A common misconception about water softeners is that it’s the salt that makes the hard water soft. In reality, the hard water minerals are removed by the resin beads in the softener, but salt still plays a big part. Without it, the resin won’t get the charge it needs to make soft water. So in a sense, salt is kind of like the fuel that keeps your unit running.
Softeners can only function properly if they have the right amount of salt. Your water will stay hard if your softener doesn’t have enough salt. That’s why it’s so important to keep the proper level of salt in the tank. The general rule is for it to be at or above the halfway mark at all times. How much salt you go through every month depends on your individual unit, as well as your home’s water usage.
Once you’ve identified a pattern for adding salt (whether one bag every month, or one every other month), it should stay pretty consistent. Just check your softener once a month, add salt as needed, and you should be getting soft water all the time. If it feels like your current unit is using too much salt though, or not enough, you might want to call a tech to check it out—especially if your water is starting to act “hard” again.
Signs That Your Softener Isn’t Working Properly
1. Water spots showing up on dishes and faucets.
When the minerals in hard water get left behind on clean dishes, your softener isn’t doing its job. Seeing those spots on kitchen and bathroom fixtures is another obvious sign that your water has gone hard.
2. Hot water smells or feels different than cold water.
Your softener might be due for maintenance if your shower water is starting to feel hard again. Soap won’t lather as easily in hard water, and the water might not have that same “slippery” feeling you get with soft water. Noticing a lingering smell of chlorine could be another indicator that your unit isn’t working right. Softeners that double as water refiners should remove that chlorine odor for all of your tap water.
3. Your unit’s salt level hasn’t gone down, and it sounds like water is constantly running through the system.
If your unit seems like it’s always running, something’s probably wrong. It might be stuck in one of the softening stages. A lot of older systems can start to shut down after 10 years or so. If that’s the case, it might be time for a new unit.
Noticing any of these changes might mean that your softener can’t keep up with your home’s water demand. You might need to add more softener salt, but if your salt level is already at the halfway mark or more, it usually means something else. Your unit could be in need of maintenance, and depending on the softener’s age, it might even be on its way out.
Efficient Water Softeners
Older units and softeners that run on a timed schedule (rather than by usage) tend to require more salt. With an inefficient system, you might need another 50-lb bag of salt every month—and those expenses can really add up at the end of the year. New models, on the other hand, can often go a couple of months without needing a salt refill. High-efficiency water softeners may only have to go through 5 bags of salt in 12 months. When a unit is sized for your home and your usage, it can basically cut your salt usage in half!
Still wondering whether your softener is going through a normal amount of salt? It might be time to call your local water softener company. You could be better off with a new and more efficient system, or you might just need a little maintenance. A few adjustments can help get you get back to soft water in no time.