How to Backwash an RO Membrane at Home? Find Out Here!

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If you have ever had the satisfaction of using high water pressure to blast dirt and grime off your dishes or the grout in your tiles or paving, then you might wonder if it is something you can do to clean your reverse osmosis membrane.

High-pressure water flushing is pretty effective at removing all that dirt, right?

Backflushing or forward flushing are the main methods that use high-pressure water to clean a reverse osmosis membrane of stubborn deposits. But can you do it yourself at home? Let’s see.

Key Takeaways

  • You usually cannot clean a reverse osmosis membrane in an at-home, point-of-use system using backflushing. It’s simply not possible based on the setup.
  • Instead, there are chemical cleaning methods, and you can forward-flush your RO membrane.

How to Backwash an RO Membrane at Home

So, how do you backwash an RO membrane at home? The short answer is you can’t.

Backwashing happens when you reverse the water flow, using your already filtered water to flush any clogged debris in a reverse osmosis membrane by pushing it in the opposite direction.

The pressure is the thing that removes the fouling, and usually, it is only possible to achieve this on large commercial reverse osmosis systems rather than at home. But don’t worry! There are other effective ways to clean your RO membrane.

blue reverse osmosis membrane

Other RO Membrane Cleaning Methods

You can clean your RO membrane using specialized chemicals or some simpler physical methods, which we will delve into. Let’s start with the chemicals.

Deep Cleaning with Chemicals

  1. Be sure to purchase a specialized cleaning solution that will work for your specific RO membrane (check with the manufacturer). Don’t forget to put on your protective eyewear and gloves.
  2. Prepare the cleaning solution in non-reactive buckets.
  3. Shut off the feed water to the RO system, close the storage tank valve, and run the faucet to depressurize the unit.
  4. Remove the RO membrane carefully from its housing.
  5. Following the user guidelines, soak the membrane in the chemical solution(s).
  6. Once completed, reassemble the system and flush it for around 30 minutes.

Low pH

A low pH cleaning solution is suggested if your main foulants are inorganic, such as suspended solids, polymers, sulfate scale, metals, carbonate, etc.

High pH

Organic foulants and biofouling require a high-pH cleaning solution.

By the way, in order to know what your foulants are, you will need to test your feed water.

Physical Cleaning

Some commercial reverse osmosis systems use ultrasonic wave treatments or other forms of vibration to clean RO membranes, but they are potentially damaging if used in excess and not usually available for home use.

Instead, one form of physical cleaning you can try is forward flushing.

Forward Flushing

Forward flushing is the exact opposite of backflushing. And the good news is you can easily use it at home to try to essentially blast any biofouling off your RO membrane with high-pressure water. It is an effective method usually, but maybe not so for some extreme cases of fouling.

Forward flushing can be done with and without a flush kit. The process isn’t overly complicated which you can learn more about here.

Air Flushing

Air water flushing involves using air bubbles on the feed water side to clean the foulants off a reverse osmosis membrane. This is effective for even the more stubborn foulants, and it doesn’t waste a whole lot of water.

Bad news is, air flushing is not something that could easily be done at home.

If you have any questions about RO membrane backwash please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

About the Author Alexandra Uta

Alex is a content writer with an affinity for research and a methodical attention to detail. Since 2020, she has fully immersed herself into the home water treatment industry only to become an expert herself. Alex has been using water filters and similar products for years which has gained her lots of hands-on experience.
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