Water softeners all need to regenerate regularly to help keep them functioning properly and people often worry that they will be using hard water during this process. So what exactly is the regeneration cycle for and can you still use the water during this time?

The hard water in your home passes through the resin bed of your water softener, which is where the ion exchange takes place. The hard minerals become trapped in the resin, therefore softening the water.

This means that the resin needs to be cleaned regularly of these hard minerals, to keep it functioning. The system will do this by itself, automatically, by clicking into regeneration mode and bypassing your water for that period of time.

When the system goes into regeneration mode, it cleans the minerals from the resin by flooding it with salt water, flushing all of this down your drain, meaning the system is all ready to run again and continue keeping your water soft.

The regeneration cycle of an electric water softener normally happens daily, but depends on your water hardness and level of usage, and can take between one to two hours. Most systems will engage in this process in the middle of the night, to avoid disrupting the family’s water needs and run the cycle automatically, so there is no need for you to worry about it. Up to 80 litres of water may be used in theregeneration process.

The non- electric Kinetico system works on demand so it regenerates when you have used up a certain amount of water ensuring that you always have optimum softened water. If you go on holiday, this doesn’t regenerate so no water is used, whereas the electric ones will continue to regenerate on a daily basis irrespective of whether any water has been used or not. The regeneration time in the non-electric Kinetico machine is 11 minutes and only 21 litres of water are used.

So can you use water during this time? Well, the short answer is yes. Most water softeners are designed to carry a reserve, so you won’t run out of soft water completely, before it starts to regenerate.

Most systems will keep a certain number of gallons in capacity, which you can continue to use while the regeneration cycle is running. Generally your tank will have a whole day’s worth of soft water in reserve, when it decides to regenerate.

So you can still use the water to drink, wash etc… as normal and as most systems are set to regenerate in the middle of the night it really shouldn’t cause too many issues. If you have problems with how often your system is regenerating, or how long it is taking, then it’s worth calling out a specialist engineer to take a look at the system.

If you have an electric softener and a hot water storage tank in the loft, it is advisable not to use the hot water if you can avoid it during the regeneration process, because you will be filling up your hot water heater with hard water while the softener is regenerating. This is because, during the regeneration cycle, the water bypasses the softener system, so you will be putting hard water into your system which could cause damage.

This is the other reason the regeneration cycle of the electric softeners tends to be programmed to happen in the middle of the night, so people are highly unlikely to be looking to have a shower, or run the washing machine at that time. Of course, with a non-electric softener this isn’t relevant as the machine automatically switches to the second tank on demand.

Once your system has regenerated, then you can start using the hot water again as normal safe in the knowledge that you won’t be filling your appliances with harmful hard water which could cause damage and pipe blockages.