What is the soft water regeneration process?

Sep 30, 2020 | Service & Technical

It all sounds extremely complicated, doesn’t it? And you might be excused for thinking that it requires you, as the owner of the water softener, to do a lot of tricky, fiddly stuff to enable the process to take place.
But you can relax. For whilst the regeneration process is a pivotal part of how a water softener functions, it isn’t anything that should worry you.

Why does my water softener regenerate?

Firstly, it is important to understand why your water softener needs to regenerate regularly. The reason is that all the time that water is flowing through the softener, the resin contained in it is picking up all those hard minerals in the water. It is at this point that calcium and magnesium ions are replaced with sodium ions – to ensure the water turns from hard to soft. But the resin can only collect a certain amount of these hard minerals before the resin bed is saturated.

At this point, your water softener is ready for regeneration – to ensure that hard minerals continue to be removed and don’t overwhelm your soft water system.

Beyond this, regular water softener regeneration improves the lifespan of your equipment, helping to maximise its functionality.

Now follows the technical part!

How does water softener regeneration work?

Brine Draw

Regeneration starts with brine, or salt water, being drawn from the brine tank and into the resin bed, which flows through the resin and triggers what’s known as ‘reverse ion exchange’ – the switch from hard calcium and magnesium ions into soft sodium ions.  

This replenishes the resin bed with salt, removing any unwanted hard minerals that have accumulated. It takes about 30 minutes.


The resin in the bed is then given a slow rinse, whilst the ion exchange process is completed. This lasts about 20 minutes. This is followed by a fast rinse cycle, to get rid of any surplus brine or compounds that may be present.  The resin is now ready once again for the next service cycle. This can take up to about 45 minutes to complete.

The Refill Cycle

Finally, the brine tank refills with water containing the requisite amount of salt, so that it is ready once more for the next brine draw cycle.

How much water is used during regeneration?

This will largely depend on the hardness of the water, but typically your softener should use about 20 gallons of water during regeneration. This may sound like a lot, but it pales into insignificance compared to the amount of water that you would waste using hard water in your home, not to mention the potential damage this can cause to your household appliances that rely on water flow. In fact, the water softeners we sell are extremely water efficient. They will typically use less than 2% of the volume of softened water produced between regenerations.

When does my water softener regenerate?

It can all happen overnight whilst you are tucked up in bed, fast asleep! The regeneration process should be set to take place late at night, or in the early hours when there is no need to use water. Although it will depend on the size of your home and the amount of pipework you have, the overall regeneration process should last anything between 60 and 90 minutes. 

Why is block salt needed for the regeneration?

Water softeners need a specific amount of salt to complete the cycle. The brine solution in the bottom of the cabinet is saturated with salt. Typically, for each regeneration, about a litre of water is used for the concentrated brine which will require 300 grams of salt. The water dissolves the salt and holds it in the solution.

How do I know if my water softener is regenerating?

You will usually hear some sounds when the water softener is regenerating. Also, whilst you are still able to get soft water, this is an indication that your softener is regenerating efficiently. That said, if you start noticing that you are getting hard water back through your taps and shower heads – and you maybe aren’t getting the nice lather you’ve been used to – then these could be clues that your softener might have stopped regenerating properly. If you do experience any problems with softener regeneration, it may be due to clumps of salt, or that you have an empty brine tank.

How do I adjust my water softener regeneration?

If you feel that your water softener isn’t regenerating as frequently as it should – because hard water keeps showing up – it is possible to alter the frequency of the regeneration process. 

If you use a timed water softener, it will have already been programmed at a designated slot for regeneration to take place. But, if you need to reset an intermediate cycle for regeneration, you can do this by doing an estimation of your average water usage in the house. The more water you use, the more often your softener will need to be regenerated. Please be advised that, once you reset the timer, the softener will regenerate whether you have used up the water or not. And it will also regenerate, regardless of whether your resin bed is saturated or not.

Alternatively, if you have a metered softener, this will regenerate on its own by checking the amount of water that you use. This makes life a lot easier because this type of device monitors water usage and automatically regenerates once the set water usage level has been triggered. 

Can I Use Water When My Water Softener is Regenerating?

Yes, you can, but don’t use too much. Otherwise, it could impair the regeneration process, especially if you have a single tank system. That’s why it’s best to set the regeneration to take place in the wee small hours when you aren’t going to use any or almost zero water. If you do need water for drinking or washing, make sure you only use minimal amounts of water during this period. It’s certainly best not to do the laundry or take a bath until after your water softener has completed its regeneration process.

How often should my water softener regenerate?

Regeneration frequency will depend on the volume of your tank, water usage and hardness. Normally you would expect regeneration to take place about once a fortnight.