Water, it’s essential to our health and survival. So it’s really important that we choose the best and most pure H2O available to keep us thriving.
But water can also contain lots of icky stuff we don’t want to ingest. From metals to chemicals, there’s a whole bunch of impurities that can make water look, taste and even smell bad (yuck!) Plus, some of these contaminants can be really, really bad for you.
So, how do we get rid of these pollutants? Water filters!
Filtering your own tap water and using a stainless steel or reusable glass bottle when on the go is really the best way to stay hydrated and healthy. And because bottled water is often just filtered tap, why not do it yourself? Especially when bottled water can come with issues that can find their way into our tissues (and our precious environment).
According to an investigation done by the Environmental Working Group, “PET plastics (the kind used to make plastic water bottles) can contain dozens of chemical additives, manufacturing impurities and breakdown byproducts. That’s more than 80 additional contaminants that could be leaching into your water.” That’s not tasty or healthy.
And if you’re an earth lover like me, did you know that around 80% of water bottles end up in landfills each year (and not recycled)? These bottles can release toxic chemicals as they decompose, chemicals that can find their way into the soil and waterways.
Speaking of water, according to Oceana an estimated 20 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean each year. Sadly, many of our fish friends and other marine life often mistake the stuff for food! Plus, bottling alone uses up over 1.5 million barrels of oil in the U.S.
When you add it all up, the costs of bottled water are just too high for regular consumption. So let’s walk through how to clean up and drink your own wonderful water!
What’s in Your Water?
First, it’s helpful to know what’s in your water. Here are a few ways to find out the current condition of your H2O:
If you’re in the U.S., Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database lets you know which contaminants are in your water. Type in your zip code and see what comes up. You can also use your annual Consumer Confidence Report
Or you can contact your local water supplier to find out what’s in your local area (but they may not be able to tell you what’s specifically coming out of your tap).
And if you have well water, check out this info from the CDC on testing and treating.
Try an at-home test kit
Water test kits are available at home improvement stores, and sometimes through your local health department. It’s best to send the kit to a lab for analysis, so you can get the best results.
Check when your home was built
One big water contaminant is lead—which comes from pipes, not the water. The lead content in your water may be based on when your house was built. If your house was built in the U.S. before 1986, it is likely to have lead pipes. Find out what kind of pipes run into your house so you know if lead is something you have to factor into your filtering.
Why You Need to Filter
Once you’ve got a snapshot of what’s in your water, you can figure out how to improve it if needed. More than half of the contaminants found in drinking water aren’t regulated by the EPA. Some of these are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.
Even though your community may treat the water supply, here are some of the things that may be left in your tap by the time it makes its way to your home:
- Antibiotics and other prescription drugs
How to Choose a Filter
After discovering what should be filtered out of your tap, there are a few things to consider:
- Determine the contaminants you need to filter and your budget, choose a filter with the NSF certification (world-wide certification) and make sure that the label lists the reduction or elimination of contaminants you’re specifically concerned about.
- How many people are in your house? Depending on how much water you need, can often determine the right filter for you. If it’s just you, a pitcher might do the trick or if you’ve got a whole house of water drinkers, then an under-the-sink or faucet-mounted option might work best.
- Check ratings on available filters through Consumer Reports, Environmental Working Group, and even the Best Sellers list on Amazon.
- Keep in mind that all filters need to be changed—don’t forget or you’ll have even more junk in your glass! And don’t forget to factor filter replacements into your budget.
Types of Filters to Consider
Under-the-Sink Reverse Osmosis Filters
If you want a water filter that pulls out the most icky stuff from your water supply, reverse osmosis (RO) is for you. It’s actually a method of water purification—a step up from filtration! Reverse osmosis eliminates 99% of contaminants, including ones the carbon filters can’t, like arsenic and perchlorate––making them one of the most effective filters.
- Pulls out the most junk (powerful!)
- Simple to install and won’t take up counter space
- Great option for stretch faucets
- More expensive than carbon filters
- Slow filtration process
- RO systems generate wastewater in the filtration process. If water conservation is a priority to you, check out the amount of waste before choosing a specific brand. The more expensive ones tend to waste less.
Also known as activated charcoal filtration, carbon filters are a very affordable option. Mainly, these attract minerals and some toxic chemicals.
- Lots of options: pitcher filters, faucet filters, countertop filters, undersink filters, refrigerator filters and even whole house filters
- Relatively inexpensive (just beware: they can vary greatly in price, quality, and water flow!)
- Won’t filter out fluoride, most toxic metals, or some small organic contaminants
- It’s super important to remember to change the filters regularly. Clogged filters support toxic bacterial and fungal growth
- A clogged filter is worse than no filter at all
Alkaline or Water Ionizers
A filter that uses electrolysis and passes the water over electrically charged plates to divide it into two streams: acidic water and alkaline water.
- Most water ionizers include 2 or more additional filters to filter out heavy metals, pesticides, and other contaminants based on your water filtration needs.
- Alkaline water contains antioxidants which may help boost your immune system. And may help your body in its constant effort to be in a more alkaline state.
- Electrolysis alone will not filter out all contaminants, so make sure your system includes a filter that will also get the metals and other junk out.
- Since alkaline water is made alkaline by way of electrolysis, it doesn’t contain calcium and magnesium like natural alkaline water does. If you’re looking to augment these minerals, you’ll need to find them in your food or through supplementation.
- There’s no guarantee that alkaline water will improve your overall health (it’s rarely just one thing that gets us well! More like a combination of practices that balance our systems)
UV Light Purification Systems
These disinfection systems use UV light to disrupt the DNA of microorganisms eliminating their ability to function and reproduce. Over 99% of harmful microorganisms are destroyed without adding any chemicals like chlorine to the water, and no dangerous byproducts are produced.
- Very little to keep up with or replace—just the lamp and sleeve about once a year.
- No waste water
- More effective than chlorine or chloramine on cysts
- No chemical taste to the water
- UV light filtration doesn’t eliminate anything other than microorganisms, so if you have additional icky stuff to filter out, you’ll need another for filtration and purification
- Needs electricity to operate (although very little)
- Expensive up front, but low costs to maintain system