how to clean water softener filter

Clover Dane

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How To Clean Water Softener Filter

How To Maintain A Water Softener?

Our answers to ALL your questions on this page, to help you take care of your softener and enjoy good quality water. You will know about how to clean water softener filter.

  • What maintenance for a water softener?
  • How often should you maintain your softener , and what are the important points of maintenance?
  • Is it worth taking out a maintenance contract?
  • What products to use for cleaning the resin and filters?
  • What is the  annual maintenance budget for a water softener ?

Why Clean Your Water Softener?

A water softener is a chemically and physically sensitive system.

If you need to regularly check the settings , the system regulation, the water hardness , and disinfect your device , it is to:

  • guarantee the quality of your domestic water and ensure better operation
  • protect your health : salmonellosis, bacteria and infections can be spread by the water softener
  • protect your pipes and appliances from scale damage
  • save energy : electricity and water consumption
  • extend the life of your installation
  • prevent water leaks and foul-smelling upwellings from the drain
  • etc.

In summary, maintaining the water softener comes down to regular checking of the outlet water, cleaning of consumables and circuits, and checking the condition of the equipment and for water leaks.

Each Softener Has Its Own Maintenance

Salt / resin softenerRegeneration, disinfection and general control
Magnetic softenerNo maintenance, apart from hardness tests
Softener without electricitySame maintenance as the salt / resin softener, except that it must be managed manually or hydraulically, in the absence of electronic sensors and programming.
OsmosisDraining and replacing the membrane
Catalytic softenerChanging the gas cylinder

Warning: Follow The Instructions For Use

Each softener comes with its own instructions and guidelines that you must follow carefully to access the electronic parameters of the device. 

Always carefully consult the instructions provided by the manufacturer!

The Particular Case Of The Magnetic Softener

The magnetic softener, or ”  anti-lime magnets  ” does not need any special maintenance, because the magnets keep their power indefinitely and do not require any consumable product.

This is a magnetic ring (therefore magnetic) placed on a pipe to crystallize the limestone, which will no longer be able to adhere to the walls of the pipe and form a layer of scale. It acts as a physical anti-deposit mechanism.

To use it, you must have non-magnetic pipes: PVC, copper or brass, and provide several magnets in line, on all your pipes.

In the end, this type of device for purchase can be quite expensive, even if individually the price of an anti-lime magnet goes from 5 to 30 €. But times 10, 20, or 100, the price goes up quickly!

Magnet softeners, however, have questionable effectiveness : they do not disinfect water, are ineffective on equipment that is seldom used (for the magnet to work, the water must circulate continuously) and tests for variation of the temperature. water hardness are simply not unanimous.

Catalytic Softener (CO2 Water Catalyst): A Maintenance-Free Softener

The catalytic water softener system involves injecting CO2 into the water. There is no chemical treatment, only physical . This technology makes the softened water immediately consumable (tasteless) and does not reject any product in the evacuated water.

The performance of the water catalyst is very interesting and economical in the long term, even if the purchase price is higher initially : a single bottle can treat 150,000 liters of water (depending on your flow rate and the hardness of water at the start)!

Another interesting effect: the gas cleans pipes and your household appliances by itself.

In terms of maintenance for this type of catalytic softener, it will suffice to change the gas cylinder and check the normal wear of certain parts. No salt, no resin, no tank to maintain or disinfect.

A regular water pH test will allow you to adjust your CO2 flow settings.

Water Softener Maintenance Methods And Frequencies 

Maintenance frequency of a water softener
Every day or every 2 daysRegeneration of the resin manually if your softener does not do it automatically
Every monthChecking the level of the brine tank
Every 2 monthsWater hardness test
Every 2-3 monthsChecking the resin condition
Every 6 monthsChanging the pre-filter cartridge
Once a yearDisinfection of the chlorine and phosphoric acid softener.
After periods of absence> 2 weeksPreventive disinfection of the softener
Every 3 yearsCleaning the brine tank

How To Maintain Your Softener?

Regeneration of the resin

Resin is the central component of softeners: its maintenance is therefore essential.

The resin microbeads naturally become saturated with waste, which is why they must be cleaned with brine (water and salt tablets).

The salt water will circulate in the opposite direction to the normal flow (this is why during the regeneration time you cannot use your domestic water). 

Most new softeners contain salt reservoirs and are programmed for automatic self-cleaning and you normally don’t have to worry about it: everything is handled electronically.

However, if your softener has this function, or if you want to do a manual or forced regeneration (return from vacation, change of salts or resin, etc.) you must launch the command yourself. 

This is particularly the case if you use a softener without electricity: some are hydraulically controlled, others simply manual.

Checking the level of the brine tank

The salt allows the regeneration of the resin.
This is its only role: salt does not soften the water!

It is a specific salt, in compressed tablets ( NEVER use coarse salt or any other form of salt not intended for this purpose ).

Check that the salt level is between the “minimum” and “maximum” marks of the level intended by the manufacturer. The bin is usually marked with marks for this purpose. Do not exceed 1/3 the volume of the tank.

Fill as needed with new pellets.

There is only one way to know if your water softener is working correctly: you must test the hardness of the water on your home network, using a test kit (strips or solutions) commercially available.

The water can be checked regularly and must be done after each annual disinfection.

If you observe a change in hardness, check your device settings , change them, and test again.

How To Clean Water Softener Filter

Checking the resin condition

The resin beads eventually wear out on contact with each other, and with natural erosion from salt. This decreases the contact surface with water and the performance of the resin.

So check the wear of the balls , their general appearance (color, stains, appearance, contact with greasy film, etc.) when you think that there could be a malfunction or that they have reached the end of the cycle .

In terms of price, count 110 € for 25 liters of resin.

Changing the pre-filter cartridge

When the filter material in the pre-filter cartridge before the softener changes color and turns yellow or the cartridge is saturated, you need to change it.

  1. Cut off the water supply
  2. Place a basin under the filter to collect any water that may remain in it
  3. Open a faucet to purge the system
  4. Unscrew the air vent and the pre-filter bowl
  5. Replace the cartridge
  6. Screw the elements back on and make sure the joints are clean and watertight
  7. Turn on the water

In general, a cartridge is changed every 6 months to 1 year , depending on the pollutants contained in your water and the type of active ingredient in the filter.

Change your carbon or extruded cartridge every 6 months, and your cartridge with silicophosphates every year, when the beads are completely dissolved.

Softener disinfection

The disinfection of the softener can be done on an ad hoc basis if you suspect the presence of bacteria , but is done anyway at least once a year .

Disinfection should also be done after the device has been on standby for several months.

A dose of liquid disinfectant is poured into the chimney of the brine regulator (salt tank of the softener). This gesture prevents the proliferation of bacteria or microbes, viruses, salmonella, etc.

Do not forget to then run a regeneration cycle to properly clean the resin column.

Recent models of softeners

Some modern softeners have built-in double protection against bacteria : the brine water outlet is isolated under a layer of air and prevents any bacteria from the sewers from going up to the softener.

Others are equipped with the technology of electrochlorination of resins : they self-disinfect themselves.

Cleaning the brine tank

salt crust will eventually form by deposit. You should remove it with a vacuum cleaner and carefully wipe off any saline deposits.

Disinfect the bin at the same time.

You can use anti-agglomeration spheres to prevent (or delay) this natural phenomenon.

Maintenance Of An Osmosis Unit

Drain the entire tank every month by pressing the draw-off tap until the water flows in small jets. With the reservoir empty, unscrew the cap from the air valve and re-inflate the reservoir to 0.4 bar, then screw the cap back on.

Every year , test using a conductivity meter (TDS pen) that the water is well purified to at least 75%.

Every year, change the sediment pre-filter, the activated carbon pre-filter and the post-filter :

  1. close the water inlet connector valve
  2. empty the tank
  3. unscrew the part to be changed, clean the bowl with disinfectant and rinse it thoroughly
  4. install the new filter (do not touch it directly with your fingers and work with latex gloves)
  5. open the valve to restart the system.

Every 2 to 5 years, replace the membrane :

  1. remove the post-filter
  2. disconnect the pipes from the membrane container
  3. remove the membrane container from its fixings
  4. unscrew the head of the container and remove the membrane with pliers
  5. wash and disinfect the membrane and rinse thoroughly
  6. gently push in the new membrane, making sure that it does not go beyond the edge of the container
  7. screw in and redo all the connections.

Know when to change the membrane

To find out if your membrane needs to be changed, measure the purity of the water with a TDS meter (test pen).

Draw 2 liters of water from your reverse osmosis unit, wait 15 minutes, then draw a glass again and measure it.
Then do the same with water from a non-osmosis tap. 

Then do the following calculation: (purified water value / tap water value)  x 100  = overall purification rate by the membrane in%

Between 98 and 75%: satisfactory rate / <75%: change the membrane

List Of Products For Water Softener

Liquid Disinfectant For Softener

The liquid disinfectant for water softener is a concentrated solution of ethyl alcohol or chlorine and phosphoric acid. The phosphoric acid is used to remove any lime deposits while the chlorine disinfects the machine.

It eliminates iron particles and other impurities as well as any germs or bacteria present.

Preferably choose an approved biocide or food grade resin regenerator to clean and disinfect cationic resins in softeners of all brands, and remove iron oxide.

It is found in bottles of 250 ml, 500 ml, 1L and in cans of 5 liters.

It takes 200 to 500 ml for 20 l of resin . Count around 10 € / liter.

Refined Salt Tablets

Only refined salt is suitable for softening water ; NEVER use any other type of salt!

Pastilles or granules , it is not the form of the salt that counts, but its quality. Make sure that the quality of the regeneration salt is guaranteed by the European standard EN 973 concerning chemicals used for the treatment of water intended for human consumption.

The regeneration salt must meet chemical and physical quality criteria and be of high purity (> 99.4%). The NF marking guarantees a higher level of quality.

Use a water softener salt without additives or dust, Type A (very high purity).

On average, for a household of 4 people, a 25kg bag of softener salt tablets lasts about 2 months. Count 6 € for a 10 kilo bag

Complete Softener Cleaning Maintenance Kit

You will find complete softener maintenance kits on the market. They usually contain:

  • 1 microfiber filter
  • One bottle of resin disinfectant
  • 1 vial of Resin Protector
  • 1 hardness test

Count around 50 € for this kind of water softener maintenance kit.

C02 For Catalytic Softeners

The CO2 used by catalytic softeners is food grade CO2 , like that used for sparkling water.

The average price of CO2 is 25 euros for a 10 kg bottle.

A family uses one bottle per year on average.

Although the catalyst (catalytic softener) does not require maintenance, the annual change of the gas cylinder and the monitoring of the installation (pH, leaks, parts, pressure, etc.) should be entrusted to a professional.

Handling pressurized gas is always dangerous.

Anti-Clogging Kit

The anti-clogging kit is composed of spheres preventing the crystallization of the brine in the bottom of your brine tank.

Softener And Septic Tank

The European standard for septic tanks EN 12566-3 does not mention any contraindication to connecting the discharge of a softener to the septic tank .

There is no obligation to connect to the sewer.

Water from a softener discharged into a septic tank does not affect the ability of the tank to effectively treat wastewater.

Maintenance Price Of A Softener

Should You Take Out A Contract Or Do Your Water Softener Maintenance Yourself?

How much does the maintenance of the water softener cost? Regular annual maintenance will cost you around € 60 per year , excluding parts to be changed.

There is nothing too complicated about maintaining a water softener. Doing your own water softener maintenance is within everyone’s reach. The more sophisticated and self-programmed the water softener, the more peaceful you will be, without even having to remember when to perform various interventions.

However, you can decide to opt for a softener maintenance contract . Most manufacturers and specialists in the installation of softeners will offer you one, often at a lower cost.

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The Maintenance Contract

The price of a most complete water softener maintenance contract will be around € 100 per year, for what is called an “all-inclusive peace of mind contract”. This type of maintenance contract includes:

  • The annual maintenance visit
  • Start-up and setting of parameters
  • Parameter revisions
  • TH upstream input and output control
  • Lubrication and disinfection of the various blocks
  • Various checks: levels, parameters, brine, evacuation, valve, cycles, pre-filter …
  • Cleaning the brine tank
  • Rapid intervention (payable) in the event of a breakdown
  • Priority after-sales assistance
  • Labor and displacement

In general for an additional 50%, you will also get :

  • Changing the pre-filter
  • Salt refill
  • Changing worn parts
  •  Free repair in the event of a breakdown

For less than 100 € per year  you will have a more basic assistance / maintenance contract, but sufficient in most cases:

  • The annual maintenance visit
  • Start-up and setting of parameters
  • Various checks: levels, parameters, brine, evacuation, valve, cycles, pre-filter …
  • Cleaning the brine tank
  • Priority after-sales assistance

In short, taking out a maintenance contract costs more than doing it yourself. But a more thorough maintenance and guarantees of good functioning and assured peace of mind . Additionally, remote inquiries / troubleshooting and customer support are included which can be very helpful.

For collective or industrial water softeners, the maintenance contract is essential.

The electronics are much more sophisticated and the maintenance rules significantly different. 

What is more, the regulations are more demanding in the tertiary sector or the collective, in particular health establishments (we know the problems of hospitals with bacteria and nosocomial diseases…).


A well-maintained water softener can run 10 or 20 years without a hitch. 

Beyond this period, you will either have parts to change, or you will have to change the softener.

Technology is also evolving so quickly that it is not excluded that in 10 years a new method of softening or more interesting filtration will be available on the market!

Beware of manufacturers who guarantee a water softener (like any other household appliance for the rest) “for life”!

The serious softener manufacturers offer models on ways and upscale three types of guarantees softener :

  • A 1 year labor and maintenance warranty
  • A 3-year parts warranty (excluding normal wear)
  • A 10-year warranty on the main blocks