It’s recommended to leave a six-inch gap from the salt to the brim of the tank.
11 Reset The Softness
You can choose to remove more minerals by resetting the water softener’s dial or pushing a button. Since the water supply’s mineral content keeps changing, you can also make the required adjustments to the softener.
12 Do A Test Run
After completing all the above steps, run water through the water softener unit for 8-10 minutes to rinse it well. If you feel its smell or taste is funny, go ahead and rinse the unit for another 10 minutes.
How to Clean Water Softener Resin Tank
Cleaning a water softeners resin tank can be the difference between wonderful water and brown-looking iron water. So how do you clean it?
The best timing for cleaning it will be when the salt is already running a little on the low side to where you do not have to dump all the salt inside it. By cleaning it when it is running low, you can either.
Unplug the water softener and remove the tank and clean it with bleach (only 50-100 PPM; otherwise, risk damaging the resin bed) and water mixture.
Or you can go the easier route and buy an iron-removing product made for cleaning water softeners from a home improvement store and follow the directions on the package.
If you choose not to clean it when it is running low, you will have to follow these steps
- Turn off and unplug the water softener
- Empty the tank, including any salt that it may have as well.
- Add in a bleach solution or an iron-removing cleaner with the same instructions as when salt is low.
How to Clean Water Softener Tank
Cleaning a water softener tank means not being able to drink out of your water at all during a manual regeneration cycle. This is because of using bleach wisely and keeping it with 50-100 PPM as not to damage any resin beads, but enough to kill any bacteria that may have been growing inside either tank.
Be careful and be sure not to over-bleach because if there is too much bleach, it will, without a doubt, start to damage the resin beads and eventually make them no longer work at all.
1. Choosing the Correct Cleaning Solution
Specific cleaner solutions exist for particular water softener resin tanks. The cleaner you choose will depend on the type of tank you have and what minerals it targets (e.g., if your water has higher amounts of calcium, you will need a cleaner that targets calcium).
You will need to either read your owner’s manual or search for your specific type and brand information.
2. Pouring the Solution into Tank
The proper amount of cleaner must be used to make the most out of your cleaning – too much or too little solution may not sanitize it enough.
Follow the instructions located on your cleaning product. It will tell you how many solutions you will need (you may need to adjust it according to your tank size).
Note: This is for a brine tank. If your tank is not brine, you can pour the solution into the salt tank. Be aware, though; this can damage the salt. It is best to do this when it’s near time to refill your salt.
3. Flushing the Debris
Locate your control valve and change the unit to the regeneration mode. This will help to flush out dirt and grime out of your tank. The system will do this manually.
Do this process twice to get a cleaner tank, as some of the mineral build-ups may still be in your tank after the first flush. If more build-up persists, try this process once more. When finished, you can move on to the next step.
4. Switching Back to Normal Mode
Please return to your control valve once again, and switch the tank back to its normal settings. Then run tap water through the tank to rinse out any remaining cleaning solution.
Clean A Water Softener Filter
Cleaning a water softener prefilter is not always worth it, but having the prefilter is always worth it for your water softener system’s health. Depending on where you live and what you are filtering out, it may get dirty too quickly with reusable ones that the filters never clean.
This is where disposable ones will come into play. Disposable ones will not have anything too small to get out stuck in them already and will be able to continue to filter for longer and better than the reusable ones.
If you decide to get reusable ones, you will need to keep the instructions that come with the filter to know how it is supposed to be cleaned. Depending on the company, these directions will change for how to clean them properly.
How To Clean A Water Softener Resin Bed
Cleaning the resin bed of a water softener is probably one of the most critical aspects of cleaning water softeners. If the resin bed reaches capacity, then the water softener will no longer work properly.
You will want to get a resin cleaner that is specifically designed for mineral build-up. If you know if you have a specific issue with any particular minerals, you may want to test your water to see if you have any abnormal levels. That way, you can get a more specific cleaner for the resin bed.
Follow the cleaner bottle’s directions, and make sure you can set aside time for when you do not need any water to run a manual regeneration cycle.
Cleaning the Brine Tank
The best time to clean the brine tank is when it has almost run out of salt. This way, you don’t have to scoop it all out by hand, and the tank is lightweight so that you can move it around for easy access. Maybe you even want to take it outside where you don’t have to be super careful about making a water mess.
What’s more, when the salt level is low, you can already see any dirt or mold in the bottom of the tank.
If the salt has turned into a bridge already, disconnect lines and hoses connecting the brine tank to the water softener, and then use warm or hot water to break up and remove any salt or debris left in the tank.
Mix up some dish soap with water and (a gallon or two), make it have many suds, and clean it out. Then add in a tablespoon or two of bleach with about 3 gallons of water. Then put water and salt back to the tank.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do water softeners need to be cleaned?
Wait until the salt level is low and scoop out the salty gunk at the bottom of the brine tank. This mush consists of impurities in the salt, which don’t dissolve well and reduce the softener’s performance. So clean it out once a year.
2. Can I clean my water softener with vinegar?
Use a ¼ cup of household bleach, e.g., vinegar, on 4-5 liters of clean water. Stir carefully and let the solution sit for 15 minutes. Pour it into the water softener and scrub once more with a brush. For increased efficiency, do not fill up the salt to the brim of the water softener.
3. What happens if you don’t put salt in a water softener?
Until the brine tank runs out of salt, if you forget to top off your water softener, the softening water resin will stay saturated. This brings the ion exchange to a screeching halt and allows hard water minerals into your pipes, fixtures, and appliances.
4. Can you use water when the softener is regenerating?
The water softener regeneration cycle time is about two hours. It is not recommended to use water during a water softener regeneration, as hard water will fill the water heater, which could lead to build-up in the equipment.
5. How do you rejuvenate a water softener?
To refresh the bed, run Iron-Out through the system. Follow the directions for adding to the brine tank, then run your softener through a manual regeneration to purge the wastewater. To do this, remove the cover from the control valve and find the regeneration knob.
6. Is bleach terrible for a water softener?
For some water softeners, you can run what is known as a “bleach cycle'”; it may destroy the system for other models. Bleach may interfere with the resin and hinder the ion exchange process.
Cleaning your water softener is a chore and can be labor-intensive, but in the long run, it can save you a lot of money, time, and trouble if you make the choices to clean all the different parts and clean them well.
By cleaning the tanks well and preventing additional issues from arising, you will minimize the unpredictable and prolong your water softener’s life well past the 15-year average lifespan.