How To Clean Berkey Water Filters in the Sink or a Bucket

How To Clean Berkey Filters

(Sometimes called black Berkey filters, filter elements, ceramic filters, or candles)

If you have a countertop / tabletop water filter system such as the Berkey or other brands that use ‘filter candle’ elements, every once in awhile you will need to clean the filters themselves. Eventually the water flow may slow down as the filter surface gets somewhat clogged.

I own two Berkey countertop water filters. One for the house, the other Berkey for the RV. I’ve owned them for MANY years. They have been a great investment. Clean, pure drinking water is #1, and the Berkey is certainly one of the best.

Periodic Cleaning

Even though the Berkey water filters (elements) will filter approximately 3,000 gallons of each, they will require cleaning due to the contaminants of the sourced water which will adhere to the surface.

Note: You may simply need filter replacements (good to have spares!).

Recommended: Black Berkey Filter Elements from The Berkey Guy (authorized dealer)

Ceramic Filter Elements (White)

Difference between the newer Berkey ‘Black’ filters and the White ceramic:
Berkey Black Filters vs. White Ceramic

For your interest (PDF download) :
Specifications for Berkey’s Black filter elements

How To Clean Berkey Water Filters In The Sink


image: BerkeyFilters

1. Empty all of the water from your Berkey system.

2. Remove the top container and set it on its side on a solid surface like a table or countertop.

3. Remove the filters by unscrewing the wing nut that secures the Black Berkey element to the container.

4. Hold the filter under the running faucet, with the exit hole pointed up.

Note: Do not allow contaminated water to enter the core of the Berkey filtering element. This can be prevented by placing your finger over the hole where the water exits the filter.

Question: Does it matter if you use hot or cold water to clean it?

Answer: I had inquired a few years ago (to Berkey) about hot vs. cold, and at that time they recommended to NOT use hot (boiling) water. So, I use cool water from the tap…

5. Using a new ‘Scotch-Brite’ type scrubbing pad, carefully scrub the black surface of the filter element for several minutes.

6. Set the elements aside and wash your hands.

7. Reassemble the unit

Tip: Don’t over-tighten the plastic wingnuts. Just good and snug.

How To Clean Berkey Water Filters In A Bucket


image: BerkeyFilters

Note: All water used to clean the filters and the unit must be free of harmful contaminants prior to proceeding.

Note: Do not allow contaminated water to enter the core of the Berkey filtering element. This can be prevented by placing your finger over the hole where the water exits the filter.

1. In a clean bucket, basin, or other similar container, add clean water. If you are forced to clean your Berkey system elements with compromised water, add 16 drops of household bleach or iodine for every gallon of water being used to clean the elements.

2. Empty all of the water from your Berkey system.

3. Remove the top container and set it on its side on a clean solid surface like a table or countertop.

4. Remove the filters by unscrewing the wing nut that secures the Black Berkey element to the container.

5. Using a new ‘Scotch-Brite’ type scrubbing pad, carefully scrub the outer black surface of the filtering element, rinsing it as needed in the clean water.

6. Clean all filters as described above and set them aside on a clean surface.

7. Empty the container and add more fresh, clean, bleach-treated water as described in precaution above.

8. Submerge the filters in the fresh, clean, bleach-treated water, and set them aside on a clean surface.

9. Wash your hands with soap.

10. Reinstall the filters in the system.

Berkey Filter Tips

1. During the winter when I’m not using the trailer, I remove my Berkey water filter and bring it inside the house. The filter elements could potentially crack under freezing conditions.

2. Don’t drop the filter elements! They are expensive!

3. Keep a spare set of filters on hand. The price will only go up later. If SHTF long-term, you will be very glad you have extras.

4. Clean the inside of both stainless steel basins while you have the filter elements out. It tends to get musty in there after a period of time. It depends on your water, but you may want to clean the reservoirs more often.

5. If the outside of your filters are clogged with water deposits, lime or calcium: They need a good scrub so that the water can get through to the filter. Scrub with a NEW scrubby and rinse with cool water. Use no soap. Use a bit of diluted vinegar to facilitate scrubbing all that off.

6. If storing your Berkey filter for a while after having used it: Leave the cover off. Because this will allow the filters to dry out without getting algea / mold.

7. A MSB comment: “We are campers, but our (clear) Berkey stays home. When we are going to be away we remove the filters and place them in zip loc baggies and store them in the refrigerator to keep them from drying out which also seems to prevent mold.”

Continue reading: 5 Berkey Accessories For Your Countertop Filter

‘Sawyer Mini’ portable water filter Review


  1. Good article, I have a Berkey water filter system and spare filters.

  2. Great info here with very helpful details. I am saving up to get replacement filters for my Travel Berkey for JIC.

  3. I pre-filter with a “Camco TastePURE Water Filter” that screws onto the laundry tub sink faucet, it is filled with activated charcoal and lasts for about 2-4 months. They are only $17 each at Amzn, and there are other cheaper varieties, and the final filter stays cleaner longer.
    I use to use a stiff brush but the method demonstrated works better.

    1. Chevy (and others), be aware that the water filter you mentioned only screens to 20 microns. Those are huge holes, in that it will allow most nasty ‘bugs’ to get right through. It is essentially just a sediment filter with charcoal to neutralize odors/taste.

      However you did say ‘pre filter’, so that’s good to avoid prematurely clogging your second filtration!

      Rule of thumb for safe drinking water – Look for a filter that has a pore size of 1 micron or less. This will remove microbes / parasites such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia.

      I have used the Camco TastePURE Water Filter on my 5th-wheel’s water inlet (at campgrounds) to filter out ordinary sediment and smooth out any ‘off’ taste. But I use a countertop Berkey inside for our drinking water and ice making.

      1. I have broken the Camco open before discarding and the charcoal is brown with sediment, so it does help, and the only time I use it by itself is when camping.

      2. Hmmm. A coffee filter is about 20 microns. What’s to stop a person from using a coffee filter to pre-filter water before it goes into the Berkey?

        Seems like it might be enough to at least filter out some of the sediment.

        Haven’t done it, but will do so and report back!

        1. Bogan,
          Try one of those funnels for filtering turkey fryer oil, there are ultra fine filters available for them, or buy a couple yards of stainless filter screen and make your own, i know you can buy 2 micron, got some to use with the chemical injector for the greenhouse

  4. Very hot water (boiling) can cause the glues (that hold the plastics to the filter) to loosen, and therefore weaken the integrity of the filter unit.

  5. Great info, I clean my Berkey this way every 6 months as the upper chamber does get a little “gamey” after months of use….

    ps- be sure to check for leaks with the red food coloring method after reassembly!

  6. Ken, or anyone who wants to offer an opinion,

    I’ve had my Big Berkey for several years (can’t remember for sure how long, 5 years plus, maybe). I use it exclusively for my drinking water, meaning we filter the co-op water supply tap water that we drink. It is used to filter about 3-5 gallons per day usually. During this period, there has been no gunk build up or decrease in the time it takes to filter the water. The filtered water tastes great and shows no evidence of lack of purity, so I’ve not cleaned the exterior of the filters in all this time. When I bought the unit, I purchased two extra black filters for spares, but never have never opened the packages. Suggestions please on whether I should change the filters, or use the originals until they show signs of stopping up.

    1. Dennis,

      2 internal filters equals about 6,000 gallons according to their specifications.

      5 gallons used a day equals 1825 gallons a year.

      6,000 / 1825 = 3.3 years. Time to replace.

      With that said, since your water source is evidently pretty clean, I wouldn’t sweat it. Just a gut feeling that you could get more time out of it in your situation. If you’re at 5 years, I would probably replace them anyway. Just because it’s still flowing doesn’t mean the carbon properties aren’t used up, and whatever else may be going on inside those elements…

    2. In my area I clean about every 4 months. I can detect a slick feeling on the filters. Maybe just check and see how they feel. I have used one set for 3 years and even then they passed the red dye test. However thought a change would be healthier. Still scrubbed them and put them back.

  7. I saw a reply to post yesterday by a Berkey representative when someone asked about the water. According to Berkey after 6 days in the refrigerator the water from the Berkey begins to form bacteria and should be tossed. 3 days outside the refrigerator it begins to form bacteria. They say this is because all “chemicals” that hinder bacterial growth have been removed by the Berkey. I had no idea until I read that.

  8. Bought my Big Berkey back in 16, clean it every 6 months if it needs it or not.
    Have had zero problems with it and run probably 15 gallons a week through it.
    I do suggest only cleaning the insides of the containers with Vinegar, no soap.

  9. I’m in Arizona and the water has lots of salt in it. I use my Berkey and still taste the salt 😞, still lots better than without. Since we travel all the time I think it was an essential investment. It’s been a challenge to be a prepping RV’er, but it can be done to a big extent with common sense. I don’t plan on this lifestyle forever but my Mr has always dreamed of this and he has always been such a hard worker. He deserves it! But like I tell him, once a prepper, always a prepper! So my Berkey comes right along with us!

    1. Miss I Made It Myself;
      We did a few years of RV’ing, and having the preps was always a problem.
      We did ALWAYS purify the water when out-and-about though, moving from one location to another would give ya the GI’s if not careful.
      So we would have one of those “Pitcher” filters going all the time. Not as good as a Berkey, but saved a lot of TP along the road.

      1. It is a challenge NRP. I try to just think that’s it’s like living in our BOV. We are paying off debt and have made a good dent in it so far. Then we will reassess what we want to do.

  10. Well, I live in Cali so I am unable to puchase the Berkey (stupid politicians). Instead, I have gone with Aquarain, Katydine, lifestraw and my personal favorite, Sawyer. Pleased with all of them. I recommend stockpiling filters. I have about 30.

    1. Wondering why you can’t purchase in California? Or just order on Amazon?

      1. Not legal in California. Something to do with regulations on water purifiers. Sellers won’t ship here.

        1. Burt G & kevinH
          Honestly why would any company want to go through all the CRAPO regulations to have the foreign country of CA approve anything and sell there?

    2. I ordered one on amazon when I lived in a California. Shipped just fine!

  11. Has anyone actually used one of the Sawyer Mini’s? I’ve only read one users comment that it wasn’t usable as advertised. I don’t know. Anyone have any experience with them?

    1. glimpse;
      Yes I have used the Mini, with zero problems, it work as expected.
      I do a full “Lights Out” weekends and sometimes a full week, I do test everything I use and have for SHTF situations as I suggest everyone to do.

  12. If black residue comes off when cleaning for the first time with scotch brite, is this normal ?

    1. Is it slimy? If so it may be bacteria in the water. If not it could be scrubbing hard on the filter.

  13. Hello. I used a wire scratch pad to clean the black elements and now the flow is better than ever… I fear I may have damaged them. What do you think?

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