Water Filter Maintenance

Tips to keep water filters filtering.

An often-overlooked part of getting the most from your water filter is proper cleaning after use and before long-term storage. If you’re nice to your new filter, you can triple or quadruple its service life—not to mention help it filter more effectively.

Most filters come with elaborate manufacturer’s cleaning/maintenance instructions, which we advise you to follow exactly. Below is a rundown of the typical procedures, with time-tested tips from the field for better results.

Start with the cleanest water you can find: Don’t burden your filter with unnecessarily dirty raw material. Seek out still pools rather than running current; moving water roils up sand and debris. Using a foam float, keep the intake hose off the bottom of the creek, where it tends to suck up sand, mud, muck, leaf detritus, and who knows what else.

Let Muddy water settle: Dip a potful of water, set it aside, and let the suspended solids settle out; an hour or two helps a lot, but leave water overnight if possible. This simple step gives you clearer water to process, which can triple the time between cleanings or filter replacement.

Backwash: Some filters can be backwashed when output starts to slow down. Just detach the intake hose and attach it to the filter outlet. Pumping will send a “backwash” of clean water through the filter, loosening some of the accumulated gunk. Following backwashing or before storage, the filter element usually must be sanitized with a diluted bleach solution.

Scrub a scrubbable filter element: If pumping lots of dirty water has slowed the flow, scrub the cylinder with a toothbrush to restore normal output. Read the manufacturer’s recommendations—if you scrub a filter that is not designed to be scrubbed, you could compromise its integrity.

Disinfect periodically: Microorganisms can multiply inside the filter element. Unless the manufacturer recommends otherwise, flush the element after each trip with a diluted chlorine solution of 1 capful of household bleach to 1 quart water. Pump it about 25 strokes until empty, then let it dry.