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Why Does My Water Softener Keep Draining?

Jane Meggitt

Water softeners rid hard water of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, making it more palatable for drinking and cooking and less likely to stain fixtures and laundry. However, water softeners are programmed to run only at certain times, with most people setting them for the early morning hours when water if often used less. If your water softener drains constantly, basic troubleshooting works, unless the problem is more significant, in which case a service technician is likely necessary.

How Water Softeners Work

Some basic repairs should solve the problem of constantly draining water softener.

When hard water enters the water softener, it meets up with resins, or beads, with a negative charge. Since the ions of calcium and magnesium are positively charged, they stick to the beads as water goes through them. These positive ions are replaced with sodium ions, providing the softening effect. The softened water then enters the building's pipes. When the resin is full of calcium and magnesium ions, the softener's timer puts it into regeneration mode. In this phase, brine, with a large concentration of positively charged sodium ions, sticks to the negatively charged resins, taking the calcium and magnesium ions off. These ions are then drained out of the softener.

Constant Draining

A water softener should not continuously drain. If the water softener stops draining after awhile, try resetting the timer. A prolonged power outage could cause the system to drain at an inappropriate time, if you neglected to check the timer after power restoration. If the water softener continues to run and drain, the system may be stuck in the regeneration phase and not automatically switching to the conditioned phase. Check the control panel on the softener, put the unit in bypass mode and contact your service technician.


The water softener could be constantly draining due to leaks. If there is an internal control leak, the technician replaces the pistons, seals or spacers. If you find or suspect leakage, put the unit into bypass mode at once and contact your service company. If the softener is in bypass mode, the system stops operating and the leak will stop temporarily.

Other Considerations

If you reset the timer motor and the constant draining continues, the timer motor may be the culprit, either not working or jammed. It will require replacement. The device's control valve may be stuck in the backwash or brine phase. Repair this problem by replacing the spacers, seals or pistons.