If you read my article How Tap Water Can Effect Seborrheic Dermatitis, then you should have a good idea that filtering water and softening water are two very different things. That said, they require completely different scientific processes, and there are two HUGE misconceptions that water filter companies take advantage of to mislead people. So I want to clear these up:
1.) Shower filters do DO NOT soften your water. Not even a little bit. Zero, zilch, nada!
2.) Almost all shower filters DO NOT filter chloramines.
The only thing shower filters really do when it comes to tap water is help eliminate odors and reduce chlorine. That’s it. They do absolutely nothing to remove minerals and metals that are dissolved in hard water, and they are almost completely useless against chloramines.
So the next time you see a shower filter company claiming you’ll have softer water, or a customer review saying that their “water feels so soft now with their shower filter”, walk the other way. It’s 100% complete bullshit folks. It’s not scientifically possible to soften water at all with a shower filter. You can only soften water through reverse osmosis or with a cation resin + brine (salt) solution & regeneration process. Claims shower companies make that they their product filters claiming chloramines is also mostly false. There is a reason they will never provide testing or an actual percentage of chloramine reduction. Can you guess why? Well, it’s because the actual percentage of chloramine elimination would be around 3%. That’s if they are lucky. So don’t be fooled.
How Water Softening Works
Okay, so if you read my How Tap Water Can Effect Your Seborrheic Dermatitis article, I talked about how the dissolved minerals and metals in hard water have a positive molecular charge. And that when these positively charged minerals in hard water contact negatively charged soap molecules they bond together to form soap residue. Well, that’s pretty much the same process that happens when you soften water. You see, soft water systems are basically a container of small negatively charged resin beads (called cation resin). Their purpose is to bond to the positively charged minerals in the hard water as it passes through the container. So as the hard tap water goes through the container, the minerals in the water basically stick to the resin beads and your left with soft water. Just think of these resin beads sort of like a magnet that the minerals stick to as they pass by.
Anywhere from once every few weeks to once a month (depending on the size of the container) the resin beads will need to be “regenerated”. This is because eventually the resin beads can no longer hold anymore minerals and need to release the minerals they’ve collected. So to do that, a salt water solution is added to the container which causes the resin beads to release all the minerals they’ve collected. The minerals then get washed away in the waste water. Now the resin is good as new and ready to start collecting the minerals again.
That is how water is softened. However, before your water is softened, the chlorine and/or chloramines need to be removed before they reach the resin beads. This needs to be done for two reasons. The first reason is because chlorine and chloramines will eat away and deteriorate the cation resin which will significantly shorten the resin’s shelf life and effectiveness. The second reason is because when chloramine is eliminated it doesn’t just disappear. Instead, the bond of ammonia and chlorine simply gets broken and you now have chlorine and ammonia separated on their own again. The chlorine then gets eliminated by the filter media that broke the bond. So now you just have ammonia. The good news is that the ammonia will get captured by the resin beads along with the the minerals when passing through the soft water system. The second reason chlorine and chloramines need to be filtered first is because they will slowly eat away and deteriorate the cation resin and significantly shorten the resin’s shelf life.
So here is how you eliminate chlorine and chloramines…
How To Filter Chlorine & Chloramines
Most whole house soft water systems will use an extensive combination of activated carbon and catalytic carbon filters to remove chloramines. For chlorine only they can use cheaper options of more standard carbon medias. It’s quite straight forward and water filtration companies should know how to effectively do this and test the water.
However, if someone doesn’t have a whole house system, the options are currently limited to some form of shower filter. The biggest challenge that all shower filters face is the high output of water from the shower. The water passes through the filter with so much pressure that it’s unable to effectively filter the water. There are also additional challenges like hot water temperatures making various carbons ineffective, the water not having enough contact time with the carbon, and short shelf lives with deteriorating effectiveness by the day.
Plainly put most of them do a terrible job. However, there are filters that can get the job done depending on if your dealing with chloramines or chlorine. You just need to understand what filters are effective at filtering chlorine vs. chloramines. So below are details on what works for each.
The following filter information is for people needing a shower filter type system.
For Chlorine ONLY
KDF-55 – these filters use a combination of half zinc and half copper media. Unlike carbon filters which rely on surface contact or “catching” the chlorine (if you will), KDF-55’s copper/zinc media creates an electric current in the water. This electric charge in the water turns chlorine into a harmless chloride. So KDF-55 is able to effectively filter chlorine in an environment with high water flow like a shower. KDF-55 is also effective in both hot and cold temperatures, unlike carbon filters which do not work well in hot temperatures.
Vitamin C – will completely eliminate both chlorine and chloramines. However, if dealing with only chlorine a KDF-55 filter is the way to go. It removes chlorine well, will last significantly longer, and is much more cost effective for that purpose.
Vitamin C – will completely eliminate chloramine. It does this very quickly in powder form (absorbic acid). As long as the shower filter is designed well enough to deal with the high output of the shower and make minor contact with the vitamin c media, it will eliminate both chlorine and chloramines completely.
Activated & Catalytic Carbons – these work very well at eliminating chloramines. HOWEVER, a lot of the activated carbon media is needed to do this along with significant surface contact time. Whole house systems are able to pull this off, but unfortunately standard shower filters cannot. Hospitals today mostly use catalytic carbon. The water has to sit for 10 minutes in large amounts of the catalytic carbon to effectively break down the chloramines. So the typical shower filters you see on the market with small amounts of activated or catalytic carbons (even in 3 or 5 stage filters) are highly ineffective at reducing chloramines.
Another thing that is very important to understand when filtering chloramines, is that chloramine doesn’t just “disappear” when filtered. Remember, chloramine is a chemical bond of chlorine and ammonia. So when you “filter” chloramines, you are simply breaking the bond of chlorine and ammonia. Whichever media was used to do this will then remove the broken up chlorine, but you are still left with the ammonia in the water. So what happens to the ammonia then? Nothing. Both carbon and vitamin C cannot do anything to filter ammonia.
Normally, the answer to filtering the ammonia is in shower systems is, “there’s nothing you can do about it”. BUT, I’ve got a much better answer for you and a water filter system I discovered that can actually eliminate chlorine, chloramines, AND truly soften your water the same as a whole home water softener!
Here it is…
Best Set Up For Renters/Non-Whole House Option
Okay, for a long time there’s been no options for renters or people who can’t afford a whole house water filtration system. You either had to own a home and be willing to spend $3,000-$15,000 for soft filtered water, or deal with hard water and chloramines. Well, that is no longer the case. I’m going to show you exactly how you can get the same exact soft filtered water in your apartment or shower that you find in whole home systems.
It starts with what is probably one my favorite products that I have ever owned, The Shower Stick from www.watersticks.com. Words cannot describe how much I love this product and there is nothing like it on the market The Shower Stick is an actual portable water softener that can be set up in your shower. It works the same way a whole home soft water softener does but uses an ingenious gravity fed regeneration process that allows it to go be portable and go directly in your shower. It’s basically a mini whole home soft water system. If that wasn’t brilliant enough, they also added a KDF-55 filter to it for filtering chlorine. The end result? Soft and chlorine free filtered water. For apartment dwellers like myself, this thing is seriously awesome and I wished for a very long time that something like this would exist. So I couldn’t wait to install it when it arrived. Sure enough, the difference it’s made to my skin and hair has been incredible. Also, I now primarily wash my face in the shower which makes life much easier. I really can’t say enough about this product, and their testimonials speak for themselves. Lisa, the owner over there, is really awesome and great at answering any questions. I’ve talked to her many times, and she really knows her stuff!
Now, The Shower Stick with the KDF-55 filter is all you need if you only have chlorine and hard water. But If you have chloramines in your water, you will want to replace the KD-55 with a Vitamin C Filter. This is where it gets fun. Do you remember when I said that chloramine filters only break the chlorine/ammonia chemical bond, but still leave you with ammonia in the water? Well, the beauty of The Shower Stick is that the cation resin it contains not only grabs all of the hard water minerals in the water, it will also grab the ammonia too. So the result is actual soft water, that is chloramine free. Taaddaa!! 🙂
For those curious, my personal Shower Stick setup is a bit different and uses a very large activated carbon block, which I will be replacing soon with the Vitamin C Filter very soon and running tests to share. My activated carbon setup has a lot of challenges that I’d prefer to rectify. I used a 10″ Pentek Carbon Block Filter and a 10″ Clear Housing Block I bought on Amazon. It works well and my water always tests as completely soft and chloramine free. I’m just not crazy about the carbon block configuration for a number of logistical and efficacy reasons. It adds a lot of weight that risks breaking the Shower Stick, it’s pretty challenging for most people to set up, and ultimately the Vitamin C Filter will be more effective/efficient long term.
Ultimately, whether you have seborrheic dermatitis or not, there’s really no downside to filtering your water. Nicer skin, softer healthier hair, and no (or less) residue from soap on your skin or built up in your shower. Moreover, you are no longer breathing in chlorine vapors that can cause additional health issues. So check your water, and determine if it’s a potential problem.