There are three possible conditions a water softener can be in: "service," which is when the water softener is providing you with soft water; "regeneration," sometimes called recharging, when the softener is cleaning itself and preparing for the next service period; and "bypass," when untreated hard water bypasses the water softener and goes directly into the house. You should only turn a water softener off after first putting it in the "bypass" mode.

Man sitting on floor with pipe and toolbox
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Step 1

Shut off the main water supply to the house. The shutoff lever is often adjacent to the meter.

Step 2

Release pressure on the water softener and the household water supply by opening a faucet. Use one you know is being serviced by the water softener.

Step 3

Find the bypass valve. It will always be in the intake and outlet copper pipes at the back of the water softener. There are two types: A single-bypass valve looks like a barrel with a stopper; and a three-valve bypass is easy to spot because it has three valves.

Step 4

Press the stopper in on the single-bypass valve to bypass the water softener plumbing. Close the inlet and outlet valves and open the central bypass valve in the case of the three-valve system. Use the plumber's wrench for leverage if there aren't easy to grip handles on the three-valve system.

Step 5

Turn the water back on to the house.

Step 6

Unplug the water softener. It is now off. All water from the street will bypass the water softener too.