Water softener diagnosis FAQs © Daniel FriedmanWater Softener Stains, Slime, Odors
Causes & cures for water colors, debris, stains, slime, or smells caused by water softeners

InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website.

Water softener-related water colors, debris, stains, slime, odors:

What are the causes & cures for building water supply colors, odors or stains & debris that may be traced to a water softener, water conditioner or other water treatment equipment?

Water softener / water conditioner most-commonly-asked questions: these frequently-asked questions & their answers help troubleshoot water softner problems. This article series describes procedures for diagnosing and repairing water softener or water conditioner problems including water conditioner control settings and adjustment or repair, brine tank and brine tank float cleaning and repair, and the proper amount of water softening or conditioning that is needed.

Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Colored Water, Debris, Odors, Stains, Slimy Building Water Supply Blamed on Water Softener

Question: Black stuff coming out of the water softener

I was renting a house with a water softener. Softener was working properly and maintain it with salt pallet but when i move out of the house the owner want's to charge me for the repair and labor. They claim that the softener has black stuff coming out of it. Please advice. Thank you Diana - 9/15/11


I'm sorry Diana, but from just the Information in your message, I don't know what to advise. Perhaps if you review our articles on water softeners you will be able to make clear to the owner just what you did and just what was the condition of the system when you left it.

If there is "black stuff" coming out of the water softener then it is probably dirt and that probably means that the brine tank needs to be cleaned. Your rental contract should make clear just who was responsible for softener cleaning and maintenance.

See SOFTENER CLEANING & SANITIZING for details about how to clean out a water softener.

Question: discolored water after water softener regen cycle

After regeneration cycle discolored water gets in the service lines to home. Clears up after the water is used for a little while - Rodger 7/31/12


Rodger, have you checked inside the brine tank to see if it's filthy - you may need to remove salt to see the crud collected at the tank bottom. See SOFTENER CLEANING & SANITIZING

Question: orange water coming out of our water softener

water softener giving orange water will cleaning resin with acid hurt control or resin - Zane Bianucci, 6/22/12


Zane by NO MEANS would I use acid or any potentially toxic material to try to clean a water softener resin tank; you risk poisoning the building occupants as well as damaging the system. Instead, see SOFTENER CLEANING & SANITIZING [link given above] details about how to clean out a water softener.

In that article be sure to read the section that article titled WATER TREATMENT SOLUTSIONS with IRON REMOVING CHEMICALS (Super Iron Out).

Question: We have too much iron in our water and don't want to increase the water softener salt dose - what can we do?

Bath tub iron stains (C) D FriedmanWe have LOTS of iron stains everywhere...the well is a salt water well and the test at Sears was 2.5 iron and 18 grains of hardness...we do not want to add any salt to the water because of this. What do we use to get the RUST out of the water?

[Our photo, at left, illustrates iron and other stains in a bath tub - Ed.]


Kathy there are several treatments that can remove iron from water as alternatives to using a salt-based water softener/water treatment device.

But because you have hard water as well, if you only remove iron you'll still suffer from hard water issues down the road, such as clogged pipes. Nevertheless we summarize these treatment methods that focus on iron removal from well water: [16]

Polyphosphate treatment can remove 0-3 ppm of soluble iron

Greensand Filters (using glauconite, a green clay mineral as ion exchange media glauconite, a media that is backwashed periodically using potassium permanganate) can remove 0-10 ppm of iron from water (and are great at removing sulphur odors as well). If your well water pH is less than 6.8 this approach doesn't work well.

Chlorination + charcoal filtration: for higher levels of iron in water (not your case if your test was accurate) a chlorinator combined with charcoal filter can remove higher levels of iron and manganese dissolved in well water, and are also typically rated as 0-10 ppm. The charcoal filter removes the residual [and potentially harmful carcinogenic thrhalomethanes (THM) produced by use of chlorine, residual chlorine, and thus and chlorine odors.

Ion Exchangers (a water softener) can remove 0-10 ppm of soluble iron, but frankly water softeners are not designed primarily for that purpose. Professionals usually install one of the other iron removal methods upstream (ahead of) the water softener. That also means you won't need to set the softener to use more salt than necessary to deal with hardness just because you're trying to remove iron from your water.

See OTHER SOFTENER METHODS for additional details.

Question: very poor water flow and brownish yellow stuff comes out of faucets

There is hardly any water coming out of all my bathroom sinks, toilets, and showers. When a little water is disbursed there is a little of brownish yellow stuff that comes out with the water. What is the problem? - TJ 9/10/12


TJ - with so little information any guess would be wild arm-waving. Try cleaning the faucet strainers, any water filters in the system should be replaced, check water at a tap closest to the input; if you are on a private well we want to start there: is the incoming water clean or dirty? Thus, is the problem part of your pluming system or is it due to the water source itself?

Question: house water pressure is slowly declining - taps were blocked with little brown balls of water softener resin

i have been renting a house with a water softer for 6 months and the water pressure in the house has been slowly declining until finally there was no water coming out of any taps on investigation the plumber found the taps were blocked with little brown balls which we now believe to be ion exchange resin .on inspection of the water softer i discovered that it was not turn on to power but was still connected to the water can you tell me if this is toxic to us as i think we have been drinking it for long time thanks sam - 12/13/11



It sounds as if your water conditioning equipment and controls are damaged - it is not normal for resin from the water softener or conditioner to leave that tank. I suggest that you:

  1. Put the water conditioner on bypass until the unit has been repaired or replaced - do this promptly to avoid mineral clogging of the plumbing system
  2. With the softener on bypass, remove sink faucet strainers & flush out the resin or particles from your system
  3. With the water softener/conditioner remaining on bypass, if these "little brown balls" recur, then I suspect the problem may be elsewhere in the water supply system.

Question: Water softener output smells like rotten eggs - water softener odors

Water softner just put in action after three years of sitting idle!cleaned filter"!now water smells like rotten eggs. - Terry 8/9/2011


Terry, if water coming from your well smells like rotten eggs there is a problem with sulphur in the water supply and you probably need a separate water treatment system for that problem.

But if water from the well does not smell like sulphur, then the problem could be iron & bacterial contamination in the water softener itself.

See SOFTENER CLEANING & SANITIZING for the steps to solve this problem.

Question: the water in our house feels slick and slimy and soap is hard to rinse off - do we even need a water softener?

Hi We just moved into our house and never had a water softener before, my question is should the water leave your body feeling slick and hard to rinse off the soap? Also the water has a salty taste to it? One more thing if you have city water do you really need a water softener? Just some questions I has I hope you have some answers for me. Thanks!
Kelly King

Reply: your water softener can be adjusted to reduce the salt dose and make rinsing in the bath more satisfactory, but you probably do need the system

Kelly, if it is just too darn hard to rinse off soap and your skin feels kind of slimy and slick in the shower, it's possible that the water softener is not adjusted properly.

Try reducing the salt dose by 20%, keeping the regeneration cycle frequency the same.

Or to be more precise, you can test your water for hardness and then read in the water softener instructions (here or in your softener manual) just what should be the salt dose settings for your water conditioner.

See How Much Salt to Use in a Water Softener for details.

Question: Laundry stains blamed on water softener?

I have a 2 1/2 yr old water softener. We put it in when we built our house. In the past two months I have noticed laundry stains that are irremovable. They are large and look like they were poured on. On whites they look grey, on darks they look like a wet spot that won't dry, on colored clothes they are bluish.

I have changed washer/dryers, laundry detergent, etc. Could this be a problem caused by a water softener? I am out of options and don't know what else could be causing it. It has gone on now for 2 months. Our neighbors don't have this problem and we are all on the same city line. Thanks for your help! - Amy 9./19/12


If you suspect the water softener as a source of stains rather than pipe corrosion or a washing machine problem, in suggest cleaning and sanitizing the unit as described above, followed by an extra regen cycle to see if that helps.


Continue reading at SOFTENER CLEANING & SANITIZING or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.



Suggested citation for this web page

SOFTENER OUTPUT COLORS DEBRIS STAINS ODORS at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


Or use the SEARCH BOX found below to Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Click to Show or Hide FAQs

Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia

Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.

Search the InspectApedia website

Comment Box is loading comments...

Technical Reviewers & References

Click to Show or Hide Citations & References

Publisher's Google+ Page by Daniel Friedman