How to Take Care of a Berkey Water Purifier

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Written by Bernie Carr

A water purifier is one of the most important pieces of gear you will ever need for emergency preparedness. As my long-time readers know, I use a Berkey Light water purifier and have been using it on a daily basis for years. I lived in many neighborhoods in Houston that seemed to have sketchy water pipes as the tap water often came out brownish. The water also had an unpleasant chlorine after taste. The property management said it was not their issue; their pipes were fine, the Water District has control over water quality. After speaking with some of the neighbors, I learned this was a common complaint: the water coming out of their tap contains a lot of sediment and tends to be murky.

We were buying bottled water on a weekly basis and the cost was adding up. So instead of saving my Berkey for emergencies, we decided to use it everyday. We use filtered water for drinking and cooking, and we save money on bottled water. It has worked out perfectly.

The water tastes great; even people visiting us have commented on how great the water tastes. We never worried when there is a “Boil water” order, whenever flooding or pipes bursting occurred since we always had the Berkey filled up plus extra water stored.

How I maintain my Berkey

Since it is used daily, the filters occasionally get covered with rust colored sediment.  The canisters also get a brownish film. When needed, I give the unit a thorough cleaning. Here are the steps that I take:

  1. Empty out the water.
  2. Disassemble the Berkey filters from the top canister. Save the washers and wing nuts – I usually pay them out on paper towels. Place the filters on a stable surface where they won’t roll off the countertop and break. I place them on a wire dish drying rack for safety.
  3. I use a scrubbing sponge to scrub the filters under cool running water. Never use hot water when cleaning the filters as the heat will damage them. No need to scrub hard, just once all around the filter to remove any sediment that occasionally sticks to the filters.
  4. Place the filters on a rack or flat surface to dry.
  5. Wash the top and bottom chambers with dish soap and a sponge. Clean the grooves. I also wash the washers in wing nuts in the soapy water.
  6. If the chambers have a film, I add a teaspoon of bleach to the water. I put on gloves before handling the bleach water and use the sponge to scrub gently.
  7. Rinse well and set aside. I let all the parts air dry for about an hour.
  8. Assemble the unit and fill the top with water as normal.

I usually do a cleaning every other month. The set of Black Berkey Elements still going strong after two years of constant use. 

How to Tell if the Filter is No Longer Working

The best way to test the water filter is to add red food coloring to the water in the top chamber and allow it to run through the filters.

If working properly, the filtered water that drips to the lower canister will be completely clear.  If the red food coloring is not removed, then it is time to replace the filter.

I have never seen the red-colored water leak into the lower canister because my filters are still working well.

A maintenance kit is available from USA Berkey and it takes the guess work out of keeping your Berkey in tip top shape. Here’s a link to the kit.

Portable Water Filters

The same thing applies to individual filters such as the Berkey Sport Bottle.  The parts should be cleaned and left to air dry completely between uses.  Reassemble only after it has dried thoroughly.  I’ve made the mistake of storing a portable water bottle (different brand) and it developed mold so I had to discard it.

The sport bottle filter should not be left out in an overheated car or allowed to freeze.  Extreme temperatures will warp the filter.

Whether you use your water purifier on a daily basis or only on emergencies, taking proper care of it will help ensure it functions properly when you need it, for as long as possible.

Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Bernie’s latest e-book, FRUGAL DIY has just been released on Amazon. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.

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