Introduction: How to Rebuild a Water Softener by Raising Awesome

My Dad and I have been a Maker duo for many years (Raising Awesome), but this time I am focusing on a repair. This Instructable is actually a part 2 to an essay for a scholarship application. The essay asked what I could do for our community as it pertained to water quality - particularly, water hardness. So, I'm taking a two prong approach - I did a local community neighborhood water testing project and am backing it up with an Instructable to help the global community on Instructables. I'll do my best to make this a fun read, educate on water hardness, and provide confidence for one to install or repair a water softener. First, let's talk about Water Softeners.


Step 1: Learn About Water Softeners

A water softener removes minerals (mostly calcium and magnesium) from the water supply. To prevent fouling of appliances, but minimize overall costs, typically outdoor spigots will be upstream from the water softener. If you don't want to add a little salt to your diet (110 mg/quart per our Kenmore instructions), then you'll want to use an osmotic filter on your drinking water instead. Otherwise, you can soften your main fixtures such as the hot water tank, sinks, toilets, and showers with an installed whole house water softener.

The softener has a resin in it that catches the minerals as water flow through the resin bed in the reservoir. The resin will eventually be packed full of minerals and need cleaned/regenerated. That's where the salt comes in. Salt and water make birne. The brine rinses it and collects the minerals. This is automatically done periodically in the wee hours of the morning and the brine water rinse is flushed down a nearby drain. You can see the internals in the pictures above from our owner's manual of our Kenmore.

In turn, the softer water will improve your water quality. It will reduce soap scum, make your soap lather better, be gentler on your fabrics in the wash, and overall make you feel more clean after a shower.

In our community project, we posted to Facebook that we would test their hardness for free - including any with softeners installed. We had 28 takers on the offer. We found that our city supply consistently was in the "very hard" range across the neighborhood. One person's softener was also in the "very hard" range meaning he had some investigation to do to get it working correctly. Pictured above, you can see how effective a water softener is at reducing hardness of the water.

Step 2: Steps for Repairing a Water Softener

Our water softener had well over a decade of maintenance free service. However, one day, a hairline crack occurred at the inlet. While we were there, dad decided to change out the resin and rebuild the head.

It was very easy actually. It just required a screw driver, a camera to help us remember what we did at each step, and an o-ring kit bought online. Here are the steps:

  1. Unplug the softener
  2. Valve out the water supply. Depending on where your valves are, you might find that you have to drain the entire water system. You can reduce this by running the lowest sink in the house after valving out the main.
  3. Open the inlet connection and drain in a bucket or catch in a funnel hosed to a drain.
  4. Take it apart until you can see the resin. Take pictures at each step of removal so you can reference them to get it back together. If this is your first mechanical project, refer to our video on how to fix anything mechanical (it's a bit dated, but still helpful).
  5. Shop vac out the resin.
  6. Poor in the new resin.
  7. With the removed top, replace the o-rings that came in your kit.
  8. Install the head again.
  9. Make up your water line and valve in the water.
  10. Plug back in the softener
  11. You'll want to burp out the air in your lines or you will freak out when the toilet flushes, so run a sink at the highest point in the house.

You should easily get another decade of maintenance free service.

Step 3: Calibrate the Softener

After you have everything back together, look for the regenerate now button to take it through a cycle. Then use the test strips in the "Supplies" section above to check your hardness. Adjust as necessary with the softener control menu.

Step 4: Summary

That's it! This is definitely a good Saturday project - even easier if you do not need to replace any of the housing. If you have any questions on our repair experience, post in the comments.

Check out our other projects at our site.

First Time Author Contest

Participated in the
First Time Author Contest