How to Bypass a Water Softener (Diagram Included)

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A water softener bypass valve lets you divert water away from the softener, so untreated water flows straight through your home’s plumbing system. Most bypass valves are U-shaped and located on or near the water softener.

In this guide, we’ve shared how to bypass a water softener in just a few easy steps.

how to bypass a water softener

📤 How to Bypass a Water Softener With a Handle Bypass Valve

A “turn” bypass valve has a handle or a knob that you can turn to bypass the softener. There may be a separate knob or handle for each of the two valves.

To bypass a water softener with a handle bypass valve, follow these three steps:

  1. Locate the valve. It’s usually found on the left or right side of the unit.
  2. Turn the handle clockwise. Turn the handle or knob in the direction of the arrows, or clockwise, until you can’t turn it any further. If you haven’t bypassed your water softener recently or ever, the handle may be stiff. Try turning your kitchen faucet or shower on full to relieve some pressure.
  3. Turn the handle counterclockwise. When you want to send water back into the softener, turn the handle counterclockwise or in the opposite direction.
Illustration of how to bypass a water softener button handle bypass

📖 How to Bypass a Water Softener With a Button Bypass Valve

A “push-in” or “push-push” bypass valve has a button that you press to activate the bypass.

If your water softener has a button bypass valve, follow these instructions to bypass the system:

  1. Locate the valve. Check the top and sides of the softener for the bypass button.
  2. Press the button. Push the button firmly until it presses in fully. This might be difficult if you’ve never bypassed the system or you haven’t done it in a while. Use a rubber mallet to tap the button if needed. Don’t use a regular hammer because this is likely to damage the valve.
  3. Press the button on the opposite side. When you want access to soft water again, firmly press the button on the other side of the bypass valve until it’s all the way in.
Illustration of how to bypass a water softener button bypass

🔩 How to Bypass a Water Softener With a Lever Bypass Valve

A “lever-style” bypass valve has a lever that can be moved from side to side.

If your water softener has a lever valve, follow these steps to put it into bypass mode:

  1. Locate the valve. It should be on, or near, the softening unit.
  2. Move the lever into bypass. The valve should have arrows or instructions telling you which way to move it. Usually, you’ll need to move it from left to right.
  3. Move the lever back. To send water through the softener again, move the bypass lever back into its original position.
Illustration of how to bypass a water softener lever bypass

📑 Final Word

Specific bypass procedures vary based on the water softener model. Make sure to consult your user manual for tailored instructions on how to bypass your water softener.

Misplaced your user manual? Most user manuals for water softeners are now available online. Just search your water softener name and model number (if you have it).

Related: How to Turn Off Your Water Softener

🧠 FAQs

What does a bypass valve do on a water softener?

A bypass valve on a water softener lets you divert water around the softening resin tank, bypassing the water softening process. This is useful if you need to perform system maintenance tasks or repairs, or when you want to use unsoftened water for specific tasks. By employing the bypass valve, you can access a continuous water supply and preserve your water softener, preventing unnecessary wear on the resin beads and conserving salt and regen water.

What does a water softener bypass valve look like?

A water softener bypass valve is typically a lever or knob-style valve assembly consisting of a cylindrical valve with a lever or knob that can be turned to control the water flow. A common bypass design has three pipes connected to the valve assembly, forming a U shape. The valve assembly might have labels like “In,” “Out,” and “Bypass” to indicate the different positions.

Changing water softener bypass valve

What position should my water softener bypass valve be in?

Your water softener’s bypass valve position depends on the type and model of the system. Generally, the bypass valve should be pointed left, or in the direction labeled “softening” or “on”. If you need to bypass the softener for maintenance, the valve should be pointed in the direction labeled “bypass”.

Will water softener regenerate if bypass is on?

No, a water softener can’t regenerate if you’ve manually bypassed it. But a water softener automatically goes into bypass mode during a regeneration cycle (when the resin bed is flushed with brine). So when you turn on a faucet or use an appliance, unsoftened water will flow through your pipes.

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

4 thoughts on “How to Bypass a Water Softener (Diagram Included)”

  1. Avatar for Brian Campbell

    i don’t think the system can regenerate when the manual bypass is on as there’s no way for water to get to the softener when it’s bypassed.
    the softener may do internal bypass during regeneration but that would have a t-off to supply water for the regeneration otherwise not available with manual bypass.

        1. Avatar for Brian Campbell

          Water softeners are installed at the water point of entry to the home, meaning soft water then flows through all plumbing, fixtures and appliances. It’s not feasible to try to bypass your cold water line for your kitchen faucet

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