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Plumbing Fixtures Clogged By Water Softener Resin Beads


water softenerWe were called to diagnose and resolve some plumbing issues at a 10,000 square foot house. The plumbing problems all related to the generic term of low water pressure. One of the key pieces of evidence was that the problem was universal throughout the house and not limited to any one fixture or area. So what should you do?

Check the big picture items like the main water meter and any secondary valves (like those found in a garage that shut off water to the entire house). If these valves are fully opened, you might check the PRV (pressure reducing valve). After snooping around, we decided to have a look at a fixture. After turning on the bathtub, there were tiny beads coming out of the tub spout. This was a dead giveaway that the water softener had ruptured.

The softener has resin beads that are inside a membrane. These resin beads play a vital role in exchanging salt for minerals and hardness in the water. However, when the membrane breaks that holds these resin beads in place, they are free to travel wherever the flow of water takes them. In this case, to every faucet, shower, bathtub, and toilet that were used prior to the problem being diagnosed.

If this happens to you, immediately go to the water softener and engage the bypass valve. This is found at the rear of the piping behind the softener and will completely bypass the softener. In effect, it is like no softener is installed. Your only option to once again have soft water is to replace the unit.

To repair the plumbing clogs, you will need to go to every affected plumbing fixture and remove the resin beads.


Our water softener is only 1 year old and this is happening to us. Do I insist when they repair it (under warranty) they also add more resin beads to replace those lost to the drain?
Posted @ Friday, July 23, 2010 5:51 PM by Jason Souliere
I would demand that they replace the unit, not repair it.
Posted @ Friday, July 23, 2010 6:26 PM by Mike Klimek
Ok thanks for the advice. I'll definitely be stern with him, mentioning how it was a pain in the behind cleaning out all the plumbing filter screens and the tankless water heater.
Posted @ Sunday, July 25, 2010 4:46 PM by Jason Souliere
We have rosin beads at every faucet, cold & hot. This started after the installation of a new hot water heater (Heat Pump Water Heater), when house water was turned back ON, when the late night softener "cycle" was likely running:-) Is the hot water heater in danger? (in Bypass now). Draining & purging. How can we tell if there was a rupture or just bad timing?
Posted @ Wednesday, October 20, 2010 10:02 AM by Jim
If you have resin beads in your tank and other fixtures, the water softener is ruptured. So bypass the water softener and either live with hard water or replace the softener. Then it is a tedious process of clearing out the beads from the fixtures. I'm guessing that your situation was just bad timing. The water heater wouldn't have anything to do with it.
Posted @ Wednesday, October 20, 2010 10:41 AM by Mike Klimek
Quick reply. Draining & flushing is a chore but things are looking clearer. Softener bypassed & off. 
My concern for this brand new GE HPWH, which hasn't been used yet, (install was completed 2am last night, when the beads were discovered on pressure test) is, "anything inside the heater that might be plugged, blocked, damage"? 
HPWH is electric. TIA
Posted @ Wednesday, October 20, 2010 11:54 AM by Jim
My assumption is that nothing in your water heater would be damaged. The drain is 3/4" as are the supply lines and TPR valve and the beads are tiny. However, I'm not sure what the tolerances of the resin beads are if they were to come into direct contact with the heating elements. I would flush the tank as thoroughly as possible and maybe even contact the manufacuturer of both the water heater and the softener and get the official word from each of them.
Posted @ Wednesday, October 20, 2010 5:24 PM by Mike Klimek
GE said the HPWH unit is simply a traditional 50 gallon electric hot water heater tank with 2 elements. So the beads wouldn't affect it any differently. The heat pump sits on top with a coil that extends down into the tank for it's method of heating. The beads don't get into any of that. For sure, because the heater is the lowest point in the house (basement)the beads were at tank bottom & required considerable flushing well after all the fixtures ran clear. Big water bill coming.
Posted @ Wednesday, October 27, 2010 8:42 AM by Jim
Purchased a new GE softener. Obvious the new one was made by the same people as the old Kenmore softener:-) The installation was almost a simple Remove $ Replace but the input/output pipes were 1/2" off so the Cu pipes leading to the softener had to be shortened. Convinced now I blew the old softener beads out by too rapidly opening water valve after adding the new water heater. 
New instructions give details to slowly apply water to the system. Ooops! New softener is energy efficient: no electromechanical timer runs 24/7 and regeneration runs on schedule after it determines usage levels i.e. not every night.
Posted @ Sunday, November 14, 2010 12:09 PM by Jim
I have a question. We've drained everything but two of the sinks are still not working. I am guessing that next we have to remove the faucets and see if the faucets are clogged? 
Thanks in advance...
Posted @ Friday, November 26, 2010 7:57 PM by Jack
Most definitely we had to unscrew every faucet screen and clean the beads off. The toilets acted up too but seem to have cleared up on their own after a few flushes.
Posted @ Wednesday, December 01, 2010 11:25 AM by Jim
You mean even after the screens were cleaned the faucets still didn't work? If so, I'd probably exercise them, on and off a few times before digging in deeply with tools. Now if you mean the sinks aren't draining, that should be an easy repair. I imagine the beads could collect there in clumps. They did in toilet tank.
Posted @ Wednesday, December 01, 2010 11:29 AM by Jim
Our water softener ruptured and we too had the low pressure in the fixtures and yellow beads coming out in the tub. Took us a while to figure it out. We then tried to flush the system as well as possible and had the water softener replace. 
Now we are noticing a yellow discoloration on washcloths after they have gotten wet and on the bath mat (gets wet from our feet). Is this related to the yellow resin pellets? Could they have melted in the water heater and cause this yellow color. To be clear, our water does not appear yellow (based on sight), but we do see a yellow discoloration on towels after they have dried.
Posted @ Saturday, December 04, 2010 11:44 PM by Dan Peterson
Hardly the expert here. It took an incredible amount of flushing to get resin bead-free water out of our new water heater. Water heater in basement so the assumption was, lowest point in plumbing network, Ours is electric (and heat pump) but there's NO HEATING THOUGH BOTTOM OF TANK as happens in a gas-fired heater. Your theory of melted beads sounds plausible IF GAS. Our new softener did seem to let some yellow water through in the beginning. Assuming this is part of a break-in expectation. Everything running great now.
Posted @ Sunday, December 05, 2010 11:21 AM by Jim
Hi, i am involved in the refurbishment of a house where extensive damage was caused due to resin balls forcing the valve to stay open in the dishwasher, thus causing flooding. 
Apparently forensics now say these are not the same resin balls as found in the water softener ( initial thoughts were this is where the problem stemmed from )- any ideas what the problem may be and what is needed to do to remediate.Any recommended Experts to remediate would also help. 
Posted @ Friday, December 10, 2010 4:54 PM by andrew selby
We had our softener rupture almost 2 years ago. Still losing water pressure and flushing lines. Softener Co. didn't want us to call plumbing and we tried to be agreeable. They said it would flush out on own eventually. Plumber coming out tomorrow and softener co. in full cooperation at this point...Good luck!
Posted @ Wednesday, January 19, 2011 8:17 PM by Greg & Tracy
We're living this nightmare now....dug well ran dry ~ 2 wks ago - brownish/brakish water, low pressure and pump cycling on/off was indication. We had the well filled, reprimed the pump and then started getting these teeny black beads coming out of our taps and in our toilets. 1 of our bathtubs/showers is still clogged up (yes, it would be one of those 1-pc bathtub inserts that are impossible to get behind without ripping the entire thing out). 
We installed a filter after the pressure tank and before the softener but were still getting the beads and noticed that our water pressure was really awful. Have since moved the filter to just past the pump but before the pressure tank and water pressure appears to have improved but we're still seeing some beads (emptying the filter every other day or so). 
Until today we had no idea what the beads were - assumed they were originating from the well and were something that the water fill had dislodged from the side or bottom of the well cavity. Now that I've read this thread, I'm certain what we're seeing is beads from the water softener that must have been vacuum-sucked back through the pressure tank and pump and into the well drop pipe as a result of the pump action on the empty well when this all started. It must have ruptured something in the water softener. 
Unfortunately, we've been running the water as normal ... washing machine, dishwasher, showers, toilets, etc. Lots of activity. 
Now I'm concerned that we may have done more damage to our appliances and pipes? I would think that the filter will now catch any residue coming up from the well after the pump, but there could be beads going directly into the hot water heater and not sure what we're getting from the softener now. 
How can we fix the softener and flush out our appliances and piping (especially that pesky shower/tub insert that's fixed to the wall with no apparent way to get behind it)? 
All suggestions welcome! 
Thanks in advance,
Posted @ Monday, February 07, 2011 8:52 PM by Louise
To my knowledge, there is no fixing a membrane. I would bypass the softener where it connects to the piping, or just remove it completely. You have a pretty good job ahead of you in removing the beads from all of your fixtures. I would go in this sequence: bypass the softener (so at least you don't have any more beads getting into the system), drain the water heater, and then start to remove aerators from faucets, check toilet fill valves and shower valves. For your shower, you may have to remove the cartridge (or stem if you have that style) and blow some quick water bursts through it. Check these parts for beads and if they are clear , reinstall or replace. Good luck.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 08, 2011 5:20 PM by Mike Klimek
The resin beads from our water softener went thru our entire plumbing system. We bypassed the water softener, cleared out all the aerators in facets and flushed them, and toilets cleared themselves. Problem now 1 1/2 months later is that our hot water heater is leaking. It started out a little leak, but is getting to be more. We did not flush the water heater initially. Should we, or since it's 21 hrs old should we just buy a new one? Wondering if the leaking is due to the resin beads?? Should I worry about dishwasher, water filter/line on fridge, etc.?
Posted @ Saturday, February 12, 2011 12:33 PM by A
That's "21YEARS old" not hrs!
Posted @ Saturday, February 12, 2011 12:36 PM by A
A 21 year old water heater? That's awesome! Don't waste your time repairing it. Absolutely replace it...you've done very well with it. I doubt the resin beads had anything to do with the leak, and more likely it was probably it's time to go. As for your dishwasher and icemaker line, you might try removing them and running some water through to see if any beads are in the line. Clear out whatever you can.
Posted @ Saturday, February 12, 2011 7:21 PM by Mike Klimek
I have what I think is a slightly different problem. We had a water softener installed just yesterday. When I got home, the water pressure was fine in the entire house, but the kitchen sink faucet has VERY low pressure.  
The Culligan guy is back and tried to tell me it was a bad cartridge, but I told him that couldn't be the problem because the faucet was just fine until after the softerner was installed (they had to completely plumb it because we didn't have a softener before). 
What could be the cause of this lack of pressure on only one faucet? He's working on it right now, but he seems frustrated and keeps telling me it has nothing to do with the water softener, but I keep telling him that it is. It's ridiculously low, we can't have that kind of pressure in our kitchen sink!
Posted @ Thursday, February 24, 2011 9:09 AM by Joel
Certainly not the expert here but having changed a kitchen sink cartridge (single type with one handle for hot & cold and rate), I'd think, after having checked the faucet outlet screen for dirt, pull the cartridge and check to see if there's dirt inside. Some have a little spring and seal that could be a problem if something is caught in there. WHY? Perhaps, with the new plumbing some debris, a spot of solder got washed up there. Might also check the cold and hot risers plumbing to the faucet under the sink. Turn valves off:-) Then disconnect. See if the flow with a valve turned on is OK, Have a big pan to catch the spray.
Posted @ Thursday, February 24, 2011 9:53 AM by Jim
Looking back at my own comment last year I said,"Our new softener did seem to let some yellow water through in the beginning". I had already flushed the beads out of the whole house, with the new water heater well before I decided on which new softener to buy. Old softener bypassed for awhile. The new GE water softener did present something other than fresh clear water so perhaps some manufacturing residue, some beads? can be expected. Check all screens at all faucets. Why not? Dirt collects in them anyway after awhile. Why would the screens be there otherwise?
Posted @ Thursday, February 24, 2011 10:03 AM by Jim
Jim your post is spot-on. If the kitchen faucet is the only faucet affected, the problem is somewhere at that fixture. It may be that whatever debris was in the line hit that fixture first. Remove the aerator, check the cartridge and the angle valves.
Posted @ Thursday, February 24, 2011 11:09 AM by Mike Klimek
Thanks for the replies! The Culligan guy stayed a little longer and finally found the problem. It wasn't a bad cartridge at all. Apparently when they plumbed for the softener, some junk/rust/etc from the old galvanized pipes (the house is 80 years old) broke loose and clogged the faucet. He removed those and we now have even more pressure than before. Unfortunately with the old pipes, it wouldn't be a surprise if it happens again.
Posted @ Thursday, February 24, 2011 2:24 PM by Joel
It is important to make sure that your water pressure regulator to your house is working correctly also. Our water softener ruptured so we checked the water pressure. It was double what is is supposed to be. Our pressure regulator wasn't working at all. It is important to replace this immediately as it can damage other appliances as well.
Posted @ Monday, April 04, 2011 12:24 PM by Michael
Water softeners do NOT have a membrane. There are resin beads, but NO membrane. Membranes are used in Reverse Osmosis systems, and these systems have NO resin beads. In my 20 years within water treatment for both residential and industrial use of water softener, there is not difference in how they softener water; resin and not membranes. 
The internals of the tank for the water softener contains resin beads and a tube. The tube has slots in it to prevent the resin from leaving the softener tank. The slots are small enough to keep the resin beads from exiting. If resin beads are getting into the home's plumbing, then something went wrong with the tube. 
Demanding a new unit instead of repairing the tube and refilling with resin is like asking for the car dealership to give you another new car because a headlight cover fell off.
Posted @ Friday, June 17, 2011 9:30 PM by Gary
My culligan water softener was leaking water constantly to the drain. Replaced the bypass assmebly & some other parts from that came with the kit (gaskets were shot). Hooked everything up & ran it through a recharge cycle. It was making a strange noise so I went to check it out. All kinds of dark material flowing through my drain line, but it looked like it cleared. I thought it was from being disconnected for a while, but I think the in & out got switched on the tank when it was reconnected. I had all kinds of resin in every faucet. Set softener immediately to bypass & flushed all of my plumbing, what a pain in the %$#@! 
Do you think the in & out are switched? How do I check without recontaminating my systems? How much of my resin do you think I could have lost & do I need to refill it or just run it as is once the problem is fixed? 
Going out of town for a couple days & will tackle the rest when I return. I would like to think just the in & out were switched, but I thought that still wouldn't feedback into the house.
Posted @ Wednesday, August 31, 2011 11:34 PM by Eric
we found resin beads in our toilet and aerators on the faucets from our watersoftner. My question is, the plumber said he needs to flush the water system for the entire house, exactly what does that entail? Is this something simple I can do rather than paying a plumber for that.
Posted @ Thursday, September 15, 2011 10:03 AM by marie
Thank you so much for the information - it is so good to finally know what was causing these clogs! 
However, I can't locate a bypass valve on the water softener in my rental home! Besides the dials there are no mechanisms in front of, on the sides or behind the system. 
There is a red thing with gears that seems to turn the clock-based system wheel, and I can push in the red thing and hold it to temporarily disengage it from the system wheel. But it doesn't lock into place so I can't get it to permanently disengage. 
Where else could the bypass valve be? I don't see anything else but hoses, pipes and nuts and bolts. 
Posted @ Thursday, September 22, 2011 7:45 PM by Lynn
Our softener went and we got the yellow beads in all the lines. Finally was able to flush everything, but now getting a strange smell when using hot water. Could some of the beads done something in our gas water heater?
Posted @ Tuesday, October 18, 2011 7:35 PM by B
We have what looks like little black bits of charcoal coming out of our faucets. Is this possibly the resin beads from our Culligan water heater. The water comes out black at times also. Culligan is closed today, any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks
Posted @ Friday, November 25, 2011 1:10 PM by marie
we are experiencing alternating low and very low water pressure throughout our house. Our water pressure is 65psi and we do not have a regulator. A plumber thought that the resin in the tank has become gummy due to bad water, 8 years of original resin and perhaps some problems with the flushing cycles. We are not getting any resin beads through our faucets, so I'm thinking bypass the tank, disconnect it and remove all the contents and replace with new gravel base and resin beads....sound reasonable?
Posted @ Saturday, November 26, 2011 12:08 PM by Jack Pence
Here's one for you -- our faucets got clogged by the resin beads and our toilet tanks had them, too, but -- we do not have a water softener! Our neighbor's softener ruptured and somehow back-flowed the resin into our unit when we turned our water faucets on. I guess we were the first to turn on the water after the rupture, since the other 6 units were unaffected. I have now installed a whole house filter.
Posted @ Wednesday, December 14, 2011 11:45 PM by Condo dweller
Water softner ruptured and had everything repaired. Water heater drained and now it is making a noise like there are rocks in it. Drained it again and it is still making the noise. It's not even 5 years old. What to do?
Posted @ Friday, December 23, 2011 7:50 PM by Kris
Thankful for info here. We have the same issue and are living the nightmare of ruined maple floors due to flooding from a washing machines faulty cold water valve and pump. When the cold water faucet was examined, it was full of tiny black resin water softener beads...could these resin beads cause appliances like washers and ice/water dispensers on refrigerators to get damaged?
Posted @ Wednesday, March 07, 2012 1:44 AM by Home Owner in the dark
I needed to have the Foot Valve replaced in my Double Jet Deep Well. During the process, my water softener valve was left open as well as the cold water faucet in my kitchen. The water had been running completely clear initially. When the foot valve was completed, the water no longer came out of the faucet. When the plumber took off the aerator, all that came out was brown slimy resin beads. My water softener somehow managed to rupture during the process (coincidence??).  
To clear this up, all facets had to have the aerator flushed, the toilet apparatus taken apart and flushed, and the kitchen sink cartridges removed and flushed. It took also flushing the line in the kitchen sink several times by "pulsing" on and off at the shutoff valve without the cartridge in place. Ultimately all the plumbing and appliance seem to be fine. I did attach a hose and drained the bottom of my gas hotwater tank after reading one of the above comments, but the water was clear. 
I immediately had the softener removed,picturing it exploding and covering my whole house w/ this crud! The final irony is, I never even needed a water softener in the first place!!
Posted @ Friday, September 07, 2012 7:05 AM by A Well and water softener story
Every 4-5 years our Superior water system has a resin break and the lines have to be cleared. Is there a system you can recommend that doesn't use resin ?
Posted @ Friday, October 19, 2012 5:42 AM by John Hanna
Resin from water softner has clogged many pipes in our house.Plummer has flushed many lines with some success ,however some lines are completely blocked 
back pressure etc is not working 
maybe air compressor or steam will remove blockage or will we have to  
install new piping.this means cutting into walls and ceilings 
please advice ASAP
Posted @ Friday, November 02, 2012 9:13 PM by Brian
just put in a new whirlpool tub and had it running.. then it stopped and brown resin beads dribbled out of my faucet. Have I just ruined my tub?
Posted @ Tuesday, January 22, 2013 10:08 PM by jennifer
How many hrs can it take to repair the plumbing clogs? The service tech told me he need to replace 2 facets and flush the plumbing lines. He told me it would be $40 for each facets and a few hrs in labor. He charges $90 an hour. I was expecting to pay around $400 but he informed me after the job was done that the total cost is $800 exactly. Does this sound right? I was very sursprise and told the service tech you said it would only a few hrs of work.. He was very quickly ok with lowering the bill. I find that to be weird. I just want to make sure I am paying the right price.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 20, 2013 12:11 PM by Gina
I am having the same problem with low pressure/low water flow since installing my water softener. Two questions: (1) Is there any way to test to see if my softener is still "leaking" resin beads or not? (2) Can a whole house water filter be installed after the softener output before the water enters the house to trap the resin beads? Most of the solutions say to by-pass the softener and live with hard water which isn't an option for me. Thanks in advance for any help.
Posted @ Sunday, March 24, 2013 5:45 PM by Al
Ok, like many people on here, I had something go wrong in the resin tank to where I had beads coming out of the toilets and clogging up water fixtures. Beside fixing the resin tank, will the beads mess up my Fleck 7000 valve???
Posted @ Thursday, April 04, 2013 4:00 PM by James
I've Been on water treatment business for about 20 years now. When you experience water pressure drop After installing a softener, there are some things you must to considere in order to know the origin of this failure: 
There are some debries that are sticked to pipe threads or flow reduced connections, such as tee, elbows or size reductor. In order to avoid this kind of matter to clog your faucets, you must install two valves in the service pipe of you softener.one to shut all flow, and another before this one installed as a flash valve. 
Its common that iron sand, teflon tape pieces, weld debry, Pvc cement, etc clog faucets filters. 
Of your problem its resin beads on the faucets filters, there are two probable causes. One is having a rupture on one of the distributors in the tank (one on top one on bottom). 
The other may be resin breakage due to resin life over, resin exposed to high levels of chlorines ( more than .2 ppm) or resin exposed to high temperature, when resin "breaks" it goes trough the distributor. 
I hope i can help on some cases, sorry about my low level grammar, I don't use english often. 
Greetings from México. 
Posted @ Sunday, April 28, 2013 10:07 PM by Leo
Its not flash, its flush valve...i really hate iOS text autocomplete
Posted @ Sunday, April 28, 2013 10:11 PM by Leo
it seems to me, that the system wasn't the appropriate system for the house. typically, water softeners are custom fitted to each home based on usage, which should alleviate issues with slow flow and low pressure. Perhaps, you should switch to a reverse osmosis system instead??
Posted @ Monday, May 13, 2013 9:17 AM by water softeners
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