Should My Water Softener Be On Bypass Or Service?

In the case of a water softener, it’s best to keep it either in service or on bypass depending on what you need from your system. When in service, the softener will remove minerals like calcium and magnesium from your home’s water supply. This will improve taste and odor as well as reduce scale build-up inside pipes, heaters, and other fixtures. When on bypass, the unit will not affect water chemistry at all – meaning it won’t soften your water or remove minerals. This could be beneficial if you don’t want to add extra salts to your water or if you’re travelling for a period of time and don’t need softened water. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. Make sure to check with your owner’s manual and consult a professional if you’re unsure of which option is best for your system.

A water softener should be in service position when you want to soften water by removing dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium. In this position, the softener will remove these minerals from your water supply, making it softer overall.

Bypass position is primarily used when you don’t want to use the water softener or when it needs to be serviced. Bypass position divert the water supply and does not use the softener to soften the water.

What Is A Water Softener Bypass Valve And What Is It For?

What Is A Water Softener Bypass Valve And What Is It For
A Water Softener Bypass Valve

A water softener bypass valve is a type of valve that allows for the flow of water to go around, or bypass, the water softener. This enables you to choose whether you want your water softener to be in service or not. The bypass valve offers several benefits, such as allowing you to temporarily shut off your water softener while you use another water softener or when the water softener needs to be serviced. It also allows for a more efficient use of your water by allowing some areas of your home to receive softened water, while others do not.

Which Mode Should A Water Softener Normally Be In, “Bypass” Or “Service”?

Generally speaking, the water softener should be in the service mode. This is because this allows it to work as intended, by removing minerals from your home’s water supply which would otherwise cause damage and buildup over time. In the bypass mode, water is not softened but instead bypasses the unit completely so that no cleaning or filtering occurs at all.

The bypass mode should only be used if the water softener needs to be temporarily shut off in order to repair or replace a part, or if you are leaving your home for an extended period of time and don’t want the unit to run while you’re away. Switching back to service mode is always recommended once any maintenance is complete and you are returning to your home.

When Should A Water Softener Be In “Bypass” Mode?

  • When there is a leak: If a water softener is leaking, it should be put into bypass mode. This will stop the water flow and prevent any further damage to the unit.
  • When your water softener brine tank is overflowing: If your water softener brine tank is overflowing, it could be an indication that the system needs servicing. This is typically caused by a malfunction in the timer, which could mean other issues with your water softener. If this happens, you should shut off the bypass valve and call a professional to inspect and repair the system as soon as possible.
  • When you are having plumbing work done before water softener:It is important to determine whether your water softener should be on bypass or in service. It depends on the nature of the work you are having done and where it is located in relation to your plumbing system. If the work being done is within the same loop as your water softener, then it should remain on service. However, if the work is being done in a different loop or on a different branch line, it’s best to put your water softener in bypass mode.
  • When you are having any work done to your well: a new pump, pressure tank, control box, or water softener, it’s important to understand if the unit should be on bypass or service. When a system is “on bypass” the water does not go through the device but still goes back into your house. In this case no filtration or treatment of any kind is taking place. When it is “in service” the water goes through the device for filtration or treatment as designed.
  • When your water softener is being serviced: If your water softener is in the process of being serviced, it should remain in a “bypass” state. This means that the unit will not be actively removing calcium and magnesium from the water supply. During this time, you may experience slightly harder water than usual until the unit is back in service.

When you want to use “Un-softened” water: If you are using the water for a specific purpose that requires un-softened water (such as to clean a fish tank or fill an aquarium) then you should put your water softener in bypass mode. This will prevent any of the softened water from entering your pipes, and instead provide only un-softened, raw tap water. You should be sure to remember to switch your water softener back into “service” mode once you are finished with your task.

Common Problems You May Experience When Your Water Softener Is In The “Bypass” Mode.

  • Hard water staining: Without the softening process, hard water can leave mineral deposits and white streaks on sinks, showers, and other fixtures.
  • Iron staining: Iron can cause orange, brown or yellow staining of surfaces in your home. If you think iron is the culprit for the stains on your fixtures and appliances, you should have it tested first to determine what type of iron might be present. If it is determined that there is too much iron, then a water softener may be able to help reduce the staining and improve the aesthetics of your home.
    Iron staining
    Iron staining
  • Hard mineral build-up in your plumbing: When your water softener is in bypass mode you can experience hard mineral build-up in your plumbing. This is because the water softener isn’t able to filter out minerals like calcium and magnesium, resulting in them staying in the water. Over time these minerals can accumulate and cause build-up, leading to poor water pressure or a clogged showerhead and other fixtures.
  • Dry skin: When water softener is in bypass mode it can also cause dry skin . This is because soft water can help moisturize the skin and make it feel softer. It can also help reduce the amount of soap scum that builds up on the skin, which can lead to dryness and itching.
    Dry skin
    Dry skin
  • Stringy hair: Hard water can make it difficult to rinse all the shampoo out of your hair and may leave you with a stringy feeling. By using softened water, your hair will be cleaner and less tangled.
  • Clogging shower heads: Clogged shower head also indicates that the water softener is not in service. Hard water causes lime scale build up and mineral deposits which can clog your shower head and reduce its efficiency over time.
  • Soap and detergents are less effective: Bypass mode can make soap and detergents are less effective. Hard water interferes with soap and detergents ability to lather up, making it difficult to clean. That’s why cleaning dishes or clothes can be a challenge when using hard water. If you’re noticing that your soap and detergent don’t seem to be working properly, it’s time to switch your water softener back into service mode.
  • Dingy clothing: Dingy clothing is a common sign of hard water. Hard water can cause soap and minerals to be left behind on clothes after washing, resulting in dull and dingy clothing. If you’re noticing this happening with your laundry, it’s time to put your water softener into service or give it an extra boost with a salt addition.

What Happens When A Water Softener Is In The “Service” Mode?

  • No hard water or iron staining: When in the service mode, your water softener removes all magnesium and calcium from your water. This helps create softer feeling skin and hair, as well as a cleaner taste from your drinking water. Additionally, the lack of minerals prevents hard water deposits and staining by iron on fixtures or clothing caused by washing machines.
  • Soap lathers better: Hard water interferes with the soap’s ability to lather, resulting in poor cleaning. Softening your water will improve the quality of your wash and make it easier for soap to lather.

It extends the life of pipes: Water hardness or scale build-up can damage both metal and plastic piping over time. Softening your water can reduce the amount of scale buildup, allowing your pipes to last longer.

  • Smoother skin: Hard water can cause your skin to dry out, leaving it feeling rough and uncomfortable. That’s why many people prefer a softener to keep their skin hydrated and smooth.
  • Hair has more body: Hard water means dull, dry hair. Softened water helps keep your hair looking shiny and healthy by reducing the amount of mineral buildup that can weigh down your strands.
  • Cleaner cloths: Softener improves the feel of your clothes. The minerals in hard water can cause soap residue to remain on your laundry and lead to a dingy look, as well as added wear and tear. With softened water, you’ll notice brighter colors, fewer wrinkles, and softer fabrics that last longer.

How To Bypass Water Softener?

How To Bypass Water Softener
Bypass Water Softener

1. Shut off the water supply to the softener and disconnect the inlet and outlet pipes on either side of it.

2. Connect the inlet pipe directly to the outlet pipe with a temporary bypass hose or elbow fitting, making sure there are no leaks in the connection.

3. Turn on the water supply to fill the bypass line and check for any leaks.

4. After confirming there are no leaks, turn off the water supply again.

5. Turn on the power to the softener unit, if it has an electric motor.

6. Set the bypass valve position to “bypass” mode, if applicable.

7. Turn on the water supply once again to confirm that the bypass system is working correctly.

Can I Regenerate My Water Softener In Bypass Mode

No, your water softener should not be placed in bypass mode for regeneration. Bypass mode allows the hard water to bypass the tank and flow directly into the house, allowing it to mix with the softened water from your system. However, this may create scale build-up on fixtures and appliances that require softened water. In order to regenerate the system, it must be placed into service mode in order to allow the brine solution to pass through and soften the hard water. Once the regeneration is finished, switch back to service mode for optimal efficiency. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that if you’re using a water softener with an electric timer, you should also check its settings to make sure it’s appropriate for your water usage. This will ensure that the softener regeneration is effective and timely.


Is well water always hard?

No, not necessarily. The hardness of the water depends on various factors such as its source and its composition. Hard water usually comes from sources such as rivers and lakes, while soft water typically originates from wells or springs.

Should there be water in water softener brine tank?

Yes, the brine tank for a water softener should always contain water. This is because the salt that was added to the tank during installation dissolves in the water and creates the salty solution (brine) which is necessary for the regeneration process that softens your water. If there is no water in the brine tank, the salt will not dissolve and your water softener won’t be able to do its job.

What happens if you unplug the water softener?

Unplugging your water softener should not be done. Unless you are performing maintenance on it, unplugging your water softener will cause the unit to stop functioning and could potentially void any warranties that come with the product.

What causes a water softener to malfunction?

Hard water can cause damage to many of your home’s appliances, pipes, and fixtures. When calcium or magnesium accumulate in the plumbing system due to hard water, a buildup can occur which may cause clogs and blockages. To prevent this from happening, you should have a water softener installed to help reduce these minerals from entering your home’s water supply.

Can a water softener be bypassed permanently?

It is possible to run a water softener on bypass permanently, but it’s not recommended. If you do so, the hardness of the water will remain unchanged and you won’t get any of the benefits that a water softener provides. Additionally, should your unit be damaged or require repairs in future, those repairs may not be covered by your warranty as running the water softener on bypass may void it.

How often should a water softener be serviced?

Generally speaking, a water softener should be serviced every 3-5 years. This includes checking the brine tank for sediment buildup, replacing the resin beads, and performing any needed maintenance or repairs. If there are problems with hard water in between service intervals, some people will place the unit on bypass to temporarily stop it from working until it can be serviced. This can help protect the unit from damage caused by hard water while it is not in use. However, if left in bypass mode for too long, the unit may need to be completely replaced as it could become corroded and damaged beyond repair.


When it comes to determining whether your water softener should be on bypass or service, the answer isn’t as simple as just one or the other. The decision depends on a variety of factors such as how much hard water is in your area and what type of system you have installed. In general though, if you live in an area with significant hard water, keeping your water softener in service mode is the best option for ensuring you have clean and softened water. If your area’s hardness levels are lower or if you use an emergency system, then bypass mode may be a better choice.

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