How Long Do Water Softeners Last? (You Might Be Surprised)

When you buy a new water softener, how long can you expect it to last?

What factors affect the lifespan of a water softener, and how can you make your water softener last longer?

You’ll find answers to these questions and more in this water softener lifespan guide.

๐Ÿ“Œ Key Takeaways:

  • The typical lifespan of a water softener is 10-20 years.
  • Factors affecting the lifespan of a softener include the softener’s build quality, the quality of upkeep and maintenance, your daily usage and water quality, the salt type, and the operating conditions.
  • You can extend the lifespan of a water softener by adding a pre-filter, using the right kind of salt, and more.

๐Ÿ“… What Is The Lifespan Of A Water Softener?

So how long do water softeners last?

The majority of the best home water softeners last for 10-20 years.

Some water softeners may pack it in after 10 years, while others might continue to soften hard water beyond 20 years.

๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ”ง No water treatment appliance lasts forever. While water softeners have an impressively long life, there will come a time when you need to replace yours – or at least replace a few major parts.

ion exchange water softener in basement

๐Ÿ“Š Factors Affecting Water Softener Lifespan

So, what affects how long a water softener will last? Let’s take a look.

Build Quality

The build quality, or the quality of the materials used in a water softener, affects its durability – and therefore, how long it’ll last.

Water softeners made from durable materials like stainless steel are likely to last longer than those with flimsy or delicate parts. A water softener with lots of plastic components – especially the fittings and connections – probably won’t last as long as a water softener made from stronger materials.

To get a good idea of how long the major parts (the valve, tanks, and fittings) should last, look for manufacturer warranties on these parts. The best warranties are 10+ years or limited lifespan warranties. This tells you that the manufacturer expects their product to last this long under normal use – and if it doesn’t (under warranty terms), you should be able to arrange for a free repair or replacement.

Quality of Upkeep/Maintenance

Your own upkeep and maintenance also affect how long your water softener system lasts.

Maintenance tasks involve cleaning the salt tank, using a water softener cleaner in the resin tank, and getting rid of salt bridges and mushing. Upkeep tasks include replacing the pre-filter, and repairing or replacing worn or broken parts.

If you don’t take proper care of your water softener, you might end up knocking a few years off its lifespan.

Fixing-salt-mushing-in-water-softener

Daily Usage

Your daily water usage affects how frequently a water softener is used, and how often it needs to regenerate. The longer a water softener is used per day, the shorter its lifespan.

All water softeners will become worn over time. The rate of wear and tear depends on how much the appliance is used. So, if you use twice the amount of water than average in your home, your water softener will probably reach the end of its lifespan faster.

Water Quality

The quality of your water is another factor that affects a water softener’s lifespan.

Water with high hardness requires more salt to soften, resulting in more frequent regenerations (with the same results as the above “daily usage” point).

Other water quality issues, like high sediment, iron, or chlorine levels, can also damage the water softener resin, shortening its lifespan.

Salt Type

The type of salt you use in your water softener may also play a part in how long it lasts.

Using the wrong type of salt, or an impure salt type, may damage the softener or lead to a buildup of dirt in the salt tank. This can potentially clog the tank and its various valves and water lines, stopping it from working correctly.

Clogging might put strain on a water softener, causing it to get stuck in regeneration or resulting in electrical problems, which may shorten its lifespan.

adding salt to a water softener brine tank

Operating Conditions

Finally, the operating conditions of a water softener will likely affect its lifespan.

Incorrect water pressure or poor ventilation may affect the softener’s ability to perform as it should. Prolonged poor operating conditions may prevent a water softener from functioning properly and shorten its lifespan considerably.

Make sure the check the ideal operating conditions in the user manual before you install the system.

๐Ÿ“Œ Common Signs Your Water Softener is Starting to Fail

Aside from occasional maintenance, you can probably admit that you don’t pay much attention to your softener. So you likely donโ€™t know how to detect when a water softener is reaching the end of its lifespan.

Here are some of the signs that your water softening system is starting to fail*:

Unusual Drinking Water Taste

Hard water has a distinct alkaline taste due to the hardness minerals present. Salt-softened water has a different taste (slightly salty) and texture (smooth and “slippery”).

If water takes on a more chalky taste, it could be a sign that your softener isnโ€™t working as effectively as it used to, and hard water minerals are slipping through.

Soap Wonโ€™t Lather Well

One of the most obvious characteristics of hard water is its inability to properly lather with soap.

To test your waterโ€™s lathering abilities, fill a plastic bottle 3/4 full with water from your faucet and a couple of drops of liquid soap.

Put the lid on the bottle and shake vigorously.

If the water doesnโ€™t have suds or looks cloudy, this indicates hard water – suggesting that your water isnโ€™t lathering well, and you might need to replace your water softener.

rinsing hands in sink

Problems with Laundry

Hard water makes clothes stiff, scratchy, and gray-tinged. Soft water doesn’t cause a crusty buildup or discoloration of your laundry.

When a water softener is starting to fail, it wonโ€™t remove all the hardness minerals from a home water supply, leading to the laundry problems you probably experienced before installing your new water softener.

Scale Buildup on Pipes and Faucets

Hard water minerals leave streaky deposits (mineral deposits) on your pipes, faucets, and water-based appliances. Using water softeners should eliminate your scale problem.

New mineral buildup in your plumbing fixtures, washing machines and other water-using appliances, or shower screens, suggests a failing water softening system.

Dry Skin & Hair

A properly functioning water softener should eliminate calcium and magnesium minerals, preventing soap scum and skin and hair issues.

So, if your hair and skin start to feel dry or itchy, your softener might be reaching the end of its lifespan.

๐Ÿ“Œ Note: many signs of a failing water softener are also signs of much easier-to-resolve problems, such as low salt levels or a softener that needs to regenerate. Make sure you know exactly what you’re dealing with before jumping to the conclusion that you need a new softener.

Dry hair and itchy skin

๐Ÿ“ How to Extend the Life of Your Water Softener

There are several simple things that you can do to get more value out of your water softener and extend its lifespan:

Add a Pre-filter

Adding a whole home pre-filter is one of the best ways to ensure a softener lasts last a long time โ€“ 15 years minimum.

There are a few different types of pre-filters:

  • Sediment pre-filters, usually attached to the softener – remove sediment like sand, rust, and dirt
  • Carbon-based pre-filters, usually in a standalone whole-home filtration system – protect the softener from chlorine damage
  • Air injection/oxidation filters, also standalone filter units – protect the system from iron fouling

By preventing damage from other minerals, chemicals, and sediments, a pre-filter should extend the lifespan of your softener.

whole house sediment filter install

Use the Right Kind of Salt

Using the best salt for your softener will also help to increase the system’s lifespan.

Impure types of salt like rock salt increase the likelihood of salt bridge formation, affecting your softener’s performance and potentially its lifespan.

Solar salt pellets and evaporated salt pellets are best – and if you want to avoid a salt bridge issue altogether, evaporated salt is better than solar salt.

For an all-in-one softener, opt for pellets, not crystals, to prevent crust formation around the salt tank.

Regularly Check Salt Levels

Making sure thereโ€™s enough salt in your water softener is also very important.

If salt levels fall too low, a water softener wonโ€™t be able to regenerate its softening media.

Add salt when the levels fall below halfway. Don’t wait until the tank gets empty or you notice hard minerals in your water.

Clean the Brine Tank or Resin Bed

Cleaning the brine tank and resin bed will also ensure your new water softener can continue to provide exceptional water treatment for at least 10+ years.

Clean the salt tank once a year, and use a resin cleaner every 6-12 months. This will prevent a buildup of debris in the brine tank and reduce fouling of the resin.

Well filter and salt based water softener brine tank

Inspect the System Every 3 Months

Finally, make sure to inspect your softener every 3 months. Check that everything looks good and work to diagnose problems before they escalate.

๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ”ง Check the softener’s tanks, valves, fittings, and water lines, and make sure everything is working properly. Leaks, clogs, and unusual noises are telltale signs that something needs to be replaced or repaired.

๐ŸŒฏ Wrap Up

You’ve likely spent a lot of money on a water softening system, and you want to get the best value from it throughout its lifespan.

Water softeners should last at least 10 years with proper care and treatment. If you want continued soft water production in your home, follow the tips in this guide.

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