Culligan Blog

Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water

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RO Filtration with Aqua-CleerLike most filtration systems, reverse osmosis works by funneling contaminated water through a semi-permeable membrane that removes a specific set of impurities. Unlike some other solutions, the system applies pressure to the water as it flows through the membrane, using the natural tendency toward chemical equilibrium to trap offending ions (like salt) in order to achieve the desired state of contaminant-free water. The membrane traps impurities, usually around .001 microns or larger, so that what exits the membrane to your faucet is purer, potable water.

Reverse osmosis technology was developed during the 1970s, and is most commonly used to desalinate water in areas where fresh drinking water may be hard to access. RO is also common in industrial applications, like our very own Culligan Matrix Solutions Reverse Osmosis, where it can be used to treat water for facilities and recycle commercial wastewater.

How does reverse osmosis work to treat my water?

Residential systems use the same pressure membrane technology to separate contaminants from municipal water, and may include additional filtration steps like sediment filtration or UV sterilization. Our residential reverse osmosis systems, for example, include pretreatment as a matter of course, and post treatment as needed. If water quality is especially concerning in your area, you'll want to make sure your RO system is used in conjunction with a sterilizing filter to ensure water is not only free from saline and other particles, but any harmful contaminants like E. coli or arsenic. These features are always included in Culligan reverse osmosis products to ensure the highest-quality result for your water.

What types of water problems does it work best for?

RO works best for water with high saline content and relatively few other impurities. Beyond salt-water fixes, reverse osmosis can also be used to remove chlorine and fluoride from drinking water, and in general, be used to remove a variety of:

  •   Metals
  •   Minerals
  •   Microorganisms

It can be challenging to know exactly what type of filtration product is right for your home and your water supply. Whether you're considering reverse osmosis, or any other type of filtration, it's helpful to have your local Culligan Man test your water in order to make the best recommendation based on the unique needs of your tap.

Ultraviolet Water Filtration

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Ever wondered if there was a way to filter water, no nasty chemicals or salt hassle required? Culligan has been on the front lines of breakthrough technology like UV filtration for generations, and we're hard at work expanding on the technology that allows us to provide effective filtration for every kind of need.

How UV Systems Work

UV disinfection has been used for decades in various capacities after the germicidal properties of sunlight were discovered. It wasn't long before this naturally occurring phenomenon was harnessed to focus specific spectrums of ultra violet light toward eliminating harmful microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and certain pathogens from water.

In general, UV light is applied through a combination of gas applied with a voltage that creates the desired disinfecting wavelength. This is all contained in, typically, a quartz sleeve that water passes through during the disinfection process. Ultra violet light can, when properly applied, eliminate most of the leading causes of waterborne illness like:

  •   Cryptosporidium
  •   Giardia,
  •   Salmonella
  •   E.Coli

Benefits of UV Treatment

Using ultra violet treatment can come with a variety of benefits.

  •   Low maintenance,
  •   Reduced carbon footprint
  •   No treatment by products like salt
  •   No chemicals (chlorine etc.)
  •   No change to taste, smell, or appearance of water

Will it Work for My Water?

Well water generally has the highest risk for carrying or containing protozoa like giardia because of the availability for ground water contamination and/or runoff, so while it may be useful for those using municipal water, there's generally more need for those served by wells.

What's also important to understand about UV water treatment is that it is only effective in water that is already mostly pure. For example, dissolved sediment and minerals like iron, manganese, and sulfur can impact how effectively ultra violet exposure renders microorganisms inert. If water is hard to begin with, pathogens can essentially hide behind iron or sulfur particles, making the treatment ineffective. In many cases, ultra violet applications are used as the last in a series of treatments.

This in mind, if your water is already soft but you're concerned about contaminants, UV treatment may be a perfect solution. In order to know for certain, it's easy to have a Culligan Man test your water and evaluate flow rate to see if a UV filter makes sense, or if it should be used in conjunction with another type of filtration like a softener.

What’s wrong with my water? A three-sense guide to sorting out something amiss.

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We probably all have a general sense of what water should look, smell, taste, and feel like, but sometimes it's not always obvious when there's something wrong with your water.

Self-Diagnosing Problem Water

While some contaminants are better at hiding than others, there are a few telltale signs that something is causing a problem with your water.

  • Odor: If something smells suspicious, it probably is. Common pause-giving smells you might come across in tap water include:
    • The Pool Smell: Easily identifiable from our associations with swimming pools, high chlorine levels in water are usually to blame for this olfactory affront.
    • Something's Fishy: This you-know-it-when-you-smell-it water scent (also often associated with rotten eggs) is perhaps the most unpleasant one, and is typically the nose-wrinkling result of dissolved sulfur not so subtly stowing away in your water supply.
    • A Little Too Natural: We all want our water to be fresh from the source, but sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. If water smells earthy, grassy, musty, or moldy, there's a good chance bacteria could be to blame.
    • Anything but Nothing: A good rule of thumb is that if water smells like anything - organic, chemical, or otherwise - it's time to call in a Culligan Man to test it and ensure it's safe to drink.
  • Taste: Not unlike the smell situation, you want water to taste like water. If it doesn't, it's likely you've got a problem - how big or small can sometimes be determined by what exactly you taste.
    • The Metal Head: If you've ever come across the singular tinge of iron in water, it's likely you'll remember it. Other causes for metallic tastes can include dissolved mercury, lead, copper, manganese, zinc, or arsenic.
    • Essence of Ocean: There's a reason we react negatively to consuming salt water, so if your water has that beachy tang, it's a possibility there may be certain kinds of bacteria and/or sulfates affecting the supply.
  • Appearance: We also have certain expectations of our water's visual quality. You should be able to see through it, for instance.
    • Cloudy with a Chance of Contamination: This particular visual distraction also masquerades under the guise of turbidity. Essentially, any time your water is cloudier than you expect, and/or lingers after water is allowed to settle, that's a sign of problem water.
    • Off-Color: This may be a bit harder to tell, but if water has any sort of hue to it, you'll want to get a water test. You might also notice colors left behind by water in the form of rust-colored stains around drains and fixtures.

The way water looks, tastes, and smells is often a product of location and geography. To read more about the qualities of water near where you live, explore our state-by-state problemwater resources.

Water Softening vs. Water Filtration

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They're common questions we hear:

  •   What's the difference between a water softener and a water filter?
  •   Which one is better for my home?

Maybe you've had the same questions. Let's start by looking closely at what each of these solutions does, and how they can help out around the house.

Water Softeners

As you might guess from the name, water softeners generally only refer to products that remove hardness-causing minerals and contaminants from water, like magnesium and calcium. While this still covers a variety of products, it's generally fewer than those considered "water filters." Softeners also typically use salt as the primary chemical agent in modifying the properties of water, while filtration can encompass many more methods to alter water, like reverse osmosis.

Water Filtration

Filters generally refer to any methods or systems that remove contaminants from water, including:

  •   Metals such as arsenic, iron, or copper
  •   Industrial and pharmaceutical byproducts like pesticides or hormones
  •   Sediment and other organic troublemakers

As such, the term "water filter" can refer almost equally to systems that filter water throughout your home, smaller products that filter at the point-of-use, reverse osmosis filtration systems, and others in between.

How Can I Tell Which One To Use?

Since each of these solutions focuses on different water-related issues, deciding on a softener or a filter should largely depend on what's in your water. For example, if limescale buildup is a constant headache for you, that's usually a sign that water is hard and a softener will alleviate some of those frustrations. If your water tastes or smells strange, a filter might be the more effective choice to remove culprit contaminants from your supply.

A good way to find out, if you don't already know or suspect what's in your water, is to have a Culligan Man test it for you. The results will help you and your Culligan Man evaluate the best solutions, whether it's softening, filtration, or a combination of both.

Culligan House Calls – Explained

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Whether you're on a municipal water supply, your own well, or you're not quite sure where your water comes from, the best way to find out what's in it is for a Culligan Man to evaluate it in person. This is key because of the nature of infrastructure and other factors, water quality within the same neighborhood can vary widely, and even differ from house to house.

To make sure we're providing the best possible service and support, it's important for us to know exactly what kind of water we're dealing with before we make any kind of recommendations.

Before The Visit

There's really nothing you need to do in advance of a Culligan Man visit. Schedule your appointment online, or call to set up a time that works for you. Then, just plan on being at home during that time to meet your local Culligan Man or Woman.


Expect your Culligan Man to show up promptly and be kind and courteous, as we'd expect of any guest in any one of our homes. As part of the standard water test, he'll take a sample of your tap water ­- probably from the kitchen sink - and use the Culligan testing kit to see how hard or soft your water is, as well as look for any impurities, like iron or dissolved solids.

The whole process is free and usually takes less than 10 minutes. Once he's tested the water, he'll discuss the results with you. If water is hard, for example, he may be able to tell you what's causing it (minerals like dissolved calcium or magnesium) and ways to fix it.

He'll also want to know if you have any concerns about your water, and if there's anything in particular you're looking to get out of the visit. Additionally, he'll be able to recommend more advanced lab testing if the standard test comes back without conclusive results, or if it looks like it will need further clarification.

What Happens After

Based on the outcome of your Culligan Man visit, he or she will follow up with you to set a time to come back and install any of the solutions discussed. If you're still in the process of deciding how to deal with water concerns, he'll set up a time for a follow up call or visit to answer any additional questions you have in order to get all the information you need to make the most of your home's water.

Myth-Busting Facts about Water Softeners

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It seems like there's always new wisdom (some of it not so wise) popping up about the benefits or complications of soft water. We're used to seeing people on both sides of the discussion getting it a little wrong, so we thought it was time to clear up some of the most common forms of flawed thinking we've encountered through the years.

Myth-Busting Common Water Softener Assumptions

Myth No 1: You can filter or condition water without salt.

The Bust: While it's true that some water treatment products don't require salt, these products don't provide the same softening capability and quality you expect from a traditional water softener. It is possible to filter water without salt, but you won't get the signature soft water feel many people expect when they think of softened water.

Myth No 2: Softened water prevents access to important minerals your body needs and/or leaches essential minerals from your body.

The Bust: Many variations of this one seem to crop up all over, so let's start with why: water softeners do remove hard minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron from water.

Softened water doesn't change the way our bodies absorb these nutrients. In general, these are also minerals that most of us have plenty of regular access to in the foods we consume, which is why this would only be something to be concerned about in very rare and specific nutritional cases.

Myth No 3: Softened water leaves film behind on skin.

The Bust: Most of us are used to feeling scaly and dry after showering with hard water - thank dissolved minerals for this effect. Hard water leaves an insoluble residue behind that's responsible for skin feeling chapped or dry, and hair feeling weighed down or lifeless. Because many of us are so used to this, the switch to actually getting cleaner with soft water can sometimes feel different or unexpected. It's also common for people not to notice any difference at all depending on levels of dissolved minerals present before the switch, or if they notice, it's that skin and hair feel softer and less dried out.

Myth No 4: Softeners add too much salt to water.

The Bust: The most effective softeners use salt as the chemical means to remove hard minerals and dissolved solids, replacing magnesium and calcium ions with sodium ions. This process leaves behind trace amounts of sodium and in varying forms (certain softeners leave sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) traces in water, while others, sodium chloride (table salt). The key here is "trace." In general, the levels of either form of sodium in water are so minimal that not only would you not be able to tell from a taste perspective, there's no evidence that such minute amounts could contribute to any kind of health risk (Mayo Clinic).

From keeping your clothes softer and helping them last longer, to protecting pipes and fixtures, the benefits of soft water for you and your home are more impressive than most myths. If you have any questions about how water softening works, and whether or not it might be useful in your house, contact your Culligan Man to clear things up today.

UnderSink vs. Whole Home Water Filtration

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Is it time for better-tasting or harder-working water at home? Start by learning the differences between two of the most common types of household water filtration: point-of-use and point-of-entry.

Point-of-Use vs. Point-of-Entry

  • Point-of-Use - Commonly known as drinking water systems, point-of-use treatment refers to any under-sink filtration system installed at the tap level, or other direct water-access point.
  • Point-of-Entry - This refers to filtration systems installed at the entry point of water lines to the house. These are often referred to as whole-house systems, and other variations on whole-home filtration terms.

Now that we know what we're dealing with, there are essentially two questions to consider when evaluating what will work best for you and your home.

Step 1 - What are you filtering?

Do you need to filter out fairly benign contaminants, like chlorine, or mild dissolved solids or sediment? Is there something more sinister, like arsenic, lurking in your water? Learning what's in your water is the first and most important step in deciding what kind of water filtration system is right for you, whether it's whole-home filtration, point-of-use, or something altogether different.

Start by scheduling a free water test from your local Culligan Man. He or she will come by to sample your tap water and run tests for the most common water contaminants, so you can find out whether you need to address water issues right in the kitchen or throughout your home. Your Culligan Man is also a great resource to ask for advice once you do know what is, or isn't, in your water.

Step 2 - Why?

It's also important to isolate why you're thinking about filtering your water. It's one thing if you have a contaminant issue that's making water smell or taste bad, but if issues are more subtle there can be additional factors to consider when it comes to your drinking water quality, and its impact throughout your home.

  •   Skin conditions or allergies in the family?
  •   Low (or zero) tolerance for house cleaning?
  •   Heavy coffee or tea drinkers in the household?
  •   Hate the way laundry feels?
  •   Avid gardener?
  •   Well or municipal water?

For example, if your household hates its scratchy laundry and drinks a lot of coffee, you might want to consider whole-house filtration for the added benefits it can bring to your home (softer laundry, better-tasting coffee and tea, etc.). Similarly, families with allergies find that treating or softening water all over the house can help reduce some common allergy symptoms. On the other hand, if you're strictly interested in improving the taste of your tap water, under-sink filtration may make more sense. Talking about these issues with your Culligan Man can help you decide what will work best for you and your family.