Even the most expensive and longest lasting filters have a limited life. In a survival situation, it is important to take care of your filter so you can get the most out of it.
Although it is not pleasant to think about, a crisis requiring you to make use of your prepping might last far longer than anyone can imagine. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your filter.
- 1 1. Let water settle out before pumping
- 2 2. Clean as directed
- 3 3. Don’t pump water right after a storm
- 4 4. Only filter food prep water that is not going to be boiled
- 5 5. Pre Filter Water Through A Screen, Cheesecloth, Or Other Cloth
- 6 6. Seek out the clearest and cleanest sources when possible
- 7 7. Catch rainwater
- 8 8. Store it properly
- 9 9. Replace charcoal if your filter uses it
- 10 10. Protect your filter from freezing
- 11 11. Store away from sunlight
- 12 12. Filter What You Really Need & No More
- 13 Signs Your Filter Needs Replaced
1. Let water settle out before pumping
If water is very cloudy or dirty, you should fill a larger container and let it set until sediment is on the bottom. Filters can become clogged quickly if you are filtering very muddy water. How long it takes for sediment to settle out depends on just how much is in it. Any amount of settling that you allow to happen is going to be a major help and significantly increase the life of your filter.
2. Clean as directed
Your filter should come with instructions on cleaning it. Keeping up with cleanings allows for a lot of contaminants to be flushed out so the filter stays clean and able to provide more output. Some filters come with cleaning kits while others may not. Check into how to clean yours now while you can find the information online.
3. Don’t pump water right after a storm
If you have some idea of what the weather might be like then try to pump water when there is no storm runoff causing turbid and cloudy waters. Grey clouds or thunderheads are a sign that you should filter the water you need for a day or two if possible.
4. Only filter food prep water that is not going to be boiled
If you are heating foods to high temperatures then you don’t have to use filtered water to cook with or prepare foods. Of course if you are dealing with heavily contaminated water then you still may want to filter just to be safe but it a lot of cases where water is clear but might have microscopic contamination, then boiling it is effective. You can also just boil water and store it for cooking and cleaning.
5. Pre Filter Water Through A Screen, Cheesecloth, Or Other Cloth
If you don’t want to wait for the water to settle out, you can use cheesecloth or a very fine mesh screen to get out larger particles quickly. Cheesecloth can be rinsed out and dried for reuse and has a lot of uses. You can even use a piece of standard cloth but try to use light colors that don’t have dyes that can reach out and have to filter out with your water filter. A white cotton t-shirt scrap works well.
6. Seek out the clearest and cleanest sources when possible
If you have water available in several places, check out how clear each one is. In some situations, you have to filter whatever you can find but it is well worth it to check out all sources within a reasonable distance of where you are. Walking an extra 100 feet each day to get water might make a real difference in the long term.
7. Catch rainwater
Rainwater is far cleaner in most cases than surface water. If you have some method to catch water such as a rain barrel or other container then you have a source of cleaner water than you might expect. Filtering rainwater means virtually no sediment unless you are collecting it off of something that is.
Of course in the event of nuclear fallout or environmental pollution such as acid rain, the surface water might still be a cleaner and better option. Water filters are capable of filtering out some radioactive and environmental pollutants but it is not going to be great for the life of your filter.
If you are using a roof for water catchment then you can get some sediment or dirt and dust off of your roof and into the water however the majority of this will come off within the first hour or less of rain. If you want the cleanest catchment water, run outside and dump the first water that comes off the roof and then allow your barrels to fill.
8. Store it properly
Water filters need to be stored right for a long life. Some filters ask that you store it broken down. If you are using it daily then at least make sure to clean it and allow it to air dry in a broken down state occasionally. Also, make sure to protect it from impacts. A broken element is not functional and dropping on a rock or if it gets hit by something can mean you are out of water.
9. Replace charcoal if your filter uses it
Some filters use activated charcoal for filtration. Over time, this may need to be replaced. There is often a refill kit you can buy so if you have this type of filter, stock up on some refills while you can.
10. Protect your filter from freezing
You can completely destroy your water filter if you allow it to freeze. In a survival situation, you might be exposed to cold temperatures. Keep your water filter packed with all the water pumped out and padded to avoid breakage but close enough to your body to stay reasonable temperature. At night, make sure it is well wrapped and in your tent or again packed close to you but where it will not be damaged while you are sleeping. A completely dried out filter, of course, will not freeze like one that has even a small amount of water in it. The drier your filter when cold temps come, the better off you are.
11. Store away from sunlight
Some exposure to the sun is to be expected but leaving your filter out in the sun for longer than it needs to dry out can lead to a shorter life. The plastic housing of a lot of filters is made to be very tough but over the years, too much sunlight can lead to cracks and splits.
12. Filter What You Really Need & No More
Pumping water out and not drinking it is not okay in a survival situation when you need your pump to really last. If you are leaving water in glasses or see a family member or partner doing this then you need to have a talk. If water is sealed in a good bottle it can be pumped for use later but don’t get too far ahead of yourself and waste it.
Signs Your Filter Needs Replaced
1. Off taste
It water has a funny taste to it after filtering then this means that the filter is not working properly. If water tastes strange, clean your filter and then filter again and see if it is still tasting off. If so, then you need to get a replacement ASAP.
2. Sediment and debris
If your filter is not getting rid of debris then check it out to make sure it is put together the right way but if it is then your filter has reached the end.
3. Water born illness
If you experience giardia-like symptoms then it is natural to suspect your water filter. Unless you can rule it out entirely, look into a replacement ASAP. Normally you will notice an off taste far before anything this serious happens but if you have ruled out a lot of other things and not your filter, you might want to check it out and make sure that it doesn’t have an unseen split, crack, or anything else.
4. Lots of cracks
Ceramic elements can become cracked and damaged through impacts from falls or similar. If you are starting to notice cracks in the ceramic then be on guard for a reduction in water quality.
5. No water coming out
The most likely thing that is going to happen if your filter is full of sediment is that it just stops giving you a sufficient stream of water. If you have cleaned it recently and it is still doing this then you need to replace at least the filter element itself if the housing is still good and replacement cartridges are available.
Tip: Buy The Longest Lasting One You Can Afford To Start With Or A Lot Of Lifestraws
Water filters like the Katadyn cost $245 but they filter 10000 gallons of water and you can pump it out faster than a lot of pumps (read my full review here!). The less gallons a filter is rated to, the quicker they can become clogged up. Water is essential and you definitely want to make sure that you plan for more filtration capability than you actually anticipate needing.
Always Have a Back-Up
Even if you have the most high-end premium filter, you can get you still need to have a second filter available just in case. In a survival situation, this is the difference between life and death.
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