Welcome to The Good Human’s Definitive Guide to choosing the best water filter.
I should really start with an apology….there is no one answer to this question. Growing concern about the safety of our drinking water has led to a rise in availability of water filtration systems.
However, they are not all created equal. Water filters on the market vary in their abilities – drastically! What we do promise then, is to explain the different options available – and the pros and cons of each. That way, you should be able to identify the best water filter….for your unique needs.
We will explain the different types of filter, and look at the least expensive options, the most effective all round options, those that soften hard water and then those that target specific contaminants that you are hoping to avoid.
I don’t need to tell you the importance of drinking plenty of water – we have heard that enough times. The problem is that our tap water and even bottled water is not as pure as we would hope.
Bacteria, pesticides and detergents amongst other things are regularly found present in the water that we use to drink. The very chemicals that are used to clean the bacteria in our water supply could also be doing harm to our bodies. Chlorine in particular has been linked to many diseases and birth defects. Aluminium and fluoride are amongst the other main concerns as confirmed by many scientific studies.
There have been equally valid concerns raised about bottled water. It is often no better in quality than the water that comes from our tap, but with the added problem of being contained in plastic bottles that leach estrogenic chemicals into the mix.
Many manufacturers of water filters claim to remove chlorine, lead and other contaminants from tap water with their purification processes. As we have already said, these systems vary in cost and effectiveness.
Comparing water filters is difficult as most do not clearly display filtration figures on their websites.
Fortunately, we have the NSF – a non profit organisation that independently tests water filters and certifies exactly what contaminants are removed by each. Many water filtration companies are not certified by NSF, and this means that claims that they make are not independently verified.
If the price is driving your choice, then we would advise you to consider a carbon filter.
These are not as effective in removing contaminants as reverse osmosis filters for example – but they still do a great job. They are significantly cheaper than RO systems, and require less maintenance, far less energy and almost no water wastage compared with the RO options too.
Effectiveness between brands varies so check the NSF site when making your purchase decisions.
Carbon filters tend to be available as jugs and consumers often tend to pick one off the shelf and assume that this is enough to cleanse their drinking water and ensure a safe supply with no contaminants. However, most of these jugs only actually reduce four contaminants, chlorine, copper, cadmium and mercury.
They generally eliminate micro-organisms, traces of pharmaceuticals and heavy metals. People often report that water tastes better after being filtered this way.
To maintain a jug filter, you will be required to replace the filter in the jug periodically, which may result in a similar cost to a faucet filter, using the same technology over the course of a year.
Carbon/Activated Carbon: Activated carbon chemically bonds with and removes some contaminants in water filtered through it. Carbon filters vary greatly in effectiveness: Some just remove chlorine and improve taste and odor, while others remove a wide range of contaminants including asbestos, lead, mercury and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). However, activated carbon cannot effectively remove common “inorganic” pollutants such as arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrate and perchlorate. Generally, carbon filters come in two forms, carbon block and granulated activated carbon. – EWG.com
If cost is no problem, then Reverse Osmosis is a good way to go. There is no question that this is the best option to remove the maximum amount of contaminants. Many claim to provide completely pure water, which means it will contain zero Total Dissolved Solids (TDS).
Standard tap water generally contains 300 to 500 mgs TDS per litre.
However, they can be so effective that they even remove trace minerals from the water – which you will have to replenish in other ways, as your body relies on them to function correctly.
Dr Martin Fox, author of ‘Healthy water for a longer life’’ says of this “It would be a mistake to believe that water with a very low or even zero TDS rating is an indication that the water is better”.
Reverse Osmosis: This process pushes water through a semi-permeable membrane that blocks particles larger than water molecules. Reverse osmosis can remove many contaminants not removed by activated carbon, including arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrates and perchlorate. However, reverse osmosis does not remove chlorine, trihalomethanes or volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). Many reverse osmosis systems include an activated carbon component than can remove these other contaminants. Quality can vary tremendously in both the membrane system and the carbon filter typically used with it. Consumers should also be aware that reverse osmosis filters use 3-to-20 times more water than they produce. Because they waste quite a bit of water, they are best used for drinking and cooking water only. – EWG.com
Water softening systems are first and foremost designed to deal with hard water problems. Do not mistake them for a filter per se – as most won’t remove many contaminants.
Water Softeners: These devices typically use an ion exchange process to lower levels of calcium and magnesium (which can build up in plumbing and fixtures) as well barium and certain forms of radium. They do not remove most other contaminants. Since water softeners usually replace calcium and magnesium with sodium, treated water typically has high sodium content. Some people may be advised by their physicians to avoid softened water. For the same reason, it is also not recommended for watering plants and gardens.
The EWG site offers a fantastic way to search for filters which reduce specific contaminants.
Simply use the drop down box to select the contaminant that you want to eliminate and they will show you which filters are proven to do the job. The cover everything from arsenic to trihalomethanes!
Be sure to consider your options carefully when purchasing a water filtration system – making a note of the maintenance requirements too. If you don’t keep your system in good working order, your water will suffer as a result.
So what are your thoughts? Do you already filter your drinking water? Are you thinking of starting or changing your current method? We would love to hear from you.
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