Water softener controls showing adjustment pins (C) Daniel FriedmanWater Softener Regeneration Cycle Duration
Fix a long water softener regeneration cycle or a water softener that is stuck in regeneration mode: water softener runs too long.

  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to diagnose water softener operating problems: how long the softener runs, how much water is in the brine tank, how much salt, how salty or soft is the household water, more.

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Water softener regeneration cycle time period:

What is the normal duration or length of a water softener regeneration cycle? What determines the length of the softener regen cycle? Can the regen cycle duration be adjusted? How to diagnose & fix problems with a water softner that runs too long or not long enough. How much water does a water softener consume to regenerate its ability to remove minerals from the water supply?

Diagnose & Fix Water Softener Problems: this article series describes procedures for diagnosing and repairing water softener or water conditioner problems including water conditioner control settings and adjustment or repair, brine tank and brine tank float cleaning and repair, and the proper amount of water softening or conditioning that is needed.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Water Softener Regeneration Cycle Time Too Long

Identify the basic parts of a water softener (C) Daniel Friedman at InspectApedia.comIf your water softener is running in regen mode continuously, something is drastically wrong. You'll know this by seeing water discharging from the softener drain and by hearing water running through the softener continuously, for more than three hours.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Watch out: A water softener that is "stuck in regeneration mode" running continuously

In that case, turn off the water softener or put it in bypass and call for repair.

Watch out: Before you decide that your water softener is running for an abnormally long time, it's worth noting that even in a perfectly adjusted water softener the regeneration cycle can involve five steps or more and can run for 1-2 hours.

Reader Question: how long should the water softener brine flush (regeneration cycle) last?

Is it normal for brine flush to be an hour long ? - D.C.

Reply: normal water softener regeneration cycle duration

DC it could be an hour - as long as it stops you're ok. The length of the regen cycle is controlled by the timer/control on your equipment and will vary by water conditioner size and salt dose. It would not be unusual for the total regen cycle to take more than an hour, comprised of these steps:

Water Conditioner Regeneration Cycle Time Components

  Older Water Softeners Current Water Softener Cycles
1. Backwash cycle - wash out the resin tank 14 minutes 14 minutes
2. Brine Draw: Water Softener regen cycle - brine is pumped slowly out of the brine tank, through the water conditioner tank including a "slow rinse" when the brine is exhausted 52 minutes 30-52 minutes
3. Slow Rinse (if not included in step 2)   10-20 minutes
4. Fast Rinse   6 minutes
5. Brine tank refill - water is pumped into the brine tank to dissolve salt to be available as salty water for the next regen cycle 10 minutes 5-6 minutes
Total Water Conditioner Regen Cycle Time (sum of above) 76 minutes 65 - 98 minutes

Note: the times in the "Older Water Softener" column above above are accurate for older, simpler water softeners and water conditioners.

Newer water softeners from about 2000 to present may use more regeneration steps and take a longer time for whch we added the second column: Current Water Softeners. Thanks to reader "Conflicting" for pointing out that inconsistency 2018-07-24.

See WATER SOFTENER OPERATING CYCLES for details of what a modern water softener is doing in normal or service cycle (providing soft water) and what the softener is doing in multiple steps of its regeneration cycle.

Question: Why does my Water Softener Keep Running Longer Than it Should?

My water softener continues to run when no water is being drawn from anywhere in the house. Why is this happening? - Joe Hernandez, Brighten MI

Reply: What's the difference between normal water softener backwash regen cycle running and "stuck on" running?


The table below lists common causes & cures for a water softener that cycles continuously or that keeps draining continuously.

Causes of Long Water Softener Run or Regeneration Cycles or Continuous Water Softener Draining

Water Softener "Stuck On" Problem Water Softener Problem Cause  Water Softener Repair Procedure
Water softener control cycles continuously Broken or shorted water softener control switch or timer

If the water softener timer or control switch is defective it can cause the softener to remain "stuck" in regeneration mode, causing the water sofener to cycle continuously.

Replace the timer, switch, or if necessary replace the entire water sofener control head.

Water softener drains continuously Water softener control valve not programmed correctly Check Timer Program and Positioning of Control.
Replace Power Head Assembly if not Positioning Properly.
Water softener control valve clogged by debris Remove the water softener power head assembly and inspect the bore. Remove foreign material and check the control in various regeneration positions.
Water softener valve internal leak Replace the seals and piston assembly in the softener control head.
Water softener regeneration cycle inadequate Various causes in the article cited at right Insufficient salt dose or brine tank problems can cause the water softener regen cycle to be too short or can cause the softener to fail to produce enough soft water.
Water Softener fails to draw brine from the brine tank Various causes in article cited at right Brine tank flooding or water level too high.


Stuck water softener runs continuously: Emergency Steps:

If the water softener actually seems to "run" or to be "stuck" in regeneration mode, running continuously, then its operating control needs to be repaired or replaced. Don't leave the softener running forever - doing so wastes water and if your home is connected to a private septic system it will also flood and damage the drainfield.

In an emergency if the water softener is "stuck" running water continuously I'd just unplug it and also perhaps set the control to bypass while (see BYPASS VALVE) waiting for a water treatment company to perform the needed control repair.

Adapted from a review of multiple water softener installation and repair manuals. See REFERENCES in this and other water softener repair articles at InspectApedia's More Reading section.

Normal Water softener regen cycle usually occurs when household water is not being drawn by occupants

What you describe might be normal if the water softener runs when no water is being used in the house but later stops itself. The water softener itself does not deliver water to your home.

That is done by the water pump or incoming water supply. So when a water softener "runs" it is in its regeneration or "backwash" cycle during which the softener pumps water into a salt tank to make brine, then flushes the brine backwards through the water treatment tank, then flushes the brine out of the treatment tank.

Because during the regeneration cycle the water softener is on "bypass", any household water used by occupants during that interval is not treated or softened during the regeneration cycle.

Therefore we usually set the water softener timer to process its regeneration cycle in the middle of the night - when no one is using water. That may be what you are hearing.

See HOW WATER SOFTENERS / CONDITIONERS WORK for details about how water softeners work.

See WATER SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS for advice on how to set the water softener timer and salt dose.

How much water does a water softener use during the regeneration cycle?

Reader question: how much water is being wasted during each water softener regen cycle?

2016/06/20 John said:

how many gallons of water being wasted during each regeneration cycle?

Reply: Here are the basics for computing how much water a water softener "wastes" during regen

Thanks for asking an important question, John.

"Waste" is perhaps not perhaps the best term to use when discussing water use during a water softener regeneration cycle. The water softener is treating as much as 2000-3000 gallons of hard water depending on water softener size, model, and the hardness of the water supply.

That treatment is more than aesthetic, as it's also keeping plumbing piping, water heaters, and fixtures working rather than clogging from scale. Water hardness even determines the amount of detergent needed to wash clothing.

To regenerate - that is removing calcium and magnesium that has accumulated in the water softener the regen cycle may use between 30 and 100 gallons of water over 1-2 hours of the regenration cycle, again depending on softener model, size, water hardness (1 grain of hardness is about 17 ppm of calcium/magnesium in the water), salt dose and similar parameters.

Another data point for cross-checking claims about water softener water consumption during regen coming from a different source suggests that: typical mid-sized water softeners regenerate at about 0.3 gpm during the regen cycle.

Over two hours that's 120 x .3 or as little as 40 gallons of water being consumed. The lowest regen flow rate I've seen is about 0.18 and the highest 0.8 gpm, putting the upper end of water consumption by this approach at 0.8 x 120 or 96 gallons of water used over two hours.

I would agree, however, that more sophisticated water softeners that measure the hardness of water and the volume of water passing through the unit are more efficient at both salt and water usage than softeners that operate strictly by a clock-timer approach to setting the regeneration frequency and time.

As water softener efficiency varies that means the amount of salt needed and thus flush-water or brine needed varies too. A good standard is that an efficient water softner should use no more than 5 gallons of regeneration cycle water per 1000 grains of hardness removed from the water supply. Actual water usage is between 1.3 and 5.6 gallons of regeneration water per 1000 grains of water hardness, depending on softener model, design, and efficiency.

This tips us off that there isn't a single "right" answer to your question. As Mark Cramer says, .... it depends. In this case on the hardness of your water supply, the volume of water being consumed, and the efficiency of your water softener.

See also WATER SOFTENER SALT DOSE SETTING as that determines how much salt is used at each regen cycle and thus how much water should be pumped into and then back out of the brine tank.

Resouces & research on water softener consumption rates:

More Questions about How a Water Softener Regen Works

Question: Why does the water conditioner take longer for drawing brine from the salt tank than for refilling the salt tank?

Can someone explain why, during a regeneration cycle, the time for drawing brine from tank is five times longer than refilling water into tank. That part of the cycle is drawing all of the water from tank and continues that cycle long after the brine tank is empty.

This system was installed and setup by a water softener company who I'm assuming made all necessary tests. My new job is to maintain this system and insure proper operation. I had a stuck float in the brine tank which was repaired, than I forced a regeneration cycle and noticed the brine tank and cycle setup. - Bob

Reply: The water softener does not re-fill the brine tank with water immediately after drawing out brine

Bob, indeed it sounds as if the water softener control or perhaps the brine tank fill control is not working properly. Or maybe not.

Some water softeners do not pump water into the brine tank until the start of a regen cycle. In that case once brine has been drawn out of the tank you won't see water pumped back into the salt tank until the next regen cycle.

The water softener regeneration takes place by cycling salty water backwards through the treatment tank and out into a disposal drain, followed by some wash-out of brine from the treatment tank so that the household water is not full of salt.

So the regeneration cycle would be expected to run for the sum of the brine passage plus the flush out water passage - longer than just the time to remove the brine-water from the salt tank.

An abnormally long regen cycle past time that brine has been pumped out of the salt tank? Check the float.

But if the cycle is abnormally long compared to the exhaustion of the brine tank liquid, another possibility is the following: the softener is set to use a particular quantity of salt (in the form of brine water) based on water hardness and quantity used.

But if the float in the brine tank prevented sufficient water from entering the tank at the start of the regen cycle, then the softener control could find itself blithely pumping along, having exhausted the undersized salt dose but having no way to know that (the brine float is a mechanical device that has most often no direct communication with the actual electrically powered softener control).

So I'd make a double check that the un-stuck float in the brine tank is properly set in its height and free in its movement.


Question: water softener overflows

Water overflows - citation, 8/31/11

Water is flowing out of the top of my water softener salt tank. Can you tell me what's wrong and how to fix it ? - anon.


Sure. We discuss this problem in the article above at WATER SOFTENER REGENERATION CYCLE DURATION - your system overflowing may be due to

Question: backwash observed when water softener returned to service

I moved into a new house 3 months ago to find the softener to be "out of service" meaning my inlet outlet valves to softener were closed and bypass open. When I lined softener up I noticed that water was running out of my backwash line this continued for 15-20 min. It was not in a regeneration cycle? Any answers would be great thanks - Josh 10/5/12


Josh, I'm guessing you bumped an extra regen cycle switch on the control; But it's just a guess. If the system was put out of service and on bypass it might be because the system was stuck in regeneration mode and needs cleaning or repair.

Question: how can I shut off the water softener?

water softner i unplugged the unit and it still runs water through it is there is there something i can do to shut off water from going through the system until i can get someone to look at it - Robert Clem 8/1/12



Put the water softener on bypass. (BYPASS VALVE)


Question: Culligan 50 series softener that is continually draining water

I have a Culligan 50 series softener that is continually draining water. There is a plastic tube out the top that goes direct to the main house drain and recently we noticed there is a steady stream coming from it.

I tried to put in by pass and can't move the spool. - NH 8/8/12



I'd need to see a photo to be sure we are talking about the same component but it sounds as if you are describing a leak at the water / brine line between the brine tank and the water softener.

That line might leak either when the system is pumping water into the brine tank to make brine, or when the system is in regeneration cycle and is pumping salty water back through the water conditioner. Take a close look to see exactly what's leaking and replace those parts - it should be an inexpensive "screw-together" repair.

See DIAGNOSE SOFTENER BACKUP / FLOODING for diagnostic & repair procedures for this problem.

Question: would lack of salt make our water softener regen or recycle too often?

If we have not kept salt in our tank, would the softener recycle more often than it should? The reason for my question is I got a call from the city about our culinary water consumption and it is extremely higher than normal which indicates either a leak in our home such as a toilet, or the water softener is recycling too often. How do I know how many times the softener is recycling? - Jamie 6/18/12

Reply: yes and no - it depends on softener type


No, if you have a basic softener that just runs the regen cycle by a timer. That sort does not know how salty the regen solution is.

Yes, if your softener is a more advanced model that monitors water hardness. that type would see that the water remains too hard and keep running regen cycles fruitlessly.

Question: Water softener stuck in regen backwash cycle

we haven't used our culligan softner since we moved in 1999. when i plug the unit in it constantly discharges water down the main waste. is this normal? - Sal 6/21/12


Sal, it sounds as if your water softener is stuck in regen-cycle.


then re-set the controls (see WATER SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS) then try a manual backwash cycle.


If the system keeps running for hours, then the water the water softener control needs repair or replacement.

Water softener regeneration cycle duration vs. frequency

Above we discussed the duration of water softener regeneration cycles: how long the equipment should run when executing a regeneration cycle.

Frequency of water softner regeneration is not the same question as duration of the regeneration cycle.

See the article above on this page: WATER SOFTENER REGENERATION CYCLE DURATION for a discussion of abnormally-long water softener regeneration cycle time duration.

See WATER SOFTENER REGENERATION CYCLE FREQUENCYfor details about how to set the water softener salt dose, regeneration frequency and on some models, softener regeneration time.

Reader Question: Water Boss 900 Water Softener Stuck in Regeneration Mode

16 March 2015 Anonymous said:
I have a Waterboss 900 that's stuck in regenerate mode. How do I remove valves to check for obstruction?

This question was originally posted at DIAGNOSE WATER SOFTENER PROBLEMS



On a WaterBoss 900 if the unit stays in "regeneration" mode it may or may not be an obstruction.
Common causes of being stuck in regen include

1. The computer control is not properly attached. Check this FIRST. Be sure that the computer control is pushed all the way up onto the drive end cap.

2. Here you may be right: a foreign object (crud) may be stuck in the valve body. Look at the parts explosion and see my caveats below when disassembling to check or clean the valve.

3. Your Water Boss could have a broken valve assembly. If the motor runs and the valve doesn't turn this is probably the problem so I'd look for this condition before disassembling the valve.

If you don't already have an owners and installation manual for your Water Boss water softener, contact the company at the location I give below to obtain that document. That will give you a parts explosion and repair procedures specific to that machine.

Meanwhile I'd put the system on bypass and turn it off so you stop wasting water and perhaps flooding a septic system.

Watch out: I would NOT disassemble the unit one bit before having repair parts kit in hand. Going to all that trouble and finding that you've nicked or damaged an O-ring can leave you shut down while you have to wait for such parts, and chances are you need them anyway.

Contact details for WaterBoss Water Softeners

4343 S Hamilton Rd
Groveport, OH 43125
Phone: 800-437-8993
Fax: 614-836-9876


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