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In theory, cleaning and reusing your old water filter is a better alternative to replacing it with a new cartridge every month or so. The latter is not only more expensive, it’s also a burden on the environment.
However, if you want to be able to fully enjoy the benefits of home water filtration – and that is pure water – cleaning a used filter isn’t always that simple and effective. What you can and what you shouldn’t do you are going to learn in this post.
First of all, if and how you can clean your water filter depends on what type you are using. While some such as synthetic fiber-pleated sediment filters can be cleaned well to restore filtration speed and effectiveness, others like most paper models are less suited for this.
Also, you should consider if the whole cleaning process is really worth your time, opposed to simply making annual or biannual replacements that are going to cost you $40 in total.
What’s more, through cleaning you won’t be able to remove all the trapped contaminants so replacing your old filter with a new one will eventually need to happen. And although bleach does a great job at disinfection, there is no guarantee that bacteria, mold, mildew or any other harmful germs will not accumulate inside your filter without you noticing.
In other words: Especially if you are going to use the water for drinking you want to make sure that the filtration is up to standards and can compete with a brand-new cartridge.
If you are on a private well with high iron content or excess hardness, or your city supply contains high amounts of impurities, cleaning your sediment (pre-)filter on a regular basis is a great way to extend its lifespan. Here’s what you need to do (does not work for all filter types):
On a side note: You can neutralize the acid with regular baking soda – a couple of tablespoons should be enough – so that you don’t have to worry about pouring it down your drain.
Most carbon block filters consist of 3 layers. In their inside there is the solid carbon block obviously. Wrapped around it is a paper-type layer. The paper removes impurities from your water that the carbon could not trap. At its outside, a carbon filter usually has a plastic mesh netting that holds the paper in place. To clean the filter, you will need to remove that netting:
Following this procedure, you will notice a huge improvement in water taste and pressure. And what’s great is that you can do this several times before replacement is required.
In case your carbon filter does not have a paper layer that you can peel off, use a scrub pad or iron sponge to brush off its outside. This will help to improve water flow and aesthetics a great deal.
Reactivating Activated Carbon
In a forum we read that you could boil an activated carbon block in water for about 15 minutes in order to recharge it. The longer the boiling, the more contaminants will presumably be released.
Not having tried this ourselves, we cannot say if it really works or not.
Brita filter pitchers and dispensers are easy to use and give you access to somewhat cleaner drinking water. And although you save quite a lot of money compared to buying bottled water, costs for replacement cartridges can start to add up quickly.
However, for less than a dollar you can refill your Brita cartridge with fresh granular activated carbon so you won’t have to buy a new one each month.
Activated carbon (or charcoal) is the main filtration component that Brita filters use. It traps chemical impurities such as chlorine in its pores. But as more and more pores become occupied as time goes by, the filtration becomes less effective until at some point it finally stops.
This is when we have to replace it. By the way, activated carbon is available at your local Walmart for instance and can be bought in bulk at a low price. You can also order online. Either way, you will save a ton of money in the long run.
How does the actual replacement work?
Thanks to this simple modification you can now use your cartridge time and time again which is much more environmentally friendly than throwing another one into the trash every single month.
For modular filters that your refrigerator uses all you can do is flush with plain water from both sides. Meanwhile, use a screwdriver to tap on the filter to loosen any larger debris.
Some experts also recommend soaking modular filters in warm water with a gentle cleanser – think vinegar or dish soap. Let the filter soak between 10 and 30 minutes. Thoroughly rinse afterwards until the water comes out all clear. Finally, let the filter air-dry before popping it back inside your refrigerator.
It’s no secret that PUR’s pitcher filters are prone to clogging. After just a couple of days use, you might see a drop in flow rate that makes the whole filtration process painfully slow.
There are two possible explanations for this:
The solution for 1.) is to shake the cartridge for 5 to 6 seconds holding it upside down at a slight angle. Can you hear the carbon moving inside? If that doesn’t help, tap it against a hard surface a couple of times. Put the cartridge back in the water to see if it still floats. If it sinks, pop it back into your pitcher or dispenser. The flow rate should be way better now. If the cartridge continues to float, repeat the shaking and tapping.
If you struggle with Styrofoam balls plugging the holes of the pleated element, force water through each of the small slots at the bottom of the filter. You can use a faucet sprayer for this. This should dislodge whatever is stuck in there.
All in all, you should only clean your used water filter if it makes sense, meaning that you can save money doing so, it’s not too much of a time commitment, it’s more ecological than simple replacement and filtration performance will not be compromised – the latter is key!
If that is the case, you now know how to clean a water filter the right way. Happy cleaning.
If you have any questions about how to clean water filters please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!