How to Maintain a Water Softener Brine Tank

How to maintain water softener brine tank blog header

Salt (or brine solution) is a necessary part of the ion exchange process in a water softener. Salt is what regenerates the ion resins of a softener. So we thought it would be helpful to tackle a few of the commonly asked questions associated with maintaining a brine tank (the plastic tank that sits next to a water softener).
Here we go:

#1. How often should I have to add salt?

Water softeners and conditioners work effectively with either sodium chloride (commonly referred to as salt) or potassium chloride (actually a type of salt also).  How often you’ll have to add more salt to the brine tank will depend on factors such as:

  • The size of your brine tank
  • How hard the water is in your area
  • How many people live in your house
  • And how much water your household consumes

For example, a larger family will most likely consume more water which will cause your softener to regenerate more frequently, and thus more salt will need to be added more often.  Fortunately, the valve control panel on most water softeners and conditioners will do all of the calculations for you regarding when to regenerate. You’ll just need add the salt as it gets used up.

#2. How much salt should I have in my brine tank?

We recommend keeping your brine tank at least one quarter full of water softener salt at all times, and no more than four to six inches below the top of the tank for optimum efficiency. 

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

If the salt has formed one solid mass (known as bridging), manually break up the salt block by pouring hot water over it—making it easier to break up and remove.

#3. How much salt should my water softener use?

How salt is used depends on water usage and system size.  If a softener is sized correctly, a residential system will use approximately ten pounds of salt per week, or 40-50 pounds of salt per month. 

Be sure to check your salt and water levels at least once each month.

#4. There is always water in my brine tank, should there be? If so, how much?

There will usually be several gallons of water in the bottom of the brine tank, but usually is never more than twelve inches high.  

We recommend that you check the salt level in your brine tank at least monthly.  The more often your system regenerates, the more you’ll need to check and add salt to the tank.

And for tips on how to clean a brine tank, we recommend you read WaterTech’s blog post: How to Clean a Water Softener Brine Tank.

Think Your Home May Need a Water Softener?

Want to find out the hardness level of your water? An authorized WaterTech dealer can provide you with a free home water test.

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35 Responses

  1. I have a Kinetico water system, but have no idea to add water to the tank. I have checked all over and only see how to maintain the system including regeneration but not how to simply add water. I only have salt in the brine tank. Thanks, Miked

    1. it should add water on its own, you shouldnt have to do anything to it. Now the level might just be under the salt right now

  2. Thanks for the information! I’ve recently moved into my first home, so I don’t know a lot about maintaining a water softener. It’s good to know that I need to add salt. The information about how often to add salt and how much salt should be in my brine tank will really help me out. I live alone, so I’m not going to use a lot of water. How should I calculate how much salt I should use in my brine tank and how often it needs to be added? I don’t really know how to calculate the amount of water that I use on a day to day basis.

  3. How can I tell how much water in in my container? it is 3/4 filled with the salt, but I cannot tell how much water is in it. How can I tell? I touched the salt and it feels very dry. Thanks.

    1. Hi Diana: First off, be sure to loosen up any encrusted salt that may be sticking to the edges of the brine tank and make sure to break up any large pieces of salt. If you still can’t see water and your tank is 3/4 full of salt, add water to your brine tank until the water level is a few inches below the top of the salt (because there are air gaps in between the broken up mass of pellets, you should be able to see the rising water level).

  4. I have a Kinetico Quad 50, a number of years old. It has always too work perfectly and continues to do so. There are just 2 of us in the house and we live here only 5 months of the year, so I haven’t done much in the way of maintenance on the system. We are in the NE Phoenix area, so water is quite hard. The house has a master pressure regulator where the riser comes up from the street. No prefilter that I can see.

    Yesterday, for the first time, we got salt water from one of the kitchen faucets. I moved the bypass valve to the bypass position, then started to look around. One thing I noticed is that there is a float in the brine tank. It is housed in a white plastic cylinder about 3″ dia X 12″ tall. The inside of this cylinder is heavily crusted with salt, perhaps to the point where the float cannot move up to the top of its travel. I’m thinking that my first action should be to scrape off this salt. Agreed? Then, what else should I do?


    1. Hi Bill: Most likely you need to clean out the salt bridging that has occurred so that the float can move freely and turn off the system at the appropriate time. Also, you may need to increase the time on the “rinse” setting to ensure that all brine water is being sent to drain and that the resin is free of brine solution. Check your salt setting to ensure that the appropriate amount of salt is being used.

  5. Thanks, Isaac. I’ve cleaned off all the excess salt, but I’m not sure how to increase the time on the “Rinse” setting. And I don’t know where the “salt setting” is, or how to adjust it. There seems to be no meaningful info on the web regarding Kinetico systems, mine in particular, so when the local Kinetico guy was here the other day, I asked him for some. He shrugged his shoulders and blew me off. His message was simple. “Your system is old, buy a new one for $4000.” I was not impressed.

    For $140, all he did was take the top off the black control unit, and pull out a couple orange and black gaskets and put them back. Again, not impressed, and not encouraged.


  6. I have a hydro – quard water processing system and it keeps running like water running in a sink I thank it’s running my water bill up what do I do about it? I use very little water in the house but something is wrong help.

    1. Hi Elizabeth: It sounds like your softener is malfunctioning because it should not be running all the time. To understand how often a softener should regenerate, we recommend you read the following post: http://blog.watertech.com/how-often-should-a-water-softener-regenerate/
      If your Hydro system is still under warranty, I would call to have it checked out and possibly serviced. Or feel free to contact a WaterTech authorized dealership/service technician using our “Find a Dealer” site: http://www.watertech.com/find-a-dealer/

  7. I have a hydro quard – pro system and it keeps running like water running in a sink, what is gunning on? what do I need, to do? Is the system regenerating ?

    1. Hi Elizabeth: It sounds like your softener is malfunctioning because it should not be running all the time. To understand how often a softener should regenerate, we recommend you read the following post: http://blog.watertech.com/how-often-should-a-water-softener-regenerate/
      If your Hydro Quad-Pro system is still under warranty, I would call to have it checked out and possibly serviced. Or feel free to contact a WaterTech authorized dealership/service technician using our “Find a Dealer” site: http://www.watertech.com/find-a-dealer/

  8. Question salt (solar) and potassium being put into system. Is this over kill is it wrong. And how do you add potassium correctly are you supposed to just put it into its correct container alone or mix it with water also? And why potassium. Every 6 weeks(5lbs) and 40 lbs of salt in the brine tank? ( potassium has its own tank just to clarify) . Help so confused renter and property manager psycho!

  9. I have a kinetico water system #60. I have been adding 3 bags of salt at a time and it has been lasting about 3 months. I just added 3 bags last week and now all of the salt is gone and the water has rised significantly in the brine tank, about 95% full. The line isn’t pinched and no significant changes besides I just changed the filter. Help please.

    1. Hi Chad,
      Honestly, we wish you owned a WaterTech Reionator water conditioning system rather than a Kinetico unit.:) But we’re glad to be of assistance in this forum.
      If you’re going through that much salt, it sounds like your salt setting/regeneration schedule may be too high. We’d recommend that you quickly call your local Kinetico dealership to see if they will come out and service your unit. In the end, paying for a service call might be cheaper than the excess water bills (from excessive softener regeneration) and higher salt pellet usage.

      1. Inside the brine tank there is a plastic cylinder sitting on end, with a top on it. Remove the top, and you will see a float mechanism inside the cylinder. You may also see a lot of crusty salt, enough that the float can’t move properly. Break up and remove all the salt, trying not to let it fall down to the bottom of the cyclinder as you chip away at it.

        If your brine tank is full of water, the cylinder will be full of water, too, which makes the salt removal difficult. You may need to empty the water out of the tank in order to clean it. No need to remove the salt pellets in the tank – just the salt in the cylinder. Once the float can move freely up and down, your problem may go away.


  10. Hi,
    I just had my water tested and it was found to be very cloudy/milky with many air bubbles in it. Leader I noticed that this salt in my stock tank was almost gone. Are these two things related??

    Any thoughts would help, especially since we are planning on buying this house!!


    1. Hi Libby, an empty brine tank will not produce air bubbles or cloudy water as the water does not pass through the brine tank when water is flowing through the softener in normal use. Air bubbles are usually associated with plumbing and how the water flows through your pipes.

  11. I have a Whirlpool water softener that was installed about nine months ago. Up until last week, the unit worked properly. I noticed that when I used the recommended cleaning product and then hit the recharge button that the tank had much more water in it than usual. I did another recharge, but the water remained. I called a plumber and he said that there is always that much water in it and told me I didn’t have enough salt. He added almost two bags of salt and I no longer saw any water. However, he did a recharge and when I looked in the tank afterward, the water level is about four inches above the salt level. I have had softeners in the past and I’ve never seen the water level above the salt, it’s always below. Am I wrong to think there is a problem with the water level? Thank you.

    1. Hi Alison: How much water you have in your brine tank will depend on how much salt you have in your brine tank that is displacing the water. Also, depends on the size of your brine tank. In general, if you have an 18×33 brine tank and no salt inside, you will see 6”-12” of water in there. But if your brine tank is full of salt and the water comes above the salt then yes, then there is a problem and you need to consult with your water specialist as parts in the valve are possibly broken and need replacing. If you softener is only nine months old, then hopefully it is still under warranty.

  12. Hi after looking into our water softener, we noticed the “water” in there is very cloudy and bubbly. It does not look good or clean. The salt is low (below the water). Is this normal “brine”?

  13. We bought our house about a month ago and have a MacClean water softener model number CSM1000. I checked the salt levels when we moved in, and it was fine. Last week I checked the salt level again and the brine tank was half full of water with no salt. Not thinking anything was wrong I added 3 40# bags of salt and it is leaking out the small air pipe at the top of the brine tank. Is this normal or is there something wrong with my unit?


  14. I just moved into a house with a Sterling Water Treatment system. I have never had any sort of water softener before. I opened the brine tank and there is no salt and just a little water at the bottom. I plan to purchase salt for it but I was wondering how much salt to use (it’s just my husband and I living here)? Do I need to add water, too, in order to keep it a few inches under the salt that I am putting in? Thanks!

    1. Hi Paige, there are different sizes of brine (salt) tanks, but add 3 or 4 bags at a time. If there are only 2 in your household and your softener regenerates on demand, then you probably won’t need to add more salt for 4+ months. But it doesn’t hurt to let all that salt sit in the tank until it is used up. And yes, you’ll need to add water until it reaches about 3 inches under the top of salt layer. Let us know if you have additional questions.

  15. A lizard fell in my salt tank. Will this pollute my soft water? My brine tank is in my salt tank.

    Thanks, Dan

  16. I have an SE5000 flex and I just did a rebuild to the control box, gaskets etc. My question is: the brine tank is half full of water, I thought the level would go back to normal after the rebuild. What am I doing wrong?

    Thank you

  17. We just bought a house with a Watertek system and the brine tank is almost totally out of salt. There is water in it with only a few grains of salt. Should I just start filling it with salt until it’s full? Or do I need to empty the water out? Thanks!!

  18. I just purchased one of your SoftMax water softeners (45,000 grain, I believe) and had it installed by an authorized dealer. I have 3 questions at this time:

    1. The resin tank (with the control valve) is not quite level from side to side (about 1/4 to 1/3 of a bubble on a level). It is fine front to back. It probably shifted slightly during shipment or handling during the install. Is this OK, or should I have them adjust it?

    2. The plumber who installed it said they recommend adding only 2 bags of salt to avoid building up a salt bridge, but this seems extremely low for salt and the water level is above the salt level. Shouldn’t I fill the brine tank until the salt is much higher in the tank?

    3. During initial setup when you add the bleach, what position should the bypass be set to? When should the bypass be set to normal operating mode?

    1. Hi Barry, We’d recommend you reach out to the authorized dealership who installed your SoftMAX with these questions. We have total faith in our dealerships, so we think it’s best to go back to the source. You’re in good hands. 🙂