Common Problems With Water Softeners & How To Troubleshoot


In Brief: Common Problems With Water Softeners & How To Troubleshoot

Water softeners can run into problems like salt bridging, clogged filters, low water output, issues with the brine tank, issues with the meter, etc. These are not complicated problems and can be easily solved with the help of a little direction and no tools at all.

Water softeners are an indispensable necessity for households that are supplied with hard water.

Hard water can cause a lot of damage to a wide range of appliances and even the plumbing of the house if left unchecked.

Water softeners are popular products in the market to deal with this problem.

However, these units can themselves run into some issues from time to time. In the following section, we look at some of the common problems that a water softener might have and how to solve them quickly.

Common Problems with Water Softeners & How to troubleshoot

Below, we briefly discuss some of these problems. We also guide you on how to deal with them in a DIY setup.

1. Clogging of the Water Softener

Clogging of a water softener is one of the most common problems and, fortunately, the easiest to troubleshoot.

Over time, due to the high level of salt or mineral content in the incoming water supply, the softener can experience blockages with the gradual build-up.

This build-up reduces the room for the water to pass through. Eventually, the flow of the water through the water softener is drastically reduced.

When the salt in the softeners gets wet repeatedly; however, it does not get utilized, the salt crystals tend to start binding together.

When this keeps happening, there is a possibility of the formation of a salt block over time. Over time, the process culminates in the creation of a big mass.

This big block of salt prevents the softener from softening the water, and the resin bed stops regenerating.

To check this issue, you can use a broom and put it inside the water softener. If it goes all the way, the salt has not clogged, and you can probably stir it up. However, if the broom goes to a certain extent and then stops, there is perhaps a compacted salt block at the bottom.

How to troubleshoot –

Hot water can be used to unclog the water softener. These dissolve any hard clogs of salt in the system. The user manual included with water softeners also helps in troubleshooting any blockage issues.

Cleaning process

  1. Put the water softener on bypass mode.
  2. Remove any loose salt that is at the top using a garden trowel or any small scooping device.
  3. Grab a broom or a stick and try to loosen as much of the clogged salt as possible.
  4. Scoop up as much broken salt as possible from the brine tank.
  5. At this point, you should see some water at the bottom of the brine tank.
  6. Remove this water because it has absorbed as much salt as it possibly can.
  7. Grab a bucket and put in two to three gallons of hot water inside the brine tank, dumping it on top of the remaining salt.
  8. Let this water sit for around four hours. It takes four hours for the water to absorb as much salt as it’s going to absorb.
  9. Put the water softener back into service mode and start the regeneration cycle.


In the regeneration process, the water will get sucked up, and the tank will get refilled with some new water. The freshwater will again make the brine by absorbing the salt, and this will work toward removing the salt clog.

  1. The next day, poke around the bottom some more and repeat the regeneration cycle. This process can be repeated for a couple of days more to get rid of the clogged salt entirely.


Don’t put salt anymore into the water softener until all the clogged salt gets used up.

  1. Once this is done, refill the brine tank with salt up to two-thirds level but don’t refill it again till it is down to a quarter full level.

As long as step 11 is taken care of, the problem of salt clogging should never occur.

2. Resin Beads not Functioning Properly

Some water softeners make use of resin beads to rid the water of its hardness.

The beads include ions which replace the hard mineral ions of the water with their soft ones. The life of the resin beads directly affects the quality of the water output.

If the beads have run out of replaceable ions, the output will be hard water.

How to troubleshoot –

The only solution to this problem is to replace the resin bed media. The steps to do so are detailed below.

  1. Disconnect the water softener.
  2. Unscrew the head off of the water softener.
  3. Siphon the water out of the water softener.
  4. Dump the old resin media out of the water softener.
  5. Hose the water softener inside out with clean water till the insides are clean.
  6. Clean out the distributor tube.
  7. Refill the tank with new resin media and fill it up with water.
  8. Adjust the top of the water softener so that it lines up with the distributor tube and screw it back on.

3. Dirty or Used-up Filter

Even water softeners make use of filters to purify the more significant impurities before the water passes through the softening agent.

When the incoming water supply has high TDS content or high sediment content, these filters can run out quickly.

Their effectiveness over time reduces as they get clogged with impurities and thereby reduce the flow of water through the system.

How to troubleshoot –

Most manufacturers include details about the life of the filter. It is recommended that you replace the filter as soon as it nears the end of its useful life to prevent the effectiveness of the water softener from reducing.

4. Failure of Motor

Some water softeners make use of motors, and like any equipment making use of a motor, it is prone to failure.

A common sign that the motor is failing or is near the end of its life is noticeable humming sounds or vibration from the unit.

This vibration of the system while running is a common issue, and fixing the motor can be slightly technical.

The problem can be avoided entirely by having a proper maintenance schedule in place.

How to troubleshoot –

One should get in touch with the customer care service for any issues related to the motor. It should also be checked whether the warranty covers any motor-related problems.

If so, the repair should be taken over by the company professionals for the best results.

5. Salt mushing or Salt Bridging

The brine tank is an essential component of a water softener. In some situations, the tank will witness the formation of a crusty layer.

This crusting could be due to high salt content or humidity inside the tank.

This hard and crusty formation prevents the softeners from making use of the salt to soften the water and thereby reduces its effectiveness.

How to troubleshoot

6. Inadequate Water in the Brine Tank

If the water is not filling up in the brine tank up to a certain extent, it might cause problems for the water softener. The regeneration cycle does not take place properly.

Improper regeneration causes the water conditioner not to reduce the hardness of the water adequately.

The problem may be due to an improper float switch. Malfunctioning of the float switch might also be due to a blockage.

How to troubleshoot –

Firstly check the position and the motion of the float switch. If the float switch is easily able to move up and down, there is no issue with it.

If, however, the motion is obstructed or irregular, it is a good idea to clean out the brine tank and ensure that the smooth movement is restored.

If the problem is due to a blockage by some salt clog, it may be worthwhile to follow the cleaning steps mentioned above.

7. Excess Water in the Brine Tank

Excessive water in the brine tank also causes problems in the system. It does not allow the proper softening of the water to take place.

The regeneration cycle is also affected. A probable cause for this is the high water pressure in the system.

How to troubleshoot –

Check the water pressure in the incoming line for the household and see if it lies in the applicable range for the water softener to function correctly.

If the pressure is too high or too low, it will affect the quality of the water output.

To mitigate this problem, install a water pump along the incoming water pipeline to ensure that the flow of water to the water softener is regulated.

Installation of the water pump will allow the softener to function at the recommended pace and provide optimum results.

8. Faulty Fitting of the Softner

The installation of a water softener is mired with its own set of problems.

To mitigate some of the installation issues one might have, we have detailed below a list of steps that should be followed to avoid any problems with the installation.

How to troubleshoot –

  1. Place the water softener tank near where you want to install it.
  2. Tape the end of the distributor tube and place it inside the water softener.
  3. Make sure that the tube is centered and flush with the bottom of the tank.
  4. Pour the entire bag of resin media into the water softener.
  5. Remove the tape from the end of the distributor tube.
  6. Take the silicone and lubricate the distributor O-ring
  7. Firmly insert the upper basket and twist it until it locks into place.
  8. Insert the upper basket into the distributor tube.
  9. Turn it clockwise until it is hand tight.
  10. Turn off your main water line.
  11. Turn on a faucet to drain your plumbing.
  12. Cut into the plumbing (if needed) to create an input and output for the water softener.
  13. Connect the flex connector to the inlet plumbing and tighten it to the inlet of the water softener.
  14. You have to repeat step 13 for the outlet side of the plumbing and the water softener as well.
  15. On the water softener valve, unscrew the brine nut.
  16. Attach the brine nut to the brine line.
  17. Take the brine sleeve and attach it to the brine line.
  18. Insert the line into the valve and tighten the brine line nut.
  19. Put the brine tank in place and connect the brine line to the brine tank by pushing it firmly into place.
  20. Fill the brine tank with the supplied salt.
  21. Unbox the transformer and run power to the valve.

Installation is complete with these set of steps. The next step is to program the water softener for which you should know the water hardness level.

The steps to do this are commonly mentioned in the user manual. Once the system is programmed, you can begin running water into the softener.

After programming-

  1. Make sure the outlet on the valve is in the OFF position.
  2. Slowly turn the main water line back on.
  3. Turn the water on slowly over five minutes to not add too much water pressure at once.
  4. Slowly open the outlet on the valve.
  5. The final step is to turn on a cold water faucet to purge out any air residing in the water lines.

9. Choked Brine Injector

Since the water softener brine injector is continuously in contact with salt, it is not uncommon for some clogging to take place if salt deposits are formed or more significant chunks of salt get in the way.

How to troubleshoot –

Regular maintenance activities for the brine tank should be carried out to prevent this from happening. If the problem already exists, cleaning the brine tank and the injector will solve the problem.

The maintenance and cleaning activities for a water softener’s brine tank include the following.

  1. You should check the salt levels in the brine tank regularly. If there is a shortage of the needed salt, the resin beads will not regenerate adequately, and this will hamper the effectiveness of the softener.
  2. Proper kind of salt should be added to replenish the depleted salts.
  3. Use an adequate amount of salt to prevent the formation of blockages or clogging.
  4. Break the blockages or clogging by making use of hot water.

10. Broken Timer or Misconfiguration or the Timer

The timer is responsible for starting the regeneration cycle for the water softener. The timer ensures that the system gets recharged for the next cycle of softening.

The easiest way to check if there is a problem with the timer is to set it on a daily cycle and then check the next day, whether the regeneration cycle has started. If not, the timer is broken.

Another way is to check if the timer is working is to look for the current date and time. If the displayed data is incorrect, the timer could be malfunctioning.

How to troubleshoot –

If the timer is broken, the only solution is to replace it. The replacement parts can be easily purchased online from the company website, or the manufacturers can be contacted to check for spares.

If this problem is covered under warranty, one should definitely get in touch with the manufacturers to get the problem sorted.

11. Incorrect User Input

In some of the cases, the problem lies with the data that are supplied by the user.

In some water softeners, and accurate data about the water hardness levels is needed, and if it is not provided correctly, the softener can run into some problems while operating.

How to troubleshoot –

The solution to this problem is very straightforward. You should carefully read the manual that is supplied with the water softener to understand what sort of input is expected by the unit.

It might also be helpful to get in touch with customer service to get an idea about how to use the product optimally.

If nothing Works..

After having successfully diagnosed the exact problem with the water softener and following all the necessary steps for troubleshooting, if the water softener does not function correctly, there is little left to do but to contact the professionals.

You should also read the manual end to end for checking if there is a solution to your problem in the same.

If not, instead of seeking help from local plumbing services, you should first get in touch with the manufacturer’s product helpline.

You should specify the issue to the company’s professional and verify if the water softener’s warranty covers the needed repair or replacement service.


Many different issues can crop up with a water softener.

However, instead of taking curative measures, it is more beneficial than you take preventative measures to ensure that the problem does not occur in the first place.

As you can see from this article, troubleshooting a problem with the water softener does not require any sophisticated tools.

It can be undertaken by anyone who has a basic understanding of how the water softener works. This article is a low-cost guide for helping you sort any issues with your water softener.

About Sharon Martin

Sharon is a woman of many talents. She loves to work on power tools and provides handyman services. Sharon has expertise with both woodwork and metalwork, so she's always prepared for any job! When not working, Sharon can be found listening to country music or spending time with her cats.