Water softeners are technical systems, so you might be concerned if you hear your softener making a noise that you’ve never heard before.
Luckily, it’s not always a cause for concern – but it’s still handy to know why your water softener may be making noise, and in what situations a noise from your softener is normal.
We’ve answered the question, “Why is my water softener making noise?” in this guide.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- Normal regeneration, failing motors, warning alarms, and worn valves are just some of the reasons why your water softener might be making noise.
- The sound of rushing water during a regeneration cycle is normal, but constant rushing water, clicks, bangs, alarms, or other noises suggest there’s a problem.
- You may need to replace a worn or faulty part in the softener.
Table of Contents
🔊 12 Possible Reasons Why a Water Softener is Making Noise
Below, we’ve highlighted the 12 most common noises in a water softener, and their likely causes.
Flowing Water (Not Constant): Regeneration Process
The occasional sound of rushing water in your softener is a sign of regeneration.
The water softener regeneration sound is flowing water. This is the backwash cycle noise, as water flows through the resin tank and down the drain pipe.
You’ll also hear the humming of the water softener motor and the clicking of the moving gears inside the water softener valve.
The average water softener regeneration cycle frequency is once every 1-2 weeks. Most water softeners perform a regeneration cycle overnight, so you won’t usually hear the process.
Flowing Water (Constant): Water Softener Stuck In Regeneration
The sound of constant flowing water in your water softener is most likely down to the system being stuck in regeneration mode.
There are a few reasons why the regeneration process may be continuous, including control head failure, a faulty or broken circuit switch, a clogged brine tank assembly, clogged water lines, or low water pressure.
Trickling Water: Valves Not Sealing Properly
Not all unusual water softener noises are super loud or obvious. If you can hear a quiet trickling noise from your water softener, it might be a sign that a valve isn’t sealing properly, causing excess water to trickle down the drain pipe.
As with any mechanical part, it’s normal for valves to become worn over time, decreasing their ability to form a seal and causing small amounts of water to leave the system when it shouldn’t.
You might not discover this issue for several weeks or months because it’s quiet enough to go unnoticed.
Hissing Noise: Crack In Drain Or Brine Line
If your water softener is making a hissing noise, the most common cause is a crack in the tubing – usually the brine line, but sometimes also the drain line.
The role of the brine line, which connects the softener to the brine tank, is to send the brine solution into the resin tank during regeneration.
After years of operation, this tube will eventually become cracked, worn, and brittle, especially if it’s exposed to sunlight or temperature changes.
👨🔧 A cracked brine line will allow air into the line. So, when the water softener tries to draw brine into the resin tank, the sound of air being drawn into the pipe will cause a hissing noise. You might also hear the same hissing noise when brine is sent back into the brine tank.
This hissing noise won’t necessarily be accompanied by a leak to begin with. The crack may be too small to leak brine solution, but big enough for air to escape.
A water softener’s drain line is designed to withstand damage, but it’s not impossible for a crack to form somewhere along the line, especially if a kink or a clog in the line causes back pressure. This is another cause of a hissing noise in your water softener.
You’ll probably see water spraying out of the line, along with hearing a hissing noise, if the drain pipe is cracked.
Clicking Noise: Worn Gear Or Broken Gear Tooth
If your water softener is making an unusual clicking noise, you may be dealing with a worn gear or broken gear tooth.
Water softeners are mechanical units that rely on motors, gears, valves, and other moving components to keep the system in operation.
Motors have multiple points of contact and are most susceptible to damage and wear and tear over time, leading to wear and tear.
The teeth gears may also break due to unusually strong resistance against another part, such as a stuck piston.
If the gear teeth break or become worn, they may struggle to make secure contact with other working parts, causing them to slip. The noise produced by this action usually sounds like clicking.
The best way to resolve this issue is simply to replace the worn gears.
If the gear isn’t written off, you can try removing and cleaning the piston, then lubricating the gear and piston. This might be enough to extend its lifespan for another few months or years.
Squeaking Noise: A Sticking Valve
A squeaking or squealing noise in a soft water system may be caused by a sticking valve that’s only allowing a small amount of water to flow through.
The noise might sound similar to the squealing or hissing noise you hear if you put your finger over a garden hose while it’s running.
The noise is the sound echoing from the water chamber, which is deep within the softener’s valve.
For short-term relief, you should be able to resolve this noisy water softener issue by cleaning the seals on the valve and applying lubricant.
The best long-term solution is to replace the sticking valve.
Banging Noise: A Sticking Valve
A valve inside a water softener that sticks completely before opening suddenly may cause banging and/or squealing.
A valve that sticks will prevent water from passing through the softener. Eventually, when the valve comes unstuck and opens, it’ll send water rushing into the other side of the valve, changing the pressure and causing the moving components to suddenly shift with a “bang”.
You won’t hear this noise all the time – only when the stuck valve becomes unstuck.
Again, you can resolve a sticking valve issue by lubricating or replacing the valve.
Whining Or Clunking Noise: Not Enough Water Pressure
Most soft water systems need a minimum water pressure of 15 PSI to send enough water through the system during the regeneration process.
If your water pressure is lower than this, or a clogged pre-filter has significantly reduced water’s flow rate, you may hear clunking or banging due to your softener’s parts banging against each other.
A whining noise may also be caused by your water softener drawing air into the tanks, making a noise like wind, but higher-pitched.
Prevent water pressure losses by replacing the water filtration cartridge on time and ensuring that your pressure tank can deliver enough water to your softener (for homes with private wells).
If your water pressure is too low, you may need to install a pressure booster pump at your home’s point of entry.
Ticking Or Clicking Noise: Water Softener Timer
Electric water softeners that are timer-based regenerate according to a pre-set timer. When you installed the softener, you will have programmed a time into the timer (or simply allowed the softener to regenerate according to the factory-set time).
A water softener needs to know what time it is in order to regenerate, and for that reason, the softener should have a timer motor.
You’ll hear the motor slowly turning if you get close to the water softener. Listen for a ticking or clicking noise, which indicates that the gears inside the timer are turning.
A quiet ticking or clicking noise near the softener timer is very normal and doesn’t usually suggest that there’s a problem.
Water Softener Alarm: Low Salt Or Another Issue
A noisy water softener caused by an alarm is especially concerning since it usually indicates an issue that requires your immediate attention.
Many water softeners have an alarm that will sound if you need to top up the salt tank. Other softeners may sound an alarm if a leak or another problem is detected in the water softener tank. Some softeners even issue alarms to remind you of annual service tasks.
📌 An alarm might sound like a beeping, wailing, buzzing, or blaring noise, and it should be loud enough to hear from another room.
Don’t get your water softener’s alarm confused with another alarm, like a smoke alarm that needs new batteries, or other appliances in the vicinity.
Banging And Spraying: Hardness Mineral Buildup In Control Valve
A common problem in water softeners is for hard mineral deposits to build up in gaps inside the softener control valve. Even the smallest amount of scale can provide the ideal conditions for more scale to accumulate over the following weeks and months.
Eventually, the limescale will become thick enough to reduce the flow of water through the system, so the pressure inside the water softener is significantly lower than the incoming pressure.
An imbalance in these water pressures causes the plumbing to move, which may cause water softener noises like bumping and banging.
The restricted water flow through the water softener’s inlet might also cause the valve to malfunction, allowing water to escape through the seals with a spraying or hissing noise.
Squeaking Or Moaning Noise: Cracked Fittings
The fittings on a water softener hold the various components together. Over time, it’s normal for these fittings to become cracked or worn.
A cracked fitting will cause the components in a water softener valve to move against one another, emitting a moaning or squeaking noise.
This noise will typically only be noticeable when you’re near the water softener. It won’t be loud enough to hear from another room.
🪛 How To Fix A Noisy Water Softener
To fix a noisy water softener, follow these steps:
- Check for immediate issues. If the unusual noise is accompanied by a leak or flooding, switch off the softener and engage the bypass valve as soon as possible.
- Determine the cause of the noise. For instance, a hissing noise is likely caused by escaping air, and a rushing water noise suggests the softener is stuck in regeneration.
- Contact the manufacturer. If you’re not sure whether or not a noise is normal, send a video recording of the noise to the manufacturer and ask if they can help troubleshoot the problem.
- Hire a professional plumber. You could also hire a plumber to look at your water treatment system and determine the cause of the noise.
- Replace or repair the part. If you discover that the noise is caused by a worn, broken, or malfunctioning part, replace or repair the part as soon as possible.
❔ Why Is My Water Softener Making Noise? FAQ
How should a water softener sound when it’s regenerating?
When a water softener is regenerating, you should hear the sound of rushing water as the resin bed is replenished in the brine draw cycle and brine is flushed from the tank during the rinse cycle. You’ll also hear a whirring or clicking noise, which is the motor. Different stages of the regeneration process have slightly different sounds.
How do I know whether or not my water softener noises are normal?
You’ll know whether your water softener’s noises are normal if you only hear them during regeneration cycles, and they’re the “typical” noises you’d expect to hear during regeneration (the whirring of a motor, rushing water, etc.). If you hear noises around regeneration cycles, or the noises are unusual (a squeaking, banging, or hissing noise, for example), there’s a good chance that the noises are a sign that something is wrong.
Why does my water softener sound like water is running?
Your water softener will sound like water is running if the system is regenerating. A running water noise may also indicate normal soft water production, or the constant sound of gushing water may indicate that the water softener is stuck in a regeneration cycle due to a system malfunction.