How to Remove Sediment From Water

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One of the most common well water problems is sediment. Sand, rust, dirt, and gravel can cause wear to plumbing, fixtures, and appliances, and even clog pipes and affect water pressure.

Our water treatment experts have been researching and testing the best methods of removing sediment from water for years. Here, we’ve shared the solutions we recommend before anything else, based on evidence from our own testing and real data from scientific studies.

πŸ“Œ Key Takeaways:

  • The best way to remove sediment from your tap water is with a water filter that traps or blocks sediment in its pores.
  • Filters that can remove sediment include spin-down filters, cartridge filters, sediment backwashing filters, ceramic filters, micro- and nanofilters, and ultrafiltration membranes.
  • Carbon filtration, KDF filters, water softening, and boiling water are NOT effective methods of sediment removal.
How to Remove Sediment From Water

πŸ”„ Spin-Down Filters

A spin-down sediment filter uses centrifugal force to remove large particles and sediment from water.

Spin-down filters are typically installed as point-of-entry systems, providing benefits for your full home.

When compared to other sediment filters, spin-down filters are the least likely to affect water flow. They’re sold in multiple sizes to fit different pipe diameters and have flow rates ranging from 20 to 80 GPM.

How it Works

A spin-down sediment filter is shaped like a large pipette and usually comes with a flush valve, which can be used to flush out the accumulated sediment. Some spin-down filters need to be manually flushed, which involves removing the filter from its housing to open and drain the valve manually.

The unique design of a spin-down filter allows you to see through the clear exterior, meaning you can keep track of sediment build-up inside.

Different filter sizes and designs can remove sediment of different sizes, typically from 5 to 50 microns.

Spin-down filters are typically very easy to install and require little service or maintenance aside from periodic flushing.

Related: How to remove sand from well water specifically

SoftPro Spin-Down Sediment Separator Filter

The Evidence

We were unable to find any studies that specifically evaluate the sediment reduction performance of a spin-down sediment filter. We think scientific interest in the performance of sediment filters is likely lower because, unlike many other water contaminants, sediment doesn’t have health effects.

We’ve only been able to find anecdotal evidence on Reddit, with many spin-down sediment filter owners discussing their first-hand experience with these filters.

We haven’t yet tested a spin-down sediment filter to see how effectively it reduces sediment in our own water, and this is something we plan to do soon.

Best For

A spin-down sediment filter is the best solution for well water with high sediment concentrations, or for folks who want a whole-house filter that’s easy to maintain and doesn’t require cartridge changes.

πŸ“‡ Cartridge Filters

Cartridge filters are the most popular type of sediment filter available.

These are sold as standalone filters to remove sediment at your home’s point of entry.

They’re also commonly used as pre-filters for reverse osmosis systems, water softener systems, whole house filtration systems, carbon-based filters, and other POU and POE water filtration systems.

In a pre-filtration scenario, the water sediment filter protects the later filtration stages from sand, silt, and other suspended particles that could damage the filter media.

How it Works

There are two types of cartridge filter design: spun cartridge and pleated cartridge.

Spun cartridge filters have a cylindrical shape and are made from layer upon layer of melted, spun polypropylene.

Water travels through these layers of filtration media, with each layer progressively trapping smaller and smaller sediment. The outer layer has the highest micron rating and is the most porous, and as water travels further into the filter, it encounters filter media with increasingly lower micron ratings. This makes a spun filter ideal for removing sediment of varying sizes.

Pleated filters have a continuous strand of β€œpleated” or folded filter media, which typically has a high micron rating. This type of sediment filter is most commonly used as a pre-filter for multi-stage water treatment systems.

The higher the micron rating, the larger the sediment that can be removed. So, for example, a 50-micron cartridge filter could reduce sediment of 50 microns or larger.

Neither spun cartridge filters nor pleated filters require flushing. Instead, their filter cartridges need to be replaced once they become saturated with sediment.

Culligan WH-S200-C

The Evidence

Again, we’ve used cartridge sediment filters as part of multi-stage systems that we’ve tested, but we haven’t specifically evaluated a cartridge filter for its ability to reduce sediment in our water.

Best For

A cartridge-based sediment filter is best for when finer filtration is required to remove smaller particles, or when you need a more compact filtration system.

Depending on the severity of your water’s sediment contamination, you may choose to install a spin-down filter to trap larger sediment, followed by a cartridge filter to trap smaller particulates.

πŸ”€ Sediment Backwashing Filters

Sediment backwashing filters are similar to sediment cartridge filters, but with a design that some people may prefer.

The sediment filtration media is loaded inside a large tank, and the system backwashes to flush out the accumulated impurities, enabling the filtration process to continue without the need for cartridge changes.

How it Works

A sediment backwashing filter works by trapping sediment inside a tank loaded with filtration media.

This filter has a self-cleaning function: it periodically reverses the flow of water through the filter media, removing the accumulated particulates.

The filter media in the system has a multi-year lifespan, so its maintenance requirements are minimal.

how backwashing works

The Evidence

Again, we found no scientific evidence of sediment removal by sediment backwashing filters, although there’s plenty of evidence to support the effectiveness of the media used inside these systems (see the cartridge filters section).

Best For

Backwashing sediment filters are ideal for folks who like the design of a cartridge-based filter but want to eliminate the maintenance of filter changes or the need for manual flushing.

βš—οΈ Ultrafiltration

Ultrafiltration membranes are used in point-of-entry and point-of-use systems to remove super-fine sediments, microorganisms, and other organic materials. The UF process is similar to reverse osmosis, but ultrafiltration membranes have larger pores and don’t remove dissolved substances.

We recommend installing a POE ultrafiltration system to protect your whole home’s water system from sediment.

That said, we don’t suggest ultrafiltration as a first choice if you just want to reduce sediment. A POE sediment filter is often more than 10 times cheaper than a similar ultrafiltration system.

How it Works

Ultrafiltration membranes have a pore size of 0.02-0.05 microns and use membrane separation – a process that involves the separation of impurities from water molecules as the water flows through the membrane.

Once the membrane becomes clogged with contaminants, it’ll need to be replaced to offer continued effective sediment reduction.

Ultrafiltration Process

The Evidence

Best For

Ultrafiltration systems are the best solution for folks with big budgets who want a comprehensive solution to protect their whole home’s water system against sediment and suspended solids.

πŸ“₯ Microfiltration & Nanofiltration

Many emergency and backpacking water filters use either microfiltration or nanofiltration.

These filters are designed to improve water quality and safety by removing sediment, turbidity, and microorganisms.

They’re found in several different applications, including straw filters, hanging gravity bag filters, and pump filters.

How it Works

Micro- and nanofilters have tiny pores that physically block suspended particulates and contaminants of all sizes in water, right down to tiny bacteria.

Microfiltration filters have a pore size of 0.1-10 microns, while nanofiltration media has a pore size of 0.001-0.01 microns (the pores become progressively smaller from the filter exterior to the core).

These filters are typically backwashable, meaning that you can send water through them in the opposite direction to remove the accumulated sediment, helping to restore the media’s contaminant reduction capacity.

Nanofiltration in water filter pitchers

The Evidence

Best For

Nanofiltration and microfiltration are best for folks who want to remove sand, silt, and other sediment, along with microorganisms, from a natural water source, such as a river or lake.

βš—οΈ Ceramic Filters

Ceramic filters are another solution for physically filtering sediment out of water. They have a pore size of around 0.2 microns and act as a barrier, preventing suspended solids from filtering through with the water.

Like microfiltration and nanofiltration, ceramic filtration also addresses pathogens like bacteria. This filtration method is most commonly found in portable filters and countertop gravity-fed filtration systems.

How it Works

Ceramic water filters reduce sediment in water with all-natural filtration technology. As water flows through the filter media, suspended particulates are blocked by the filter pores and become trapped in the filter.

Over time, the filter media becomes clogged with these contaminants and eventually needs to be replaced. Some ceramic filters can be cleaned to remove the accumulated impurities, which extends their lifespans.

Ceramic water filters installed in ProOne water filter system

The Evidence

Best For

Ceramic water filtration is best for people who want to remove sediment and pathogenic bacteria from point-of-use water using an affordable filter that’s potentially washable and reusable.

πŸ”Ž Other Solutions for Removing Sediment

We want to highlight a couple of other solutions for removing sediment that you can consider. However, these haven’t made our list of top suggestions for a number of reasons.

These include:

  • Water distillation – Distillation involves boiling water until it evaporates, leaving the sediment behind in the boiling chamber. The purified water condenses into a separate clean container. This method is highly effective at purifying water and eliminating virtually all contaminants, including sediment. However, we don’t recommend it as a top method because the distillation process is very time-consuming (it takes 5+ hours for 1 gallon of water to be distilled) and it’s primarily a POU method, so it won’t protect your household plumbing from sediment.
  • DIY multi-layer filters – If you want to get stuck into a DIY project for removing sediment on a hiking or camping trip, you can make your own water filter using just a few basic materials. This is a fun rainy day project, but it doesn’t offer the same guarantee of comprehensive sediment removal as a water filter specifically designed for this purpose.
  • Flocculation & filtration – Flocculation involves adding a flocculating agent, such as alum or polymer, to water, causing fine sediment particles to clump together into larger masses called flocs. As the flocs grow in size, they become heavier and settle to the bottom of the water body or can be easily removed through filtration. Flocculation is commonly used in water treatment plants, but it’s not typically feasible for small-scale domestic applications, which is why we haven’t recommended it with the other top methods in this guide.

⚠️ Which Water Treatment Methods Are NOT Effective for Sediment Removal?

Sediments are suspended particles in water, so they can’t be removed with any method that only targets dissolved contaminants, including:

Carbon Filters

Although carbon filters may trap some larger sediment particles in their pores, their primary purpose is to adsorb chlorine, select chemicals and metals, and poor tastes/odors.

Too much sediment in your water will clog the pores of a carbon filter, shortening its lifespan and reducing its overall contaminant reduction efficacy.

Unboxing new black berkey filter elements

KDF Filters

KDF filters can’t handle particulates effectively – depending on the type of media, these filters typically address dissolved chlorine, heavy metals, hydrogen sulfide, and chromium.

Many KDF filters come with a pre-filter to protect the media from sediment damage.

Reverse Osmosis Membranes

Reverse osmosis membranes can only remove TDS – total dissolved solids – so they can’t be used effectively as a suspended solids reduction solution.

Again, excess sediment will damage the RO membrane, which is why RO filters come with a sediment pre-filter to protect the later stages of filtration.


Boiling water causes some impurities to dissipate, but it won’t reduce water’s sediment content.

In fact, boiling your water will only reduce its volume as a result of evaporation, resulting in a smaller batch of water with exactly the same sediment content.

Boiling water in a kettle

Water Softeners

Sediment particles aren’t charged ions, so they can’t be removed by a water softener that uses ion exchange.

Many water softeners reduce small amounts of sediment and rust with a sediment pre-filter, but the softening process itself won’t affect sediment (and, in fact, excess sediment could clog the system’s water lines).

πŸ“ Final Word

We hope you took plenty of value from this article, and you should now be able to confidently choose a sediment removal filter that best fits your preferences and situation.

If you’re concerned about sediment damage to your home’s plumbing system and reduced water pressure, it’s time to take action. Choose the best sediment removal solution for you based on your budget, your intended use case, and what else (if anything) you want to target in your well water.

While sediment alone isn’t usually dangerous in water, the sudden or increased presence of sediment may indicate that your well system has been compromised, allowing contamination from sediment and other contaminants with harmful health effects. We recommend testing your well yearly, or any time you notice any changes to your water quality.

  • Jennifer Byrd
    Water Treatment Specialist

    For 20+ years, Jennifer has championed clean water. From navigating operations to leading sales, she's tackled diverse industry challenges. Now, at Redbird Water, she crafts personalized solutions for homes, businesses, and factories. A past Chamber President and industry advocate, Jennifer leverages her expertise in cutting-edge filtration and custom design to transform water concerns into crystal-clear solutions.

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