Do Water Softeners Need Servicing?

In this article, we answer the much asked question: Do water softeners need servicing?

It’s an important question. Who wouldn’t want to make sure their water softener is in good, working order and lasts as long as possible.

Depending on your water softener, the answer to this question varies from:

Definitely not, don’t waste your money if a company tries to sell an expensive and unnecessary service contract…

…to yes, yes it does need servicing.

In 2022, it’s far more commonly the first one. If you’ve bought your water softener within the last 5 years or so it’s likely not to need servicing and will still last for 10 years plus. Or you’re looking for a new one, you can certainly get one that doesn’t need servicing (and is still good quality, at relatively low price).

Let’s find out which one is true for you.

Do water softeners need servicing

Introducing ‘Do Water Softeners Need Servicing?’

These days, the vast majority of water softeners don’t need servicing, whether on a yearly or any other basis.

Most water softener manufacturers are now using this as a selling point for their product, boasting of their ability to last 10-15 years without any need to service them (here’s more on the expected lifespan of a water softener).

If you bought your water softener 10 years ago or more, the models from that era may have needed servicing on a yearly basis. So if you haven’t already been servicing it during that time, then it’s obviously been working well for a long time without any need for servicing.

Why do modern water softeners typically not need servicing?

Manufacturers these days design and build their water softeners to effectively maintain themselves, as long as the household owner keeps the softener in good working condition, with some basic regular maintenance steps.

It’s a market imperative. By which we mean, having a water softener which doesn’t need maintenance was something people strongly desired.

Therefore, the manufacturers realised that having machines which don’t need maintenance is a strong selling point and advantage that they can offer.

So they started developing water softeners which don’t need to be maintained.

Here are the top water softeners in the UK, in 2022.

So what do you need to do to keep your water softener working well?

Water softener maintenance

For many water softener brands, all you need to do is:

Make sure you keep them topped up with salt.

That’s it!

That’s the only form of regular maintenance required and this is an action that you must do anyway to keep the water softener in good, working order.

It’s not an additional maintenance step, it’s something you regularly do in the normal operation of the water softener anyway.

Why does adding salt maintain your water softener?

Topping up the salt effectively regenerates the water softener unit. That’s because it helps to flush away excess hard minerals, like calcium and magnesium that would otherwise have gathered.

Since there’s more ‘fresh’ salt available to capture the hard minerals, it keeps your water softener working well to soften your water.

Do some brands of water softener need servicing?

Yes. It’s relatively rare these days but some models are highly recommended to be serviced once per year by a trained water and plumbing engineer.

The maker will always mention this in their product descriptions as well as in the product user manual.

As well as some specific models that require it and will notify you of the necessity, there are some water softeners that simply have relatively poor build quality, and therefore may require servicing once per year to stay in good working order. High quality water softeners (like this BWT WS555, reviewed), though, can work for 10-15 years and more with no servicing.

Some manufacturers may try to sell you a service contract, if so we recommend finding another manufacturer whose machine does not require servicing – there are lots of water softeners on the market these days that simply do not need servicing.

Any other maintenance required?

There’s no other regular maintenance required.

But it’s a good idea to clean out your brine tank occasionally. This could be once every few years, or even every 5 years.

What if my water softener has stopped working or is working less effectively than before?

Follow these steps:

Try these simple but often effective cures yourself

In that case, you can try:

  • making sure it’s topped up with salt.
  • cleaning out the brine tank
  • checking for salt bridges and removing them

Have a professional check it

If these steps don’t work, it may need to be repaired by qualified plumbing engineer or water treatment specialist.

Your first port of call should be the manufacturer. Depending on your warranty terms (and whether or not your warranty has expired), they may be able to fix the issue under warranty.

If not, you can check if your usual plumbing engineer has experience with water softeners and could repair it, or Google ‘water softener repair’ and find one there.

If your water softener is more than 10 years old, you may consider whether it makes sense to pay for what could be costly repairs if the water softener may only last for a few more years. It could make more sense to save your money to be used on a replacement water softener (here’s how much it costs for a new water softener).

How do you know if your water softener needs servicing?

  1. The salt in the water softener is not going down ie. it’s not being used up in the regeneration process
  2. You notice signs of your water becoming hard again. For example:

Basically, any sign that your water is becoming hard again, is a sign that your water softener may be working less efficiently or has stopped working entirely.

You can perform the steps we mentioned above, and if they don’t work you can:

  • organise a service, or
  • start looking for a new water softener (if you feel the one you have is coming to the end of it’s useful life).

How do I organise a service for my water softener?

The best thing to do is shop the market to find the best price for servicing.

You can contact the manufacturer, they’re likely to offer servicing. Check the price there, and also Google ‘water softener servicing’, and check out the prices at some local water treatment specialists.

You don’t have to use your manufacturers servicing if there are others that are cheaper.

What steps will they take to perform a water softener service?

1) Clean out your brine tank

This is just like it sounds, they’ll siphon the water out, remove and discard the remaining salt, then perform a thorough clean of the tank, with soap and water.

They’ll remove any salt bridges (big blocks of hardened salt), using soap and warm water.

If this sounds like something you could do yourself, it is! That’s why we mentioned it earlier as something you don’t need to do regularly but should do every few years to keep the water softener healthy and therefore more likely to last longer.

And it’s also something we recommend you can try yourself if your water softener is not working so well and you want to fix it yourself before calling out a costly professional.

2) Optimise valve settings

They’ll check that the valve settings for your water softener are at the correct level for your water hardness level and water usage levels.

Your water usage can vary over time and especially so if your household has more or less people than before.

3) Replacing/maintaining worn parts

Water softeners have many different moving parts, valves, wires and so on. As with any appliance, these wear out over time and may need maintenance or replacement.

This step can ensure the water softener keeps going for longer.

4) Water testing

They’ll also test your water to see if the water softener is still performing at the level it should be. So they’ll get an accurate reading for the water hardness level and make sure it’s at the right amount for you.

Your local water supply plant sometimes make changes that can affect the hardness of the water coming into your home. That being the case, it may be necessary to change the settings on the water softener to account for this. Thus, they’ll make sure the water you use in your home is safe and healthy; and soft enough for you.

5) Regeneration cycle test

They’ll check that the regeneration process within the water softener is performing as it should be. And they’ll test to see that all the valves and controls are playing their part in this process.

6) Resin assessment

They may check the resin in the water softener and renew it. This is normally done by removing the top 10% of the resin bed (which is the part most likely to be chemically damaged), and replacing it with new resin.

Note that this may not be part of a standard service, and it could incur additional cost to have this performed.

How much does servicing a water softener cost in the UK?

Prices range from £70-90 for a basic health check, up to £110-130 for a full service. That doesn’t include the cost of any replacement parts.

If you decide you need a service (but make sure to follow the advice in this article first), we advise shopping around for the best price.

In particular, don’t feel that you must go with your manufacturer’s servicing option, other qualified water treatment specialists will have a wide range of experience with all kinds of water softeners.

Summing Up Do Water Softeners Need Servicing?

Hopefully you now have a much better idea whether your water softener needs servicing or not.

As we mentioned, for the last 5-6 years most water softeners have been developed and engineered so that they don’t need maintenance.

If the manufacturer does recommend yearly servicing in top of your maintenance, and you’re happy with that, then make sure to build that cost into your assessment of that product and your buying decision.

Otherwise be aware that most water softeners no longer need this kind of yearly servicing.

If you’re having trouble with your machine, then follow our tips to check it out yourself, and if it does need professional attention, make sure to shop the market for the best rate!