Leaking Water Softener? Reasons And Solutions

Leaking Water Softener

Anthony Barnes

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Once you notice that your water softener system is beginning to leak then you may be tempted to swiftly contact a plumbing specialist.

Try not to panic as several scenarios can result in a leaking water softener and there are some simple solutions that you can try yourself.

You should still look to solve the problem soon enough but try to work out where the leak is coming from and disconnect the power supply for your water softener first. 

Occasionally, simply the passage of time can result in components in your water softener system deteriorating to the point of causing cracks that become leaks.

If you have an old system then a leak may be the event that spurs you on to research a new replacement system that may work even better.

Before you get into identifying the problem and trying to fix it, ensure that you turn off the water and power supply as basic safety precautions.  

In this guide, we will look at some of the most common reasons for your water softener to leak and the steps you can take to resolve it.

Preparation Before Identifying And Diagnosing A Leaking Water Softener

With any aspect of a DIY task, you should take safety precautions and take them seriously.

Your first step should be to disconnect the water softener system from the power outlet which is an obvious first step yet a vital one. 

If the leak is particularly noticeable with a puddle that requires several buckets then you may want to perform the disconnection at the circuit breaker.

Your next step is to bypass the water supply which should be simply done by moving the bypass valve until it is in the opposite direction or using the control head to either shut off the valve or set it in bypass mode. 

Ensuring that you can control the flow of water and power to the water softener should allow you to begin identifying and diagnosing the leak.

Do not worry about your other appliances, they will still be able to access the water from the mainline yet the water will not be soft for the time being you are working on the problem.  

How To Identify A Leaking Water Softener

Any part of a plumbing system can leak as various components invariably come into contact with water all the time.

This could be a connection point that is lacking protection from some duct tape, a cracked pipe that will only get bigger, or an overflowing tank. 

The simplest way to identify a leaking water softener is a puddle of water that develops underneath it.

Find out whether the trickle of water is coming from the top or bottom then follow the trickle and you may be able to find the component that is causing the leak. 

The Reasons For A Leaking Water Softener

The Water Softener Hose Line

Several reasons can be attributed to why your water softener is leaking. It could be something as simple as a crack in a pipe or a component such as a rotor valve failing to operate as it should. 

The brine tank or resin tank could be damaged, and either the hose or drain line could require replacing.

Finding out the direct reason for the leaking water softener may indicate whether you want to solve the problem yourself or call in a plumbing specialist. 

The Rotor Valve

You may need a ladder but look at your water softener and you should see the rotor valve situated at the very top of the unit.

This is the first place water comes into the water softener and can be the obvious source of a leak.

The rotor valve can also deteriorate over time and any cracks will ultimately result in leaks so if you can visibly see signs of erosion then this component needs to be replaced.

You may not see any cracks or even evidence of deterioration around the rotor valve itself but if there is still a leak then it may be a damaged seal inside the valve.

Replacing the rotor valve or simply the interior seal may be a tricky job. If you do not feel confident performing either task then contact a plumbing expert to fix it for you.

Damaged Brine Tank

Another component that can be damaged and automatically result in a leak is the brine tank.

This is the part where you put the salt as the sodium ions work to replace the calcium and magnesium ions in the water. 

If it is the brine tank then the leak could be coming from the top or the bottom. This damage could be caused by simply poking at a salt bridge and causing a puncture.

You could attempt to solve this problem by applying a sealant that is epoxy rated yet a puncture typically means that you will be required to replace the tank. 

If you can determine that the brine tank is faulty which has resulted in a crack then you should check whether it is still within warranty. If so, the manufacturer should be able to provide a replacement tank.

Even if it is not within the warranty, you should still contact them to try to organize a replacement, whether free or with a discount applied. 

The Water Softener Drain Line

A poorly installed drain line can become blocked which, over time, can lead to a crack or a line that will end up bursting.

There should be an air gap if it was properly installed yet if you can follow the drain line with a trickle of water then you should be able to see where the crack is. 

You can check the drain line for a blockage that could have caused the cracking then try to seal it up but you may be better off replacing the entire drain line to prevent it from happening again or relying on the seal to hold firm.  

The Water Softener Hose Line

Similar to the drain line, you can follow the water softener hose to see if the connection is causing a leak then tighten it up.

However, any hose can deteriorate over time and a simple crack may be fixable or it may be time to replace the hose itself. 

Just like any of the other occasions where you need to replace a component, ensure that the power is disconnected and the main water line is turned off so you can perform the work easily.

Overflow

Several faults can result in an overflowing water softener tank. If the brine tank float is stuck or the control head is defective, either or both can be attributed to the underlying problem.

The float valve especially can mean that the brine tank does not know when to stop and simply overflows. 

To try to rectify this issue, check the brine line for whether it is properly attached to the float then look for any obstructions to the valves or lines.

Remove any obstructions and then check if the drain line is clear of the flow of the brine line as that could also cause an overflow. 

The Resin Tank

If the resin tank is leaking from the bottom then a crack can easily turn into a leak. The resin tank is a hugely important component and is where the water passes through to become softer.

There could be a connection point for the resin tank that has become loose, in which case tightening it up may solve the leak.

Knowing how to drain, clean, and patch the resin tank can save you from having to pay for a replacement.

Turn off the main water line and the water softener itself then let it drain which may take a fair amount of time but mark out where the cracks are visible first.

Once empty, disassemble the tank and inspect it as it may require a thorough clean.

Set the resin beads aside and use a simple bleach and water solution to soak the resin tank then remove the salt and iron deposits with a toothbrush. 

Find out where you marked a crack then judge whether you can repair it with an epoxy resin or whether the resin tank requires replacing.

Sand down the area around the crack so the surface becomes abrasive enough to firmly bind with the waterproof epoxy resin. 

Fill in the cracks with a putty knife and allow the epoxy resin to dry by following the instructions on the container.

Soon after the epoxy resin has dried you can reassemble the water softener but take the time to check whether the leak reoccurs as you may need to reapply more epoxy resin.  

The Bypass Valve/Bypass Valve O-Rings

The bypass valve should work to prevent leaking as it allows water to successfully bypass the system.

It also has a function to help you get around repairing or replacing the water softener and still be able to do it without cutting off the water to your home. 

If you think it is the cause of a leak then check the O-Rings for what condition they are in.

This is another component in the system that may need some care (lubrication in this case) or even replacing over time around the 20-year mark and could also require the services of a plumbing specialist. 

If you need to replace the bypass valve itself, you should see some mineral deposit buildup around the leak so begin by cutting off the main water line connection that leads to your water softener system.

You use another pipe to act as a temporary valve and then connect the two pipes at the connection. 

The inward and outward flow of the water softener system (see also ‘Best Salt For Water Softener?‘) should be properly sealed or you could run the risk of a bigger leak.

Once it is safe, you can remove the bypass valve and replace it then turn the main water line back on. 

Final Thoughts

Once you have found a puddle of water near your water softener then it may prove straightforward to follow the trickle to find out if a crack or a connection point has led to the leak. 

A simple fix may be all it requires and if you have the tools and a readily available supply of epoxy resin then you may be able to solve the problem yourself.

Some components may require replacing and you should check the warranty in case of faults.

As you may be able to tell, fixing a leak from the water softener can be done without contacting a plumbing specialist.

However, if you are not confident with performing any DIY or simply want to avoid the hassle then call them in to fix the problem.

This is the ideal solution for peace of mind and also to ensure that any further issues can be identified and rectified in good time. 

Frequently Asked Questions

When Should I Consider Replacing The Water Softener If It Is Leaking?

A lot of leaks do not require the whole water softener system to be replaced as some simple DIY and waterproof epoxy resin can solve the problem.

However, if you have had the water softener system for a few years and you can tell that it has visibly deteriorated in places with a leaking brine or resin tank then it may be time to think about getting a new one as simple household maintenance.

It may even make economic sense in the long-term to replace the entire system rather than having to buy a new tank. 

Is It Possible To Overfill A Water Softener System With Salt?

Actually, yes it is so you should be careful about how much water you use in the brine tank as you can overfill it without even noticing.

Try to keep it half-full which should help prevent any older salt from sticking to the walls of the brine tank. To further it from sticking you should manage the humidity level around your water softener. 

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By Anthony Barnes

Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age