Is A Shower Filter Necessary?
A guide that asks: Do shower filters work, what can they filter out, and what is the best type to use?
The purpose of showering is to feel clean and refreshed, right? But, when your water is hard or contains harmful chemicals or microbes, it is difficult to achieve that squeaky clean feeling.
Despite there being many shower mounted water filters for sale, many of which claim to remove hardness, chlorine and microbes, most of these shower water filters receive poor reviews from customers. What's more, there are hardly any third-party validations by labs of shower filter claims.
Let’s take a deeper look at what water quality risks and concerns exist in the shower water and what type of shower filters, if any, are effective.
Why Use A Shower Filter?
The main pollutant that shower filters aim to remove is chlorine. Chlorine is commonly used in the disinfection process in water treatment plants to remove bacteria and remains in trace amounts in drinking and bathing water.
Exposure to chlorine during showering can have multiple negative impacts on human health, such as:
While these threats are legitimate, the ways in which many shower filter companies claim that chlorine enters your body aren’t as accurate. For example, the claim that human skin absorbs chlorine through direct contact with water during showering is mostly unsubstantiated by science. According to the Department of Community Health, only small amounts of chlorine pass through the skin, which are expelled from the body quickly. Instead, much of the chlorine that enters your body during showering is a result of inhaling chlorine that has vaporized into chlorine gas during hot showers. Humans also inhale other chlorine-related volatile water contaminants during showering, such as chloroform and trihalomethanes.
Some shower filters also claim to remove chloramines from bathing water, which are sometimes used instead of chlorine in the disinfection process. However, there are no significant studies or evidence that show that shower filters are capable of removing chloramines. Chloramines are generally harder to remove than free chlorine.
In addition, shower filters are not able to remove water hardness in the way that traditional whole-home water softeners do. If you have a water hardness issue, you’re best served by purchasing a whole home water softener to avoid issues with plumbing and fixtures. If you’re a renter, you should discuss this with your landlord. Sometimes, if a shower filter is effective at removing chlorine, the filtered water might have less harsh effects on your skin and hair, causing it to feel like softened water
Concerned about any of these issues mentioned above? Take a look at Tap Score’s Advanced City Water Test. This high precision, laboratory water test includes analysis hardness, as well as all the chlorine and related disinfection byproduct testing. Each Tap Score test includes health and plumbing risk analysis, and personalized, unbiased treatment recommendations tailored to your water’s unique chemistry.
For a look at an example Tap Score Report, look here.
Are Shower Filters Actually Effective?
The short answer to this question is yes. Certain types of shower filters are successful in removing chlorine from water, the most effective being KDF shower filters.
KDF filters use a KDF (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion) process to filter chlorine and other impurities out of water. KDF-55 media is the most commonly used KDF media in shower filters, as it is certified by the National Science Foundation, or NSF, to remove chlorine from water.
Shower filters that utilize technology other than KDF, like carbon or Vitamin C filters, are not as reliable, if at all. Carbon filters are ineffectual in filtering bathing water because they do not function well in high temperature or high pressure situations. In regards to Vitamin C filters, while Vitamin C reacts with chlorine in water, there is no strong evidence that Vitamin C filters alone sufficiently remove chlorine from water. Additionally, be wary of any filter that claims to remove 99% of chlorine; the best filters tend to remove around 90% of chlorine.
There are two main types of shower filters:
- Filtered shower heads, which replace your existing shower head
- In-line/portable shower heads, which are placed between the water line and your existing shower head
It is important to note that the type of the filter is not nearly as important as the actual technology being utilized.
With dozens of shower filters on the market, picking one that is both effective and does what it claims is tricky. If you want help picking a filtration option from an unbiased, unaffiliated party, the Tap Score Team offers free professional advice six days a week.