Having so many options available to remove contaminants from our drinking water is certainly a positive thing.
The at-home water treatment industry is booming, with the emergence of bigger and better solutions as more of us become aware of exactly what we’re drinking from our faucets.
But being offered so many choices can also be a little overwhelming.
With some systems advertised as “filtration” devices, and others being dubbed “purification” solutions, how are you supposed to know which is best for you – or even what the difference is between the two?
“Filtration” and “purification” are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually very different processes.
In this filtered water vs purified water guide, I’ll be highlighting the differences between the two and helping you to make a decision between purified and filtered water for your family.
Table of Contents
What is Purified Water?
Purified water is as it sounds: water that’s purified – or about as purified as it gets.
While filtered water may still contain traces of certain contaminants, purified water should contain essentially nothing more than H2O.
How Drinking Water is Purified
Purified water is usually produced by an in-depth purification process.
Purification systems typically include some of the more advanced water treatment options available. Each stage of the purification process is designed to target a specific range of harmful contaminants, making water 100% clean and safe to drink.
Cleanest, purest water available
If you’re concerned about drinking water contaminants, you’ll like the fact that purification systems do such a thorough job of treating water. With a properly applied and maintained system, you can all but guarantee that water purification will provide you with some of the highest quality pure water.
Eliminates contaminants of all sizes
Water filtration systems often struggle to filter contaminants below a certain size.
A purification system, on the other hand, can usually target even the smallest impurities, like bacteria and viruses, as part of the purification process. If you’re looking for a system that can remove pathogens, water purification is a sound option.
When comparing filtered vs purified, water from a purification system is generally the more expensive alternative.
You’ll usually pay more upfront for a system that can do the most – but this doesn’t necessarily mean your ongoing maintenance costs will be higher.
Distilled water, for instance, is relatively cheap to make in the long run – you’ll only need to pay a little extra on your monthly electricity bill.
In some ways, a water purification unit is almost too effective.
Not only does water purification remove the dangerous or unhealthy impurities; it also removes the impurities that are safe to drink and actually important for our health, like calcium and magnesium.
While we should be getting plenty of these minerals from our diets, it’s still reassuring to know you’re getting a little extra in your water. Remineralization is an option for very low TDS, highly purified water. Reintroducing minerals such as calcium and magnesium may provide a taste improvement to some, as well as potential health benefits.
What is Filtered Water?
Filtered water is tap water that has passed through one or several filtration stages.
Water filtration removes select contaminants of specific sizes, depending on the micron size of the filter’s pores.
While filtered water may be free from a selection of the more common contaminants, it’ll still contain traces of healthy minerals – as well as less healthy impurities that have slipped through the cracks.
Ways to Filter Tap Water
In general, the filtration process works the same: when water passes through a cartridge or element, the filtration media collects certain impurities. The media then retains these contaminants, preventing them from passing through with the water .
Some of the different ways to filter tap water include the following:
Countertop/ pitcher filtration
Countertop and pitcher filter units provide gravity filtration. Tap water is poured into a container and slowly passes through a filter, where its contaminants are removed, leaving only filtered water in the bottom container. Sediment/carbon filter cartridges are usually used in these drinking water systems.
Whole-home water filtration
Whole-home water filtration systems are installed at a property’s point of entry, before the water heater. They direct water through one or more filtration stages, with the result being that only clean, high-quality, filtered water is supplied throughout your entire home.
Shower water filters
Showerhead filtration systems attach to a shower arm, and may come with their own dedicated showerhead. These systems remove chlorine and other synthetic chemicals that can affect our skin and hair health.
Another point-of-use filtration system is the under-sink system. This type of water filtration may consist of single or multiple filtration stages, and removes contaminants from tap water before it comes out of your kitchen faucet.
Generally less expensive
There are so many water filtration systems available today that to say they’re all affordable would be misleading. But there are plenty of water filtration options for smaller budgets, such as pitchers and some countertop filters.
If you’re on the fence about installing a filtration system, starting cheaper might be the best option for you.
Doesn’t remove beneficial minerals
The majority of water filters aren’t capable of removing minerals, which is a benefit if you’d prefer to drink water with a lower contaminant content while retaining its mineral content.
Can’t remove everything
Water filtration is really good at targeting specific impurities, but not so good at removing others.
While heavy metals, chlorine, chloramines, and pharmaceuticals can typically be removed from drinking water, filtration systems can’t typically eliminate certain pathogens that are unsafe for human consumption, like bacteria.
Require regular maintenance
While you can spend less on a water filtration system than you can on, say, bottled water, maintenance can still be costly.
Depending on the drinking water filtration unit you opt for, you might have to replace your cartridges as often as every 6 weeks. This is maintenance you can’t avoid either, as your cartridges will eventually become too clogged to work properly.
Purified Water vs Filtered Water: Which is Better?
Comparing filtered water vs purified water on the whole, systems that produce these types of water each have their benefits.
For instance, if you currently drink bottled water because you don’t enjoy the taste of your tap water, either one of these solutions will suit you well.
Whether you’re opting for distilled water, reverse osmosis water, or filtered water, you’ll be able to stop drinking bottled water entirely.
Not only are single-use plastic bottles bad for the environment, but bottled water costs a lot of money in the long run.
It’s worth adding up what you spend on bottled water based on how many plastic bottles you go through on a weekly basis. Both filtered and purified water solutions will be cheaper over the long term than drinking bottled water.
Bottled water aside, there are certain aspects of drinking water that has been filtered or purified that you might prefer.
Perhaps reverse osmosis or distillation is the best solution for you because you’re looking to remove the broadest spectrum of impurities in one go, but water filtration might be the wiser choice if you still want to enjoy beneficial minerals in your drinking water.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is bottled spring water filtered or purified?
Spring water is filtered to meet EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) standards. It’s generally not classed as purified water.
Do I have to purify my drinking water?
No. It’s easy to get swept up in the marketing efforts of reverse osmosis and distillation manufacturers, which will leave you believing that the more contaminants that can be removed, the better. But you might only want to get rid of the chlorine taste in your drinking water, or you may only need to remove lead, in which case, a water filtration unit is all you need for great-tasting, high-quality or safe drinking water.