Black Berkey Filters FAQ

We do not recommend using softened water with the Black Berkey Filters. This improper use of the Berkey Filters will result in a void of the 2-year pro-rated filter warranty. The Berkey purification elements are designed to remove heavy metals but will not altogether remove mineral salts, which are added by a water softener. The salt added by a water softener embeds in the exterior of the filter, requiring frequent cleaning. With each cleaning, the clogged surface of the filter is removed, so water may pass through again. For this reason, these salts tend to shorten the life of the filters.
If you have a water softener, you can use a Berkey IF you bypass the softener to get your drinking water. Most water softeners have a bypass valve or way to get water before passing through your softener. Therefore, we highly recommend that you obtain pre-softened water directly from the source rather than run softened water through your Black Berkey Filter Elements. If you cannot do so, the maintenance and replacement frequency of the elements may increase.

Water filtration is a complex science, and we try to use standard terms when possible, so the explanation is more understandable. If you are interested in the science behind specific water purification methods used by Berkey, please follow the links contained within this page below. Several well-known methods are used to produce the Black Berkey purification elements. These methods are combined and blended to create a unique filter process the likes of which the world has never seen.

MICROFILTRATION - The first line of defense is that the Berkey purification elements are composed of a formulation of more than six different media types, all constructed into a very compact matrix containing millions of microscopic pores. These pores are so minute that they produce what we refer to as a tortuous path that pathogenic bacteria, cysts, parasites, sediment, and sedimentary minerals must travel through. These paths are so small that these pollutants physically cannot pass through them and become trapped, eliminating them from your drinking water; this is known as microfiltration.

ADSORPTION - Secondly, our media formulation uses unique adsorption and absorption properties. Adsorption works to create an ionic barrier similar to surface tension. This barrier is ideally suited to the microporous water filter because it effectively allows the tiny pores to block smaller water contaminants than the pore size itself. This blocking process is how the Berkey water filter can remove submicron viruses that other brands of water filters cannot without obnoxious chemicals like iodine or chlorine. Next, the heavy metals ions (mineral molecules) are extracted from the water through an Ion exchange process where they are attracted to and transformed by electrically bonding to the media. Finally, water molecules can take several minutes to pass through the filter elements because of their gravity flow nature. In contrast, these water molecules passing through other filtration systems pass through in only fractions of a second. This longer contact time between the water molecules and the filter media provides much greater removal rates of harmful water contaminants not obtainable through conventional pressurized water filtration methods.

FLOW RATE - Finally, Berkey systems effectively remove contaminants from water because of the extremely long “contact period.” Other filtration systems rely on water pressure that forces water molecules through the elements at 60-90 PSI. These water molecules come into contact with the filter media for a mere fraction of a second. By comparison, water molecules passing through the structure of the Black Berkey elements are drawn gently by gravity and stay in contact with the media for an extended period. This allows the filter media to be more efficient in capturing contaminants. This advanced technology was developed, refined, and proven through years of diligent, investigative research and testing performed by water purification specialists, researchers, and engineers. The flow rate or time of exposure through the Black Berkey purification elements has been calculated to yield the most significant volume of removal of viruses, toxic chemicals, and bacteria.

As you can see, the Berkey water purifier incorporates several different scientific methods to produce unmatched drinking water quality. We can do all of this and still maintain simplicity. As a Berkey user, all that you must do is pour water into the unit. The processes mentioned above will continue to work for you behind the scenes for many years to come. This long filter life allows you to produce purified drinking water for pennies a gallon.

NSF certifications are not required but rather optional. In our opinion, NSF certifications are limited in their application with respect to our gravity-fed purification elements. NSF Standard 42 (aesthetic effects) and Standard 53 (health effects) would apply to our purification elements. NSF Standard 42 covers systems “designed to reduce specific aesthetic or non-health-related contaminants (such as chlorine, taste and odor, and particulates) that may be present in public or private drinking water. ” This would appear to be an unnecessary certification as not only do the elements easily handle public drinking water but also untreated raw water, exceeding what the standard would certify for. NSF Standard 53 addresses “systems designed to reduce specific health-related contaminants, such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, lead, VOC’s, MTBE that may be present in public or private drinking water.” The organisms mentioned are relatively large. Our purification elements have been tested to remove not only a whole host of VOCs but, more importantly, viruses, much smaller organisms. Again, this exceeds what the standard would certify for. The tests we have conducted are much more rigorous than those required by NSF for the certifications required. Our purifiers have been rigorously tested by third-party independent accredited labs, far surpassing the above standards 42 and 53. For example, our systems have been tested for the removal of hundreds of contaminants, including heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, pathogenic bacteria, and viruses. These test results are published and available to all our consumers on our website and in printed literature. In addition, there has also been other highly publicized and notable testing of our purifiers against other so-called similar water filtration systems, which back up our third-party testing. The cost for NSF certification is also prohibitive. Each configuration of each system would have to be certified. If you include the Sport Berkey and all purification systems offered, that’s 16 separate certifications (times two standards). At an estimated cost of $10,000 per system configuration, that’s around $320,000, plus yearly maintenance fees. As you can see, it isn’t easy to justify the cost required just to obtain certifications that the elements already exceed.

The manufacturer does not use or publish a micron rating for the Black Berkey elements for the following reasons: There is much confusion concerning nominal and absolute micron ratings. An absolute micron rating states the maximum pore size expected within an element. The nominal micron rating is the average pore size within the element. This means that if 90% of the pores are .02 microns and ten percent are 2 microns. One could claim the nominal micron rating as .2 microns, which would imply that pathogenic bacteria and parasites would be totally removed. But in reality, the bulk of the water would channel through the larger 2-micron pores, thereby allowing both bacteria and parasites to pass through. A nominal micron-rating claim can be very misleading. There is also confusion for the absolute micron rating because there are two different standards to determine absolute; in the US, the standard is 99.9% removal, but the international standard is 99.99% removal or ten times greater removal. Clever marketers of products can use the confusion over the above differences to make product “A” appear better than product “B” when product B may be far superior in reality.
For example, we used to report an absolute rating using the international standard because we have a large global customer base. Several years ago, we published a rating on our ceramic filters. A particular company posted that our elements were .9 microns, whereas theirs were .2 microns. However, our micron rating was based on an absolute (international) rating, while theirs was based on a nominal (US) rating. When tested at Spectrum Labs, it was found that at the .2 to .3 microns range, our filter removed more particulate than the other brand. Unfortunately, many people make their purchasing decisions based on a micron rating that can be legitimately distorted to a significant degree. Based on the information above, we decided not to participate any longer in publishing a micron rating. Instead, we think an absolute pathogenic bacteria removal rate is a far better gauge because it is more difficult to abuse. Based on that criterion, the Black Berkey Purification Elements remove greater than 99.9999999% of pathogenic bacteria such as E.Coli. To our knowledge, no other personal filtration element can match that capability.

When water is filtered through our system, the Black Berkey Purification Elements may increase the pH level of the water between 0.5-1.0. The majority of contaminants are generally acidic in nature. When they are removed, this causes a slight increase in pH. This is healthful because pathogenic bacteria and viruses have difficulty surviving in alkaline environments. An environment with more alkalinity does have a higher pH level. The pH level will depend on various factors, including the pre-filtered water's pH level. Check out our article for a more detailed explanation of how Berkey affects the pH of your water.

We recommended storing the Black Berkey Filters for four or more days if they will not be in use. Below you will find the proper method of storing the Black Berkey Filters depending on the time the filters will not be used. It is best to empty both chambers before storing because anytime water sits, it becomes stagnant, which can grow bacteria. You may consider washing your chambers with soapy water before leaving them to dry. Unused and unopened Black Berkey Purification Elements theoretically have an indefinite shelf-life. We recommend storing them in a dry area away from anything fragrant (laundry rooms or the garage). The filters are very powerful and can absorb odors in the air. After Use Short Term: If the filters are not used between 4 and 15 days, we advise removing them from the system, placing them into a sealable sandwich bag or container, and placing the filters in the refrigerator towards the front to ensure they do not freeze. This will allow the filters to stay primarily saturated, so minimal priming is required when they are ready to be used again.
When you are ready to use the Black Berkey Filters again, re-prime until the exterior wall of the filter begins to sweat beads of water for 10 seconds. Long Term: If you have used your Black Berkey Filters, you should fully dry them before storing them. We offer a tool to assist in both priming and purging. This tool is called a Black Berkey Primer. The benefit of purging the Black Berkey Purification Elements is that they are dried very quickly and cleaned to a degree simultaneously. Alternatively, the filters can be dried by leaving them on a windowsill for one to three days allowing them to air-dry. The key is to ensure they are bone-dry before storing them to prevent any bacterial growth. The filtration elements are extremely powerful and can absorb odors and smoke from the air. Once dry, we recommend sealing the purification elements. This can be done with a storage bag such as a sealable sandwich bag. Packing them in a storage bag will aid in preventing the filter from absorbing any odors from the air. When you are ready to use your elements, they will need to be re-primed by scrubbing them clean with a 3M Scotch-Brite (TM) pad or stiff brush. In theory, the shelf life of the elements is indefinite. **Please note that the storage methods above apply only to the Black Berkey Purification Elements. ** When storing the chambers of your Berkey system, it is best to empty both chambers before storing them because anytime water is still, it becomes stagnant and can produce bacteria. We recommend washing your Berkey system with soapy water before leaving it to dry.

If you recently purchased your Berkey System and water is passing through the filters very slowly, or not at all, the problem is typically due to high water tension. High water tension prevents air from being purged from the micro pores of the new purification elements. Your Black Berkey elements need to be primed to purge this air out of the micro pores and allow water to flow through them. Included with your Black Berkey elements is a tan priming button and instructions for priming. Please remove your elements from the unit, prime your elements, and then install them back in your unit. This should fix the slow flow rate problem. If the flow rate slows down considerably at any time during the life span of the elements, the problem can be easily remedied by re-cleaning the elements. What typically causes the elements to drip slowly is turbidity and sediment clogging the micro- pores of the purification elements. Simply begin by removing the elements from your system. While running the elements under cold water, scrub the exterior of each element with a ScotchBrite Pad or stiff toothbrush. Scrub a section of the element until you see a bit of black on the pads and then move to the next section. This simple process should take only a few minutes. Re-prime each element and then reinstall it in your unit. Your flow rate should be restored. NOTE: Never use soap or detergents.

Each Berkey filter element has a life of 3,000 gallons: That’s an incredible 6,000 gallons for a two-filter system (less than 3 cents per gallon of water). This is possible because of the Black Berkey filter elements’ unique ability to be cleaned up to 100 times using a 3M ScotchBrite pad.

Check out our dedicated page Do Berkey Water Filters Remove Endocrine Disruptors to see what endocrine disruptors are removed from your water.

Flow Rate: Each filter will have an approximate flow rate of 1 gallon per hour under optimal conditions. Filtration rates may be faster depending on the size of unit used (i.e. larger units will have more water pressure available to force the water through the filters due to the added weight from more water). The rates listed on the website are faster because they were calculated when water is continuously and simultaneously removed from the lower chamber and added to the upper chamber. Size: The Black Berkey Filters measure approximately a diameter of 2.25" and an approximate height of 8.5" excluding the stem. The total approximate length of the filter is 9.75" Composition: Carbon composite containing high-grade coconut shell carbon combined with a proprietary blend of 5 other types of media. Certifications: The Black Berkey purification element formulation has been tested by State and EPA accredited laboratories to exceed NSF/ANSI Standard 53 but has not yet been certified.

The thread size on the stem of the Berkey Purification Elements is 11 mm.The outer diameter is about 3/8 of an inch and the inner is about 1/4 of an inch.

Petroleum based products are some of the easiest to remove from water. The Black Berkey Purification Elements have been tested to remove the following petroleum contaminants up to 99.9%: Gasoline, Diesel, Crude Oil, Kerosene, Mineral Spirits, Refine Oil. However, please keep in mind that it is possible to overwhelm filtration elements. For example, removing a gallon of kerosene from a 1,000 gallon pool should not be problem (time consuming, but not a problem). Removing a gallon of kerosene from 2 gallons of water & kerosene mixed would probably overwhelm any gravity fed element.

Based on the Internet research below conducted by the manufacturer, Black Berkey element microbes and organic chemical removal test data, along with information provided by the EPA in their reference material cited below; these all suggest that Berkey water purification systems should be extremely effective at removing and reducing contaminants resulting from algae blooms. The manufacturer highly recommends that whenever possible, the cleanest source water available should always be utilized. *Note: Below the manufacture will be referred to as NMCL (New Millennium Concepts Ltd.) Below is further information that might be helpful in regards to algae blooms: “…Cyanobacterial cells range in size from 0.5-1 μm to 40 μm in diameter…” In other words, it’s a long skinny bacteria. Reference: Internet research seems to indicate that Microcystin colonies are even larger, typically on the scale of 50 to over 100 micrometers in size. While there has not been a specific test for microbes associated with Algae Blooms, there has been testing for pathogenic bacteria and two viruses, which are a small fraction of the size of these microbes which are removed. To understand the difference between the size of pathogenic bacteria and viruses, we suggest the following web link as it will give you a great visual of the difference. The University of Utah Cell Size and Scale Chart: Slide the scale at the bottom to see the size of virus vs bacteria vs other potential contaminants and magnify to greater levels. Black Berkey™ purification elements have been tested to remove both pathogenic bacteria and viruses to greater than the EPA purification standards. This suggests that larger bacteria, such as cyanobacteria, should also be effectively removed. Without test data on that specific microbes however, NMCL does not make that specific claim. The MS-2 virus is 24-26 nm in size. The Fr Coliphage virus is 25nm in size. In other words, they are much smaller than Cyanobacteria. Additionally Microcystins, which are the chemical contaminants resulting from cyanobacteria are an organic chemical. Testing of Black Berkey™ elements has demonstrated they are extremely efficient at removing organic chemicals. The EPA defines Microcystins as: “…toxins produced by cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria are also known as blue-green algae and are ubiquitous in surface water when conditions are favorable for growth and formation of algal blooms. Cyanobacteria release toxins upon cell death or lysis. When released, toxins may persist for weeks to months. Toxins of most concern are microcystins. Microcystins take their name from the genera Microcystis. Most microcystins are hepatotoxins (liver toxins). Hepatotoxins are produced by species of the genera Microcystis, Anabaena, Nodularia, Oscillatoria among others. Most microcystins are associated with Microcystis aeruginosa. While the liver is the primary target of microcystins, it is also a skin, eye and throat irritant…” Reference : Further, the EPA states that: “…The following processes are considered effective for the removal/oxidation of microcystin:…. powdered activated carbon (up to 100% for some microcystins but less so for others), granular activated carbon (time-dependent from 100% near start up to 38 to 73% at 3.5 months…” Reference: (Click on the “Treatment Process” tab) Finally, the EPA states that: “…Removal of total microcystins, M-LR, and M-LA, in water by granular activated carbon (GAC) can be very effective where the effectiveness is based on the empty bed contact time, the carbon’s age, and possible biodegradation of the toxin. Time-dependent monitoring in a full-scale plant ranged 43 to 60 percent removal for M-LR. Time-dependent monitoring in pilot-scale studies ranged from greater than 99 percent at one month to 73 percent at 3.5 months for M-LR, and from greater than 99 percent at one month to 38 percent at 3.5 months for M-LA…” REFERENCE: (Click on the “Treatment Process” Tab, scroll down to “Granular Activated Carbon” and click on the link)

PFAS/ PFCS also called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a group of man made synthetic chemical contaminants. These chemicals are rapidly being discovered as health risks, and this is a top concern of ours at Berkey Filters. Due to the overwhelming number of chemicals variations (over 5,000) classified as PFAS, we have not been able to test every single PFA. However, it is important to understand the molecular structure of PFAS are very similar to each other. For this reason, our belief at Berkey Filters is that they could be comparably reduced. One of the most publicized PFAS is commonly referred to as Teflon, but it also known as PFOA/ C8, which Berkey removes greater than 99.9%. Check out our article on Berkey Removing PFAS/PFCS.

It is our understanding that Lithium is an alkali metal, found in Group 1 on the Periodic Table. Lithium can be very reactive when exposed to water. Current testing of this potential contaminant has not been conducted, at this time.

Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide and pesticide. Glyphosate is primarily released into the environment via runoff water and predominantly applied as a spray for agricultural purposes. This contaminant has recently become the topic of discussion because of its association with acute or chronic exposure leading to various potential health issues or concerns. The EPA has extensive information published about Glyphosate, particularly about it being in drinking water. Click here to view basic information about Glyphosate in drinking water. Black Berkey™ Purification Elements will reduce Glyphosate in your water by greater than 75%, exceeding the laboratories reporting limits.

Tannins are naturally occurring polyphenols that are brownish or yellowish in color. They are a bitter-tasting substance commonly found in plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves and fruit skins. Tannins can end up in water when vegetation in the source water begins to decay and ferment. This typically occurs in shallow wells, lakes, swampy or marshy areas, and coastal areas. Tannins produce the dry taste in wine and are also used in ink manufacture and leather production. They are non harmful but may be aesthetically unpleasing. The manufacturer has not tested for the removal of tannins but in their experience, tannins are not removed by the filter.

Several forms of phthalates (family of chemicals used in plastics) are reduced by the Black Berkey element, including Di-n-Butylphthalate, Butyl Benzyl Phthalate, Diethyl Phthalate, Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate and Diethyl Phthalate. Phthalates are not believed to be used in any part of the product.

Test results for the Black Berkey Filters from two separate laboratories show that the elements reduce arsenic at 99.9%.

 Read more on the Black Filters capabilities to remove arsenic.

Plastic Fibers, also known as Microplastics, are small plastic pieces that can enter and contaminate drinking water. Scientists are studying the exact pathways that allow microplastics to enter into the drinking water supply. An extensive investigation on microplastics in water found that these analyses caught particles of more than 2.5 microns in size,” 2.5 microns would be 2.5 micrometers.

A “micron” is an abbreviated term for “micrometer”, or a millionth of a meter (1/1,000,000 meters). This is about .00004 inches. For Size comparison, a human red blood cell is about 5 microns across. A human hair is about 75 microns across (depending on the person).” **

Working down to a smaller scale 2.5 microns would be 2,500 nanometers.

The Black Berkey purification elements can reduce viruses down to the nanometer scale, in the tested range of 24-26 nanometers:

24-26 nanometers is .024 to .026 microns…in other words, much smaller than the plastic particles being found in water.

The fact that Black Berkey purification elements have been tested to remove viruses to the nanometer range suggests that contaminants much larger in size, such as plastic fibers should also be removed. Nonetheless, since actual testing of plastic fibers has not yet been conducted, NMCL can’t officially make that claim.

Our manufacturer's most recent laboratory testing indicates that the Black Berkey Purification Elements will initially reduce Fluoride up to 99.9%. Typically carbon based elements that reduce Fluoride begin to lose that ability rather quickly. This is the case with Black Berkey elements as their efficiency at removing Fluoride plays out long before the 3,000-gallon life of the element. There are a number of filters on the market that utilize carbonized bone char (a media that the manufacturer purposely chooses not to use), and that make claims for Fluoride reduction. One major problem with such elements is that it takes a very large amount of media to remove small amounts of Fluoride. Therefore, there is not enough media in such filters to remove Fluoride effectively over the long term. For example, we have testing for a competitor’s 3-filter system that utilizes bone char for their Fluoride removal claims and, as one would expect, those elements become quickly exhausted. Testing shows that their efficiency declines from 100% removal to 81.4% removal after filtering a mere 45 gallons. This is equivalent to only 15 gallons per element required to experience this dramatic decline in efficiency. This same effect occurs with Black Berkey elements after a few hundred gallons. For that reason the manufacture developed a more durable and longer lasting solution for Fluoride reduction by creating the replaceable Berkey PF-2™ Fluoride reduction elements. The media in a set of Berkey PF-2™ elements can reliably remove Fluoride contaminants for up to 1,000 gallons, which is less than the 3,000 gallon life of the Black Berkey elements but again, that is why they were designed to be replaceable. This enables the users to reliably remove Fluoride contaminants from their water while taking full advantage of the 3,000 gallon life of their Black Berkey elements. Therefore, the Black Berkey Purification Element’s job is to remove a wide variety of potential contaminants, while the Berkey PF-2™ Post Filter’s job is to remove Fluoride contaminants that the Black Berkey Purification Elements begin to miss after extended use.

We have no way of knowing exactly what potential contaminants may be is in each city’s water. We do know that our Black Berkey purification elements filter out some drugs/pharmaceuticals. Please click here to view our most recent test results.

Dehumidifiers that use refrigeration will have cold metal tubes to turn water vapor from a gas to a liquid. According to the EPA, stagnant condensate water can harbor biological contaminants, including mold, mildew and algae, especially if the collection bucket isn’t cleaned regularly. These contaminants have the potential for causing diseases such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis and humidifier fever. Evaporation trays in air conditioners, dehumidifiers and refrigerators should be cleaned frequently. The condensate can contain lead and other metal residues from the component parts of the dehumidifier. Unlike distilled water, dehumidifier water is never sterilized through boiling. The Black Berkey Purification Elements are capable of removing the various potential contaminants that are typically found in dehumidifier water. However, we always recommend using the cleanest water source possible and we DO NOT recommend using dehumidifier water in your Berkey system on a regular basis. If no other water source is available during an emergency, the water from a dehumidifier could be used, on a short term basis only.

Technically, in order for anything to be defined as Vegan or Kosher, it must be consumable for ingestion. Our Black Berkey elements and Berkey systems are not consumable. Nonetheless, it is our understanding that these particular products may be considered to be both Vegan and Kosher, by answering the following questions: a. Is the product that is produced through the purification process consumable? YES. Purified water is the consumable product now in question. b. Does the purified water contain any life form or any derivatives of past or present life forms? NO c. Do the elements contain any content from any animal life, past or present? NO d. Bacteria are considered life forms. Is the Black Berkey element bacteriostatic and does it prevent any life forms from living within the element? YES. The elements are bacteriostatic and YES, the bacteriostasis does prevent mitosis and will not allow any life forms to colonize within the element. However, this is not true of all filter elements on the market today. Many filter elements will support microscopic life forms and have no ability to augment bacteria blooms within the catalysts. Always be sure your elements are bacteriostatic. e. Will the filter remove crustaceans and or any other animal life form that may be in source water prior to purification? YES.

The media within the Black Berkey Purification Elements is not designed to remove beneficial (ionic) minerals from your water supply. These kinds of minerals can be reduced if they are in high concentration, but some will still be allowed through. We have not done any testing for the removal rate of ionic minerals, as they are not supposed to be completely removed to begin with. There are no water filtration companies on the market that publish a test of that nature.

Electrolytes are compounds such as sodium, potassium, calcium, etc. They help perform the functions of muscle contraction and heartbeat among other various bodily tasks. Many electrolytes also fall under the category of beneficial minerals, so we do not have specific test results for electrolytes. We do have test results for one particular electrolyte, chloride, which is reduced by the Black Berkey Purification Elements in excess of 99.6%. If you would like to add electrolytes to your water, we recommend using electrolyte additives in the lower chamber of your Berkey System.


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