Water Softener Resin Replacement (DIY Step-by-Step Guide)

When you buy a brand-new water softener, the last thing you’re thinking about is replacing the resin.

It seems so far in the future, given that most water softener resins last for between 8 and 12 years.

But time passes eventually, and before you know it, you’ll need to replace your old, outdated resin with a new resin.

In this guide, we’ll be sharing everything you need to know about replacing your water softener resin, including your resin buying options, and the step-by-step resin replacement process.

❔ What is a Water Softener Resin?

A quick recap for anyone who needs reminding exactly what a water softener resin does.

The resin in a water softener is where the ion exchange process takes place. When the unit regenerates, the resin is replenished with sodium ions. Then, when a hard water supply flows through the resin tank, these sodium ions are released, as hardness minerals are attracted to the resin beads.

ion exchange resin

The result? all the hardness minerals are removed from the water, replaced with equal parts sodium.

When this happens, the resin loses some of the sodium it’s carrying. Eventually, the resin loses almost all of its sodium, and becomes full to capacity with calcium and magnesium. At this point, the water softener regenerates and the resin tank is flushed of calcium and magnesium, and replenished with sodium.

This means the resin can continue to be used again and again without needing to be replaced every time it becomes saturated with hardness minerals. But that doesn’t mean the resin lasts forever.

Ion Exchange Process

🔁 Why Replace Water Softener Resin?

There are two ways that a water softener resin bed can begin to fail after prolonged use:

  1. The resin bed becomes damaged by high hardness or iron, and stops softening your water properly. In this case, you might see sand-like grains in your water, and the resin will be unable to completely soften your water.
  2. The resin bed starts to lose its capacity for holding sodium and calcium minerals. The resin tank may need replenishing before the scheduled regeneration cycle, resulting in ineffective ion exchange until the system regenerates.

To know if you need to replace resin in your water softener tank, there are a few things you can do:

  • Consider how long you’ve owned your water softener. If you’ve owned it for around eight years or longer, it might be time for new resin.
  • Check your user manual. Look at how long the resin is anticipated to last by the manufacturer.
  • Ask yourself whether your water still looks and feels like soft water. Soft water lathers well with soap and has a smooth, silky feel.
  • Conduct a hard water test. If you have hard water, the resin is likely to blame.
water testing with tap score

In short, water softeners can only continue to function properly if their resins are replaced as necessary. Without a resin replacement, a softener could end up simply washing your salt – and your money – down the drain.

🔢 How Often Does a Water Softener Resin Need to be Replaced?

The lifespan of the resin bed is around 8-15 years.

Several factors affect how often the resin needs to be replaced, including:

  • Your water hardness. The harder your water, the harder the resin bed will have to work, and the more damage the resin will sustain.
  • Your water’s iron content. Iron deposits can also damage the resin bed, resulting in faster degradation.
  • If chlorine is present. Chlorine used for the disinfection process on city or municipality supplies, breaks down the resin due to the chemical content.
  • The resin’s crosslink percentage. While 8% crosslink resin has a lifespan of around 10 years, 10% crosslink resin lasts for twice as long; around 20 years.
  • Your maintenance over the years. If you’ve looked after the resin by using resin cleaner and other water softener cleaners, your resin is likely to have a longer lifespan.
  • The quality of the resin. High-quality resin lasts longer than poor-quality resin, which is more susceptible to algae growth.
  • The tank height. Taller, high capacity tanks contain more resin than shorter tanks. The bigger the tank size, the longer the resin should last.
Factors that affect how often the resin needs to be replaced

💵 How Much does a Resin Bed Replacement Cost?

The cost of new resin is $80-$120. If you pay a professional to replace the resin bed, this will incur an extra cost of $200-$300.

Again, the cost of a new resin depends on factors including:

  • The quality of the resin. Pay more for better-quality resin.
  • The resin’s crosslink percentage. The higher the percentage, the more expensive the resin.
  • The manufacturer. Pay more for resin from a trusted brand.

The best place to buy a resin replacement for the water softener resin tank is online. You can browse your options and look for the best-value deals. Plus, you’re more likely to find better offers than you’d find in stores.

📌 How to Replace a Water Softener Resin: Step by Step

To replace a softener’s resin, you’ll need several tools and replacement parts:

  • New resin
  • Riser tube
  • Gravel
  • A screwdriver
How to replace a water softener resin

Here’s how to replace the resin in most water softeners:

  1. Measure how much resin you need by measuring the resin tank. Make sure you measure the resin (or media) tank, not the brine tank, which contains brine water.
  2. Shop online and purchase all the resin you need. Don’t overdo it – too much resin will just end up getting dumped down the drain line.
  3. Get replacement parts. Buy a new riser tube, a resin funnel, and gravel, if your softening system needs it.
  4. Turn the bypass valve to bypass position and program a manual regeneration on the control valve head. This will reduce the system’s internal water pressure.
  5. Detach the system from its electrical and plumbing connections, then twist and remove the softener valve head.
  6. Cut the new riser tube so that it’s the same length as the old one.
  7. With another person, carefully tip the resin tank to dump out the old resin.
  8. Insert the riser tube into the softener tank, add the resin, and screw the control valve head back in place. Put your system back into “in service” mode.

⏳ How to Prolong the Lifespan of the Resin Bed

To make your resin bad last longer, consider doing the following:

  • Install a whole-house water filter before your softener. If you have well water, consider an iron and manganese removal filter. If you have municipal water, install a carbon filter that can remove chlorine. Iron, manganese, and chlorine can damage the resin.
  • Periodically clean the resin with a commercial softener cleaning product, or iron removal chemicals, to flush the impurities out of the resin bed. Check your user manual for the recommended frequency of cleaning.
  • Make sure your water softener’s settings are right. Over-brining causes the beads to swell, crack, and get flushed down the drain.
  • Use a sediment pre-filter. Most water softeners come with a sediment pre-filter already installed, but if yours doesn’t get one installed as soon as possible. This will prevent abrasive damage to the resin bed.
Water softener and whole house filter