Black Berkey Filters FAQ

Black Berkey Filters FAQ

 Can I use Softened Water with Berkey Filters?

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 prorated filter warranty. The Berkey® Elements are designed to address heavy metals but will not altogether address 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 addressed, 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.


How do Black Berkey Elements work?

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 methods used by Berkey, please follow the links contained within this page below. Several well-known methods are used to produce the Black Berkey® 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® 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 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. 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 addresses 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 filtration specialists, researchers, and engineers. The flow rate or time of exposure through the Black Berkey® Elements has been calculated to yield the most significant volume of addressing all contaminants. 

As you can see, the Berkey systems 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 filtered drinking water for pennies a gallon.


Are the Black Berkey Elements NSF certified?

NSF certifications are not required but rather optional. In our opinion, NSF certifications are limited in their application with respect to our gravity-fed filtration elements. NSF Standard 42 (aesthetic effects) and Standard 53 (health effects) would apply to our filtration elements. NSF Standard 42 covers systems “designed to address 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. The tests we have conducted are much more rigorous than those required by NSF for the certifications required. Our elements have been rigorously tested by accredited third-party labs that have reported that the elements exceed ANSI/NSF (Std. 53) protocol and address 200+ typical contaminants found in tap water and other freshwater sources. 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 filters 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 filtration 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.


What is the Micron rsting of the Black Berkey Elements?

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. But in reality, the bulk of the water would channel through the larger 2-micron pores. 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 addressed 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.Based on that criterion, the Black Berkey® Elements address greater than 99.9999999% of  To our knowledge, no other personal filtration element can match that capability.


Why is my PH level higher after using the Black Berkey Elements?

When water is filtered through our system, the Black Berkey® 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 addressed, this causes a slight increase in pH. 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.


How do I store my Black Berkey Filters?

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. You may consider washing your chambers with soapy water before leaving them to dry. Unused and unopened Black Berkey® 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® 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  growth. The filtration elements are extremely powerful and can absorb odors and smoke from the air. Once dry, we recommend sealing the 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® 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. We recommend washing your Berkey system with soapy water before leaving it to dry.


How do I correct a slow filtration rate?

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 filtration 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 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.


Lifespan if the Black Berkey Filters?

Each Berkey filter element has a life of up to 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.


Do Berkey Filters Address Endocrine Disruptors?

Check out our dedicated page Do Berkey Water Filters Address Endocrine Disruptors to see what endocrine disruptors are addressed in your water.


Basic Specifications of the Black Berkey Filters

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® Element formulation has been tested by accredited third-party labs that have reported that the elements exceed ANSI/NSF (Std. 53) protocol and address 200+ typical contaminants found in tap water.


What is the thread size of the Black Berkey elements Stem?

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


Will the Black Berkey Elements Address Kerosene?

Petroleum based products are some of the easiest to address the water. The Black Berkey Filtration Elements have been tested to address 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.


Do the Black elements filter PFAS/PFCS?

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 addressed. One of the most publicized PFAS is commonly referred to as Teflon, but it also known as PFOA/ C8, which Berkey addresses greater than 99.9%. Check out our article on Berkey Removing PFAS/PFCS.


Do the Black Berkey Elements address lithium?

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.


Do the Black Berkey Filters address tannins?

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 a by the filter.


Are phthalates addressed by the Black Berkey Filters?

Several forms of phthalates (family of chemicals used in plastics) are addressed 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.


Do the Black Filters address arsenic?

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

 Read more on the Black Filters capabilities to address arsenic.


Do your filters address microplastics from the water?

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.

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


Do your Black Elements address Fluoride?

Our manufacturer's most recent laboratory testing indicates that the Black Berkey® Elements will initially address Fluoride up to 99.9%. Typically carbon based elements that address 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 address small amounts of Fluoride. Therefore, there is not enough media in such filters to address 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 addressFluoride 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 address Fluoride contaminants from their water while taking full advantage of the 3,000 gallon life of their Black Berkey elements. Therefore, the Black Berkey® Element’s job is to address a wide variety of potential contaminants, while the Berkey PF-2™ Post Filter’s job is to address Fluoride contaminants that the Black Berkey® Elements begin to miss after extended use.


Do your Black Elements filter all the drugs/pharmaceuticals that are in our cite water?

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® Elements filter out some drugs/pharmaceuticals. Please click here to view our most recent test results.


Are the Black Berkey Elements and Berkey systems Vegan and/or kosher?

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 filtration process consumable? YES. Filtered water is the consumable product now in question. b. Does the filtered water contain any life form or any derivatives of past or present life forms? NO. Will the filter address crustaceans and or any other animal life form that may be in source water prior to filtration? YES.


Do the Black Berkey Elements address healthy minerals or electrolytes?

The media within the Black Berkey® Elements is not designed to remove beneficial (ionic) minerals from your water supply. These kinds of minerals can be addressed 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 addressed 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 heart beat 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 addressed by the Black Berkey® 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.