How to Clean a Water Softener: A Complete Guide

Proper maintenance is a must if you want any equipment to last longer.

Your water softener is no different from any other equipment you have.

It requires proper and timely maintenance to continue functioning at optimal capacity.

Good news! This article will show you exactly how to clean your water softener.

In a Hurry?

Here’s a quick look at how to clean your water softener tanks:

Most water softener has two tanks that need to be cleaned– the brine tank and resin tank.

Follow these simple steps when cleaning them.

Prior to cleaning either of them, make sure to:

  • Schedule the cleaning of your brine tank when the salt level is low.
  • The unit is turned off.
  • Never mix bleach with vinegar or any resin cleaning products.
  1. Cleaning the water softener brine tank.
  • Open your tank and empty its contents like residual brine water, and remaining salt.
  • Break up salt bridges with a broom handle. If the salt bridge is too hard, use hot water to easily break them up.
  • Remove the brine mesh/grid and clean it with a brush and soapy water.
  • Clean the inside of the tank using soap and water with a sponge or brush.
  • Rinse the tank thoroughly with water.
  • Disinfect with a bleach solution (mix ¼ cup of bleach with 2 gallons of water). Let it sit for fifteen (15) minutes.
  • Rinse with clean water.
  • Place the clean mesh back into the bottom of the brine tank.
  • Replenish salt level. Depending on your unit, you can use 2-3 bags of salt pellets, or whichever recommended salt form and recommended quantity is appropriate.
  • Always make sure that your salt level is about 2 inches above the water level.
  • Wait for a few hours to dissolve the salt before using your water softener unit.
  1. Cleaning the water softener resin tank.
  • Make sure that the unit is unplugged from the power source.
  • Choose the right cleaning solution.
  • Use a 100PPM bleach solution to clean your beads if it is not too discolored. Simply mix 57ml/2oz of bleach to 5 gallons of water to achieve a 50-100PPM bleach-water solution.
  • Use calcium cleaner if you see calcium build-up.
  • If your resin beads are discolored, use an iron-removing chemical that is widely available in home improvement stores.
  • Add the chosen cleaning solution into the resin tank.
  • Plug the unit back in and initiate the regeneration process.
  • After the regeneration process, put it back to normal mode and add water to clean the remaining cleaning solution. Wait a few hours before using the water softener.

Importance of Cleaning Your Water Softeners

Water softeners are an important part of household maintenance if you have problems with hard water.

 It can prevent scales and mineral ions from building up in pipes and drainage systems and helps in prolonging the lifespan of your appliances using water.

It is always a good idea to know how to clean and maintain your water softener system to make sure that you can get the best out of it.

If your water softeners aren’t cleaned properly, they won’t work properly and won’t be able to solve your hard water problem.

How to Know if It’s Time to Clean Your Water Softener

There are some telltale signs indicating that it is time to clean your water softener:

  • Your soap doesn’t bubble and lather properly.
  • Your water has a slightly bitter aftertaste, or it becomes too salty.
  • There is limestone/limescale build-up in your faucets and showerheads.
  • Sand-like particles are floating in your water. Those are resin beads that probably escaped the tank.
  • Your water is discolored.
  • Water pressure in your household dropped. It is a sign that there is a limescale build-up in your pipes.
  • You are using less, or more salt than normal. This is a sign that your water softener is not functioning properly.

How to Clean Water Softeners

Cleaning your water softener may be daunting at first but if you know how to deal with each individual part of it, the task becomes quite manageable.

Here are the key parts of your water softener system that needs timely and proper cleaning.

Few Quick Reminders Before Cleaning

  • The best time to schedule your cleaning is when your salt level is already low to avoid wastage of salt softener.
  • It is a good idea to store water to be used for a few hours before cleaning. You will not be able to use water during the cleaning process.

It is highly advised not to use your water softener unit during cleaning and regeneration.

  • Turn off and unplug your water softener before cleaning.
  • Check your resin beads first. Its state will influence the type of cleaner you need to use.
  • If it is discolored and flaky, use a commercial-grade iron removing chemical available in your local hardware stores.
  • Never use bleach with any commercial resin cleaners as it could produce toxic fumes.
  1. Cleaning your water softener brine tank
  2. After turning off your water softener, open the tank cover and empty the remaining brine solution, and check for water softener salt sludge if there is some.

A. Clean with Hot Water.

If a salt bridge has formed, use hot water. Its high humidity makes it break it up easily.

  • Most water softener tanks have to be cleaned every 5 years, but if you see signs of hard tap water, then proceed with cleaning them as necessary.
  1. Remove the brine mesh or grid found at the bottom of the tank and clean with simple soap and water solution with a brush or sponge.
  2. With the same soap-water solution, use a long-handled brush to scrub the insides of the tank to remove grime, dirt, and any other materials that were filtered.
  3. Rinse the tank with water.
  4. Disinfect using the recommended bleach solution (100PPM). Simply mix ¼ cup of bleach with 2 gallons of water and let it sit in the tank for about fifteen (15) minutes.
  5. Rinse the tank with water. Make sure to rinse it thoroughly.
  6. Put in the cleaned mesh, pour new water and new salt pellets. Let the salt dissolve for a few hours before using the water softener system.

B. Maintaining your water softener brine tank

  1. Make sure to check your brine tank at least once every month.
  2. Check for salt bridges that may have formed and break them up as needed.

Use a long, sturdy stick or the handle of a broomstick in the center of the tank and move it around to break up any solid formation.

  1. You can also pour hot water over the salt to make it easier to break up salt bridges.
  2. If a mush pile is present at the bottom of the tank, simply scoop it out and dissolve it in hot water before pouring it back.

C. Replacing your softening salts

  1. After cleaning your tank, you should refill your salt.  Put about 2-3 bags of the recommended salt or up to the salt line.

Some softeners use rock salt, evaporated salt, or solar salt.

  1. If you do not have a system that automatically supplies water to the brine tank, pour 3 gallons of water.

Make sure that the salt level is always 1-2 inches above the water level.

D. Cleaning your water softener resin tank and resin beds

Some water softener has a sealed resin tank. For such types, you can simply pour a resin cleaner to run through the water softener.  

For other types that are not sealed, follow the following steps to clean them:

  1. Put the water softener into bypass mode before you disconnect the tube of the resin tank from the salt tank.
  2. Choose the right cleaning solution.
  • If your resin bead is not too discolored, you can simply use a bleach and water solution.

Make sure that the bleach solution is at the recommended rate of 50-100PPM.

Simply mix 57ml/2oz of bleach to 5 gallons of water to achieve a 50-100PPM bleach-water solution.

  • If your water supply contains too much calcium, use a cleaner that would target calcium build-up.
  • If your resin beads appear discolored, use an iron removing chemical to clean your resin tank and beads such as potassium chloride.
  1. Add the chosen cleaning solution into the resin tank.
  2. Locate the control valve to initiate regeneration mode. This will distribute the cleaner throughout the tank and flush out contaminants and dirt.
  3. After the regeneration process, turn it back on to normal mode and add water to clean the remaining cleaning solution. Wait a few hours before using the water softener.

Tips to Prolong the Lifespan of Your Water Softener

  • Refill your softening salt every now and then. Make sure to use the recommended salt form and quantity.
  • Always make sure that the salt level in the brine tank is 2 inches above the water line.
  • It is advised to clean your tanks when you replace your softener salt pellets.
  • Use a good resin bed cleaner so they can last longer.
  • If you use a bleach solution for the bleach cycle to clean your resin beads, make sure that it will not exceed 50-100PPM, beyond it, resin beads will deteriorate faster.
  • Regular cleaning also ensures longer lifespan.


When should I replace my water softener?

If you have already cleaned your water softener tanks and still see signs of hard water in the water flow, it is best to get a professional to look into it so they can advise if you need a new water softening system.

Should I replace my resin beads regularly?

Resin beads usually last up to 10 years. You can change them once they are fully discolored and flaky so you can always have fresh water.

Can I use vinegar in cleaning my water softener?

You can use vinegar, just make sure that it is distilled white vinegar and not apple cider.

When should I clean my water softener?

If you are using not your water softener frequently, you can clean it every 4-5 months, but if you use it frequently, then cleaning every 2 months is advised.


Knowledge in cleaning and maintaining your water softener tank is important in home maintenance.

With the outlined cleaning steps and maintenance tips, your water softener could have the maximum lifespan to serve your household’s needs for soft water.

D. Hahn

DIY guru, dad, husband, blogger. When I'm not creating life hacks I'm teaching my kids how to fix stuff after their dad breaks it.

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