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Occasionally cleaning or rather sanitizing a reverse osmosis system guarantees optimum performance. It rules out scaling and fouling for the highest water quality and flow. Plus, you are protected from potentially harmful pathogens.
How to sanitize an RO system properly? Don’t worry, you can easily do this yourself without calling for a professional. Find everything you need to know in our guide below.
This is how to sanitize a reverse osmosis system:
First of all, cleaning and especially sanitizing a reverse osmosis system is not necessary per se. If your feed water is already in decent condition you might get away without it.
Still, we recommend you follow through with it as the process is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require much of your time. And this way you are on the safe side, not only protected from potentially harmful microorganisms and the like, but also knowing that scaling and fouling won’t affect output water flow and overall quality.
How often to clean/sanitize? Ideally once a year, maybe twice if need be. What’s most important is that you do this regularly to prevent irreversible damage. In our opinion, the perfect time for cleaning is when you change one or more of the filter elements (including the RO membrane).
In this case, here is how the process goes:
For specific instructions please consult the manual. Also, note that the post-filter will need replacement after this, unless you bypass it.
The whole sanitizing thing didn’t quite turn out as you had hoped? Maybe it’s time for a new system. Check out our top 10 RO systems if you like.
While you wait for the bleach to do its thing you could free the semipermeable reverse osmosis membrane from dirt (unless you are planning to replace it anyway).
In order to clean an RO membrane you need to soak it in different chemical solutions – remember to follow instructions regarding safe handling and disposal – depending on its type and as recommended by the manufacturer.
This will help you to get rid of organic matter, calcium precipitates, mold, mildew and other nasty stuff which, in turn, prevents scaling and fouling.
For detailed step-by-step instructions check out our article on RO membrane cleaning (link to be added soon). Basically, you need to:
If you follow the procedure above which explains how to sanitize an entire RO system then there is no need for you to clean the storage tank separately as this has already been taken care of.
However, you might have noticed a strange taste in your water or a funny smell and you assume the tank to be the culprit. Then cleaning the storage tank alone can make sense. Here’s how:
The post-filter will need replacement after this, unless you bypass it.
So why do need to clean and sanitize your reverse osmosis system anyways?
While it might seem counterintuitive, water filtration systems can become magnets for contaminant buildup.
Reverse osmosis systems are susceptible to developing slime and biofilm over time if they aren’t cleaned. The storage tank is particularly vulnerable to this, so it must be sanitized periodically to prevent contamination.
Regular system cleaning will not only wipe out any biofilm and organic contaminants, but it will also reduce the chances of performance problems and ensure your drinking water quality is at optimal levels.
There is no hard number for how often you need to clean/sanitize a reverse osmosis system, but generally speaking, RO systems should be cleaned 1-2 times per year. An easy way to remember to do this is to conduct the cleaning process when you change the pre and post-filters.
Of course, the exact frequency of cleaning will depend on your feed water quality. Water with higher levels of contaminant particles will be harder on the system, which means you’ll need to clean/sanitize more frequently. Also, the more water you use, the more dirt runs through your reverse osmosis system.
If you start noticing obvious signs like unpleasant odors coming from your system then that should be a clear sign that something is off. A visual inspection of the RO system filters and housings resulting in finding dirt buildup can also give you a clue that the system is in need of cleaning.
Generally speaking, there won’t be any obvious signs letting you know that your RO system needs cleaning. This is why cleaning/sanitizing the system – especially the RO storage tank – should be completed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
For more maintenance tips, check our RO water filter system maintenance guide.
If you have any questions about how to clean a reverse osmosis system please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!