Ok, I won’t keep you in suspense: Shower head filters are worth it, but with a couple of caveats.
The thing is, they do actually filter your water and they do it very cheaply. But, are they always worth it?
Well, sometimes you should absolutely be looking into a filtered shower head, such as if you live in a small house or apartment. Other times, it may not be the best option.
In this article, I will go over when you should use a shower filter and when you shouldn’t. And at the end I provide my recommendation for best shower filters.
Who Should Use a Shower Filter?
There are two big reasons to go with a filter for showers over other types.
These filtered shower heads are cheap. If you are looking for an economic way to purify your water for your shower then this is a good way to do that.
Some of these filters are quite complex and are very effective, yet they don’t cost nearly as much as other traditional filters.
Small House Or Apartment
You may actually want to have a whole house filter but are limited since you are renting an apartment. In this case, it simply isn’t an option.
If you have limited space to put a large filter under your sink or coming into your home, then having a filter at each point of use is your best bet.
What Does a Shower Head Filter Remove?
There are a lot of wild claims out there regarding what a filtered shower head can remove from your water.
In short, it depends on what kind of filter you are using as to what it will remove. The most common contaminants an ordinary shower head removes are as follows:
If you are looking to remove chlorine then there are a number of different ones that will get rid of it. And usually those ones will also remove sulfur odors and heavy metals.
You’ll notice that the list is missing a few things that many filter brands claim can be removed with their filters.
The problem with chloramine is that it takes a long time to filter through common media like charcoal, KDF and others to be removed. The only effective way to remove chloramine is with a reverse osmosis filter or a UV water purifier.
If this is your problem then you need to go to this article I wrote about how to remove chloramine since your shower filter is not going to cut it.
Arsenic and copper also need to use reverse osmosis filters or distillers to be removed so again a shower filter can not handle that.
What Does a Shower Filter Remove?
Let’s go through the things that these filters can remove one by one so you can see if it is worth it for you to have one.
If you have dry skin or hair from chlorine, then absolutely get a shower head filter. When your hair is listless and feels brittle no matter how much product you use then having a filter that quickly and effectively removes chlorine is your best bet.
Also, if you are sensitive to the fumes from chlorine that come when you take a hot shower then you’ll breathe easier with a filtered shower head.
An asthmatic can use one since they can remove up to 90% of the chlorine in your water.
Some people with wells can also benefit since it removes that sulfur smell that is so prevalent with well water.
This smell is natural as it comes from decaying organic matter in the rocks. Sulfur isn’t usually harmful to shower in, but it is definitely unpleasant.
Lead and heavy metals
Though bathing in water that tests high for lead and other heavy metals is generally safe, it is a good idea to remove them with a filter for your bath.
Studies show that it is ok to shower with these contaminants since your skin isn’t likely to absorb any, but it is dangerous to accidentally drink some. This all changes when you have an infant at home as they are far more susceptible to high levels of lead.
Take a look at this article I wrote about testing for lead in your water to see if you are in the danger zone with the amounts present.
In any case, if you do test for lead then a shower filter will help you out there.
Like lead, it is safe to shower in water that has high amounts of fluoride, but many people want to avoid having any in their water whether it is for drinking or for showering.
Even if you have a boil water order in your area, it is safe to shower with bacteria present in your water. Why would you want to, though?
You may not get sick but you will end up with other problems. If you already have a skin condition like eczema or folliculitis then you’re going to have trouble getting rid of it. In fact, you could even see some hair loss from a bacterial infection on your scalp.
If you are susceptible to skin infections then you should definitely be using a filter.
This is where there is a bit of a grey area. I’ll go into detail in the next section but if you have hard water then your shower filter is not the best solution.
Some scale like lime can be removed which does help, however.
Does a Shower Filter Soften Water?
Water softeners are not filters and filters are not water softeners.
That is the key thing to understand if you are trying to use your shower head filter for hard water.
Some filters will remove some of the lime scale that affects your water, but they don’t remove calcium and will not leave your water softer. Any claims that these shower filters can soften water are simply false.
If you have hard water, then you need a whole house water softener to solve the problem. Some people don’t like to use them though since many of them use salt. This salt can leave a film on your skin and hair.
There are saltless ones that you can see below from Amazon so if you need to soften your water then look at these. Your shower head filter will not soften your water if it is hard.
Do Vitamin C Filters work?
Many of the shower head filters that you see advertised use Vitamin C as a media to filter out some of the contaminants. And it does actually work.
Just not for everything.
In fact, the only thing it helps to purify is chlorine. Adding Vitamin C to chlorine totally neutralizes it. In fact, go to any beer brewing hobby store and you will see Vitamin C tablets that you add to tap water to get rid of the chlorine so you can actually brew beer. Remember that chlorine is present since it is so good at killing bacteria and yeast. The very thing that beer needs.
Water that is high in chlorine passing through a filter with Vitamin C will come out of your shower head with barely any left.
What doesn’t Vitamin C do?
It won’t add collagen to your hair and skin as some people claim but it does keep chlorine from drying out your skin and hair.
It also won’t stave off any colds or flu.
FAQ About Shower Filters
If your shower water is hard, has bacteria or sulfur or other contaminants then it may be contributing to your acne, or at least making it harder to get rid of. Having a shower head filter that removes those things can definitely improve your skin. Since unpurified water can clog your pores it makes it difficult to get rid of the sebum trapped there unless you use expensive skin care products.
If you are asking about male pattern baldness, then no, it won’t. If you do have scalp conditions that act up because of the chlorine or bacteria in your water then you may see your hair start to rebound by using a water filter shower head.
Most common shower head filters last between 6 months and 1 year. It all depends on how long you shower and how often. It is a good idea to swap your filter every 6 months to make sure it is still purifying your water.
Our Shower Head Filter Recommendations
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So, now that you have gotten this far, what do you think? Will you go buy one? Do you think a shower head filter is worth it?
I think they are a great way to make your shower healthier and more enjoyable as long as you aren’t looking for your filter to do the impossible.
Nick Lopresti is the founder of YourH2Home and a home improvement expert. He has years of experience writing about various home improvement topics, mostly as it pertains to water systems.