A water softener is designed to eliminate hard water ions from water supplies. This helps to prevent scale accumulation inside appliances and pipes, promoting better drinking water, cleaner laundry and a nicer feel on your hair and skin. However, like any appliance, your water softener will only be able to work properly if it is cleaned and maintained. So, here we’ll explore how to clean your water softener system for optimum performance.

The Water Softener Basics

Before we delve into how to clean a water softener, it is important to have a basic understanding of how this appliance works.

Water softeners have a porous plastic resin tank that attracts the magnesium and calcium ions as the water passes through. The softening process releases sodium ions so the electrical charge in the resin is maintained. Over time, these sodium ions release causing the magnesium and calcium ions to stick to the resin.

This is why the unit has a brine tank. Every couple of days, a concentrated saltwater solution from the brine tank is used to rinse the resin. The salt water replenishes the sodium in the resin, while flushing away the calcium and magnesium ions.

Clean the Resin Tank

One of the first stages of cleaning a water softener is to clean the resin tank. This is the main component of the system and an unclean resin tank may result in discolored drinking water. You can use an iron removing cleaning product that makes iron and rust lingering in the tank to become water soluble, so they can be flushed from the system.

The specific product instructions can vary, but generally, you need to pour the solution into the brine tank and start a regeneration cycle.

Clean the Brine Tank

To clean the brine tank, you’ll need to shut off the water supply and unplug all the hoses connected to the tank. Use a wet vac or run a regeneration cycle to drain the brine tank and remove all the water and any remaining salt.

You should only use gentle, non toxic cleaning products, such as dishwashing detergent to clean this tank. So, mix a solution of two gallons of water and two or three tablespoons of dishwashing detergent.

Dip a brush into the solution and scrub the interior surfaces of the tank, particularly the base or any corners where salt may have accumulated. Rinse the tank out with clean water and reconnect all the plugs and hoses. You can then refill the brine tank and run a regeneration cycle.

One of the most common brine tank issues is salt bridge formation. Essentially, this is a crust on top of the salt, which makes it look like the brine tank is full. You may also notice salt mush, or gunk that forms at the bottom of the tank. So, be sure to clear any traces of salt mush or bridges for effective cleaning.

If you notice any signs of mold or mildew in the tank, you can use a bleach solution of 200 mg per gallon of water. Avoid strong bleach concentrations which can damage the resin. Some softener models have a bleach cycle, but if not clean the tank and be sure to rinse thoroughly.

If you have any issues with your water softener or are having difficulties with maintenance, be sure to speak to your local water treatment technician.

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