How to bypass water softener?

Last updated on: June 1, 2024.

Many water softeners come with a bypass valve. There doesn’t seem to be any reason why you would switch the unit off. But, you may want to use soft water only inside your home, and hard water outside your homes, such as in your garage or garden.

There are two sets of pipes – one brings the water from the city or the ground into your water softener and the other pipe lets the treated water flow into your home. In units that have a bypass valve, you will notice a third pipe with a handle that helps you open the bypass setting.

How does bypass valve work?

Not all water softeners have bypass valves. Those that do may have a handle or a knob that can be twisted from a closed to open position. The bypass valve is usually in a closed position. But, when you want to bypass the water softener, you open the valve and simply turn the inlet and outlet pipes off. The opened bypass valve will allow the water to bypass your water softener until you close it. 

There are different reasons why you would want to bypass the water softener. Since you don’t need soft water for your gardening, you would be giving your system a break from the continuous treatment of water. A bypass valve is helpful when you need to perform system repairs.

Bypass Tutorial: How do you bypass a water softener?

When you want to perform repairs or maintenance of the water softener, you will want to bypass the unit. All you have to do is locate the valve and open it to make the water stop flowing through the water softener. You will need to make sure that the inlet and outlet pipes are switched off, too.

While the steps are simple enough, you will find that there are different types of bypass valves in the market. To understand how to bypass a water softener, you will need to know each type so that you can use the bypass valve correctly.

3-valve bypass

If your water softener uses a 3-valve bypass, these are the steps to follow:

• Locate the two large hoses – inlet and outlet – running out of the water softener. Simply following the hoses will get you to the bypass valve. 

• Close the inlet and outlet valves that connect to the water softener. These will have plastic knobs that keep them connected to the pipes. They need to be turned to 90-degrees so they are perpendicular to the hoses. 

• Next, you open the bypass valve by turning the handle, making it in line with the pipe. The bypass valve is located between the inlet and outlet valves. Turn the handle to 90-degrees so that it runs parallel to the main pipes. 

• The water system will stop sending water to the water softener.

• You can return the valves to their original position by closing the bypass valve and opening the inlet and outlet valves.

Single-valve lever-type bypass valves

• You will find a lever-like valve in your water softener. It will have an indicator to show you the setting it is on and will either have ‘bypass’ or ‘service’ mentioned on it. 

• Turn the valve to the ‘bypass’ position to stop the water softening process. 

• The inlet and outlet valves will become closed and will stop sending the water to the water softener. 

• Return the valve to the ‘service’ position and turn the lever back to its original position. 

• The inlet and outlet valves will be opened and the water will start flowing through the water softener again. 

Push-type valve

• You will find a push-knob with a label saying ‘bypass’ or on/ off.

• Push the knob in to bypass the water softener. You will need to push it until you can’t push it anymore. 

• You can either pull the knob out or push it in from the opposite side when you are ready to stop the bypass.

What position should water softener bypass valve be in?

A water softener will have a bypass valve in between the inlet and outlet valves. The inlet and outlet valves must be in line with the pipes with the bypass valve cutting across these pipes. The three valves should face the same direction.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do you turn off the bypass on my water softener?

You can turn the bypass on and off in your water softener. To turn off the bypass, you would need to close the bypass valve and open the inlet and outlet valves so that water can flow back into the water softener before flowing into your home.  

What is a hot water bypass?

The hot water bypass valve is located at the back of the water heater. The cold water can be directed away from the water heater by turning the inlet valve off and opening the bypass valve. 

Does bypass valve make noise?

Bypass valves rarely make any noise. The knob or lever is easy to turn and does not make any noise when the water bypasses the water softener and flows out. 

How to bypass a clogged water softener?

A clogged water softener requires maintenance. The pipe that brings the water to the water softener can become clogged because of dust and debris, reducing water pressure. Or, the pipe that brings the water out of the water softener and into your home can be clogged due to the hard minerals.

By closing the inlet and outlet valves and opening the bypass valve, you can attend to the repairs or maintenance needed for the water softener to work properly again.  


Although all water softeners may not have a bypass valve, many units do have one. A bypass valve, regardless of the type, can be useful when you need to ensure that your water softener is in peak condition.

Hopefully, you have got enough information on the different types of valves and how to turn them on or off to bypass your water softener.

About The Author

Our Web Producer

Judith— a passionate water treatment specialist — is a waste water management enthusiast, clean drinking water advocate, and someone with deep personal experience and knowledge about various water equipments. Her work was mentioned in countless notable water associations. Previously she was an editor at Water Alliance.