A Complete Guide to Draining Your Water Softener

Hard water can be a real hassle. It can clog up pipes, leave mineral deposits on fixtures and even make your hair and skin feel rough. If you’ve invested in a water softener to combat these issues, good for you! But like any appliance, water softeners need to be properly maintained in order to keep them functioning at their best. One important aspect of this maintenance is draining the system regularly. In this guide, we’ll go through the steps for draining your water softener and alternative methods for keeping it in tip-top shape.

Why Drain a Water Softener?

A water softener works by removing minerals from the water that cause hardness. These minerals are stored in a resin tank, which periodically needs to be flushed to prevent the buildup of mineral deposits. If you ignore this step, the resin tank can become clogged, and the water softener will no longer function properly. Regular draining also helps to prolong the life of the unit, making it a win-win for you and your plumbing.

Tools You’ll Need

Before you get started, make sure you have the following tools on hand:

  • A bucket
  • A garden hose
  • A wrench or pliers
  • An adjustable spanner

Step-by-Step Instructions for Draining Your Water Softener

  1. Turn off the water to the softener: Locate the valve that controls the water supply to the unit and turn it off.
  2. Disconnect the input and output hoses: Use your wrench or pliers to loosen the fittings that connect the hoses to the unit. Direct the output hose into a bucket.
  3. Remove the drain cap: Use an adjustable spanner to remove the drain cap on the bottom of the resin tank.
  4. Drain the unit: Open the valve on the bottom of the tank to allow the water to flow out. Drain the unit until the water runs clear. This could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of your unit.
  5. Replace the drain cap: Once the water has finished draining, replace the drain cap and tighten it securely with the adjustable spanner.
  6. Reconnect the hoses: Reattach the input and output hoses to the unit and tighten the fittings with your wrench or pliers.
  7. Turn the water back on: Open the valve that controls the water supply to the unit and let it run for a few minutes to flush out any remaining debris.
  8. Check for leaks: Check all of the connections for leaks. If you find any, tighten the fittings until the leak stops.

Alternative Methods

If you don’t feel comfortable draining your water softener yourself, there are alternative methods you can use to keep it functioning properly. One option is to use a resin cleaner, which can help to remove mineral buildup in the resin tank without having to drain the unit. Simply add the cleaner to the brine tank, run the regeneration cycle and let the cleaner do its magic. Another option is to have a professional come out and service the unit for you. This will ensure that everything is working properly and that the unit is draining efficiently.

How Often to Drain Your Water Softener

Draining your water softener is an important part of maintaining its performance and longevity. The frequency at which you need to drain the unit depends on several factors, including the size of the unit, the hardness of your water, and the frequency of use. On average, it’s recommended to drain your water softener every 6 to 12 months.

To keep track of when it’s time to drain your unit, keep an eye out for these signs:

  • Your water starts to taste salty.
  • Your skin becomes itchy or dry after showering.
  • Your water pressure decreases.
  • Your brine tank is empty or the salt level is low.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Despite being a straightforward task, draining a water softener can sometimes come with its own set of challenges. Here are some common issues you may encounter and how to troubleshoot them:

  • Clogged hoses: If you notice that the water is not flowing freely through the hoses, try removing any debris that may be blocking the flow. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, consider replacing the hoses.
  • Slow draining: If the water is draining slowly, check to see if the hoses are kinked or if there are any other obstructions in the way. If the problem persists, it could be due to a clogged drain or an issue with the pump.
  • Leaks: If you notice any leaks, turn off the unit immediately and locate the source of the leak. Common causes of leaks include damaged hoses, a cracked brine tank, or a malfunctioning valve.

If you’re having trouble resolving these issues on your own, it’s best to seek the help of a professional.

Maintenance and Upkeep

To keep your water softener functioning optimally, it’s important to perform regular maintenance and upkeep tasks. Here are some of the tasks you should perform regularly:

  • Clean the brine tank: The brine tank should be cleaned every few months to remove any built-up salt and debris. To clean the tank, remove all the salt and scrub the tank with a solution of water and household bleach.
  • Replace the resin: The resin in your water softener should be replaced every 5 to 7 years, depending on the unit. Replacing the resin helps to maintain the performance of the unit and extend its lifespan.
  • Monitor the salt levels: Keep an eye on the salt levels in your brine tank and replenish as needed. Using the correct type of salt and ensuring that the tank is never empty is key to maintaining optimal performance.

By performing these tasks, you’ll ensure that your water softener is functioning optimally and provide yourself with many years of clean, soft water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about draining water softeners:

  • How do I determine the size of my water softener? The size of your water softener is typically determined by the number of people in your household and the hardness of your water. Consult the manufacturer’s specifications or speak with a professional to determine the right size for your home.
  • What type of salt should I use for my water softener? It’s recommended to use high-purity salt pellets or blocks for your water softener. Avoid using rock salt or other impure forms of salt, as these can leave residue in the tank and decrease the unit’s performance.
  • How do I know if my water softener needs to be drained? If you start to notice that your water tastes salty, your skin becomes itchy or dry after showering, your water pressure decreases, or your brine tank is empty or the salt level is low, it’s time to drain your water softener. Additionally, it’s recommended to drain your water softener every 6 to 12 months as a preventative measure.
  • Can I drain my water softener without a hose? Yes, you can drain your water softener without a hose by using a bucket to collect the water. However, using a hose is more convenient and allows for a quicker and more efficient draining process.
  • Can I drain my water softener too often? Draining your water softener too often can lead to decreased performance and decreased lifespan of the unit. It’s recommended to only drain your water softener as needed, or every 6 to 12 months as a preventative measure.

By understanding the answers to these frequently asked questions, you’ll be well-equipped to properly maintain and drain your water softener.


Draining your water softener regularly is an important aspect of maintenance for this appliance. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to keep your unit functioning properly and enjoy the benefits of soft water in your home. If you are unsure about any aspect of the process, consider seeking the help of a professional to ensure that the job is done correctly. With the right tools and techniques, draining your water softener is a straightforward task that will help keep your plumbing system running smoothly. So, roll up your sleeves, grab your tools and get ready to tackle this important home maintenance task. Happy draining!