I cleaned the filter in a water pitcher – and I doubled its use in under 30 minutes

It only takes two ingredients to extend these expensive refills' lifespan

A water filter pitcher
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Water filters, be it in your filter pitcher or refrigerator, can be pretty expensive to replace regularly – especially if you live in an area with hard water. 

I was pretty thrilled when I worked out that I could simply clean water filters out to give me a little more time before needing to swap it out – and with only two ingredients too!

I tried out the clever cleaning tip for water pitcher filter cartridges to see if I could extend the life of my filter and save some money at home. I was pleasantly surprised by how quick it was – and how well it continued to clean my water. 

How to clean a water pitcher filter

As with any good household cleaning hack, cleaning with vinegar was a go-to for cleaning a water pitcher filter. Given that vinegar is so great for getting rid of hard water stains, and you can use vinegar to kill mold, it only makes sense that the simple kitchen staple is also ideal for tackling limescale build-up and bacteria in a used filter. 

I started this method by combining one cup of white vinegar with three cups of cool distilled water and soaking the filter for 20 minutes. This helped to loosen any debris or limescale to make scrubbing a little easier later on, and helps to clean any activated carbon within the filter housing. 

A water filter pitcher

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After that, I found that a clean toothbrush with harsh bristles was perfect for digging out any visible build-up on the filter’s surface. If you don't have any new toothbrushes laying around for cleaning, then you can sit an old toothbrush in a glass of water with a sterilizing tablet to freshen it up for a whole host of household cleaning tricks – especially if dealing with small spots when cleaning a kitchen

To finish off, I ran the filter under some distilled water to flush any remaining vinegar out and left it to dry completely before returning it to the pitcher. Allowing it to dry out helped to dissipate any residual vinegar smell which I was looking to avoid tasting in my filtered water later. What’s more, it allowed the filter some breathing time to prevent mold development as soon as I returned it to its plastic housing. 

A good tip is to leave the cleaned filter on a windowsill in direct sunlight to help speed up the drying process with a little natural heat. 

Brita Large Water Filter Pitcher | Was $38.79, Now $32.97 at Amazon

Brita Large Water Filter Pitcher | Was $38.79, Now $32.97 at Amazon
Widely regarded as one of the best water pitchers for your home, the Britta water pitcher in all of its sizes is a great investment if you are looking for cleaner water without relying on pre-bottled water from the store. We reviewed the larger Britta counterpart and named it one of the best water filters for everyday hold use.  

My verdict

Using vinegar to clean a water pitcher filter is certainly handy if you are looking to get a little more life out of your filter before tossing it out, but it may not be a permanent solution as the filters will eventually become too old, and the activated carbon too degraded, to see any benefit from cleaning. 

That being said, if you are hoping to stretch out the usage a little longer without needing to splash out on refills every two months, then this hack is for you. Alternatively, you may wish to consider a more permanent filtering option, such as a faucet-fitted filter (Amazon has plenty of options to consider) which you can invest in once, and which helps you to save money over time. 

Waterdrop Water Filter for Faucets | $18.99 at Amazon

Waterdrop Water Filter for Faucets | $18.99 at Amazon
Although we have not tested this exact waterdrop product, we loved the waterdrop filter pitcher and this fitting uses the same filtering technology. The only difference is that this fits directly to your faucet, providing your purified water on demand, and has been touted as lasting even longer than its jug counterpart. 


Is it better to have a dirty water filter or no water filter?

More often than not, it is better to have no water filter at all rather than a dirty filter. An old water filter will develop mold and bacteria that water can pick up as it passes through, making it even dirtier than before it was filtered in your pitcher. As a result, it is a good idea to regularly clean your pitcher and your water filter, and replace the filter as necessary – or leave it out altogether.  

How often should you clean your water filter pitcher?

It is a good idea to clean your water filter pitcher at least every two months – or more if you use it very regularly or live in an area with very hard water. This is also a good interval at which to clean or replace your water filter cartridge, too, to prevent mold growth and contamination.  

Cleaning a water pitcher filter is just as simple as cleaning an electric kettle, or cleaning a coffee maker when you have the know-how about dealing with hard water and limescale. If you do not have any vinegar to hand, you may also wish to try this hack out with a descaling solution for a similar effect – just make sure to thoroughly rinse the filter through with distilled water before using it to filter your drinks again. 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.