Salty Water After Softener Regenerates November 2, 2022 11:02

If you're getting salty water in your lines after your water softener regenerates there are a few common causes that can be investigated. These are all pretty easy to identify and correct:

The Drain Line Isn't Working

All water softeners have a drain line that goes from the softener control valve and runs to a drain. At various stages of the regeneration, water is pushed through this drain line and needs to be able to freely discharge or the regeneration won't happen properly, with one potential symptom being salty water left in the machine that ultimately gets into your plumbing. These are the most common causes of faulty draining of the softener:

          1. Drain Line is Kinked or Pinched:  This is especially common when a soft material is used for the drain line (such as clear vinyl or rubber hose). Look for places where the drain line turns a corner or is draped over a beam - these soft materials may collapse in these spots over time and restrict the flow.
          2. The Drain Line is Too Long:  This is a problem that would likely present itself not long after the initial softener installation or could present as an issue if the home water pressure has lowered over time.  The idea here is quite simple: it's the line pressure of your home that pushes the water through the drain line (the softener itself doesn't "pump" the water). So if the drain line is too long or if it travels too far vertically, your home pressure may not have enough power to make the water flow through it or, it may flow but far too slowly. If you suspect this is your issue, temporarily use a shorter drain line to drain the softener to a closer location and run a regeneration under these conditions. If your salty taste is gone, you've ID'd the issue.
          3. The Drain Line is Frozen:  In some climates discharging a softener drain line to the outdoors is quite common. But if that line gets frozen it will block the flow and cause all sorts of different regeneration issues for the machine.

    Your Water Pressure is Too Low

    If your home water pressure is too low, you may not be able to push water or brine through the softener at the proper rate during the regeneration. This can lead to brine solution remaining in the tank after the regeneration has completed and the salty water issue. For the proper functioning of a softener, you need to be able to maintain a pressure of no less than about 30 psi for the full duration of the regeneration.

    Water systems that use a pressure tank will typically have a pressure setting (on/off) of either 30/50 or 40/60 psi. But keep in mind that once the pressure tank volume has been depleted, the pressure in the line will be completely dictated by the pump. If the pump is undersized, the pressure it can generate could very easily fall below 30psi and lead to improper regeneration of the softener. If you suspect this is your issue, run your water until the pump kicks on and while the water is running and pump is on, have a look at the incoming water pressure gauge.

    Also have a look at any other water appliance that sits between your pump/pressure tank and the softener. You may very well have all the pressure you need at the pump/tank, but that pressure can easily be depleted by other equipment. A great example is a cartridge sediment filter which is a very common piece of equipment to have upstream of the softener. As cartridges load up, they exert more and more pressure loss. Since this is gradual home owners may not notice. And since the softener may demand more flow during regeneration than the home owner typically uses, it may be that for regular household use the filter is not exerting enough pressure loss to be noticeable, yet it may be enough loss to interfere with proper softener function. If there are other pieces of water treatment equipment before the softener, have a look at these also. Some types my have bypass functionality. Try bypassing that equipment and running a softener regeneration to see if that's the issue.

    You've Got a Clogged Injector

    When a water softener regenerates it needs to pull brine solution from the brine tank. It does this by creating a vacuum in the control valve using a Venturi mechanism. Part of the mechanism is a piece called the injector. The injector is a cone-shaped piece of plastic with a small hole at the end. If that hole get clogged with debris, the injector is no longer able to help create the vacuum and the brine solution is not sucked up. Or, if a partial vacuum is created, the brine draw rate is very slow and this can lead to salt ending up in the softener once the regeneration is complete. In many systems, there is a screen that precedes the injector. If this screen gets loaded up with debris, this too can interfere with the suction force that is created by the machine. Both the injector and the screen are accessed the same way. Refer to your softener manual to identify where the injector is located and how to remove it. Once it's removed carefully inspect it and clean it, making sure that the hole at the end of the cone is clear. Do not attempt to alter the size of the hole as this will lead to injector failure.