Water Filters vs Water Softeners: Which Is Better?

Home water filtration devices have been a staple in many homes now for many years, providing a safe, accessible and economical way to improve the quality of drinking water. Though with that said, there are still several common misunderstandings and misconceptions present regarding the filtering of domestic water supplies.

Water softeners have increased in popularity in recent years and are favoured by those who are located within a hard water area, providing a great way to enjoy soft water within the home. Unfortunately, one of the misconceptions we referred to lays exactly here, and so contrary to what some might believe; water softeners do not filter water or make it safer to drink.

We’re going to go one step further than that statement and explain to you exactly what the differences are between the two products, helping you to make better informed decisions.

The Effects Of Hard Water

​What Is Hard Water?

The term hard water simply refers to a quantity or source of water that contains a high mineral count, namely minerals that have been dissolved within the water. Hard water is formed when natural water sources run through natural landscapes which feature a significant amount of rock, not dissimilar to the water that flows from a mountain spring.

Water that is allowed to drip or percolate through limestone or chalk usually contains a high presence of magnesium and calcium as it is these two naturally occurring chemicals and minerals which are abundantly found within the earth.

These minerals collect within bodies of water to alter their mineral composition, turning regular water into hard water. It is this water that is supplied to you and is dispensed through your homes faucets.

The Importance Of Filtering Water

​What Are The Effects Of Hard Water?

Truth be told, hard water is completely safe to use within the home, both for drinking and bathing in. The stigma surrounding hard water is usually attributed to the taste which some people find unpleasant. In addition, hard water has the ability to dry out your hair and skin and isn’t as silky smooth to the touch as soft water is.

Some studies even go as far as to say that drinking hard water may provide several health benefits such as increasing the efficiency of your digestive system in addition to all the other benefits that calcium and magnesium provide.

In terms of your home itself, hard water can lead to the build-up of limescale and calcium deposits in domestic appliances such as washing machines and kettles, even if you use a water filtration faucet​ which attaches to each tap.These deposits will eventually wear out your appliances over time which could result in premature failure.

In addition, hard water can require the use of more clothes detergent when washing clothes but this is a secondary concern and some detergent producers do take this into account in their formulas and ingredients ratios. 

​Treating Hard Water

As the name suggests, water softeners are designed to remove the chemicals and minerals in water which make it ‘hard’. This is done through a process which is known as ion exchange, essentially reducing the level of minerals present in your water supply by removing them in a process which isn’t too dissimilar to magnetisation. 

The calcium in hard water is replaced with salt, improving the taste and making the water feel softer to the touch as well as preventing the residue and scum build up on surfaces that is associated with hard water.

One Of Several Types Of Water Filter

I’m More Interested In Drinking Healthier Water. Should I Buy A Water Filter Instead?

Yes, you should. Water softeners are no substitute for a high-quality water filter which is designed to filter out and remove the harmful bacteria and chemical contaminants present within some water supplies.

Furthermore, home water filters are designed to ensure that all of the good chemicals and minerals present in water are left behind, providing you with drinking water that is rich in nutrients rather than void of them such as with most forms of reverse osmosis filtered water.

Whether you choose to use a simple water filtration pitcher or would instead prefer a built in under sink water filter, ensuring that your drinking water is filtered properly will ensure that it is safe to drink and healthy for you and your family.

Hard Tap Water

Making sure your family has the cleanest and purest drinking water is pivotal to creating a healthy household. While your local water plant takes several steps to provide clean water, there are still many dangerous chemicals and pollutants that may be found in tap water.

 

In order to guarantee your family has the purest drinking water you can employ additional filtration methods. Water filter pitchers offer a reliable alternative to help you remove most chemicals, micro-organisms, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals from your drinking water.

 

Although purchasing a water filter pitcher is an obvious decision, there are hundreds of models and dozens of manufacturers to choose from. Moreover, you need to consider your family’s requirements, the uses you’ll be giving your pitcher, and of course, your budget.

 

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you understand the basics of water filter pitchers, how they work, and the benefits they bring. Not only this, we will also discuss the different filtration methods out there and the dangerous pollutants you need to watch out for.

 

With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about different purification systems, what you should do to avoid contaminated water, and water filter pitchers.

 

Without further ado, let’s get started.

What Is Water Purification?

In a nutshell, water purification is the process of removing toxins, pollutants, and contaminants from raw water, with the aim of providing drinking water. Once purified, the water can be used for human consumption or industrial processes.

 

As we mentioned before, your local water purification plant takes several steps to provide drinking water. However, studies have found that nearly one third of water in the US is either unsafe to drink or has not been monitored according to federal law.[1]

 

Note that this can be due to several factors. Local authorities may be adhering to strict standards, however, your drinking water may become contaminated by the time it reaches your home.

 

There are many steps you can take to safeguard your family and provide clean drinking water. Some of these come in the form of complex systems that cover your entire home. Others, such as water filter pitchers, come in convenient and easy to use vessels.

 

Keep in mind that there are hundreds of different pollutants that can be found in tap water. Despite the fact that some are extremely effective, no filtration system can remove all of the dangerous contaminants often found in tap water.

Top Reasons to Use a Water Purification System

Using water purification systems has many advantages, and most of them can either be divided into health or cosmetic benefits. Contaminants often found in tap water can cause illnesses and severe complications, negatively affecting your health in the short and long run.

 

On the other hand, there are chemicals and manmade pollutants that diminish the aesthetic appeal of the water that comes out of your faucet. These can cause bad odors and foul tasting tap water, discouraging you from consuming it entirely.

 

Water purification systems offer a great alternative if you want to provide clean drinking water for your entire family and keep your costs low. It can help remove foul tastes, and most importantly, dangerous pollutants from the water that comes out of your tap.

 

In addition to the above, tap water costs a fraction of the price of its bottled counterpart, so purchasing a filtration system that allows you to drink straight from the faucet can save you a significant amount of money in the future.

 

As for chemical residue, water purification systems can help you reduce the amount of dangerous manmade contaminants that enter your home’s air. This can result in superior air quality and reduce odors in your home.

 

Water filtration systems that are designed for your entire home can impact more than your health. If you have a central filtration system, you will also notice your clothing and fabric materials will last longer than before.

Different Types of Water Purification

As we mentioned before, there are different types of water purification systems available for your home. Some of them work as a centralized hubs that purify your entire home’s water supply before it even hits your pipes.

 

Others can be installed underneath your sinks, but these may also require extensive installation and some degree of technical knowledge. In addition to the type, you also have to take into consideration the technique used to purify water.

 

Water purification systems that use different methods to produce drinking water can be divided into four major types. These are distillation, ion exchange, carbon adsorption, and basic filtration, all of which work differently and bring their own set of unique benefits.

Distillation

Distillation is the process of separating the ingredients in a mixture or solution through the evaporation of water.[2] This process can be used for an array of purposes, including the production of alcohol and the purification of water.

 

The concept behind this water purification method revolves around the boiling points of different solutions. Then, the vapor is condensed into a separate container in order to provide the purest possible water.

 

Despite the fact that it’s considered a type of physical separation, some distillation systems may employ additional chemicals to make the process more effective.

 

Water distillation is used in areas with extremely contaminated water, but it does require a relatively large amount of energy. Also note that distilled water does not retain any of the natural minerals, so some people may consider this purification method inferior to other types.

Ion Exchange

In order to fully understand ion exchange water purification, we first have to go over the definition of hard water. Hard water can be defined as water that is high in minerals, which causes them to leave scale deposits on your dishes and potentially destructive buildup in pipes.

 

Softening hard water has an array of benefits, like preventing the buildup and accumulation of minerals in pipes and surfaces. In order to avoid this problem, a lot of people turn to salt-based water softeners, which in turn employ a process called ion exchange.

 

Ion exchange can only be used to purify contaminants that have been dissolved.[3] This means that if there is visible debris in the water, ion exchange is not an effective solution.

 

On the other hand, if the water you are treating is crystal clear, but has a high mineral component, this method is one of the most popular and widely used for both residential and commercial purposes.

Carbon Absorption

Carbon absorption may be the simplest water purification method available today, but that doesn’t meant it’s not effective. This reliable purification mechanism uses an activated carbon mesh to remove contaminants that cause bad odors or foul tastes.

 

Although certain models don’t filter out lead and other heavy metals, some manufacturers produce filtering systems that can separate water from asbestos, lead, microorganisms, chlorine and its by products, and much more.

 

Not all carbon absorption mechanisms are created equal, so you need to look at the diameter of the pores in the carbon filter and the diffusion rate in order to find the ideal model for you.

 

Depending on the model you choose, it may even protect other purification systems as it removes oxidants and other pollutants.

Basic Filtration

Like the name indicates, basic filtration is a physical mean of separating water from pollutants. This method relies on several stages of filtration to try to remove as many particulates and contaminants from water.

 

When it comes to basic filtration, the size of the pores and the impurities are the two most important factors you need to consider.

 

The bigger the contaminants, the easier they are to filter out. Similarly, the smaller the pores, the more contaminants will be filtered, resulting in cleaner water.

 

Systems that use ceramic medium are a more effective basic filtration options. But, you can also find basic filtration systems that are made out of glass fiber, materials similar to compressed surgical paper, and hard-block carbon.

What Is a Water Filter Pitcher?

Water filter pitchers, also known as carafes, are vessels that come equipped with a filtering mechanism. These offer a great alternative as they are portable and they can even be kept in the fridge.

 

Not only this, but these versatile filtration systems often employ carbon absorption. Depending on the manufacturer and model you choose, you may even find a carafe that can filter out microorganisms, pollutants, and chemicals at the same time.

 

While they don’t remove all contaminants,`water filter pitchers tend to be more efficient when used with other systems. This can help reduce the amount of pollutants that may come from old pipes in your home or faulty filtering systems.

 

Carafes come in several different sizes, shapes, and capacities. You should also look at their filtration claims and the flow rate they offer. Moreover, you need to look at additional features and make sure the carafe you choose fits your budget.

Benefits of Using a Water Filter Pitcher Over Other Types of Water Purification Systems

Water filter pitchers have been around for a few decades now, but they have been recently gaining prominence in the mainstream media.

 

Although they are not designed to work as a stand-alone purification system, you can use them in unison with other techniques to provide the purest possible drinking water for your family.

 

There are many benefits to owning a carafe. Here are some of them:

1- Portable and Lightweight

Water filter pitchers are relatively portable and lightweight. As a result, you can carry one around in your car or take it with you when you move. The same can’t be said for more complicated filtering systems as they often require installation.

 

Because of this, they’re the perfect addition to any young family as even kids can use them. They’re also ideal for barbecues, especially if you opt for a model that can hold a larger amount of water.

2- Better Tasting and Smelling Water

Besides being light and easy to handle, owning a water filter pitcher can eliminate foul odors and bad tastes, encouraging your entire family to start enjoying tap water. This can also help you save money as you will not have to purchase bottled water any more!

 

Even if you have a centralized purification system, having old pipes at home means your water may become contaminated before reaching your tap. Carafes also help protect your water quality from old pipes as you are applying an additional filtration step right before consumption.

3- Fridge Friendly

In addition to all the above, a water filter pitcher can go in your fridge, meaning that as long as you remember to fill your pitcher up, you’ll always have cold water.

 

While you can pour other forms of filtered water into a jug and then put it in the fridge, this requires you to buy an additional jug for your home.

4- Cost Effective Solution

Water filter pitchers are extremely affordable compared to other filtration systems. These mechanisms cost anywhere between $15 and $80 and normally come with a warranty depending on the model.

 

It is important to take the cost of the replacement filters into account when making a final decision as some are more expensive than others. That said, they’re normally more effective.

How Does a Water Purification Filter Pitcher Work?

As we mentioned before, the vast majority of water filter pitchers employ some form of activated carbon. These innovative filters help clear odors and smells, and depending on the mode you choose, may even remove biological organisms and dangerous chemicals as well.

 

Keep in mind that water filter pitchers require some maintenance in order to stay functional. For starters, you will have to change the filter regularly to make sure the water quality remains high at all times.

 

Note that most carafes are refrigerator friendly, but you need to double check this feature and make sure the model you are ordering can be stored in cold places.

Reputable Water Filter Pitcher Manufacturers

If you’ve decided that a water filter pitcher is what you need for your home, here are some of the most reputable manufacturers on the market today:

Pur

Known for being one of the leading water purification systems in the world, PUR was founded in 1986 by Harvard economics graduate, Brian Sullivan at the age of 24.

 

PUR went on to become a multi million dollar company, inventing the first faucet filtration system with Automatic Safety Monitor (ASM) gauge. In 1998, the company started producing the first pitcher and dispenser after the Milwaukee, Wisconsin microbial cyst outbreak.

 

Since then, PUR has been involved in a huge variety of not for profit projects and activities. Today, the company’s filters can reduce more than 70 contaminants in your water, including lead, mercury, chlorine, pollutants, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and cysts.

Brita

Another well known manufacturer in the water filter pitcher space is Brita. The company invented the first household filter nearly fifty years ago today. Since then, Brita has designed dozens of different filtration systems for all occasions.

 

Aside from its broad product portfolio, Brita is known for its commitment to producing sustainable products where possible.

 

With systems tested and certified by the WQA against NSF/ANSI Standards 42 and 53, Brita containers are BPA-free and renowned for reducing a huge variety of contaminants while also improving the overall taste and odor of your tap water.

Aquagear

AquaGear is a relatively new company that produces 100% recyclable products that are made predominantly of BPA-free plastic. Best of all, the company manufactures all its products in the U.S.A.

 

Rigorously tested by independent labs, AquaGear products come with a lifetime guarantee and are easy to put together in less than 3 minutes.

 

Known for removing 2000% more contaminants than other well known competitors, AquaGear products have the ability to filter through 71 unwanted chemicals, bacteria, metals, and pharmaceuticals.

Maintaining and Cleaning Your Water Filter Pitcher

The large majority of carafes remain functional even if they are not cleaned on regular basis. However, just because the water is high quality doesn’t mean it’ll taste good! But, you can make sure your drinking water is refreshing by keeping your pitcher clean.

 

Clean water can sometimes have an odd taste, especially if you have never replaced the filter in your pitcher. Most carafes come with replaceable filters you need to change regularly. These can often be purchased directly from the manufacturer and tend to be easy to change.

 

Besides changing the filter, you should also consider preventing algae growth. Although not all communities face this challenge, algae development in your picher can become a recurring nuisance, so you will need to consistently take preventive steps to keep it in check.

 

If you notice a green film starting to form in your pitcher, throw out the water and hand wash it vigorously. If this doesn’t solve the problem, you should read your user’s manual and find out how to get rid of algae for your specific pitcher.

 

Depending on the pitcher you purchase, you also have to clean all additional accessories on a regular basis. Besides housing the filter, the lid of each unit can bring several components that control flow rate, thus impacting the overall performance of your carafe.

 

Keeping the lid and main chamber clean while changing its filters regularly will significantly extend your pitcher’s usable lifespan.

How Often Should You Change Your Filter

One thing that all water filter pitchers have in common is that you have to change their filter regularly in order for them to maintain optimum performance.

 

To find out how often you need to change your filter, you must first get your water tested. Typically, people with hard water in their area should change their water filter more regularly.

 

That being said, you should also consider which contaminants are in your water and in what quantity. Another factor that will affect how often you should change your filter is the type of pitcher and filter you choose.

 

If you choose a specific brand of pitcher but opt for cheaper filters, you may find that these are not as effective and also need changing more regularly.

 

We recommend you check the manufacturer’s instructions in order to buy the best and most cost effective filter option for your pitcher. 

Preparing and Changing the Filter in Your Pitcher

First and foremost, you must always read the instructions that came with your water filter pitcher in order to not damage your product. That being said, in order to prepare and change the filter in your pitcher, you must:

1- Flush Your Filter

Some filters need to be pre-soaked before they are installed into your pitcher. Normally, however, big brands have designed modern filters in a way that no longer require you to do this. That being said, you must always flush your filter for a minimum of 15 seconds under cold water.

2- Insert Filter

Once you have thoroughly rinsed your filter, insert it into your reservoir. In most models, there is a groove in the filter that lines up with a notch or other marking in the pitcher itself.

 

When inserting your filter it is important that you push down firmly in order to ensure that it is tightly sealed to properly reduce contaminants.

3- Full Up Your Pitcher and Discard the Water

Depending on the type of filter your pitcher uses, you may find a level of carbon dust in your water. This is completely normal, however, we recommend you use this water to water plants.

 

Our suggestion would be to fill your pitcher three times, discard or use the water for other purposes, and then start using your water filter pitcher for drinking and cooking after a few uses.

4- Replace Your Filter

While some water filter pitchers come with reminder stickers or alerts that tell you when you need to replace your filter, others do not.

 

To find out when you need to replace your filter, check the instructions on the filter. Typically, these last up to approximately 40 gallons depending on the model.

Finally…

Water filter pitchers have become increasingly popular in the past few years. Thanks to advancements in technology, these devices can filter through harmful contaminants, allowing you to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

 

If you’ve decided that you need a water filter pitcher for your home but don’t know where to start, worry not.

 

We’ve created the ultimate buying guide, sharing some of the best small and large water filter pitchers on the market as well as highlighting some key features to look out for when making your final decision. 

​In Conclusion

Water softeners are perfect for those who wish to improve the taste of their drinking water in addition to making it more pleasant to use for showering and bathing. Unfortunately, they are not a substitute for effective water filtration so you will still need to purchase a suitable water filtration device such as a whole house water filter in addition to your water softener.

Resources:

Britannica
NCBI

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