Willing to pass on water bottled in flimsy plastic? And completely skeeved by what may be lurking in your tap water? Me too. With bottled water and tap water out of the picture, that leaves filtered water. Because good drinking water essential for survival and health, you probably want to use one of the best water filters you can find. But boy, is the water filter market confusing. Here's a breakdown of why you'd want to filter your water in the first place…along with options when shopping around.
Water that's good for you and your family
For daily consumption, bottled water leaves much to be desired. First, it is a waste of plastic. Second, that plastic can leach nasty chemicals and hormone disruptors into your water. If you drink water bottled in glass, the resources required to get that water into your hands still leaves an ecological footprint. Finally, despite all the fancy advertising, the quality of bottled water may be not all it’s hyped up to be.
And then there's tap water. From the way your urban (or suburban) sink flows, it may seem like you are blessed with an endless supply of clean water. In reality, your water supplies may be limited if you live in drouth-ridden regions, like southern California. Furthermore, the water that flows through your tap is heavily processed and contains loads of unhealthy contaminants including hormones from discarded medications, toxins from gasoline bio-products, chlorine from processing, fluoride as a “public health” measure, and more.
Below are six types of contaminants you want to remove from municipal tap water:
- Chlorine and chloramines
- Volatile Organic Compounds (pesticides, herbicides, etc.)
- Heavy metals (Lead, Mercury, Aluminum, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper)
- Bacteria and viruses (Giardia and Cryptosporidium)
- General Sediment
- Fluoride (some may argue this one, but I think fluoride should be a personal choice rather than a public one)
The ideal water is both free of contaminants and mineral rich, as if you were drinking from a well at the bottom of a pristine, isolated mountain. Your tap water isn’t this good, and bottled water has its problems. The solution lies in the sorting through the best water filters. But how to choose?
Water filter options
Activated carbon water filter (like Brita, Pur, Aquasana)
How it works: (Faucet, Pitcher, or Whole House) Granular, activated carbon or powdered block carbon absorbs impurities.
Pros: Popular for home use as it is economical, easy to install, and effective at filtering out the most deadly contaminants. Can be installed for whole house filtration, providing water for bathing that is free of chlorine and other contaminants which can also improve indoor air quality.
Cons: Does not completely remove arsenic, fluoride, and nitrates. Susceptible to mold attacks.
Ceramic water filter (like Stefani Terracotta)
How it works: (Counter top) A cartridge of a fossil substance and/or nano-silver effectively traps and neutralizes bacteria.
Pros: Removes 95% of chlorine, pesticides, iron, aluminum and lead; and 99% of Cryptosporidium, Giardia, and sediment.
Cons: Does not remove fluoride. Often produces a slow water flow.
Gravity water filter (like Berkey & AquaRain)
How it works: (Counter top) Ceramic or black filters remove contaminants and noxious chemicals while holding several gallons of clean water.
Pros: Requires no plumbing or water hookup. Good for travel. Filters 99% of bacteria and viruses. Gets rid of chlorine. Removes up to 95% lead, MTBEs, and other heavy metals. Additional Berkey PF-2 filters remove fluoride and arsenic.
Cons: There's a wait time for the water to filter. After some use, Berkey filters run even slower and need to be scrubbed.
How it works: Water is boiled, killing microbes, steam is collected as distilled water leaving solid contaminants behind.
Pros: Distilled water is pure H20.
Cons: Minerals are eliminated in the filtration process.
Reverse osmosis filter
How it works: (Under sink installation) Relies on technology called hyper-filtration, producing water that is essentially the same as distilled water.
Pros: RO filters remove essentially all contaminants.
Cons: Although this water is very pure, it is also devoid of essential minerals.
Water ionizer (like Kangen & Jupiter)
How it works: (Under sink or counter top) A water ionizers or electrolyzed alkaline water filter separates water into an alkaline, mineral-rich water for drinking and an acidic, mineral-void water for washing and cleaning.
Pros: Many people who drink alkaline water report health benefits, while the antiseptic properties of acid water make it excellent for cleaning.
Cons: Water ionizers may still require additional pre-filtration to completely remove fluoride. The ionization is only effective for about an hour, so if you fill a bottle on the go it’s healthful properties may be gone by the time you’re gulping.
How it works: Polarizes minerals in water as it is passed through a magnetic field or media.
Pros: Purported benefits similar to water ionizers.
Cons: Does not filter or ionize water.
Ultraviolet water purification lamps (used in 3rd world hotels)
How it works: Irradiates water with UV rays that kill all living organisms.
Pros: Very effective at killing microbes.
Cons: Ineffective at particle filtration.
Still confused? Here’s the last drop…
Besides removing drug contaminants, chlorine, and any wee beasties that may be in your water – the best water filters also remove fluoride. This means that your best options are distillation, reverse osmosis, and countertop gravity filtration with the Big Berkey. If you decide to go with distillation or reverse osmosis, be sure to add minerals back into your water with a supplement like Trace Minerals drops.
Another option is a complete reverse osmosis filtering system followed by a re-mineralization process for the ideal water straight from your tap. To see the water filter my family and I use, click here.
A whole house filter is a great idea, especially if anyone in your household suffers from allergies, asthma, or other respiratory conditions. But if you’re concerned about completely removing potential toxins such as fluoride and arsenic, you probably still want to follow the former recommendation for your drinking water as well.