How To Bypass a Water Softener? [Comprehensive Guide]

Water softeners are a boon for homes dealing with hard water issues, but there may be instances when you want to bypass the system temporarily.

Whether you’re performing maintenance, need untreated water for a specific task, or facing any other reason, knowing how to bypass a water softener can be a handy skill. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process in an easy-to-follow manner.

Why Would You Want To Bypass Your Water Softener?

Bypassing your water softener can be necessary for various reasons, each serving a specific purpose:

Maintenance and Cleaning: Regular maintenance is crucial for the optimal performance of your water softener.

Bypassing allows you to shut off water flow to the softener, making it easier to perform tasks like cleaning the resin tank, checking for salt bridging, or addressing any issues without water continuously flowing through the system.

Preserving System Lifespan: Extended periods of inactivity or shutdown can put stress on the water softener’s components. Bypassing the system when it’s not in use for an extended time, such as during vacations, can help prolong its overall lifespan by reducing wear and tear.

Using Untreated Water for Specific Tasks: While soft water is excellent for many household tasks, some activities benefit from the use of untreated water.

For instance, watering plants, filling a swimming pool, or washing a car may not require softened water, and bypassing the softener allows you to conserve softened water for essential household needs.

Use a Water Softener Bypass Valve

A water softener bypass valve is a key component that facilitates the redirection of water flow, providing a convenient and efficient way to temporarily disable the softening process. There are several types of bypass valves, each with its unique characteristics:

The Top Types of Bypass Valves

A Turning Handle or Knob

Description: This type of bypass valve is user-friendly and often found in many water softener systems. It typically features a handle or knob that you can turn either clockwise or counterclockwise to engage the bypass mode.

Advantages: Easy to operate with a clear tactile indication of the valve’s position. Suitable for users of all ages and skill levels.

Use Case: Ideal for households where simplicity is preferred, and individuals want a straightforward method for bypassing the water softener.

A Button

Description: Bypass valves with a button design involve a simple press mechanism. Pressing the button redirects water flow away from the water softener, and a noticeable click or pop often accompanies the engagement of bypass mode.

Advantages: Compact and convenient design, making it suitable for smaller water softener systems. The button provides a clear indication of when the valve is in bypass mode.

Use Case: Commonly found in modern, space-saving water softener units where a streamlined design is essential.

A Lever

Description: Lever-style bypass valves use a lever that you move to shift the water flow. It’s a durable and reliable design that provides a clear visual indication when the valve is in bypass mode.

Advantages: Sturdy construction, often made of durable materials. Offers a quick and definitive way to redirect water flow around the water softener.

Use Case: Suitable for those who prefer a more robust and tactile approach to valve operation, often found in larger or commercial water softening systems.

Understanding the advantages and use cases of each bypass valve type helps users choose the one that best fits their preferences and needs. Whether you prioritize simplicity, compactness, or durability, there’s a bypass valve design to suit your requirements.

Operating Your Water Softener Bypass Valves

Once you’ve identified the type of bypass valve your water softener employs, understanding how to operate each one is crucial for effectively redirecting water flow. Here’s a detailed look at the operation of the three main types:

The Handle Bypass Valve


Locate the Handle or Knob: Find the turning handle or knob, usually situated on or near the water softener unit.

Determine Bypass Position: Check for indicators or markings that denote the bypass position. It might be labeled with terms like “Bypass” or have arrows indicating the direction to turn.

Turn Clockwise or Counterclockwise: Depending on your specific model, turn the handle either clockwise or counterclockwise until you feel it click into place. The click signifies that the water flow has been successfully redirected around the water softener.


Always turn the handle slowly and steadily to ensure a proper seal and prevent any potential leaks.

If there’s resistance or the handle doesn’t turn smoothly, consult your water softener’s manual or contact the manufacturer for guidance.

The Button Bypass Valve


Locate the Button: Identify the bypass valve with a button, typically found on the front panel of the water softener.

Press the Button: Firmly press the button until you hear or feel a click, indicating that the valve has shifted into bypass mode.

Check for Confirmation: Some button bypass valves have visual indicators or lights to confirm the engagement of bypass mode. Verify that the system is now bypassing the water softener.


Ensure that you press the button firmly, as a half-pressed button may not fully engage the bypass mode.

If the button feels stuck or unresponsive, refrain from using excessive force and seek professional assistance.

The Lever Bypass Valve


Locate the Lever: Find the lever, often positioned prominently on the bypass valve assembly.

Move the Lever: Shift the lever to the designated bypass position. This may involve moving it horizontally or vertically, depending on the specific design of your water softener.

Confirm the Shift: Check for any visual indicators or markings that confirm the successful transition into bypass mode. Some systems may have a clear visual cue when the lever is in the correct position.


Be attentive to the lever’s movement and make sure it securely clicks or locks into the bypass position.

If the lever feels loose or doesn’t stay in place, consult the user manual or contact the manufacturer for assistance.

Understanding the nuances of operating your water softener’s bypass valves ensures a smooth transition between normal operation and bypass mode, allowing you to address maintenance tasks or utilize untreated water for specific purposes with confidence.

Regularly checking and familiarizing yourself with these valves will contribute to the overall efficiency and longevity of your water softener system.

Bypass Your Water Softener Using a 3-Valve Bypass Method

When your water softener system incorporates a 3-valve bypass setup, the process involves a series of steps to redirect water flow. This method is particularly common in larger or more complex softener systems. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

Locate the Valves of Your Water Softener


Inlet and Outlet Valves: Identify the inlet and outlet hoses on your water softener. These are usually located on or near the unit.

Bypass Valve: Locate the third valve, which is the bypass valve. This valve allows you to control whether water flows through the softener or bypasses it.

Close the Inlet and Outlet Valves


Turn Off Inlet Valve: Rotate the handle or knob of the inlet valve clockwise to close it. This valve controls the water entering the softener.

Turn Off Outlet Valve: Similarly, turn the outlet valve handle clockwise to close it. This valve regulates the water leaving the softener.


Closing both the inlet and outlet valves stops the flow of water through the water softener, isolating it from the main water supply.

Open the Bypass Valve


Locate Bypass Valve Handle or Lever: Identify the handle or lever of the bypass valve.

Turn or Move to Bypass Position: Rotate the handle or move the lever to the bypass position. This action redirects water flow around the water softener.


Opening the bypass valve allows water to bypass the water softener unit, ensuring that untreated water enters your plumbing system.

Reset the Valves


Open Inlet and Outlet Valves: Rotate the handles of the inlet and outlet valves counterclockwise to reopen them.

Close Bypass Valve: If your bypass valve has a specific position for “closed,” return the handle or lever to this position.


Resetting the valves allows water to resume its normal flow through the water softener when needed. It restores the softening process.


Bypassing your water softener is a straightforward and valuable skill, whether for maintenance or specific tasks. The method you choose depends on your softener’s design, but all options aim to temporarily divert water flow.

By understanding the type of bypass button and following the appropriate steps, you can efficiently manage your water softener system.


Can I leave my water softener in bypass mode for an extended period?

It’s best to use bypass mode temporarily. Extended use might affect your water quality.

How often should I bypass my water softener for maintenance?

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, but an annual check is a good practice.

Will bypassing the softener save on salt usage?

Bypassing the softener doesn’t affect salt usage. It redirects water but doesn’t change the softening process.

What if I encounter issues during the bypass process?

If you face difficulties or uncertainties, refer to your water softener’s manual or contact the manufacturer for guidance. Avoid forcing any valves to prevent damage.

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