When you have a water softener, you’re likely to feel that all your water problems are over. So, it can be disconcerting when you start to experience hard water issues even though your water softener is running. There are a number of reasons why you may be experiencing problems, so we’ll explore this topic in more detail here.

How Water Softeners Work

In order to diagnose your water softener issues, it is important to understand the fundamentals of how water softeners actually work. Essentially, water softeners strip water of the minerals making it hard, primarily magnesium and calcium. Most softener models have two tanks; a brine or salt tank and a resin tank or the actual water softener. The resin tank features special resin beads where the process of ion exchange occurs. The resin beads attract the magnesium and calcium ions that use sodium ions as a replacement. The resin is recharged by the brine tank, which creates a brine solution to periodically flush the resin tank to remove the calcium and magnesium ions and replace them with fresh sodium ions. So, now you know how your softener works, we’ll explore the reasons why your softener may have stopped softening your water.

Improper Settings

Most water softener systems feature a control valve that determines when the system will recharge. When these settings are incorrect, your system may not be properly recharging the resin beads. If your system is recharging when you are using water, the water may not have been properly treated. You’ll need to check the settings and make the appropriate adjustments to ensure that it recharges at the correct times. Most water treatment specialists set the recharge time at 2 am, as this is when the recharge cycle is not likely to be interrupted.

You Have Salt Mushing or a Salt Bridge

Salt mushing occurs when the salt in the brine tank recrystallizes to create a sludge. A salt bridge is a dome of hardened salt creating an air pocket between the water and salt. Both of these situations prevent proper recharging, and you’ll need to check your brine tank to resolve either of these issues. A salt bridge is likely to be immediately obvious and can be broken up using a wooden handle to gently break it apart. To check for salt mushing, you’ll need to remove some salt and check for a coating of sludge on the bottom of your tank. If this is present, you’ll need a complete clean of your tank before it can be refilled with water and salt.

Excess Water in Your Brine Tank

If your brine tank contains excess water, it will dilute the salt concentration of your recharging brine. A decreased salinity will prevent proper recharging of the resin beads, preventing adequate softening. To check the brine tank water level, you’ll need to consult your owner’s manual. Each model will have a different requirement, but generally, if your water level is over 12 inches, it is likely to be too much. Since your system fills the brine tank automatically, you’ll need a professional to check for the underlying cause of overfilling.

By EcoWater Systems.
EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is the largest water treatment company in the state and is a member of Water Quality Association.