How To Soften Your Water And Filter Chlorine & Chloramines

MattMiscellaneous9 Comments

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.

For Chloramines

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.The Shower Stick 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.

9 Comments on “How To Soften Your Water And Filter Chlorine & Chloramines”

  1. Hi there,
    I have really bad scalp eczema that coal tar cannot even cope with it anymore (have to use Nizoral twice a week, which ugh, chemicals). I’ve tried the indian shampooing way, but I’ve realised — it’s London’s really hard water that’s causing most of it. I went on holiday to the Philippines and the itching and “dandruff” were nonexistent there!

    Investing on the Shower Stick + filters is going to cost me a lot, so just wanted to be sure — would the Vita Fresh Shower Filter you linked to fit the Shower Stick? And would definitely appreciate a video re: how you refill your filters! Definitely a cost-saving trick.

    Thanks much!

  2. I am confused about how to make my hard water out of the tap as good as the bottled water I am trying to use which seem to be working for my face if I put in a Kinetice 2020c water softener will this be enough to filter all the bad stuff out of house water, I am in the UK. Thanks so much for your site.

  3. Hey matt, I checked my water about a month ago for chlorine and it came back saying it was fine. I have been using dead sead salt for about 2 months now and it works very well. I Use my home filtered water system to wash my face. However the last week my face has flared up. I haven’t changed anything in my diet or daily regime. I have noticed it when I shower and then immediately after my cheeks where I have Seb deem are really dry and flaky. Now in the last week even when I wash my face with Dead Sea salt after my shower I still wake up in the mornings with red, dry and flaky skin on my cheeks. I only wash with Dead Sea salt maybe 1-2 times a week only when it looks it will flare up. Can the Dead Sea salt stop working? Is it my water?

    Regards, costa

  4. Hey Matt,
    Thanks for the response, I’m glad you have a good system up and running! I wouldn’t mind changing the cartridges more often if it means having clean water, a video on what you did would be awesome!

    I had a two showers with the shower stick and my scalp got so itchy and flaky I had to switch back to the Pelican filter- that was the only thing in my daily routine that changed so it had to be the culprit. I did run it for a few minutes before showering the first time but I will try regenerating it.

    It’s strange that the Pelican would filter something that the shower stick doesn’t…. I’ve tested the Pelican water filter up against a reverse osmosis system with a carbon filter (sadly, I only have this for drinking water) and tap water, and it was not too much better than tap water. I’m still on the quest for a better system and it’s frustrating! I will definitely try adding the vitamin C filter next.

    1. That’s very strange. I really don’t think it has anything to do with the filtering capabilities of the Pelican filter. Moreover, your testing of the Pelican filter sounds like it would support that conclusion. I would really try regenerating the Shower Stick and see if that solves the problem.

      1. I did regenerate and wait an hour before showering but my scalp still became dry and flaky. My face isn’t getting flaky though, it almost looks better so it’s strange. I want to keep the shower stick, so I’ll have to set up a filter for chloramines and do some more testing.

  5. Hi,

    Yes, I have been testing the vitamin C filter with the Shower Stick for the past month and will be updating with the information very soon. In short, it works perfectly. However, I have had to make adjustments to accomplish this, which I will cover in my update. With the adjustments I made, my vitamin c filter/shower stick combo filters 100% of chloramines, has a neutral water ph, zero ammonia (tested that too), and the water is completely soft water.

    Basically, when I first installed the vitamin c filter with the Shower Stick, the test results were disappointing regarding the vitamin c filter. My water had roughly 4ppm chloramines and the vitamin c filter was only lowering it to about 3ppm. The problem wasn’t the vitamin c powder itself, but the design of the filter not allowing enough exposure to the vitamin c powder. After analyzing the filter design for a while, I figured out a way to make the adjustments needed. If you look at the vitamin c filter cartridges, they are sealed shut. The companies selling them did that so people wouldn’t be able to refill them and would have to keep buying cartridge replacements. However, I realized that by hitting each of the filter cartridges lightly with a small hammer I could pop the tops right off. Once I pooped the tops off, I then drilled very small holes in the two plastic pieces within the cartridges. This would allow more water to enter the cartridge and make contact with the vitamin c powder. After drilling the holes, I put the tops right back on and they worked perfect! My absolute favorite part is that I can easily just take the tops on and off by hand now, and just refill the cartridges myself with my own vitamin c powder!! No need to buy over priced replacement cartridges. It’s awesome. So I have my three customized cartridges that I just refill when one is done and put it back on the shelf until needed.

    The only draw back is that my vitamin c cartridges probably only last about a week (maybe a little longer depending on how many showers, length, etc). But I have no problem with that at all. It’s ridiculously easy to swap out the filter cartridges on these things, and truly having 100% chloramine free, chlorine free, and ammonia free water is priceless.

    I’l probably try to add some pictures or maybe do a video to show how I did everything, and the testing as well. So stay tuned.

    Regarding your first shower with the shower stick – I don’t think anything with the shower stick would, or even could, cause dry or itchy scalp. I would suspect chloramines or something else. I’d suggest making sure you run water through the shower stick for a few minutes when you first get it. Better yet, regenerating it with salt before using it. New cation resin has a scent when new and I’m sure some degree of “new stuff soot” (for lack of a better word) on it. So it’s a good idea to just flush that all out/away when just getting it.

  6. Hi,
    Any updates on replacing the KD-55 with the Vitamin C filter? I just bought the Shower Stick (I previously had the Pelican Shower Filter) and installed it, but immediately after my first shower I found my scalp was dry and itchy. I’m hoping this will go away, but I’m not sure if it has anything to do with the Shower Stick not filtering chloramines. It says on their website under the FAQ that any shower filter claiming to filter chloramines wouldn’t be able to filter enough to actually make a difference.

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