How to turn off water softener

If you live in a region with hard water, you may have considered installing a water softener unit. A water softener helps remove minerals from water, such as calcium and magnesium.

While water softeners are generally low maintenance, there may come a time when you need to turn them off. Whether you’re going on vacation or simply don’t need it for a period of time, here is a step-by-step guide on how to turn off your water softener.

How to turn off your water softener?

If your water softening unit is not working correctly, or if you want to conduct maintenance, you must turn it off and clean it. Here are the steps on how to turn off water softener.

Switch off the power supply

Switch off the power supply

Locate the power switch for your water softener. It is usually located near the unit. Turn off the power switch.

Put the unit to bypass mode

Close the inlet valve that supplies water to the unit. This valve is located near the inlet pipe. It puts your unit into bypass mode, which disengages the service mode your water softener usually operates in.

Put the unit to bypass mode

Drain the water

Open the faucets to drain the unit of water. Once the unit is drained, you can remove any sediment by flushing it with a hose or turning on the cleaning cycle if your unit has this feature.

Restart by opening the bypass valve

Restart by opening the bypass valve

To restart your unit, simply turn on the power and open the valve that supplies water to the unit, and you will get back your softened water supply.

When should you turn off your water softener?

There are a few main reasons why you may want to turn off your water softener.

Going on a trip

Going on a trip

You’re going to be away for a week or two, and your water softener won’t be in use while you’re away. The resin beads in your water softener may be prone to growing unhealthy bacteria in your absence. Turning off the water will be a good idea while you’re out of town. Be sure to turn the water supply off to eliminate the risk of leaking.

Regular maintenance

Regular maintenance

You’re performing system maintenance for your water softener. Your water softener system shouldn’t be working while you’re topping up the salt. By putting it in bypass mode, you can still use your water while you perform essential maintenance.

Faulty unit

Your water softener is faulty or not operating normally. If you’re noticing a leak, noise, or other problem with your water softener, it’s important to shut off the system as soon as possible.

Faulty unit

Bypassing water around the system also prevents salt from being flushed away. It can help you diagnose and solve problems without worrying about going without standard hard water in your home.

What happens if you stop using water softener?

What happens if you stop using water softener?

If you stop using a water softener for an extended period of time, the hard water minerals will build up in your plumbing again. This can cause a number of problems, including, scale buildup on fixtures and appliances, reduced efficiency of plumbing systems, etc.

Additionally, you will also find grey stains on dishes, and your clothes will look old and dull.

If you have a well, stopping the use of your water softener can also lead to mineral buildup in your well pump, which can cause it to fail prematurely.

Temporarily shutting off your water softener will cause normal hard water again, but you can supply your home with soft water by simply turning on your water softener.

How do you manually turn on a water softener?

If your water softener isn’t working correctly, you may need to manually turn it on. To do this, first, locate the control panel. It would be located near the top of the unit, near the inlet and outlet pipes. You can look for a switch labeled “On/Off.” Flip the switch to the “On” position. Your owner’s manual will have the instructions you need to find out how to turn on your specific model of the water softener.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Should you turn off water softener when away?

You can turn off your water softener if you are not going to be at home for a while. It will help prevent the unit from working unnecessarily and prolong its lifespan.

To turn off your water softener, start by finding the control panel. Most units have a control panel with a power switch, although some may have a knob that needs to be turned to the “off” position. Once you’ve located the appropriate switch, flip it to the “off” position.

If your unit has a bypass valve, you’ll need to close this as well. The water softener bypass valve is usually located near the control panel and has a lever that needs to be moved to the “off” position.

Once both the power switch and bypass valve are in the “off” position, your water softener should be completely shut down. You can consult the owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer to know if your unit has a bypass valve or for more information.

2. What happens if you run water softener without salt?

The system will eventually stop working if you run your water softener without salt. This is because the salt is used to create the brine solution that helps to remove minerals from your water. Without salt, the system will not be able to produce this brine solution and will eventually stop working altogether.

3. Can you unplug water softener and still use water?

Assuming you have a salt-based water softener, the answer is technically yes, but it’s not recommended. A water softener exchanges mineral ions in the water with sodium ions. This process is what “softens” hard water, making it easier for soap to lather and preventing mineral buildup in appliances.

If you remove the water softener from the equation, hard water will once again be present in your home’s water supply.

While you can still use hard water for things like watering plants or washing your car, it’s not ideal for drinking or cooking. Hard water can cause issues like dry skin and hair and make coffee and tea taste bitter. If you have a salt-based water softener, we recommend keeping it plugged in and operational to avoid these issues.

4. Why is my water softener continuously running?

There could be several reasons why your water softener is continuously running. The most common reason is that the unit is set to regenerate too often. Regeneration is the process whereby the unit flushes out the accumulated hardness minerals and replaces them with sodium ions. This process takes a few hours to complete, and if it’s set to happen too frequently, it can cause the unit to run continuously. 

Another possible reason for continuous operation is that the unit isn’t draining properly because of a clogged drain line or a faulty valve. If the unit can’t drain properly, it will continue to cycle through the regeneration mode without ever fully completing the process. 

If your water softener is continuously running, check to see if it’s set to regenerate too often. If so, adjust the settings accordingly. If you can’t solve the problem, you may need professional assistance.


When you invest in a water softener, it is best to understand how to use it effectively. This article should serve as a guide on the basic maintenance of a water softener, when and how to turn it off, if necessary, and when to call for help.

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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.