As a proud member of the Berkey family for over 10 years, I've learned many tips and tricks that help customers with the initial setup and smooth lifelong use of their berkey water filter systems. Below are some of my top Berkey tips.
Priming Your Black Berkey Elements
When you first receive your black berkey elements or ceramic filters it is important to prime them. A priming button (large beige washer) is included in the box with each set of elements. Be sure to keep this some place safe so that you can re-prime your element if needed. ALWAYS USE PROTECTIVE GLOVES WHEN HANDLING YOUR BLACK BERKEY PURIFICATION ELEMENTS OR THE WHITE CERAMIC FILTERS.
To prime the elements, place the priming button on top of the threaded end of the element and place it firmly against your faucet. Turn the water on so that it is just a trickle. The water will go into the black element and the outside of the element will slowly bead up and around the element. When it has completely beaded up the element you can turn off the water and install the element into the Berkey water filter system.
Be sure to throw out the first 2-3 batches of water you put through the system so that the tap water used for priming is completely out of the elements.
Fore more details please read and watch our video: How to Prime the Black Berkey Filters for Use or Storage
Drying and Storing Your Black Berkey Elements
After use and before storing your system away for an emergency, please be sure to dry the black berkey elements thoroughly. The dry the elements, place them on a towel in a sunny windowsill and turn them once per day for a full three weeks. If you don't have a sunny area to dry them, please dry them for at least 4 weeks before storing.
To store the elements place them in a plastic ziploc bag and get as much air as possible out of the bag. Be sure to store them in an area that is free of any odors or fragrances.
Cleaning Your Black Berkey Elements
Once you install the black berkey or ceramic filters, the best thing you can do for them is just LEAVE THEM ALONE. The instructions state that you should clean your elements every six months with a scotch brite pad. I have found that to NOT be a good idea. Certainly, if they get a film on them you should rinse them off, but do not scrub them. This tends to clog them up. Instead, just leave them alone until they stop filtering or slow down so much that you are not getting very much water.
When and if they stop filtering, remove them and using a vegetable peeler, peel a thin layer all the way around the Black Berkey element and up to the top like you would a carrot. This will open them up, removing the layer of clogged material off the elements. You can then re-prime (only if needed) and re-install them into your Berkey water filter system. (Manufacturer Disclaimer: Peeling may invalidate any warranty on the black berkeys so we stress to customers that they perform this is at their own risk and only as a last resort)
Cleaning Your Berkey Chambers
Berkey Stainless Steel Canisters – Since you are most likely trying to reduce your chemical exposure, I recommend using natural cleansers to clean your bottom canister monthly. If you don't have access to natural cleansers, just fill your bottom canister ¼ of the way up and add 1 cup of white distilled vinegar. Scrub thoroughly and empty the water through the spigot on your system. This will clean the calcium buildup off the spigot. Clean your bottom canister once a month. It is not necessary to clean the top canister, but if you choose to, be sure to remove the black elements before cleaning.
Berkey Light (Plastic) Canister - Always use a mild dishwashing detergent (preferably a natural cleanser) to clean your Berkey Light. Clean your bottom canister once a month. It is not necessary to clean the top canister, but if you choose to, be sure to remove the black elements before cleaning.
Red Food Coloring Test
Every 6 months, I recommend you test your Black Berkey elements with a simple red food coloring test. It is important to use only RED food coloring as the other colors have minerals in them and will not be removed from the water.
- If using the white PF-2 Arsenic/Fluoride filters, remove them from the system.
- Empty both canisters and in the bottom canister place cups or juice glasses so that the elements will drip into each cup. If possible, use a clear or white cup/glass. You will need 1 cup for each element in your system.
- Place the top canister so that each element will drip directly into the cup below.
- The amount of red food coloring to be used depends on the size of your system. If you have a 2 ¼ gallon Big Berkey you will need to use 1 tablespoon of red food coloring and place it in the top canister. If you have a 3 ¼ gallon Royal Berkey you would use 3 teaspoons of the food coloring.
- After putting in the correct amount of food coloring into the top canister, fill it up completely with water. The water will be very red. Allow the water to filter down into the cups for several inches until the cups are at least one half filled. Then discard the rest of the red water in the top canister.
- Remove the cups/glasses from the bottom canister. Make sure you know which element goes with each cup. The water in the cups/glasses should be clear. If you are using a clear cup/glass, put a piece of white paper behind the cup/glass to get a good reading on the color of the water.
- If the water is pink, the element for that cup/glass is breached and should be replaced.
- If the water is clear, your elements are doing their job perfectly.
- A video of this test can be seen here: The Black Berkey Red Food Coloring Test
Berkey Fluoride and Arsenic Reduction Filters
For priming the PF-2 filters, I recommend priming from each side by at least 2 minutes to wash out as much manufacturing dust from the filter as possible. Also, once installed, it can take up to 10 full system flushes of water before all the cloudiness (manufacturing dust) has been rinsed from the water. Be patient as this will vary depending on the production run and dustiness of the granules used in the filter.
- To determine how long your fluoride filters will last depends on the quality of your water. Since the fluoride filters also remove arsenic and continue to reduce the heavy metals in your water they may not last 1,000 gallons for the set of 2. So don’t get upset if they don’t last as long as you expect, they are continuing to reduce other harmful things in your water.
- When the fluoride filters are used up you will find that they usually stop allowing any water into the bottom canister. If this happens just remove them and make sure your Black Berkey Purification Elements are working. If they are, you need to just replace the fluoride filters and you are ready to go.
If leaking occurs around the washers of the spigot, make sure you have washers on both sides of the stainless steel. (black inside, white outside for stainless systems) Tighten as much as you can and leave the spigot about 90 degrees out of phase. Then, grab onto the nut in the back with a wrench, and turn the spigot itself that last quarter turn using the spigot as leverage to get a tighter turn. If this is ineffective, please soak the washers in olive oil for approximately 1 hour. Sometimes the washers can dry out and get hard over time and the olive oil will soften them up allowing for a good seal.
One final tip to ensure you get the full life of your black berkey filters is to fill the upper chamber to the top (assuming lower chamber has the room for the water) every time. This will allow for the entire length of the filter to be put to use so that the media gets exhausted evenly. I hope this information is of help to every Berkey water filter system owner.