How can a simple water filter become so clogged?

Anyone that maintains lane machines knows how critical routine maintenance is. But one item that often gets overlooked in lane machine upkeep are supply tank filters - the filters in the oil supply tank, filters in the cleaner supply tank, and now with the FLEX lane machine, the water supply tank filter (see help video below). In this feature article of the Inside Line, we’ll focus on the water supply tank and how those filters can become clogged over time, even though it’s just water.

Most people are aware that all water is not created equal. Water can be hard or soft, and have different levels of calcium, phosphates, nitrates, sodium, potassium, and chloride, along with some uninvited guests depending on the water treatment plants. These substances are known as Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). TDS is a measure of the “combined content of all inorganic and organic substances contained in a liquid in molecular, ionized, or micro-granular suspended form.” In layman’s terms, TDS is a measure of the amount of the stuff in the water you can’t see.

Knowing the TDS is all well and good but, how will this affect your lane machine filter? Well, when water sits around, you know mold and fungus can grow on the water’s surface. The water can become very pungent and you can actually see things growing and the water color changing. Think about bird baths and small fountains that don’t have running water; the stagnant water eventually turns rancid from mold and fungus growth. When water sits in a container for long periods of time, a biofilm will eventually begin to form. Biofilms form on surfaces like tank walls and filters. They will form on virtually every non-shedding surface in a non-sterile or very humid environment.

On your teeth, plaque is a biofilm. In your cooling and heating system, biofilm forms reducing the effectiveness of the system. The slimy stuff you see on rocks and pebbles in streams is biofilm. In stagnant pools of water, biofilms can form on the surface. Basically, a biofilm can form just about anywhere as long as there is a place for the cells to attach; the cells can attach to a solid surface or to each other.

So biofilms form in water, right? Well, why don’t biofilms form in bottled water at the grocery store? Bottled water is packaged to prevent biofilms from forming. The bottled water you buy from the store is packaged under nitrogen pressure to force out the air. This prevents biofilms from forming in the water while it sits on the shelf. Once the bottle is opened and air is introduced to the system, the biofilm can begin forming. This is one reason why you shouldn’t reuse bottles from bottled water without thoroughly cleaning them.

Biofilm goes through five stages of development:

1.    Initial attachment,
2.    Irreversible attachment,
3.    Maturation I,
4.    Maturation II,
5.    Dispersion.

The picture below shows how a biofilm develops through each of the different stages.


Water quality in a specific location will dictate how fast a bowling center will have biofilm develop. TDS and the specific treatment methods used at the local water treatment facilities will change the water quality. Eventually though, every center will have to clean and/or replace their lane machine water filter at some time. Just like your coffee maker at home, the water filter and supply tank should be cleaned periodically to prevent the problem. If you never clean your coffee maker, eventually the pump will fail. If you never clean your water supply tank in your single cup machines, a biofilm can form in the water tank.

At Kegel, we recommend removing and cleaning the water supply tank filter once a month. We also suggest flushing out the water supply tank at least every couple months, no matter how often you use your lane machine. The water is sitting in the supply tank the same amount of time no matter how many lanes you are doing a day – always.

This is what happens when filters are not maintained regularly:


If periodic maintenance is not being performed on a simple item like your water supply tank and filter, or any filter for that matter, the liquid in the tank will not flow properly and that will change your dilution ratios. We know changing dilution ratios will change ball motion. But, improper cleaning can also lead to a host of other issues.

Just like Sanction Technology has done for the oil system with process verification, with Kegel’s sprayless cleaner system it is easy to check volume output for water and cleaner. As we always say, “it’s better to know than to hope”. And as any lane person will tell you, it's also better for you to find any issues before your bowlers do.