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    August 03, 2020 6 min read

    Can You Shower When Your Water Softener Is Regenerating?

    shower when water softener regeneratingSo you installed a new water softener and now you're wondering: Can I use water while my softener is regenerating?

    Most water softeners are pre-set so that they regenerate (aka, clean itself) at night. This typically happens between 2 am - 4 am when it's assumed that most homeowners won't be using water. During regeneration, the softener is automatically put in bypass mode. In bypass mode, the softener allows hard water to enter the home if any tap is turned on. Once the softener has regenerated, water is again directed through the resin bed to be softened. Your water softener works on a pressurized system. You don't want to be running water anywhere else in the house when your water softener is regenerating. If you do it will pull water away from going through the softener.

    So, can you take a shower when your water softener is regenerating? You can shower while your water softener is regenerating but you may experience low water pressure. If your water softener is an electric, single tank system, the water in your shower will be untreated hard water, so don’t expect the soft soapy lather that you are used to

    What happens when a water softener regenerates?

    In order to properly answer this question, we really need to understand what exactly is happening during the regeneration process, and what happens to your water if you choose to take a shower while your water softener is regenerating.

    hard water on shower fixtureIf your home has hard water — water with a high mineral content of calcium and magnesium — as many homes do, you are no doubt familiar with its downsides. Does this sound familiar - spotty glasses, soap that doesn’t lather, dry skin, dull hair, stains on porcelain and scum build-up around faucets and pipes? This is why so many homeowners have chosen to use a water softener, and save themselves from the headaches of hard water. Regeneration is when your water softener goes through the process of turning hard water into soft water.

    Most water softeners go through 5 cycles during regeneration:

    1. Hard water enters your water softener and then filters down through the ion exchange resin where the ion exchange occurs.
    2. During the ion-exchange process, hard water minerals such as calcium and magnesium exchange with the resin bed for an equal amount of sodium (salt). In other words, this is where the calcium magnesium is taken off the water.
    3. After the ion exchange is done a brine solution is dispersed where it drains the calcium magnesium out.
    4. Then, the softener goes through one final flush to get rid of any traces of calcium magnesium that might be left.
    5. Finally, the water reaches the bottom of the tank where it is softened and ready to use.


    When traditional single tank water softeners start their regeneration cycle, the system will use water separately from the water going into the home. The water that is bypassed from going through the system will be water straight from your water source. Hardness, iron or any other issues that your water softening system usually addresses will go untreated. So any water that you use when the softener is in its regeneration mode will be replaced with untreated, hard water along with iron if there is iron in your water as well.

    If you're showering with hot water while a single tank water softener is regenerating, you will be using the hot water from your hot water boiler tank, and then your hot water boiler tank will be re-filled with untreated, hard water.

    What happens if you use water while a water softener is regenerating?

    water pressure low

    If you've done it in the past, this is what happens. At the beginning of an electric water softeners regeneration process, the water softener will bypass itself so any water that you use during this time will not be softened. So if you have hard water or iron in your water, you can expect the water to feel hard during your shower and you may get hard water stains on your fixtures

    If you have a non-electric water softener, the biggest problem is you will not know when the system will go into its regeneration cycle. Many people complain that the water pressure in the shower can drop considerably because of their non-electric system going into its regeneration while they are showering. This is because a non-electric water softener does not know what time it is and will only regenerate when the usage of water triggers it into its regeneration process.

    If the water pressure in your home is poor, there is a solution for this unpredictable regenerating of a non-electric water softener but it’s not cheap and there are reports of problems with it. Buy an electric timer device that can be attached to the system, in essence, transforming it into an electric water softener. With this timing device, the non-electric water softener can be programmed to regenerate at a pre-determined time, just like a traditional electric water softener. The timer usually costs a couple hundred dollars and pretty much turns the non-electric water softener into an electric water softener that you could have got in the first place and probably for much less money.

    If you find that your electric water softener is regenerating when you regularly take a shower, make sure the clock is set correctly, as it should be regenerating around 2 am when there is no water being used.

    Protect your water boiler!

    If your water softener were to regenerate while you were using water, then your hot water heater will start to fill up with hard water, followed by a series of hard water problems, like white scaling on your appliances and counters. 

    One of the leading causes of poor boiler performance is improper water treatment. Improper water treatment, or not treating your boiler water at all, can cause irreversible boiler tube damage called scaling. To avoid scaling, boiler water should always be circulated through a water softener before it is fed to the boiler. A water softener removes hard water minerals, like calcium and magnesium, which can cause scaling and damage in the boiler tubes. Scale deposits can prevent proper heat transfer, decrease boiler efficiency, and lead to costly downtime and even premature boiler failure. 

    Inside the pipes, limescale deposits not only block up the pipes and prevent the smooth flow of steam and water, they can also cause issues with thermal conduction. Again, this will mean that your boiler has to work hardercosting you more in fuel bills. In addition, calcium carbonate can build up inside the radiator. This means that your radiators will develop cold spots, and your home will feel colder.

    How can I change what time my water softener regenerates? 

    timer on water softenerDepending on which brand and model water softener that you have, programming the regeneration time could be simple or complicated. It’s also a good idea to become familiar with your water softener manual. At least be aware of when and how to perform periodic maintenance and how to troubleshoot should it fail to regenerate properly.

    A simple tip for changing what time your water softener regenerates is to simply set the clock to make the water softener regenerate when you want it to.

    For example: If you want the softener to regenerate 2 hours later, set the clock back 2 hours. If you want it to regenerate 4 hours earlier, set the clock ahead 4 hours, it’s that easy.

    How long does a water softener take to regenerate?

    While a water softener is in the process of regenerating, it is in "bypass" mode. This means that while your softener is going through its series of cycles as described above (about 2 hours).

    However, just because your softener is automatically set to cycle until 2 a.m. does not mean that you will get hard water once you have run out of soft water. Most softeners have a reserve capacity setting to prevent this from happening.

    For example, if your water softener is capable of producing 1,000 gallons of soft water, it may be programmed to have 200 of those gallons in reserve. So, when your water softener has produced 800 gallons, it will be triggered to regenerate that night.

    This means that if you reach your maximum capacity of 800 gallons and you have just taken your morning shower at 6 a.m., you will still have a whole day's worth of soft water (200 gallons) in reserve so that you don't get hard water while your softener waits to regenerate.

    As always, if you feel that your water softener is not functioning properly, it’s important to call your qualified water softener professional to take a look. 


    It’s also a good idea to become familiar with your water softener manual.  If you find that you suddenly have a drop in water pressure or notice hard water coming through your tap, check to see if your water softener is regenerating. Still have questions? Give us experts at Aquatell a call and let's troubleshoot together!