Looking for the best shower filter for your home? How do you choose the right filter?
The quality of the tap water is the most common cause of dry skin, hair and eczema (dermatitis). But did you know it could also be a cause of cancer? A high quality shower filter can make a big difference for your hair, skin and health.
In this article we will talk about how shower water impacts your skin and hair, the health risks, how a shower filter works and what the most important features are. We will also provide recommendations on the top shower filters and the best one for you.
If you just want the summary then skip to the end or watch this video.
How does tap water impact your hair and skin?
Water keeps your body hydrated and refreshed and helps maintain your skin's elasticity. People who drink sufficient amounts of water are less likely to suffer from scars, wrinkles, and soft lines and they won't show as many signs of aging as those who drink little amounts of water. But as with food, it’s important that the water you drink is of good quality.
Showering or bathing in Chlorinated water
The biggest impact on your skin and hair is the amount of chlorine in the tap water followed by hardness.
Most public water is treated with chlorine to target pathogens (source: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/global/household-water-treatment/chlorination-byproducts.html). As any frequent swimmer can tell you, water that has been treated with chlorine will dry out your skin and cause agitation. Showering in chlorinated water can lead to dryness, redness, and flakiness, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Chlorinated water depletes the skin of its natural oils that hold moisture in, leading to dry and itchy skin and hair.
Impact of Hard vs soft water on the skin
Another significant impact is the effects of hard water on hair. Hard water damages hair by leaving behind mineral deposits that coat the hair, which then serve as a barrier to moisturizers and conditioners. With mineral deposits in the hair, moisturizers can’t penetrate it, which can leave your hair brittle and dry over time.
In addition to the impacts on your hair, there are also possible effects for your skin. These effects are caused in two ways. The first is by reacting with the soap you are using, which leaves behind a film on the surface of the skin. In turn, this film of soap leaves the skin feeling dry and causes skin irritation. This can be particularly problematic on sensitive skin, such as your scalp.
Can showering be a potential cause of cancer?
What most people don’t know is also that showering in hot water in certain conditions can expose you to cancerogenic substances. trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids. the THMs and other disinfectant byproducts we inhale during showers and baths may be much more harmful, since the chlorine gas we inhale enters directly into our blood stream. One of the most common THMs formed is chloroform, which is a known carcinogen. Other THMs formed include the di- and trichloramines formed when chloramine is used as a disinfecting agent.
Exposure to many of these common by-products (including chloroforms, haloacetic acid, and trihalomethanes) can increase the risk of developing cancer. Pregnant women who bathe in water containing DBPs increase the risk of their babies developing birth defects.
Scientists from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) analysed the presence of the chemicals in the tap water in 26 EU countries and Spain has the 4. highest concentration of THMs in EU with 10,9%.
The best way to combat this problem is eliminating chlorine and other chemicals with a shower filter.
Read more about why you should use a shower filter.
What is a shower filter and how does it work?
A shower filter is installed somewhere on the shower before the shower head to reduce chemical substances in the tap water.
The key features of a top shower filter are:
- High removal rate of chlorine (and chloramine if this is used as disinfectant) at high pressure and any temperature (min 95%)
- Reduction of limescale in the shower (from 50% starts making a big difference)
- Filtration of cancer causing THMs and other chlorine and chloramine byproducts
- Capacity or at least 20,000 liters to last 3 months or more
- Maintains a normal flowrate of 8-12 liters per minute which is normally the flowrate of your shower.
- Easy to install and use in any shower . Doesn’t require a professional plumber.
- Independent lab tests and certifications pricing that the product works
What types of shower filter are available?
Essentially there are three types:
1. Shower head filters
These replace the normal handheld shower heads. Basically you remove the existing shower head and screw on a new one with a built in filter. The advantage is that they are super easy to install and sometimes also include features that change the water spray to provide higher pressure or to save water. The big disadvantage is that they normally don’t provide much filtration as there is not enough space for a proper filter. Furthermore they don’t work for rain showers.
2. In-line shower filters
- These are installed on the water mixer before the shower hose or before the shower head or rain shower head. The big advantage is that they work for almost all showers and that they can provide very good filtration. ShowerPro by TAPP Water is an example of an in-line shower filter.
3. Wholehouse filters
These are installed at the water inlet of a house or apartment before the water enters the pipes for water going to the kitchen, bathroom and appliances. The advantage is that all eater is filtered before use. The disadvantage is that these filters are typically very expensive costing thousands of euros / dollars to install and maintain.
What to watch out for when buying a shower filter
When buying a shower filter watch out for the following:
- X filtration staged - Some shower filters claim 7 stage or even 15-stage filtration. If you see this you safely assume they are lying / making it up as there is simply not enough space in an in-line filter. The most effective shower filters use a combination of KDF 55, activated carbon and Calcium-Sulfite
- Vitamin C filtration - although vitamin C can be effective in neutralising free chlorine in tap water this only works with a few minutes of exposure. A few drops of vitamin C in a shower filter with high pressure have a limited efficiency, and may remove only around 25-50% of chlorine present in your water.
- False claims of use of KDF - many of the filters that claim use of KDF uses cheaper materials as sourcing KDF from the US is expensive
- Lack of Independent lab tests and certifications - Always ask for an independent lab test and certifications before buying.
What are the top best shower filters?
ShowerPro by TAPP Water
This shower filter system from TAPP Water tops the list for its affordability and effectiveness.
Ease of installation and use|
You can use it with your existing showerhead, even handheld versions, and it’s easy to install. How easy? You don’t even need tools to get it up and running.
ShowerPro includes a 4-stage filter with KDF-55 certified by KDF Internarional in the US, activated carbon, XXX and our proprietary limescale reduction formula. Free chlorine is reduced by 95%, limescale by 80%, heavy metals by 90% and reduction of 70+ other contaminants. See lab tests and certifications for more information.
Price: Approximately €39-49 or 39-49 GBP
Where to buy: Tappwater website, Amazon UK and other Amazon stores
Aquasana AQ-4100 Shower Water Filter
Aquasana AQ-4100 Deluxe Shower Water Filter System with Adjustable Showerhead by Aquasana. This is a great filter if you want to replace your existing shower head on a rainshower. Good filtration and easy to install.
Price: Approximately €79 on Amazon
Where to buy: Amazon
iSpring Whole house shower filter
iSpring Whole House Water Filter System w/Sediment, KDF, and Carbon Water Filters, 3-Stage Whole House Water Filtration System, Heavy Metal Reducing, Model: WGB32B-K. This filter provides great filtration for the whole house including drinking, shower and bath water. One of the best wholehouse and thus shower filters in this price category.
Price: Approximately €3000 including installation.
Where to buy: Amazon
What are the worst shower filters?
A couple of years ago we decided to test 10 of the top selling shower filters on Amazon. To our surprise half of them did almost nothing to the water and still had good reviews. The explanation is simply that the placebo effect of thinking that your water is filtered is so good that people ignore reality.
Examples of these include
- iOnique Showerhead filter - does absolutely nothing
- Aquahome 15-stage with Vitamin C shower filter - 15 made up stages are in fact probably 2 but filtration is very questionable
- eComky 18-stage with Vitamin C shower filter - same filter as Aquahome but with claims of 18 stages !?!?
- Ahbbry Shower head filter - 3 made up stages of mineral stones that don't provide any filtration
And the list goes on.
If you cannot afford a shower filter
Other simple methods to reduce exposure to chlorine and chloramine include: taking shorter or less frequent showers, avoiding excessively hot showers (since high heat increases the amount of steam), and shutting the water off while soaping up. These techniques will help decrease your exposure if filtration or dechlorination is not an option.
Summary best shower filters
If you just want the short answer here’s a quick summary:
- Chlorinated and hard water often cause dry skin, hair and even eczema
- Showering in chlorinated water may be a bigger risk for your health than drinking the water due to chlorine byproducts
- A high quality water filter will contribute to better skin, hair and overall health
- Watch out for shower filters without independent lab tests and certifications as many simply don’t work
- The top 3 best shower filters based on our testing are ShowerPro by TAPP Water, Aquasana AQ 4100 and iSprint Wholehouse water filters
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