The best shower filter for 2021: How they work and why you need one
Did you know that shower water can contain just as many harmful contaminants as the water you drink, including heavy metals, asbestos, fluoride, chlorine and other chemicals and impurities? Even in cities in developed countries, polluted or toxic water poses a serious health risk to the community.
Just when you thought we were trying to throw cold water on your at-home spa day, there’s some good news: You can find the best shower filter for your needs for a relatively low price to provide water filtration to protect yourself and your family from all the chemicals and metals in water. If you use a water filter pitcher to remove sediment and contaminants in your drinking water, imagine the same concept of a filter for your shower water.
Read more: The best self-cleaning water bottles for tastier tap water in 2020
Even if you’re confident that your water is quite safe to drink, a lot of people report that using a shower filter helps negate the negative impacts of hard water and soft water, and gives them healthier hair, softer skin and helps fix all sorts of cosmetic annoyances. Such is the power of filtered water!
Lead and chlorine in drinking water
Some of you might be thinking that there’s no way that your clean water contains harmful contaminants. Unfortunately, even if your water smells and tastes fine, that doesn’t mean it’s free of harmful chemicals. Water pollutants fall into different categories, but the main ones of concern in your shower water are toxic metals, chlorine (used as a disinfectant) and the byproducts that chlorine creates with other chemicals in the water. Any of these can put a major crimp in your shower experience.
The main toxic metals that often hide in water are arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury, which all made the World Health Organization’s top 10 list of “chemicals of major health concern.”
Lead is often deemed as the biggest offender — even if your water supply is pure, water slowly corrodes the lead in home plumbing systems, and the toxic metal seeps into the water. Children are at a particularly high risk and have been reported to absorb up to 50% of their lead through drinking water. Even at relatively low levels, WHO reports that lead exposure can cause irreversible neurological issues. This is why water quality must always be a consideration.
Another main issue is connected to the chlorine that’s used as a disinfectant in our drinking water. The major health concern is actually the byproducts that are created when chlorine reacts with natural organic matter in the water, creating harmful chemicals called THMs. You’ve probably heard of chloroform, which is just one common THM, and high levels of THMs act as a carcinogen.
One study found that people absorbed more THMs from a 10-minute hot shower than from drinking a liter of water, so if you’re concerned about this, a shower filtration system that is actively removing chlorine can be helpful.
Are there toxic metals in your household water?
I hope I haven’t scared you into never touching your household water again. Many countries, including the US, have a comprehensive set of guidelines to make sure that the harmful chemicals in your water, and your overall water quality, are being examined and regulated.
In the US, the EPA has legally enforceable standards for all different types of pollutants in your drinking water, as well as secondary concerns that may cause skin irritation or affect your hair. Your local water supplier should produce a new Consumer Confidence Report each year and the EPA has a public database to easily look up the most recent report for your area. You can read the report and check if there are any worrisome pollutant levels in your water, but you can also rest safe in the knowledge that if any water contaminants are over their legal limit, your area will certainly be notified.
If you’re especially worried about lead, one easy way to mitigate that risk is to simply run the tap water a few minutes before using it. The most dangerous amounts of lead accumulate when the water has been sitting in your home’s pipes overnight, so if you flush that immediate water out, you’ll be in better shape.
Why you should buy a showerhead filter
If concerns about nasty chemicals in your water have already prompted you to filter your drinking water, you may want to do the same for your shower as well. Although your shower water is monitored to be safe in the short term, long-term exposure to heavy metals and chlorine is still a risk, especially for the very young and elderly.
Even if your water quality is perfectly safe, your hair and skin might still benefit from filtered shower water. For some people, the minerals and metals in their shower water wreaks havoc on their hair. Water with high concentrations of minerals is known as “hard water,” and it runs through the pipes in many people’s homes. Not sure if you have hard water? This USGS map can help.
Although it’s technically safe for consumption, you can easily find plenty of people who say that hard water wrecks their skin and hair, and that buying a shower filter alleviated sensitive skin, acne, frizzy hair and even eye irritation. Even more people say that a shower filter helped with itchy and dull skin, and flaky scalps.
Read more: Best showerhead of 2021
It turns out that the reported effects of hard water on your hair and skin are backed up by science. The specific minerals in hard water make it difficult for soaps and shampoos to lather and do their job, so that icky feeling on your skin might actually be that it’s not getting quite as clean.
A lot of the hair and skin irritation has to do with the fact that soap and hard water react to form “scum,” the white sticky layer left behind on your skin after soaping up. Have you ever noticed the white residue that builds up on your faucets that’s hard to clean? It’s the product of calcium and magnesium in your water and that same residue is building up on your skin too. The scum clogs your pores and can cover the strands of your hair so that conditioner can’t do its work, making sensitive skin and high-maintenance hair worse.
It’s not just the metals and minerals in water that dry out your skin. Anyone who’s spent time in a chlorinated pool knows how the chemical seems to draw all the moisture out from your body, leaving you with crunchy hair and red skin. The residual chlorine in shower water can create the same problems but on a much smaller scale, leaving you with skin that just can’t get quite as soft as you’d like. Keep in mind that the chlorine in water is hard to remove, so you’ll want to make sure the shower water filter you buy is capable of water filtration for removing chlorine.
How to choose the best shower filter for your home
Different types of filters work better to remove different types of contaminants and sediment, so you’ll want to check out what’s in your water and decide what’s most important for you when you’re looking for the best shower filter, whether that’s a water softener, flow rate, water pressure, shower filtration or gallons of usage. Another thing to keep in mind is that while the initial purchase for your water filtration might not be that expensive, you’ll typically need to replace the filter or filter cartridge every six months. So, you should factor replacement filters and replacement cartridges into the cost too while looking at your shower filter budget.
Without further ado, here are all the shower filters to fit all shower types. Most of them are filters that work well with your existing showerhead, or that replace your existing showerhead entirely (so you don’t have to buy extra parts!). Keep in mind that you will eventually need a replacement filter, and those are an additional cost, so be sure to factor that into your decision-making process. We’ll periodically update this list as we review new products.
An activated carbon filter is the most effective choice for your showerhead. Since this one is an inline model, you won’t need to buy a separate shower spray. The granular activated carbon removes bacteria, chlorine, chloramine (another disinfectant sometimes used), heavy metals, rust and any other byproducts, so you can shower knowing that you’re safe. Plus, it’ll soften your filtered shower water so you can get softer hair than ever.
KDF filters are made out of copper and zinc, two elements that create a small electrical-chemical charge between them. While it may seem counterintuitive to put more metal in your shower, a KDF filter is great for dissolving mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum and even chlorine. You won’t notice the electric charge in your shower, but the heavy metals sure will. This one too can be installed with any showerhead and will act partly as a water softener, getting rid of the hardness in your water.
A Vitamin C filter removes chlorine and chloramine fluoride by neutralizing it, but it won’t affect many other contaminants. If you have confidence in the safety of your water but chlorinated water gives you dry skin, a Vitamin C filter is a great way to go. The Vitamin C filter can also be attached to any shower head you already have.
For around $15, this GE shower filter is a great choice if you’re operating on a tight budget. It mainly gets rid of chlorine, but it’s also capable of filtering sediment. The filter can last up to six months and it fits onto any standard showerhead or shower pipe you currently use.
All things water
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.