Step-by-Step Instructions for Cleaning a Water Softening Brine Tank

How to Clean Water Softener Brine Tank

When was the last time you cleaned your water softener’s brine tank?

Yes, cleaning your softener’s brine tank is right at the top of your “Weekend Fun Activity” list, right? The good news is, a brine tank only needs to be thoroughly cleaned once each year–and it’s really not hard. We’ll take you through the 12 easy steps to clean a water softener brine tank.

First, one quick disclaimer: Some of the softening salt pellets sold at the supermarket or home improvement store are “evaporative salt pellets” that contain a high level of water-insoluble matter or impurities. This insoluble matter can cause buildup in the reservoir or cause your softener to malfunction. If you notice buildup, the brine tank will need to be cleaned more often than once annually. So when you shop for softening salt, look for labeling on the salt pellet sack that indicates you’re getting the highest purity level. 

Step-by-Step Instructions for Cleaning a Brine Tank

  1. Follow your system’s manufacturer instructions for putting the system in “Bypass Mode”. This way, water will bypass the softener for a short period of time so that cleaning can be done.
  2. Disconnect all lines/hoses between the water softener and brine tank.

  3. Siphon or dump water out of the brine tank (not on grass or plants as the high percentage of sodium in this water/salt mixture may hurt lawn or plants).

  4. Take out any remaining salt and discard.

  5. If the brine tank has a salt bridge (one big block of salt), you’ll need to use warm or hot water to loosen the salt bridge up and break it out. 

  6. Pull the “brine grid” out if there is one. A brine grid is the platform/screen at the bottom of a brine tank. Not all brine tanks have a brine grid.

  7. Pour a few tablespoons of  dish soap into 1-2 gallons of water to create a soapy mixture.

  8. Pour the soap/water mixture into the brine tank and scrub the inside with a long-handled brush. Dump and rinse with water.

  9. Now pour 2-3 gallons of clean water into the brine tank with a quarter cup household bleach. Stir and let the bleach/water solution sit for 15 minutes.  Scrub the inside of tank with a brush and chlorine water.

  10. Dump and rinse the bleach water.

  11. Put brine tank back in place and connect all lines to water softener and drain. Take the system out of “Bypass Mode”.

  12. Put 5 gallons of clean water into the brine tank.

  13. Lastly, add water softener salt to the brine tank–at least two 50-lb bags.We recommend keeping the brine tank at least one quarter full of water softener salt at all times. For best results, don’t fill salt to the very top of the brine tank, but leave six inches of space from the top rim of the tank.

In the future as you replace salt in the brine tank, make sure the salt level always remains a few inches above the water level. And before adding new salt pellets, always make sure to loosen up any encrusted salt that may be sticking to the edges of the tank and break up any large pieces of salt.

Keep in mind that the salt will need a little time to sit in the brine reservoir and begin dissolving before regeneration can occur (about 2 hrs).  When one immediately initiates regeneration after adding salt to the brine tank, the water softening resin may not be sufficienly cleaned in the regeneration process.

If you have followed the above steps and water softening does not take place, it could indicate the softener is malfunctioning or there’s a problem with the salt you’re using. Not sure if your water softener is working properly or fully softening your water? Contact a local authorized WaterTech dealer and have your system thoroughly checked out.

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29 Responses

  1. It’s so important to keep your system clean, so thanks for the great advice. Even the best water softening system needs regular upkeep to make sure that it functions properly for a long time. Your water softener is an investment, after all, so you should treat it as such. And of course, it simply adds to your quality of life when it works better. As such, it’s important to treat it well.

  2. These are great tips for cleaning your tanks. It’s really not too complicated but if you don’t know what you should be doing, it’s easy to make a mistake. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. While cleaning my brine tank several months ago, I had to use a hammer and chisel to remove the “rock” (salt build up) in the bottom of the tank. Monthly, I now “stir” the salt in the bottom of the brine tank with a broom stick. Hope to keep the salt from turning into a “rock”.

  3. Yes, I agree with you completely, its vital to clean Water Softening Brine Tank every week and I use to do so without failure. Thanks for the valuable post.

    1. Can you also explain the before and after cleaning steps i.e must i switch off the whole system and must i regenerate it manually or will i leave it on auto?

      1. Good point. Before you begin step #1 of disconnecting hoses, etc, you’ll want to put your system into bypass mode. See manufacturer’s instructions on how to initiate bypass.

    1. To clean a combo softener/brine tanks, you’re going to have to tip it over gently with 2 people and a long handled brush. Or use a siphoning hose to remove the water and clean with a long-handle brush.

    1. Simply placing the old salt in a garbage sack and disposing of the salt that way is probably best.

      1. I save the salt from the brine tank, and use it on my driveway/walkways in the snowy/icy winter months in Chicago

  4. after cleaning the tank, must i start the regeneration manually or must i just leave it on auto?

    1. Leave it alone. The system measures water usage and will regenerate when softening capacity is reached.

  5. New to water softening, we let the salt water run off go into our rock pond ( no fish or plants. However the salt clung to the rock. Now the rock looks white. We hate it. What can we use to get the salt off?

    1. This isn’t our expertise, but assume a solution of vinegar and water would help to remove the salt on your rocks (that’s what a lot of people do to clean up after salt has been spread on sidewalks in the winter). Good luck.

  6. I cleaned out my water softener’s brine tank for the first time since it was installed nearly 10 years ago. All I can say is YUCK! And gross! I am glad I did it!

  7. Hi. Thanks for the post. Very helpful. I just cleaned my brine tank today. After letting it set for two hours or so, should I manually initiate regeneration, or just allow it to do it on its own at the time it is scheduled to run? What happens to the water you use in your house while the new salt is dissolving? I’m completely new to this.

    1. Hi Justin, good question. No need to hit regenerate after adding salt. And if you’re completely out of salt, then you might temporarily have harder water flowing through your house until the newly-added salt kicks in (after regeneration). It will mix with the water stored in your pipes, water heater, etc, but will quickly get back to softened water throughout.

  8. Would it be necessary or rather_when_would it be necessary to backwash the system with bleach to clean/sanitize the pipes? We moved into a house 5 years ago-which that house had sat empty for 3 years before. The brine tank was gross when we moved in. We had no idea we needed to clean the tank and just did that (gross, yes). We’ve been using the softener for the 5 years and I’m wondering if I should be sending water with a little bleach through the rest of the system to sanitize it from the gross water that was in the tank the last 5 years that would go through when it regenerated every-other day…??

    1. Hi Sam, You will probably need to rebed the unit as you most likely have bacteria growth and media beds will usually start to turn to mush and no longer soften after 3-5 years. If you’d like to find a WaterTech dealer in your area to help you with the rebed, go to http://www.watertech.com/find-a-dealer/

  9. I am brand new to using water softeners, & have very little knowledge. Can I find a generic operator manual online that might work for me? Right now, my salt tank is less than half full of Sifto Crystalplus 100% natural. There is a little water on the surface, which is hard but I can dig it around.

  10. Hi, we moved in a rental and have been adding salt pellets as needed. Recently the softener has started hissing continuously and now my water tastes salty! The tank looks “clean” and there are no solid blocks of salt, any suggestions?

    1. It’s hard to say what’s causing the hissing. Best bet is to call your local water treatment specialist watertech.com/find-a-dealer. A service call doesn’t cost much, but will make sure you figure out the problem to get your softener working correctly.

  11. I didn’t realize that a water softener tank was also called a brine tank– interesting. You also mention that you should follow your system’s manufacturer instructions. I think it’s a good idea to consider a water softener when your house has pretty hard water.

  12. I didn’t realize that some supermarkets sold pellets that were water insoluble. I will make sure to ask about this and make sure to get the right type of pellets to soften my water. I can see why you would need to make sure you get the right kind of salt since you the purpose of buying it is to improve the quality of the water you get.

  13. I sold an eco water softener that was not used for about 2 years. The person that bought it called me and said it was all gunked up inside. What could that be? Is it the salt that hardened in the brim? Will hot water loosen that all up? I knew nothing about that happending until I just starting doing some research. It always worked for me. I never had any issues with it. I sold my house & the new owners didn’t want it so I had it in storage for about 2 years. I emptied the salt before storing it but didn’t hink of rinsing it out before storing it. The new owners said I sold them something that doesn’t work. I don’t think they know what they are doing. Can you give me any help how to fix it.

    1. Cleaning a brine tank is pretty straightforward, so I would start there (according to our post about cleaning a brine tank). If there is a problem with the resin tank, you’ll need to call eco water (we manufacture the Reionator and other WaterTech specific products only). You might also consider hiring a water treatment specialist to look over the system to see if the valve is working correctly, etc. Good luck!