Do water purifiers really work?


As with any other product, both active and potential users of water purifiers wonder whether they really work. This is especially heightened with claims that raw tap water is not that harmful after all. 

To be honest, such claims are very generalized. You cannot generally label tap water as adequately safe given the differences in which water is harvested and treated in different geographical locations.

Some get their water from relatively clean rivers, while others get it from polluted rivers. Some rivers are surrounded with farms, others flow through desert land, and others flow through extended stretches of built environment. 

Some local authorities are stricter than others regarding dumping of waste water into surface water sources. Still on that, the water treatment standards vary from area to area.

Therefore, water purifiers across the globe are subjected to considerably varied qualities of water. Suppose your tap water comes purified at a high standard. You may not even notice the difference between the filtered water and the tap water. 

On the extreme opposite, some people get tap water that is highly turbid and filled with significant amounts of dissolved solids. Depending on the type of water filter they use, the filtered water may come out as highly pure or still contain harmful contaminants. 

What is this pointing to? 

Water purifiers actually work, but their effectiveness majorly depends on two significant factors:

i) the quality of the raw water to be filtered

ii) the type of water purifier used – or better put, the filtering technology used.

Regarding the quality of raw water, we have already established that the more contaminants the water contains the more thorough the filtering process has to be. It is unfair to expect the same results for highly contaminated water and fairly pure water. 

Coming to the different water purifier technologies, the main five are:

  1. Reverse Osmosis
  2. UV light treatment
  3. Ultrafiltration
  4. Use of Activated Carbon
  5. Use of of sediment filters

1. Reverse Osmosis

Of all the five water purification methods listed above, the most effective is reverse osmosis. So, what is RO all about?

RO basically involves forcing the raw water across a semipermeable membrane. Such membranes allow only water molecules to pass through as they are small. Other molecules with bigger size are restricted from passing across the membrane. These include suspended solids, organic matter, heavy metals, dissolved salts, and disease-causing microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.

In this sense, the resulting water is actually ripped of nearly all minerals. In case you’ve been using a pitcher water filter and haven’t had the desired results, give the RO water purifiers a try.

2. UltraViolet filtration

This basically involves passing water through UV light. Water is forced into a chamber whose core is a lamp that gives off UV light. The rays are able to kill most bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. 

However, UV water purification does not get rid of other dissolved and suspended solids. That’s part of the reason why some people doubt whether water purifiers really work. But now you know better. That is simply all the UV treatment technology can achieve. As such, UV water purifiers should only be used for water with only trace amounts of suspended and dissolved solids.

3. Ultrafiltration

Think of the Reverse Osmosis water purifiers but with a membrane that blocks only bigger sized molecules. That’s what ultrafiltration entails. While it is effective in trapping suspended solids and pathogenic microorganisms, you don’t expect it to get rid of all dissolved salts. Again, that’s all this technology can achieve. If it does not meet your water purification needs, there are lots of better alternatives out there.

4. Use of activated carbon

Have you ever poured water on charcoal and observed how it soaks up the water? As water penetrates to the core of the charcoal, impurities are trapped on the surface of the charcoal. This is scientifically known as adsorption.

The filtering element of activated carbon water purifiers are made from coconut shells and coal. When water is passed through the activated carbon, impurities such as chlorine byproducts, volatile organic compounds, and some microorganisms are trapped on the surface of the activated carbon. Activated carbon does not kill pathogenic microorganisms. Additionally, it is not effective enough to trap all salts and minerals. What you can be assured of is water devoid of the unpleasant smell and taste that characterizes most tap water.

5. Sediment Filters

As the name suggests, sediment filters basically reduce sediment in water. A simple definition of sediment is “matter that settles to the bottom of a liquid”. In other words, particulate matter that you normally see with naked eyes.

Sediment filters don’t get rid of heavy metals nor toxic dissolved chemicals. They also do not effectively alter the smell and taste of water.    

In a nutshell,

Water purifiers remove as much contaminants as the corresponding technology allows. If you correctly choose a water purifier with careful consideration of the quality of water you intend to filter, the results will be pleasing enough.