What Does Carbon Filtration Remove From Waters?

Activated carbon filters are one of the most effective ways to remove harmful chemicals and other contaminants from your drinking water. They are able to reduce or remove a wide variety of organics and inorganic compounds from water, including chloramines, pesticides, VOCs, radon gases, and heavy metals like mercury, lead, and cadmium.

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How Activated Carbon Works?

Unlike other types of filters, activated carbon does not filter water through physical separation. Instead, it adsorbs or attracts the impurities to its surface, much the way a magnet holds and traps iron filings. 

The adsorption process happens because dissolved contaminants are attracted to areas on the carbon’s surface with higher adsorption capabilities, such as pores or cracks, than the attractive forces that keep them dissolved in the water. This results in more effective filtration by creating an environment where the contaminant can be removed without being reintroduced into the liquid. 

Pore Size Distribution and Adsorption

Carbon has millions of small pores that are sized to adsorb different types of chemicals and other contaminants. This pore size distribution makes it possible for it to selectively remove a wide range of contaminants, from toxic chemicals and pharmaceuticals to organics that cause bad tastes or odors. 

For example, a carbon that has an iodine number of 20 will adsorb low-molecular weight organics, while a filter with a pore size of one micron can selectively absorb cysts and coliform bacteria. A pore size smaller than one micron can also reduce iron and other hard minerals, but it is more effective at removing these contaminants through mechanical filtration. 

When choosing an activated carbon filter, check its adsorption capacity to make sure it is capable of removing all the contaminants you want it to remove. Many activated carbon filters will be NSF-certified, which means they have been tested and certified to remove specific contaminants. 

Often, carbon can be blended to improve its reduction capabilities, for example adding silver to activated carbon that is used to eliminate bacteria from the water. Adding an oxidizer can also help increase the effectiveness of carbon. 

How to Choose an Activated Carbon Filter?

There are many types of water filters available, and the type you choose depends on your needs. But many people find that activated carbon filtration systems are the most versatile and effective. They remove a huge number of contaminants from your drinking water, making them the most popular option in the country for both residential and commercial use. 

A few types of activated carbon include coconut shell carbon, wood-based carbon, and bituminous coal. Coconut shell carbon is a renewable and safe source of carbon, while wood-based carbon and bituminous carbon are made from waste products. 

Some carbon filters may be designed for specific special purposes, such as a fluoride filter, which uses specially treated bone char to remove the fluoride from your water. Other filters, such as catalytic carbon, can be a powerful adsorbent for a wide variety of chemicals and inorganics.