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Priming Your Black Berkey Filter For Use or Storage

Before one can enjoy the first sips from their newly purchased berkey water filter, any system using Black Berkey Purification Elements must be primed to prepare the filters for use. Fortunately, it only takes a few minutes to do and is rather easy and straightforward.

"But, what if I am only buying the black berkey filters as a backup set for the future?  Once I receive them, can't I just throw them in the cabinet and forget about them?"

The answer to that question is no if you want to take advantage of the 2 year manufacturer warranty.  Priming before storage will allow you to test the black berkey and verify that there are no defects with the product.  This is extremely important because the clock on the warranty starts ticking upon date of receipt.  If one just threw it into the closet and took it out 3 years later, only to find problems with the filter,  it would be out of warranty.  Even though there is a small chance of product defect, going through the priming exercise up front helps protect your future investment. Let's begin by providing you a video of the priming being executed, followed by text priming instructions, and storage instructions.

Priming Your Black Berkey Filters Video

Priming Your Black Berkey Filter

Whether you are using a Berkey Light, a Royal Berkey, or any of the other Berkey systems that utilize the Black Berkey purification element, priming is required due to the extremely small pores that make up the filter.   These elements need to have water forced through them to clear the air that has been trapped inside the micro fine pores during production.  Begin by opening up your black berkey box and verify that each element has a rubber washer and a wing nut attached to it.  Also inside the box you'll find your priming button, a tan rubber washer.  It will be thicker than the element washer with a smaller center hole.  See Figure 1.

Black Berkey with Tan Priming Button Figure 1 - Black Berkey with Tan Priming Button

Now, follow the 5 steps of the priming process below (also shown in Figure 3 Diagram) :

1. Start by pressing the tan priming button onto the stem of the black berkey purification element with the small end facing the element.
2. Place the stem of the Black Berkey element between your fingers and press the large end of the priming button against the faucet. (see Figure 2)
3. While holding the priming button against the faucet, turn on the cold water gently, and allow the water to fill the cavity of the purification element.  (see Figure 2)
4. Allow the exterior of the Black Berkey element to sweat beads of water for about 5 seconds.
5. Follow this process for each element you intend to prime and they will ready for everyday use.

Placing Black Berkey Up to Your Faucet for Priming Figure 2 - Place Your Black Berkey Up to Your Faucet for Priming
Black Berkey Priming Diagram Figure 3 - Black Berkey Priming Diagram

Storage of your Black Berkey Purification Element

Now that your Black Berkey's are primed, you may either install them into your system and drink away, or you may store them for future use.  If storing, the most critical issue to monitor is that the filters are allowed to fully dry out.

Follow these basic guidelines for storage after priming:

1. Use a dry cloth to remove any excess water from the filters
2. Air dry the filters by laying them out on a cloth on a window sill with good sun exposure.  Preferably, this area should be well ventilated
3. Turn the at least once a day to ensure they are being evenly dried.
4. After approximately 2.5 - 3 weeks, the black berkey elements should be fully dry.  If sun is not available, please place in warmer parts of your home and allow for longer dry out times.
5. Once fully dry, place you black berkeys in a container or plastic bag that protects them from moisture.  Vacuum sealed is preferred.
6. These filters are now prepped and ready for use when needed.

Following the above steps for priming and storage ensures that you utilize the black berkey elements in the way they were intended and provides a method for you to protect your future investment.  Proper storage gives you the ability to guarantee yourself years worth of clean drinking water with the ease of being able to install them directly into your system immediately when needed.  This is another benefit that many other filtration systems cannot reproduce and speaks to inherent versatility and quality of the Berkey Filter Line.

70 thoughts on “Priming Your Black Berkey Filter For Use or Storage”

  • Kevin

    If you prime a Berkey element and then dry it for storage, will it need to be re-primed later on? Or can they just be installed when the time comes?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Kevin - They will able to be installed when needed and should not need re-priming. However, if the filters run for some time without water flowing through, you can re-prime as a last resort.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • gary meroff

    I primed the Black berkey filter but, the water is bitter or taste like it is coming out of a garden water hose. Do I need to re-prime them? The water coming out of the flouide filter taste fine. I thought it was the water filter and I re-primed those. I threw away my brown prime button if I need to reprime the black berkey filter I can buy a gasket or something that works. I have drank about 5-8 gallons already.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Gary -

      It's possible you may have a defective black berkey filter. We recommend that you perform a red food coloring test to verify. This link shows the process.

      http://www.bigberkeywaterfilters.com/wordpress/water-filters/the-black-berkey-red-food-coloring-test/

      Please make sure you place a separate cup or glass underneath each black berkey filter to isolate the one that may be defective. If red food coloring makes it though the filter, then you've identified the defective one. Please contact us, and we'll have that replaced for you immediately.

      Reply
  • Stephanie

    We have a Royal Berkey with two black filtering elements. We moved and the movers just packed our Berkey in with other items (plactic cups, sippie cups, etc...) We did not prepare it in any way nor have the filters dried out. There is still moisture inside of the top chamber. Do we need to do anything other than clean the stainless steel chambers out? Do the black berkey elements need to be reprimed or cleaned? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Stephanie -

      You can clean your chambers with some soap and water, and they'll be fine. For your black berkey filters, you can gently scrub them with a scotch brite pad under running water to remove any residue. You can then set your berkey water filter system back up and run you first batch of water through. The filters should run as they usually do, and if they do not, then you can re-prime them. This is not usually required, but can make a difference in opening up the pores if they have gotten clogged by residue or blocked during the scrubbing process.

      Reply
  • CHRIS

    Do I get the impression that I might have gone wrong with the process? about 2 inches up from the bottom of the "upper chamber" the water has stalled and isnt coming out anymore. I did the priming though, i didnt quite press it against the tap tho when i let the water go, so maybe the bubbles might still be present in the last 1 1/2" of the black filters. I am using the pf-2 also. Have only filled up once for the trial to get it all working soo far. Hopefully get the fill up twice then use on the 3rd time round for clean drinking,

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Chris -

      The water will not filter below the last 1-2 inches of the filters simply due to the lack of water pressure. This is normal and it sounds like your filters are working as designed.

      Thanks
      Dan DeBaun

      Reply
  • CHRIS

    Actually it is just over an inch up from the bottom of the upper chamber that the water has remained. its about 2 drips per hour lol. im anxious to comsume the "holy" water that has about 86 less contaminents in (by about 90-99%?)

    Reply
  • CHRIS

    Hey dan, thanks for the update. It sounds like I'm ready to have nice water after all these years :) (aswell as half the natural herb chemist of products to go with the water for natural health, that aren't pharmaceutical approved!). The 2nd half of the filtering was very slow tho but then i understand that the fluoride removers could well half the pace. Im wondering whether to just do another filter process then drink the 3rd fill up - to ensure best results.

    It is nice to finally see a high end filter in the home though that removes most things and "actually retains the minerals in the water" (i have heard most products eradicate those) time to embrace health again!

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Yes Chris, I would finish out one more flush then begin drinking. And yes, it's normal for the 2nd half of the container to filter much slower than the first half, again because it is directly proportional to gravity pressure which drops as the water volume drops in that upper chamber. You'll be able to adjust for this as you get used to the Berkey system. For example, when you only have 1/3 of the lower chamber left full, you can almost fill the upper chamber all the way to the top because you'll know that the first half will filter quickly through and the the 2nd half will be slower, allowing time for you to drink from the lower chamber to open up space additional space in the meantime. This is assuming you want your lower chamber as full as possible. While it may seem a little confusing now, this will become second nature to you as you become accustomed to the Berkey filter.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • CHRIS

    just need to comfirm tho - is it normal to take several minutes to fill a cup full in equivalence when using both black and pf-2 together? unless i need to unclog them. i dnt think theyre used to water pressure just yet with it being 2nd time fill-up, took over 24hrs to get the first filling and about a similar speed now. apologies for all these questions! i'm aliitle inquisitive in my old age :)

    Reply
  • CHRIS

    Ok, I have had to reprime the filters again as they were going far too slowly, however, i put the pf-2 on for full 7 1/2 revolutions instead of 8 to see if that worked, i dnt know if thats whats caused this effect but - the one filter is still dripping out at a passable rate (probably normal?) however, the other one is squirting more and just coming out constantly as opposed to dripping - although its still coming out in a fine line, im wondering if its too quick? as the other one is just dripping moderately at an ok pace, i know i keep asking alot of daft questions at times, but i'm making sure i get it right properly and that im doing the right thing. i have tried the water in a cup though and it does taste better now than it did before - it was alittle flat when i first drank from the filter but now re-doing/priming both black and pf-2, the water looks fairly clear (i put it next to tap water to distinguish the difference, and the tap water had lots of bits, and was like fizzy/gasey bubbles dominant at times while t he filtered water had just a few little small tiny bubbles and looked clean), and no water does come out the top of the screwing fixtures so maybe im concerned over nothing?.

    Reply
  • joseph

    What if I need to prime the filter in an emergency situation and I have no water pressure or no faucet. Are there other ways to prime it?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Joseph -

      Yes, there is a way to prime the berkey filters without water pressure, and instructions on how to do so are included with the black berkey elements themselves. We will post a blog covering this in the near future.

      Reply
  • Sarah Williamson
    Sarah Williamson May 4, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Thank you for this document. You have already answered two of the three questions I came to have answered regarding storing and priming filters. Now, on to the third: We purchased the Royal Berkey to have in case of disaster. Do you have any recommendations on external filters/screens that can be used to clean surface water before it is introduced to the Berkey? We know that it must be done to keep the black filters from collecting too much material too quickly. We also understand the other purification techniques regarding iodine or chlorine.

    Reply
  • Sheri

    We bought the Imperial and the filtering is going very slowly. I try to keep the upper chamber full, but it may filter only half and even that takes several hours. We did order 2 more filters and hope to be filtering on 4 soon. Is the slow filtering normal? There are 9 of us in the family and we have large groups over and have been running out of water, even when keeping the top full.

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Sheri -

      Your filters may not be fully primed. Plase make sure you see a beading happen across the full length of the filter when priming. Also, another option is to clean the outside of the elements. Some tips are for cleaning the filters are discussed in this berkey water filter tips article.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Theo

    We are leaving on a 1-2 week trip and will leave our Big Berkey at the house. Is there anything special we need to do prior or after the trip to our filters and the water in the reservior?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Theo -

      Just empty the berkey water filter and dry it out. Once you come back home, add water again to the upper chamber of the berkey, and let it start filtering again.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Zach

    Hi Dan,
    My wife and I are also going out of town soon. If it is only for a week or two, why do we need to empty the system before we go?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Yes Zach, i would just dump the water out of the Berkey system so when you return, you can start clean by adding a new batch of water into the upper chamber for filtering.

      Reply
  • Cathy

    In the instructions we are told to wear protective gloves. Why?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Cathy -

      This is to prevent any possibility of contaminating the filters. However, if your using this in your home, these gloves are not necessarily needed.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Kathy Townley

    Purchased 2 additional black berkey filters for future use. Just read above that priming is suggested, and then air drying before storage. Should the filters be tested using the red food coloring before drying and storage? Thanks.

    Reply
  • Kathy Townley

    Thanks Dan. What is the shelf life of the black berkeys after they are primed, dried, and stored?

    Reply
  • Kathy Townley

    ...one more question...how does the black berkey filtered water measure up against "distilled water"? We use distilled water for preparation of a nasal sinus rinse, and wondering if the filtered water could be used everyday or in an emergency?
    Thanks, kathy

    Reply
  • Gary Deems

    Just wanted to praise your customer service - had a defective black berkey that had been improperly glued in the manufacturing process. One e-mail and you had a replacement on the way. Thank you very much. Does underscore the need to check the filters before long term storage.

    Reply
  • Elvin Wissmann

    Thanks for the post. I wondered if you would consider using writing from guest posters any time?

    Reply
  • Justin

    Hi Dan, Like Kathy above, I'd also like to know what the shelf life is on these filters.

    Thanks
    Justin

    Reply
  • Brent

    If the Big Berkey is placed into storage, do the upper and lower chambers 'nest' together so they take up less space on the shelf? Also, I see that the filters need to be kept above freezing. Is there a similar requirement for the rest of the unit?

    Reply
  • Coy

    I don't like the idea of letting my filters lay out in the open air for 3-4 weeks to dry. Could I decrease drying time by placing them in an oven on very low heat and with the door cracked open (similar to how I dehydrate fruit)? If so, what is the recommended temperature and time?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Coy -

      This is not something that we've tested before, so we'd be reluctant to recommend it, as we always want to be careful not to affect the binding integrity of the media. Letting your filters dry out in the open air will not be harmful to them or cause any issues, just would require a little patience.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Craig Fertig

    Hi Dan,

    I have a Big Berkey at work and a Royal Berkey at home. There is a water softener at home which I've since disconnected. I'm assuming that is what has contaminated the Royal Berkey, the whole thing is coated with a white crystalline structure and the filtered water has a film on top and leaves residue on the bottm of the glass when dried.

    Are you aware of any issues using the Berkey's with water softeners? Will it ruin the fluoride filters?

    Thanks, Craig

    Reply
  • carmen coles

    If I order two more of the black filters to go with the two I have when I got my Berkey Light Water Filter, will I receive another primer washer? I received my Berkey Light this past August when I was out of town and my husband doesn't know what he did with the primer washer - a major problem when I need to clean the filters and prime them again. I can't get enough water pressure through the filters to prime them properly. Is it possible to purchase a primer washer separately? Thank you. Carmen

    Reply
    • admin

      Hi Carmen -

      Yes, the filters come with priming buttons. You can also contact us at customerservice@bigberkeywaterfilters.com and we'll send you a spare.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Stefanie

    I used gel food coloring to test the berkey and it runs through. Is it because I am using the gel type? Did this ruin the filter? Thanks!

    Reply
  • Laura

    We are moving and our household items will be packed for a week before we receive them. I don't have time to dry out the filters I am thinking since it is less than 3 weeks away. Is there a way to wet pack them? Could I just wrap them in plastic food storage bags? Will they mold?

    Reply
  • Matthew

    I'm leaving town for 7 days.
    I have a royal with 2 black & 2 fluoride filters
    Can I just leave them without water for a week?
    By the time I get your reply it will be after I'm back. Do I need to clean them or get them ready again?
    I plan to drain them just as though I'm drinking the water. (I don't plan to over turn it to empty it or dry it.)
    Thanks.

    Reply
  • Laura

    Hi Dan,
    I see you mentioned that one or two weeks leaving the Berkey tank empty and dry without removing the filters inside while away is okay. I will be gone for one month; can I do the same and leave the tank empty and dry with the filters (1 set black on top and 1 set pf-2 on bottom) attached? Do I need to do anything special with the filters (such as cleaning them) when I return? Many thanks for your reply. Love the Berkey system.

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Laura -

      Yes, you can do the same. You do not have to do anything special unless they become clogged due to dried up debris stuck in the filters. In this case you would clean and reprime.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Richard

    I have to unexpectedly leave my home for several months. I have to do that in a few days, so there will be no chance of taking weeks to dry out the filters properly. Do you have any advice as to what I should do? I have both the black Berky and the fluoride filters.

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Richard -

      It's not a problem Richard. You can just leave them in your system. When you return clean the outside and re-prime them and you'll be good to go. The interior of the filter is self-sterilizing, so you'll be ok.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • michayla

    We only we allowed to dry our berkey filters for 2 days before our move. Do we just leave it in its container, wrap the berkey in bubble wrap, and put in a box? It should only be in a box for 4-5 days in the truck but they are far from dry. Thanks!

    Reply
  • ru kwong

    Because of a family situation,I left my travel berkey empty for 18 months, but I did not remove the elements. I just came back and opened the top, and there is still some condensation on the lid and sides. It is still okay to use?

    Reply
  • Paul

    Hi, I see that you recommend priming extra filters before storage. How would priming be able to demonstrate if the filter is broken? Thanks

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Paul -

      The priming before storing is so that in case of an emergency your filters are quickly ready to go, and you wouldn't have to worry about the priming process. If by broken, you mean the filters being defective, then you would want to perform a red food coloring test on these filters also for testing that they are working to design specs.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • joan laplante
    joan laplante April 6, 2016 at 8:38 am

    I am going away for 6 months. can I just leave my system with 2 filters as is, or do I have to remove the filters and dry them?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Joan -

      You can leave them in your system, but we're recommend a full system cleaning prior to beginning use. The filters are self-sterlyzing, so whether they're dry or wet, they will be ok during that time period.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • John

    I am a bit confused WHY the filters need to be dried out for storage if they are properly wrapped or vacuum packed. I am wanting to order a kit with Black & Flouride filters and would rather not go thru the hassle of repriming the ones I am currently using if I store them for future emergency. Can you please explain why the drying is needed?
    As the only user of a Big Berkey, it is often a couple weeks between refilling. I know the bottom tank is not sealed airtight, is there any concern in drinking the water that was filtered 2 or 3 weeks earlier?
    What should the drip rate be when Big Berkey is filled with only the black filters in place? Should both filters be dripping at same rate? (ATT 1 filter is 2ce as fast as the other.
    Remind me: Is there any SILVER used in the Black filter or any other you carry?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi John -

      For ones currently in operation, drying before storage is not essential as the black berkeys are self-sterylizing. However, the reason we recommend drying them out is that mold can grow on the outside of the filters so there's a chance that when you went to use them in an emergency, you may need to clean mold off of them at this point in time.

      For brand new filters, it is more important to prime and then store. This way you can prime, and then run a red food coloring test up front to make sure there are no filter issues prior to storage. God forbid you have have a bad filter, you do not want to discover this during an emergency, nor when it's out of warranty. Hope this helps.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Andrea Featherston
    Andrea Featherston May 11, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    How do I prime a filter if I do not have water under pressure? I bought the filters as an emergency back up, but after reading all this priming information is there a way to get the filters operating if I do not have a hose or faucet. And then am I contaminating my filter if I use " non-household" water?

    Reply
  • kathy Pascazio

    Hi Dan,
    I have a plastic Berkley Light I bought in 2012. I used it for the first time during Hurricane Matthew. I have four filters and two arsenic/flouride filters, I believe for every black filter I should only use one arsenic/flouride filter right? I need to order two more arsenic/flouride filters right?

    My other question is when I screwed the primed white arsenic/flouride filters into the black filters and added water to the top and it filtered through both filters, it came out cloudy almost whitish, but I poured out the first batch and second batch, the third batch was clear. Did I prime the white filters correctly? Another question how long can the water that is still full in the bottom of the container stay in there.
    After this is done I will probably let the filters dry out for storage.
    Thank you Dan

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Kathy -

      Yes, the upper chamber filters must match the lower chamber filters. The whitish is the fluoride filter dust wash-out, and once clear, you are good to go for usage. If you do not utilize any of the water in the lower chamber for more than 3 days, then we recommend to dump and start with a fresh batch. Otherwise, daily usage would not require this.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Christine

    Just wondering what might be a normal 1st batch flow rate for the water. Not sure if I properly primed. Water seemed to go around and on outside of filter while priming! I slowly filled with a small stream..and let it fill more with running water..but hence could not see beading on outside. The filters were heavy, when installing, but this am, there is still at least 2 inches of water in top chamber. I did read where it could just be the weight of water? I guess worried that I didn't forcefully let water prime through filters? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Christine -

      Yes, there will always be 1-3 inches left in the upper chamber that will not get filtered through until more water is added into that upper chamber. It sounds like your system is breaking in on schedule.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • eri

    I plan to purchase a travel berkey to use outside of US. Would priming the filters with faucet water that is likely contaminated be an issue?

    Thanks

    Reply
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