Maintaining a Water Softener

Intro

High concentrations of magnesium and calcium in water make it "hard." Soap and cleaning products do not work well in hard water, and the minerals stick to the sides of pipes in the form of scale, reducing the pipe's ability to conduct water or heat.

A water softener replaces the calcium and magnesium with sodium or potassium, which don't cause the same adverse effects. Replacement of the harmful minerals takes place in the softener, in which the hard water runs over a bed of beads coated with sodium ions. Periodically the softener needs to be recharged with sodium ions and will flush the accumulated calcium/magnesium water out a drain line.

Although a water softener is a simple device, brine lines and the injector filter in the system can become clogged. Inspect the brine tank and remove any crust with a vacuum cleaner. If you see iron deposits, use an iron-removing agent to clean the softener. If the timer or control unit is faulty, you can remove and replace it, but repair is best left to a trained technician.

Checklist

Time
About 2 hours to remove, clean, and reassemble the brine line and injector screen

Tools
Needle-nose pliers, screwdriver, kitchen baster

Skills
Making simple plumbing connections and disconnections

Prep
Divert water with bypass valve.

Step 1

Open the bypass valve so the line won't run water while you're working on it. Loosen the compression nut and disconnect the line. Inspect it for deposits, which you can often clean easily with a small screwdriver or miniature plastic bottle brush. Flush the line using a kitchen baster.

Step 2

Remove the injector filter cover and lift out the screen. Check the nozzle (see the unit owner's manual). Clean the screen in soapy water and reinstall. Replace the filter screen if it is damaged or cannot be cleaned adequately.


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