How Long Does Water Softener Regeneration Take?

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All water softeners regenerate – but some softeners take longer to regenerate than others.

In this guide, we’ve answered the common question, “How long does water softener regeneration take?”

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • Most water softeners take between 90 and 120 minutes to carry out a complete regeneration cycle.
  • The stages of regeneration include filling, brining, brine rinse, backwash, and fast rinse.
  • Factors affecting the length of water softener regeneration include your water softener size, water hardness, and household water usage.

⏱ How Long is the Regeneration Process?

So, how long does water softener regeneration take?

The overall time it takes for a water softener to regenerate is, on average, between 90 and 120 minutes.

demand initiated water softener regeneration setup

📊 Factors Affecting Water Softener Regeneration Time

There are several factors that affect how long a water softener regeneration cycle takes, or how often regeneration occurs. These include:

Water Softener Age

Generally, the older the softener, the less efficient its performance. A less efficient water softener takes longer to do everything, including regeneration.

Clogged Components

If your softening system has suddenly started taking twice as long to regenerate, you may be dealing with clogging of the components. For instance, if the brine draw line is clogged, and the softener can’t get salt brine into the resin bed, it may stall during regeneration.

Water Softener Size

The size of your softener can also affect the length of water regeneration. Large resin tanks have larger surface areas for the resin beads, which means there’s a bigger area to treat during brine flush and fast rinse.

ion exchange water softener in basement

Household Water Usage

If your water softening system treats a lot of hard water at a time, your softener will probably need to regenerate more frequently. This shouldn’t, however, affect how long each regeneration cycle will take.

Water Hardness

Water softeners must work harder to soften very hard water compared to relatively soft water. Again, the hardness of your water supply won’t affect regeneration time, but it will result in more frequent system regenerations.

Resin Quality

Finally, the quality of the resin will also affect regeneration time. Damage to the resin from contaminants like chlorine can cause the resin to lose its capacity over time, which can affect regeneration performance and potentially increase duration.

🌀 What Is Water Softener Regeneration?

Now we know how long it takes for a water softener to perform regeneration, let’s look at the regeneration process itself.

Water softener regeneration is when a water softener flushes its resin bed and replenishes it with fresh sodium ions.

When a water softener regenerates, it flushes away the hardness minerals and loads the resin up with brine, preparing it to soften your water once more.

During the regeneration process, access to soft water is temporarily cut off. If you turn on your faucet, water will bypass the softener and flow straight through your plumbing.

Regeneration has a very important purpose – it means that you don’t have to replace the resin every time it gets saturated with hardness minerals, which would be an expensive business.

How Does Water Softener Regeneration Work?

To understand the regeneration process, we need to first be familiar with the water softening process.

Salt-based water softeners use a process called ion exchange to soften water.

In this process, sodium ions from the brine tank are transported into the resin tank in a salt brine solution (dissolved salt in water).

When hard water flows through the resin beads, some of the sodium ions in the resin bed are released into the water in exchange for calcium and magnesium hardness ions. The exact amount of sodium released depends on the water’s hardness.

Eventually, the resin bed becomes depleted of sodium and saturated with calcium and magnesium. When this happens, the resin needs to be flushed – removing all the unwanted hardness ions – and replenished with sodium ions. This requires regeneration.

👨‍🔧 When a water softener system regenerates, water is sent through the resin tank, where it lifts the hardness minerals out of the resin bed and flushes them down a drain.

Ion Exchange Process
Ion Exchange Process

📰 What’s Involved in the Regeneration Process?

Wondering why it takes a water softener so long to regenerate? It’ll make more sense when you know just how many steps are involved in a water softener regeneration cycle.

Let’s take a look at the steps needed for a water softener to regenerate:

Stage 1: Filling

In stage 1 of the regeneration cycle, the brine tank fills with water. The salt in the brine tank dissolves in this water, creating a brine solution that will be used in the next stage.

Stage 2: Brining

Next, the brine solution travels out of the brine tank to the resin tank. The brine is used to flush the resin bed in cycles, washing the hardness minerals away. This process continues until the resin beads are completely flushed and renewed with sodium ions.

Brining can take between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the type of softener you own.

Stage 3: Brine rinse

The brine is then rinsed once more in a 5-minute brine rinse. This ensures that the tank is completely clean of leftover residue and minerals. 


Stage 4: Backwash

The system backwash flushes the resin tank for a further 10 minutes. This process involves quickly filling and flushing the tank – just in case any remaining hardness minerals are still trapped in the resin beads.

Stage 5: Fast Rinse

The final stage, called fast rinse or fast flow, flushes brine through the resin tank once more, ensuring that the resin bed is reset.

💦 Can you Use a Water Softener While It’s Regenerating?

Yes – depending on the system, you can use the softener while it’s regenerating.

Many water softeners have a soft water reserve, which means you still have access to a limited amount of soft water during regeneration. This means you should be able to wash your hands or pour yourself a glass of water while your system is regenerating (check your user manual for clarification).

However, a water softener regenerating will restrict your soft water access, so it’s best not to run appliances while the softener regenerates if you have a single-tank system.

A dual-tank system doesn’t have this issue since it has two resin tanks, which means while one tank is regenerating, the other tank can be in use.

Using water while regeneration takes place

🪛Common Water Softener Regeneration Problems & How To Fix

Below, we’ve shared the most likely regeneration problems with a water softening system, and how to fix them.

Water Softener Isn’t Regenerating

If your water softener isn’t regenerating at all you might have one of the following problems:

  • An issue with the timer
  • A clogged brine valve or drain line
  • Issues with the regeneration cycle settings
  • Electricity/motor issues

Your softening system might also have simply reached the end of its lifespan.

It’s important to fix the issue as soon as you notice it. A lack of regeneration means that the softener isn’t transferring brine water from the brine tank to the resin beads, meaning that soft water can’t be produced.


Water Softener Takes Ages To Regenerate

A typical water softener takes up to 2 hours to regenerate. If you have a single-tank water softener, the regeneration cycle shouldn’t take much longer than this.

A water softening system that’s stalling during regeneration might be caused by:

  • Reduced water flow or water pressure in your home
  • A clogged sediment pre-filter
  • A clogged drain line.

You might need to call a plumber to take a look at a water softener stuck in regeneration.

Water Softener Rusty Water After Regeneration

If you have rusty water from your water softener after the backwash cycle, the most common cause is iron in your water supply.

Iron fouls the resin bed over time, creating orange-brown rust stains. The best way to prevent rusty softened water after regeneration is to install an iron pre-filter that prevents iron from getting into the softener.

❔ FAQs

How often should my water softener regenerate?

How often a water softener should regenerate depends on the type of system you own. A time-based softener will regenerate at a set time every few days, while a demand-initiated water softener will regenerate about once a week, based on how many gallons of water have passed through the system.

Should a water softener regenerate every day?

No, a water softener shouldn’t regenerate every day. The average frequency of regeneration is about once every 7 days. If your water softener is regenerating once a day, you likely have your settings wrong or you’ve bought a system that’s too big for your water usage or hardness.

Does a water softener regenerate automatically?

Typically, yes, water softeners regenerate automatically based on their initial programming. You can program a regeneration cycle manually if needed, but the majority of water softeners are designed to regenerate automatically based on their regeneration schedule or water usage.

Related: How to stop water softener regeneration.

How do I know if my softener is regenerating?

You’ll know your water softener is regenerating when you hear the sound of flushing water in the system – but, of course, if regeneration is set to 2 AM, you probably don’t want to sit awake waiting for it. The easiest way to know if your water softener is regenerating is to test your water supply. If you have soft water, it means the softener is regenerating and replenishing the resin with salt as necessary.

How do I get my water softener to regenerate more often?

If you don’t think your softening system is regenerating as much as it should, you can program the system to regenerate more frequently. Depending on the type of softener you own, you’ll need to either input the regeneration time or increase your water hardness level in the programming settings.

  • 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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