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Your Ultimate Guide for Water Filters

Why are Water filters more important than you think? How to pick the right filter? Are bottled water really safe to drink? We answer all your questions and more.

Andri

Written by Andri

17 min read

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Water glasses on white surface

Irrespective of which part of the world you are in, a water filter is a must. It is not an “added safety” measure. It is a basic required tool. Why? 

Here are some facts to get you started: 

  1. “Treated Water” might be pathogen-free, but it could still have high disinfectant dosages. Some of these disinfectants like Chlorine are causing adverse health issues. 
  2. Only 1% of the treated water in the US is used for cooking and drinking. The municipalities are not incentivized to invest in expensive water filtrations, and the cheaper systems are not efficient.
  3. Most water filters only improve the taste of your water. They do not provide safety from most contaminants. You need awareness and the right choices to really ensure your safety.

In this article, we touch upon why you strongly need to consider buying a water filter. Then, we also help you through your decision process (without any brand affiliation – so you know we come from a genuine helping mindset).

As a family-oriented group, we understand how we strive to do everything in our means to ensure the well-being of our family. Yet, there are details we miss or cannot understand at their face value. Drinking water is one of those topics. With awareness, very little effort, and the right choices, we can take yet another step towards our optimal health. An important and very underestimated step.

We really just want your pitchers and bottles to have genuinely clean drinking water. Let’s get started. 

Crystal clear water does not equate to contaminants free water 

Woman looking through glass of water
You can’t really determine water quality without testing it.

We are sure you have seen one of the floor disinfectant ads. To your naked eye, the floor looks clean. Then, when you see the same floor through a microscope – you see the animated dirty green or black bacteria. Then you use a disinfectant, and it all satisfyingly clears away. Imagine the safe, but with your drinking water. 

Your water could look clear, free of any smell, and even taste good. However, none of these are indicators that the water is safe for you and your family. These are not good indicators to ensure that your water is free of harmful contaminants. To our bare senses, any filtered water might seem fine. However, when you really test the water, you will realize the number of contaminants that are in there. Realizing this is the first step towards optimal water quality. 

We all know the importance of hydration. If you are living under the rock, or just need a refresher on why you must hydrate yourself – here is one of our favorite books on the topic of hydration. Hydrating with tap water alone does not guarantee optimal health. In fact, consuming a lot of contaminated water can cause adverse health effects. Hydrating on good quality water is essential, otherwise, we are just loading our bodies with unwanted toxins and contaminants.

Our Regulators are not giving us the full picture

Aerial shot of wastewater treatment oxidation ponds
Oxidation ponds use microorganisms and sunlight to stabilize wastewater.

Your local authorities might approve tap water and claim that it is safe for consumption. They are not entirely wrong. It could be “safe”. However, it is not uniformly safe for everyone. Furthermore, safe also does not guarantee healthy. 

Think about it this way. According to many medical claims, ~30 grams of sugar is “safe” to eat in a day. However, this depends on your body type, metabolism, insulin resistance, and a whole myriad of other factors. Just because eating 30 grams of sugar a day is safe, does not mean it is healthy. 

Water quality works in a similar way. Just because the filtered water or tap water is safe, it is not protecting everyone from everything. For instance, if you are already suffering from allergies or some chronic conditions, then the water you consume needs to be more than just safe. Even if you are healthy and want to prioritize your well-being and your family’s, your safe water is not meeting the optimal standard of good quality water. 

When your local authorities or municipalities treat water, they take care of pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The water filtration process that they use has many limitations. For instance, many authorities use disinfectants like Chlorine to treat the water. 

Chlorine, while in some cases is safe, in some cases it also has the potential to react with the organic material in the water and form disinfection byproducts (DBPs). This is especially true if you live close to surface water areas. For instance, near a river or a lake. The water from these sources has more organic materials and thus has a higher chance to react with chlorine and form DBPs. Some local bodies test the waters regularly to check for approved levels of DBPs in the water, but most of them do not. 

Finding a balance between removing enough pathogens and not adding too many chemicals into the water is a very difficult process. Well, difficult and expensive. There are also several other ways to filter and treat the water, but it is expensive to do so. The local bodies would have to budget way more than usual to adapt alternate water filtration systems or test and maintain the process regularly.

Before we blame the regulatory bodies for not doing more, let’s also look at their point of view. In the US, only about 1% of all treated water is used for drinking and cooking. It is very understandable that the regulatory bodies are unwilling to switch to more expensive treatments for the 1%. They simply do not have the incentive. Some of you might argue that even though it is 1%, the significance of this is 100%. Yes, it is. However, the truth is that it is upon us to now take over the responsibility of treating the water and ensuring our well-being. 

We do get the basic filtered water. This is already enough for most other uses like for our toilets, washing machines, showers or baths, any other faucets in the house, etc. When it comes to drinking, luckily, we have low-effort ways to further purify our water and make it safe for consumption.

The truth about your water 

Before we go on to water filters, let’s do a quick fact learning to further emphasize on the importance of a water filter. 

  • Tests carried out by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found 267 contaminants coming out of the average faucet in 50 states across the U.S. 

You are consuming 267 contaminants when you consume this water directly without any further filter process. 

  • Many of these contaminants are known as “forever chemicals,” which could take thousands of years to break down. 

You know they are not so easy to treat, and they are definitely passing through the basic filter systems. 

  • Fluoride is added into municipal waters as a public health intervention, but it’s a controversial measure at best. Fluoride is a toxic industrial waste by-product. 

Available evidence suggests it can cause significant adverse human health problems while having only a modest dental cavities prevention effect.

How is your water getting contaminated?

The facts above make pretty big claims. The facts also raise the question as to how exactly is our water getting so contaminated? Who or what is the culprit? 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, four primary sources contaminate drinking water in the U.S.: 

Illustration of the sources of tap water contamination
The four primary sources for harmful contaminants in drinking water according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Industry and agriculture. Organic solvents, petroleum products, and heavy metals can migrate into aquifers. Pesticides and fertilizers, high in phosphates and nitrates, can be carried into lakes and streams by rainfall runoff or snowmelt. EWG also suspects that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) will be discharged into the environment by agriculture. You can look up your area on this map here.
  • Human and animal waste. Sewage outlets and farmland can carry harmful microbes into drinking water sources. 
  • Water Treatment. While treatment is necessary to remove many contaminants, it can also leave behind by-products (such as trihalomethanes) which are also harmful. Lead and copper can also enter the water from plumbing materials. 
  • Natural sources. Groundwater travels through rock and soil, picking up naturally occurring arsenic and other heavy metals.

These sources also help you explain the kind of contamination that could be in your area. For instance, it is a no-brainer but if you are in a factory heavy area, then you can expect the water to contain more contaminants than you are aware of. 

The last thing your body needs is toxin water

Person holding up a bottle of water in front of mountainous background
Small steps like choosing glass bottles over plastic bottles help reduce specific contaminants

So far, we discussed that we need to treat water before consuming it as they contain more contaminants than we can see from our bare senses. However, it is also important to know the adverse effects these contaminants can cause to our bodies. 

It is no news that we are surrounded by toxic particulates. It is in the air we breathe, in the food we consume, in our surroundings (in the candles we light, the fragrances we use, cleaning supplies, pollution, it is everywhere). We do not have control over all of the toxins. However, we can and must make conscious choices to reduce the toxic load in our bodies. Improving water quality is one of these choices.

Our bodies have a natural detox ability. When we exhale, pee, sweat or poop, we are basically eliminating toxins from our body. However, there is only so much toxin that is naturally eliminated from these processes. When we take in more toxins than we eliminate (and trust us, with our modern lifestyle, we do), it becomes a very grave situation. 

With regard to water, when we just drink 1-2 glasses a day of normal tap water, it already fills up the quota of toxins that are naturally eliminated. Chances are you are drinking way more than that. These toxins accumulate in our bodies and are together called total toxic load. This total toxic load is not to be taken lightly. It can cause mild symptoms like low energy levels, rashes, allergy, acne breakout. Over time, it has the potential to create oxidative stress and DNA damage. This is not something you will feel immediately, but over years, it can cause serious harm. Weight gain, quick aging, and several chronic conditions are all long-term symptoms of oxidative stress. 

Regular consumption of toxic chemicals in tap water has been linked to several health conditions. These include brain damage and reduced I.Q. in children, impaired learning and memory, cardiovascular diseases, thyroid dysfunction, joint pain and stiffness, reduced bone strength and fractures, blood glucose imbalances, cancer, endocrine and hormonal disorders, and insomnia.

I think we can all agree that water filtration is a very small step we need to take to protect our well-being.

Which water filter to choose?

Water being tested in a lab

Your first line of defense against the pathogens and chemicals lurking in your tap water is water filters. So let’s look at the different water filters available, their limitations and which is the best option for you.

  1. The most common option is a pitcher filter. These are inexpensive and convenient water purifiers, but they’re not practical. Studies have shown that they can only improve the taste of your water and remove larger particles. They’re also notorious for becoming a breeding ground for bacteria and microorganisms, which can end up making your water worse. So, overall, we wouldn’t recommend one.
  1. The traditional way of purifying water is boiling. However, this does not remove all toxic substances such as aluminum, cadmium, mercury, and nitrates. Boiling also changes the composition of the water. It loses some oxygen, which in turn increases the concentration of harmful substances. Historically, boiling was the first step towards water purification, but it’s far from the best solution available.
  1. Distillation, U.V. radiation & activated carbon are all valid water purification methods. But distillation can be a tedious, time-consuming process, and U.V. purification is a bit gimmicky and unfit to remove contaminants like heavy metals & dissolved solids.
  1. The most efficient water purification technology on the market is reverse osmosis (R.O). This process can remove up to 99% of all contaminants, even fluoride, chlorine, disinfection by-products, synthetic organic chemicals, and other substances that alter your water quality.

The most common option for home reverse osmosis filters is an under-the-sink unit. However, these need to be installed by professionals, and this often means that you have to tear up parts of your kitchen. And to be effective, these systems need to be professionally maintained and sterilized every six months (which they rarely are). The last issue with these is that they rarely get entirely emptied since the clean water tanks are pretty large. This can lead to excessive bacterial growth inside the tanks of already purified water.

All of the above options provide you with cleaner water to some extent, but they also come with less appealing aspects. 

So, is there a solution with no drawbacks to it?

The optimal water filter solution

Countertop reverse osmosis system in a kitchen
The Osmio Zero Reverse Osmosis System is the one we use.

The best solution we’ve found is a countertop reverse osmosis system. It’s a relatively new twist on the original technology but without the problems of the under-the-sink systems. Better models even let you choose water temperature and instantly dispense room temperature, warm, hot, or boiling water. This is a perfect time saver for preparing tea, coffee, and baby food. 

The most common argument against reverse osmosis is that since it’s so effective at water purification, it ends up also removing all the good stuff. But arguably, there’s barely any of that left after municipal water purification. And most modern reverse osmosis systems come with built-in remineralization filters that add back the minerals removed earlier in the process.

Older R.O. systems are also criticized for being wasteful. While wastewater is an unfortunate result of the reverse osmosis process, countertop units are also much more effective. Better ones result in a liter (.26 gallons) of wastewater for every 5 (1.3 gallons) liters of filtered water. The older under-the-sink type systems wasted as much, or even double, the amount of water for every gallon of water they purified!

The truth about bottled water

Your Ultimate Guide for Water Filters
Water in plastic bottles is polluted with plastic chemicals and pthalates.

If you’re worried about drinking the water that’s coming out of your tap, you may automatically think that bottled water is the best and safest option. While, of course, bottled water is free from many of the nasty chemicals you find in tap water, it’s far from perfect. 

In the long term, buying bottled water is more expensive than purifying water. Just six months’ worth of bottled water adds up to the same amount as a countertop reverse osmosis unit that will last you years.

Buying plastic bottles of water is not environmentally friendly. Yes, you can improve this if you buy glass or rPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, but it is still not as good. 

Bottled water also isn’t free from toxins. Perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAs) leech into the water from the plastic. So when you’re looking to purify your drinking water, a countertop reverse osmosis unit is really the way to go. If you’re on a budget, an affordable option for you could be an activated carbon filter that mounts on your kitchen faucet, which will perform up to 80% of the job.

Do not underestimate the role of water filter

If you are with us until now, you have to agree with the role of water filters in ensuring our well-being. 

The bottom line is, your home is your sanctuary, and your body is your temple. You have the right to clean, toxin-free water. 

Water purifiers are a great invention that will give you peace of mind knowing that you are hydrating yourself with the best water every day.