How to Change Media in a Water Softener


Media or resin is what is inside your water softener to make it function correctly and produce soft water.  A water softener is a pretty cool idea that makes your clothes softer, allows soap to become more soapy and work better, plus a host of other pros to having this item in your home.  Your house could either have hard water or soft water.  There are minerals in water and if they stay in the water, this is called hard water.  If you have a softener, then the softener removes these minerals and creates soft water.  Basically, the water travels over the media inside your water softener tank.  As the water travels over the media, the minerals stick to the media.  So when the water leaves the system, it has no minerals and is now soft water.  The media has an opposite charge of the minerals and that is why the minerals stick to the media.  The system needs to recharge the media and clean the tank, this is called rejuvenating.  The salt is what is working to rejuvenate the media and give it the properties to remove the minerals.  This is why you have to add salt to a water softener.  The salt just regenerates the media.  However over time the media breaks down and needs to be changed.  There are two ways to tell when you need to change the media.  First, your hardness of water increases.  You can also lose water pressure throughout the house.  Media should last an average of 15 years, but it depends on your water conditions.  Okay, so let’s get into changing the media.

Tools Needed to Change Media in your Water Softener

  • Two pipe wrenches for water supply
  • One large pipe wrench to remove head from unit
  • Teflon Tape
  • Funnel
  • Phillips and Flathead screwdriver
  • A friend would be nice
  • Ear plugs so you don’t have to listen to your friend complain about the job at hand

Shut Water Off to Unit

Media Softener (1)Make sure your water to the unit is in the off position.  You should have a shut off valve in the line right before the softener.  If not, check by your water main that is inside the house.  You should also have a bypass value right behind the water softener, leave this open.




Uplug the Water Softener

Media Softener (3)Water and electric don’t mix.  Make sure you unplug your softener.






Turn on Faucet to Relieve Water Pressure

Media Softener (4)Turn a faucet on that is after the water softener.  This will relieve pressure in the system.






Check Filters or Screens

Media Softener (6)Sometimes your media is okay, but something worked its way into the softener and might be blocking a screen.  Media is expensive, so just check the screens or injectors first to make sure nothing is blocked.  See your owners manual for more information on how to check those items




Remove Water Supply from Softener

Media Softener (7)Now that the pressure is relieved from the system, you can move your bypass to on, so the water doesn’t go though the system.  Now remove both water lines that are on the softener.  Once you remove the lines, you can also turn the water back on in the house so others can use the bathroom or sinks.  Just open the water shut off/on valve slow to make sure the bypass value is working correctly and not leaking.  Also remove any other lines you have connected to the unit such as the brine tank line and waste line.



Move Softener into Open Area

Media Softener (8)Move your water softener into an open area that you don’t mind getting wet.  The unit will be heavy as you have media and water in the unit.







Remove Softener Head Unit

Media Softener (9)Now you can remove your head.  See owners manual for more information.  Normally they just twist on and off.







Remove Center Pipe in Water Softener

Media Softener (10)Now that the head is off, the center pipe/tube will just pull out.  Some of the media will also come out and can become messy.  There should be a screen on the bottom of the tube.  If not, no big deal.  Just make sure when you dump the media out, you find the screen.  It is large and easy to see.






Dump Media Out

Before you dump it out, take a sample.  Media are small round pellets that are hard.  Feel them in your hand.  If they are still hard, your media might be okay.  If you can squeeze them in your fingers and they loose shape, your media is bad.  Media is biodegradable and safe.  You can dump it in a large trash bag and throw it out or dump it in your yard somewhere.  It does take a while for it to break down.  If you are not sure if your media is bad, dump it in a large container in case it turns out to be another problem and not your media.  Then you can reuse it.



Run water inside the tank and clean the screen and pipe out.


Put Pipe Back in

Make sure the screen is attached tightly to your tubing when inserting this back into the tank.


Add Media to Unit

Media Softener (12)This can be tricky if you don’t have a funnel.  The beads are small.  Just don’t get any beads into the center tubing.  I put a piece of tape over the tubing to prevent beads from entering the tubing.






Secure Head Unit Back on

Put the head back on the tank.  Make sure the head and tube that is in the tank line up.

Attach Water Lines to Unit

Make sure all fittings are clean and you use Teflon tape for the threads to prevent leaks.

Plug Unit Back in

Plug unit back in and make sure you have all your settings.

Turn Water Supply on

Turn the water supply back on and make sure nothing is leaking.  Turn the water on slow to prevent water hammer.  Also, have a faucet open somewhere in the house.

Check Water Throughout the House

Turn faucets on around the house and let the air run out of the pipes.

Run a Rejuvenation Cycle on the Unit

Your media needs to have a charge in order to work, so make sure you run a cycle.

Test the Water

Take a test kit after the system rejuvenates and test your water hardness.

One good idea is to have a camera by your side and take some pictures as you work through this process.  That way when you are putting the system back, if you don’t know where something goes or you need a reference, you can always go back and look at your pictures.


  1. Good instructions Eric. Funny part about ear plugs so you don’t hear your friend complain. 🙂

    Love you guys doing repair guides. Thanks.

    I actually disconnected our water softener because I thought it was broken. Maybe it was just the media.

  2. I am in this situation right now with an 11 year old system. I was checking to see if this could be a DIY project to save me some bucks. Your article is very easy to read and the instructions are easy to follow, but I do believe I will have my water service tech to this particular project after all. He is going to charge me $350.00 and after checking prices for the resin and the charcoal filter I would only be saving about $50.00. It’s worth it to me to just have it done by an experienced tech. But thank you for the article. I would not have been able to make an educated decision without this knowledge. You rock!

    • It depends because all tanks are different. Mine took 1.5 cu. ft. Some take only 1 and some take two. You would have to look at the owner’s manual to find out. I do know that it should not be all the way to the top as the water needs to move around the tank.

  3. I love how you said that water and electricity don’t mix because that’s a step that a lot of people forget to do. You also don’t want to accidentally start it while you’re cleaning it out. I need to change the media in my softener because it doesn’t work quite right anymore.

  4. I have a Kinetico softener that is downstream of a calcite tank. I was told by a service technician the the media in my softener was “compacted.” The solution presented is to replace the entire softener rather than the media. Does this sound reasonable?

    Interesting that the technician was accompanied by a sales rep.

    • I am not familiar with that system. Yes, over time the media can degrade, and yes, get compacted. Usually, all you have to do is change the media and you are good to go, so to me this doesn’t sound right about needing a whole new system. There really isn’t much to a water softener. You have the head, which can be replaced, the tank, and the brine tank. I would get a second opinion because I would think you could just change the media, but I am not in that business so don’t know all the ins and outs.

  5. Mine got compacted. I had to use a steel rod to break it out without damaging the cylinder. Took some work. A lazy tech I can see would just replace the whole thing.


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