Carbon Water Filter vs. Reverse Osmosis

Clean glass of water from carbon water filtration system

You know you want safe, clean, good tasting water for your family, but which water filter is best? Two of the most popular types of water treatment systems include carbon water filters and reverse osmosis filters. Deciding between the two starts with knowing how each filter works, what exactly gets filtered through them, and the different benefits and drawbacks each one has.

Here is a simple guide to help you figure out what water filter is best for you and your home.


How it Works

Carbon filters have been around since the ancient Egyptians, who discovered that their drinking water tasted better when they stored it with charcoal. To this day, carbon filters are used to filter out the chlorine, bad taste and odor, and organic chemicals in drinking water.

Carbon filters typically fit under the sink, and contain either granular activated carbon (GAC) or powdered block carbon. The positively charged ions in carbon attract the negatively charged ions in harmful chemicals as you drinking water passes through the filter. This process removes organic compounds and chlorine, while leaving the natural vitamins and minerals found in water.

Benefits and Drawbacks

The obvious benefit of a carbon filter is the size. Compared to RO filters which normally have three compartments, carbons filters are usually a single unit. This option for water filtration also tends to need little maintenance, and with little maintenance comes little cost.

Along with being more cost and space efficient, carbon filters remove organic compounds including pesticides, herbicides, chlorine, and solvents to name a few. That being said, activated carbon cannot remove bacteria, viruses or dissolved solids that are found in tap water. Having to keep up with filter changes can be another disadvantage of carbon filters.

Putting off a filter change in your carbon filter can lead to “channeling,” which reduces the reactions between the chemicals and carbon. Old filters can lead to less efficiency and bad taste and odor in your water.

Download Ultimate Buyer Guide to Home Water Filters


How it Works

Reverse osmosis filters, otherwise known as RO filters, are usually made up of a three step filter that utilizes a semi-permeable membrane to allow the passage of water molecules, but filters out about  99% of harmful chemicals, dissolved salts, viruses and bacteria that lurk in tap water.

RO filters use high water pressure to force water through the semipermeable membrane, simply allowing clean, tasteful water to pass through while leaving behind the harmful chemicals and particles.

Benefits and Drawbacks

RO filters’ ability to take out harmful contaminanets such as lead and sodium makes the filtered water safe to drink for anyone, including people with health conditions. The semi-permeable membrane also removes bacteria and some viruses. So if you’re wanting a water filter that can better your health, RO filters are an excellent option.

Although RO filters do a good job when it comes to removing harmful chemicals, some will argue that the process of reverse osmosis removes too much from water. Along with removing harmful bacteria, it removes the natural vitamins and minerals in water that can benefit your health.

Both carbon filters and reverse osmosis filters can produce clean, tasteful water that will be safe for you and your family to drink. The main factor that sets them apart is the size component of each. The carbon filter takes up less space, while an RO filter has more components, making it a bit more bulky. If you can’t decide between having completely filtered water at a higher cost, or a more simple filter that requires less maintenance, there are water filters that combine carbon and reverse osmosis to give you the benefits of both systems.

With Guardian Water Services, we offer an all-in-one complete home water refiner system that uses our four step water filtration system so you don’t get stuck between choosing which benefits you will lose and gain with point-of-use filters. You will enjoy the benefits of cleaner, more tasteful water while remaining cost efficient. Schedule a free, in-home water quality test and receive a complimentary $50 retail store gift card!


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