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How to clean, sanitize, and properly store portable water filters

I recently saw a post on Reddit where a person is turning on the tap and nasty brown water comes out of it. A few people in the comments were talking about if a water filter would be able to make this potable. Further down in the comments, someone who claims to be a water engineer says that it was from unclean pipes that allowed microbes to grow in them. He then makes the following comment

“The same situation happens when people reuse portable water filters when camping. In dry storage it’s perfectly fine to keep a filter around for months. But the instant you get it wet, you put that filter away and then bacteria starts growing on the filter media. The next time you go camping, you get sick and you can’t figure out why because you use the water filter.”

I agree that if you use your filter and then just throw it in your bag and leave it wet for a couple months it will get all nasty, but if you properly backflush and dry it out you should be fine right? I emailed some of the main portable water filter companies out there and they said I was correct. You need to take some steps to properly store your filter after use.

Their replies will probably be pretty long if I copied and pasted them here, so I’ll sum it up in some bullet points

  • Backflush your filter with clean water after each outing.
  • If you have mineral rich water that you are constantly filtering, soaking the filter in white vinegar for 30 minutes and then backflushing can help restore flow rate.
  • Pump/flush a weak bleach solution through the unit occasionally, any hoses, and on the outside to kill any bacteria living inside. Then thoroughly air dry before storage.

Here’s a good video on filter care by Sawyer.

Hope this friendly reminder is helpful to everyone to #1 make sure you have the tools and experience backflushing your portable filters and #2 make sure you store them correctly and dryly.

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  • Comments (1)

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      I’ve let my filters dry out before storage but haven’t considered rising off with bleach or even just clean tap water before storage. I am going to go through and do some cleaning of all my filters and store them properly now. Thanks for those calls you made to those companies.