How Do You Unclog a Sawyer Water Filter?


Sawyer water filters can filter over 100,000 gallons of water throughout their lifetime, but that doesn’t mean it won’t eventually clog. Think about the water you’re running through the filter. Murky, muddy, algae infested pond water can quickly clog up a sawyer water filter. How do you unclog a Sawyer water filter?

Don’t worry! You won’t have to throw away your clogged filter! You can use the cleaning plunger that came with your filter or a cheap Sawyer cleaning coupling attached to a water bottle to backflush the filter. Backflushing after every use will keep your filter clean and easy to use. Keep reading to learn how to backwash your filter.

Unclogging a Sawyer Water Filter

The Sawyer mini and squeeze filters can filter over 100,000 gallons of water throughout their lifetime, but there are some maintenance tasks you need to perform. After a few 100 gallons of use your filter will slowly start to clog up.  

That’s when you’ll need to backwash the filter with clean distilled water to force debris back and out the other end.  With its 0.1 micron absolute hollow fiber membrane it’s much more robust than other filters on the market.  This makes Sawyer filters far more durable than some of the cheaper options.  

You should be able to routinely backwash the filter and get over 100,000 gallons of water throughout the filter’s lifetime.  I can almost guarantee you’ll accidentally smash or destroy the filter before you wear through the filter element.

Your filter will eventually clog up with regular use. I can usually get about 500 gallons of water through my Sawyer mini before it starts to clog. So how do you unclog a Sawyer Water Filter?

Personally, I like to use the Sawyer cleaning coupling attached to a bottle of water. You just forcefully squeeze clean water through the bottle a few times and you’re good to go. If you don’t want to spend a few bucks on the coupling you can use the plunger that came with your filter.

Backwashing a Sawyer Filter

  1. Backflush With Filtered Water: Start off by backflushing the filter with distilled water. Fill up your Sawyer cleaning plunger with clean water and shoot it through the filter in the opposite direction(against the flow arrow). Close the plunger and force the clean water through the filtered fibers. Repeat the process several times until the water comes out clean and easily. The key to a successful backwashing is to be forceful. A good backwash should be able to restore over 98% of the filters original flow rate.
  2. Soak It In Filter Water: If a standard backwash doesn’t get your filter flowing again, I recommend soaking your filter in hot water. Don’t let the water get too hot (140 Degrees Fahrenheit). Keep it on the stove and let it sit for 2 hours. If that doesn’t work, soak the filter in vinegar for 30 minutes and afterwards force clean water through it.
  3. Backflush Again: Repeat the backwash process paying attention to the water color and pressure. You’re good to go once the waters clear and it’s easy to suck fluids through.
  4. Repeat If Needed: Keep repeating the process and you should eventually have a clean filter. Watch the instructional video below for more information.

What About Inline Filters?

It can be hard to clean your inline water filter since it’s hard to pop it off after every use. I recommend picking up an adapter screw so you can pop your filter on and off the pack. It makes cleaning the filter easier and you will be able to use the filter with water bottles and gravity setups.

How Often Should I Backwash a Sawyer Water Filter?

I recommend backwashing your water filter after every use. You don’t want to allow the sediment to settle and harden up. Backflushing is so much worse after everything hardens up.

Try Not To Store a Dirty Filter

You should always backwash your filter before putting it back into storage. Don’t let the dirt and sediment harden up inside the filter. It will make the backwashing process so much harder. A dirty filter can usually be salvaged, but it will be a serious pain in the butt. It might be worth spending $20-30 on a new Sawyer Mini Filter.

Start off by soaking your filter for a few hours and forcing hot water through it. Once done let it sit for a few days. Repeat the backwashing process paying attention to the water color and force needed to backflush. Keep repeating the cleaning process until the water looks clear and your filters easy to use.

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