Instructables

How to refill a "disposable" Brita brand water pitcher filter with activated carbon.

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Why buy a replacement filter for $6 to $10 (or more) when you can refill your old filter cartridge housing for about 50 cents?!

Refilling is quick, easy and economical. If you can refill a salt shaker, then you should be able to refill a Brita, PuR, or other brand water pitcher cartridges. All that you will need is an old cartridge, some activated carbon, a polyethylene plug, a sharp utility knife or Xacto knife. A 1/2" drill motor and 1/2" drill bit are optional, but can aid in rounding out the hole.
 
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Step 1: A bit about activated carbon and where to buy small quantities.

Picture of A bit about activated carbon and where to buy small quantities.
Activated carbon is also known as activated charcoal and is a VERY effective substance at absorbing many unwanted contaminants in drinking water and other liquids.

The History of Activated Carbon

Activated Carbon was first known to treat water over 2000 years ago. However, it was first produced commercially at the beginning of the 20th century and was only available in powder form. Initially activated carbon was mainly used to decolorize sugar and then from 1930 for water treatment to remove taste and odor. Granular activated carbon was first developed as a consequence of WWI for gas masks and has been used subsequently for water treatment, solvent recovery and air purification. The unique structure of activated carbon produces a very large surface area: 1 lb of granular activated carbon typically provides a surface area of 125 acres (1 Kg =1,000,000 sq. m.). Activated carbon can be produced from a variety of carbonaceous raw material, the primary ones being coal, coconut shells, wood and lignite. The intrinsic properties of the activated carbon are dependent on the raw material source. The activated carbon surface is non-polar which results in an affinity for non-polar adsorbates such as organics. Adsorption is a surface phenomenom in which an adsorbate is held onto the surface of the activated carbon by Van der Waal's forces and saturation is represented by an equilibrium point. These forces are physical in nature, which means that the process is reversible (using heat, pressure, etc.) Activated carbon is also capable of chemisorption, whereby a chemical reaction occurs at the carbon interface, changing the state of the adsorbate (dechlorination is an example of a chemisorption process). (You can read more here: http://www.carbochem.com/activatedcarbon101.html )

Activated charcoal is good at trapping other carbon-based impurities ("organic" chemicals), as well as things like chlorine. Many other chemicals are not attracted to carbon at all -- sodium, nitrates, etc. -- so they pass right through. This means that an activated charcoal filter will remove certain impurities while ignoring others. It also means that, once all of the bonding sites are filled, an activated charcoal filter stops working. At that point you must replace the filter. (You can read more here: http://science.howstuffworks.com/question209.htm )

Over 100 years ago Ellen White, a health reformer & pioneer of the Seventh Day Adventist movement strongly advocated the medical uses for charcoal powder. The modern medical establishment has only recently begun to use activated charcoal powder as the preferred method of treating oral poisonings and drug overdoses: "It is thought to bind to poison and prevent its absorption by the gastrointestinal tract. In cases of suspected poisoning, medical personnel either administer activated charcoal on the scene or at a hospital's emergency department. Dosing is usually empirical at 1 gram/kg of body weight, usually given only once. Depending on the drug taken, it may be given more than once. In rare situations activated charcoal is used in Intensive Care to filter out harmful drugs from the blood stream of poisoned patients. Activated carbon has become the treatment of choice for many poisonings, and other decontamination methods such as ipecac-induced emesis or stomach pumps are now used rarely." (From the Wikipedia entry for Activated Carbon)

You can find it at any fish & aquarium supply. If your concerned that the quality of the carbon from an aquarium shop might not be up-to-snuff, then go to a homebrew shop, or some other source that you are comfortable with. The granule size you'll want should be relatively close to 8 x 16 mesh size or smaller, but NOT so small that it falls out of the holes in your filter housing. I purchased the NSF approved carbon I used for my filters through an ebay merchant (here: http://stores.ebay.com/Carbon-Eze ). No, that's not me, & I don't know them. :) They describe their products well and have a good reputation & that's why I've included them here.
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johnrai1 month ago

what type on ion exchange resin can i use ?

can i use this ion exchange resin to filter drinking water they say it is for fish water tank

http://www.aquariumonline.co.uk/reverse_osmosis_and_water_purifiers/resins_for_water_treatment/water_softening_resin_1_litre_P3447.html?gclid=CK-Z_ZrBiL8CFfMgtAodtUcAog

ibwebb3 months ago

To each their own. Now, with that said:
The meat and dairy are not the 'evils' that everyone touts. It is what is allowed to be (and almost forced on farmers to be) done to the animals. The animals (and most crops) are chuck-full-o' all kinds of antibiotics, steroids, hormones, and other chemicals. Those of course are in the parts we eat and any product that comes from them. Try for a month to eat organic foods mostly (especially meat and dairy) and see how you feel after that. The difference is amazing. OH and everyone that goes on about 'it so much more expensive'; that it may be, but the taste and nutrients that you get have been compared at: 1 organic apple = 3-5 conventionally grown apples in nutrients. The meat? Take a 1/4 lb of each and make a patty/burger. Cook them the same way. You will see that the organic hardly shrinks while the other will shrink 1/3 - 1/2 its size. Then try the flavor and you will be sold. So, you are actually getting more of you money worth by going this way.
If you feel good living as a vegan then good for you. If you want to be healthier but like your meat, then I suggest giving this a try. After all you filter your water; why not try the equivalient to your food by taking out the poisons/chemicals/etc?

Accidic4 months ago

I personally can't do the vegetarian thing but if you can you'll find no grief from me. That said, I liked the write up and it was an interesting idea I hadn't previously considered. With that in mind, I have a couple questions I'd like to run by you (and or everyone in general as I'm not having a lot of luck via googling).

A) Have you or anyone else tried Activated Alumina in the mix? What ratios would be appropriate if so? (For those unaware, Activated Alumina removes flouride from water in a similar manner as activated carbon removes chlorine as I understand it and can also be used dry as a dessicant.) I'm not sure if there are any safety issues surrounding it either but I do know it's found in some other filter offerings.

B) Has anyone used this for alcohol/liquor filtration per chance? There used to be a few carbon only pitcher offerings and they do wonders for cheaper Vodkas for example. I bring that one in particular up as my wife hates my choice/preference in Vodka tho I must admit 2-3 rounds through charcoal makes a fairly dramatic difference.

Anyway, I have a few different pitchers (both PUR and Brita) and I believe they have the old filters in them so I'll have to give them a try. Thanks for the write up.

dick c6 months ago

I have an easy solution for the stopper. With a scissors I cut a square from a flat portion of a plastic milk carton that was a little larger that the hole I drilled in the filter. Then made two parallel cuts about 1/8" apart on two opposite sides to create two tabs. Slide one tab under the edge of the hole, then the other.

filter-stopper.jpg
antioch dick c4 months ago

Ingeniously sweet!

urdivine5 months ago

I'll add myself to your list of vegetarians.

I stopped eating ALL dead animals in 1972 and I do eat home made yogurt.

I supposedly had get my tonsils out when I was 8, which was in a hospital.

That was my last hospital visit. No sickness since way before 1972 and 1 cold 6 years ago and no memory of one before that. I learned exactly how to prevent or cure a cold or sickness also in 1972.

claudew7 months ago
Looks like Carboneze on EBay has gone out of business.

There are quite a few options on Amazone. What might be the critical features to look for?
Sandy5117 months ago
http://www.bulkactivatedcarbon.net/Activated-Carbon-for-Water-Purification.html

I bought from the site above, and it cames cheap and good.
tn.10 months ago
this is EXACTLY what i need - and i didn't even know it!

our town water is, frankly, shyte. it's horrible. bad enough that it smells like pure javex, but it's hard enough to chew. when we bought the house, the documentation said the bathroom fittings had been replaced 2yrs earlier. We've been in the house two years and already I had to shell out $100 for a new showerhead: even 24hrs in CLR did nothing to get the rocky buildup out of the showerhead. It was so bad, it would send water shooting up and over the shower doors - we had to put bath sheets on the floor to mop up the water when we showered. I use sand to clean the crust off the inside of the shower stall, bath tub, shower doors, toilet bowls, and sink - it's the only thing that works.

needless to say, potables prepared with this rank effluent is not exactly "the pause that refreshes".

since we know the water is safe, it's just to address the flavour and odour and this, brita does very well but the filters in no way last a month - 2-1/2 to 3wks at the most - and it gets really expensive.

instructables to the rescue!
astral_mage tn.10 months ago
have u tried dual water brine tank water softening system. this is the set up that we use, cause we have iron hard water. when 1 tank is being cleaned. it uses the other tank. then it switches back an forth.
tn. astral_mage10 months ago
that's definitely on my list of future household upgrades!
astral_mage tn.10 months ago
depending on where u live. it can be costly. my parent spent like 5k in cash getting it set up right but well worth it. we also use a iron pre-filter as well.
tn.10 months ago
well, i tried it and... [drumroll, pls] - it totally works!!!!! bought a litre-sized carton of charcoal for $12 (everything is expensive here) and from the look of it, i'll get 4, maybe 5 filter refills.

i didn't even have to buy a plug: i cut a c-shaped flap in the top and the plastic is durable enough to press back down. naturally, that will snap off after another time or two but for the moment, it's good enough.
tn. tn.10 months ago
oh - the water? delicious!
astral_mage10 months ago
actually it wont work on the (pur) water filters cause they use a 5 layer set up. itill work on brita cause thats a 1 or 2 slayer water filter.
edkafj5 years ago
First, thanks for your instructable. It was very good and as another has said, well thought out. However, in your final comment touting the advantages of veganism is fine for those that can handle it. I can't (not that I haven't tried it). I was a vegan for 1 1/2 years. The beginning effects (first 3 mos.) were great....cleansing, detoxing... However, I stuck to it out of perisistence and nearly ruined my health. I was not getting enough of the protein/amino acids I needed. My muscles were wasting away and I was experiencing excruciating pain as a consequence. Each person has a particular diet type that works best for them. My advice: find what works for you and eat healthy. What works for me? protein, fat and vegetables (very low on fruit & other sugar sources).
tn. edkafj10 months ago
same there - in three months, i was so severely anaemic that the doctor was considering hospitalizing me for a week or so for IV treatment.

turns out i cannot absorb non-haeme (non-blood sourced) iron. red meat three times a day keeps my iron levels on the low end of normal.
AdamMichaels11 months ago
Great and informative article. I would have used this in the past to refill my Brita filter, until I realized it doesn't do much, other than filter out chlorine, and a couple other contaminants. There is a reason this water filter is the cheapest on the market, because it is one of the most ineffective filters. There are over 87 common contaminants in our water, not including the uncommon ones, and this filter removes a handful. But those intent on using this filter, this is a great way to save some money.
tn. AdamMichaels10 months ago
i use the brita filter bec we have municipally treated water that while is safe enough to drink, is hard enough to chew and stinks of bleach. the brita filter works well - but does not last in any way near a month - more like 2-1/2 to 3 wks.
baneat10 months ago
People with the Maxtra filters in their jugs - don't cut a hole in the top. You run the risk of totally ruining the little plastic mesh that they've put there to stop the big holes from letting anything larger in. Make your hole on the side of the cartridge instead.
Tea Beyond1 year ago
Very informative instructions! I actually tried, but was not too successful cause 1) my drill probably is not too powerful; 2) I was afraid i could get hurt; 3)hard to add the carbon to the tube

I got inspiration while stopping by at Bed Bath and Beyond. I made another version of Home made Water filter refill: no skills or extra tools needed. Perfectly fits people like me;)

http://teabeyond.blogspot.com/2013/06/how-to-make-water-filter-refill.html
How to make a water filter refill4.JPGHow to make a water filter refill4.JPGHow to make a water filter refill4.JPGHow to make a water filter refill4.JPG
wiki20131 year ago
How to Regenerate Activated Charcoal  eHow

Activated charcoal is carbon in extremely porous form. It is usually derived from charcoal. It has a large surface area and is used for chemical reactions as a catalyst. It is also used in fish tanks as a filter or to filter distilled alcohol. Activated charcoal is an expensive product. It is cheaper to regenerate the charcoal than buying new activated charcoal

Instructions
Chemical Regeneration


1. Soak the activated charcoal in a solution of 9 to 10 percent hydrogen peroxide. Handle the solution by wearing gloves as it can cause burns. You can also use distilled deionized water instead of the hydrogen peroxide solution.

2. Stir the mixture every 15 minutes.

3. When the solution has been absorbed, add more solution to the container. Repeat this many times.

4. Bake the charcoal in an oven at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour or two.
astrofolk1 year ago
Very informative!
dotschko1 year ago
Great article. A little tip. You can easily source plastic plugs as free samples from large manufacturers. They are pretty useful all round so definitely worth ordering a few. Who knows, one of your ideas may go into production which they'd sure be grateful of!

My automatic coffee machine requires a filter at all times to work so this is perfect. They are bespoke, cost a fortune and are also expected to be replaced monthly. Despite the worries of some, this is much better than never replacing the filter.
bhall85802 years ago
I don't know about that. Ever since I switched to filtered water and or bottled water I have had no cavities. Plus I decided to experiment and slowed down on brushing yet always asking people about my breath. ( I can accept constructive criticism). I do not like to jump to conclusions and especially one that affects all Americans but could it be that a capitalist society has decided that putting something in our drink that would promote the economy is atleast possible? Fluoride and cavities creates many jobs and has an almost snowball effect. I did my own personal experiment and my results indicate that I would rather not have fluoride.
ryanmercer2 years ago
By chance have a new source you prefer, that ebay store is long gone.
coloradogal2 years ago
I have the faucet mount Brita water system. The filters are different than pictured. Can this be done to those type of filters? Thanks!
I do community recycling and these things are a major pain the the butt. The actives carbon has to be garbaged but the shell can be recycled. They really make a mess. Thanks you for doing this.
barbhug2 years ago
Awesome money saver, thanks so much!
Diamondhead2 years ago
If you're looking for the ion exchange resin search Amazon.com for "ion exchange resin". As of this post (Feb 19, 2012) they have 2 pounds for $17.50 and 25 pounds for $185. The "Product Features" for these products says that they can be used for water purification.

If you look at the "Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed" portion of the page which comes up it shows other types of similar(??) resins.

It's been a long time since I read these comments so what I apologize if what I'm about to ask has already been answered. If it hasn't been answered, can someone please tell me if they know hold long (as in how many gallons) the ion exchange resins in a Brita filter are designed to last? In other words, do the ion exchange resins "wear out" at the same rate as the charcoal....or do they have a longer life span?

I plan on building my own water filter out of an upside down 2 liter soda bottle with the bottom cut off and hole(s) poked in bottle cap (and possibly other places)....and if I don't have to, I don't want to toss out the ion resin beads every time I change the charcoal.

Thanks for any info you can give me about the life span of the resin beads!!.....:)
susanrm2 years ago
I am with you on not wanting fluoride in my water, but where do you get the idea that PUR puts timed release sodium fluoride in their filters?? I have searched the web, including PUR's own site AND the anti-fluoride sites, and there is nothing saying anything like this. Instead, they just say their filters won't REMOVE fluoride - which is okay with me, since my area doesn't fluoridate the water.

Please provide a source or edit this line out - I would love to know if it's true, but if it's not, it shouldn't be causing alarm to people like me who use PUR-filtered water for me and my pets.

Thanks.
Breygon2 years ago
I only had a brief look (I'm on lunch). but would point out that the ion exchange resin also reduces 'scale' problems. I used to live in a chalk area where scale was more of an issue than taste so i still buy the filters new for the resin aspect. the top slits/holes are also for air to escape more easily - thus increasing flow time. most of these products use silver in the activated carbon as a bacteriostat - that is to stop bacteria growing whilst it is in storage and is not a source for treating bacteriological waters. in fact with time these filters can provide very good growth conditions, so if you do reuse old housings you really should disinfect.

nice concept. good for tast and odour issues (and pesticides).
Rob5i3 years ago
Where do you arrive at the 50 cent figure for refilling a cartridge?

All the activated charcoal I have seen is very expensive. A standard container even from the big box stores is about $8 for 9 ounces. This would maybe fill three Britta filters. One of the links to a bulk charcoal website lists 4 pounds for $52, that's $13 per pound while charcoal for BBQs is about 27 cents per pound. Is there a manufacture of filter grade charcoal that will be in the middle? Please post a source or link or don't make such a claim.
jpcflow Rob5i2 years ago
It not the kind of thing that you're going to save money on re-filling just one cartridge. In the long run, this is the smartest way to save money and keep your water clean. Just searching in google for "bulk activated charcoal" should point you in the right direction. It's pretty easy to find it under $5 per lb.

You could always just find some brita coupons if you want to take the easy way out.
fuzvulf Rob5i3 years ago
BBQ charcoal can contain heavy metals, toxins and other general nasties. Unless you are planning on using the "all natural" charred sticks that still retain their original shape(of a burned stick) then you would be poisoning your water rather than purifying it.
Make a wood gas stove! It burns on all the volatile stuff out of the wood, leaving activated charcoal. You just have to put the fire out to save it. Dump it into a paint can with a tiny hole in the lid.
That advice will cost you $3.75.
http://www.buyactivatedcharcoal.com/granular_activated_charcoal_8x16mesh_coconut

Not sure where you're looking but I found this pretty quick. For 5 lbs it's $6.08 per pound. It also says that the density is approximately 28 lbs/cu.ft.

1 cu.ft. = 958 oz.
28 lbs/cu.ft. = .0292 lbs/oz
Using your approximate 3 oz. per filter this gives .0876 lbs per filter.
Using the above cost per pound it gives $.532.

Even if these equations are rough and not including shipping it shows that sources can be found that make $0.50 per filter feasible.
To Rob5i, I ask that you do a little more research and a little more math.
To IAMSatisfied and all ibles authors, I ask that these types of analysis be added to any ible where an efficiency is stated.
Other than that great instructable, I look forward to trying this. Thanks
cmastin3 years ago
Thank you for posting this!! I live in Colorado and have great tap water but was looking into this project to utilize with another project I found :

http://www.instructables.com/id/Filtered-Pet-Watering-Bowl/?&sort=ACTIVE&limit=40

I mainly want to refill a filter on a running water pet bowl for cats to cut down on the gelatinous gel layer that forms on the bottom of bowl. I was wondering if the carbon needed would be same with running water being recycled with pump. Would just simply measuring the amount of carbon in existing filter and replacing it with same amount be adequate and safe for my pets? Does anyone have insight? Could there be a hazard in adding tooo much carbon to a filter? Thanks in advance!!
The goo on the bottom of the bowl is a buildup of bacteria, I believe. It may be more practical (no refill necessary) to build a UV-C bulb in that system somewhere, away from feline, bovine, kanine and human eyes of course. It would completely sterilize the water, including all the backwash.

I can't guarantee that will take care of any stuff sticking to the bowl, but it seems like it's worth a try.

Oh wait, here's an instructable: http://www.instructables.com/id/LED-Water-Purifier/
SkUG2 years ago
I work in a shop that sells brita products, they now have a "bin" where you can recycle your old cartridges, saves on landfill
(still stupidly expensive, as someone says up there, there is silver in them? the price of silver has tripled in the last few years so thats probably why)
I'll shall try this instructable - thank you!
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