How to use a water softener

A water softener is a product that is used to treat hard water. Hard water typically contains high levels of hardness-causing minerals, for example, calcium and magnesium. Minerals such as these can cause problems, such as making it difficult to get soap suds to form or leaving behind a film on surfaces after they have been cleaned.

A water softener exchanges the minerals for sodium ions. This water-softening process is known as ion exchange. The sodium ions do not cause the same problems as the minerals in hard water, so the softened water is easier to use and leaves behind no residue. If you have hard water and would like to treat it, then read on for a step-by-step guide on how to use a water softener.

What happens if you don’t use a water softener?

What happens if you don't use a water softener?

If you don’t use a water softener and you live in a region with hard water, the hard water in your home will continue to cause problems. Hard water has been known to damage your plumbing and household appliances, such as heaters and washing machines, etc., and make it difficult to clean your home. Additionally, hard water can leave behind mineral deposits that can impact the taste of your water. This often leads to expensive repair costs that can be avoided by using soft water instead.

How to use a water softener system?

How to use a water softener system?

If your home has hard water, you may want to consider using a water softener system. A water softening system reduces these problems by removing the minerals from the water. There are two kinds of water softener systems: salt-based and salt-free

Salt-based and salt-free water treatment systems

Salt-based systems work by exchanging the calcium and magnesium in the water for sodium. The sodium then binds to the minerals, making them unable to attach to surfaces. Alternatively, you can use potassium instead of sodium. Potassium-based water softeners use potassium chloride to exchange with calcium and magnesium in hard water.

Salt-based and salt-free water treatment systems

Like salt-based units, potassium chloride also attaches itself to the calcium and magnesium particles, making them too large to pass through pipes or be absorbed by the skin. Potassium-based units are often used in areas where salt is not recommended for environmental reasons or if you have low sodium tolerance and do not want extra sodium in your water supply. This type of system is typically more effective than salt-free systems, but it does require maintenance by adding salt to the unit on a regular basis.

Salt-free systems use a process called water conditioning to remove the minerals from the water. In this process, positive ions are exchanged for negative ions, causing the minerals to be attracted to each other and not to surfaces. These systems are less reputed than salt-based systems, but they do not require that you add salt to the unit.

To use a water softener system, you will need to install it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once it is installed, you will need to add salt or water conditioner pellets to the unit on a regular basis. You will also need to set the unit’s timer so that it regenerates itself at night when you are not using any water. Doing this will ensure that you have a steady supply of soft water when you need it.

How to set it?

To set up a salt-based or potassium-based water softener, you will need the following:

  • A location for the unit that is close to a power outlet and has a drain nearby
  • Salt (for salt-based units) or potassium chloride (for potassium-based units)
  • A garden hose
How to set it?

The water softener should be placed in your house as close to the point of entry as possible, which is needed so that your plumbing and appliances reap the benefits. A water softener will also eliminate any issues with hard water, which is a common problem if it’s installed before the hot water tank. You will want to install the softener in an area with a drain and an electrical outlet, like a basement or garage.

Most softeners have a bypass option in both the inlet and the outlet. If you need to do any maintenance on the equipment or install it, turn a valve to bypass the softener so as not to remove softened water from your home. If your chosen unit does not come with a bypass, however, it’s wise to build one of your own before installing it.

Steps to set up your water softener with ease.

  • You’ll need to position the water softener you’ve just picked up. For best performance, make sure it’s placed correctly: Connect the inlet to your water supply, and then the outlet should point towards any hot water appliances that are on or near the installation site. Turn off the flow of water from your main line of piping. To prevent leaks while installing, also turn off any faucets in your home and put a temporary plug in your bathtub drain.
  • If you plan to install a whole house water filter, you need to cut it into the main water line. Use a pipe cutter and cut it into the main water line leading up to the supply line. Be aware that this is a whole house filtration unit, so in addition to cutting into the supply line, you need to connect it with the inlet and outlet lines as well.
Steps to set up your water softener with ease.
  • To prevent the water softener from draining with the depleted brine solution after regeneration, clamp the hose securely and feed it into a floor drain or utility sink. An air gap should be at the end of the drain hose to carry waste water back to the tank. If an overflow tube is necessary, refer to your water softener’s manufacturer instructions for placement. An air gap may also be required for the proper placement of the overflow tube.

How to add salt? 

To add salt to your water softener, start by checking the manufacturer’s instructions. Some water softeners have a built-in salt reservoir, while others need you to add salt to a separate brine tank. Fill the reservoir or tank with the type of salt recommended by the manufacturer. Then, run your softener through a regeneration cycle to remove the minerals from the water.`

How to add salt?

Regeneration of resin beads

Water softeners are essentially water treatment systems. They remove hard minerals from your water, making it softer and easier to drink. But what happens when the water in your softener becomes too soft or reverts to hardened water? This is where regeneration comes in.

Regeneration of resin beads

Regeneration is the process of flushing the hard minerals out of your water softener and replenishing it with fresh, softened water. It’s important to do this on a regular basis, as it will keep your water tasting great and prevent your softener from becoming overloaded.

The frequency with which you need to regenerate your softener will depend on your water usage and how hard your water is. A general rule of thumb is to regenerate once every two weeks or so. But if you find that you’re using more water than usual or that your water is starting to taste salty, it’s time to regenerate sooner.

To regenerate your water softener, simply follow the instructions in your owner’s manual. The process usually involves adding salt to the brine tank and running a cycle. The saturated resin beads will get cleaned, and once the cycle is complete, your water softener will be ready to go again.

Checking salt level in brine tank

If your water softener isn’t working properly, one of the first things you check is the salt level. Over time, the salt in the softener will slowly dissolve and need to be replaced.

To check the salt level, simply remove the lid of the softener and look inside. If you can see salt crystals near the bottom of the tank, then you have enough salt and don’t need to add any. However, if the salt level is low, you’ll need to add more.

Checking salt level

When adding salt to a water softener, it’s important to use the right type of salt. There are three main types of salt used in water softeners: rock salt, solar salt, and salt pellets. Rock salt is less expensive but doesn’t dissolve as quickly as solar salt. Solar salt is more expensive but dissolves faster, making it ideal for use in a water softener. If you want the best results, you can opt for specially made water softener salt pellets that contain no impurities and will be the most efficient. Although salt pellets are more expensive, they also provide better results.

Care and maintenance

If you have a water softener, it’s important to keep it well-maintained in order to prevent any problems. Here are some tips for caring for your water softener:

  • Check the salt level regularly and add more salt if necessary. This will keep the system working properly and prevent any build-up of minerals in the unit.
  • Every few months, flush the system with fresh water to clean out any accumulated sediment.
  • Inspect the device regularly for any signs of leaks or damage. If you notice any problems, call a technician for repairs.
Care and maintenance

By following these simple tips, you get to keep your water softener running smoothly for many years to come.

What should you do if your water softener runs out of salt?

If your water softener runs out of salt, you should add more salt to the system. You can usually purchase salt pellets or blocks at your local hardware store. Using salt with fewer impurities, even if it is more expensive, is better for your water softener. Less expensive salt can lead to problems like salt bridges which decreases the efficiency of your system. 

What should you do if your water softener runs out of salt

Can you unplug the water softener and still use water?

If your water softener is not working properly, you may be tempted to simply unplug it and continue using water from the same source. However, doing so could result in serious damage to your plumbing and appliances. Water untreated with a water softener can cause a build-up of minerals on fixtures and pipes, which can lead to clogs and leaks. In addition, hard water can shorten the lifespan of your dishwashers and washing machines and other appliances that use water. For problems with your water softening system, it is best to call a plumber or water treatment specialist for assistance.

Can you unplug the water softener and still use water

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How many gallons does a water softener use to regenerate?

This can vary depending on different factors. Generally, a water softener uses anywhere from 20 to 80 gallons of water to regenerate. The amount of water it uses depends on the size of the unit and the hardness of the water.

2. Can you bypass water softener during regeneration?

If you have a water softener, you may be wondering if you can bypass the unit during regeneration. Water softeners work by removing minerals from your water supply, which helps to improve the quality of your water. The regeneration process is necessary to remove these minerals from the unit so that they can be replaced with fresh ones.

However, some people choose to bypass their water softener during regeneration in order to save time and money. This is not recommended, as it can lead to problems down the road. Bypassing your water softener during regeneration can cause the unit to become clogged and less effective over time. Additionally, it can also lead to mineral build-up in your pipes, which can eventually cause them to become clogged or damaged.

3. How to reset water softener after adding salt?

If you want to reset your water softener, the below steps should help:

  • Locate the control panel on your water softener. The control panel is generally located near the top of the unit.
  • The “reset” button, labeled “R” or “reset,” makes it easy enough to identify. 
  • The 3-second press and hold before releasing the reset button will work. 
  • Wait for the unit to finish its cycle, and then check the water to see if it’s been softened properly.

4. How often should you run the water softener?

You may need to run your water softener daily, i.e., if the water is very hard. If you have moderately hard water, you may only need to run it every other day or so. You can tell if your water softener needs to be regenerated if the water from your taps is not as soft as usual.

5. When should a water softener be used?

A water softener should be used when the hardness of the water is above 7 grains per gallon (GPG). Hard water leaves mineral deposits on fixtures and plumbing and can make it difficult to get laundry clean. A water softener will remove these minerals, making your water feel softer and your dishes and clothing cleaner.

6. Can you use old water softener?

There are differing opinions on this topic. Some people believe that using an old water softener is perfectly fine, while others believe that it isn’t as effective as it once was. Ultimately, it is a personal choice that will be the deciding factor. If you decide to use an old water softener, be sure to check the unit and its efficiency to ensure it is still good.

A water softener typically lasts for 15 years, but the lifespan is really determined by regular maintenance. Make sure that your brine tank is never depleted of salt, and it will help your water softener last longer. Protecting the resin bed from high levels of iron and manganese will also protect the unit. Iron will foul the resin and lower its ion exchange performance. Resin cleaners can enhance the regeneration cycle and help relieve hard-water particles of minerals. 

Thanks to regular maintenance, the resin can last 10-20 years. However, heavily chlorinated water may exhaust the beads’ ion exchange capacity more quickly than if you have an average amount of chlorine in your water supply. In addition, high levels of sediment in your well water may cause screens or injectors in control valves to break prematurely. To ensure a healthy level of sediment in hard-water areas, it is wise to place a filter ahead of a water softener system before it enters your house pipes. If you live with extremely hard water (over 14 gpg), you’re at risk for premature fatigue or replacement filters.

7. How often should a water softener be serviced?

Water softeners should be serviced at least once a year to keep them working properly. Servicing includes cleaning the brine tank and refreshing the salt supply. If you are unsure how to do this, you can always consult qualified technicians to service your water softener.

8. How to stop water softener regeneration?

There are a few different ways to stop water softener regeneration. One way is to simply turn off the power to the unit. This will prevent the system from running through its cycle and regenerating the resin bed.

Another way to stop regeneration is to disconnect the water supply to the unit. This can be done by shutting off the valve that supplies water to the unit or by disconnecting the inlet hose from the unit.

Finally, you can also disable regeneration by changing the settings on the control panel. Most water-softening units have a setting that allows you to disable regeneration altogether.

If you need to stop water softener regeneration for any reason, one of these methods should work for you. Just turn it back on when you’re ready to start using it again.


The purpose of this article is to teach you how to use a water softener and how to set one up. There are several advantages to using a home water softening system. We have answered the most common questions regarding water softeners. Feel free to send us a mail using the feedback form if you have any questions. We have reviews of various types of water softeners if you are considering buying one.

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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.