How to Drain Water Softener Brine and Resin Tanks

Preparing for water softener maintenance, or swapping out an old water softener for a new model? If so, part of the de-servicing process will involve draining the brine and resin tanks.

In this guide, we’ve shared how to safely and quickly drain the water from the tanks in your softening system.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • Different water softeners have different designs. The exact process of draining the brine tank and resin tank may vary.
  • Some of the ways to drain the brine tank include using the hose bib or drainage tap (if included on the softener), scooping or pouring out the water, or sucking the water out with a wet vacuum.
  • Methods to drain the resin tank include pumping out the water with a compressor, dumping the water, and using a wet vac to suck out the water.

📤 How to Drain a Water Softener Brine Tank: 7 Methods

Wait For The Water Softener To Regenerate

New water softener models have a dry salt tank, which means that water automatically drains from the tank after the water softener has regenerated.

The only time the softener should contain water is a few hours prior to regeneration. So, if you have a dry salt tank softener and you want to drain the brine tank, simply wait for the system to regenerate.

Don’t want to wait? You might be able to speed up the process by programming a manual regeneration.

Demand initiated water softener regeneration

Use The Hose Bib

Some large water softeners have a hose bib at the bottom of the brine tank that you can attach a garden hose to.

To drain water using the hose bib, follow these steps:

  1. Shut off your whole home water supply.
  2. Bypass water away from the softener by engaging the bypass valve.
  3. Find the hose bib on the brine tank.
  4. Connect the hose to the hose bib.
  5. Direct the hose to a suitable drain.
  6. Wait for water to drain out of the tank.

Use The Drainage Tap

Other water softeners have a drainage tap on the brine tank that you can switch on to drain water out of the tank.

To drain water using the drainage tap, follow these steps:

  1. Shut off your whole home water supply.
  2. Bypass water away from the softener by engaging the bypass valve.
  3. Place a large bucket beneath the brine tank’s drainage tap.
  4. Switch on the tap and wait for all the water to be drained.
  5. You may need to work in batches. Keep another bucket handy to replace the initial bucket when it needs to be emptied.
  6. Empty the bucket of brine water down a suitable drain.
Switching a water softener bypass valve on

Scoop Out The Water

A simple but time-consuming manual method of draining the brine tank is to scoop the water out of the tank using a large scoop, cup, bowl, or bucket.

Here’s how to scoop out the water in the brine tank:

  1. Get a bucket, scoop, bowl, or cup that fits inside the brine tank.
  2. Scoop out the water and dump it into a bigger bucket or container.
  3. When the big bucket is full, empty the water down a suitable drain.
  4. Repeat the process until you’ve removed as much water as possible, then disconnect the tank and dump the remaining water in a floor drain.
Draining the brine tank by scooping water out into another bucket

Pour Out The Water

If you’re strong enough to safely lift and tilt a brine tank full of water, and you have an equally strong friend who can help you, another quick and simple method of draining the brine tank is to disconnect the tank and dump the water.

Here’s how to dump water from a water softener brine tank:

  1. Shut off your water supply and engage the bypass.
  2. Open the brine tank lid and remove the safety float.
  3. Remove the overflow elbow (if your water softener comes with one).
  4. Pull out the long cylinder (the brine well) that holds the safety float in the tank.
  5. Detach the tube between the brine tank’s overflow hose, the head valve, and the brine tank (the fill tube).
  6. Carefully lift the brine tank and slowly pour the water down a suitable drain.

Use a Shop Vac/ Wet Vac

A shop vac or a wet vac also offers a simple way to drain the water from the water softener salt tank.

Follow these steps:

  1. Plug in and switch on the wet vac.
  2. Position the cleaning wand over the tank and submerge the end into the brine solution.
  3. Vacuum up the water, periodically checking the water level inside the vacuum.
  4. Empty the vacuum into a suitable drain. You may need to vacuum in batches.

Program Manual Regeneration Cycle

Finally, perhaps the simplest method of draining the water softener’s brine tank (for systems that allow it) is to program your softener to perform a manual regeneration cycle.

To activate a manual regeneration cycle:

  1. Locate your water softener’s control head.
  2. Program the softener to manually regenerate. Most systems have a “regenerate” button – press this.
  3. Wait for the system water to be sucked out of the salt tank through the brine line during regeneration.
  4. Press the “regenerate” button again to skip the brine cycle, preventing the brine tank from refilling.
  5. Program the system to skip all other regeneration cycles, then shut off your water softener and divert water away from the unit to prevent the brine tank from refilling.

The exact process of scheduling a manual regeneration depends on the type of water softener system you own.

Digital water softener program a manual regeneration cycle

📝 How to Drain a Water Softener Resin Tank: 3 Methods

There are a few different methods that are best for draining a resin water softener tank.

Pump Out The Water With a Compressor

The best way to drain the resin is to program a manual regeneration, then bypass the system once backwashing begins and pump the water out of the tank with a compressor.

Follow these steps:

  1. Program the water softener to automatically regenerate. (Most softeners have a “regenerate” button.)
  2. Once the softener starts backwashing, activate the bypass valve to isolate the softener from your plumbing and prevent water from flowing into the tank.
  3. Place a bucket beneath the softener and detach the water softener drain line from the resin tank.
  4. Detach the brine line (connecting the resin tank to the salt tank).
  5. Skip the rest of the regeneration cycles.
  6. Shut off your water supply, then detach the inlet and outlet valves.
  7. Attach a compressor to the inlet and outlet valves, then attach copper tubing connecting to a garden hose.
  8. Place a bucket on the floor and direct the hose into the bucket.
  9. Wait until all the water has drained. You may need to work in batches.

Dump The Water

If you don’t have a compressor and or don’t want the fuss of attaching extra components to drain the resin tank, you could simply dump the water out of the tank.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Program the water softener to automatically regenerate.
  2. Once the softener starts backwashing, activate the bypass valve.
  3. Place a bucket beneath the softener and detach the drain line from the resin tank.
  4. Detach the brine line.
  5. Skip the rest of the regeneration cycles.
  6. Shut off your water supply, then detach the inlet and outlet valves.
  7. Carefully tilt the water softener over a floor drain so that the water drains out of the inlet and outlet ports.
  8. Continue until all the water has drained.
Draining a water softener resin tank

Use a Wet Vac

Most resin tanks are too narrow at the opening to use a bucket or scoop to remove the water manually. You should, however, be able to fit a wet vac cleaning wand into the tank opening.

To drain a resin tank with a wet vac, follow these steps:

  1. Program the water softener to automatically regenerate.
  2. Once the softener starts backwashing, activate the bypass valve.
  3. Place a bucket beneath the softener and detach the drain line from the resin tank.
  4. Detach the brine line.
  5. Skip the rest of the regeneration cycles.
  6. Unscrew the control head (on top of the tank) and remove the riser tube.
  7. Plug in and switch on the wet vac.
  8. Position the cleaning wand over the tank and submerge the end into the opening.
  9. Vacuum up the water, periodically checking the water level inside the vacuum.
  10. Empty the vacuum into a suitable drain. You may need to vacuum in batches.

❔ How to Drain A Water Softener: FAQ

Where should you drain a water softener backwash?

The best place to drain a water softener is through a drain that leads to your sewage system. But some municipalities may restrict you from doing this, or you might not have a direct line to your sewage system. If so, you can drain the water onto the ground outside.

How long does it take to drain a water softener?

It takes 10-30 minutes to drain a water softener, depending on the method you use and how many steps you need to take. The fastest methods of draining a water softener are dumping the water, programming manual regeneration, and using a wet vac.

Can you drain a water softener into a sump pump?

No, you shouldn’t drain a water softener into a sump pump since it might clog the pump. However, you can discharge water into a sump pit without clogging.

Should there be standing water in brine tank?

If you have a wet salt tank water softener, then yes, there should be standing water in the tank all the time. If you have a dry salt tank water softener, there should only be water in the tank for a few hours before the system regenerates. Constant water in the tank is a sign of a problem with your water softener.

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