Can You Use Water While a Water Softener is Regenerating?

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You need to wash your hands, take a shower, or put another load in the washing machine – but you can hear your water softener regenerating.

Can you use water during a water softener regeneration cycle? What happens during a regeneration cycle? And will you still have access to softened water?

We’ve answered these questions and more in this guide.

📌 Key Takeaways

  • You can use water while a water softener is regenerating – but the water won’t be softened.
  • It’s not recommended to frequently use water while a water softener is regenerating because it could result in hard mineral damage in your plumbing.
  • Most water softeners regenerate at between 2am and 3am, when you’re least likely to need water.

🤔 Can You Use Water During A Water Softener Regeneration Cycle?

Yes, you can use water while your water softener is regenerating. Your water softener should have a built-in bypass valve, which automatically puts the softener system into bypass mode while the regeneration cycle is taking place.

That means you’ll still have access to normal hard water at any point while your system is regenerating.

🚿 What Happens When You Use Water While Your Softener Is Regenerating?

To understand what happens if you use water during water softener regeneration, we need to understand the normal water softening process.

👉 When a water softener is in service mode, water flows through the resin tank, where the ion exchange process takes place.

Calcium and magnesium minerals (which are responsible for hard water scale) are exchanged with sodium ions on the ion exchange resin. This process happens very quickly, and all water that leaves the system is soft.

This soft water then flows through your hot water heater and around your plumbing system, protecting your entire home from mineral damage.

👉 When a water softener is regenerating, a brine solution (salt dissolved in water) is formed in the brine tank. This brine solution flows from the brine tank into the resin tank, flushing the resin beads to remove the magnesium and calcium minerals and replenishing the sodium ions.

This process takes several hours. Because the resin beads are in the process of being cleaned and loaded with sodium, the normal water softening process can’t happen.

So, where does water go during a water softener’s regeneration cycle?

When you open a faucet or switch on a water-using appliance during the regeneration process, water will be bypassed around the water softener. It’ll flow straight through your plumbing, as it did before you installed the softener. This water will be your normal untreated hard water.

Once the regeneration process is finished, the softener will automatically go back into service mode, and you’ll have access to soft water again.

Using water while water softener regeneration takes place

🚰 Should You Use Water During The Water Softener Regeneration Process?

We don’t recommend using water while your water softener regenerates.


Because water will bypass the softener, so you’ll end up with hard water flowing through your plumbing and hot water heater.

Most people install a water softener to prevent scale formation in their pipes and appliances. Using hard water while the softener is regenerating gives the opportunity for scale to form in these locations. It means you don’t have complete, round-the-clock protection against limescale.

Using a bit of water during a water softener’s regeneration process won’t produce major damage, but in most cases, you may as well wait for the regeneration cycle to finish.

⏱ How Long Does Water Softener Regeneration Take?

Wondering how long you should avoid using your water during a water softener regeneration cycle?

Most water softeners take 90-120 minutes (or 1 hr 30 mins – 2 hours) to regenerate.

Regeneration usually takes place in the middle of the night. But if you do need water during this time, see if you can wait for the regeneration cycle the finish first.

Four Cycle water softener Regeneration

🔎 How To Know When A Water Softener Is Regenerating

If you want to make sure you avoid using your water at all during softener regeneration, you need to know the signs that your softener is performing a regeneration cycle.

There are two things you can do to check:

  • Listen for rushing water. A regenerating water softener flushes large amounts of brine water through the resin tank. If you can hear the sound of rushing water from the softener, it suggests that regenerating is taking place.
  • Check the control valve. A modern electric water softener should have a control valve with a display screen that shows the water softener’s status. If the softener is regenerating, the screen may say “REGEN” or “regeneration mode”. If it’s operating as normal, it’ll probably say “SERVICE” or “service mode”.

✅ How To Avoid The Inconvenience Of Water Softener Regeneration

Unfortunately, all water softeners need to regenerate. However, there are a few things you can do to avoid the inconvenience of having no access to soft water while the softener is regenerating.

Set Regeneration Time To Early AM

As we’ve mentioned, most traditional electric water softener systems are automatically set to regenerate in the early hours of the morning, when you’re the least likely to use your water supply.

But if your water softener doesn’t have a pre-set regeneration time, you should be able to program this in.

If you actually do often use your water between the hours of 2am and 3am (if you work night shifts, for instance), you might want to set the regeneration time to a different time of the day, when you’re almost guaranteed to be asleep or away from home.

Check your user manual for instructions on how to change the time on your water softener. Your unit might have an electric timer device, or you might input a new time on the control head.

Demand initiated water softener regeneration setup

Store Batches Of Soft Water

If you’re the sort of person to wake up in the middle of the night parched, make sure you store a pitcher of soft cold water in the fridge for such an occurrence.

That way, you don’t have to use hard water if you happen to wake up while your water softener is mid-way through the regeneration process, but you can still have a nice cold drink.

Buy A Dual-Tank Water Softener

If you really don’t like the thought of being without softened water at ANY time of the day, buy a dual-tank water softener.

Dual-tank water softeners have two resin tanks (instead of just one resin tank, as you’d get in a single-tank system) and a brine tank. That means when the resin beads in one tank are being regenerated, you have a fresh resin bed in the other tank, ready to go.

A dual-tank water softener gives you continuous soft water whenever you need it. The unit switches automatically between tanks, so as long as you add salt to the brine tank as necessary, you’ll never have to use hard water.

Of course, a dual-tank softener is more expensive than a single-tank water softener, but if you want to avoid hard water at all costs in your home, it’s the best solution.

US Water Light Duty Twin-Alternating Commercial Water Softener

❔ Using Water While A Softener Is Regenerating: FAQ

Is it OK to take a shower when the water softener is regenerating?

Yes, it’s okay to shower while your water softener regenerates, but keep in mind that the hot water from your shower will be hard. Don’t make a habit of regularly showering in hard water as you’ll end up with limescale around your shower head and screens (which your water softener would usually prevent).

Is it OK to flush a toilet while a water softener is regenerating?

Yes, it’s okay to flush a toilet while a water softener regenerates. The water used to flush the toilet will bypass the water softener – you won’t be left with no water at all during the regeneration process. However, the water will be hard, so it may leave mineral deposits if you flush your toilet regularly during water softener regeneration.

How often will a water softener regenerate?

The average time between regenerations in a water softener is two weeks. That’s good news for you since it means you won’t have to worry about using water during the regeneration cycle on a daily, or even weekly, basis. The average electric water softener shouldn’t get in the way of your day-to-day water usage.

What happens if you use water while your water softener is regenerating?

If you use water while your water softener is regenerating, you’ll use hard water because the softener will be in bypass mode. The only good news is that your water pressure should be slightly better because water will flow straight through your plumbing rather than divert through the softener.

  • Jennifer Byrd
    Water Treatment Specialist

    For 20+ years, Jennifer has championed clean water. From navigating operations to leading sales, she's tackled diverse industry challenges. Now, at Redbird Water, she crafts personalized solutions for homes, businesses, and factories. A past Chamber President and industry advocate, Jennifer leverages her expertise in cutting-edge filtration and custom design to transform water concerns into crystal-clear solutions.

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