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    August 05, 2020 6 min read

    Can I Put Vinegar in my Water Softener?

    pour vinegar in water softener

    First, what is a water softener? A water softener is an essential home appliance that removes minerals e.g. iron, magnesium or calcium from hard water that could otherwise stain and clog your pipes. Water is softened through a process of ion exchange where resin beads that absorb the undesired minerals and replaces them with sodium before the water reaches your kitchen or bathroom taps. The system keeps soft water running to your home all through, but the buildup of these minerals in the system would reduce its efficiency.

    Why would someone want to add vinegar to your water softener? For the purpose of cleaning the tanks. Routine cleaning of the water softener becomes necessary to keep your system performing at its peak. The best time to clean the water softener is when the softening salt is running low, to avoid emptying all the salt in the system.

    The first step is always to get familiar with your Manufacturer's manual to understand your softener type and how it works. Most modern systems such as the Aquatell Water Softeners are easy to use and maintain. They’re designed to suit your unique home needs. And with minimum but timely supervision, you can ensure your softener runs smoothly for years to come. Let's keep reading to learn how to clean your water softener with vinegar!

    Here is How to Clean your water softener brine tank with vinegar or bleach:

    Your water softener has two tanks. One which holds the resin beads (the resin tank)while the other contains the salt pellets (the brine tank). Occasionally, these salt pellets can break down and form a sort of ‘sludge’ in the tank.

    bleach cycleKnowing how to clean the water softener brine tank will prevent this buildup from causing damage.

    When the salt supply begins running low (which will happen at least once monthly), get a small shovel, and remove the sludge. If it’s hardened, you may need to dig deep or even hammer away at the salt. Occasionally, mold can also form at the bottom of the brine tank. In this case, you’ll need to empty it completely and give the interior a good scrubbing.

    If you notice mold in your water softener tank, you can run what’s known as a “bleach cycle” through the whole unit. Be sure to refer to your softener’s manual to confirm the manufacturer approves this method.

    (Note: Vinegar can also be used, just 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. Whatever you do, don't mix vinegar with bleach as it can cause the formation of dangerous chlorine gas)

    For example: For a 9-inch tank, you’ll want to place one cup of bleach in the brine tank. For a 12-inch tank, use two cups. Close the tank’s lid and then trigger a manual regeneration of the system. Make sure you do not drink water from your tap until the entire regeneration process has been completed!

    Cleaning the Brine Tank

    1. Disconnect all the pipes from the water softening unit. Remove all the water present in the resin tank and empty it carefully in the drains. Don’t pour it on the lawn.
    2. Get rid of any left-over softening salt in the unit. If the water softener has big blocks of salt in it, use hot water to break them up and scoop the salt out.
    3. Use dish washing soap and a few liters of water to make a soapy mixture. Pour the soapy mixture into the tank and scrub thoroughly using a long-handled brush. Discard and rinse with clean water.
    4. Further cleaning follows using a bleach solution follows. Use a ¼ cup of household bleach. Stir carefully and let the solution sit for 15 minutes. Pour it into the water softener and scrub once more with a brush. Dump the bleach/water and rinse using a lot of clean water.
    5. Finally, reassemble the system and pour 5 gallons of water in the brine or salt tank. Add water softening salt to the tank. The tank should contain at least one quarter full of water softening salt at all times. For increased efficiency, do not fill up the salt to the brim of the water softener.
    6. Leave a gap of about six inches from the top of the tank.

    How often should you clean a water softener brine tank?

    It’s best to clean the brine tank every time you refill it. This means cleaning it about once a month and inspecting for mold and sludge in the tank. In addition to routine cleanings, if your softener has been sitting idle for more than a month, clean it again before turning it on. Anytime your softener’s valve body is exposed to air, it’s time to clean. Don’t forget, water softeners can easily get contaminated too!

    Can bacteria grow in a water softener? Yes! Even if your water is disinfected at the source, bacteria can enter at any point before the regeneration process. Typically, hard water has calcium and magnesium salts but sometimes there are other contaminants such as iron and sulfur which can allow all kinds of bacteria to grow. So, look out for signs such as color change, foul taste, or smell of rotten eggs in your water and get your water tested regularly.

    Can you clean water softener resin?

    Knowing how to clean a water softener resin tank is crucial since this tank is responsible for the unit’s softening capabilities. If you’re unfamiliar with what a resin tank is, don’t worry; it’s really simple.

    Your water softener contains resin beads that are negatively-charged. As your water passes through these beads, hard water minerals like calcium and magnesium stick to them. 

    Typically, your water softener will flush these beads clean during the regeneration process. It’s a common misconception, though, that you never need to service them until the replacement interval of 15 to 20 years. You should actually be giving them a good cleaning every once in a while and you’ll know it’s time when the tank regenerates more frequently than usual.

    Cleaning the Resin Tank

    softer resin cleanersThere are plenty of resin bead cleaners on the market; refer to your softener's manual for specific instructions:

    Commercial resin cleaners work by replacing the accumulated minerals with sodium ions. To maintain a water-softener system’s efficiency, you must clean the resin regularly. The softener’s resin attracts calcium, magnesium, iron, and other trace minerals that make the water “hard.” To remove these minerals, begin looking for the product that is recommended for your water softener.

    Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer, and pour the recommended amount of resin cleaner in the brine tank or salt tank of the water softening system. The sodium ions present in the resin cleaner will remove the buildup minerals and clean the resin beads.

    Some cleaners remove all the mineral build up while others target a specific element e.g. an iron mineral-removing product added to the water softener, would dissolve the iron particles present and make them liquid. If you know that your resin beads have too much of one particular element, consider purchasing one of these cleaners specialized for your needs.


    So if you're wondering if you can pour vinegar into your water softener, the answer is yes only if its for cleaning! Just make sure to not turn on any taps until you finish the process. It’s so important to keep your system clean, even the best water softening system needs regular upkeep to make sure that it functions properly for a long time. Your water softener is an investment, after all, so you should treat it as such. And of course, it simply adds to your quality of life when it works better.

    Always refer to the product manual. Make sure you check your softener’s overall functioning in all cycle positions. And monitor the quality of your water for any change in taste, smell, and hardness.

    But when in doubt, it is always better to ask an expert . Get in touch with our Aquatell help service anytime you have any questions about your water softener!