Cleaning is something that is not always enjoyable but can often pay dividends that we only see through consistently cleaning and doing proper maintenance on our systems.

How To Clean A Water Softener

Cleaning Water softeners are no exception to this rule, even more so since they collect and clean our water so well and so reliably for us when they are taken care of properly.

From cleaning the resin tank, or filter, or resin bed, they all need care and maintenance to continue to provide us with clean, soft water.

How To Clean A Water Softener

clean water softerner

How To Clean A Water Softener Resin Tank

Cleaning a water softeners resin tank can be the difference between wonderful water and brown looking iron water. So how do you clean it?

The best timing for cleaning it will be when the salt is already running a little on the low side to where you do not have to dump all the salt inside it. By cleaning it when it is running low, you can either


Unplug the water softener and remove the tank and clean it with bleach (only 50-100 PPM otherwise, risk damaging the resin bed) and water mixture.
Or you can go the easier route and buy an iron removing product made for cleaning water softeners from a home improvement store and follow the directions on the package.
If you choose not to clean it when it is running low, you will have to follow these steps

1. Turn off and unplug the water softener
2. Empty out the tank, including any salt that it may have as well.
3. Add in a bleach solution or an iron removing cleaner with the same instructions as to when salt is low.

Clean A Water Softener Tank

Cleaning a water softener tank means not being able to drink out of your water at all during a manual regeneration cycle. This is because of using bleach wisely and keeping it with 50-100 PPM as not damaging any resin beads, but enough to kill any bacteria that may have been growing inside either tank.

Be careful and be sure to not over-bleach because if there is too much bleach, it will, without a doubt start to damage the resin beads and eventually make them no longer work at all.

Step 1 – Choosing the Correct Cleaning Solution

Specific cleaner solutions exist for particular water softener resin tanks. The cleaner you choose will depend on the type of tank you have and what minerals it targets (e.g. if your water has higher amounts of calcium, you will need a cleaner that targets calcium).

You will need to either read your owner’s manual or search for your specific type and brand information.

Step 2 – Pouring the Solution into Tank

It is important that the proper amount of cleaner is used in order to make the most out of your cleaning – too much or too little solution may not sanitize it enough.
Follow the instructions located on your cleaning product. It will tell you how many solutions you will need (you may need to adjust it according to your tank size).

Note: This is for a brine tank. If your tank is not brine, you can pour the solution into the salt tank. Be aware, though, this can damage the salt. It is best to do this when it’s near time to refill your salt.

Step 3 – Flushing the Debris

Locate your control valve and change the unit to the regeneration mode. This will help to flush out dirt and grime out of your tank. The system will do this manually.

Do this process twice to get a cleaner tank, as some of the mineral build-ups may still be in your tank after the first flush. If more build-up persists, try this process once more. When finished, you can move on to the next step.

Step 4 – Switching Back to Normal Mode

Return to your control valve once again, and switch the tank back to its normal settings. Then run tap water through the tank to rinse out any remaining cleaning solution.

Clean A Water Softener Filter

Cleaning a water softener prefilter is not always worth it, but having the prefilter is always worth it for your water softener system’s health. Depending on where you live and what you are filtering out, it may get dirty too quickly with reusable ones that the filters never get clean.

This is where disposable ones will come into play. Disposable ones will not have anything too small to get out stuck in them already and will be able to continue to filter for longer and better than the reusable ones.

If you decide to get reusable ones, you will need to keep the instructions that come with the filter so you know how it is supposed to be cleaned. Depending on the company, these directions will change for how to clean them properly.

How To Clean A Water Softener Resin Bed

Cleaning the resin bed of a water softener is probably one of the most important aspects of cleaning water softeners. If the resin bed reaches capacity, then the water softener will no longer work properly.


You will want to get a resin cleaner that is specifically designed for mineral buildup. If you do know if you have a specific issue with any particular minerals, you may want to test your water to see if you have any abnormal levels. That way you can get a more specific cleaner for the resin bed.

Follow the cleaner bottle’s directions, and make sure you can set aside time for when you do not need any water to run a manual regeneration cycle.

Clean A Water Softener Brine Tank

Cleaning the brine tank is going to be important, so that no salt sludge or salt bridges, or anything of that nature, can form, and you can continue to have brine water go through the system without having potential clogs anywhere from chunks of salt getting stuck.


If the salt has turned into a bridge already, disconnect lines and hoses connecting the brine tank to the water softener, and then use warm or hot water to break up and remove any salt or debris left in the tank.

Mix up some dish soap with water and (a gallon or two) and make it have a lot of suds and clean it out. Then add in a tablespoon or two of bleach with about 3 gallons of water. Then put water and salt back to the tank.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answered


What Can I use to Clean My Water Softener?

You can use multiple items and liquids to clean your water softener. You can use vinegar water, bleach water, dish soap water, or a special cleaner purchased from a home improvement store made specifically for water softeners. What to scrub the inside of tanks with you can use sponges or cloths or anything that is gentle and will not scuff up the insides.

Can I Put Bleach In My Water Softener?

Yes, you can put bleach in your water softener, but you need to be very mindful about the ratio of bleach inside of water and do not pour the bleach in first, otherwise, you have a very good chance of damaging the resin beads and making them useless if they are overexposed to bleach.

100 PPM is the max amount of bleach you can use in the mixture, which means that the max amount of bleach is one tablespoon for every gallon of water.

Will Bleach Hurt A Water Softener?

Bleach will not hurt the water softener if it is used in the right amount. If too much is put into the water softener, it will permanently damage the resin bed to where it will not work. Bleach within the 50-100 PPM will do better for the system when properly used is going to be better for the water softener than not using it at all for fear of hurting the water softener.

If there is worry about damaging the water softener, use the low end for bleach with the 50 PPM for each gallon to be safe.

Can I Put Vinegar in My Water Softener?

Yes, you can put vinegar into the water softener. You will end up following the same rules as for the bleach when using it to clean the water softener. This is because vinegar also can damage the water softener when put in at higher than recommended doses. By using less than a tablespoon of vinegar per gallon of water, no resin beads will be damaged in the water softener during a cleaning regeneration cycle.

The plus side of the vinegar being used instead of bleach is that vinegar is safe for humans to consume, so there is no need to flush the tanks a second time like with bleach.

How Do I Drain A Water Softener Resin Tank?

There are two ways to drain a resin tank. The easier method is going to be going through a regeneration cycle to flush out anything that was in it. The more labor-intensive way but allows you more access is going to be unplugging the softener and removing the tank so you have full access to the resin tank and can drain It completely.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning your water softener is a chore and can be labor-intensive, but in the long run, it can save you a lot of money, time, and trouble if you make the choices to clean all the different parts and clean them well.

By cleaning the tanks well and preventing additional issues from arising, you will minimize the unpredictable and prolong your water softener’s life well past the 15-year average lifespan.

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