A lot of people take for granted that clean water will come out of the tap every time they turn on the faucet. But that security comes at a cost. Disinfectants, such as chlorine, in the municipal water supply make water safe to drink, but they can leave behind byproducts that you might not want to bathe in. Your water supply may also contain trace amounts of heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Well water isn’t exempt from health concerns, either. Run-off and contamination from agricultural areas are serious issues.
Most homes without a whole-house filter system could benefit from a shower filter, regardless of the source of your water. The best shower filters use multiple layers of various materials to sift harmful chemicals, heavy metals, and other byproducts out of the water you bathe in. As the water works its way through these layers, the filtering media captures unwanted substances. Only pure water makes it through to your hair, skin, and nails.
The best shower filters last through hundreds or well over a thousand showers. They should be durable, easy to handle, and use materials that can intercept any junk in the water supply. This guide will assist you in choosing the best filter to remove possible contaminants, so you can bathe easy (and bpreathe easy) in the shower.
- BEST OVERALL: ADOVEL High Output Shower Head and Hard Water Filter
- RUNNER-UP: AquaBliss Universal Multi Stage Filter Cartridge
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Geekpure 4 Stage Showerhead Shower Filter
- UPGRADE PICK: AquaHomeGroup Luxury Filtered Shower Head
- BEST FOR CHLORINE: PureAction Water Softener Shower Head
- BEST FOR FLUORIDE: CraterAquaSystems 15 Stages Shower Water Filter
- BEST FOR WELL WATER: AquaHomeGroup 15 Stage Shower Filter with Vitamin C
- BEST VITAMIN C FILTER: PureAction Vitamin C Filter Shower Head with Hose
The Advantages of Owning a Shower Filter
Disinfectants in our water supply kill microbes and bacteria that could make you sick, but those disinfectants come with some risks. They can interact with naturally occurring organic compounds found in water and create what’s called disinfection byproducts or DBPs.
There’s a limit to how much can be in the water supply—about 50 to 100 parts per million (ppm). Small quantities probably won’t hurt you, but large amounts pose real risks. That’s why some people just don’t want DBPs in their water at all.
Exposure to DBPs and other contaminants through your water is especially intense. They can get into your lungs and your skin. The steam that billows out of your shower is full of tiny particles. Since your lungs have such a large surface area, they can grab up these tiny particles from the air during and even after a shower. (In that respect, a shower filter can even improve the air quality in your home.) You also soak water up through the pores in your skin—your body’s largest organ. A shower exposes your skin to between 10 to 20 gallons of water, far more than you could possibly drink in a day.
Research published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggests that unfiltered bath water, especially hard water, may contribute to dry skin, hair loss, and nail problems. The best shower filter for your water supply can help.
- The best shower filters help remove remaining DBPs and other contaminants from your shower water.
- Filtered shower water may improve the health of your skin, hair, and nails.
- Shower filters can improve the air quality in your home.
Types of Shower Filters
Different filtering media may target different contaminants or offer other benefits. Some filters are more powerful than others, and certain models may be a better fit for your plumbing. Here’s a look at the different types of shower filters on the market.
Showerhead filters come with a built-in filtration system and are meant to replace your existing showerhead. They look like standard showerheads. You can also find handheld detachable models that contain filtration elements inside the handle. They’re a great option if you already use a detachable spray nozzle.
But these handheld devices typically don’t provide as much filtration as an inline filter. Though some do use multi-layer filtering media, which increases their capabilities. Aroma filters, also available for certain models, give the water a pleasant scent. This feature may be especially important to someone with hard water that has an eggy smell.
Inline Shower Filter
Inline shower filters are small barrels that attach directly to the pipe behind the showerhead. The filter screws onto the pipe, and the showerhead then screws onto the filter.
These types of shower filters use large, easy-to-replace filter cartridges that contain multiple layers (or stages) of filtration. Carbon, calcium sulfite, vitamin C, ceramic balls, and silver intercept bacteria, DBPs, and other unwanted substances.
Inline shower filters are easy to maintain. The body of the filter separates in halves to give you access to the filter cartridge. Cartridges last from 650 to 1,300 showers or more.
Inline Shower and Showerhead Filters
If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, you can double up on these options for even more filtration power.
Since these units use standard fittings, they will attach to each other. The water will pass through the inline filter first and remove most of the contaminants right away. Once the water makes its way to the showerhead, the built-in filter will remove any remaining pollutants.
You’ll still need to change the inline filter as recommended (after every 650 to 1,300 showers), but this modification should make the showerhead filter last longer.
Multi-level Carbon Filters
Multi-level carbon filters use several layers of carbon and other media to safely remove sediments and bacteria like chlorine, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), lead, and fluoride from the water.
Each layer targets a specific type of contaminant. Carbon, for example, removes chlorine, sediment particles, VOCs, and any foul taste or odor. A popular source for this carbon is granulated activated coconut charcoal.
Multi-level carbon filters are less expensive than other options. But, the hotter the water, the less effective charcoal filters are at removing chlorine.
Slightly more expensive than a charcoal filter, KDF (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion) filters are still an affordable option. KDF filters contain copper-zinc media. They remove metals, chlorine, and hydrogen sulfide from water through a chemical process called redox.
Unless you have a chemistry degree, the redox reaction is complicated. Essentially, the KDF media transfers electrons from harmful contaminants and changes their chemical composition altogether. (KDF Fluid Treatment, Inc., provides even more reading material on the matter.) Redox essentially renders contaminants harmless.
Some filters and showerheads offer a layer of KDF filtration inside multi-layer cartridges to provide extra protection against heavy metals.
Vitamin C Filters
Though there’s some debate about its efficacy, vitamin C may neutralize chlorine that’s added to the water supply. While dechlorinating the water, vitamin C pellets inside the handle or cartridge add the powdered nutrient to the water stream.
Some argue these filters are just a luxury trend that doesn’t affect chlorine levels at all. But vitamin C is known to build collagen, so it could make a difference in the health of your skin and hair.
And there’s nothing wrong with a little vitamin C coming out of your showerhead. So if you’d like an extra touch of the antioxidant, add a vitamin C filter after your inline filter or buy a cartridge with a vitamin C layer.
What to Consider When Buying a Shower Filter
Besides the range of filter types available, you’ll want to keep a few other considerations in mind when you choose the best shower filter for your home. Think about how long the filter lasts, what it can filter out, and what the appliance is made of.
Lifespan and Replacement Filters
Filters themselves aren’t terribly expensive unless you have to replace them often. Consider a filter that uses long-lasting, affordable cartridges that are easy to find. You can use the manufacturer’s replacement filters or universal ones. Shop around and you’ll find filters that last for more than 1,300 showers.
When it comes to detachable showerheads that have media and aroma filters in the handle, be sure to find one that’s easy to maintain. You’re likely to replace the filters on these more often, so you want it to be a simple process. Some of these devices have pellets in the handle. You won’t find universal replacements for those, but you will find universal aroma filters.
Water Purification Abilities
Most filtration systems claim to be 99.9 percent effective, so don’t settle for less. But, manufacturers are pretty shy about what their filters can do specifically. They don’t want to over-promise. Still, you should know what contaminants these appliances target.
The best shower filters should aim to reduce or eliminate:
- Heavy metals, such as iron, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, nickel, chromium, cobalt, zinc, and selenium
- Bacteria and parasites, such as giardia and cryptosporidium
- Chlorine, chloramine, and DBPs
Most shower filters are plastic. It lasts a long time and won’t corrode. You can even find plastic with finishes to match the other fixtures in your bathroom. Chrome options are plentiful. Choices in bronze might be a little more limited.
If you prefer to limit the use of BPA (bisphenol-A) plastics in your home, there are some models that will fit that need. BPA imitates estrogen hormones which can accumulate at unsafe levels in your body. This can cause several health issues, especially for infants.
Weight has a lot more to do with maintenance than actual filtration. Water filters are generally light out of the box. However, when you install the filter and add water, you’ve added weight. Add contaminants to that, and they get even heavier. In an inline filter, all this can put extra stress on the water pipe. The weight can bend or even break your pipe—or cause it to separate from the fitting.
Adjustable water filters may allow you to choose the rate at which the water flows and control how much water you use. Some showerheads will adjust for increased jets, pulsing massage settings, and even a rainfall setting.
Our Top Picks
Now you’re ready to pick the best shower filter to remove bacteria, compounds, and heavy metals from your water supply. These easy-to-service models all excel at the job.
The ADOVEL High Output Shower Head and Hard Water Filter is a great choice for homeowners and renters looking for a quick boost in their overall shower health. This rainfall showerhead provides 15 stages of filtration, including KDF, carbon, vitamin C, and ultra-fine stainless-steel mesh. The filter targets chlorine, fluoride, heavy metals, odors, and other deposits.
The showerhead swivels 360 degrees and angles to provide exactly the spray you need. Both the showerhead and the filter use standard fittings for easy attachment. ADOVEL recommends replacing these filters every three to six months (replacement filters sold separately).
The AquaBliss High Output Revitalizing Shower Filter is for people who want to add filtration but keep their current showerhead. The inline filter fits behind your existing showerhead. So, it’s hardly noticeable.
According to the manufacturer, 75 percent of the filtering media in this device clears contaminants and the rest adds vitamins and minerals to the water. They say only 20 to 30 percent of the media in other filters clear contaminants. The filter targets chlorine, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dirt, and odors and claims to help improve hair, skin, and nails.
The filter cartridges should last up to six months (replacements sold separately)—less in hard water.
If you want to cut out contaminants without blowing your budget, the Geekpure 4 Stage Universal Handheld Showerhead Shower Filter is worth a look. It features in-handle filtration to remove chlorine, hard water, and odors, with added vitamin c for your skin.
This handheld device doesn’t reduce water pressure, so you’ll enjoy the same spray as always, only cleaner. Available in blue, orange, or pink, they make a fun addition to children’s bathrooms. Note that this unit does not come with a hose, but it will connect to an existing shower hose.
For those who look to their shower for a spa-like experience, AquaHomeGroup’s 15-stage shower filter and showerhead delivers results. A rare find, this kit features a metal showerhead with rain-style spray.
The filter includes layers of KDF, alkaline ceramic balls, activated carbon, and calcium sulfite to provide high-quality water with fewer contaminants. It targets chlorine, heavy metals, rust, sand, and other sediments. Added vitamin E promotes healthy skin and hair.
This showerhead might be the best choice for homeowners or renters who worry that an inline filter could damage older pipes. Those with older plumbing might want to lightly grip the water pipes with a pair of pliers while installing the filter to ensure the pipes don’t get twisted and damaged.
The built-in filtration system targets chlorine, fluoride, and chloramine. It also softens well water as it removes rust, metals, and other sediments.
The three settings (rain, power rain, and massage) reduce water consumption, so you may save on your water bill. But, you might have to replace the smaller cartridges more often than others, which will cost a little more (replacement filters sold separately).
CraterAquaSystem’s filter features 15 stages of water filtration, including a silver layer to remove bacteria. The filter also includes KDF, calcium sulfite, and activated coconut carbon, which target fluoride, chlorine, heavy metals, impurities, and other sediments.
The package includes two filters that each last up to six months, 325 baths, or 650 showers. After that, you can purchase manufacturer replacements (sold separately) or use standard universal shower cartridge filters.
You can attach any showerhead to this device, including handheld and rain-style models.
This inline water filter from AquaHomeGroup aims to improve the quality of skin and hair and remove chlorine, bacteria, and other contaminants from your well water. The 15 stages include coconut activated charcoal, KDF, calcium sulfite, and vitamin C to provide clean bathing water that won’t damage skin, hair, and nails.
It comes with two filters, which AquaHomeGroup suggests changing every six to eight months. That makes them one of the longer-lasting cartridges on the list. When it does come time to replace them, you can purchase universal cartridges (sold separately).
The PureAction Vitamin C Filter Shower Head adds naturopathic remedies to its filtering media. Tourmaline may improve mood and metabolism. Negative ion balls could give your skin a boost. The vitamin C-infused lemon filter, the manufacturer says, can improve concentration and detox the skin. Zeolite balls remove heavy metals, chlorine, and fluoride.
This handheld unit comes with a hose to attach to your water pipe easily without tools. The clear plastic construction creates an interesting and fun design.
You’ll need to replace the vitamin C filter monthly and the filtration balls every three to four months (both sold separately).
FAQs About Your New Shower Filter
Want to know more? Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions about shower filters.
Q. Are there toxic metals in household water?
There are heavy metals found in household water. They include lead, iron, mercury, arsenic, and nickel. Your new filter will remove them from the water.
Q. How do you install a shower filter?
Installation is tool-free. You twist the old shower head off at the pipe fitting, wrap the pipe threads with Teflon tape, and screw the new filter on in its place. You can repeat the process for screwing the showerhead onto the filter. Remember to tighten no more than hand-tight.
Q. How long does a shower filter last?
It depends on how many people live in the household. Generally speaking, three to six months is the lifespan of a family shower filter.