Most people purchase the wrong kitchen water filter. This is due to both the lack of research that goes into the decision as well as the misleading claims by companies in the water treatment industry. Overcoming these issues requires some effort but will assure that you purchase the correct water filter to protect your health.
First of all, nowadays there are a plethora of countertop pitchers and faucet add-ons. It’s likely that more of these are sold than any other kind of kitchen water filter. Yet they do very little to protect your health. They are simply too small and contain too little media to be effective. Of course the companies make broad claims about their effectiveness but when you study these claims you will find that what they don’t say is of equal importance. People buy them because they are cheap.
For instance one company brags about a faucet filter removing lead. Well, that’s great. But lead is not the only contaminant of concern in drinking water. There are other contaminants that are harmful to your health that this particular faucet filter has too little media to remove. If lead is a problem in your house, then perhaps buy it. But you are neglecting to filter out other carcinogens.
The same thing is true with water pitcher filters. They sit on your countertop, which itself is cumbersome. But what do they do? They make your water taste better. That’s about it. Several make claims to do more but there is too little carbon in these filters to do much. If they do work it’s when the filters are new and then they wear out quickly. Since people are bad at replacing filters in a timely fashion most likely your water won’t be filtered at all.
The lesson here is that a really important factor in effectiveness is how much media, either carbon or KDF or both is in the filter. The more media in the filter the more chance the filter has of removing the contaminants in city water. A kitchen water filter with several stages and more media will remove more contaminants and remain effective longer.
NSF certifications can be another misleading claim made by water treatment companies. There’s nothing wrong with an NSF certification, but the question you must ask is what is it certified for? Often times the certification is NSF 42, which is an aesthetic certification only. It means the chlorine is being reduced (not eliminated) and therefore the water tastes better. With an NSF 42 certification your drinking water is still unhealthy. There’s another NSF health certification that claims to remove pharmaceuticals, but if you read the fine print, it really says some pharmaceuticals. There are still some in your drinking water.
Consumer Reports does analysis of water filters and makes recommendations. These are allegedly based on effectiveness and cost. Unfortunately Consumer Reports labs fall into the same misleading trap as NSF 42. They are evaluating kitchen water filters on limited criteria. I suggest you ignore their recommendations.
If you are going to buy a kitchen water filter you want one that has sufficient filters or media to remove the most harmful contaminants from your water. Still, before you go out and purchase a larger filter, stop!
I suggest this process of buying a water filter start with a look at your local water quality report. That report will list both the source of your water and the regulated contaminants. The latter are the contaminants which USEPA has decided to place limits on. You can look at the range of these contaminants and highlight those you’d like to remove.
There will be other contaminants in your water as well, those that USEPA hasn’t regulated yet, usually for political reasons. You won’t find these in your report but you can make an educated guess as to what they might be. For instance if your water source is a river, look upstream. What’s up there? If there are cities then you will have pharmaceuticals in your water. These are from the drugs prescribed to people by doctors. When these people pee those drugs go in the river. If you have farming upstream then you will have unregulated pesticides and possibly hormones from livestock.
The age of your home is another consideration. Older homes may have steel or copper pipes that use lead solder. The water can dissolve the lead which you then drink. Cities usually add a chemical to the water to prevent corrosion of old pipes. But if you have an older home concern about lead is warranted and should be added to your list for removal.
Now you’re ready to determine what type of filter will work for you. What filter removes the contaminants in your water? Not every filter removes every type of contaminant. People make broad assumptions about that topic. They assume that a filter removes everything. Not so.
The media or technology in a kitchen water filter are specific in what they do. Carbon filters are the most common and popular. They remove chlorine and the chlorine byproducts when there’s enough carbon in the filter to be effective. KDF is another media that removes some heavy metals. It also has anti-bacterial properties.
Activated Alumina is another filter media. It is effective at removing or reducing the fluoride in your water. Water chemistry may interfere with this process. In places like Los Angeles where the water chemistry is very complex activated alumina may have limited effectiveness.
Reverse Osmosis refers to a membrane that can be part of a kitchen water filter. A reverse osmosis system will include sediment and carbon filters as well as the membrane. The result is that it provides a more pure water product that simple carbon filters. Reverse Osmosis is the system you need if you have pharmaceuticals in your water. It’s also the only way to remove radioactive metals, nitrates, and high dissolved solids.
Based on the contaminants you’ve found in your water and those you can surmise will be in your water source you buy the kitchen water filter that will remove them. If you follow these steps you can buy the correct filter and protect the health of your family. Children and older adults are particularly vulnerable to the contaminants in water. Consider the makeup of your family when you choose a water filter.
Live long and stay healthy.