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    August 06, 2020 4 min read

    Can I Clean My Water Softener With Bleach?

    clean a water softener with bleach

    Is it time to clean your water softener? How should you go about it? Make sure to open your instruction manual and read that first as it might have specific tips based on the unit itself! If you are ever unsure, you can always call in a professional to have them take a look, they would be happy to assist for a charge.

    Tip: There is one thing that you should do no matter what: read your manufacturer's directions.  Always consult the water softener owner’s manual before using bleach and other chemicals to clean your system. Most manufacturers provide specific suggestions or restrictions on how best to sanitize your water softener.

    When your water softener begins to smell and have stains, it’s pretty inevitable to ask “Can I put bleach in my water softener?”. For some water softeners, you can run what is known as a "bleach cycle'", for other models, its may entirely destroy the system. Bleach may interfere with the resin and hinder the ion exchange process. Although bleach might sound like a safe alternative it is a very harsh chemical and should only be used when it is recommended by the manufacturer. In most cases, manufacturers will recommend specialty products for cleaning out your water softener.

    If you happened to put bleach in when your manufacturer specified not to, don't panic, there is still hope. Try filling the resin tank up with new salt and allowing it to complete a regeneration cycle a few times is usually all it takes for it to clean itself. The resin is both costly and time-consuming to replace. It is also not something we recommend people doing unless they are experts, so always consult a professional when unsure. In order to clean it out, the best bet would be to run the tank through multiple cycles and that should do the trick.

    Tip: We cannot emphasize this enough! When it comes to water softeners always follow the manufacturer’s directions. If you can not find them in your home, they can usually be found online.

    How do you sanitize a water softener with bleach?

    clean a water softener with bleach

    Only if your manufacturers recommend using bleach, then you can follow these steps:


    This procedure gives details of how to disinfect or "sanitize" the resin tank and also the bottom of a brine tank without removing the salt.

    Sanitizing is necessary because a simple salt or brine backwash cycle does not remove microorganisms like bacteria or algae that like to grow in the resin bed or sometimes in the brine tank. The brine tank or salt tank is the separate container (into which you add salt) used to produce brine that is in turn used to regenerate the salt (to regenerate the resin tank). The resin tank is where the actual water softening takes place.

    There are 2 ways to use bleach to clean your water softener, the first being manually cleaning the tank with a bleach solution:
    1. Step 1: Locate the brine tank and remove the lid, Remove the salt tank and brine well cover.
    2. Step 2: Empty the water and remove/discard all salt from the brine tank.
    3. Step 3: Clean the interior of the brine tank. Scrub the inside of the tank and all interior components with warm, soapy water. Confirm that no brine residue remains in the tank.
    4. Step 4: Wash the inside of the brine tank and all interior components with a medium bleach and water solution. Rinse the tank and components with clean water.
    5. Step 6: Add new salt to the brine tank. 
    6. Step 7: Pour three gallons of fresh, clean water into the brine tank. Add three teaspoons of unscented household bleach into the brine tank to make a chlorinated water solution.


    Note: Use normal unscented bleach. Do not use splash proof bleach or bleach with any additives. DO NOT MIX bleach with red-out salts, salt with additives, with vinegar, or any resin bed cleaners.

    The second way is to run a bleach cycle:

    Be sure to refer to your softener’s manual to confirm the manufacturer approves this method.

    1. Step 1: Locate the brine tank and remove the lid. Measure across the top of the brine tank to determine if you have a 9-inch tank or a 12-inch tank. 
    2. Step 2: Pour 1 cup bleach into a 9-inch tank or 2 cups bleach into a 12-inch tank. Place the lid back onto the brine tank.
    3. Step 3: Locate the cycle panel on the water conditioner. Configure the control module to run a manual recharge cycle. This process depends on the unit you own. Refer to the owner's manual if the process is not clearly displayed on the module.
    4. Step 4: Do not use water in the home for drinking until the entire regeneration process has been completed.


    Note: Run your water for 5-10 minutes after completing the cycle to make sure it does not contain any bleach remnants.

    Can I put vinegar in my water softener?

    vinegar in a water softenerYes, simply follow the same instructions for cleaning the tank with bleach! You can also mix the vinegar with water if you’d rather just scrub the brine tank instead of running a full cycle. Since vinegar has fewer chemicals for bleach, feel free to increase the concentration of vinegar to water ratio.  Whatever you do, do not mix bleach and vinegar as this can create dangerous chlorine gas.

    Keeping your water softener clean will allow it to work efficiently! This is important because once it stops working well, water hardness can cause problems in your home again. It is always a good idea to make sure that you have a professional come out and look at your system once a year as a well-being checkup for the softener. As with any machine, regular maintenance will have it working correctly which will help it last much longer in the long run.


    In conclusion, only run a bleach cycle through the machine if its manufacturer condones this! Make sure you schedule annual maintenance to keep your water soft which will cut down unneeded expenses such as costly repairs and replacements of appliances. Always go with the manufacturer's instructions when taking care of your water softener, as it will help increase the longevity of both the machine and the other appliances around the house. Don’t forget, this is money you will be saving in the long run!

    Learn more about water softeners at Aquatell today!