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5 Ways To Tell If RO Membrane Is Bad

Scott Winfield
Last Updated on
by Scott Winfield

Reverse osmosis membrane is a thin film consisting of several different materials. The membrane is usually made of polypropylene or another synthetic polymer in RO water filtering systems.

These membranes effectively remove chemicals and other contaminants from water because they are small, only a few microns in thickness. They’re so small that the pressure from feed water being pushed through the system forces them to expand; creating tiny holes in the membrane to block larger particles like minerals, organics, and bacteria from passing through.

While RO membranes are efficient & often don’t require regular maintenance, its not uncommon for them to wear out or completely go bad.

Here are five tell-tale signs that your RO Membrane needs replacing:

1. Discoloration Is a Sign of Bad Membrane

As water passes through a membrane filter, it may leave behind impurities that will coat the outside of the membrane. If these impurities aren’t removed or regularly washed away during the RO process, they can build up and change the color of the membrane.

 RO Membrane Discoloration
RO Membrane Discoloration

 One quick way to tell if your membrane is discolored is to look at your water filtration system. The membrane will be a part of the system that is left exposed to air; you should be able to tell if it’s stained or discolored.

If the membrane is discolored, then it should be quickly replaced to avoid damaging the entire RO system.

2. Reduced Flow Rate Might Be a Sign Of Faulty Membrane

A reduced flow rate could mean that your membrane is either clogged or is allowing too much water to pass through it. If the membrane is clogged, it will be unable to block larger contaminants, resulting in low water flow.

Reduced Flow Rate

If the membrane allows too much water to pass through, it could be due to either a buildup of impurities or a breakdown of the membrane itself.

A clogged or faulty membrane can be corrected by throughly cleaning it. If the membrane is still clogged after cleaning, then you should consider completely replacing it.

3. Foul Smell May Indicate Bad Membrane

The RO membrane can become fouled over time by dirt, sediment, and other contaminants.

When this happens, the membrane becomes less effective at removing impurities, and water produced by the system can have bad taste or odor.

RO Membrane Foul Smell

Unfortunately cleaning the membrane may not be enough to remove the foul odor. You should consider completely replacing the membrane.

4. Tepid RO Water

If your RO membrane is working correctly, the water that is being pushed back through the membrane should be tepid. Tepid water means the water is lukewarm.

Tepid RO Water

 If the water being pushed back through the membrane is overly hot, it could indicate too much pressure is being applied to the system.

If there is too much pressure, the membrane could be tearing, which would cause water to be pushed back through the membrane too quickly, resulting in it being overly hot.

Additionally, water flow from the RO system may be reduced or stopped altogether if the RO membrane is bad. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s essential to call a plumber or water filtration specialist to have the RO system checked and serviced.

Ignoring these signs can lead to contaminated water, posing a severe health risk.

5. Cloudiness In The Membrane

If you notice your RO membrane is beginning to develop a cloudy look, it could mean that the membrane is being contaminated with minerals. If minerals are being pulled from the feed water, they can build up on the membrane, reducing performance.

RO Membrane Cloudiness

If the membrane contamination is due to minerals, it’s best to clean or replace it before it damages the rest of the system.

How Long Does an RO Membrane Last?

An RO membrane can last for 2-5 years with proper care and maintenance. However, if left unchecked, the membrane can suffer from several problems that can shorten its lifespan.

To ensure your membrane lasts as long as possible, it is essential to have it regularly cleaned or replaced if wear and tear.

Additionally, the type of water being filtered can also impact the lifespan of an RO membrane. For example, water with a high mineral content can be more corrosive and cause more wear and tear.

What Causes Damage to Membrane?

Several factors can cause damage to the membrane. The most common cause is an increase in differential pressure, which can happen when the system isn’t working correctly or when there is a blockage.

 Another common cause of damage to the membrane is the backpressure phenomenon, which happens when water pressure in the system is too high and causes the membrane to rupture.

Abrasion processes from fouling can also cause damage to the membrane, which happens when deposits build up on the surface of the membrane and cause it to wear.

Massive or micro-damage from scaling can also cause damage to the membrane, which happens when deposits build up on the surface of the membrane and cause it to crack.

Oxidation processes or even degradation with time can also cause damage to the membrane.

How Much Does RO Membrane Replacement Cost?

The average replacement cost is between $80 to $90.

Depending on the brand and model of your system, you should replace the RO membrane every 6 to 12 months.

The cost of replacement membranes can vary widely, from as little as $60 to more than $200 per year. The average price is typically between $80 and $90. The more filters your system has, the more expensive it will be to replace the membranes.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
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