How to Fix a Clogged Water Softener (the Easy Way)

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A clogged water softener will disrupt your home’s soft water supply. In this guide, we’ve shared a few simple steps to fix a clogged water softener.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • Signs of a clogged water softener include a recurrence of hard water problems, off-schedule system regenerations, and reduced water flow and pressure.
  • The most common clogs occur in the water softener drain line, salt tank, and brine line.

🤔 How To Know If A Water Softener Is Clogged

There are several parts of water softeners that could become clogged, including a brine tank clogged with salt, and water softener clogged pipes (usually the drain pipe or the pipe between the salt tank and resin tank).

👨‍🔧 Most clogs in a water softener prevent the system from regenerating properly. The brine solution may be unable to get into the resin, or not enough salt may be used to replenish the resin.

As a result, your soft water supply will be cut off, and you’ll notice signs of hard water again, such as:

  • Dry, itchy skin and scalp
  • Mineral deposits around your faucets, showerheads, and appliances
  • Mineral-tasting water
  • Poor lather with soap

A salt clog might also cause the system to regenerate off-schedule, so make sure your softener is regenerating as normal.

A dip in your water pressure may also be caused by a clog in the softening system.

Hard water causes dry and itchy skin

🪛 How To Fix A Clogged Water Softener

Here’s how to fix a water softener clog. In most scenarios, you should be able to do this yourself.

Remember to check the guidance in your water softener instruction manual for how to deal with clogs specifically in your softener model.

Step 1: Determine The Cause

The first step is to diagnose the issue.

👨‍🔧 Check the brine tank to begin with. High humidity or poor-quality salt may cause the bottom of the brine tank to become clogged with salt.

This salt clog will prevent brine solution (salty water) from leaving the brine tank and flowing into the resin bed.

If the tank itself doesn’t have a salt clog, check the brine line connecting the brine tank and the resin (mineral) tank. Also check the drain line, which connects the water softener to a drain.

Step 2: Fix The Problem

Now, depending on the cause of the salt clog, take the appropriate steps to solve the problem.

How To Fix A Brine Tank Salt Clog

To fix a clog in the salt tank, follow these steps:

  1. Shut off your water supply and engage the bypass valve to divert water around the softener.
  2. Open the brine tank lid and drain the water.
  3. Empty out the salt with a scoop or plastic container and use the handle of a broom to break up the solid mass of clogged salt at the bottom.
  4. If the salt won’t shift, add hot tap water to the salt tank. Hot water should encourage the salt to dissolve and make it easier to remove.
  5. Use a wet vac to remove the remaining salt mass at the bottom of the tank.
  6. Make sure conditions in the softener’s install location are suitable. If the area is too humid, a salt bridge or clog might form again.
  7. Add a fresh batch of loose salt pellets to the tank.
  8. Switch on the water supply and turn the bypass valve to send water back into the softener.
  9. Program a manual regeneration. Once the regeneration process has finished, the softener will be ready for use.

Related: Why is my water softener leaving white residue?

How To Fix Clogged Brine Pipes

To fix water softener clogged brine line, follow these steps:

  1. Unplug your water softener and shut off your water supply and/or divert water around the softener by engaging the bypass valve.
  2. Remove the brine line and check for clogs or kinks.
  3. Remove clogs by holding the brine line under running water and massaging out the blockage.
  4. Also check the valve injector (which sucks water out of the salt tank during regeneration). Remove the injector and clean the hole with a needle or pin if it’s blocked.
  5. Replace the components on your water softening system and program a manual regeneration cycle.
  6. Check that water flows freely through the brine line.

How To Fix A Water Softener Drain Line

If the drain line is clogged or kinked, it’ll reduce the amount of water that leaves the softener during regeneration. This might mean the softener stops softening water because the resin bed hasn’t been properly flushed.

You can fix a clogged drain line by following these steps:

  1. Shut off your water and/or bypass it around the softener. Unplug the softener.
  2. Remove the drain line and check for clogs or kinks.
  3. Hold the drain under running water and massage out the blockage or kink.
  4. Return the drain line and program a manual regeneration.
  5. Watch to see water flowing out of the drain line.

📌 Note: the drain lines that come with most water softeners are made from soft, squishy material that’s more likely to kink and clog over time. We recommend upgrading your drain line to one made from a tougher material, like PVC, or hard-plumbing a drain line. This should greatly reduce the likelihood of clogging and kinking in the future.

Water softener drain line

📉 How To Reduce The Risk Of Salt Clogs In A Water Softener

Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid clogging in your water softener’s salt tank and pipes altogether. But there are a few things you can do to reduce the likelihood of a salt clog.

Use Pure Salt Pellets

Using salt pellets is better than using salt crystals, which are more likely to form a salt crust in the brine tank – especially in all-in-one cabinet-style water softeners. Use the highest-purity salt pellets you can find. Avoid rock salt, which contains impurities that could contribute to clogging in the tank and brine line.

Install A Dehumidifier

If the air is too humid in the water softener’s install location, set up a dehumidifier in the room. Humidity will cause the salt to clump together in the tank, increasing the likelihood of clogging. The less humid the air around the water softener, the better.

Don’t Add Too Much Salt

Salt forms a solid mass at the top of the brine tank if you add too much salt to the softener. You can avoid the likelihood of salt bridges by leaving enough room at the top of the tank. Only fill the salt to the top of the fill line.

Adding salt to a water softener brine tank

📑 Final Word

Topping up the salt is the most essential water softener maintenance task.

When you add more salt to the tank, take time to check the salt underneath for mushing and make sure the brine and drain lines are clear from blockages. If you know what your water softener looks and behaves like when it’s working, you’ll be able to diagnose and treat a water softener clogged much faster.

  • Jennifer Byrd
    Water Treatment Specialist

    For 20+ years, Jennifer has championed clean water. From navigating operations to leading sales, she's tackled diverse industry challenges. Now, at Redbird Water, she crafts personalized solutions for homes, businesses, and factories. A past Chamber President and industry advocate, Jennifer leverages her expertise in cutting-edge filtration and custom design to transform water concerns into crystal-clear solutions.

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