How Often to Change a Water Softener Filter

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Most water softeners come with a sediment pre-filter that protects the softening resin from sediment particles larger than 5 microns.

You should change your water softener filter regularly to maintain the filter’s performance and prevent bacteria buildup in the media.

Here, we’ve shared how often you should change a water softener filter.

📌 Key Features:

  • You should change a sediment filter in a water softener every 3-6 months.
  • Factors affecting the filter’s lifespan include your water usage and quality, and the filter size and design.
  • Signs you need to change a water softener filter are reduced water flow and a dirty-looking filter.

📆 How Often Should You Change A Water Softener Filter?

On average, you should change a water softener filter every 3-6 months.

After this time, the filter media will become clogged with contaminants and may start to degrade.

We advise making a note in your calendar 3 months on from installing the filter, reminding your future self to check it and change it if needed.

sediment filters

📊 Factors That Affect How Often To Change A Water Softener Filter

Factors that affect the lifespan of a water softener’s water filter, and how often to change the filter, are:

The Filter Size & Design

The size and design of your softener’s water filter affect how long it’ll last.

The bigger the filter cartridge or the bigger the filter’s surface area, the more space it has to trap contaminants, and the longer it’ll be able to treat your water before it gets too clogged.

Most sediment filters have a cartridge design. But if you install a standalone sediment filter upstream of your water softener, you’ll have more choice with design. Spin-down sediment filters can be reused, giving them a slightly longer lifespan of 6-12 months.

Your Water Usage

Your water usage also affects how long your softener’s water filter cartridge will last.

The manufacturer first determines how many gallons a filter should be able to treat before a replacement is needed. This gallon amount will then be converted to an estimated timeframe (usually in months) based on an average daily water usage figure.

If you have a big family and you use more water than average per day, the filter will trap more sediment and will become clogged at a faster rate. You might need a new filter more frequently than most people.

On the other end, if you use less water than average, you might get a few extra weeks out of your filter due to the reduced daily water flow through the filter.

Rinsing hands in sink

Your Water Quality

Finally, your water quality determines how long a water filter for a softening system will last.

If you have high-sediment water, such as well water, the filter will need to work harder to trap more sediment per gallon. It’ll become clogged at a faster rate compared to homes with low-sediment water, like city water.

Water testing with tap score

🔎 Signs You Need To Change A Water Softener Filter

A few signs you need to change a water softener filter are:

  • Decreased water flow rate
  • Bad taste or odor in your water
  • Dirty-looking filter cartridge

In many cases, you won’t notice any signs that your water filter cartridge needs to be replaced, so don’t wait for a clear indicator before buying a new filter. It’s best to stick to the manufacturer’s recommendation for filter changes.

🤔 What Happens If You Don’t Change A Water Softener Filter?

The purpose of a water softener sediment filter is to protect the resin from sediment damage. But, once the filter reaches the end of its lifespan, its contaminant removal abilities decrease significantly, meaning that the water softener is no longer protected.

This could lead to:

  • Sediment buildup inside the resin, affecting its water softening performance
  • Reduced water softener resin lifespan

Failing to replace a water softener whole house water filter on time could also lead to:

  • Clogging of the filter media that significantly reduces water flow
  • Bacteria buildup in the filter media
  • Degradation of the media that causes trapped sediments to re-enter the water supply

👨‍🔧 If you no longer want to use a sediment filtration system for your water softener, it would actually be safer to remove the water softener sediment filter altogether rather than keep it installed in the unit.

Old and dirty water filter clogged with contaminants

❔ How Often To Change A Water Softener Filter: FAQ

Do I have to use my water softener sediment filter?

If your tap water supply contains virtually no sediment, it’s not essential that you use a sediment filter for your water softener. However, don’t just leave the water filter in the housing – it might accumulate bacteria that gets into your water and makes you sick. Remove it altogether if you don’t want to use it.

Related: Sediment filters vs water softeners explained.

How do you clean a water softener filter?

You can’t clean a water softener filter. Most manufacturers recommend that you replace a water filter for a softening system every 3-6 months. Cleaning the filter may damage the media and won’t bring it back to like-new condition.

Where can you buy a new water softener filter?

You can usually buy a replacement sediment filter for your water softener from the same place that you bought the softener. Many water softeners use the same-sized pre-filters, so you might be able to buy a compatible non-branded sediment pre-filter or a filter from another manufacturer at a lower cost.

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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