Different types of well water filters have different lifespans, but most filters should last between 3 and 12 months before they need replacing.
If you’ve noticed that your well water filter is becoming dirty faster than expected, you might be able to extend the filter’s lifespan by resolving the underlying issue.
In this guide, we’ve shared everything you need to know about why a well water filter that gets dirty fast, including the causes of a dirty well filter, and how to solve the issue.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- No matter what type of well water filter you own, it will eventually get dirty. That just means the filter is working.
- But if your well filter is getting dirty faster than it should, you might have an issue with your well or the filter itself, such as poor well maintenance or incorrect filter size.
- The best way to treat a dirty well filter is to flush the filter and treat the underlying problem.
Table of Contents
⚗️ Why Do Well Water Filters Get Dirty?
All types of well water filters get dirty, assuming that they’re being used to remove contaminants from unpurified water.
Over time, impurities like sediment, dissolved metals, organic matter, and hardness minerals will build up in the filter media.
These minerals will cause the filter media to turn brown, giving it a dirty appearance. They will also clog the filter membrane, making it difficult for water to pass through.
How Quickly Do Well Filters Become Dirty?
Different well filters have different lifespans, but the average lifespan of a typical well filter is 3-12 months.
You should expect your well filter to get dirty within a matter of weeks, and really dirty by the end of its lifespan.
Several factors affect the speed at which your filter will get dirty, including your water usage and the contaminants present in your water.
A dirty filter isn’t necessarily unusable. You should be more concerned about a clogged filter. Once the filter becomes too clogged with contaminants, it will be far less effective at filtering water and it can even reduce your water flow to your home.
🔎 Well Water Gets Dirty, Fast: Common Causes
Now you know why a well water filter gets dirty – but why would your filter get dirty faster than it should?
The main reason is a higher-than-average concentration of contaminants in your well water supply, which is influenced by the following factors:
Poor Well Maintenance
If you own your well, it’s your responsibility to maintain it. Over time, your well components will need to be repaired or replaced once they get worn.
According to the CDC, you should get your well inspected at least once a year for cleanliness, contaminants, and mechanical problems. Your well inspector can tell you if you need to make any changes or improvements to your well to keep it in good working order. Failure to do so will cause your well to fall into disrepair, enabling more contaminants to pass into the well system.
Problems with Well Construction
Well construction issues are another reason for a filter cartridge that clogs faster than it should.
If your well is old, it probably doesn’t have the same good construction as a new well. It’s common for old wells to be lacking a seal at the bottom, which makes it easy for excess sediment to get into the water.
Some wells might be built in the wrong location, or the casing might not be built high enough above the ground. This may cause rainwater to flood the well with pollutants and dirt.
A degraded well screen or a well pump that’s too low may also cause the pump to draw excess sediment into the well, which will dirty your filters.
Higher-Than-Average Water Usage
Let’s say your well water filter is designed to filter up to 10,000 gallons of water, lasting for about 1 year. But that figure is based on ~27 gallons of water used per day.
If you use 50 or 80 gallons of water per day, your filter will become dirty at double or triple the speed, decreasing its lifespan by half or two-thirds.
📌 Check the lifespan of your filter in the user manual. If your filter is getting dirty quickly, you’re probably using more water per day than the manufacturer used to estimate the filter lifespan.
If you notice that your well filters become dirty, fast, at certain times of the year, the changing weather conditions may be to blame.
Periods of drought cause your well’s water levels to drop much lower than usual. This causes the well casing to be exposed, enabling contaminants like sediment to get into the water. We recommend getting your well checked out by a contractor if you’re concerned about your water quality during dry spells.
On the other end, a period of heavy rain may cause your well to flood, bringing pollutants and contaminants into your well supply. You’ll need professional testing and water treatment if you suspect flooding has occurred.
Issues With Plumbing
There are a few plumbing issues that may be causing your well filter to become dirty faster than it should.
Old pipes were often built with iron and other metals that are prone to corrosion after decades of use. Corroding pipes cause debris to leach into the water, potentially clogging your filters and staining them orange or brown.
Using your well pump for a prolonged period may also cause a buildup of sediment on the pump, which may make its way into your water supply.
Make sure your well’s filter is the right size for your home and your flow rate. If the filter is too small, the pressure created by the pump might be too high, sending water through the filter so quickly that the sediment bypasses the filter altogether.
In this case, you’re most likely to notice that your water itself has a dirty or cloudy appearance.
🚰 How to Treat a Dirty Well Filter
Keep reading to learn the best short-term and long-term solutions for a well water filter that’s got dirty, fast.
Best Short-Term Solution: Flush Your Filters
One possible short-term solution for a clogged or dirty whole house filter is to flush the filter with high water pressure . This will dislodge sediment and other particles that are clogging up the filter media.
A garden hose with a high-pressure nozzle should work well to flush your filtration system. Just switch on the hose and attach it to your inlet valve, then let it run for a few minutes.
📌 Note that high-pressure flushing is best suited to sediment filters, and might damage the filters in a whole house water filter system with standard filter housing. Make sure you don’t use water pressure that’s higher than the system’s maximum rated pressure intake. Contact the manufacturer if you’re unsure.
Best Long-Term Solution: Repair or Replace your Well Components
If your dirty filters are being caused by an issue with one of the well components, such as the pressure tank, the pump, the well pipe, or the casing, repair or replace the broken component according to advice from your well contractor. This is the only way to protect your whole house filters from fine sediment, pollutants, ferric iron, iron bacteria, and other damaging contaminants going forward.
Similarly, if corrosion in your plumbing system is causing filter clogging, consider getting your entire water system replaced.
Alternative Solution: Get a Different Filter/ Install A Pre-Filter
In some cases, your well filter might be getting dirty, fast, if it doesn’t properly treat the contaminants in your water supply.
You can remedy this by installing a filter that’s more suitable for your water, or by installing a pre-filter, sand filter, or sediment filter that protects the later filter stages from contaminant buildup.
We recommend getting your water tested to find out exactly what it contains. Since well water parameters are prone to changing periodically, the EPA advises testing your water every 1-3 years for various contaminants.