How To Bypass Water Softener: 4 Methods-Based Guide with No Plumber Needed

how to bypass water softener

How to bypass water softener is a common question for homeowners with water softening systems. Sometimes, it becomes necessary to bypass your unit when you need hard water or want to perform maintenance. In this informative guide, I will discuss different types of water softeners and how to bypass them without the help of any plumber. Let’s begin!

Quick Answer

A water softener works by removing the hardness from the water and converting it into soft water. However, there can be instances when you need hard water (for preserving sodium levels) or your unit faces some problems like mentioned below:

  • Mineral buildup;
  • Clogging in showerheads;
  • Plumbing repairs;

You can solve the above-mentioned issues via maintenance. For this purpose, you can temporarily bypass your water softener. To do it, you need to rotate the bypass handle or pull the lever. This allows you to work on your unit without affecting the water supply.

Continue reading to learn detailed step-by-step guides about a manual handle bypass, push button bypass, a lever bypass valve, and a 3-valve bypass technique. Also, you will know the most reliable Bypass valve kits. Let’s dive deeper into the details!

An Insight Into Water Softener Bypass Valve

A water softener bypass valve allows you to divert the water supply temporarily. This will help you preserve your soft water. Listed below is the breakdown of components and working of the bypass valve.

Components of Water Softener Bypass:

The valve has the following ports – 2 inlets, 2 outlets, and a bypass port. Let’s learn more about them:

An Insight Into Water Softener Bypass Valve
  • Inlet Ports: It connect to the main water line entering the house and brings in hard water from the source in the valve.
  • Outlet Ports: Distributes softened water to the house plumbing system.
  • Bypass Valve: Provides a direct path from the inlet to the outlet. Allows water to skip the softening system altogether.

Working of A Water Softener Bypass Valve

This is how a water softener valve works:

  • Physically opens flow between inlet and bypass ports.
  • Hard water enters from the main supply line.
  • Travels through a bypass so it does not enter the softener.
  • Exits via outlet to be distributed untreated.

3 Different Varieties of Bypass Valves Discussed

Water softeners have different types of valves. Hence, the specific design you have dictates the method for engaging the bypass option. 

Different Varieties of Bypass Valves Discussed

In the given section, I have described some common types of bypass valves:

1. Push-In Bypass Valve

The push-in bypass valve has the following characteristics:

  • The simplest valve design consists of a handle that needs to be pushed in to engage.
  • Often found on smaller, standard water softeners.
  • It is more challenging to operate than turn or lever styles.
  • It is less costly but requires extra force to activate the bypass.

2. Turn-Bypass Valve

A turn bypass valve comes with the following properties:

  • The handle needs to be turned 90 or 180 degrees to redirect water.
  • Provides clear on/off valve positions.
  • Common on mid-range and larger softener systems.
  • Easy to manipulate into bypass.

3. Lever-Style Bypass Valve

Level-style valves possess the following features:

Lever-Style Bypass Valve
  • Utilizes a large lever for switching modes
  • The lever shifts left or right to control water flow.
  • Used on advanced electronic softeners.
  • The most straightforward type to engage bypass.
  • More expensive but very easy to operate.

Method 1: Operating a Manual Handle to Bypass a Water Softener

The first method sheds light on operating a manual handle for bypassing the softener. Here’s the breakdown of its working:

Method 1

Step 1. Locate the Bypass Valve

The first thing is finding the valve. Here’s a quick breakdown of its location:

  • It is usually located on the left or right side,
  • You can recognize the bypass valve by looking for a handle or push knob.

Step 2. Engage Bypass Mode

In the next step, turn the handle on. For this:

  • Grasp the valve handle firmly,
  • Rotate it clockwise or as indicated by arrows to turn it on,
  • Turn entirely until the handle stops,
  • If the valves are stiff, you have to apply more force. You can use some tools for help like a wrench.

Step 3. Return to Softener Mode

Once you are done with the job, you can return the softener mode to its normal functioning by following these points:

  • Rotate the handle counter-clockwise or as directed to turn off the softener mode,
  • Continue until you feel it stop. This reengages with softened water flow.

Method 2: Operating Via Push Button to Bypass a Water Softener

If your water softener features a button for bypassing, you can quickly shift into a bypass mechanism with the press of a button. Let’s explore the 3-step process:

Method 2

Step 1. Locate Button Valve

Before you start, find the valve button on your softener with the help of these guidelines:

  • Check the top and sides of your unit.
  • This button is usually labeled “bypass,”  Or there are some indicators like in/out or on/off markers.

Step 2. Press the Button to Engage

Once you find the button, it’s time to start the process. You can get help from these steps:

  • Push the button firmly until you feel that there is no need for further pressing, 
  • In some cases, the button can be stiffed. For this, you have to apply extra force or tap with a rubber mallet if needed.

Step 3. Disengage Bypass

Once the operation has been completed, it’s time to discontinue the bypass process as follows:

  • Firmly press the button bypass valve on the opposite side,
  • Fully press until it clicks. This will restore the regular softened water in the pipelines.

Method 3: Employing a Lever to Bypass a Water Softener

Many water softeners come with a lever bypass valve. This offers straightforward control for shifting your softener into bypass mode. Here’s a breakdown of an easy 3-step process:

Method 3

Step 1. Locate the Lever Valve

As usual, you should know where the lever valve is before you start the process. Here is how you can find it:

  • It may be on the water softener or anywhere near the main unit,
  • It can be identified by a large lever.

Step 2. Shift Lever to Bypass

The next step is obvious – you have to shift the lever to start the process:

  • Grasp the lever and move in the direction of arrows,
  • Typically requires shifting left to right,
  • Stop when the lever locks into the bypass position.

Step 3. Return to Normal Operation

If the process is completed, you can resume your water softener again with the help of these steps:

  • Move the lever back to its original position,
  • Slide right to left (or opposite to the initiation process) until it locks. This will resume regular softened water flow.

For a better understanding of the above methods, check out the following video.

Method 4: Using a 3-Valve Method Technique

Unlike residential softeners, many commercial water softeners have a 3-valve bypass method. These units have different modes of operation. Follow these steps to engage the bypass:

Method 4

Step 1. Locate the Valves

Before starting, you have to identify the valves so that you may carry the process successfully:

  • Start by locating the pipes at the back of the softener, where the water comes in and goes out.
  • Next, follow the hoses to find the bypass valve. It’s usually placed between the inlet and outlet valves.

Step 2. Close Inlet and Outlet Pipes

Closing the inlet and outlet valves is necessary to avoid water flowing through the softener. Let’s learn how to do it:

  • Turn plastic knobs on both valves perpendicular to inlet and outlet hoses (or as explained in the manual),
  • Closes off water flow through the softener.

Step 3. Open Bypass Valve

Finally, it’s time to open the bypass valve to kickstart the mechanism of bypass valve work:

  • Turn the valve handle parallel with the pipe (or as indicated),
  • Allows water to flow around the softener.
Method 4

Step 4. Return to Normal Operation

Once you are done with the process that requires bypassing, let’s revert to the regular operation by these steps:

  • Turn inlet and outlet valves parallel to hoses,
  • Open valves to allow water into the softener,
  • To shut off the valve, turn it sideways to the pipe.

For more insights, check out this helpful video.

3 Reasons Why You Need To Bypass Water Softener

The following list sheds light on reasons why bypassing water softeners can be needed:

3 Reasons Why You Need To Bypass Water Softener
  • Easy Maintenance: You can switch to bypass mode when performing softener maintenance tasks like salt refilling or tank cleaning to enhance safety and prevent leaks.
  • Saving Softened Water: Sometimes there is a need to preserve soft water and you can not waste it on tasks like car washing and lawn watering.
  • Addressing Problems: If you detect issues like leaks or strange noises, activate the bypass valve to prevent potential damage.

Crucial Guidelines On Swapping Out a Bypass Valve

If your water softener bypass valves are too old or are not in working condition, it is time to replace it.  

You can swap out a bypass valve in around 15 minutes with some essential tools and proper precautions. Let’s have a look at the steps:

  • Step 1. Close main Supply: Shut off your home’s main supply valve.
  • Step 2. Open faucets (Optional): Turn on some faucets around your house to help relieve any remaining water pressure in the pipes and allow water to drain out of the softener system.
  • Step 3. Unplug softener: Disconnect the power of the water softener from the electrical outlet.
  • Step 4. Ensure valves are squeezed: Double-check that the inlet, outlet, and bypass valves on the softener are all fully closed before proceeding.
  • Step 5. Unscrew and detach: Use the proper size wrench to loosen and unscrew the old bypass valve’s bolts. Then, carefully separate it from the softener plumbing connections.
  • Step 6. Attach replacement: Securely fasten the new bypass valve into the plumbing fittings using a wrench to tighten the bolts and create a watertight seal. 
  • Step 7. Prevent leakage: Ensure the valve connections are entirely leak-free to prevent any problems when the water is turned back on.
  • Step 8. Reopen main supply: Turn the main water supply valve back as well as the main supply to the water softener.
Important note: If the bolts are jammed, or you see uprooting the old softener is a difficult task, it is recommended that you get help from an expert.

Exploring Best In Business: Water Softener Bypass Valve Kits

As a homeowner with a water softener, you need a suitable bypass valve kit to maintain and service your system quickly. In this section, I’ll overview some of the top options available.

1. Water Softener Standard Bypass Valve Assembly

This universal kit comes with a durable brass construction, and with its included hardware, it fits most water softener systems.

Water Softener Standard Bypass Valve Assembly
This kit has a size of .75 inches and has 1 horsepower (hp). It comes with a 3/4″ bypass valve, 4 black clips, 2 installation adapters, and O-rings to prevent fluid leakage. It can be connected with 1-inch male pipes.

2. AFW Filters B004NFGQ II ¾” Stainless Steel Bypass Valve

This corrosion-resistant valve kit is constructed of premium stainless steel and creates a leak-free connection for 3⁄4” plumbing.

AFW Filters B004NFGQ II ¾ Stainless Steel Bypass Valve
A level kit has a size of .75 inches and has 1 (hp) and has steel color. It has a single-handle bypass valve that connects with a range of valves (from Fleck 5600 – 9000) quickly.

3. Water Softener 1” Replacement Bypass Valves Assembly Kit

Providing a brass valve and 1” adapters, this kit allows easy replacement of valves on more extensive plumbing.

Water Softener 1
For those with 1″ plumbing connections, this kit provides a heavy-duty 1” bypass valve and adapters. It contains 4 black clips, 4 O-rings, and 2 installation adapters. Only compatible with the valves having 8 screws.


How can I ensure the water quality is suitable when using bypassed water?

To ensure the water quality is suitable when using bypassed water, test and inspect the untreated water flow for safety. Install a particulate filter if sediment is present.

Is it safe to bypass my water softener?

Yes, it is safe to bypass your water softener temporarily for repairs. However, leaving it in bypass mode for a long time can leave hard water deposits on fixtures and appliances.

What are the risks of bypassing a water softener?

The risks of bypassing a water softener include limescale buildup, soap scum, and mineral deposits from the untreated hard water flow.

Can I partially bypass my water softener?

Yes, you can partially bypass your water softener with the help of a blend valve. This allows you to mix softened and unsoftened water to control hardness.


Summing up, how to bypass water softener isn’t a difficult thing to do. If you follow the proper guidelines, you will be able to do it without the help of any professional.

The most feasible method to bypass your water softener is by engaging the bypass valve. For this purpose, you can push the button or shift the lever, depending on your model. And, if your valve seems broken or stuck, replacing it with a newer one is the most optimum approach.

Nonetheless, repairing your softener and offering proper maintenance at times can enhance its life.  

Boch Richard

Richard Boch is a chemical engineer responsible for designing water filtration systems for industrial and residential customers. He has more than 20 years of experience with ion exchange, activated carbon, and reverse osmosis. Richard's expertise has made him a go-to source for municipalities and businesses looking to improve their water quality. When he's not working, Richard enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children.

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