Water Softener Regeneration: What Is It And How Often To Do It?

We independently review everything we recommend. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn More.
Water Softener Regeneration What Is It And How Often To Do It

A water softener is efficient for dealing with hard water since it can strip out the calcium and magnesium that cause the problem. Most water softeners employ a regeneration process along with the softening process. This article will cover how exactly does a water softener go through its regenerative cycle? and how often should a water softener regenerate?

What Is Regeneration On A Water Softener? 

Water softener regeneration is the process through which ion exchange water softeners flush out the calcium and magnesium minerals in hard water so the system can continue to soften new water as it flows through the media tank. 

Salt-based softeners use a process called ion exchange. When hard water passes through your water softener, ions of calcium and magnesium in the water are replaced with sodium ions. This process takes place in the resin bed. For this system to be effective, your water softener needs to cleanse the resin bed of the harsh minerals when it becomes saturated.

How does water softener regeneration work?

There are five main phases to the regeneration process of a water softener, including sending salt brine onto the resin beads to efficiently wash away the built-up hardness minerals. The five phases are:

  1. Filling: The water softener comes complete with a brine tank for sodium or potassium pellets. To start the regeneration process, water will be poured straight into the storage container, dissolving the sodium and creating a brine solution. A brine solution must be used for the water to remove the hardness minerals that have built up on the resin beads.
  2. Brining: At the brining stage, the salty solution is transferred to the resin tank, where the tiny beads of resin are stored. Here is where the hardness minerals are absorbed by the salt brine.
  3. Brine Rinsing: The brine valve will automatically close once the required brine solution has been utilized in the regeneration process. Once past this point, the water will proceed along its original course, minus the salty brine solution. The resin tank is connected to a neighboring drain, where the minerals and brine can be properly discharged.
  4. Backwashing: During this regeneration phase, water is pumped into the huge resin tank at a higher pressure and flow rate. This is done to remove any remaining sediments, iron, or dirt.
  5. Fast Rinsing: After the backwash is finished, the resin tank will undergo a fast rinse, which consists of a rapid downpour of water. Brine that has settled around the tank’s base will be swept up by the water and carried through the resin beads, where it will remain trapped. This step must be finished before the water softener may resume the normal softening process.

The regeneration cycle is typically set up during the initial water softener installation process. However, it may need to be reprogrammed after power outages depending on the model.

How Often Should A Water Softener Regenerate?

Generally, a water softener regeneration should occur every 10 to 14 days or after a predetermined number of gallons of water is used. Less efficient systems may regenerate about once a week, while more efficient systems can cycle every day to keep the resin bed active.

Depending on the type of water softener, it may be set to automatically regenerate at specified intervals. If your water softener has this feature, it also has a control module that lets you set the interval. The system will typically start this process in the early morning hours when water is not being used.

Regeneration in other systems occurs in response to user demand. To minimize disruptions, the system will need to renew more frequently the more water your home uses. If it regenerates on demand, the owner’s manual will shed some light on the frequency with which this occurs.

Water Softener Regeneration Steps Diagram
Regeneration Cycle Process

There are various factors that influence when your water softener has to be regenerated:

To know the exact softener you need, see our guide on calculating the optimal water softener size.

How Long Does It Take For A Water Softener To Regenerate? 

The water softener regeneration procedure differs with different tank capacities. The system can take anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours to regenerate. Water softener cycles are set depending on factors like water hardness and the amount of water used. 

The water softener has a 20% to 25% reserve capacity before regenerating, which implies that it does so at a saturation level of 75% to 80% for the resin beads filled with hardness minerals.

Most water softeners can automatically regenerate between 2:00 and 4:00 in the morning when no one is using water.

How Much Water Is Needed For Regeneration?

On average, a family of four’s water softener will use between 35 and 65 gallons of water during regeneration. To complete the regeneration process, the motor will not run continuously but instead go through a series of starts and stops, which is why you may have heard noises during the night.

In addition, the quantity of water required for softener regeneration varies with the hardness of the water being treated. Some softeners may use as much as 25 gallons of water during the regeneration process. You may be concerned about the amount of water used, but using hard water leads to costly repairs with appliances.

Can You Run Water While Softener Is Regenerating? 

While it’s possible to use the water supply while a softener is regenerating, doing so may have unintended consequences. This is especially if you have a single tank system and the hard water is frequently used during the regeneration process.

On the other hand, most water softeners are constructed to contain a reserve to ensure that you will not run out of soft water before the system regenerates. Typically, systems will maintain a number of gallons capacity so you can continue to use them during the regeneration cycle.

Lastly, some softener systems contain a bypass valve that allows you to service or regenerated the water system without disrupting the water flow to the home.

How To Setup Your Water Softener Regeneration Process?

Water Softener Regeneration_How to setup regeneration cycle
Regeneration Cycle Setup

The system will contain the settings panel on the control valve. Depending on the age of the device, the control panel may feature buttons and digital displays. Some systems even come with Bluetooth-enabled smartphone apps to monitor the cycles right from your phone. Make sure to read the owner’s manual for initial setup and adjustments like increasing the frequency of the regeneration cycle.

Typically, these intervals are set anywhere from once to seven times per week. These time windows should be fine unless the water is still really hard. You can tweak the controls to soften the water more if it is too hard.

How To Stop Water Softener Regeneration Process?

When you don’t want your water softener to regenerate, you can quickly stop it from doing so by “bypassing” it. This means that no water will flow through the softener, but water will still be available to other home parts.

Bypassing your water softener will circumnavigate the system, which means it won’t use any salt or waste any water. However, it only sometimes ensures that your water softener won’t try to regenerate.

How Do I Know If My Water Softener Is Regenerating? 

You can only tell if your softener is regenerating correctly by testing the water’s softness. Other tell-tale signs your water softener is not working include:

  • The brine tank is empty
  • Scale buildup on appliances and fixtures
  • Water spotting on dishes
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Dull looking laundry

In rare cases, your softener can get stuck in regeneration mode. The most frequent cause is a clogged connection within the system. Check the drain line from the brine tank and the main drain valve. Also, check the venturi valve in the control head.

Why Trust Freshnss?

Ricky is the founder of Freshnss and product reviewer specializing in water filtration, home, and kitchen products. For this review, he worked with our water review board of experts. And also with our network of industry professionals who offered water softener regeneration insights. Next, he researched today’s best water softener systems, considering dozens of options from various merchants and retailers. He reviewed the regeneration cycles, how often to regenerate, and water flow rate. He has also tested and re-tested some of our top picks, and looked for filtration companies for new home water treatment options worth trying.

      Enable registration in settings - general