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How I clean filter socks

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The one task I truly hate is cleaning filter socks. When I built my new sump for the 400g, I included a filter sock hanger and purchased four socks to rotate through as needed. These are the large 7" filter socks, not the smaller 4" type.

As they get dirty, I pull them out of the sump and place them in a container near the back door, and usually the next day they are put outside to be cleaned later. Well, I had one out there. A few weeks later I had another dirty sock sitting outside on my deck, a constant reminder they needed to be cleaned. About a week ago, I was kicking up quite a bit of detritus while working in the tank and ran another sock that got dirty as well. Two days later, it also was put outside.

Now that I had a small collection of brown nasty socks to clean, I had no desire to stand out in the 107F heat to blast them clean with a garden hose. It can take 5 or 6 minutes per sock to clean them, and even then they tend to look tan and dingy.

Another thing on my backporch are my former RO/DI reservoirs. These are sold as wrapping paper containers, but I've used them to top off my tanks over the years. Each one of these can hold up to 10g of water. Grabbing a bottle of bleach from the utility room as well as a bottle of Prime for afterwards, I got started.

I filled up the container with about 7 gallons of water, and poured in about 1 cup of bleach. All three socks were then immersed in the solution and left to soak for about 30 minutes. I think 10 minutes is really plenty, but I had other things to do simultaneously, so these soaked a little longer.

When I checked on them, they were better but still stained. What I did was invert each one, turning them inside out and resoaked them by plunging them into the bleach solution repeatedly.

Next, the sock was placed on the concrete and I set the garden hose sprayer to "jet"-mode and blasted away the brown. Working my way from the O-ring to the tip of the sock, I forced the brown out. I flipped it over and did the same. Then I turned it right-side out, and repeated the process for both sides. They were nice and clean, but smelled of bleach.

I dumped out the bleach solution and rinsed the container well, wiping down the sides to remove any trace left within. Then the container was refilled with about 5 or 6 gallons of water. I poured in 3 capfuls of Prime (way more than the normal strength since that would treat 150g usually), then repeatedly dunked the socks in the dechlorinated solution for about 60 seconds.

I left these to soak for about 15 minutes. This is a very important step, to assure the socks are safe for aquarium use again.

Finally, they were pulled from the water and allowed to air dry outside. No trace of bleach smell, I have three socks ready for whenever I feel like using them again. Letting them air dry outdoors helps assure no chlorine is left behind. Think hours, not minutes.

Btw, I want to thank Jonathan (Plantguy) for his great suggestion to use a broom handle to help turn the socks inside out. Once you start to push the base of the sock through its opening, you can press downward on the O-ring and let the broom's handle press the sock upward and through.

I hope this helps some of you that wondered about the process. It's not fun at all, but it does make those socks look brand new. The LFS owner by my house hates cleaning socks, and decided to only use them one time. As soon as it is dirty and overflowing, he tosses it out and inserts a new one. Trust me, that thought doesn't sound all that bad to me.

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  1. SaltCritters's Avatar
    We throw ours in the washer with a little bleach. Good as new. we usually do about 30 socks at a time. Made them all for about $10 from some felt we got at walmart. they work great.
  2. Jnarowe's Avatar
    I hated cleaning socks too, so I switched to a floss "shelf". It allowed for more time between swaps, enabled me toeasily pull out brittle stars, mysis, etc., and of course, no socks to clean!
  3. Myhahockeykid's Avatar
    +1 to the washing machine with bleach
  4. dahenley's Avatar
    when i ran them... i would wash them in the washing machine with just bleach, and then just turn the washing machine back on and run a 2nd wash with just water. (just to be safe) never had any chlorine smell after. then i would hang them to dry in the garage.
  5. evoracer's Avatar
    I found a thread elsewhere once that talked about what happens when you clean your socks with bleach. Under a microscope he found that the algae and detritus was still embedded in the sock, but just "bleached", so it appeared white and clean. Be stated that soaking them in a hydrogen peroxide solution then analyzing under the scope showed much less detritus and algae then with bleach. Then a quich hot water bath in the washer, no soap!! I do this procedure, then follow up with a Prime soak to ensure any chlorine in our muni water is nullified. Works well, and I have found a few tablespoons of HP in a gallon of RO washes a sock very well, when allowed to soak for an hour or so.
  6. melev's Avatar
    Good idea, using Hydrogen peroxide.
  7. yankieman's Avatar
    I have used bleach for many years to clean about everything involved with fish keeping , I do however let mine soak overnight then its almost just a rince job with the hose and let dry another day ,, and they look like brand new,, I learned from having a polluted well and the state telling me to pour bleach into the water to cure it what bleach can do and also from having a swimming pool using clorine to shock it they are close to the same ,, and after washing in bleach rinsing good letting dry all traces are gone in 24 hours,, and also living on a septic I cant just use it in the washing mach or pour it down the drain either since it kills ALL BACTERIA ,,,and would ruin the good stuff in my septic ,,
  8. Justin Deans's Avatar
    I have alot of 100 micron socks to clean at my store. I use a pressure sprayer then soak them in tap water with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of peroxide depending on how dirty it is. I let them soak over night, then I spray them off again and hang them to dry.
  9. Saltydog1's Avatar
    Socks work very well but what I hate about them is the job cleaning them and quite often. I much prefer a disposable pad, saves a lot of work.