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If you have fluoridated water in your home, you’re probably keen to find a filter that will make your drinking water safer to consume. Though fluoride is legally accepted in small amounts in municipal water sources, many people prefer to filter out these fluoride traces, believing that there are health risks associated with ingesting fluoride even at these lower levels.
One of the best forms of water filtration is reverse osmosis. Does reverse osmosis remove fluoride? The short answer is yes. If you’re keen to learn more about the relationship between reverse osmosis and fluoride, read on.
How Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Fluoride?
Reverse osmosis filters offer one of the most effective means of water filtration. As well as using a variety of filters, which trap contaminants larger than water particles in their pores, they also use something called a reverse osmosis membrane.
So, how exactly does RO remove fluoride? Many contaminants are removed from a reverse osmosis water filter, fluoride being one of them. The system forces water at a high pressure through the semi-permeable membrane, which has tiny pores that only allow water particles to pass through, preventing larger contaminants (including fluoride) from getting any further. This tap water containing the contaminants, known as wastewater, is then drained out of the system.
This happens at a constant rate, with water entering the chamber and being forced through the RO membrane, and wastewater leaving through the system’s drainpipe. As fluoride particles are too large to pass through the semi-permeable membrane, they’re removed from the system along with the majority of other contaminants found in tap water.
Still curious about how reverse osmosis works? Check out this infographic
How Much Fluoride Does Reverse Osmosis Remove?
This depends on the quality of the membrane used, but RO is generally a great fluoride filter for water. The WQA produced a fluoride fact sheet that documents reverse osmosis systems as being able to remove roughly 80 to 90% of fluoride from drinking water. This is about as good as you’ll get from any filtration system, which is why reverse osmosis filters tend to be such a popular choice for those looking specifically to remove fluoride.
What Else Does RO Remove from Water?
Offering such a thorough contaminant removal, reverse osmosis filters don’t only remove fluoride from your water supply. They also remove up to 95% of all inorganic material in tap water, such as chlorine and chloramines, heavy metals like lead, compounds like sodium chloride, and minerals like calcium and magnesium.
Additionally, reverse osmosis filters remove up to 99% of organic material, including bacteria and viruses – so you can actually use most reverse osmosis systems with unclean water, like well water, as well as your city water supply.
One of the reasons why RO water filters are so effective is that they use separate stages of filtration as well as the RO membrane. For instance, chlorine can damage reverse osmosis membranes, so the majority of reverse osmosis filters have activated carbon filters that remove chlorine before it passes into the RO stage of filtration.
Potential Downfalls of Reverse Osmosis
While there are many benefits of a reverse osmosis water filter for fluoride, there are some potential downfalls to be aware of, too. These include:
The average reverse osmosis filter has a 4:1 wastewater to filtered water ratio, which makes them not the most economical or environmentally friendly. While you can find RO systems that are slightly less wasteful, with 1:1 or 2:1 wastewater to filtered water ratios, there are no RO systems for filtered water fluoride that waste no water as of yet.
Expensive to install/maintain
Because of just how effectively they filter water, reverse osmosis units are costlier than other fluoride water filters. The upfront cost is a bigger investment, and buying new filters will also come at a relatively high cost.
Regular maintenance required
It’s common for an RO system to have 3 or 4 filter stages to treat water. Each of these filters has a different lifespan – some last for a year, some 6 months, and the RO membrane typically lasts 2 years. You’ll need to remember to change the filters regularly in order for the system to work properly.
Removes minerals from water
Reverse osmosis is so thorough that it doesn’t just remove the bad stuff from water, like fluoride, but also removes healthy minerals like calcium and magnesium. These minerals give water an alkaline taste, and without them, water takes on an acid flavor that some people find unpleasant. You may find that you need to purchase a remineralization filter to use after the RO filter if you’re not keen on the acidic water taste.
How to Choose A Reverse Osmosis System
Finding a reverse osmosis system for fluoride removal is relatively easy – providing you know what you’re personally looking for. When deciding which RO system is for you, consider the following:
Am I looking for a countertop or under counter model?
The majority of RO systems are designed to install underneath your kitchen sink, where they can be stored out of sight. But if you’d rather not sacrifice your under sink space, you can also find RO filters that sit on the ground or your countertop. Being intended for use on your countertop, these systems tend to be smaller and more compact in design.
Do I want to remove contaminants other than fluoride?
Fluoride might be your main goal when it comes to contaminant removal, but it’s worth testing your water if you haven’t already to see what other contaminants are present in large quantities. You can expect a RO system to reduce or eliminate all the common contaminants, but if you have a certain set of contaminants in mind, you can look out for them when researching products.
What is my budget?
You should be prepared to pay significantly more for a reverse osmosis filter than for any other type of filter, with models costing up to $1000. But you can find some systems at around the $250 to $500 range that do just as thorough a job as a more expensive model.
Do I want a tank or a tankless system?
The majority of RO systems have tanks for storing water, which means you can access your clean water as soon as you turn on your faucet. But some space-saving systems don’t have a tank, so you’ll need to wait a second or two for your water to flow through the system every time you turn on the faucet.
Am I looking for a certain brand?
Perhaps you’ve heard good things about a certain water filtration brand from a friend, and you’re keen to see whether they have a reverse osmosis offering. There’s a broad range of brands offering RO filters, but the most popular are:
- Home Master
- APEC Water Systems
- Express Water
- Global Water
- NU Aqua Systems
- Olympia Water Systems
How much wastewater am I happy with?
Some people simply aren’t comfortable with the idea of wasting water at a 4:1 ratio. If you’d rather a more efficient system, look for one with a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio. If you’re not happy with wasting water at all, reverse osmosis isn’t an option you’ll be able to consider at present.
Check out our reviews of the Best Reverse Osmosis Systems in 2021 – click here