How To Tell if Water Softener Resin is Bad (3 Indicators)

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Water softener resin is something you don’t have to think too much about when you buy a new water softening system.

Just make sure to clean the resin and replace it as recommended by the manufacturer.

In this guide, we’ve shared the signs to look out for that indicate that water softener resin is bad.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • Signs a water softener resin is bad include intervals of hard water in your home, a change in your water quality, and (potentially) reduced pressure in your pipes.
  • Chlorine, iron, water hammering, and normal wear and tear cause the resin in water softeners to go bad.
  • Water softener resin needs replacing to maintain efficient, effective soft water production.

🔎 How To Tell When A Water Softener Resin Needs Replacing

You can tell that a water softener resin bed needs replacing if:

1) Your Water Goes Hard

Intervals of hard water is the biggest sign that your water softener’s resin tank needs some attention.

Find out whether salt from the water softener brine tank is being used at the usual rate. If it is, and you notice hard water at certain points throughout the month, it’s likely that the resin bed has a reduced softening capacity and can’t consistently provide softened drinking water right up until regeneration.

You can fix this in the short term by increasing the frequency of regenerations, but this will increase wastewater from the water softener drain, so it’s worth replacing the resin or cleaning it out as soon as possible.

Showerhead with limescale buildup

2) Your Water Looks, Tastes, Or Smells Different

You’ll probably be used to the taste, smell, and appearance of soft water from your softener after so many years of use.

If something doesn’t seem right, and you don’t have an issue with the water softener salts in the brine tank, you could be dealing with a resin bead issue.

Poor-tasting water, an unusual odor, cloudy or colored water, or reddish debris in your water, may suggest that the resin bed has become degraded and is releasing unwanted impurities into your water.

3) Your Water Pressure Drops

Finally, a water pressure drop is also a sign of aging resin in water softeners.

A degraded resin may limit water flow through the water softener’s tank, reducing water pressure in your home.

However, there are numerous other causes of low water flow and pressure in your home, so look for the other effects on your water softener’s performance as a definite sign that aging or failing resin is to blame.

Low water pressure

📥 What Causes A Water Softener Resin To Go Bad?

There are a few catalysts for water softener resin beads going bad:


Iron, often found in well water supplies, is one of the biggest causes of a water softener resin bed gone bad.

Iron decreases the resin’s performance by forming a coating on the outside of the resin beads, preventing them from trapping hardness minerals as effectively.


Chlorine is even more damaging to a water softener’s resin bed.

Chlorine, which is used to disinfect city water supplies, breaks up the bonds holding the resin bed together, reducing its softening capabilities and affecting its lifespan.

Chlorine in tap water

Water Hammering

Water hammering is when there’s a pressure surge or wave in your plumbing fixtures and pipes when you switch a faucet on and off.

Over time, excessive water hammer could cause water to repeatedly shoot into the resin tank, damaging the resin bed.

Normal Wear and Tear

Maybe your water softener’s resin bed doesn’t come into contact with iron or chlorine, and isn’t subject to water hammering. It’ll still go bad eventually, due to normal wear and tear.

There’s not much you can do to prevent this. Even the best-maintained resin bed will need replacing at some point.

Removing old resin from a water softener tank

🤔 Why Does Water Softener Resin Need Replacing?

Water softener resin can only last so long before it loses its ability to hold mineral ions in the ion exchange process.

An old resin may become less efficient or have reduced holding capacity, meaning that the system stops softening water a short time before it’s set to regenerate. The result? Hard water in your pipes and appliances.

Old resins may degrade so much that bits of the resin bed break free, contaminating your water supply with tiny fragments of plastic resin beads. Or, the resin may leak hardness minerals or iron back into your water.

It could even cause excessive amounts of sodium to get into your plumbing system, and reduce the flow of water in your home.

In short, replacing an old resin bed in a water softener resin tank will ensure consistent, efficient soft water production. Without a quality, working resin, your water softener is essentially useless.

🚫 How To Prevent A Water Softener Resin From Going Bad

You can’t completely prevent the resin in water softeners from going bad. Eventually, due to normal wear and tear, the resin’s ability to hold onto sodium ions will be reduced, and it’ll be time for a new resin.

However, there are a few things you can do to extend the lifespan of your resin and reduce the frequency of resin replacements:

  • Use a resin cleaning solution. Resin cleaners like Iron Out can be added to the water softener tank about once a year. These cleaners remove iron deposits and other impurities from the resin bed, reducing fouling and maintaining good performance.
  • Install a pre-filter. Another effective way to slow down your resin’s natural degradation is to install a pre-filter upstream of the water softener. A water filtration system can remove iron, chlorine, sediment, and other harmful contaminants (depending on the filters used) to protect your water softener system from lifespan-shortening damage.
  • Use less water. It’s a simple solution – the less water you use, the less frequently the resin will have to work. You can reduce your water usage by doing a few simple things, like limiting your showers to 5 minutes, reducing your shower water pressure, and not leaving the faucet running when you brush your teeth or wash your dishes.
Springwell Water Filter and Salt Based Water Softener System combo water treatment system

❔ How To Tell If Water Softening Resin Is Bad? FAQ

How do I know if I need to replace the resin in my softener?

You’ll know if you need to replace the resin in your water softener because your water softener will stop consistently putting out soft water. You might notice that you have intervals of hard water in your plumbing system, suggesting that the resin has lost its ability to consistently soften water right up until the next regeneration cycle.

How often should you replace your water softener resin?

You should replace your water softener resin every 10-15 years, depending on the resin type and quality. High-quality 10% crosslink fine mesh resin may even last up to 20 years before it goes bad.

Related: Where should I buy water softener resin?

Can you clean the resin in a water softener?

Yes, you can clean the resin in a water softener – and, in fact, once-yearly cleaning is usually recommended to keep the resin in good working order and extend its lifespan. You can clean the resin by using a resin cleaning product, like Iron Out. Follow the instructions on the box for the cleaning method and frequency.

  • 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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