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How Do I Know If My Water Softener is Working? A Detailed Answer

Writen by Ronald Brown

Fact checked by Natalie Bridges

how do i know if my water softener is working

There are times when you ask yourself, ‘how do I know if my water softener is working?’ Your suspicion could stem from noticing slight changes in your unit or from being a new user of the system. Whatever the reason may be, it is essential to know that your water softener runs just how it should be.

Those who live in areas with excessively hard water sources know what a hassle it is. The minerals in the raw water can cause mineral build-ups around pipes and faucets. While installing a water softener is not a requirement, it has become a necessity to many households due to these reasons.

Water softeners operate by removing magnesium and calcium ions that make water hard. This process is carried out by negatively-charged resin beads where the minerals attach themselves so that the system can discharge soft water. After some time, the beads will fill up on minerals and need to be flushed or regenerated.

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How To Tell If Your Water Softener Is Working Properly?


Determining how well the regeneration process of your water softener works is how you know if the system is functioning efficiently. This procedure is aided by salt pellets that are sitting in the brine tank. The saline solution from the containers flows into the resin beads washing it off of the mineral deposits. It allows the beads to do their job of eliminating mineral ions from hard water.

There are two types of regeneration based on their time settings of when to start operating:

  • Time-Initiated Regeneration

The water softener that regenerates using this method operates at specific intervals. Usually, it is set to run once every week and during the early morning hours or when water is not in use. You can check its setting and adjust the specific interval according to your needs.

  • Demand-Initiated Regeneration

This one works based on your home’s water usage. It could be a bit tricky to track the regeneration with this method. However, it typically runs every two to three days while more efficient units regenerate daily. You will have a deeper understanding of the schedule by referring to the manual and observing your water softener.

We’ve talked about the regeneration process, which plays a vital role in how efficient your water softener runs. Now, it’s time to figure out if your unit is working correctly.

Water Hardness Test

Testing the water discharged by your water softener is the best approach to knowing if the system is working. There are many water hardness kits sold in hardware stores and even online. You can get yourself one and periodically conduct your own water tests to determine if your unit is running properly.

The Soap Test

Another procedure you can try that doesn’t require anything not present in your home is the soap test. Pure liquid soaps don’t lather and bubble well when mixed with hard water. In addition, the hard water mixture produces a cloudy solution. While this is not a scientifically accurate test, it can help verify your suspicions so you can conduct more tests.

There are several common reasons why you get an inconsistent water softener. It could be due to a dirty resin bed, an accumulation of debris, motor failure, or regeneration issues. Once you discover that you are not getting soft water out of your unit, it is crucial to examine and see what the problem is.

When To Call A Professional


Are you faced with water softener issues? Is it possible to fix it yourself or leave it to the experts? Let the following indication tell you when to call a professional.

Salty Water

A water softener uses salt pellets to soften water, but the output should not taste salty. If this happens, the unit might be malfunctioning, or the settings need to be changed.

Decrease in Water Pressure

There are several reasons when the water pressure drops suddenly. For example, there could be too much mineral build-up in the plumbing system. To be sure, it is better to call a plumber to inspect the system.

Strange Skin Film

Do you feel sticky, dry, or itchy and notice a film over your skin after washing your hand or showering? These are the result of hard water. There might be something wrong with your water softener.

Hard Water Stains

Are there spots on your dishes or unusual build-up in the shower or sink? These are called hard water stains and indicate that your water softener is not working correctly for quite a while. There are many possible reasons for the issue, so have a professional check, determine the problem, and provide a solution.

Be careful of tinkering around your water softener unit when you are not familiar with what you are doing. It would be best to let the professionals take care of the issues and prevent further worsening.

How To Properly Use Your Water Softener Unit

Every water softener system comes with the manufacturer’s instructions on how to install and maintain the unit. You must follow these guidelines so that you can maintain the water quality output stable. Here are some things you can practice and keep an eye on:

  • You should set the softener to the hardness of the feed water. Otherwise, it will cost you extra money to operate when the hardness is set too high.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. Fill the softener with potassium or sodium chloride.
  • Soften only the water that you are often using or those that are important. This includes shower, sink, and laundry hookups. You don’t really need soft water for basement sinks.
  • For homes with new copper plumbing, give it a week before you run the water softener. This way, the plumbing can form a protective mineral layer that will reduce your family’s risk of consuming the excess copper.

Factors To Consider When Finding A New Water Softener Unit

A water softener system is considered an appliance, and just like any machine, it eventually wears out after years of use. Once you experience several issues and have to service your unit or repair parts more often than usual, it is an indication to purchase a new water softener.

To help you decide on a replacement, here are some factors that you should take into account:

Level of Water Hardness

There are different levels of water hardness. Therefore, this factor plays a significant role in finding the perfect water softener to address several minerals present in your water.

Types of Water Softener

There are 4 types of water softeners in the market. These are ion exchange, reverse osmosis, magnetic, and salt-free. The salt-based ion exchange is widely used, but it is also advised to consider other options.

Size of the Unit

Water softeners come in several sizes. Choosing the best one will depend on the daily water usage at your home and the water hardness level. Note that each size has a different ability to remove hardness.

Controls and Features

Take a look at the main display option and the time control. The keypad configuration is also vital when checking the switches and advanced features of a water softener. This way, you can rest assured that you are getting the latest technology for efficiency.

Price Tag

With the features and sizes, you can expect that the price range of water softeners is wide. Usually, it will cost you around $1000 to $4000 and $5000 for more advanced systems.

Final Thoughts

Diagnosing the efficiency of your water softener is easier than you might think. This always boils down to the quality of output water. Do the water hardness test with kits that are available in the market. Now you have an answer about “how do I know if my water softener is working?”. In addition, always follow your unit’s instruction manual, so you can prolong the life of your water softener and enjoy quality soft water.

If the time comes that you need to replace your existing unit, have a checklist of the essential factors. It is a crucial step that will aid you in getting your hands on an upgraded water softener system.

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