To clean your water softener properly, you will need to know how to clean a resin tank, brine tank, and the water softener’s filter.

Water softeners have different parts, and each of them needs proper care and maintenance to consistently produce soft water and protect your plumbing system and household as a whole. Not caring for or maintaining your water softener will result in a decline in its softening capacity.

Cleaning the Resin Tank

clean water softener resin and brine tank

The water softener resin tank is where the ion exchange process is initiated to convert hard water to soft water. The water softener resin tank is useful for removing hard water minerals from your well water supply. It contains resin beads responsible for swapping sodium ions for calcium and magnesium ions.

Over time, there will be mineral buildup, and you’ll need to clean the resin bed. We recommend cleaning it when there is less salt to prevent unloading a lot of salt. There are a couple of ways to clean the resin bed and rid it of accumulated mineral content.

Firstly, remove the plug of your water softener and use a screwdriver to unscrew the bolts of the resin tank. Then detach the control valve and use a cleaning solution to sanitize the valve before replacing the resin tank.

Secondly, you can get an iron removing cleaner, which you can buy from most home improvement stores to remove iron and chemical buildup in your resin beads. This chemical softens the iron deposits and makes them soluble so that water can easily wash them away.

Note that certain models of water softeners are designed with sealed resin tanks. Getting a resin cleaner is the best solution in this case.

If you’ve used your water softener for a long time, we recommend initiating a manual regeneration cycle twice to ensure that every trace of the chemical is gone.

Cleaning the Brine Tank

Cleaning your water softener’s brine tank is another crucial aspect of your water softener maintenance. Your water softener brine tank needs to be cleaned because some water softener salt pellets used to top up the salt level contain impurities, and they shouldn’t dissolve in water.

Over time, these salt pellets can lead to a buildup in your water softener, causing it to malfunction.

  1. Set your water softener to bypass mode. If you’re not familiar with this process, you can consult your system’s user manual.
  2. Detach all lines or connections between the brine tank and the water softener.
  3. Take out or dispose of the brine solution in your brine tank.
  4. Also, dispose of the remaining salt inside the salt tank.
  5. If there is salt sludge in your brine tank, we recommend using warm or hot water to soften the salt bridge and make it easier to remove.
  6. If your brine tank has a brine grid, remove it. It’s usually at the bottom of the brine tank.
  7. Mix 2-3 tablespoons of dish soap with a couple of water gallons to create soapy water.
  8. Pour this soapy solution into your brine tank and use a long brush to clean its insides. When you’re through cleaning, take out the soap water and thoroughly rinse your brine tank with clean water.
  9. Now mix 2-3 gallons of water with a 1/4 cup of bleach to make a solution, and pour the bleach water into your brine tank. Stir the solution and let it sit in your tank for about 15 minutes. We advise that you bleach wisely (between the range of 50-100 ppm).
  10. Then scrub the inside of your tank using chlorine water and a brush.
  11. Discard the cleaning solution and rinse the tank of your water softening unit with clean water.
  12. Restore the brine tank into position and reconnect all the hoses between the tank and the rest of the water softener unit, then drain it.
  13. Deactivate the bypass mode.
  14. Add 5 gallons of tap water into your brine tank and at least 100 pounds of salt.

Ensure the brine tank is consistently above or at a quarter-full level, and avoid adding all the salt till it reaches the very top of the tank. There should be a space between your softening salt pellets and the rim of the brine tanks.

When adding water softener salt, ensure to free up any encrusted salt that may attach to the tank edges and break up salt blocks. We recommend leaving the salt for about 2 hours to settle before the regeneration cycle occurs.

Cleaning the Filter

Cleaning a water softener pre-filter is usually not worth the stress at times. Don’t get us wrong. Having a pre-filter is very important for your water softener because it will prevent large contaminants in your drinking water from damaging the resin beads.

However, depending on your water usage and the type of debris you’re filtering out, your reusable water filters may quickly need cleaning shortly after their last wash.

Going back to the original point, you can clean the reusable filters with a cleaning solution, but they hardly stay clean.

Using disposable filters that you can readily replace with brand-new ones is way better. They won’t have any sediment too small to attach themselves to the filter. Plus, they will be able to filter more efficiently and for longer than the reusable pre-filters.

If you are insistent on the first option, we advise that you follow the filter’s owner’s manual to know how best to clean it.

Last Words

Regular maintenance of your water softener will extend its lifespan and ensure it works with full efficiency. It eliminates common water softener issues such as salt bridges and salt mushing.

To get the best out of your water softener, we recommend having an expert conduct an inspection on your water softener once every year.

Alternatively, you can clean out your brine tank and resin beads once a month. Aside from lengthening the water softener’s lifespan, regular maintenance also helps to reduce the costs of future repairs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to clean a water softener that’s been sitting?

If you haven’t used your water softener for more than a week, it’s been sitting. The recommended course of action is to begin a regeneration cycle. This will recharge the water softener resin and make it able to treat water hardness effectively.

After the first cycle, we advise that you test your water to check its hardness level. The purpose is to determine that you’re now getting a softened water supply. Usually, one cycle is not enough.

There may be a need to run another regeneration cycle to thoroughly flush out the accumulated mineral ions in the resin bed. This is for a short-term sitting scenario.

In a more severe case where your water softening unit hasn’t been used for more than a month, we recommend using chlorine solution to sanitize the brine tank and kill bacteria growth.

This will ensure that complications such as salt bridges don’t develop later. Such problems will drastically reduce the efficiency of your water softener. This means that your water softener won’t be able to treat hard water effectively, and scale deposits will begin to form in your pipes and appliances.

Should I use my water softener while it is regenerating?

No. We strongly advise against it. Why? Firstly, hard water will gain access to your pipes and faucets. Secondly, using the water softener while regenerating will considerably lower your water pressure.

Other factors that may influence the performance of your water softener include high humidity and fluctuations in temperature. A lot of these factors may not be directly under your control.

How will I know when my brine tank requires cleaning?

We recommend cleaning your brine tank each time it’s due for a refill. This means you should clean it monthly or thereabouts if that’s how long it takes. The duration will also depend on your water usage. Before you refill your brine tank, ensure you inspect it for salt bridges and mold.

Why is brown water coming out from my water softener?

Because of manganese and iron buildup in your resin tank. We recommend cleaning your resin tank with the chemical designed to sanitize the resin bed.

Can I use vinegar to clean my water softener?

Vinegar can be used as an alternative cleaning solution to bleach when cleaning your tank. Using a vinegar solution will sanitize your tank. However, using more than you should result in an unpleasant taste that may linger for a while. You can use the vinegar solution to clean out the brine tank if you don’t want to initiate the regeneration process.

About the Author

Paul Morton

Founder and Editor

Paul is a retired plumber who now spends hours on home improvement projects. From fixing toilets to leaking pipes in crawls spaces, there is nothing Paul can't do or wouldn't try. Paul was running his own plumbing company and is our expert in regard to all types of water filtration systems.

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