Do water softeners a drain? Yes, water softeners need to drain because they use ion exchange to replace calcium and magnesium ions within hard water with sodium ions. To keep this process going, the system periodically needs to be charged by flushing it with excess amounts of salt.
Every time your system regenerates, you’re left with gallons of water containing high sodium concentrations, along with the previously removed calcium and magnesium ions. Therefore, to get rid of this backwash, your water softener will need to be plumbed into a drain.
Why Does a Water Softener System Need a Drain Line?
Ion exchange water softeners need to regenerate to keep up with their water softening performance. Regeneration is the process of flushing the resin bed, which contains calcium and magnesium ions, with a high concentration of salt (sodium chloride). The best water softener shower head should also be able to regenerate for its optimal performance.
The regeneration process removes the hardness from the water and leaves behind a high concentration of salt water, which needs to be drained away. This water picks up hardness ions and carries them out of the system. This is where the drain line comes in.
The drain line is needed to send this water down the drain, ensuring it doesn’t contaminate your home’s water supply with a high concentration of hardness minerals.
Where Can You Drain Your Water Softener?
Most people find it convenient to attach their water softener’s drain line to their local sewage system during the installation process. This helps them to get rid of backwash water. However, if you live in a remote area, you may not have a direct connection to the sewage system.
Even if you do, your municipality might have specific restrictions that could mean that you can’t discharge backwash into your sewage system.
Importance of Understanding Local Regulations
It’s important to read up on any rules and regulations that your local authority might have before installing your water softener. This could save you a lot of hassle later on.
For example, some local authorities require that you have a permit before you can discharge backwash into the sewage system. In other cases, there might be specific restrictions in place regarding the type of water softener that you can use.
Draining the Backwash Outside
If you don’t want the fuss of hooking your drain line up to your sewage system, you can simply drain your water onto the ground. But with the high salt levels in the backwash, it becomes harmful to the local wastewater treatment systems and the existing ecosystem.
There may also be local regulations restricting such draining as they may be using the groundwater for drinking water. So, make sure that the drain is located as far as possible from the source of your well to prevent contamination. Also, ensure you inquire from your local municipality regarding any rules and regulations before applying any of the drainage options.
Backwash Drain Options for the Basement
The options below are best for draining your water softener backwash from your basement. If your water softener is installed in your basement, any of these options will be ideal.
One way to drain your water softener is by using a laundry tray. A laundry tray is a small container with a drainage hole at the bottom that is placed under clothes washers to catch lint and any water that overflows. Some people call it a utility sink or laundry tub.
It functions as an air gap for you to where you do not need the air gap anymore. You can place the laundry tray under your water softener’s brine tank and position the drainage hose into the tray. This will allow the water to drain into the tray and not onto your floor.
A floor drain is another excellent option for draining your water softener. Most water softener units provide enough water pressure to send water up a drainpipe and out of the basement. If you have a floor drain in your laundry room, basement, or garage, you can place the drainage hose from your water softener into the drain. The water will then drain directly into the sewer system or wherever your floor drain leads.
You’ll need to check your local area plumbing codes to ensure it’s allowed. This is due to most of them going to sewer systems. And if they do not go to sewer systems, they can go to sump pumps and waterways that go to the ground outside. You can also use two pumps if your water softener doesn’t offer enough water pressure to send water up a sewage drain.
If you don’t have a floor drain or your area’s plumbing codes forbid connecting your water softener to the sewer system, you can install a sump pump to drain the softened water. Sump pumps are typically used to remove water from basements that have been flooded.
The pump sits in a pit dug into the basement floor and is connected to a drainage pipe that leads outside. When the water in the sump pit reaches a certain level, the float switch activates the pump, which then pumps the water out of the pit and through the drainpipe.
Sewage Ejector Pump
A sewage ejector pump is an alternative to a sump pump system as it will pump up any water from a basin to the desired height. The benefit of sewage ejector pumps is that they eject water straight into a sewage system. These pumps use a vent, preventing raw sewage from flowing back into your drain line.
Any gases that may be in the piping will also be vented out. If you opt for this pump to assist with drainage, ensure you choose a plastic or stainless steel pump, which won’t be affected by the corrosive nature of your softener’s wastewater brine. Also, ensure that your pump isn’t submerged in water for longer periods of time, which could shorten its lifespan.
Properly Trapped Outlets
As you know, your water softener will regenerate on a regular basis, and during this process, quite a bit of wastewater is produced. If this water isn’t properly drained, it could back up into your home and cause all sorts of problems.
The good news is that there’s an easy way to prevent this from happening – simply install a p trap in the outlet line from your softener. For outlets, you can tie it to a sewer line or create a dry well in the yard with a p trap. This will ensure that the wastewater has nowhere to go but down the drain.
You can purchase a trap at most hardware stores, and they’re relatively easy to install. Just be sure to follow the instructions carefully so that you don’t end up with a mess on your hands.
Backwash Drain Options for Outdoor Discharge
For discharging water from your brine tank, consider these options:
The cheapest and easiest option is to install a dry well. This is simply a deep hole that enables a backwash to slowly seep into the ground. The water will seep into the ground, and the dry well will act as a filter to catch any sediment.
As long as a dry well is implemented above the water table, it can accept large amounts of water in a short time, which can slowly make its way into the surrounding ground over a longer time. This prolonged dissipation makes it a perfect solution for draining water softener backwash as it prevents a sudden increase in sodium concentrations in the surrounding soil.
Septic Drain Field
Another option is to reroute the backwash water to a septic drain field. This is a common practice, and as long as the septic system is large enough, there should be no problem in handling the additional volume of water.
The main thing to remember when rerouting backwash water to a septic system is that it must be done in a way that prevents backflow into the water softener. This can be accomplished by installing a check valve in the line going from the water softener to the septic system.
You could choose to use an old septic tank as a dry well if you prefer. You’ll just have to clean out the tank and insert small holes into the bottom of the tank, then attach the softener’s drain line and use pea stone or similar material to fill the tank.
This is a system that uses perforated pipe that is buried beneath the ground in a gravel-filled trench. The water seeps into the gravel and then flows through the pipe to a drainage area. To install a french drain, you’ll need to place a pipe along a ditch. The pipe should feature holes that allow the backwash to seep out of the pipe and into the soil.
The longer you can make the ditch, the greater the surface that the water will be dispersed across. This will help you avoid a buildup of backwash in one area, which will prevent damage to the environment. Before installing outdoor drain options for your water softener, do your research and check whether you need to follow any rules or apply for any permits in advance. Your local municipality will be able to provide more information if you can’t find what you’re looking for online.
How to Install a Water Softener Drain Line
Install the first drain line at the system’s control valve, allowing backwash water to be drained out when the water softener regenerates.
Install the second drain line to the brine tank, and lead this to the same drain that you’re using for water softener. Your system will only use this line as an overflow drain.
You shouldn’t connect two drain lines, or there would be no point in installing them separately. You should check your water softener instructions to learn more about the exact steps you need to follow to install your water softener’s drain lines.
FAQs on Where to Drain Your Water Softener
How to drain a water softener?
The best way to drain a water softener is to install two drain lines from the control valve and one from the brine tank. The control valve line should be installed first, followed by the brine tank line.
Where to discharge water softener backwash?
The backwash water from a water softener can be discharged to the same drain that you’re using for the softened water.
Why does your water softener drain line need an air gap?
Your water softener provides your house and its residents with a clean water supply. To ensure this supply stays clean, the plumbing code requires you to install an air gap in the drain line of your system. With an air gap installed, water will only be able to flow out through the waste line, preventing any contaminated drain water from flowing back into your system, thereby contaminating your water supply.
Final Thought on Where to Drain Your Water Softener
Draining your water is an important part of maintaining it. By properly draining your water softener, you can prevent a number of problems, including resin beads from clogging the drain line, the growth of bacteria or algae in standing water, and mineral buildup in the tank. Always ensure your drain is free of blockages, and if you suspect a blockage, investigate it and clear it out immediately.