Shower head filters pose an appealing prospect: clean, filtered water that’s better for your skin and hair.
But do shower filters actually work? What contaminants do they remove? Do they really prevent hair loss and skin problems? In this guide, we’ve shared the answers to these questions and more.
📌 Key Takeaways
- Shower head filters work to remove chlorine and some other contaminants from your shower water.
- Most shower filters combine several filter media, such as carbon filter media and vitamin/mineral balls, to treat water on demand.
- You can check that a shower filter works by testing your water before and after installing the filter, then comparing its chlorine content.
Table of Contents
- 🚿 Do Showerhead Water Filters Work?
- 🔎 How Does A Shower Filter Work?
- 📖 How to Know If A Shower Head Filter Works
- 🧫 What Do Shower Filters Remove?
- 📤 Do Shower Filters Soften Water?
- 🤔 Does A Shower Filter Work To Remove Chlorine?
- ✅ Benefits Of Filtered Shower Heads
- 📊 Are Shower Filters Worth It?
- 📤 Alternatives To Shower Filters
- ❔ Shower Filters FAQs
🚿 Do Showerhead Water Filters Work?
Yes, shower head filters work. Just make sure you spend your money wisely on one of the best shower filters available today that’s capable of removing problem contaminants in your water supply.
Shower filters are legitimate. They contain several types of filter media, many of which have been used in a variety of filter applications for decades, with proven abilities to reduce the likes of chlorine, disinfection byproducts, and more.
With that said, we’ve read the marketing for a lot of shower filters over the years, and we know that the manufacturers are often prone to exaggeration.
You’ll often read things like: “shower filters are an affordable way to avoid hair loss”, and “get gorgeous skin, hair and nails”. Those are big promises that often have little proof behind them.
Don’t expect a shower filter to give you glowing skin, thicker hair, or longer nails.
Also, don’t expect this type of filter to cure a problem that’s caused by external factors, such as hormones or pollution. For instance, installing a shower head filter probably won’t cure your acne if it’s a hormonal issue.
In reality, the role of a shower filter is simply to reduce your skin’s exposure to contaminants that are known to irritate the skin and scalp and aggravate certain conditions in people with sensitivities.
This should prevent bad skin and hair health caused by showering in poor-quality water, but it probably won’t reverse aging, cause your hair to grow at twice the speed, or do any other unrealistic thing that a manufacturer may claim.
🔎 How Does A Shower Filter Work?
A shower filter attaches to your shower fixture. It might replace your existing shower head (a shower head filter) or it might be installed at your shower arm, underneath your existing shower head (an inline shower filter).
Regardless of the filter design, most shower filters work in the same way.
When you switch on your shower unit, shower water flows through the filter and out of the shower head.
Contaminants like free chlorine and other harmful chemicals are trapped in the filter media, meaning that the hot water leaving your shower is filtered and free from contaminants that may irritate your skin and hair.
Some of the types of filter media commonly used in a shower filter are activated carbon, KDF-55, vitamin c filters, ceramic mineral balls, and ion exchange resin.
Let’s quickly look at what each of these filter types can remove:
- Activated carbon (carbon block or granular activated carbon): Uses a process called adsorption to remove chlorine, disinfection byproducts, pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals
- KDF (Kinetic degradation fluxion) 55: Reduces chlorine and water-soluble heavy metals with a process called oxidation-reduction
- Vitamin C filters: Neutralize chlorine (and sometimes chloramines) by neutralizing the contaminant
- Ceramic mineral balls: Trap disinfection byproducts and heavy metals
- Ion exchange resin: Exchanges certain ions (namely heavy metals like copper and zinc) with harmless ions
A shower filter often has a single filter cartridge that combines multiple layers of filtration, trapping different contaminants as water flows through each layer.
📖 How to Know If A Shower Head Filter Works
Wondering how you can know for sure whether or not a shower water filter works? Here’s what to do.
Before You Buy the Filter
Before you buy a shower filter, do these two things:
Look For Certifications or Testing
The best way to guarantee a manufacturer’s performance claims is to find official third-party testing or certifications for a filter’s contaminant removal abilities.
Many shower filter companies obtain an NSF 42 certification for their products, confirming that they can remove a certain percentage of chlorine from shower water.
Even if a filter doesn’t have an official certification, third-party testing by a trusted laboratory is a reassuring sign. If a manufacturer hasn’t shared their test results online, contact customer service and ask for a copy to be sent to you over email.
If a manufacturer refuses to share their test results, you have to question why.
Read Customer Reviews
Manufacturers often pay marketing teams to make their products sound better than anything else on the market, when this probably isn’t true.
Customer reviews give you an actual insight into how a shower filter lives up to the expectations of people like you.
It’s normal for any product to get the occasional bad review, but if you notice trends in customer feedback, pay attention to what’s being said.
A shower filter might sound perfect for you, but if numerous customers have complained about poor-quality water or a significantly reduced flow rate, it probably isn’t worth your money.
After You Buy the Filter
If you’ve bought a filter that had great reviews and promising test results, there’s one way to check that the filter really does perform as advertised:
Test Your Water
To learn exactly what a shower filter can remove from your water, conduct a before-and-after water test.
Before installing the filter, take a sample of water from your shower and test it for the contaminants that the filter should remove. You could use an at-home test kit or send your water off to a laboratory.
Make a note of your results, then install the filter and conduct the test again.
The contaminants you tested for should be present in much smaller quantities, or not present at all, this time around. There’s your proof that the filter truly works.
🧫 What Do Shower Filters Remove?
The most basic traditional shower filters are all capable of removing chlorine, a chemical that’s added to tap water during the disinfection process.
Some shower filters address more than just chlorinated water. Multi-stage shower filters may also reduce the following impurities:
- Other chemicals
- Heavy metals
- Harsh chemical smell
Plus, some shower filters can improve water’s pH.
The type and complexity of media used in the shower filter determine which contaminants can be removed.
Units that just contain carbon filters will be more limited in performance than those that combine several types of filter media, such as vitamin filters and KDF shower filters, designed to trap different sets of contaminants.
⚠️ Don’t expect any shower filter to remove as many impurities as the carbon filters found in water filter pitchers and other tap water filters. On average, a good shower filter can remove 3-10 contaminants.
📤 Do Shower Filters Soften Water?
Another claim you hear a lot from shower filter manufacturers is that their products can soften water. However, this isn’t strictly true. Shower filters are filters, and filters can’t soften water.
Some shower water filters work to control scale, but no shower filter can completely eliminate hard water minerals and soften your water.
That means you might still experience some skin and scalp irritation even after installing a shower head filter, since hard water minerals can be just as irritating as chlorine and chloramines in water.
📌 The only way to produce soft water in your shower is to install a whole home water softener. Water softeners use ion exchange to replace calcium and magnesium minerals with a harmless ion, usually sodium. They’re installed upstream of your water heater, meaning that you’ll have soft water all around your home – including your hot shower water.
🤔 Does A Shower Filter Work To Remove Chlorine?
Yes, the majority of shower filters remove chlorine – as long as they contain a filter media that can remove this chemical, such as vitamin c filters and carbon water filters.
Chlorine is present in disinfected drinking water supplies. While this chemical is only found in trace amounts in water, it may trigger irritation, itching, and rashes in people with skin and scalp sensitivities.
You can significantly improve your water quality by installing a shower filter that removes at least 90% of free chlorine from your water.
Related: What to do when your hair feels like straw
✅ Benefits Of Filtered Shower Heads
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest benefits of installing a showerhead water filter.
Shower filters are the most affordable filtration solution for showers.
Most brands sell shower filters for less than $100. The cost of replacement filters is affordable, too – about $40-$60 per filter. You can often buy multipacks of filters at a lower cost per filter.
If your budget is small but you want to shower in cleaner water, a showerhead filter is a low-cost solution.
Reduces Skin & Hair Issues
Regardless of the filter type or complexity, shower filters usually always remove chlorine. As chlorinated water passes through the filter, it becomes trapped in the media (usually activated carbon blocks or vitamin c) and is unable to leave the filter with the water particles.
Removing chlorine gas from your water means that your skin won’t be irritated by chemical contaminants.
You should have fewer issues with dry or irritated skin, an itchy scalp, and split ends. If you’re prone to skin conditions like eczema, a shower head filter should reduce your flare-ups. The result? A much-improved shower experience.
Read up on our review of the top shower head filters for hard water.
Easy To Install
Installing a shower head filter is usually straightforward.
Simply unscrew your shower head from the shower arm, then screw the filter onto the shower arm, using the included adaptor if needed. If you’ve bought an inline filter, screw your existing shower head onto the top of the filter.
It takes less than five minutes to install a shower head filter, and you don’t need to be a DIY expert or a professional plumber for the job.
If you decide that you don’t want to use the filter anymore, it’s just as easy to remove – just unscrew it from the shower arm and replace it with your old shower head.
Long Filter Lifespan
The majority of shower filters have a 6-month lifespan. That means you’ll only need to buy a filter replacement twice a year.
Shower filters have longer lifespans than other point of use filters, like pitcher filters (which last 2-3 months) and faucet filters (which last 2 months).
There’s only one filter cartridge in a typical shower head filter, too, so you won’t have to worry about making multiple filter changes at various points throughout the year.
📊 Are Shower Filters Worth It?
Shower filters are worth it for you if you have sensitive or dry skin, and you’ve noticed that your skin and hair are affected by showering in chlorinated water.
As long as you don’t expect a shower filter to work miracles and reverse your hair loss or skin aging, you should be pleased with the improved skin and hair benefits of washing in chlorine-free water.
Plus, shower filters are much cheaper than whole house filter systems because they’re relatively small and compact, so they’re a good choice for people with small budgets.
📤 Alternatives To Shower Filters
Just because shower filters are beneficial, that doesn’t mean they’re right for you.
- If you’ve discovered that hard water is the main cause of your poor skin and hair health, a water softener, like one of these, is the best solution to tackle this problem. Water softeners only tackle hard water, so you may need to combine a shower filtration unit with a water softener for the best results.
- Or, if you want to remove more than a handful of contaminants from your water, and money is no object, consider installing a whole house water filter system. Most whole house water filters remove tens, or even hundreds, of contaminants, massively improving water quality. These are the best whole home water filtration systems available in 2023.
❔ Shower Filters FAQs
What are some of the best shower filter brands?
According to our research (which looks at certifications and testing, customer reviews, contaminant removal, and other performance stats), the best shower filter brands are Aquasana, Culligan, and Aquabliss. Learn more about these brands in our best filtered shower heads review guide.
Do shower filters help hair loss?
A shower filter may inadvertently help with hair loss by removing certain contaminants that dry out the hair and lead to breakage and split ends, like chlorine and chloramines. However, no shower head filter can act as a miracle solution to hair loss. Unfortunately, if you’re losing hair for another reason, such as age, stress, or hereditary baldness, a shower filter won’t prevent this from happening.
Does shower water need to be filtered?
No, shower water doesn’t need to be filtered. As long as you get your water from a municipal supplier, your water should be safe for drinking and washing with. However, some people – especially people with sensitive skin and certain skin conditions – may want to install a shower filter to address contaminants that may irritate the skin and scalp, like chlorine and hard water minerals.
How long do filter shower heads last?
Filter shower heads last 6 months, on average. When a filter reaches the end of its lifespan, the media will be clogged with contaminants and the flow rate will reduce to a trickle. Make sure to replace the filters on time to maintain high-quality filtration and prevent bacteria from growing in the filtration media.
Do hard water filter shower heads work?
Yes, hard water filter shower heads work to control scale – but note that they won’t actually soften your water (i.e. remove all calcium and magnesium minerals, usually in exchange for a harmless ion like sodium). The only way to soften the water in your shower is to install a whole house water softener upstream of your hot water heater.
Do shower filters affect water pressure?
Yes, it’s common for your showerhead water pressure to drop slightly after installing a shower filter. That’s because water has to flow through the filter media, which often provides resistance and reduces flow, before it leaves the showerhead. However, most shower filters should only reduce water pressure by around 0.5 GPM – so you can still enjoy powerful, hot showers even with a filter installed.