When Should You Replace A Water Softener?

When Should You Replace A Water Softener

Anthony Barnes

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Your water softener should protect you from various minerals that can come from hard water.

Though once your water softener begins to fail, it can be quite noticeable and you may want to replace it.

There are methods to increase the lifespan of your water softener though it should typically last for a decade and anything over 12 years should be considered a bonus.

In this guide, we will look at how long a water softener typically lasts, the telltale signs of a failing water softener, and how you could benefit from a new water softener. 

How Long A Water Softener Typically Lasts

Though a water softener can have its lifespan extended through a pre-filter or regular maintenance, the appliances typically last for between ten and 15 years.

Think back or check when the water softener was installed and if it was over a decade ago then it may be time it was replaced. 

Depending on the quality of your home’s water and how often the water softener is used, the lifespan may change.

For instance, if the water softener has to soften very hard water or has to soften water containing iron then it may need to be replaced even sooner. 

The Telltale Signs That Your Water Softener Is Failing

When Should You Replace A Water Softener

Various indicators can tell you that your water softener has begun to fail and may need replacing soon enough.

The quality of water may dip yet that alone may not be enough to convince you that the water softener needs to be replaced as it may just need servicing. 

One component may be failing and that may just need replacing, not the entire water softener.

You could add some salt to the brine tank, clean a valve, or replace the media and the water softener is back performing as you would expect it to.

Insufficient Soap Lather

Something as simple as washing your hands or struggling to lather up shampoo and soap in the shower could be a telltale sign that your water softener is failing. 

If you cannot create a decent lather and you are going through more soap and shampoo than you regularly want then take a look at your water softener.

This could be a sign that you do not realize immediately yet gradually you may find yourself buying more shampoo and soap than you usually would. 

Different Water Taste

If you drink a lot of water from the tap then you may realize when it tastes different.

This could be a sure indication that the water softener is beginning to fail.

You may crave the taste of soft water and it may be quite easy to note when your water supply has a different taste as it will have an increased concentration of minerals. 

Take the time to savor the taste of your tap water as it could mean that your water softener should be serviced or even replaced.

Different Water Appearance

Not only may you notice that your tap water tastes different, but it may also look different too.

If a typical glass looks cloudy when you should expect it to be clear then this could be due to hard water being present. 

Minerals such as magnesium and calcium can create a chalky, cloudy appearance in water which can be an indication that your water softener needs to be replaced.

Poor Dishwasher Performance

You should expect your dishes to be clean of any residue and your glassware to come out gleaming from your dishwasher, not appear foggy. 

Before you begin to inspect your dishwasher, consider that your water softener is failing.

The increased hardness of the water can affect the effectiveness of soap and detergents, so your dishwasher is unable to perform as well as you would expect it to.

Different Results From Water-Based Appliances

Not only can the dishwasher and washing machine be affected by a failing water softener, but you may also find soap scum in your shower, sink, or bathtub.

This soap scum occurs when minerals, such as calcium, are still present in your water and chemically react with the soap.

This can affect the cleaning performance of the dishwasher and the mineral buildup may be found in your coffee pot. 

It may be best to keep looking out for signs across the range of your water-based appliances as the problems may all be attributed to your water softener if it is failing.

Buildup Around The Pipes And Faucets

A visible sign that the water softener is beginning to fail is a red or yellow-looking crusty buildup that surrounds your faucets and pipes.

Just as the increased concentration of minerals in your water will affect the taste, it could also increase the possibility of a chalky substance building up which may be prominent in your bathroom and kitchen.

Problems With The Laundry

A further visible sign that your water softener (see also ‘Salt Vs. Salt-Free Water Softeners‘) may need replacing can be seen with your laundry.

Particularly as hard water can make your washed clothes scratchy and stiff.

You could use a fabric softener to counteract the effects yet as soon as you do, you may want to check your water softener anyway.

If the water softener is working properly then it should remove those minerals that are causing your clothes to be stiff in the first place. 

Changing your water softener may also protect your washing machine, hot water heater, and dishwasher.

This is largely because hard water can damage water-based appliances.

If the water softener is functioning properly then your clothes should be washed as you would expect and you will also be looking out for other household appliances. 

Reduced Water Pressure In The Shower

If your water has an increased mineral content then it can make your shower work harder to maintain the water pressure you expect.

These minerals can get past your softener and this can prevent more water from coming through which would reduce the pressure.

How You Could Benefit From A New Water Softener

When Should You Replace A Water Softener

As soon as you replace a failing water softener, you should be able to tell the difference.

Your clothes will no longer be itchy or stiff which will result in an improvement in your skin.

It should prove easier to lather up soap and detergents too so you could see a saving in not having to buy both products regularly. 

A new water softener will also protect your water-based appliances such as your washing machine and dishwasher from having to deal with hard water.

You may also quickly tell the difference in the quality of your water, how clear it appears and how clean it tastes without those minerals.

The water pressure in your shower may improve and those red and yellow build ups around your faucets and pipes should have less chance to occur. 

Final Thoughts

There are some really obvious signs that your water softener is beginning to fail.

These can include glaring red or yellow-looking stains around your faucets and pipes.

Once you start to spot changes in how the water looks and tastes then this can be attributed to the mineral content in your water. 

Some signs are less obvious and include having to use more soap to lather your hands as well as your dishes and glassware not looking as clean as they should be when they leave the dishwasher.

If you spot any of these signs, or a few at the same time, then it may be time to replace your water softener.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Could I Extend the Lifespan Of My Water Softener?

There is a simple way to extend the lifespan of your water softener and that is to install a pre-filter.

This can help eliminate the sediment, clay, sand, and iron that can be commonly found in tap water or water that has come from a well.

Without a pre-filter, the water softener can easily get clogged by those substances.

Removing the contaminants from the water supply before it hits your water softener could extend its lifespan by six months to a full year.

What Factors Affect The Lifespan Of A Water Softener?

If your tap water or the water from your well is typically considered hard then the more often you use it, the more effort your water softener has to put in.

With the water softener working harder, you can expect that to affect its lifespan.

With more people in your household, such as a growing family, you can expect the usage of your water softener to increase too which can shorten the lifespan. 

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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