Water softeners can make a big difference in your home! These handy devices remove hard minerals, including calcium and magnesium, from the water that arrives at your taps and showers, and luckily, once installed, they last quite a long time.
In this article, we are going to find out exactly how long a water softener should last, as well as how to know when it needs to be replaced and a whole lot more.
You should replace a water softener if your water tastes different, your clothes are coming out of the laundry starchy and stiff, or if soap isn’t lathering as much as it used to. While a water softener should last between 10-15 years, you should ensure you properly clean and maintain it and pay attention to the signs that it might be time for a replacement.
We first need to discuss how long a water softener should last.
How Long Should a Water Softener Last?
And it’s important to note that while 10-15 years is the generally expected life span, there are also several factors that will determine how long your water softener will last.
These factors include the brand of water softener you have, how hard the water is that enters your home, and whether or not you regularly fix and maintain the system.
While you can’t control the mineral content of the water your home receives, you can extend the lifespan of your water softener by choosing the best possible brand and ensuring you keep up with the necessary maintenance.
We will dig into proper care for your water softener in just a few moments, but for now, let’s find out which brands of water softeners are expected to last the longest.
|Expected Life Span (Years)||10-15||8-12||Less than 10||10-15|
As you can see, there are certain brands that offer a longer-lasting water softener than others. However, even if you haven’t had your water softener for over a decade, you should still be aware of the common signs that it may not be working properly.
Common Signs Your Water Softener Isn’t Working Properly
Although a water softener should last for at least 10 years, there are a few fairly clear signs that you can and should look out for to ensure it’s not malfunctioning.
Soap refusing to lather
One interesting sign that your water softener isn’t working properly is that the soap you are using is refusing to lather.
Many people don’t realize that in order for soap to lather properly, the water needs to be soft, i.e. free from hard minerals.
When a water softener isn’t working, the minerals in the water are not being filtered out before the water arrives at the tap.
Therefore, when the soap interacts with the hard water, which contains calcium and magnesium, it creates scum instead of soapy bubbles.
So if you notice that your soap isn’t foaming or lathering like it used to, it might be time to check your water softener.
Another common issue that homeowners encounter when their water softener stops working is that their laundry is not coming out clean and soft.
As you now know, water softeners remove minerals from water which makes it softer, and one of the great benefits of having a water softener is that soft water is much better for doing laundry.
Doing laundry with hard water has many disadvantages, including the following:
- Soil buildup on the clothes.
- Dingy whites and faded colors.
- Starchy or stiff clothing.
Consequently, if your clothes start coming out of the washing machine with one or more of these issues, it is likely because your water softener isn’t working as it should.
Difference in water taste
Finally, you could notice that your water softener is having issues if your water starts to taste different.
It’s quite interesting to note that some people prefer the taste of hard water over soft water. However, although there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on which option tastes better, there is certainly a difference between the two.
When a water softener is working correctly, you may be able to taste trace amounts of salt in your water. And hard water can taste slightly chlorinated, bitter, or chalky.
So if you notice that your water now has an unpleasant or even slightly different taste than it used to, you might have a problem with your water softener.
Tips on How to Prolong Your Softener’s Life
Next, it’s time to talk about the steps you can take to prolong the life of your water softener.
Staying on top of the softener maintenance can increase the lifespan of the device by years, and fortunately, each of these tips is something you can do yourself without the help of a professional!
Check salt level regularly
The first thing you should do to ensure your water softener lasts as long as possible is to regularly check the salt levels.
This is an important aspect of keeping your water softener working properly, as, without the salt pellets, it won’t be able to remove the minerals in the water.
As well, all water softeners need to self-clean as they work, and salt is absolutely necessary for this regeneration process.
So, to check the salt level in your softener, here’s what you need to do:
- Remove the lid to the brine tank on your water softener.
- If you see water above the salt line, your softener needs more salt.
- The salt pellets should always be a few inches above the water line.
- When adding salt pellets, make sure to only fill it to about a quarter of the way full.
You should repeat this process of checking and filling the salt as needed in your softener every 2-3 months for the best maintenance.
Know how to clean a water softener brine tank
In addition to checking the salt levels in the water softener brine tank, you should also perform regular cleanings in the tank.
The brine tank holds the salt pellets needed to both clean the machine and remove the minerals in your water, and if it’s not clean, it can’t do its job correctly!
Luckily, cleaning the brine tank only needs to be done once a year, and while it is slightly time-consuming, the instructions are quite simple.
- Check and follow your softener’s manual for how to place the system on Bypass Mode.
- Disconnect the hoses connecting the brine tank to the softener.
- Dump out the remaining water and salt in the tank (NOTE: do not dump the remains onto grass or flowers as the salt will affect their growth.)
- If there is a screen at the bottom, known as the brine grid, take it out and wash it carefully.
- Pour 2-3 gallons of clean water and ¼ cup of bleach into the brine tank.
- Let it sit for about 15 minutes.
- Dump the bleach water out and rinse the tank with clean water.
- Connect the hoses from the brine tank.
- Take the system off Bypass Mode.
- Fill the tank just less than a quarter of the way full with clean water.
- Add the salt pellets to fill it a quarter of the way full.
That’s all there is to it! Now, your water softener and brine tank should be working perfectly and you won’t have to clean it again until next year.
Use good salt
When you clean the brine tank or simply add salt as needed, you want to ensure that you use good salt, as it can make a big difference in the performance of the system as well as its lifespan.
The first thing you need to know is that only salt specifically designed for water softeners should be used. You absolutely cannot use table or dicing salt.
That being said, there are still an overwhelming amount of options when it comes to softener salt; so which one should you choose?
The very best option for salt for all softeners is evaporated salt pellets. And that is because they are both pure and dissolve easily in the brine tank.
Also, you should always select a salt brand that is as pure as possible; in fact, the label on the bag should say “99.9% Pure Salt.”
Salts that are not completely pure will create buildup in the softener and not only cause problems and require more maintenance but also decrease the lifespan of the system.
As not all salt brands are created equally, here are two of the most highly recommended options:
- Diamond Crystal Bright and Soft Water Softener Salt Pellets
- Morton Salt Clean and Protect Sodium Chloride Pellets
Realistically, any salt pellets from either Diamond Crystal or Morton are a good choice. And you can pick from their variety of options according to your specific softener and your home’s needs.
Notice every single change in water taste
At the end of the day, by paying attention to the taste of your water, you will usually be able to tell right away when your water softener has stopped functioning properly and either needs maintenance or even to be replaced.
Luckily, you now have all the information you need to not only prolong the life of your water softener but also to be able to tell if there are problems with the device!
DIY Solution For Faulty Water Softeners
It’s important to understand that there are a few solutions you can do yourself if your water softener is malfunctioning.
- Read the manual and check to see the controls are properly set.
- Clean out the brine tank.
- Disassemble and clean the Venturi assembly parts.
However, if you are in any way unsure, you should absolutely reach out to a professional for help.
Water softeners are finicky and expensive systems, and spending a little more on getting assistance from a professional will save you money in the long run.
Because water softeners are meant to last for over a decade, it is extremely important that when you make the purchase, you opt for a system with a substantial warranty.
And because every brand has a slightly different warranty for their water softeners, you should know what they are before you make such a big investment.
- Whirlpool: Automatic 2-year warranty with an option for a 10-year extension.
- GE: 1-year on the entire appliance, 3-year for the motor, and 10-year warranty for the brine tank and resin tank.
- Waterboss: 5-year warranty on all parts, including electronics, and a 10-year warranty on brine tank and valve body.
While the warranty isn’t the only factor you should consider, at least now you know what the various brands have to offer so you can confidently purchase the right softener for your home.
Water softeners should last between 10-15 years if they are properly maintained.
Water softeners (like descalers) are a great addition to your home. There are several steps you can take to prolong the life of your water softener, such as choosing the best brand in the first place, as well as cleaning the brine tank, using the correct salt, and checking the levels regularly.
You can also be on the lookout for signs that your water softener is not functioning correctly and may need maintenance or even replacement.
However, you now have all the information you need to keep your water softener working properly for as long as possible!
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.