3 Water Softener Maintenance Tips

Posted on: 8 September 2015

If your clothes are coming out of the wash dingy, or if your water bill is slowly creeping upward each month, you may be having problems with hard water in your home. Water softeners can reduce soap scum buildup on dishes and skin and protect your pipes from calcium deposits. However, like any other appliance, water softeners require regular maintenance to operate efficiently. Here are three tips that can help you keep your water softener in good shape.

Maintain a Safe Salt Level

Your water softener works by adding salt to your water system to neutralize calcium, magnesium, and other "hardening" minerals. This means that the salt level in your water softener's brine tank will deplete over time. You will have to regularly add salt to the brine tank to keep your water softener running efficiently, and the frequency that you must add salt will differ depending on the size of the tank and the number of people in your home.

Your water softener will be able to operate effectively if you keep the brine tank at least one quarter full of salt at all times. If you want to fill the brine tank fuller for less frequent maintenance, make sure the salt is at least four to six inches below the top of the brine tank. This will allow all of the salt in the tank to dissolve evenly.

Eliminate Salt Bridges

Occasionally, the salt in your water softener's brine tank can solidify, forming a solid mass known as a salt bridge. When these salt bridges form against the sides of the brine tank and stay in place after the water level lowers, they prevent the salt in the tank from dissolving in the water properly.

If there is a salt bridge in your brine tank, the tank may seem full even though your water is not soft. To test for a salt bridge, use a broom handle to poke a hole in the top layer of salt. If it breaks away, you know your tank has a salt bridge. While this can be an effective way to identify a salt bridge, it can be difficult to remove all the built-up salt manually. Instead, use warm water to dissolve away the salt bridge.

Clean Out Salt Mush

Salt bridges can almost always be easily removed because they are often close to the top of the tank. There is another type of blockage known as salt mush that can form in the brine tank that can potentially be far more serious. Salt mush is a sludge that forms in the bottom of the brine tank when dissolved salt partially recrystallizes. This is often caused when the tank is overfilled with salt and there is not enough water to fully dissolve all the salt in the tank.

Salt mush is more difficult to remove than salt bridges because the brine tank must be completely drained to scrape out the sludge. To drain a brine tank, disconnect all hoses leading to the rest of your water system and empty the tank outside. Be sure not to pour the brine tank on grass or plants that you want to keep, as the high sodium content of the brine can damage them.

After you empty the tank, remove the brine filter in the bottom of the tank if it has one. Fill the tank with a mixture of soap and water and use a long-handled brush to scrub the tank thoroughly. Once the tank is clean, you can reattach the hoses and refill it with water and salt.

While occasional water softener maintenance will be necessary, these maintenance tasks can be well worth it for homeowners with significant hard water problems. Use these tips to keep your water softener running smoothly, eliminate soap scum problems, and lower your monthly water bill. Visit a site like http://johnsonwater.com/ for more information on potential water softener repairs and maintenance.