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  • September 08, 2022 7 min read

    Do Water Softeners Need Servicing?

    water softener servicing

    Do water softeners need to be serviced? Many water softeners are automatic, but others might need service when there's a difference in water quality. Besides adding salt to your softener and occasionally cleaning out the brine tank, most water softener manufacturers recommend that you service your softener annually.

    In the world of appliances, water softeners are wonderfully low-key. With the exception of initially entering your water hardness level, any regeneration timing parameters and refilling the salt, they just hum along and do their job. Although low-maintenance, there are a few easy ways you can make them work more efficiently and last longer. Routine upkeep will make your water softener work more efficiently and last longer. However, for the best results, have an expert perform an annual inspection on the equipment — regular servicing will not only extend the life of your water softening system, but it also has the potential to lower any future repair costs.

    How do you maintain a water softener?

    The most important routine water softener maintenance is, of course, adding the right kind of water softener salt to the system as it’s needed. This typically can be done on a quarterly basis by the homeowner or by a water conditioning company qualified to work on your equipment. As always, it’s important to follow the specifications set forth by the product manufacturer.

    There are certainly instances, though, when your softener could require periodic service. For example, if you notice changes in your water quality; the softener salt levels stay the same from day to day — a sign that it’s not consuming the salt as it should; it’s not going through the regeneration cycle — or it gets stuck in that cycle; or you notice hard water symptoms — spots on your dishes and laundry, clothes, hair and skin are not as soft as they normally are with conditioned water, then it’s time to have it professionally inspected.

    Avoid salt bridges and salt mushing

    A salt bridge occurs when a hard crust forms in the brine tank and creates an empty space between the water and the salt, preventing the salt from dissolving into the water to make brine. Without the brine, the resin beads that soften your water can’t do their job. Common causes of bridging include high humidity, temperature changes around the water softener or using the wrong kind of salt. You may have a salt bridge if your salt tank appears full but you know your water isn’t soft. The quickest way to test for a salt bridge is to take a broom handle and carefully push on the top of the salt, using a little bit of pressure to break it up if it has solidified.

    Salt mushing is the more serious of the two problems and happens when dissolved salt recrystallizes and forms a sludge on the bottom of the brine tank. This thick layer of salt keeps the water softener from properly cycling through the regeneration process, leaving your water hard and creating a serious blockage in the tank. If you test for a salt bridge but it doesn’t break up when pushing on it, salt mushing is probably the cause. Draining the softener of its water, digging out all the old salt and replacing it with fresh salt is the only way to fix this problem.

    To avoid these salt snafus, opt for high-quality salt pellets, which greatly reduce the potential for any problems—especially salt mushing. Additionally, don’t overfill your brine tank with salt. Keeping it half-full prevents older salt from sticking to the walls of the tank. Finally, it’s important to manage the humidity level around your water softener. If it’s too humid, condensation can occur in the brine tank, causing the salt to bond together and bridge.

    Resin bed cleaner

    Even though your resin beads are routinely recharged by salt, it doesn’t hurt to flush the resin bed every few months with a water softener cleaner to keep it in top form. Over time, a water softener can become polluted with iron, silt, heavy metals and other organic compounds that cause your softener to lose its efficiency. To reduce the incidence of ineffective resin, simply pour the manufacturer’s recommended amount of water softener cleaner down the brine well and regenerate the system manually. The cleaner is then discharged during the normal flushing process of the water softening cycle. This action keeps the resin “clean” and able to absorb as much calcium and magnesium as possible throughout its lifespan.

    Although resin beads are regularly regenerated, they can benefit from an occasional extra cleaning. Resin beads gradually lose their effectiveness — over time, the flow of water can begin to erode them, or deposits of minerals and organic compounds can make the beads ineffective.

    To maximize the lifespan of your resin beads, pour a water softener cleaner into the brine tank during a routine maintenance inspection — read the manufacturer's instructions for recommended amounts. Let the system run a manual regeneration cycle to flush out the cleaner along with any impurities.

    Clean the venturi valve

    The venturi and nozzle create the suction to move brine from the brine tank into the resin tank during the regeneration cycle. Because of this, the venturi valve sometimes gets plugged with sand, sediment and dirt, so a clean valve is imperative for the water softener to work properly. Simply unscrew the valve cover (don’t worry, there are no special tools required) and remove the internal parts, giving them all a good cleaning in soapy water. This process should be done twice a year to keep the water softening process smooth and efficient. As you inspect your water softener during a maintenance check, examine the venturi valve for any build up or blockages. You can clean the valve by unscrewing the cover, removing the internal parts and cleaning them with soap and water. In most cases, you only need to clean the venturi valve twice a year to keep it clear of debris, although you may do it as frequently as once a month.

    How much does it cost to service a water softener?

    typically takes a trained specialist about ten minutes to perform the initial steps to service a water softener versus 45-minutes to an hour for someone who is just learning. The good news is that when a knowledgeable technician comes in, they’re able to do much more than just the basics of preventive care. Service technicians evaluate how the unit is performing, check the injector and injector screen, and adjust the unit, if necessary. Fritz shares that, unfortunately, a water softener is often a forgotten appliance. To be sure this routine assessment isn’t overlooked, homeowners will often go on a service plan to ensure it’s properly maintained and operating at peak efficiency.

    Considering to call a professional, here are 4 reasons why you should.

    Cleaning & Upkeep:
    1. During the annual service call, a water treatment professional can recharge your resins and clean out your brine tank. They can also check for salt bridging in the brine tank and sanitize your system, when needed.

    Without routine service, a water softener can lose its ability to properly treat your water, bringing back the hard water problems homeowners likely experienced before installation, like dry skin, slimy hair, and housecleaning headaches.

    • Cleaning and upkeep: A water treatment professional knows the details and intricacies of water softeners, and they can provide the highest level of service so that your water softener has the longest possible lifespan. In an annual servicing call, a water treatment professional can clean out the brine tank and recharge resin beads. They will know what to look for, including salt bridges, mushing and venturi blockages.


    Settings Optimization:
    1. Having your water softener serviced annually ensures the valve settings are optimized to save you money. For example, if your family size has changed because a child went away to college, you probably are now using less water. Your local water treatment specialist can adjust your valve settings so that your softener regenerates less frequently. Note that the valve on many water conditioners, including WaterTech’s Reionator, calculates and regenerates based off of consumption, so there may not be a need to adjust settings.
    • Settings optimization: Having your water softener annually examined by a professional ensures that all your settings will be optimized. This will save you money in the long run — a water treatment professional can work with you to find the best settings for your family's specific needs, keeping you from softening unnecessary water.
    Needed Maintenance:
    1. Like any appliance, your softener has moving parts and o-rings that wear out with time, and need replacement. Your softener’s valve may also need servicing or maintenance.
    2. When you install a softener, you invest financially to have great water and you want to protect your investment by maintaining it properly. Proper maintenance will enable you to enjoy the benefits of soft water for years to come. Remember, a softener saves you money by reducing detergent and soap usage, as well as protecting water-using appliances in your home like your hot water heater, dishwasher and washing machine.
    3. A professional can keep your system in top shape which will help extend the life of your water conditioner.
    • Maintenance: Just like any piece of equipment, a water softener's components will wear out over time. During an annual maintenance check, a professional will examine all parts of your water softener, checking for any worn parts that need replacement.
    Water Assessment:
    1. In addition to the above, a water treatment professional can test your water to make sure that the constituents in your water have not changed in the past year. Even if you receive your water from a public water suppier, changes at your local municipal plant can alter the water coming into your home. Based on water test results, a professional can modify your system settings, install a prefilter, or whatever is needed to ensure you continue to have outstanding water flowing into your home. And for well water, storm runoff and farming herbicides can seep into groundwater, thus, annual water testing is highly recommended.
    • Water assessment: Besides maintaining your water softener, a water treatment professional can test your water and monitor the levels of different minerals or impurities. They can detect any changes that happen from year to year, catching a potential softener malfunction early.


    Need help?

    Preventive maintenance for your water softener pays off in the long run. If you’re concerned about the quality of the water in your well, experts recommend having a comprehensive water test performed by a state certified testing laboratory. Some well water is of good quality, but some, either because of natural occurrences or accidentally introduced contaminants, would benefit from testing and treatment. Many companies that install the water softener will also test the water for free or for a nominal fee. Depending upon the results, you might need to enlist the help of a reputable, experienced water conditioning company for recommendations to correct any water quality problems.