You are tired of having hard water at your home, so you have decided to install a water softening system at home. It works perfectly fine, and you love having the soap lather up just right and the absence of stains on your sinks and tubs.

That is until you are about to hit the showers and hear the system regenerating. Or, you might have other chores lined up. So, do you start using water during water softener regeneration, or do you wait until the whole process has ended? Well, that depends on the type and number of tanks you have.

How A Does Water Softener Work?

A water softening system is made up of three parts: a brine tank, a mineral tank, and a control valve. Water enters the mineral tank from the home’s water supply. It is embedded with resin beads charged negatively with sodium ions.

The minerals present in the hard water get attracted to the resin beads or water softening resin and react to cause an ion exchange. Afterward, the beads carry away the particles, leaving behind softened water to be used.

During this moment, the control valve measures the amount of incoming water and tracks the beads’ ability to soften water. When it realizes that the beads are depleted, it will begin a regeneration cycle.

What Happens During The Water Softening Regeneration Process?

The system begins its regeneration process after the beads are no longer capable of continuing the process. This is where the third part of the system, that is, the brine tank, works.

When you add salt to the brine tank, it creates a strong salt-water solution. When the control valve signals for regeneration, the solution flows through the mineral/water tank and starts cleaning the beads. It trades new sodium ions, removing all the hard water minerals.

Once all the beads are rinsed, the brine solution along with the minerals are flushed out to a drain. Your beads are now all ready to start collecting hard water minerals again.

It takes an average of 80-90 minutes, or up to two hours, for a water regeneration cycle. Depending upon the size and the type of your softener system, it may use up to 20 to 25 gallons to even up to 35-65 gallons of water.

Some systems have a reserve capacity of 20-25% before starting the regeneration process. This allows you to do a few small tasks, like flushing, drinking, or cleaning hands.

But while you can use the water during this process, it is recommended not to. This is because the softener automatically enters a bypass mode to allow hard water into the house. So, your water might be untreated, which could cause stains to develop and create build-ups to develop.

How Often Does A Water Softener Regenerate?

This depends on the control valve. It is the brain of the unit which accounts for the incoming volume of the water, amount of the water used, and the softening abilities of the beads. If the beads have reached their limits, they will then begin the process.

The regeneration could happen once a month, once a week, once, or several times a day. You can pre-set a time so that the regeneration happens when everybody is asleep or are not home to use the water.

It could be some time after midnight or in the early mornings. The motor does not run continuously. So, you would hear some noises at a few intervals.

However, non-electric water softeners do not have pre-set times. It could happen at any moment in the day, and you will only know because of low water pressure, the lack of lather, and the development of stains.

You can buy an electric timer device to attach to the system. This would enable you to program the process to run at a pre-determined time, thus transforming it into an electric system.

It would cost you a couple of hundred dollars which is not worth it because you could have saved yourself a lot of trouble and money by buying an electric one in the first place.

What Happens When The Water Softener Runs Out Of Salt?

If the system runs out of salt, then the regeneration process will be redundant. It will not rinse the beads, so they will not be able to soften the water. The outcoming water will be as hard as it when it went it, still containing magnesium and calcium minerals.

If hard water travels out of the tank, it will clog up the pipes and reduce your water pressure. You will notice other signs right away.

How To Check The Amount Of Remaining Salt In The Softener?

To make the concentrated salt-water solution in the brine tank, you must have enough salt. But it should be just the right amount, not too much nor too little. If you have too much, it will harden the regenerant, and if it is too little, there will not be enough for adequate hardness reduction.

Set up a reminder to check the salt now and then. Remove the lid and if you notice the amount is underneath the halfway mark, add more pellets. Break up all encrusted sides or hardened bits.

Stop when the amount has reached the halfway mark, as adding more would not be only unnecessary but also cause solidification. You would need to do this once or twice a month. Just locate your brine tank, remove the lid, and top up.

One full 40lb bag of salt would be enough to last you a while, but that depends on how much water you use and how many members you have in the house.

Another thing to remember is that your brine tank should never be filled. And the salt line should be a few inches below the waterline. A full tank is a sign of egress blocking. When this happens, and the injector is jammed, it will not be able to move the brine.

Factors That Affect A Water Softener’s Performance

If you notice that you are still getting hard water out of the tap despite installing a softener, here are some factors to look out for.

Salt Build Up

During the regeneration process, the brine water and hard water minerals are flushed out into a nearby drain. And while it cleans up the mineral tank, not all salt deposits get cleared away. The excessive salt build-up may also happen in the brine tank.

And if proper maintenance does not happen, it can affect the performance. At the same time, salt bridges can also cause problems. It can inhibit water flow, and you would have to manually break them up to restore it.

Resin Quality

While the regeneration process rinses out the beads to start softening water again, they eventually out over time. This may happen even with proper care and maintenance. So, they would need to entirely be replaced, or the water softener will not function even if everything works okay.


Motors tend to be ineffective when they have reached their working threshold. To increase efficiency and performance, you would need to have it changed.


Hard water can clog up pretty much anything, and it will clog up the filter that keeps the minerals out. So, you would need to clean out the tanks and filters. Cleaning the water softener tanks once a year should be enough.

Final Words

And there you have it. A word of advice would be to read the instruction manuals so that you know the ins and outs of your water softening system.

And while the system reserves a small amount of water, we recommend not using water during water softener regeneration as you will be letting in untreated hard water. The best thing would be to wait for it to finish doing its work, and you will be all good to go.