In a world where agricultural run-off and poor restrictions on chemical disposal are commonplace, filtering your water is essential.
If you live in the city then you have water treatment plants, if you have a well then your filter is attached to your house. Regardless, there is some kind of filtration before you get your drink.
Water filters are designed to last a certain amount of filtering volume which can be adversely affected by variables such as physical damage and filtration failure.
Pre-filtering your water is meant to take out any debris from your reservoir bag before it goes through the filtration process.
This can be done in a variety of ways and is certainly something you should consider doing any time you filter water.
This article will lead you through the reasons why you should pre-filter your water as well as some best practices and inspiration for making your own.
Why Should You Pre-Filter Your Water?
If you’re someone who relies on their water filtration system then you want to make sure that you maximize the lifespan of your equipment.
One of the main causes that a water filter fails is because some debris managed to get into the filter.
Any debris or silt that gets into your filter can cause a bunch of different issues including:
- Poor flow
- Damage to the filter
- Debris getting pushed into the filtered water
The best way to get the most out of your filter is to make sure the water going into it is free of any dirt and other particulate matter.
Your filter will stay clear of any stuff that may clog it and you’ll have to backflow your filter less often.
When Should You Pre-Filter Your Water?
In any instance that you need to filter water from any source, you should be pre-filtering the water. Even clear water can have small particles of leaf and glacial rock debris.
There are several benefits to pre-filtering your water such as:
- Save money by purchasing fewer filters
- Avoid chemical filtration using membranes
- Extend the life of any pump
- Reduces the chance of accidental contamination
You can start to get a picture of how vital it is to have a plan in place for getting the murky debris out of your filtering water.
Let’s have a look at what you can use to help get clean water to your filter.
What Can You Use To Pre-Filter Water?
Now that we’ve established the importance of pre-filtering your water we should look at the different tools you can use.
If you’re looking to make a DIY pre-filter then the final product will really depend on the items you have around you to use.
Store Bought Pre-Filters
Some people like to keep it simple and support reputable companies by purchasing products that pre-filter water. Here are the more common items you can buy.
Micron Filter Bags – These are generally used to filter out very fine particles and are an excellent choice for pre-filtering water.
Using one of these is almost as good as the filter you would use after this. Essentially you’re double-purifying the water.
Canvas Filter Bags – Heavy canvas provides a great way to filter out larger particles and debris.
Ensure that you still boil or filter this water since it is designed to only take out physical matter that is much larger than bacteria.
Also, soak the bag before using it as a filter because the canvas will soak up a lot of it while it is dry.
Aluminum Sulfate – Also known as Alum powder this substance reacts to the matter inside the water and makes them fall down and settle on the bottom of your container.
Then all you have to do is pour the water sitting on the top without worrying about debris.
What are some of our favorite pre-filtering products to use?
DIY Water Pre-Filters
Sometimes purchasing a pre-filter can get expensive, especially with taxes and shipping.
Luckily, there are a lot of household products you can use to pre-filter your water and a lot of them are quite inexpensive and can be found at the grocery store.
Coffee Filters – Not just for making great coffee anymore. These paper filters are used to stop coffee grounds from going into the cup as your coffee is being prepared. The same principle can be said about filtering water and keeping debris out.
Keep in mind though that you will only be able to filter a small amount of water at a time with this tool since the filters are quite small.
Cheesecloth – This is a commonly found item in pantries all over the country and is great to filter larger pieces of debris out of water.
The nice thing is that you can stretch it over the spout of your container and pour the water out while it keeps the physical matter inside the original container.
Bandanas – Many hikers and backpackers use bandanas to filter water as they have a great flow while blocking a lot of the smaller stuff from leaking through.
You can find them at any outdoor store or just make them out of old clothing.
Also, don’t use the one on your head without washing it first, sweaty water is not tasty.
Pantyhose – Fine mesh pantyhose are a great alternative for pre-filtering water.
Simply pop it over the spout on your reservoir while you pour and it’ll keep the debris within the nylon netting. Pantyhose is not just for fixing serpentine belts anymore.
How To Pre-Filter Your Water
It’s not a difficult task to pre-filter your water but there are some important things to remember before trying it out.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to get started pre-filtering your own water:
- Gather the water to be filtered and take out larger pieces by hand. Much like your actual water filter, the pre-filter will last longer if you take out some of the work.
- Place your pre-filter over the cap or filter. The idea is whatever you’re using as a filter needs to have the pre-filter before it takes out the debris.
- Inspect the water filter and pre-filter. This ensures that nothing is lodged inside that can cause damage over time.
That’s all there is to it. Using level surfaces and taking your time will ensure a successful water filtration operation.
Most people don’t realize that water filters can take quite a beating, depending on the original source of the water.
It’s almost as bad as leaving your water filter out in the freezing temperatures of winter only to have it freeze solid on you, essentially ruining the membrane used for filtration.
Taking the steps above and keeping as much of the outside world out of your filtering water will save you money in your pocket and the headache of always having to backflow or change out your water filters.
Frequently Asked Questions
You’ve got questions? We’ve got answers. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about pre-filtering your water.
Pre-filtering your water is not a necessity by any definition. You can filter your water without one and never see a problem. It is merely a preventative measure designed to prolong filter life.
It is commonly advised to boil or filter your water after pre-filtering as even though the debris has been removed it doesn’t mean that any harmful bacteria or viruses have been taken care of.
If the sock has a fine enough material and is very clean, yes, a sock will work to take out larger pieces of debris.
Perrin is an adventure guide and naturalist currently living a nomadic life in the Canadian wilderness. His education and expertise is in wilderness survival and wildlife tracking. He enjoys teaching people about the outdoors and has managed large groups on expeditions.
With several accredited certifications, including being a wilderness first responder and a leave no trace expert, Perrin believes it is important for all of us to reconnect with the natural world.