What To Do With a Water Softener While I’m On Vacation

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Wondering what to do with your water softener before you leave for a vacation?

Here, we’ve shared our top advice on the best ways to protect your water softener resin while it’s not in use, depending on how long you’re away for.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • Most water softeners can sit for up to 1 month without being used, with no damaging effects.
  • If you’re on a shorter vacation (1-3 weeks), either program the softener to regenerate then shut off your water, or keep your water on and leave the softener as it is.
  • If you’re on an extended vacation (1 month or longer), program the softener to regenerate, then unplug the softener in the middle of the brine draw cycle to “pickle” the resin while you’re away.

📆 How Long Can A Water Softener Sit Without Being Used?

On average, a water softener system can sit for up to one month without being used, without any long-term negative effects.

Keep in mind that a water softener’s resin bed may lose its effectiveness if the system doesn’t regenerate regularly. That’s why you shouldn’t leave your softener to sit idle for more than a few weeks at a time.

Leaving water softeners running in home while in vacation

🤔 What To Do With A Water Softener While You’re On Vacation

There are two possible options for what to do with your softener if you’re going on vacation:

Program A Manual Regeneration & Shut Off Your Water

Domestic water leaks are more common than you might think, and experts generally recommend shutting off your water supply before you go on vacation to avoid coming home to expensive flood damage.

If you plan to shut off your water at the mains before you travel, your water softener won’t have access to moving water in your pipes.

Water softeners aren’t designed to be idle, but if you’re just going away for one or two weeks, it will be fine to leave the softener for this amount of time without regenerating or treating your water.

However, we do recommend programming a manual regeneration and allowing the water softener to complete its cycle before you shut off your water.

That means the resin bed will be flushed and clean, rather than being partially loaded with hardness minerals and other contaminants that foul the resin, like iron and chlorine.

To program a manual regeneration:

  1. Find the control panel on the water softener control valve (on top of the resin tank)
  2. Press the “REGEN” button until you hear whirring and water flowing through the system

Then, once you’re home and you switch your water supply back on, program the system to manually regenerate again, to clean the resin and get water moving through the unit once more.

Programming water softener regen cycles on electronic control head

OR Leave Your Softener To Operate As Normal

If, for some reason, you don’t want to, or can’t, shut off your water supply, you can simply leave your water softener to operate as it normally would.

Most modern water softeners use demand-initiated regeneration, which means they’ll only perform a regeneration cycle after a certain volume of water has traveled through the system.

However, many softeners have a setting that causes them to regenerate automatically after a certain number of days, even if the specified volume of water hasn’t been used. This prevents fouling and buildup in the resin beads.

So, if your softener has this setting and you choose to leave the water on, it will continue to regenerate automatically at intervals (usually once a week) as normal until you return home from your vacation.

🚰 What To Do With A Water Softener While You’re On An Extended Vacation

If you plan to be away from home for an extended period (more than a month), you’ll need to take extra steps to protect the softener resin and prevent damage while it’s not in use.

Some water softener manufacturers recommend “pickling” the resin – exposing it to a salty solution that will enable it to be stored for months without being used.

To achieve the conditions required for resin pickling, you’ll need to interrupt the regeneration process so that the brine solution stays inside the resin tank without the usual draining of the system.

The exact process of setting your softener up for disuse while you’re on an extended vacation depends on the type of softener you own. Check your user manual for more detailed regeneration instructions.

Here’s a general outline of the steps to take:

  1. Put your water softener into regeneration mode.
  2. Wait for the regeneration cycle to complete, then manually program another regeneration.
  3. While the water softener is backwashing, skip to the next stage, which is brine draw (when the brine solution is drawn from the brine tank to the resin tank).
  4. Wait for around half the time of the brine draw (usually between 20 and 30 minutes), then unplug the softener from the power outlet.

Without power, your water softener system shouldn’t be able to complete the regeneration. That means the concentrated brine solution will remain in the resin tank, protecting the resin beads.

We also recommend putting your softener in bypass mode by turning the valve that connects the softener to your water pipe. That means you can access your normal water supply when you return home, without having to wait for your softener to regenerate.

When you’ve settled back into normal routine, plug the softener back in and program a manual regeneration. This will flush the resin and prompt the tank to drain as normal, preparing the system for normal usage.

Setting the water softener to regenerate and unplugging the system

📑 Final Word

In short, leaving your water softener inactive while you’re on vacation shouldn’t have any long-lasting effects.

Whether you keep the softener in service mode or shut off your water supply and prevent the softener from regenerating, it should be fine for just a couple of weeks. Just make sure to program the softening unit to regenerate manually when you return home.

Your most important pre-vacation task is to protect your home from a potential leak or flooding. You can do this by shutting off your main valve for your whole-home water supply.

If you’re unsure, check your water softener’s user manual for dedicated instructions, or contact the manufacturer’s customer support team and ask for advice.


Should I bypass my water softener when I go on vacation?

No, you don’t need to bypass your water softener when you go on vacation. Your water won’t be used anyway, so the softener won’t function. The only exception is if the softener has an automatic regeneration setting that will prompt it to regenerate after a certain amount of time (usually 1 week), regardless of how much water has been used. This is a good feature because it will prevent damage caused by the resin sitting idle for too long.

Can you turn off water with a water softener?

Yes, you can turn off your water if you have a water softener. It just means that no water will flow through your plumbing, which means that the softener won’t be able to regenerate. To protect the resin bed while you’re away, we recommend programming a manual regeneration before you leave, so the resin is clean and free from hardness minerals and other damaging contaminants during its period of inactivity.

Do I need to turn off my water softener while on vacation?

No, you don’t need to turn off your water softener while you’re on vacation, since the softener won’t do anything unless somebody is using water in your home. However, if you’re planning on an extended vacation, you might want to “pickle” the resin and switch the softener off to prevent the salty brine solution from draining out of the resin tank.

Should there always be water in a water softener?

With normal use, yes, there should be water flowing through the softener resin tank almost constantly. However, if you go on vacation, the softener’s water supply will be interrupted. To prevent damage to the resin from sitting idle for long periods, we recommend programming a manual regeneration before you shut off your water.

What will happen if my water softener tries to regenerate when I’ve shut off the water?

If you’ve shut off the water or bypassed your water softener, it won’t be able to regenerate until it has access to flowing water again. If the softener does try to regenerate, nothing will happen because there will be no water in the system. On most water softeners, this shouldn’t damage the control mechanism.

  • 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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