How to Turn Off a Water Softener (& When You Should)

Whether you need to perform maintenance, your system has developed a fault, or you just want to take a break from soft water, there are several reasons why you might need to stop using your water softener.

To turn off a water softener, set the unit to bypass mode, then turn off your water supply and unplug the system from the power outlet.

You’re here because you want to know the details of how to turn off a water softener, so let’s jump straight into the step-by-step process.

📝 Turning Off a Water Softener: Step By Step

Follow these steps to switch off a traditional salt-based water softener installed at your home’s point of entry:

Step 1: Set the Unit to Bypass Mode

Using the softener’s bypass valve (otherwise known as a water softener shut off valve), move the softener into bypass mode.

Water softening units have three different modes: service mode, bypass mode and regeneration mode.

The system will be in service mode while it’s working normally. Most systems have three valves, all pointed to the “service” or “soft” setting.

To divert water away from the system, turn all three valves to bypass. If your system only has a “soft” setting, turn the bypass valve in the opposite direction to this.

All water softening systems are slightly different. The softeners we’ve tested are all very easy to switch off, but if you’re unsure, consult your user manual or contact the manufacturer directly.

water softener bypass valves
System set to bypass

Step 2 (Optional): Turn Off your Water Supply

If you’re switching off the unit to perform maintenance, you’ll still want to access your water. But if you’re going on vacation and want to make sure your house is safe from leaking while you’re away, it’s a good idea to switch off your main water valve, too.

To shut off the main valve, use an adjustable wrench to twist the valve to the “off” position. Open a nearby faucet to let trapped air out of the pipes, preventing a buildup of pressure, and check that the water supply has been successfully cut off.

main water shut off valve in home
Main water shut off valve

Step 3 (Optional): Unplug the System

Water softening systems automatically switch into bypass when they regenerate. This means that you can still get access to water in your pipes while the resin is replenished with salt.

If you’re going to be away from home for a while, you won’t be using your water, so you won’t need your water softener to regenerate or soften water. In this case, unplug the machine as well as turning off your water supply to stop the system from functioning completely.

unplugging water softener from power outlet
Unplugging a system from power outlet

🔌 Why Turn Off a Water Softener?

Now that you know how to turn a water softener off, let’s look at a few reasons why you may need to do this.

You’re Going on Vacation

You’re jetting off to somewhere sunnier for a week or two, and your water softener won’t be in use during that time. Turning off your water softener while you’re away is a good idea. Turn off your water supply, too, to eliminate the potential for leaks.

You’re Performing System Maintenance

You don’t want your water softener to be softening your water while you’re in the middle of topping up the salt. In this case, putting the softener into bypass mode means that you can still use your water while you perform essential maintenance.

Your Water Softener is Faulty

If you’ve noticed a leak, a weird noise, or a broken part on your water softener, you’ll need to turn the system off as quickly as possible. Bypassing water around the softener means you can work on diagnosing and solving the problem in your own time, knowing that you’ll still have access to ordinary hard water in your home.

💡Turning off a Water Softener FAQ

Do water softeners have an “off” button?

No. You can’t turn water softeners on and off as you can with most electrical appliances. The quickest way to switch a softener off (or prevent water flow inside the system) is to switch it to bypass mode.

Will unplugging a water softener switch it off?

No. Water softeners only use a power supply to perform a regeneration cycle. Simply unplugging your water softener will make no difference – it’ll still continue to soften your water as normal. To properly switch off your water softener, turn the water softener bypass valve to put the system into bypass mode.

Is it OK to bypass water softener?

In the short term, yes. If you’re dealing with a technical problem or you need to perform maintenance, or you’re going on vacation, bypassing your water softener just makes sense. But you shouldn’t bypass your water softener for more than a couple of weeks because of the increased potential for bacteria growth inside the resin.

What happens when you turn off water softener?

Nothing much! The system is simply not in use, and you go back to using your normal hard water. You’ll still have access to drinking water and all the water you need for the appliances in your house. When you switch your softener back on, your home will be supplied with softened water once more.

How do I turn a softener back on?

Easy – just do the opposite of what you did to switch the machine off. This will likely include turning the valve back to service, switching your water back on, and plugging the system back into a power supply. This will allow water to flow back through your softening unit before flowing into your home.