Improve the safety of your drinking water with a cheap water filter jug. Here's how!
When it comes to household appliances, water filters are often among the cheapest. For a few ten dollar bills, you can buy a cheap plastic water filter online or at a large store. These products are usually supplied in the form of jugs that the user simply fills with tap water and stores on the counter or in the refrigerator. Owning one of these budget devices can provide a sense of security about the safety of drinking water. They often improve the taste and smell of our faucet supplies and make us feel safe in the event our H2O is hiding undetectable contaminants that can harm our health. But how exactly are these feelings of security? To do cheap water filter jugs Are you really protecting us from dangerous pollutants, or are you filling up reservoirs and replacing old filter cartridges for no good reason? Let's take a look at what we know.
How do water filter jugs work?
Almost all inexpensive water filter jugs work with a replaceable cartridge that contains a carbon element. These carbon elements, also called activated carbon, consist of a highly pure, finely ground carbon material that is often extracted from coconut shells. As water flows through this activated carbon material, it filters out organic elements that are dissolved in the water through a process called adsorption. Adsorption is a natural process in which molecules dissolved in a liquid adhere to a solid substance on contact and form a thin film on the surface of the solid. Activated carbon can use adsorption to trap organic solutes from water, i.e. anything that has a carbon base.
What can pitcher filters remove from the water?
Adsorption makes water filter jugs good for trapping many common organic contaminants that are widespread in drinking water. These contaminants are not necessarily dangerous in small quantities and likely meet local and state safe water requirements. However, they can affect the way water looks, smells, and tastes.
These include organic chemicals like chlorine and chloramine, as well as many compounds that dissolve in drinking water from common household products like cleaning fluids, paints and pesticides. High quality charcoal jug filters can also remove some dissolved metals such as lead and copper, although this filtering ability will depend on the size and exact type of charcoal cartridge. Charcoal pitcher filters do not remove minerals, nor can they handle significant amounts of bacteria or viruses, so they cannot be used to turn unsafe drinking water into a potable liquid.
Are all water filter jugs the same?
An easy way to check exactly what a water filter jug can remove from tap water is to check the NSF rating. Different water filter jugs are likely to have different NSF levels. These standards, defined by the National Sanitation Foundation, confirm that water filter products have been tested for their ability to deal with common drinking water contaminants. The most common NSF ratings for pitcher filters are:
This rating means that water filters can improve the aesthetic elements of water. So how water tastes, smells and looks. This may mean that a filter can remove that tangy chlorine taste or the musty smell of loosened sediment.
This rating means that a water filter can protect the drinker from certain contaminants that cause health risks, such as heavy metals, bacteria, pesticides, and other undesirable chemicals. Just because a filter is NSF 53 certified may not protect against all contaminants in that category.
Are there any problems with water filter jugs?
The biggest problem with pitchers that use Carbon filtration is the need to regularly replace the carbon cartridges yourself. Since impurities form a layer on the surface of the activated carbon instead of absorbing it, filter cartridges only last about 3 to 6 months before they are completely coated with pollutants. Exactly how long a carbon filter will last depends on how contaminated the tap water is, how often a filter is used, and the size of the cartridge. However, once a filter is completely coated with contaminants, it loses its ability to purify water and can add additional contamination.
A study Investigations carried out by German scientists in 1996 showed that unmaintained carbon filters can harbor bacteria because organisms grow on the pollutant film of an unchanged filter. Since carbon filters are generally unable to remove bacteria, this can lead to a much higher concentration of bacteria in the filtered water than in unfiltered normal tap water. Users can estimate the life of their filter by following the manufacturer's instructions and assessing the flow rate. If the filter flow is slowing, it is an indication that the cartridge is clogged with debris.
The bottom line
Water filter jugs are real products with filter mechanisms that normally use the scientific concept of adsorption. This enables them to remove common organic contaminants in drinking water such as chlorine and pesticides.
However, water filter jugs are unlikely to provide sufficient filtration performance to remove potentially harmful materials such as viruses and bacteria. They therefore do not protect you from an unsafe water supply.