7 Signs My Water Softener Isn’t Working Properly

Ellie Brooks

Written By Ellie Brooks

Published 11/14/22
7 Signs My Water Softener Isn’t Working Properly

Some home appliance breakdowns are obvious, but others can sneak up on you. If your water softener starts to malfunction, for instance, you may not notice the problem right away. After all, it’s easy to neglect an appliance in the basement or other infrequently visited space.

It pays to stay vigilant. The sooner you catch a problem, the greater your chances of mitigating damage and avoiding steep repair costs. In this article, we’ll share some signs that could suggest that your water softener requires maintenance or repair.

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Is My Water Softener Not Working Properly?

1. Your water feels hard.

The express purpose of a water softener is to filter out hard minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, from home water. You will start to notice if your water turns hard—that is, if the dissolved mineral content increases. When you wash your hands or bathe, you might notice that you need to scrub harder with soap to get a good lather. Hard water reacts with soap to form soap scum, which you could see accumulate on the surfaces of your shower or tub. Soap scum can also leave a film on your skin. Other signs of hard water include spots and streaks on your plates, glasses, and silverware and mineral stains on your laundered clothes.

If your water feels too hard, consult a water softener troubleshooting guide. Here are a few potential causes:

  •        The water softener needs to be turned on, or the circuit needs to be reset.
  •        The water softener settings need to be adjusted.
  •        Salt needs to be added to the tank.
  •        A mechanical or electrical component has broken down.
  •        A salt bridge has formed and needs to be manually broken up.

2. Your water softener is making too much noise—or no noise at all.

A healthy water softener will naturally make some noise when it undergoes a regeneration cycle. You might hear the gentle hum of the motor, periodic gurgling of water, or the ticking of the water softener’s timer.

Depending on your water softener’s size and design, you might hear a regeneration cycle every few days or once every one to two weeks. If you don’t notice any noise over an exceptionally long stretch of time, you should check on your appliance and service it as needed.

Also keep an ear out for unusual noises. Hissing or high-pitched squealing can indicate a faulty valve or damaged pipe or hose. Grinding, banging, or other loud noises can be due to mechanical malfunctions or mineral buildup. Trickling noises suggest a leak, but you’ll presumably notice the pooling water as well.

3. You are going through salt too quickly or slowly.

If you’ve lived in your home for several years, you should have some frame of reference for how much salt your softener requires from month to month. It’s a red flag if you find yourself using more or less salt than you’re accustomed to.

Troubleshoot water softener salt consumption issues by checking your timer and settings. If you’re consuming salt too quickly, you may have inadvertently set your softener to engage a regeneration cycle too frequently. An unideal regeneration timer setting could also be why you’re going through salt too slowly.

Also, if your softener appears to be full of salt, consider the possibility of a salt bridge. This is a cake or crust of salt that forms above the water level. Salt bridges are very common. Simply break it up with a broomstick or other long tool. Extract and discard any chunks that look too large to dissolve in the water.

4. The water level is too high.

Keep an eye on the water level in your softener’s brine tank. The water level should usually be quite low. There should not be enough water to fully submerge the salt. A water softener full of water could be due to a malfunctioning float switch. Another possibility is a drain line that is pinched or clogged with mineral buildup.

5. Your water pressure is low.

Poor water pressure could be a sign of a water softener malfunction. To confirm your softener is the source of the problem, engage the bypass valve, then check the water pressure in your kitchen or bathroom. If the pressure is greater than it was previously, your softener is causing the problem. Check the appliance’s internal filter. If you hadn’t replaced it in some time, it is likely clogged, inhibiting waterflow.

If low water pressure is a chronic issue, you water softener could be too small for your home. It could also be that minerals or resin beads have accumulated in your showerheads and faucets.

6. Your water is discolored or full of resin.

Discolored water could have a number of causes, one of which is rust buildup in your water softener. If you notice brown or orange water, check your brine tank for signs of corrosion or dirt.

You also may notice tiny resin beads in your water. These can damage your plumbing and fixtures over time and should not be able to escape the tank. If you notice resin beads, confirm that your internal water softener screen is not torn.

7. Your water has an unpleasant odor.

Water softeners should be cleaned once every year or two. If you’re noticing the odor of sulfur in your water or in the softener itself, you probably need to clean your brine tank to remove the accumulation of bacteria. Consult your owner’s manual or contact a professional as needed.

Keep Your Home Appliances Humming

Some water softener problems are quickly and cheaply resolved. Others require expensive replacement parts of several hours of skilled labor to remedy. Protect yourself from surprise costs with a home warranty from Liberty Home Guard. Our water softener coverage will protect all mechanical parts that are necessary for the unit to function properly.

Request a free quote through our website or call (866)-432-1283 to learn more.


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