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Water Softener Full of Water? Here’s How to Fix It


If you’ve noticed that your water softener is full of water, you may suspect something is wrong – especially if hard water problems such as soap spots, mineral buildup, reduced water flow are creeping up again. However, you might have trouble getting your system working properly again if you can’t identify the underlying cause and how to make your water softener work properly again.

You don’t have to be a softening expert to learn more about this potential problem. Here’s why your water softener may be full of water and how to fix it..

Fixing a Water Softener

If you notice a water softener full of water, your first instinct may be to roll up your sleeves and get to work — but that might not be the best approach. Water softeners require very little maintenance on your part. While this is one of their most convenient benefits, it means you may be less familiar with the system’s structure and operation. When problems do arise, it’s more convenient (and better for your softener) to call your local water expert for help.

Before calling in the professionals, it may benefit you to take a quick look to make sure it isn’t a simple fix. Here’s how to get started:

#1: Know What You’re Looking At

Begin by looking inside your water softener brine tank, which also may be referred to as a salt tank. The brine tank will be the larger of the two, and will be the only tank with a removable lid.

If everything is functioning as it should, the brine tank fills with water and stops between a fourth to halfway up at most. Because the salt level is usually higher than this, you shouldn’t be able to see the water at all. If you can, you’ll need to pay attention to what’s happening.

To check for a problem, you can begin a manual regeneration. Within a few minutes, the water level in the brine tank should start to decrease. If the water level remains high, it can be indicative of a larger problem requiring the service of a water expert.

Did you know Culligan experts can help you with service even if you don’t have a Culligan water softener? Schedule your service here.

#2: Check for Simple Problems

In some cases, the explanation for your water softening problems could be simple. Check for these issues before spending time on more complicated evaluations:

  • Water pressure: Every water softener has pressure requirements. If your home’s water pressure is too low, it may not be strong enough to complete the regeneration process.
  • Brine line: This line connects the brine tank and the resin tank. If the brine line isn’t properly attached, it can interfere with the system’s ability to draw brine from the brine tank.
  • Salt bridging: Salt bridging occurs when salt is unable to dissolve. This happens when pellet salt sitting at the bottom turns to a mushy texture, or when solar salt clumps together into one large crystal. Both interfere with the system’s ability to make brine because the water cannot properly dissolve the salt when it is not in its intended form.

#3: Move On To Bigger Possibilities

If none of the above issues are responsible for excess water in your brine tank, you may need to call in the experts. Here are a few examples of other potential issues:

  • Drain line issues: Damage or blockage to your drain line can sometimes cause the water level to rise. This may require repair or replacement.
  • Injector malfunction: If your water softener’s injector is clogged, this can interfere with your systems ability to use salt. In most cases, this requires expert support.
  • Electronic problems: Sometimes, your water softener’s circuit board or other electronics can malfunction. A simple check is to confirm that your system is displaying the correct time or day. If the problem is more complex, this is definitely something you want to leave to your local water expert.

#4: Get Help

If you found a significant issue or couldn’t find an explanation at all, your best bet is to call your water treatment provider. Water treatment professionals can accurately diagnose the problem and solve it without risking damage to your system — all while helping you reclaim a reliable supply of softened water.

Understanding Your Water Softener

You don’t need to be an expert to make your water softener work, but it does help to know how the system is supposed to function so you can spot issues if they arise.

Most water softeners follow a simple but effective process. It all begins when your water supply is drawn into the resin tank, where tiny resin beads attract and trap hardness minerals such as calcium and magnesium. The result is soft water that doesn’t cause issues such as dry skin and hair, stiff laundry or spotty dishes.

Over time, the resin beads can lose their effectiveness because they’re essentially “coated” in hardness minerals. To address this, your water softener regenerates — a process that uses a brine solution to rinse and refresh the beads. There are a variety of moving parts responsible for this, including the water softener brine tank, safety float, brine line and more. Generally speaking, you only need to worry about ensuring the correct salt level; however, it’s helpful to have a working understanding of the other components so you can communicate issues to your water treatment expert.

Note that softeners regenerate at different intervals depending on the system and design. Some start the process after a certain period of time or after a certain amount of water has flowed through the system; others have built-in smart features that decide when to regenerate for maximum efficiency. You’ll also have the option to start manual regeneration, which can be helpful if you need to check for issues.

When a water softener is working properly, you’ll know it. You won’t notice reduced water pressure, clogs or any problems caused by hard minerals. However, if something goes wrong, the first sign is that these issues slowly start to return — and that’s because your system isn’t doing its job and your water supply isn’t being fully softened.

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Water Softener FAQs: Time for Something New?

If you notice standing water in your brine tank and an increase in hard water problems, you might wonder if your system is on its way out. However, there are a few possibilities to consider before you start shopping for a new softener.

Consider The Problem

Let’s say your water softener system has worked perfectly up until now, and the only issue is the tank filling with water. Chances are, you’re dealing with a problem that’s easily fixed, even if you have to get a little help from your local water expert. That means your softener may still last for years to come. Keep in mind that you can also repair or replace smaller elements of your water softener — including its electronics — to further extend its lifespan.

Check Your Softener’s Lifespan

Speaking of softener longevity, it’s helpful to know how long your system is intended to last. This can vary based on everything from your water hardness levels to the system’s overall design, but most manufacturers provide some expected lifespan range so you can get a general idea. (Hint: This is also a good time to brush up on the system’s warranties and guarantees so you know what might be covered in the future.)

Look for Other Issues

If your water softener is full of water, you don’t need to panic. However, if the system has other performance or reliability issues on top of that, it may be time to consider a replacement or upgrade. Even the best-made water softener won’t last forever — and small but repetitive problems are often your first sign that it’s time to make a change.

Consider The Future

Sometimes, your water softener is working perfectly well — and then your needs change, and suddenly it isn’t such a great fit. For example, maybe you’d like to be able to control and monitor your system using an app, with features like low salt and maintenance alerts or the ability to track water usage and bypass your system remotely. That’s a big sign that you should consider softeners with smart features and all the latest technology. Plus, if more people have joined your household or your water usage habits have changed, it may be time for a bigger system.

Water Softening Done Right

Even if you think you know exactly what’s going on with your water softener, it might be a good idea to call the professionals. Local water experts can inspect every part of your softener, make repairs and replacements, offer personalized recommendations and more. If it’s time to replace or upgrade your system, they can help with that too.

The key is a professional water test. You’ll learn your water’s hardness levels — an important indicator of your softener’s performance — and get an inside look at potential water quality problems along the way. Plus, your local water expert will interpret and explain the results so you know what your next steps should be.

Ready to get started? Schedule your free, in-home water test and consultation today.

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