How to Clean a Water Softener

Water Softener

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Project Overview
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Yield: Clean water softener media and reservoir
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $20 to $30

Your water softener cleans your home's water of iron, manganese, silt, metal particles, and other minerals that contribute to hard water. Nearly all water in your home passes through the water softener, so the water softener requires attention and regular cleaning. Most homeowners can clean their own water softener media and reservoir in this simple project that takes about one hour.

Why You Need to Clean Your Water Softener

Cleaning the media resin beads with water softener cleaner is the most common task, followed by cleaning out the salt reservoir. Cleaning the nozzle and venturi is a more painstaking process that is required less frequently.

Cleaning the Media Beads

Minerals in the hard water are attracted to media or resin beads located in a tank separate from the larger salt reservoir. The salt washes those resin beads clean, recharging them and allowing them to keep on attracting more hard-water minerals. Adding liquid water softener cleaner to the brine well section of the water softener cleans the beads and returns them to normal.


Exceptionally dirty resin beads can be removed and replaced, but it's preferable to clean them in place if possible. With proper maintenance, resin media beads can usually be expected to last for the life of the water softener.

Cleaning the Salt Reservoir

The large section of the water softener, the salt reservoir, attracts most of the system's dirt and debris. If dirt and debris are allowed to remain, they will clog up the system, entailing expensive repairs or system replacement. Salt crust also may clog up the brine well intake, and this crust must be broken up.

Cleaning the Nozzle and Venturi

The nozzle and venturi are located under the lid of the water softener. A venturi is the valve that is responsible for pulling brine water from the salt tank and sending it to the media or resin bead tank for regeneration. When these parts clog up, they must be removed piece by piece and physically cleaned.

How Often to Clean a Water Softener

Clean the water softener reservoir once a year or more frequently if needed. Use a cleaner in the brine well as often as four times a year and no less than once a year, or as specified by the manufacturer. Check inside the tank frequently for salt bridges and clean them out immediately.

Safety Considerations

Water softeners dispense potable water, so keep all parts sanitary when cleaning the water softener. If using soap to clean parts, thoroughly rinse off the soap with cold water until the soap suds are gone.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 broom handle or dowel
  • 2 towels
  • 1 bucket
  • 1 old toothbrush
  • 1 hose attached to water source


  • 1 water softener cleaner
  • 1 mild dish soap
  • 1 silicone lubricant


How to Clean a Water Softener's Media Beads

  1. Mix the Cleaner

    Mix the water softener cleaner with cold water in a clean container according to the manufacturer's instructions. Some cleaners are pre-mixed and do not require dilution.

  2. Open the Brine Well

    Open the brine well container cap inside of the water softener. Set the cap aside outside of the water softener so that it does not get lost in the salt pellets.

  3. Pour in the Cleaner

    Pour the water softener cleaner mix carefully into the brine well container. Some spillage onto the salt pellets is fine but generally you'll want to keep all of the mixture in the brine well container.

  4. Replace the Cap

    Replace the brine well container cap and close the top of the water softener. 

  5. Recharge the System

    Press the activation button on the water softener to begin the cleaning process. Typically, the button is labeled "recharge."

How to Clean a Water Softener Reservoir Tank

  1. Empty the Reservoir Tank

    Let the system use up the rest of the salt in the reservoir until the slots in the brine well are visible.

  2. Turn Off the Softener

    Unplug the water softener at the wall socket.

  3. Remove Loose Chunks at the Bottom

    Dislodge and remove any loose chunks of salt crust at the bottom. Poke the crust gently with the broom handle or dowel.


    It's not necessary to force the crust loose at this point since later steps will help to dissolve the salt.

  4. Fill With Water

    Use the hose to fill the salt reservoir with water until it reaches about four inches below the brine well cap. If a hose and faucet are not available, use a bucket.

  5. Let the Water Sit

    Let the water sit in the salt reservoir for between two and four hours.

  6. Remove the Water

    Remove the water in the salt reservoir with the shop vacuum on wet mode. Or you can use a hand pump, submersible pump, or siphon, or you can bale out the water with small containers such as measuring cups. Remove as much water as you can.

  7. Loosen the Salt Crust

    Gently chip away any loose salt at the bottom of the reservoir with the broom handle or dowel. Go easy to avoid damaging the floor of the reservoir. 

  8. Vacuum the Bottom of the Reservoir

    With the shop vacuum on wet mode, remove everything else from the bottom of the reservoir such as large chunks of salt, dirt, and other debris. Wipe the bottom and sides clean with a towel.

  9. Clean the Brine Well Intake

    Clean the slots on the brine well container by hand if any obvious debris is clogging them. Remove the debris by hand or with a nozzle attachment on a shop vacuum.

  10. Restart the Water Softener

    Add salt to the reservoir to its proper level, plug in the water softener, and turn it on.

How to Clean a Water Softener Nozzle and Venturi

  1. Deactivate the Water Softener

    Turn off and unplug the water softener.

  2. Turn on the Bypass

    Switch the water softener's bypass valve into the bypass position to prevent the water from flowing through the venturi and nozzle while you are working on them.

  3. Turn on Soft Water Cycle

    The water softener must be in the soft water (service) cycle when you're cleaning it to eliminate water pressure at the nozzle and venturi.

  4. Access the Nozzle and Venturi

    Open the top lid of the water softener and completely remove it. Set it aside.

  5. Unscrew the Cap and Remove Parts

    Hold the dome-shaped nozzle and venturi housing with one hand. Use the other hand to unscrew the cap. Doing so will loosen the parts inside, so be careful not to lose parts in or behind the water softener.


    Parts in this section are small and complicated. As you remove parts, lay them out in progression on a towel. Take photos of the area, too. The water softener instruction manual may have an exploded diagram of this area, as well.

  6. Disassemble the Parts

    Place the parts on a clean towel. Once the cap is removed, you can lift out the screen support and screen. After that, remove the nozzle and venturi disc, gasket, and flow plugs. If this area is clogged, you will likely see wet debris in the disc and screen.

  7. Clean the Parts

    Fill a bucket about halfway with warm water and dish soap. Let the parts soak for a few minutes. Then reach into the bucket and clean each part with your fingers or with an old toothbrush. Once all items are clean, rinse out the bucket and fill it with cool, clean water. Rinse the parts. Unfold the towel to a dry section and lay out the parts to dry them.

  8. Replace the Parts

    After the parts have dried, put them back together. Make sure that the O-ring seal is lubricated with silicone before putting it back. Once the O-ring seal is in place, install and tighten the cap by hand. Tighten carefully to avoid breaking the cap.

  9. Return the System to Service

    Switch the bypass valve back to the service (soft water) position. Plug the softener in again.

Tips to Keep Your Water Softener Clean Longer

  • Break up salt bridges in the tank with a broom handle or dowel.
  • If salt levels are running low, add salt to about the halfway level.
  • Always use water softener salt designed for your system and never substitute it with rock salt or other materials.
  • Add a prefilter located ahead of the water intake to keep water within the softener cleaner.

When to Call a Professional

Cleaning the nozzle and venturi is a detail-oriented task, and it's easy to lose parts or reassemble them incorrectly. You may want to have a professional do this project for you. If resin beads need to be replaced, have professionals do this for you.

Article Sources
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  1. Reasons Every Home Should Have a Water Softener. U.S. Department of Energy