How to Remove Chlorine from Drinking Water

Throughout history, the primary concern with drinking water was the presence of waterborne pathogens. To solve this issue, public water systems started using chlorine in the 1900’s as a disinfectant to treat these pathogens. Chlorine revolutionized water purification, reduced the incidence of waterborne diseases across the Western world, and has been hailed as the major public health achievement of the 20th century. 

Prior to widespread chlorination, tens of thousands of people died from waterborne disease every year. It is estimated that the discovery of chlorination is a major contributor to the 50% increase in life expectancy for American’s over the last century.

While chlorine is effective at removing biological pathogens, it can also negatively affect the taste, smell, and overall quality of the water. New concerns have recently arisen about the health effects of disinfection by-products. 

Disinfection By-Products (DBPs) are a group of EPA-regulated contaminants that form when a disinfectant, such as chlorine, reacts with natural organic substances in the water. Studies to date have shown that these by-products are carcinogenic over long-term exposure. Because of the bad taste/smell and the negative effects of disinfection by-products, many people choose to remove chlorine from their drinking water.

From boiling your water to point-of-use filtration systems, there are many effective methods for removing chlorine from your water at home. In this article, we will discuss these methods

Picture of a chlorination plant


Chlorine in Drinking Water

Water treatment facilities regulate chlorine levels to ensure that they are achieving adequate disinfection to prevent biological growth. While chlorinated water is generally safe to drink, high chlorine content can lead to an unpleasant taste and odor in the water. In addition, some people may experience adverse effects of chlorination, such as skin irritation, respiratory problems, and digestive issues.

To ensure the best water quality, it is important to understand the amount of chlorine in your drinking water. Municipal water suppliers must test the water regularly and report the results to the public. Consumers can also purchase home water testing kits to monitor the chlorine levels in their tap water. According to the EPA, chlorine levels up to 4 ppm are considered safe in drinking water. 

A cheap and reliable chlorine test can be used to detect low-range chlorine. The test results for your disinfectant should show levels within the range of 0.4 – 4.0 ppm of total chlorine. If you have 0.1-0.3 ppm of free chlorine in addition, your water is adequately chlorinated and the chances for biological contamination are low

Chloramine in Drinking Water

Chloramine is another widely used disinfectant that is used in drinking water. Chloramines are a group of chemical compounds that are formed when ammonia is added to chlorine to treat drinking water. According to the EPA, chloramines provide longer-lasting disinfection as the water moves through pipes to consumers. Chloramines are also more stable and produce less disinfection by-products. Recently, the use of chloramines in drinking water has been a topic of debate due to their potential health risks, such as respiratory issues.

Chloramines are composed of nitrogen, hydrogen, and chlorine atoms. The chlorine atom in chloramine is tightly bound, making it more difficult to remove by traditional filtration methods.

One effective way to remove chloramines from drinking water is through catalytic carbon filtration. This type of filtration reduces chloramines by up to 99%. Reverse osmosis filtration is another option to reduce chloramines by over 90%.

The best way to determine the chloramine level in your drinking water is to contact your local water utility or have your water tested by a certified laboratory.

How to Test for Chlorine in Water At Home

Unlike many other contaminants found in drinking water, the best way to test for chlorine is to do it at home. This is because chlorine values can rapidly degrade, and sending samples off to a certified lab will cause lower readings than actual in most circumstances.

Lamotte makes total and free chlorine test strips that are detectable at much lower ranges than other test strip products. These strips can effectively determine if you have adequate disinfectant levels to prevent bacteria growth. Chlorine testing should be done before any household filtration to determine levels accurately. 

For an approximate chloramine level, you can subtract your free chlorine value from the total chlorine value. Since chloramine is more stable, levels can be determined more accurately by sending samples off to a certified lab. 

Keep in mind, even if the chlorine levels are lower than the ideal ranges, this does not necessarily mean you have biological contamination but a higher potential for biological contamination to occur.

Health Effects of Chlorine

Outside of the aesthetic concerns such as bad taste and smell, chlorine can also have some negative health effects that people should be aware of. Ingesting or drinking water with high chlorine levels can also cause gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Chlorine can also react with organic matter in water to form disinfection byproducts (DBPs) such as trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs).

These DBPs have been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer, rectal cancer, and other health effects. Pregnant women may be particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of chlorine and DBPs in drinking water. Exposure to high levels of DBPs during pregnancy has been associated with an increased risk of low birth weight, preterm delivery, and birth defects. DBP’s are volatile organic compounds that readily want to vaporize in the air; because of this, hot, steamy showers are the greatest risk of exposure for DBP’s as they are easily inhaled from the shower steam.

In addition, people with food allergies, dry skin, or dry hair may experience increased symptoms when exposed to chlorine and DBPs in drinking water.

Check out our Taptool application to see what the DBP levels are in your public water system. Your Taptool water quality report will show the average results for the two main types of disinfection byproducts in your public water distribution system. Below is an example water quality report showing total trihalomethanes and total haloacetic acids. Compare your local water quality results with your public water systems consumer confidence report and conduct additional testing as needed to verify the levels. This will help you make an informed decision if additional filtration is necessary.

How to Remove Chlorine from Drinking Water

There are several methods to remove chlorine from drinking water, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the most effective methods:

Activated Carbon Filters

Activated carbon filters are the best choice for removing chlorine and disinfection by-products from drinking water. The activated carbon works by adsorbing impurities, including chlorine, from the water. Carbon filters are the most versatile of any home filtration setup and can be purchased as a pitcher, faucet attachment, under-the-sink, countertop unit, refrigerator filter, shower head, or installed as part of a whole-house filtration system.

For chloramine and disinfection by-product removal, catalytic carbon filters provide a much higher capacity for removal. It’s not always obvious what the manufacturer is using. The best way to determine if a filter is effective at removing DBP’s and chloramine is to look to see if the product is certified against NSF standard 42. Look for filters that specify a 95-99% reduction of chlorine, chloramine, and DBP’s on the performance data sheet. The best filters will have certifications directly from NSFWQA or IAPMO against NSF standards.

Reverse Osmosis System

Reverse osmosis (RO) systems are another effective method for removing chlorine from drinking water. However, chlorine is very bad for RO membranes, greatly reducing the service life of when exposed to chlorine. Most reverse osmosis setups come equipped with a pre-carbon filter that removes the chlorine before the RO membrane to increase the life of the RO membranes. So, while an RO can be used for chlorine removal, it is best to use a set-up that uses a carbon filter to remove the chlorine before it hits the RO membranes.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C can be used to neutralize chlorine in drinking water. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate) can be added to the water in the form of a tablet or powder. The vitamin C reacts with the chlorine to form a non-toxic compound. While this method is effective at removing chlorine, it may not be practical for large volumes of water. This is most often used in shower head filters.

Water Distiller

Water distillers can be used to remove chlorine from drinking water. These systems use heat to boil the water and separate the impurities, including chlorine, from the water.

Chemical Neutralization

Chemical neutralization can be used to remove chlorine from drinking water. This method involves adding a chemical, such as potassium metabisulfite or sodium thiosulfate, to the water to neutralize the chlorine. This is generally used in industrial water treatment applications and fish tanks.

UV Light

UV light can be used to disinfect water and remove chlorine. UV light systems use ultraviolet radiation to kill bacteria and viruses in the water, as well as to break down chlorine and other impurities. UV light is typically used on private well systems for bacteria control in place of applying a disinfectant like chlorine. These units are typically placed at the point of entry and used to treat the whole house. For home filtration set-ups focused on just removing chlorine, activated carbon is the best option.

Preventing Chlorine Damage

Chlorine is a powerful oxidant that often reacts with everything including humans! Exposure to chlorine is widely known to cause damage to the skin and hair. Here are some tips to prevent chlorine damage to skin and hair:

Rinse with room temperature water: Hot water opens up the pores on the skin and allows chlorine to penetrate deeper. Rinsing with room temperature water can help reduce exposure to chlorine.

Apply aloe vera or vitamin E: Aloe vera and vitamin E are natural moisturizers that can help soothe and protect the skin from chlorine damage.

Protect hair from pool water: Chlorine in pool water can cause damage to hair by breaking down the protein structure. Applying shea butter or coconut oil to the hair before swimming can help protect it from chlorine damage.

Use sulfate-free shampoo: Sulfates in shampoo can strip the natural oils from the hair and scalp, making it more susceptible to chlorine damage. Using a sulfate-free shampoo can help maintain the natural oils and protect the hair from chlorine damage.

Chlorine Removal Shampoo: Chlorine shampoos are a great way to remove chlorine from your hair and scalp after swimming in a pool or other chlorinated water. These shampoos contain ingredients like hydrochloric acid that help break down and remove chlorine and product buildup from your hair.

If you have any further questions about chlorine in water, please feel free to Contact us.

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