Why is My Water Softener Full of Water?

Got a water softener full of water? Wondering whether it’s just normal operation or an issue that needs addressing?

We’ve identified the top causes of a water softener full of water, and how to fix them, in this guide.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • Causes of a water softener full of water include a clogged or detached brine line, blocked or kinked brine drain, a blocked brine line or drain line flow control, a salt clog at the bottom of the brine tank, a malfunctioning safety float, and a clogged injector.
  • Some water softeners have a “wet brine tank” design, and water in the tank is simply a sign of normal operation.

📖 8 Causes Of Water Softener Full Of Water & How To Fix Them

Below, we’ve outlined the most likely causes of a water softener full of water.

Normal Water Softener Operation

If you have an older water softener, there’s a good chance that it’s a “wet brine tank softener”, which means the brine tank always contains water.

In this case, water in the brine tank may simply be a sign of normal operation.

As long as your water continues to be soft and you can hear the brine tank emptying during a regeneration cycle (when the softener flushes the resin beads to clear out the magnesium and calcium minerals), you shouldn’t have an issue that needs addressing.

But if there’s a lot of water in the brine tank and the tank doesn’t appear to be emptying, there may be a problem.

Related: Updated 2023 Water Softener Systems Guide

Too much water in brine tank

Blocked Or Kinked Brine Drain

The brine drain carries brine solution out of the brine tank during a regeneration cycle.

If the brine drain is blocked or kinked, or water has frozen inside the drain, the system won’t be able to suck the brine solution out of the tank, causing the water to sit at the same level or rise as more water is introduced to the tank.

You can fix a blocked or kinked brine drain by doing the following:

  1. Shut off the water softener.
  2. Divert water around the system by engaging the bypass valve.
  3. Detach the brine line from the salt tank and flush the line with tap water until the clog or kink is no longer present.
  4. If the clog is caused by sediment or minerals like iron, install a sediment pre-filter or use a mineral cleaner in the softener.
Connect overflow drain hose

Detached Brine Line

The brine line connects the water softener brine tank to the rest of the unit.

If the brine line is partially detached from the safety float, the water level won’t be controlled – water will simply flow higher and higher in the tank, potentially overflowing.

The brine line could also become clogged, affecting the water levels in the resin tank and preventing water from getting into the brine tank at all.

📌 To resolve a detached brine line, simply push the brine line firmly back in place, making sure it’s properly attached.

Salt Clog At The Bottom Of The Tank

Salt mushing occurs in the bottom of a water softener’s brine tank, and happens when salt recrystallizes and forms sludge.

Salt mushing blocks the brine drain at the bottom of the tank, preventing the brine water from being sucked into the resin tank during a regeneration cycle.

You can fix salt mushing by:

  1. Shut off the water and drain brine tank.
  2. Dump the salt and scrub the tank to get rid of leftover salt crystals.
  3. Add a fresh batch of salt.
Salt mushing in brine tank

Malfunctioning Safety Float

The brine tank in a water softener system is equipped with a device to prevent overflow and leaking, called a safety float. A safety float prevents too much water from being added to the brine tank by shutting off the water flow once a certain water level has been achieved.

A malfunctioning float may fail to do its job properly, causing the tank to fill with water.

To resolve a sticking or malfunctioning safety float, follow these steps:

  1. Shut off your water supply and divert water around the softener tank.
  2. Switch off or unplug the water softener.
  3. Open the brine tank lid and remove the safety float.
  4. Hold the float under hot water for 5 minutes, moving the float up and down to make sure it isn’t sticking.
  5. Examine the ball at the base of the float. This should also move freely without sticking.

If you continue to experience issues with the float, you may need to replace it.

Water softener control float

Clogged Injector

A water softener injector regulates water flow from the salt tank to the resin (mineral) tank and creates enough suction to draw brine out of the tank. Injectors in water softeners are small and known for getting clogged.

If the injector is plugged with debris, the water softener won’t be able to suck the brine solution into the resin bed.

To resolve a clogged injector causing water softener overflow, follow these steps:

  1. Shut off your water supply and divert water around the softener tank.
  2. Program a manual regeneration cycle. This will relieve pressure inside the brine and resin tanks.
  3. Unscrew the caps on both sides of the water softener head.
  4. Locate the injector screen (usually on the left side of the head) and the injector (usually) on the right side of the head).
  5. Clean both parts. Use a toothpick if the hold is clogged with debris.
  6. If you can’t clean the injector nozzle, you may need to replace it.

Blocked Brine Line Flow Control

The brine line flow control regulates the rate of refill during the brine refill stage of a backwash cycle, preventing brine tank overflow.

This component has a very small hole that is easily clogged with debris, especially if you use a low-purity softening salt. If the hole gets blocked, the brine draw will be reduced.

Here’s how to clear a blocked brine line flow control:

  1. Shut off the water softener.
  2. Divert water around the system by engaging the bypass valve.
  3. Detach the brine flow control and flush it with tap water until the clog is cleared.
  4. If the clog is caused by impurities from your salt, dump the salt from the water softening system’s brine tank and buy high-purity salt to reduce the likelihood of future blockages.
Water softener brine line

Blocked Drain Line Flow Control

The amount of water flowing through the softener is controlled by the drain line water softener control.

If this component gets clogged, the water softener tank may fill with water during the water softening process.

To clear a blocked drain line flow control:

  1. Shut off the water softener.
  2. Divert water around the system by engaging the bypass valve.
  3. Detach the drain flow control and clean away any deposits that are clogging the hole.

❔ Water Softener Full Of Water: FAQ

Should I see water in my water softener?

It’s normal to see water in your water softener if you have a wet brine tank softener (common in older systems). Otherwise, you should only see water in your softener tank for a few hours before the system regenerates.

Why is brine tank not draining?

Causes of a brine tank not draining are clogged or improperly installed brine tubing, a malfunctioning safety float, a salt clog at the bottom of the tank, or a blocked brine tank drain.

How do you get water out of a brine tank?

You can get water out of a brine tank by using the control valve to program a manual regeneration cycle, using a wet vac, dumping the water, or scooping out the water.

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