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Different Water Filtration Methods and How They Work
Installing a water filtration system? This guide on the different water filtration methods and how they work will help you choose the best one for your home.

Different Water Filtration Methods and How They Work

Clean water is a necessity of human life. One of the best ways to ensure that the water in your home is clean is to use a water filtration system to purify your water. When choosing a filtration system for your home, do your research because there are several options from which to choose. This guide will explain the different water filtration methods and how they work, helping you to be informed about the options for your home.


Distillation is a highly effective water filtration method that has been around for a long time. In this method, water is heated until it’s boiling. As the water vaporizes, it rises to a condenser, where the vapor is collected then cooled until it transforms back into its liquid form. During the process of evaporation, most contaminants in the water are separated from the water itself, leaving the water clean and safe to drink. There are, however, certain organic chemicals that the distillation process cannot remove. Another disadvantage is the long amount of time the distillation process takes.

Ion Exchange

The ion exchange method uses a resin to exchange ions in the water for different, less harmful ions from the resin. The resin usually takes the form of small beads which carry ions to replace those in the water. The two most popular ion exchange methods are softening and deionization. In the water softening method, ion exchange allows for calcium and magnesium ions to be exchanged and replaced with sodium or hydrogen ions, resulting in softer water. These types of filters will need to be recharged with new ions frequently.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis moves water through a semi-permeable membrane to remove contaminants. Small pores in the membrane allow water through but filter out any molecules that are larger than water. This method effectively rids the water of dissolved inorganic solids like magnesium and calcium. It can also remove other dangerous contaminants like viruses, bacteria, and lead. A reverse osmosis system uses no electricity, but rather puts a high amount of pressure on the contaminated water, forcing it through the membrane and collecting the clean water on the other side. Because of their high effectiveness, residential reverse osmosis systems are a popular choice in homes.

Activated Alumina

Activated alumina filters are filled with activated alumina granules. These granules absorb fluoride, arsenic, thallium, and selenium from the water. This method is highly effective for removing these substances but may not be helpful if your water is not contaminated with any of these chemicals. Another downside of activated alumina filters is that occasionally, these filters will leak small amounts of aluminum into your water.

Ceramic Filter

A ceramic filter is another traditional method of water filtration. In this method, water passes through a filter made of ceramic, a material that is quite porous. As the water passes through, any molecules that are larger than the pores in the ceramic will be filtered from the water. The water is then stored in a receptacle beneath the filter, where it can be accessed by a spout in the container. Ceramic filters are long lasting, easy to use, and don’t require electricity. However, they are also rather slow, and while they filter out bacteria and protozoa effectively, they are not effective at filtering out viruses.

Ultraviolet Filter

Ultraviolet filtration is a method that eliminates contaminants in water using a strong, ultraviolet light. As microorganisms encounter the UV light, they are deactivated and killed. Ultraviolet filters are a great way to remove living organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites from contaminated water. Because the ultraviolet light only has an effect on living organisms, it is not effective for eliminating harmful minerals or chemicals in the water. This method is also more expensive than most other water filtration methods.

Activated Carbon

An activated carbon filter uses activated carbon to absorb certain contaminants from the water. To absorb contaminants, the carbon in these filters bonds with the contaminants, trapping large organic molecules within the pores of the carbon. The carbon also absorbs small organic molecules, which cling to the surface of the carbon. Activated carbon filters can eliminate chlorine and volatile organic compounds from the water, but not inorganic pollutants. This type of system is one that is popularly used, especially along with another filtration method to remove further contaminants. There are two main types of activated carbon filtration systems from which to choose—granulated carbon systems and carbon block systems.

Granulated Carbon

A granulated carbon system uses carbon in the form of small granules to filter water. While this method is inexpensive, it is also generally less effective than the carbon block method since the granules have such a small surface area. The pressure of the water within the system is the main factor that determines the effectiveness of this system.

Carbon Block

A carbon block system uses the same carbon material as the granulated carbon system, but in the form of a large, carbon block. Because of the large surface area of the system’s carbon block, this variation of the activated carbon filtration method is usually the more effective one. In a carbon block filtration system, the water is also in contact with the system longer than in a granulated carbon system, which allows more contaminants to be filtered out, leaving you with cleaner water. They are the more expensive options, however, which is the main reason why some might choose to go with granulated carbon.

Now that you’ve been educated about the different water filtration methods and how they work, you’ll be better equipped to choose the best option for your home. When selecting a filtration method, consider the reason that you need one—are there particular contaminants that need to be removed from your water, making one method a clear winner? What is your budget? Which systems have the all-around best performance? Considering these factors and comparing them to the qualities of each filtration method above will help you select the right filter for your home and family’s needs.

Different Water Filtration Methods and How They Work

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