Cloudy Berkey Water

Have you ever run water through your Berkey only to find that it comes out cloudy on the other side? We have customers contact us about this every so often. There are some easy things to rule out first, and then there’s the most likely culprit to look at last.

Easy Solution #1: You are using a water softener

Berkey doesn’t recommend using softened water, or water that has various salts added, as your water supply. For some, that means you may need to either utilize a bypass valve where your water softener is to get pre-softened water to use for your Berkey. Alternately, you can plumb a bypass line to places such as your sink where you normally fill your Berkey. But in any case, the filters don’t like having the extra salt and may cause some cloudiness. The extra salt may also degrade or shorten the life of your filters. So try to avoid softened water in your Berkey.

Easy Solution #2: You haven’t flushed your fluoride filters

Sometimes people will install their optional fluoride filters but will not fully flush them until they run clear. If so, then the manufacturing dust will cause cloudiness. The same can happen when you don’t prime your main Black Berkey filters enough and they still have some of that dust remaining. To test or solve this, remove the fluoride filters and see if they problem remains. If it does, try priming your Black Berkey filters a bit more to ensure any dust is all washed out.

The Likely Culprit

If those easy solutions don’t solve things, the likely culprit is actually a lot more natural. It goes back to high school chemistry. When minerals (the solute) are added to water (the solvent), they will dissolve. The more minerals you add, the higher the concentration. Once a particular solvent (water, in this case) gets enough minerals to reach the saturation point, then any extra minerals won’t dissolve.

You see this when you make a drink such as sweet tea. You can add sugar up to a point and the warm tea will dissolve the sugar. But if you keep adding sugar, it eventually just falls to the bottom of the glass. The sweet tea is considered saturated and cannot dissolve any more sugar.

How much can a solvent such as water (or sweet tea) dissolve? Well, that depends on a few things such as the temperature of the solvent, the actual solute being dissolved (sugar, minerals, etc.), and also the pH. The pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline/basic the solution is. If you change some of the variables such as the temperature or the pH, a solvent can dissolve more or less solute. In fact, if you adjust things such as the temperature or the pH, you may actually be able to visibly watch some of the dissolved solvent “come out of solution”. What was previously already there, but not visible because it was dissolved, begins to float around in the solution (or if heavy enough like sugar falls to the bottom and accumulates).

So, when you see all of that in your water, realize it was always there…you can just actually see it now. So what do you do?

Since the likely cause of the minerals becoming visible was an increase in pH, you would want to lower the pH to keep that from happening. It is normal for the pH to change any time your water comes in contact with something else (such as the Berkey filters). The manufacturer advises that the filters will tend to increase the pH just slightly. So, that’s why you may need to reduce it some. How do you do that?

The two most common ways to reduce pH in your water would be to add a common citrus acid such as lemon. It can be a few drops up top as your water filters, or even just adding a slice of lemon to the upper chamber (and it can stay in there for a while). That will lower the pH of the source water and then when the filters increase it slightly, it would still be low enough that the minerals will stay in solution.

Another option which doesn’t add as much flavor to the water would be food grade citric acid. You won’t need much, so you can experiment with small amounts to see if adding a bit will reduce the pH enough to keep all those minerals invisible.

Finally, you can also use some distilled water to dilute the concentration of the minerals. That may or may not be something you have readily available, but it would have the same effect and you should see the cloudiness go away.

But the bottom line is that normally, there isn’t anything wrong with the filter itself…it just happens to be the chemistry of the water that you’re already using!

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