If you’re exploring water filtration as a way to have more control over your water quality, you’re in good company. In fact, people have been filtering their drinking water for thousands of years: There’s evidence of basic sediment filter systems, which used sand and gravel, dating back to 2000 B.C. Great minds like Hippocrates and Archimedes also weighed in on water treatment in their time, pioneering certain filtration method ideas that are still in use today (although in much different forms).
Naturally, water filters have come a long way since then — but they’re no less important than they were in 2000 B.C. That’s why we’re taking a deep dive into water filtration, giving you all the information you need to decide whether your drinking water could benefit from a sink water filter, whole-home water filter system or other water purification solution.
Water Filtration: The What, Why and How
Although water filtration has a long and interesting history, the goal has always been the same: People want safe, clean drinking water free of harmful contaminants, bacteria and other irritants like a chlorine taste or a marsh-like smell. Of course, as our societies advanced, we came up with other reasons to protect our water supply — like avoiding unsightly spots from hard water or filling aquariums for aquatic pets. No matter what the objective, it’s safe to say that water filtration is all about enhancing water quality.
That’s the “what” and “why” — but the “how” is where things get truly interesting.
Despite sharing the same basic goal, water filters have different ways of improving your tap water quality. For example, a whole-house water filtration system addresses specific water issues that impact you throughout your home, like sulfur and chlorine smells or the presence of iron; its job is to improve tap water for drinking, bathing, cleaning and more. On the other hand, under-sink filters are installed at a single tap to address drinking water quality. This can include issues with tastes or odors or concerns about contaminants like lead and mercury; many use reverse osmosis to get the job done.*
What water filtration doesn’t do is remove hardness from your water. That’s a different process, called water softening, and it’s separate from reverse osmosis and other water filtration methods. While reverse osmosis forces water against a semipermeable membrane to filter a broad array of contaminants, a water softener uses magnet-like reactions to attract and trap hardness-causing minerals. Despite these differences, water softening and water filtration aren’t mutually exclusive; you can have both systems installed in your home to increase control over your water supply.
Does Everyone Need a Water Filter?
Water quality is impacted by a lot of variables. These can include:
- Local geography
- Nearby pollutants
- National water quality guidelines
- Home plumbing
- Weather patterns
Because there are so many factors at play, it’s important to realize that water quality isn’t consistent. New issues could suddenly appear in your sink water despite the fact that you’ve owned your home for years and noticed no such issues. Similarly, even if your next-door neighbor gets a water test and finds no significant concerns, your own water supply could still have problems.
This is especially true for well water users. Because wells have different structures and water transportation infrastructure, no two well owners are likely to have the exact same water quality. Further, private wells aren’t protected by the same health and safety guidelines that govern municipal water supplies, which means well water users should have water tests frequently. The general recommendation is once a year, but tests should also be performed following any new issue (like a sudden odor) or environmental event (like a drought).
While well water users face unique problems, city water users can also benefit from a water filtration system. Although local and national guidelines protect municipal water in North America, these protective measures — like adding chlorine for sanitation — can lead to aesthetic issues that might make tap water unpleasant to drink or cook with. Additionally, issues can occur once your water leaves a municipal water treatment center, with the potential to absorb a variety of contaminants as it travels to your home. That’s why city water users are also encouraged to have yearly water tests.
Simply put, “pure water” is incredibly rare, even in nature. This means that, no matter where your water comes from, there’s likely something more than just water in your tap — something that can be filtered with the right system.
Signs You Need a Filtration System for Drinking Water
It’s true that almost everyone can benefit from water filtration in one way or another. However, there are certain signs that you need a water filter as soon as possible. Let’s take a closer look:
Poor Quality Water Test Results
The easiest way to know you need a water filter is to have your yearly water test tell you as much. When performed by an expert, water tests can give you key information about what’s going on every time you turn on the tap — and, more importantly, whether any contaminants or other issues are present. These results will help guide you toward the best water filtration system or solution.
Known Water Problems in Your Area
Another simple sign you need filtered water is if there are significant water issues in your area. This can include accidental pollution of the water supply, problems with local wells or other concerns that may impact your home. For example, some areas — like Flint, Michigan — are notorious for past water quality issues, which can inspire residents to research water filtration even if the original concern has been addressed.
When you reach for your tap water, you’re probably hoping for pure-tasting water. As a result, it can be disturbing to get a sip of something that tastes like a swimming pool, a penny or even an overgrown swamp. Unfortunately, the truth is that unusual flavors like these can be caused by a variety of water problems — in this case, chlorine, copper and decaying organic matter, respectively.
While some water taste issues are purely aesthetic — that is, they’re unpleasant but not dangerous to your health — others can pose bigger risks to your home and family. For this reason, any change in taste is a good reason to have a water test.
If your sink water has ever come out smelling like rotten eggs, you know just how unsettling it can be to notice odors in your water supply. Although that particular issue is often caused by hydrogen sulfide, there are plenty of other odors that are more difficult to identify. Further, you might have trouble deciding if the scent is coming from the water itself or the sink, drinking glass, pipes or other nearby elements.
That’s why your best bet is to have a water test whenever you notice a new odor. Even if the issue turns out to be related to your plumbing, you might realize your water has caused that problem in the first place — for example, your water could have a low pH level that causes corroding of copper pipes, which can lead to further water quality issues.
You might think of water as being perfectly clear, but the truth is that even pure water has a slight blue tint. Of course, there’s a big difference between the pale blue ocean and an odd yellow, brown, green or red tint in your cup. Certain contaminants and water problems can lead to discoloration like this, which is always a sign you may need a filtration system for drinking water.
In some cases, tap water can leave stains on your laundry, sinks or bathtubs. Although unsightly, these stains aren’t usually a sign of a health risk — but they might make your household chores more costly and time-consuming. If you don’t want to waste time and money scrubbing away at water stains, you might want to consider a home water filter.
Explore Your Water Filtration Options
With all kinds of signs to look out for and so many water filtration options available, you may wonder how you’ll ever know what’s best for your home, your family and your drinking water. Luckily, that’s where a water test comes in. By helping you identify the cause of certain problems and drawing your attention to other issues you may not be aware of, water test results guide you toward the best filtration system options.
For an even better experience, it’s important to choose a water filtration partner who can help you connect the dots between water test results, ideal solutions and installation. They can even help maintain your water filtration system and recommend solutions that complement your existing approach — like mineral boost cartridges for reverse osmosis sink water filters.
If you’re ready to explore your water filtration options, take the first step by scheduling your free, in-home water test today.
*Contaminants may not be present in your water.
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