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What Are Shower Filters and Do They Really Work?


Dry, itchy skin? Dry, weak hair? Chlorine smells coming from your showerhead? If these things are ruining your shower experience, it’s no wonder you’re searching for an answer. You might opt to try a shower water filter as a simple DIY solution — or you could explore a more long-term, comprehensive approach.

Let’s take a closer look at shower filters and compare them with other home filtration systems that might address your needs more thoroughly.

Why You Might Choose a Shower Head Filter

Some tap water from municipal sources retains a small amount of chlorine in it following the disinfection process. Chlorine is commonly used to disinfect water and kill germs that may cause salmonella, norovirus and other health concerns. This means that, in some ways, chlorine in your water is a good thing.

list of what shower filters can and can't doHowever, this chemical element can also cause a few problems, especially when it’s coming from your showerhead. If you regularly shower under chlorine water, you might notice some of these issues:

  • Chlorine odors
  • Weak, dry hair
  • Split ends
  • Changes in natural or artificial hair color
  • Dry, irritated skin

You probably want a fast, simple solution to improve your shower experience and eliminate these irritating effects. That’s why many people turn to shower water filters — but the results might not be all that you’re hoping for.

Looking for a longer-term solve for shower issues?
Explore our whole-home filtration and water softening solutions.


How Do Shower Water Filters Work?

Shower water filters come in a variety of sizes and styles; all fit directly onto your showerhead. These DIY solutions can:

  • Address chlorine odors
  • Help prevent dry skin
  • Limit hair damage

However, shower filters have their limits when it comes to chlorine issues. You’ll need to frequently replace the filter or filter cartridge — usually every six months. Even then, the relatively simple design can’t address all contaminants or water quality issues, including hard water.*

Filtering vs. Softening

Although most water solutions offer some degree of filtration, they don’t all address hard water. That’s called “softening,” and it’s a separate process. A filter generally traps or otherwise removes impurities, contaminants or particles; meanwhile, a softening system focuses on attracting and removing the excess minerals like calcium and magnesium that cause hard water, which aren’t addressed by filtration solutions alone.

So, do shower filters soften water? Unfortunately, the answer is no: Shower head filters are generally designed to address chlorine problems, not minerals. If you’re looking for hard-water solutions, you’ll need a water softening system.

What Else Do Shower Filters Miss?

Shower-head filters don’t just miss minerals such as calcium and magnesium. They also don’t address other common water-quality issues, , including potential contamination from iron and sulfur. Iron water contamination can lead to red or brown stains on your faucets and tub, while sulfur creates an unpleasant smell that might remind you of rotten eggs.

That means that you could spend significant time researching and selecting a shower filter, only to still end up with a frustrating shower experience because your filtration isn’t comprehensive enough.

Shower Filter Lifespan

Another thing to consider when it comes to shower filters is their lifespan. Because these filters last only about six months depending on the amount of water you use, they’re temporary solutions at best. More comprehensive systems, like whole-home filtration systems or water softeners, last much longer (sometimes even decades) when installed and maintained properly.

Pros and Cons of Shower Filters

As with most home-improvement options, shower filters have pros and cons. Here’s an honest look at what you can expect from these filters:

Advantages of Shower Filters

  • Size: Shower filters are compact and can fit a variety of shower head shapes, sizes and designs.
  • Price: Although shower-head filters come in different makes and models, it’s generally safe to assume you’ll spend somewhere between $20 and $100 for one (though some can cost much more).
  • Simplicity: A shower filter is not difficult to install and can start working right away, making it a simple choice for basic filtration needs.

Disadvantages of Shower Filters

  • Filter replacement: Because filters need to be replaced at least every six months, you’ll spend a significant amount of time and money to maintain shower filter functionality. In addition, you likely won’t know that your filter needs replacing until old issues start coming back, which can lead to plenty of irritation.
  • Filtration capabilities: Even if you stay on top of regular filter replacement, you’re still working with an inherently limited system. Most shower head filters are designed to handle chlorine effectively, but they don’t address other water quality issues that could lead to dry skin and hair.
  • Other limitations: A shower-head filter is designed to give you confidence in the water you’re showering with — but what about the water in the rest of your home? Chlorine smells may bother you elsewhere, while issues not addressed by a shower head filter can lead to rust stains, soap-scum buildup and even dry skin from washing your hands.

Are Shower Filters Worth It?

Although they might be a decent choice for managing chlorine-related issues, shower filters generally aren’t worth the time, effort and money required for regular filter replacement. They also don’t treat all of the water quality problems that could affect your shower experience. That means they’re generally best used as a temporary solution until you can have a more-comprehensive system professionally installed.

Already Have a Shower Water Filter?

If you already have a shower head filter and are questioning whether it’s the most effective solution for your home, know that there are ways to fix your water-quality woes, and the process starts with a water test and consultation. You can have your water tested once without the filter and once with it — that way, you can directly compare the results. You’ll be able to see important information, like:

  • What your shower filter is and isn’t addressing
  • Your water’s hardness levels
  • Potential contaminants that may require more-comprehensive filtration

Your local Culligan Water® expert can perform these tests for you and help you interpret the results. Better yet, they’ll give you advice on which filtration solutions can fill the gaps left by your shower head filter (and whether it’s time to say goodbye to it once and for all).

Schedule your free in-home water test and consultation today.

Alternative Solutions to Shower Filters

Whether you’re looking for your first filtration system or want to replace your shower-head filter, there’s good news: You have options. Although a shower water filter is a relatively quick DIY solution to your problem, it’s not a comprehensive one — and there are long-term solutions that may provide a more effective, longer-lasting result in your whole home instead of just your shower.

Whole-Home Filtration

Installing a whole-house water filtration system will mean cleaner water everywhere. Plus, whole-house filtration addresses issues far beyond chlorine, helping minimize the presence of contaminants like iron, sulfur and more. That means you can be happier drinking, cleaning and bathing in your home’s water.

Water Softening

Another way to improve your shower experience is to install a water softener. A water softening system is designed to attract and remove calcium and magnesium, softening your water in the process. Hard water can create a variety of issues and annoyances, from dry skin and hair to soap-scum buildup, spotty dishes and even reduced efficiency or a shorter lifespan for water-using appliances. Water softening will help you avoid all of these.

Mix and Match

Remember, you don’t have to choose between filtration and water softening; these solutions actually complement one another. The important thing is to choose systems and solutions that work well together — something your local Culligan Water expert can help with.

Explore whole-home water filtration systems and water softening systems you can count on.

Say Goodbye to Limited Filtration

A shower head filter might seem like an easy, inexpensive choice at first glance, but it’s not a good substitute for more-comprehensive solutions. That’s because shower filters generally only handle chlorine, leaving the rest of your water quality unaddressed. Additionally, these systems require filter replacement as often as every six months — so they might not be a cheap option after all.

For long-term peace of mind, it’s important to think beyond the shower and beyond limited filtration options. A whole-home filtration system and water softener will improve your water quality and give you confidence in what’s coming out of any faucet in your home. 

It all starts with a free water test and consultation — so schedule yours today.


*Contaminants may not be present in your water.

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