How Do Water Filtration Systems Work?

Charlie Hardcastle

Need to Hire a Plumber?
Get a free estimate online from top local home service pros in your area.
Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

Access to clean and safe drinking water is a must in this day and age. That’s why the majority of households now own a water filter system. Clean water from filtration systems is not only limited to residential areas, but you can find them in your local grocery stores and other public places. 

It is true that water filters remove impurities and provide clean water for consumption, but they don’t offer a one-size-fits-all solution. They are designed to remove specific substances and impurities from our drinking water. That means there might still be other contaminants in it depending on the filter used. 

Some people are sensitive to these kinds of impurities. Therefore, understanding their conditions and addressing them using the right water filtration system is necessary. It might also be the best time to invest in the perfect type of water filter for their needs. With that in mind, here’s our complete guide to everything you need to know about water filtration systems

Why You Need Water Filters

Water treatment plants provide clean treated water straight to our faucets. These facilities process water to make it suitable for people’s everyday consumption. General usage in our laundry and dishwasher is fine but isn’t 100% safe for drinking. 

To make clean, safe water for drinking, treatment facilities need extra equipment, which could lead to insane water bills. The costs would be too much, and the process wouldn’t be practical. Homeowners who like consuming safe and clean water need to make a little extra effort to achieve that goal. That’s where a water filtration system comes in.

Water Filters Provide Fresh-Tasting Water

On top of the water’s safety standards, public water often leaves a bad taste in our mouths. Pipes and other passageways can be the main culprit for this one. As water goes through them, sediments, minerals, and other particles may accumulate and build up. This results in water having a less-than-appetizing taste. 

A water filtration system helps provide fresh-tasting water. It filters out sediments, chemicals, and other substances that may alter the water’s natural flavor. 

Water Filters Removes Chemicals and Unwanted Minerals

Water treatment facilities can only clean water up to a certain degree. Sure, it provides safe water for everyday consumption. Still, it may not be perfect for drinking. 

Minerals and potentially harmful chemicals may still be lurking in our drinking water, especially if it goes through a long water system. Chances of collecting minerals, sediments, and chemicals exponentially rise with complex waterways from treatment plants to our households. 

Most water filter systems block off some of these substances from getting into our drinking water, giving us a safer means to consume liquids for our body’s needs. 

Water Filter Drastically Reduces the Potential Threat of Contamination

There’s a considerable risk that public water can become contaminated with foreign substances. There’s a substantial distance that water flows in its passageways, and breaks in the piping could potentially show up along the way. 

On top of that, storms, public constructions, and other events can contribute to breaks within the enclosed system. These breaks may lead to problematic drawbacks and introduce bacteria to the public’s processed water. 

When this happens, city officials and public health officers may issue advice such as boiling water to make them safe for consumption. However, a viable substitute for boiling water is to install a water filter that blocks foreign substances and contaminants.

Water Filtering is a Cost-Efficient Process to get Clean and Safe Drinking Water

Clean water suitable for drinking is always around us. They can be found in our local grocery stores, vending machines, and gas stations. However, purchasing bottled water every day can cause a significant impact on our household budget. 

Installing a quality water filtration system is a great option if you want to access safe drinking water at any time. 

Overall, the possibility of water contamination with volatile organic compounds is always present within our community’s water system. Whether it came by accident or through the natural transportation process, it is always best if we can get a reliable filtration system for our everyday consumption. 

How Do Water Filters Work?

Water has a unique molecular structure, which is why most people call it the “universal solvent.” It has the ability to dissolve different substances more than any other liquids, but we don’t want any harmful things to go along with it. So, likewise, we wouldn’t want something terrible going inside our bodies through the water we consume. 

It’s a good thing water filters use ingenious methods to flush out unwanted substances before we can even consume them. There is a physical and chemical filtration process that we should be aware of. 

Physical filtration is a process of removing fine impurities using substances that block any dirt and unwanted sediments. The filtration involves a layer of membrane that allows water to pass through but cuts off dirt and pollutants. 

On the other hand, chemical filtration involves a particular mixture of chemicals that intervenes with any impurities. For most of us, we have access to water from treatment facilities. They can be considered safe but often shows traces of unpleasant taste and odors from chemicals such as chlorine. Nevertheless, this chemical helps prevent the spread of common germs and bacteria in our water supply.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but it helps treat water to a certain degree, making it safer than regular water. However, water filters use this process to give consumers the cleanest water possible. Here are some of the procedures they use to deliver these promises. 

Mechanical Filtration

The basic idea behind mechanical filtration is to get sediments, dirt, and small particles from the water using a physical filter. Mechanical filters range from basic mesh that gets rid of larger debris all the way to complex structures and utilize ultra-fine filtration of contaminants on a micro-scale. 

Mechanical water filters usually have a micron rating that tells the size of particles they can filter out. Filters with five microns will help remove particles from water visible to the naked eye. A filter rated one micron will strain small particles you’ll usually see using a microscope. 


Carbon water filtration systems are great examples of highly effective filters containing water-borne contaminants. Unlike mechanical filtration, which prevents substances from going through, carbon filters absorb foreign contaminants. They are also effective when dealing with chlorine, thus giving us fresh and odorless water.

The most common commercial filters at home come with granular activated carbon or GAC. It absorbs unpleasant odors and unwanted tastes from our tap water. Ideally, water filters that use more effective carbon compounds carry higher price tags.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis is another staple when it comes to filtering out unwanted substances in our drinking water. However, not many people understand how it actually works. 

Reverse osmosis involves removing dissolved inorganic contaminants such as magnesium and calcium ions. It utilizes semipermeable membranes and a set amount of water pressure to help filter out contaminants from our drinking water. The pressure forces the clean water through while leaving behind sediments and unwanted components. 

It is one of the most effective ways of removing impurities from water. Along with activated carbon filters, reverse osmosis is usually seen as one of the filtering stages of complex water filters on the market. However, systems with reverse osmosis typically come with a higher price tag. 


There are water filter systems that integrate a process to isolate unwanted substances. It is commonly known as sequestration. 

This process uses chemicals to isolate impurities and inhibits them from passing through. Some substances can cause scales build-up, and sequestration helps prevent it. However, this filtration process may not suit all kinds of applications.

Ion Exchange

Hard water is filled with all kinds of heavy metals such as magnesium and calcium ios. Ion exchange removes these hard minerals and exchanges them with sodium or hydrogen ions using a type of resin. 

Common Structures of Water Filters

A typical residential water filter system involves combining multiple filtration processes into one. This provides better purification and offers cleaner and fresher drinking water. 

A water filter works with a water inlet on one end and an outlet on the other. Depending on the type of water filter system and its location, this could vary. It could either be a regular water outlet similar to our traditional faucet, while some drip through something similar to a pitcher. Others deliver purified water through the water pipes installed in our house.

The water filter medium is usually situated somewhere in the middle of the system. As water enters the filtration system, the pressure helps the water to go through the lines of layers. As a result, larger sediments and minerals are left behind. Most water filters follow the same principles, but they all have their unique style when getting rid of impurities. 

Good water filters combine all the good traits of carbon, reverse osmosis, and other effective filtration methods. This maximizes the output for safer and cleaner water. Some systems even use ultraviolet light to get rid of fungi and bacteria that may still linger after passing through multiple filtration reservoirs.

Where is the Best Spot to Install a Water Filter System?

There’s no hard rule when it comes to water filter installation. However, installing water filter systems near a water supply should provide plenty of upsides down the line. Here are some of the most common examples of where you’ll likely see filtration systems inside a typical household.

Water Filter Faucet Attachments

Faucet attachments are the most common type of water filter on the market. These units are simple to use and easy to maintain, which helped them attain that status.

Faucet attachments offer a quick water purification solution. However, the simplicity of its design and the ability to filter out more contaminants may be inferior to dedicated water filters with multiple levels of purification processes. 

Under-Sink Units

Under-sink filters are also one of the most popular types of household filters on the market. The units are hidden under the kitchen sink and use a more thorough purification than a typical faucet filter attachment. 

An under-sink filter is perfect for people who love hiding anything that may significantly affect the overall aesthetics of their kitchen. However, installation and maintenance may cause issues. Of course, this can be negated with the help of a professional. 

Whole-Home Water Filtration System

Some homeowners love a dedicated faucet for safe drinking water. However, that approach may not be as practical to others. A whole-home water filtration system (see also ‘How Much Does a Water Filtration System Cost?‘) might be the best option for those kinds of structures.

Whole-home water filtration systems typically involve heavy-duty materials built to last for many years. It also involves multiple filtrations methods to ensure drinking water quality. This means you’ll get safe drinking water throughout your home’s water system. 

It may not be practical for everyone’s home because purified water gets pumped to dishwashers and washing machines. In addition, they are more expensive than your typical water filtration system, and the maintenance could also hurt the household budget. 

Water Filter Pitchers

Water pitchers with a built-in filter are a more practical solution for clean drinking water. They are easy to use and give quick access to freshwater almost immediately. Cost is also friendly for people who are on a budget. 

One of the downsides of water pitchers with a built-in filter is the limited filtration it delivers. However, you can take the unit everywhere, making it one of the best options for people who love the portability. 


There are many different types of water filtration systems, but all share the same goal: to provide clean and safe drinking water.

However, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing the water filter system for your needs. Their difference lies in the process of providing safe water for the household. To ensure you’re getting the most out of your water filtration system, you can always look to your local experts for help. However, installing one in our home makes a huge difference. 

Recent posts

Need help with a repair or install?

Free Online Quote