What’s With the Yellow Beads in the Water?
Without even needing to come to inspect your pipes, our guess is that you have a salt-based, also sometimes called an ion exchange, water softener. How do we know? Because these water softeners use resin beads to condition the water, and these beads sometimes escape into the plumbing works,
Do not be too alarmed. Those yellow resin beads are not toxic, but they do clog up the smaller passages in fixtures and appliances. Here’s what you need to know:
- How a water softener works
- How the beads get into your plumbing
- How to flush water softener resin out of your pipes
- When to call a professional plumber
How a Water Softener Works
Many people think salt softens the water. Actually, a water softener uses thousands of tiny resin beads inside a brine holding tank to filter out hard water particles (typically calcium and magnesium) and thus soften the water.
The brine solution flows through the resin tank, rinsing the beads in what is known as the water softener backwash cycle. While the brine solution and hard water minerals are flushed from the tank, over time some minerals stick to the resin beads and periodically need to be rinsed. This is what the salt is for, to clean the resin beads. This is why you periodically add salt to a water softener every few weeks.
Water Softener Resin Beads in Pipes – How Did This Happen?
So how do these resin beads get out of the water softener tank and into your plumbing system? It can happen if the membrane that holds the resin beads in place breaks, then beads are free to travel throughout your plumbing system.
A common telltale sign that the membrane has broken is low water pressure. If water isn’t coming out as forcefully in showers or faucets, look for grit in the showerheads and faucet screens; resins break down over time and once they get into the water line wind up clogging showerheads and faucet screens. And, of course, that you see the resin beads coming out of your faucet.
What You Can Do – A Quick Fix
If you are experiencing the telltale signs of a water softener on the fritz, take immediate action. You don’t want the resins gumming up your plumbing. Fragmented resins can damage water heaters and plumbing fixtures.
Above all, make sure not to run any water while you are resolving the problem with your water softener, especially hot water. You don’t want to risk leaking beads into your water heater. It is another task altogether to drain the resin beads from your water heater.
Next, you want to put your water softener into bypass mode so the water no longer goes through your softener, preventing any additional beads to move through your plumbing. Putting a water softener into bypass mode varies by manufacturer, but usually it involves turning a valve off or pushing a valve in.
Next, you want to flush out whatever resin beads are still in your plumbing system.
How to Flush Resin Beads From the Plumbing
Follow these steps to flush the resin beads out of your plumbing system:
- Close the valves to the water softener and open the bypass valve.
- Drain and flush your water heater.
- Remove all screens on your faucet.
- Open the cold water valves throughout your home.
- Flush and clean the water supply from the washer.
- Run all appliances that use water, i.e., dishwasher, washing machines, bathroom showers, sinks and kitchen sinks
- Check if you continue to see if resin continues to stream out of the water.
- If appliances are clogged after running or start to overfull, turn them off. Detach their water hoses and check for clogs. Flush hoses to clear the beads. Check the connections and remove any beads clogging them. Reattach and run the appliances again to flush.
Once you see clear water flowing from all your outlets, it is safe to assume you have flushed all the resins out of your pipes. You still have the remaining problem of a malfunctioning water softener. Do not turn your water softener out of bypass mode. While you can use all your appliances and faucets, you haven’t removed the resins that remain in the water softener tank.
You might think that you need to take the water softener out of bypass mode so you don’t have hard water, but the resins can still move through the broken membrane and then you have the same problem all over again. You need to fix or repair the water softener.
Why to Call a Plumber
If you want to eliminate the problem of hard water, you may be able to replace the membrane and the resin beads in the water softener. This is not a DIY project; an experienced plumber can replace the resin in your water softener for you.
Check to see if the warranty still covers any malfunctioning parts. If not, and depending on the age of the water softener and other available options, you might consider replacing it.
Given the problem you just had, you might want to consider a salt-free water softener system, which is usually called a descaling system. These use nano-technology to change the chemical and physical properties of water molecules. If you have a lot of rust in your plumbing and water, a descaling system might be most effective. While a descaling system requires less maintenance, it is usually pricier than salt-based systems. and may not remove magnesium if that is a major cause of your hard water issue.
Another alternative to consider uses reverse osmosis that can remove as much as 98 percent of water impurities. It is, however, expensive and uses a lot of water to filter impurities through a semipermeable membrane.
Also keep in mind that while water softeners are good at removing calcium and magnesium, they don’t remove other minerals and gases that can cause problems in drinking water. An example is ferrous iron, which causes rust stains in sinks, tubs, and toilets. Water that has a faint “rotten egg” smell contains dissolved hydrogen sulfide gas, which again a water softener cannot remove. If you have any of these conditions in your water, you may need a different type of water filtration system instead of or in addition to a water softener.
To ensure you make the right decision for a water softener or any situation requiring water filtration, consult a water treatment expert for the choice that best fits your budget and household needs.
An added precaution is that even if you think you may have flushed all the resin beads from your system, it could be best to have your plumbing work inspected by a professional to ensure that is the case. Or, particularly if you are not a do-it-yourselfer, call a plumber in the first place to thoroughly flush your pipes.
Benjamin Franklin Plumbing Bay Area can repair your water softener and flush out the resin from your plumbing pipes. A friendly Benjamin Franklin plumber can clean and refill your resin, or install a new resin tank depending on each situation and how damaged the water softener is. Our plumbers will also help with services like a water softener resin beads disposal.
We take to heart the words of our namesake, Benjamin Franklin, who famously said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” We’ve built our company around bringing a higher level of excellence to every customer experience. Benjamin Franklin Plumbing and our licensed plumbers proudly offer an on-time guarantee and a 100 percent customer satisfaction guarantee to meet all your plumbing service needs. Because we’re locally owned and operated, our plumbers are familiar with the plumbing challenges you face. If there’s any delay in providing your service, we pay!
And, by the way, to avoid ever having a problem with your pipes in the first place, regular maintenance ensures smooth high flowing water pressure. Who was it that said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? Right, none other than Ben Franklin himself. Yet another reason why our local plumbers live up to the philosophy of our founding father.
Benjamin Franklin Plumbing answers your service calls 24 hours a day at 800-259-7705. Or go online to request an appointment.