Standing water in your water softener salt tank can be a little concerning, especially if you’re not familiar with how it works. Sometimes this condition is normal, especially if you don’t use much water, but it can also be an indication you have a problem.
Water softeners have several components that control the flow of water into and out of the brine tank. If any of these are out of adjustment or clogged, you’ll end up with too much water in the brine tank. The salt also tends to block drain screens and lines, especially if you don’t use high-quality pellets.
In the meantime, you can take some preventative measures such as routine cleaning and service checks to avoid problems with your brine tank altogether.
In this blog post, we discuss what causes standing water in salt tanks and how to fix it. We will also provide some tips on how to prevent this from happening in the future.
Continue reading for all the answers to your questions about standing water in salt tanks!
Table of Contents
Why is There Standing Water in My Water Softener Salt Tank?
There are a few things that can cause water to accumulate in the salt tank of your water softener. Some of these are normal, while others indicate a problem that should be fixed as soon as possible.
Here are some of the most common causes of standing water in water softener salt tanks:
1 -Improperly installed or disconnected inlet brine hose
Your water softener automatically controls the flow of clean water into the brine tank with a float valve. This float valve is Inside your brine tank. It consists of a float that is connected to a mechanical valve.
When the float is up (i.e., floating in water), it turns the water off. When the float is down (i.e., not floating in water) it turns the water on allowing the tank to fill.
Sometimes, the water line comes loose, and the valve is not able to turn the flow of water off. This will result in standing water.
Check that the hose is securely connected to the float valve and re-connect it if it has come loose. Having normal flow through the salt reservoir will avoid malfunctions.
2 – Drain line obstructed – water softener full
The brine tank has drain lines that allow the salt solution to flow out of the tank and into the resin vessel. These lines are just plastic hoses that can cause problems. They frequently become clogged with salt – especially if you use low quality pellets.
Sometimes, the tubes become kinked or damaged. This can happen if you don’t keep your water softener full.
If you notice this problem, clean the lines by flushing them with water. Damaged hoses need to be replaced.
3 – Drain flow control clogged
Another common issue with brine tanks is the control valve. This automatic valve opens and closes to fill the tank with water and divert salt water to the resin tank during a backwash cycle. This valve can become fouled, especially if you have a lot of iron in your water.
If the drain lines are in good condition, inspect the valve for buildup. Remove the solids that have accumulated in the valve by flushing it with water or by taking it apart and cleaning it out.
4 – Salt clog
Your brine tank has screens in the bottom that allow the water to flow in and out. These slots also retain the salt, keeping it in the tank.
Over time, as water flows into and out of the tank, the salt can absorb water and form a crust. This buildup can block the slots in the screens, preventing the normal flow of water. Inadequate levels of water softener brine can reduce the regeneration of your ion exchange resin, leading to hard water.
When this happens, you need to clean the tank. This involves draining the liquid and removing all of the salt chunks. Keeping the water softening salt in good condition is critical to a properly functioning water softener.
An easy way to prevent this is to use a good quality salt – read my article on water softener salt for more information.
5 – Clogged injector
Water softeners use an injector to suck salt water out of the brine tank during the regeneration cycle. The injector has a small hole in it that produces the vacuum. If this opening becomes clogged, it restricts the amount of salt water that is removed from the tank, resulting in a high water condition.
Inspect the venturi and clean it if it has any accumulation of solids. Do not use a metal tool because the plastic can be easily damaged. A toothpick works great for this job.
6 – Brine line flow control clogged
Salt water flows through a tube called the brine line. This line can become plugged or fouled with debris or clumps of salt. Inspect the line and clean it out if necessary. Usually, flushing it with warm water will remove the buildup. Sometimes, you’ll have to replace the line to get it working again.
If the brine line flow is too low (not enough flow), then the resin in your softener won’t fully regenerate. This can result in reduced water softening. Be sure to keep your softener brine tank clean and free of clogs.
7 – Water softener brine level control malfunction
Your water softener’s brine tank has an automatic control valve. This valve has a float that actuates the brine level control mechanism. Sometimes the float gets stuck or can be obstructed by salt crust. The result is the salt tank water level can be too high or too low for proper operation, potentially leading to a brine tank overflow.
The tank has a brine well with a cap to prevent this from occurring. Check to be sure the cap is still there and in the proper position. If it isn’t, this is likely the cause of the float problem. Make sure the float can move up and down without any restrictions or obstructions.
8 – Control system malfunction
Most water softeners have a digital control panel. Modern electronics are very rugged, but they do occasionally fail. Check the display to confirm that it is showing the proper information and is in good working condition.
If the control system is faulty, you’ll have to replace it. This is usually something a service technician should do. If you’re not a good electrician/technician, don’t take this repair on yourself.
9 – Spacer stack or pistons malfunctioning
The spacer stack, sometimes referred to as a piston stack, is a part of the control valve. It allows water to flow through a control valve during regeneration and normal operation. Over time, this component can wear out and must be replaced.
The piston is another internal valve component that controls the flow of water into and out of the tank. It can wear out or even break if a foreign object enters the assembly.
If either the spacer stack or piston are damaged, you’ll have to replace them. This is not a DIY job. Contact a service technician to do this repair.
10 – Improper timer settings
Water softeners allow you to adjust the settings on the regeneration cycle. If these settings aren’t tuned properly for your home’s requirements, your softener may regenerate too much or not enough. If you set the flush cycle too short, you may not have a complete regeneration cycle occurring.
Check the settings to make certain you’ve tuned your water softener properly. Read my comprehensive review of what your water softener settings should be.
11 – Bad seals
The flow control valve has elastomer seals inside. These seals can fail over time.
If you have a lot of iron in your water, it can deposit on the seals and cause them to wear out faster than normal. If you use chlorine to disinfect your water, it can oxidize the rubber seals and cause them to leak.
Check the condition of your seals, and replace them if they are cracked, brittle, or swollen.
12 – Stuck high-level float
The brine tank has a high-level float, sometimes known as a safety float, that prevents the tank from overflowing. This float can get stuck or blocked from moving freely by salt buildup.
Check the movement of this float to be certain it can move up and down without getting stuck. Clean the tank and remove any accumulated salt to fix this problem.
Water Softener Salt Tank Components
From the outside, water softeners look deceptively simple – just a resin vessel and a brine tank with a controller. However, they are very complicated and have a lot of components that require routine maintenance and the occasional repair.
Always check the owner’s manual and users guide that came with your system. Being diligent about the maintenance and repairs can avoid costly issues down the road.
The resin vessel, also known as the mineral tank, is where hard water is softened. It has the bed of resin media where the hard water flows through. The hardness is deposited on the media, allowing the softened water to exit the tank into your plumbing system.
The control valve is the key to the automatic operation of your water softener. If you have a demand control system, it monitors the flow of water through the softener and initiates a regeneration cycle when the resin is spent. If your controller is a timer system, then it initiates a regeneration cycle after a preset amount of time has elapsed.
To ensure that your water is adequately softened, the brine tank allows regeneration to occur. It is a shorter tank with a highly concentrated salt solution that restores positive charge for the resin media.
Salt is added to the tank periodically to maintain an adequate reserve. The control valve automatically adds water to the tank to produce a brine solution, and transfers it to the resin vessel during the regeneration cycle.
How to Drain Your Brine Tank
Many problems with water tanks can be solved by cleaning them. If all else fails, it is always worth draining and refilling the tank again.
Once the tank has been drained, you should consider cleaning it, too. The brine tank should be cleaned every 1 to 3 years – I suggest cleaning it every year to avoid problems.
To drain your brine tank, you can approach this in one of several ways.
- Option 1 – Dump the water. Most brine tanks are small enough that you can drag it outside to dump it. You may need a friend to help you.
- Option 2 – Use a bucket. I often use a bucket to remove the water from my brine tank. Just scoop the water out with your bucket and dump it down the drain.
- Option 3 – Manual regeneration. A really easy way to get the water out of your bine tank is to initiate a regeneration cycle. This will automatically take the water out of the tank and run it through your system. It may take two cycles to completely empty your brine tank.
- Option 4 – Vacuum it out. If you have a shop vac, you can suck all of the water out of your tank with very little effort. Just dump the water outside to avoid a mess.
Preventative Measures to Avoid Problems with Brine Tank
The brine tank and control valve have a lot of parts and components that require routine maintenance and adjustment. If you take care of these things, you can avoid a lot of problems with your water softener.
Here are some simple preventative measures and tips to keep your softener working perfectly.
1 – Use high quality salt
Salt is the key ingredient in the water softening process. It’s also the most important part of maintaining your brine tank and control valve.
Use high quality salt that is designed for water softeners. This type of salt has fewer impurities and will dissolve more easily in the brine tank.
Low quality salt has impurities in it that can create crust or clumps that clog your system. Don’t use table salt, rock salt, or any other type of salt that is not specifically designed for water softeners.
Morton Clean & Protect/Rust Defense Salt Pellets
This 40-pound bag of water softener salt from Morton prevents iron buildup and staining. It is a high-quality pellet salt that minimizes salt bridging and crust formation – a common problem affecting brine tanks.
2 – Clean the tank routinely
There is no avoiding the need to clean your brine tank, so put it on your calendar and plan on doing it at least once a year.
Remove any build-up of sediment or salt from around the rim of the tank. This is an unavoidable condition, even if you use the best salt. If you stay on top of this chore, it won’t become a bigger problem.
3 – Clean the resin annually with chemicals
In addition to maintaining your salt tank, you also need to take care of the resin. Properly maintained, the resin will last for 10 years or more. At least once a year, use a chemical cleaner to remove any build-up or deposits on the resin.
This will help ensure that your water softener continues to operate at peak performance.
4 – Service the venturi valve
The venturi valve has a small hole that controls the flow of salt water out of your tank. Because of its small size, it can easily become fouled.
You should clean or replace the valve frequently to ensure that it is working properly. This should be done at least once a year, but you may have to do it more frequently.
5 – Conduct routine system inspections
There are a lot of components in your water softener. It’s a good idea to inspect everything regularly to make sure it’s all in good working order.
Check the brine tank for proper water level and correct salt dosage.
Inspect the control valve for signs of wear or damage.
Make sure that the hoses are properly attached and not leaking.
Look for any other potential problems that may need attention.
6 – Perform diagnostic check
In addition to a visual check, you should also run a diagnostic check on your water softener. This will help you troubleshoot any problems that may be occurring.
There are a number of ways to do this, but the easiest is to call your water softener manufacturer and ask for their assistance.
Check the hardness level coming in and out of your softener. You should see the same level in your softened water. If the hardness increases, you may need to adjust the settings or clean your resin.
7 – Replace the UV disinfecting light
Many water softeners have an ultraviolet (UV) light disinfection system to kill any bacteria or viruses that may be in the water.
The UV light is a critical part of the disinfection process and should be replaced every year or two, depending on use.
How much water should be in the salt tank?
The water level in the brine tank should be just below the salt level in the tank. Ideally, the water has to be in contact with all of the salt to create the optimum concentration of salt water. If it’s too high, the solution is diluted. Too low, and the concentration is too high and bridging can occur.
How often should I add salt to the tank?
You will need to add salt to your brine tank when the water level gets too low. This can vary depending on how much water you use and the settings on your water softener. As a general rule of thumb, you should add salt every 30-60 days.
What are the consequences of not maintaining my water softener salt tank?
If you don’t properly maintain your water softener, it can lead to a number of problems. The most common is hard water, which can damage your plumbing and appliances. Other problems include reduced efficiency, clogged pipes, and even health risks from bacteria or viruses in
If you are experiencing standing water in your water softener salt tank, it is important to troubleshoot the issue as soon as possible. Many factors can cause this problem, so it’s best to rule out each possibility until you find the source of the issue. We’ve outlined 12 potential causes of standing water in a salt tank, along with preventative measures that can be taken to avoid these problems. If you have any questions or need help troubleshooting a specific issue, refer back to this article. Thanks for reading!