If you are reading this article, chances are that you think your softener is making the water too soft. You probably have a question in mind: What should my water softener hardness be set at?
Here is a brief summary in case you are in a rush:
Your water hardness should be set up based on the water analysis that shows the hardness of your water. In case your water is also contaminated with iron you need to adjust the hardness settings up to account for it.
Now, let’s discuss everything more in-depth and help you out whether to adjust a hardness or not.
Do You Need to Adjust Hardness?
Before I get into adjusting the water softener hardness part of the article, I want to talk about why you think you need to change the settings.
There are likely to be a couple of reasons for this such as:
As you will see later, some of these signals can be false. Therefore adjusting hardness is not a good idea.
Water Feels Too Soft
This is probably the most common reason why people think that the hardness on their softener needs to be adjusted.
Also, it is commonly the false signal.
The reason why I say it’s a misconception is that it is nearly impossible to have too soft water.
From the plumbing and appliances perspective, water either contains hard minerals that create limescale or not.
Obviously, your household should have soft water. All the appliances that are in contact with water will stop suffering from the limescale. Soft water cannot be too soft to damage them in any way.
Also, soft water is extremely helpful in typical household activities like cleaning as it requires fewer detergents to foam better.
Now the situation when we think that water is too soft is usually when we physically get in contact with it.
The thing is, if someone has been exposed to hard water for a long time, the first contact with softened water can feel a bit weird.
The water feels too soft and silky on our skin that it could almost leave a slimy feeling. Soap or shower gel can be tough to rinse off our bodies.
Some people love it, but for others, it feels weird, unnatural, and they simply hate it.
However, it does not indicate that there was anything wrong with the set softener hardness. It is mostly our perception and feeling that triggers the need to adjust. Usually, we want to lower it down to add some hardness to it.
In terms of the impact on your skin, soft water helps to clear skin and pores as minerals such as magnesium and calcium with a combination of soap can clog them.
Which leads to acne and other unwanted skin issues.
The bottom line is:
Although you feel like you cannot rinse the soap and your skin feels slimy, there is no actual issue with the set hardness. It is only a feeling, and the truth is that you need to get used to it if you want to continue using a softener.
Softener Uses Excessive Amount of Salt
Another reason why you might think you need to adjust the hardness is when your softener is wasting too much salt.
Similarly to the previous signal, excessive salt consumption has very little to do with the hardness settings, and it indicates the issue with either the brine tank or controller’s head.
If you have found your softener to consume a lot of salt, the first thing you need to check how much water there is in the brine tank.
When the brine tank contains more water than it should, softener starts to consume too much salt.
So, I would recommend you to have a look at the manual to see how much water should be in there. Still, generally manufacturers advise to not keep the water level higher than 1″ above the salt platform.
But contact the manufacturer or see if there is any information on this in the manual guide.
If you have found that there is more water in the brine tank than it should be, this could indicate two issues. There is a leak that causes water to go into a brine tank, or the head controller is faulty, which releases more water than it should.
In both cases, I would contact the manufacturer to troubleshoot this for you, unless you are the professional and know how to fix it yourself.
The bottom line:
Excessive usage of salt is not an indicator that you need to adjust current hardness settings.
Water Contains Iron
This is actually the legitimate reason why you might want to adjust the water hardness.
Let’s have a look at the following situation.
Your well supplies your water, and because it’s hard, you use a softener. Now, at some point, you check the quality of water, which you should do every six months for well water.
The result shows you that since the previous test, water contains iron.
It is an absolutely realistic scenario for people who are using well water, so don’t underestimate it. Maintaining the well is solely your responsibility, and local authorities are not involved in treating it in any way.
Because the softener is capable of removing iron to a certain extent, this is the situation when you can go and adjust the hardness level.
Keep in mind that even though softeners can remove iron, they are not designed to remove high concentrations of it, but a small amount should be fine.
You need to slightly adjust the hardness settings up, which is what I am going to cover now.
Water Softener Hardness Settings
First of all, let’s have a brief overview of what hardness setting means.
The hardness on the softener head settings panel is determined by the number of grains per gallon of water (gpg). Plus, if your water contains iron, you will need to add some additional hardness to it.
For you, it means you need to check your water hardness with the help of laboratory analysis or with a specific testing kit designed to determine water hardness.
The important part is that you need to set up a softener based on this number. You cannot set the softener based on how hard or soft you want it to be.
Usually, softeners ask you to input the number in gpg value, but the result might be in mg/l or ppm.
I have a separate article about sizing the softener, where I cover the difference between gpg and mg/l more in-depth.
But in short, to convert mg/l units to gpg divide it by 17.1, and you will get the value you need.
The bottom line is, softener always needs to be set against the actual hardness of water and not based on your assumptions.
When you have iron in water, you need to adjust the settings.
I won’t be able to tell you by how much as it is also determined by the softener and level of iron.
Some manufacturers will tell you to add 5 points up for every 1 ppm of iron in the water.
For example, let’s say your water hardness is 15 gpg, and you have 2 ppm of iron. The total hardness you need to set will be 25 on your softener to account for the iron levels.
As I said before, though, get in touch with the manufacturer or check the manual where this information is often provided on how to adjust for iron levels.
How to Set Digital Water Softener
Most softeners today have a digital settings panel.
Let’s have a quick look at how to set hardness on the digital panel.
In all fairness, it is a straightforward process.
When scrolling through the section options where you set up salt levels, recharge timings, and other settings, watch out for option called hardness.
Most of the time, it should be called hardness, but with some units like Fleck, you might find that option is coded behind the letter. In this case, mostly, it would be the letter H as hardness.
All you do is enter the hardness number from your test in grains per gallon (gpg) and make any adjustments for iron if applicable.
Mostly you will find that you need to move arrows up and down to increase or decrease the number.
This is pretty much it; as you can see, it is a very straightforward and simple process.
Here is the video for you to see the real setting.
Hopefully, you see now that, once the hardness has been set up, most of the time, there is no need to adjust it.
If your water feels too soft and skin slimy, just accept that it is normal, and I am confident enough that you will get used to it over time.
You might, however, need to adjust the hardness when you detect new iron levels in the water that hasn’t been there before.
Each brand addresses this issue differently, so it is worth consulting the issue with them.
If you have any questions regarding your hardness, feel free to leave them in the comments below.