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How Effective are Backflushing and Storage Practices for Squeeze Filters


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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable How Effective are Backflushing and Storage Practices for Squeeze Filters

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  • #3734483
    Billy (2 Bees) Bowers
    BPL Member

    @bowers7314

    Ryan, great article. I picked up my first Sawyer because it removed the most bacteria even though it has a low flow rate like my old school First Need. Been an outdoorsman for 50 plus years and was fortunate not to get sick taking water from streams filtering through cloth only till 30 years ago when I was taking water, I noticed a herd of mountain goats up stream. Be one with nature, but come home healthy and safe.

    #3735455
    Daryl and Daryl
    BPL Member

    @lyrad1

    Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth

    Thanks for doing the hard work for us.  Very helpful.

    #3737643
    Luke R
    BPL Member

    @luke-russell

    <p style=”text-align: right;”>I noticed that deionized water (DI water) was mentioned here a couple times for the final flush. I am curious about this as I have hard water in our tap at home and wasn’t sure if I could just buy purified or distilled water at the grocery store to use instead. Are those hard waters? Where do I get DI water, or how do I treat water I have to make it this way? I’m not a chemist of any sort, so this is a little beyond me. Thanks!</p>

    #3737644
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    distilled water would work.  It has very little minerals in it that could clog a filter

    #3746872
    Fred Kelly
    BPL Member

    @fkelly01

    Question for Ryan – I would love for you/Ryan to comment on what your “standard” (default/starting) process is/would be for cleaning a filter prior to storage after normal use (say a filter that hadn’t materially clogged yet).   If you aren’t doing the cleaning/disinfection process in attempt to standardize/compare filter performance, but say your main goal was just to be proactive prior to filter layup/storage (to optimize flow rate and filter life), would you always use the Citric Acid as a step prior to disinfection?  (or would you only use the weak acid/solvent if/when flow rate falls of)?   Would you incorporate a warm water “soak” at the start of your “standard” layup process to dislodge material?   After storage, would you incorporate a warm water “soak” when taking a filter from storage, prior to use?  Thoughts on using the Chlorine Dioxide vs the Bleach?

    Thanks for takin time to do all the testing/research!

    This is a really great article from ~5 months ago in Nov 2021 – just what I needed!  This type of deep dive adds value – thanks!  I learned a ton from this article, and your/Ryan’s rigor, (and some follow up with Sawyer/Katadyne printed and support info).   I learned several concepts that weren’t previously clear to me (even though I thought I had read all the instruction manuals for Sawyer/Katadyne – not!).    In your testing, you came up with a good/standard process where the filter flow rates/results could logically be compared after using them.  Your process had steps I hadn’t thought of (had missed previously).  I’m leveraging this work, and the follow up deep dive I did into all three filter manuf’s printed cleaning/storage info, as well as some info from Sawyer’s Customer Svc group responding to my Q’s.     My goal is to incorporate all these concepts optimally as I return from trips, and/or prior to heading out with a filter that has been stored (BeFree or a Sawyer Squeeze).   One of my hiking partners has the QuickDraw.

    I’m like many of you – I have used the Sawyer Squeeze since 2013 (~9 years), a year after they came out in 2012 (I have qty 2 of the Squeeze filters still going strong), and in 2020, after watching a million video’s and reading articles on the BeFree, I made that jump (I bought qty 3 prior to a 200 mile AT section hike in Virginia, and have only needed to use one of those qty 3 BeFree’s since then – haven’t needed to use the other two yet).  I have put ~ 350 liters thru that first BeFree without any plugging or material flow rate reduction (AT & Colorado 14er climb), but hearing other’s issues, I have either carried…, or included a  spare BeFree in resupply boxes on long section hikes (which haven’t been needed, yet).

    The big picture fundamental concepts (which this article brought into focus) which I didn’t have “organized” logically in my mind include

    1. Backflushing – OK – all of us have known how important that is was, but I hadn’t ever thought of doing that to a BeFree using a smartwater bottle with the sports cap.  I didn’t have it clear how similar in technology, all three brands were.

    2. Use of warm water.   I see Sawyer strongly recommends starting with a warm water soak when we are attempting to maintain/restore flow (loosen crud up), and…, to get a filter back in service after it has been stored.   Makes sense that the warm water might be able to loosen up crud.

    3. I had never heard of the use of weak acid wash to dissolve solids/calcium/deposits (you/Ryan used Citric Acid which I now see is a great low cost safe weak acid – used for a million things including canning – which can be a solvent for the deposits in the filter).   I also now see that Sawyer similarly recommends soaking a filter in white vinegar (and then backflushing) if  the warm water soaking & back-flushing don’t restore flow rate.    I’m betting this is a technique/step that many other people are also unaware of.   It makes sense.   If  solids/calcium/deposits have accumulated in the filter, and back-flushing doesn’t dislodge them, and the filter dries (allowing those deposits to harden/solidify/clog the filter), I now understand how this step possibly helps to dissolve/dislodge those solids/calcium/deposits (with the weak acid solvent) where they can be flushed out (going fwd, or possible backwards via back-flushing).      I’m wondering/betting that many abandoned filters could have possibly been restored via the use of warm water soaking, and/or…, use of an appropriate slightly acidic solvent (Citric Acid, White Vinegar, etc).

    4. Ryan’s work helped me see that either Chlorine Dioxide (Micropur or Aquamira) or bleach is used/recommended to disinfect.   All three of the filter manuf’s list/show bleach as OK.   Katadyne lists bleach or Chlorine Dioxide.   Also, Ryan’s work (and other comments I now understood), helped me understand the potential negatives of leaving the Chlorine in the filter.

     

    Here is the procedure used in Ryan’s “standardized” test (to insure comparable results):

    a.       Filters were backflushed at a high squeeze pressure with 2 liters of cold tap water.

    b.       Filters were forward-flushed with 0.25 liters of a 5% citric acid solution and rested for 30 minutes, then flushed with 0.5 liters of cold water. This treatment removes calcified organic deposits such as magnesium and calcium salts that may form when filtering hard waters normally found in the Mountain West.  (Note inserted:   in some other BPL blogs, although not blessed by BPL, user(s) have used vinegar/acetic acid Ph ~2.4 and CLR/ lactic acid, gluconic acid are acids while the CLR’s Ph ~3.7) to dissolve deposits in backpacking water filters).

    c.       Filters were forward flushed with 0.25 liters of a double-concentrated solution of Aquamira (Chlorine Dioxide), rested for two to four hours, and then flushed with 0.5 liters of cold water. This treatment is designed to disinfect bacterial biofilms which may foul the filter membranes. The cold water flushing after the Aquamira (Chlorine Dioxide) is designed to remove traces of chlorine-based oxidizers which are known to accelerate aging of polymeric filter media.

     

    Parallel (very similiar to Ryan’s standardized test procedure for cleaning filters), what follows is a great email response from Sawyer’s Cust Svc folks when I contacted them asking some Q’s:

    “……For general maintenance, we recommend backwashing your filter after each outing, when your flow rate begins to diminish, before prolonged storage, and when you’re ready to start using your filter again.  Backwashing your filter after storage is a great way to re-wet the filters and restore the flow rate before use.

    Soak the filter in hot water (not to exceed 135 F) for ~30 min to loosen up any residual particulate built up in the filter fibers and then backflush several times with hot water as hard as possible.  If the flow is slow, repeat the process for a blocked filter below.

    A blocked filter can almost always be recovered by soaking the filter in hot water (not to exceed 135 F) for an hour or so, and then backflushing several times with hot water as hard as possible.  The trick to a successful backwashing is to be very forceful with the process. Water will always take the path of least resistance, so in order to fully flush out the filter and restore its flow rate, make sure you are exerting as much pressure as you can, especially during the first couple of passes.

    If that doesn’t work and your flow rate is still slow, your water source might be mineral rich, so we would suggest soaking it in plain, undiluted white vinegar for an hour or more, and then repeating the process with hot water backflushes in order to dissolve the minerals that have hardened on to your filter.  A second or third soak of hot water and/or vinegar may be necessary. The more you do this, the more recovery you will achieve.

    To sanitize the filter, we’d recommend using a weak bleach solution (one capful of bleach per Liter of water).  Slosh the weak bleach solution around in your pouch and run it through the filter.  After the pouch and filter have been sanitized, let the filter sit upright with sufficient ventilation to dry out before storing the filter in a cool/dry location away from direct sun exposure.  Some tips:

    Trying to filter water through a blocked filter will always make things worse.
    Backflush, backflush, backflush,……

    When storing, make sure to finish with the sanitization process above.

    Our backwashing tips and tricks video can be seen here:

    https://sawyer.com/videos/backwashing-tips-tricks/

     

    Hope that helps!…”.

    Question for Ryan – I would love for you/Ryan to comment on what your “standard” (default/starting) process is/would be for cleaning a filter prior to storage after normal use (say a filter that hadn’t materially clogged yet).   If you aren’t doing the cleaning/disinfection process in attempt to standardize/compare filter performance, but say your main goal was just to be proactive prior to filter layup/storage (to optimize flow rate and filter life), would you always use the Citric Acid as a step prior to disinfection?  (or would you only use the weak acid/solvent if/when flow rate falls of)?   Would you incorporate a warm water “soak” at the start of your “standard” layup process to dislodge material?   After storage, would you incorporate a warm water “soak” when taking a filter from storage, prior to use?  Thoughts on using the Chlorine Dioxide vs the Bleach?

    Thanks Ryan et all!

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