How Do You Know a Water Softener Is Bad?

How Do You Know If a Water Softener Is Bad

Do you suspect that your water softener is no longer softening your water? Are you having a difficult time soaping up in the shower? Does your water taste different, or have you noticed a sudden change in your household water pressure?

With proper maintenance, your water softener can last 10 to 15 years. However, if you live in an area that has extremely hard water, or if you use well water (which typically has high levels of iron), your water softener will be working overtime to remove minerals that cause hardness.



Your water softener, like other household appliances, eventually wear out. If your water softener was installed more than ten years ago, now might be a good time to replace it.

If you suspect that your water softener isn’t doing its job, that doesn’t mean that the whole system needs to be replaced. Check it to make sure that it is just a component that needs replacing or a valve that needs cleaning.

How Do You Know If a Water Softener Is Bad?

Below are some telltale signs that your water softener is bad and not working properly.

1. Blockages

Blockages in the water flow are the first sign that your water softener needs attention.

Blockages typically occur when salt and minerals accumulate and when deposits of minerals are formed in the filter screen and brine. Check your water tank to determine whether there’s a blockage.

The presence of water in the tank indicates that salt buildup is clogging the tank. This blockage reduces the amount of water that can enter the tank and prevents the flow of water.

Subsequently, the water softener becomes less effective in decreasing hardness.

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2. Bad-Tasting Water

Although the water’s flavor depends on where it comes from, water can get a bad taste even if it is coming from a clean source. You may notice a change in the taste of your water if your water softener stops working properly.

Hard water has a different flavor from soft water, and some people notice the change in taste if their water starts to have an increased concentration of hardness minerals.

Sometimes, you may notice that the taste is fine on a certain day and then is suddenly bad after a few days. In some cases, the change in taste may occur on a single day.

These signs could simply mean that you need to have your water softener serviced or replaced.

3. Brine Tank Out of Salt

If you have any doubts about the functionality of your unit, check the brine tank first. It shouldn’t be out of salt. If that happens, your water softener will not be able to remove minerals that cause hardness and iron from the softener resin. The resin beads will become coated in iron and will need to be replaced.

It is not uncommon for people to think that their water softener needs to be replaced when it has just run out of salt. Before calling a professional to service your water softener, check the brine tank to make sure you have enough salt pellets in there.

It is good practice to mark your calendar or set a reminder to check the salt level in the brine tank once every month. Also, be sure that you do not overfill the tank and only fill it to the level recommended by the manufacturer.



4. Crusty Buildup

Limescale buildup on faucetHave you noticed that you are frequently removing lime buildup from your faucets? If yes, then your water softener might have a problem. It isn’t softening hard water, letting minerals cause a crusty buildup around your pipes and faucets.

Because the buildup of minerals is a slow process, you won’t notice the problem right away.

Pay attention when you’re cleaning your kitchen and bathroom faucets, and consider having your water softener serviced if you notice white residue buildup around your faucets.

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5. Squeaky Skin after a Bath or Shower

If your skin feels squeaky clean after a bath or shower instead of silky smooth, then this may be another sign that your water softener isn’t removing minerals that cause hardness from your water.

You may also notice that it has become difficult to rinse away soap from your body. This situation leaves you feeling dry and itching.

If you have sensitive skin, you may develop skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema.

6. Motor

The motor plays a significant role in the functioning of a water softener. Although the motor can run for a couple of years without any issue, it can eventually wear out after two or three years and will need replacing.

If your water softener system fails to start or suddenly stops working, the problem may be coming from the motor. However, before assuming that the water softener motor has failed, make sure your cables are not damaged and that the power supply is connected.

You may need to call the manufacturer if your water softer softener fails to start after passing an initial inspection. The manufacturer can either replace the valve motor or arrange for a professional technician to look into the issue.



7. User Error

Like all systems that rely on an individual to input settings and run a manual process, your water softener can also malfunction due to user error. When this happens, the brine tank will stop using salt like it normally does.

User error is a very common problem. It can cause water overflow, salt bridges inside the tank, faulty timers, hard water flow, and resin beads in the water.

The best way to resolve this problem is to unplug the water softener from the mains, turn on the unit again, and wait a few minutes after power is restored.

If the error code returns, check the user manual. You can also contact the manufacturer, who may guide you on how to resolve this problem.

8. Hard Water Signs

If your water softener stops working, you will inevitably start seeing signs of hard water. Common signs that indicate your water softener is not softening your water are

  • Water spots on your shower door
  • Not enough lather
  • Stiff clothes
  • White residue building up around your pipes and faucets

If you notice these signs, you can confirm that your water softener is no longer softening your water by performing a test.

You can easily buy water hardness test kits from major online retailers, such as Amazon or Home Depot. You can also buy them from your local hardware store.

To have a better idea of how well your water softener is removing minerals that cause hardness from your water, test your incoming and outgoing water.

Jon Agarwal

Jon Agarwal works as an environmental consultant focused on water resources, and he volunteers his time for non-profit organizations. He lives in the heart of Melbourne with his beautiful wife, two sons, and three Persian cats. He particularly enjoys working part-time as it leaves him the time to work on his own writing and share his knowledge. Visit our About page to learn about the contributors of Healthy Buddys.

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