How to Remove Heavy Metals from Water at Home (7 Methods)

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Heavy metal pollution is a huge problem, and the majority of homeowners drink heavy metals in their water every single day.

In this guide, we’ve shared the 7 best methods to remove heavy metals from your drinking water supply.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • You can remove heavy metals from your water with a KDF filter, activated ceramic filter, RO system, UF system, distiller, ion exchange filter, or AIO system.
  • Traces of heavy metals are found in most public drinking water supplies, and some heavy metals are toxic.
  • To choose a suitable water filter for heavy metals, consider your budget and water quality, and the filter’s size, flow rate, and testing or certifications.

🚰 7 Methods To Remove Heavy Metals From Drinking Water

We’ve shared the 7 most common methods of removing heavy metals from drinking water below.

KDF Filters

Certain KDF filters, such as KDF-85, can filter heavy metals in tap water.

KDF filters use an oxidation/reduction reaction to remove water-soluble metals like copper, lead, nickel, mercury, and chromium.

You might find a KDF filter as a standalone filter stage in an under-sink or whole house water filter system. Some KDF filters are combined with other filter media, like activated carbon filters, to remove heavy metals alongside other harmful contaminants.

Springwell cf whole house water filter catalytic carbon and kdf media

Activated Ceramic Filters

Ceramic filters combined with activated carbon media are another popular option to effectively remove heavy metals present in tap water.

Filters containing activated ceramics are capable of reducing or removing arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, iron, lead, mercury, and selenium from water.

Activated ceramic filters are often found in portable emergency filters and countertop gravity filters.

Reverse Osmosis Water Filters

Reverse osmosis systems combine multiple filtration processes, including activated carbon and sediment filters, and a reverse osmosis membrane.

📌 These systems remove the majority of dissolved metals from water, including up to 98% chromium, 96% arsenic, 98% cadmium, 99% copper, 98% lead, 98% manganese, and 99% iron.

Reverse osmosis water filters are usually installed as under-sink or countertop units. Some whole house RO systems are also available.

Learn which RO systems provide the best protection in 2024 👈

Usws defender whole house ro system after installation


Ultrafiltration is similar to reverse osmosis, but with slightly larger membrane pores. Ultrafiltration systems can remove up to 90% of lead, copper, and other dissolved metals in water supplies with a pH of 5 to 9.5.

Most ultrafiltration systems are designed for under-sink installation.

Water Distillers

Water distillation involves separating contaminants from water particles through the process of evaporation and condensation. Up to 99.9% of metals are removed by a water distiller.

Heavy metals are unable to vaporize at water’s boiling point, which means they’re left behind when the water evaporates. These metals can then be removed when the boiling chamber is cleaned.

Water distillers for home use are small countertop units.

Check out the top distillers based on performance, speed, and affordability 👈

Filling a countertop water distiller

Ion Exchange Filters

Ion exchange is a popular method of removing heavy metals in wastewater. In the ion exchange process, heavy metal ions are exchanged with harmless ions on a charged resin, removing them from water.

In an at-home filter, ion exchange media is often combined with activated carbon media to enhance the filter’s metal removal abilities.

Ion exchange filters are popular in water pitchers and under-sink systems.

Air Injection Filters

Air injection filters are designed to remove specific heavy metals from water: iron and manganese.

These whole house filter systems usually remove up to 12 PPM of iron and 10 PPM of manganese.

Air injection systems use a pre-loaded media, which is regularly flushed with backwashing, minimizing maintenance requirements.

Installing the springwell WS1 whole house well water iron filtration system

4 Specific Heavy Metal Removal System Guides:

  • Best Water Filters for Arsenic Removal
  • Best Water Filters for Chromium 6 Removal
  • Best Water Filters for Iron Removal
  • Best Water Filters for Lead Removal
  • Best Whole House Water Filters for Removing Lead

🔎 What Are Heavy Metals?

If you’ve searched for ways to remove heavy metals from your drinking water, you probably already know what they are.

But we’ve shared a quick refresher below, just in case you want it.

Heavy metals are traces of metals, many of which are toxic, that are dissolved in most public drinking water supplies.

The majority of heavy metals are tasteless and odorless, which means you don’t know when your water is contaminated with them.

Some common heavy metals are:

  • Arsenic
  • Aluminum
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Iron

📌 Not all heavy metals are dangerous. Iron and zinc, for instance, aren’t usually harmful to health in trace amounts. However, some heavy metals, like iron and manganese, are aesthetically damaging when they get into your home’s pipes and appliances.

Lead heavy metal ore

How Do Heavy Metals Get Into Water?

Heavy metals get into water in a number of ways:

  • Natural deposits from rocks and soils
  • Industrial pollution
  • Consumer waste
  • Through mining sources

Heavy metals in the atmosphere may enter water sources through rainfall. Metals naturally present in rocks and soils may leach into water that seeps through the earth into underground waterways and aquifers.

📖 How to Choose a Water Filter For Heavy Metals Removal: What To Consider

Wondering how to decide on a suitable water filter to remove heavy metals at home? Consider these things:

Your Budget

First, make a note of your upfront and long-term budgets for buying and owning a heavy metals water filter.

Filters cost as little as $50 and as much as $3,000, and your budget determines the size and complexity of the system you buy.

You can buy a water pitcher filter that’s capable of removing heavy metals for around $50-$100. This type of filter is the cheapest option for small budgets.

Many countertop filters containing ceramic filters are also affordable options for removing heavy metals, costing $100-$350 on average.

Complex or large systems are more expensive.

If your budget is flexible and you want the very best, most thorough method of removing heavy metal contaminants, consider an under-sink reverse osmosis filtration system, costing around $300-$750.

Also consider whole home heavy metals filters, which cost $800-$2,500, depending on the system type and the filter stages involved.

As for maintenance, expect to pay anything from $25 to $150 per year for filter changes.

Faucet water flowing

Your Water Quality

The quality of your water will also determine the most suitable heavy metal water filter for you.

Buy a laboratory water test to find out exactly what your water contains. Once you know which heavy metals are present, and which you’re most keen to remove, you can find a water filter that’s capable of removing these contaminants.

Your tap water might also contain other contaminants that you want to remove alongside heavy metals, such as volatile organic compounds and chemical contaminants.

Not all filters can produce completely pure filtered water, so it’s good to make a list of contaminants in order of priority.

Water testing with tap score

Filter Certifications/ Testing

The most reassuring sign of a filter’s performance is NSF certifications. If a filter is certified to NSF Standards, it means that it has been officially tested and deemed capable of its contaminant removal claims by the National Sanitation Foundation.

There are a few NSF certifications to look for in a heavy metal water filter:

  • NSF 53, for water filters that remove contaminants with health effects (such as copper and lead)
  • NSF 58, for reverse osmosis systems (filters can be certified to Standard 58 for the removal of all contaminants including heavy metals, as long as the RO filtration process is used)

Not all water filter manufacturers choose to get their products certified by the NSF. Another promising sign is if the manufacturer shares third-party testing that determines exactly which contaminants a filter can remove, and to what percentages.

Decide on whether testing and certifications are important to you when choosing a suitable water filter for heavy metals removal.

Flow Rate & Size

Water filters vary in size and flow rate depending on where they’re installed and how they’re designed.

Flow rate is most important in a whole house filter system, which intercepts your main water line as it enters your home. If the flow rate is too slow, your appliances may become less efficient, and you may notice reduced water flow from your showers and faucets.

If a heavy metals system comes in multiple sizes and flow rates, make sure to choose the correct option for your household size and daily water usage.

Your Installation & Maintenance Preferences

Finally, consider your personal installation and maintenance preferences when deciding which heavy metal water filter is best for you.

If you don’t want the hassle of a lengthy installation or you’re not the DIY sort, choose a filter that’s easy to install, like a countertop filter or an under-sink system. Whole house filters and reverse osmosis systems are more challenging to install, and you may need to hire a plumber to do the job for you.

Maintenance is pretty easy regardless of the filter type you choose. Most heavy metals filters have separate filter cartridges that need to be replaced every 2-12 months, depending on the filter size.

Some systems (like air injection systems) are tank-based and have a longer media lifespan, so your only maintenance task is replacing the sediment pre-filter.

Taking measurements for a whole house water filter for heavy metals removal

📝 How Else To Reduce Heavy Metals Exposure

Aside from installing a heavy metals water filter, how else can you reduce your exposure to heavy metal pollution in your day-to-day life?

  • Avoid cosmetics (such as deodorants and nail polish) that contain aluminum, chromium, or zinc. Check the label before you buy.
  • Don’t buy beverages in aluminum cans.
  • Avoid seafood, which often contains trace levels of mercury.
  • Shop organic when you can.
  • Buy an air purifier for your home to avoid breathing in toxic heavy metals from nearby industrial activity.
  • Be wary of herbal medicines. Many medicinal plants contain trace amounts of heavy metals.

❔ How to Remove Heavy Metals From Water At Home: FAQ

What removes heavy metals from water?

A water filter is the best way to remove heavy metals from water. Some of the best water filters for removing heavy metals are KDF filters, reverse osmosis systems, water distillers, ion exchange filters, and ceramic filters.

Which water filter is best for heavy metals?

The best overall water filter for removing heavy metals is a reverse osmosis system. This multi-stage filtration system up to 98-99% of all heavy metals including lead, copper, mercury, arsenic, manganese, zinc, and iron.

Do Brita water filters remove heavy metals?

Brita Standard filters remove mercury, copper, zinc, and cadmium, and the Brita Elite (formerly LongLast) filter removes lead, mercury, and cadmium from water. You’re not completely protected against heavy metals in your water when you use a Brita filter.

How do you remove Pb from water?

There are numerous ways to remove pb (lead) from water, including with a KDF filter, a reverse osmosis system, or a ceramic countertop water filter. For extra reassurance, look for a water filter that has an NSF 53 certification for lead removal.

  • Jennifer Byrd
    Water Treatment Specialist

    For 20+ years, Jennifer has championed clean water. From navigating operations to leading sales, she's tackled diverse industry challenges. Now, at Redbird Water, she crafts personalized solutions for homes, businesses, and factories. A past Chamber President and industry advocate, Jennifer leverages her expertise in cutting-edge filtration and custom design to transform water concerns into crystal-clear solutions.

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