If you live in the U.S., it’s unlikely that you can avoid trace amounts of chlorine in your drinking water. While it’s generally considered safe to consume chlorine in small amounts, there is not enough scientific evidence to support this fully.
Not only is it a health concern, but many people do not like the taste of chlorine and chloramines in their water. No worries though as there are many different methods available to help remove chlorine from your water.
What is Chlorine?
Before we proceed further, we need to first talk about what chlorine is and why it’s present in your drinking water. Chlorine is a non-metallic element that has effective disinfecting abilities. In fact, chlorine is often used as a major disinfectant in most public water sources to kill disease-causing parasites.
While other water filtration systems are good at removing sediments and large particles, it’s difficult to filter out pathogens. This is where chlorine steps in to do the job. Since chlorine is needed to keep the water clean as it travels to our homes, it can’t be removed after disinfection.
You can, however, remove chlorine before the water gets to your tap and if you’re storing the water in a clean container so that no pathogens can get in.
Why is Chlorine Added to Drinking Water?
Chlorine is added into drinking water for the same reason as why it’s added into your water supply. Once the chlorine is added into the water, it acts as a disinfectant and kills off viruses, bacteria, and protozoans from your water. As such, the water with chlorine makes it effectively purified and safe for consumption.
While EPA mandates that your drinking water should not consist of more than 4 milligrams per liter of chlorine, you can ensure further protection for you and your family by measuring the drinking water to test for water quality and certain chlorine amounts.
By measuring the chlorine levels in your drinking water, you can be certain that chlorine levels are never too high when you consume. The top sensor for checking chlorine is oxidation reduction potential sensors that are designed to give you accurate readings and tell you how much chlorine is present in your drinking water.
If you ever feel like your chlorine levels are too high, you can engage in any of the chlorine removal methods discussed below. You can then test the water again to check whether the removal technique implemented was effective.
Is It Safe to Drink Chlorine?
4 ppm of chlorine in water is safe for consumption. However, there isn’t enough research evidence carried out to prove whether this concentration of chlorine has an impact on our health or wellbeing or not.
One example is that a recent study found that chlorine from tap water can produce toxic carcinogens that are linked to cancer. Below are a few possible adverse health effects associated with too much chlorine consumption:
Inhaling chlorine can cause wheezing or breathing difficulties. You may also experience chest tightness, cough, and sore throat. Not only that, but chlorine has also been found to trigger asthma symptoms.
There are a few studies that suggest pregnant women who drink chlorinated tap water are more likely to give birth to babies with birth defects. The trihalomethanes in municipal water are thought to contribute to reduced brain development, cleft palates, or holes in the heart.
Increased Risk of Cancer
There is emerging research suggesting that trihalomethane byproducts have a link to rectal and bladder cancer. Some studies have even found that chlorine itself has some carcinogenic effects but more study needs to be conducted to understand the severity of the effects.
Why Is It Important to Remove Chlorine from Tap Water?
Yes, chlorine is a powerful disinfectant that can help you kill harmful microorganisms in your water. However, many prefer to remove chlorine from their water supply. Here are a few reasons why you should remove chlorine from your water:
Releases Harmful Substances
When treatment plants use chlorine to disinfect and clean their water, the element undergoes a chemical reaction to produce trihalomethanes. The trihalomethane byproduct is a known carcinogen that can harm your health.
Health issues caused by trihalomethane include rectal and bladder cancers. The chemical is also known to cause congenital disabilities and miscarriages in expecting mothers. Hence, even if chlorine is a powerful element to destroy disease-causing pathogens, the chemical could produce carcinogenic compounds that could lead to long term health issues.
Other Health Problems
In addition to causing harm to our internal organs, chlorinated tap water can also leave a peculiar taste in your mouth. Chlorine water has a strong smell that can also dry out your hair and skin. You can also end up inhaling chlorine as you shower or bathe in chlorine water.
The chlorine will get into your skin and lungs and compared to drinking, your body ends up absorbing even more volumes of chlorine gas with this activity. This is why it is important to get rid of chlorine from your water.
How to Remove Chlorine from Water?
A water distiller is a good chlorine removal method that can take out up to 97% of the element. And if you add a carbon filter to the setup, it can remove 99% of chlorine from water. Distillation process works to remove chlorine because chlorine gas weighs less than air and when the distiller heats up the water.
The evaporated water vapor will travel along a corridor and condense into droplets back into a clean pitcher. And since chlorine is unable to condense back with the water particles, it is left behind in the boiling chamber.
Distillation is also a good method for removing other contaminants like lead, bacteria, and pesticides that cannot evaporate and condense. Adding an activated charcoal filter will further enhance chlorine removal.
However, distillers have a very small capacity which means that you can only distill a small amount of water at a time. Hence, water distillers may not make the best choice for larger families with higher water demand.
Reverse Osmosis System
Reverse osmosis purification method is also very effective at removing chlorine from your water thanks to a semi-permeable R.O. membrane. The membrane is made from cellulose acetate and a carbon filter used to guard against incoming pathogens.
In addition to removing chlorine, reverse osmosis can also be used to take out more than 99.9% of all total dissolved solids, including lead, bacteria, and fluoride.
Reverse osmosis generates a lot of wastewater, around up to 4 gallons of water for every gallon of clean water produced. Newer RO systems will generate less waste but it’s still producing around 2 to 3 gallons of wastewater for every gallon of clean water produced.
RO systems also require frequent filter changes to ensure optimal performance. An unchanged filter can quickly become a breeding place for bacteria.
Ultra Violet Light
Another water treatment method on how to remove chlorine from water is to use a UV (ultraviolet) light. UV technology will disperse light in wavelengths of between 200 to 00 nm that will cause a chemical reaction to remove up to 15 ppm of chlorine and chloramine molecule from drinking water.
Few people are actually aware that UV light can be used to remove chlorine in addition to killing pathogens.
UV light is typically added to the end of a water filter system to work alongside inline filters for better water purification. The advantage of using UV systems is that most water filters do not actually filter out chlorine and the UV lights will also not be damaged by high chloramine and chlorine content in water.
Chlorine is a volatile compound and can be easily removed via a simple evaporation technique. In fact, chlorine will evaporate on its own without needing to boil the chlorinated water. You can just leave the water pitcher overnight and the chlorine will evaporate on its own by morning.
This method is obviously the cheapest since it doesn’t cost anything but it’s also time consuming and you can only do it in batches of tap water in advance to give the chlorine enough time to evaporate from the water.
The speed of the evaporation rate will also depend on the surface area size and volume of water. A container with a large opening can release more chlorine faster as a larger surface of the water is exposed to the surrounding. Another way to increase the evaporation rate is boiling and it’s discussed below.
Boiling Water Remove Chlorine
Boiling the tap water can significantly speed up the chlorine evaporation process. Just add water into your kettle and put it on the stove on high heat to boil the water. While boiling your water can remove chlorine, it doesn’t remove chloramine.
Hence, it’s important for you to first identify what chemicals are present in your water before deciding whether this is a suitable method of chlorine removal.
Using Chemical Purification to Neutralize the Chlorinated Water
Chlorine atoms in chloramine form do not offer favorable conditions for pathogens to grow. But, chloride atoms are stable and can promote the growth of microorganisms. If you use products that offset chloramine in water samples, the compound will react and produce chloride and other beneficial by-products. One good option that you can use to neutralize or remove chloramine is with Cambden tablets.
Cambden and sodium thiosulfate are good choices to tackle chlorine compounds with ease. However, both chemical neutralization will also increase the number of total dissolved solids in water thanks to their sulfur and sodium components. An alternative to those chemicals is ascorbic acid which will not increase the TDS levels in water.
Specially-designed chemicals for chlorine removal are very efficient. A single tablet has the capability to remove chlorine from approximately 20 gallons of water. There are also other more natural compounds that you can use if you don’t like the idea of using synthetic chemicals.
One such example is vitamin C. Vitamin C filters are designed to be installed under your sink and on your showerhead and some brands claim that vitamin C can help break down and neutralize chloramine.
Water filters are useful at removing or reducing bad odor and taste of chlorinated water. However, instead of going with a fluoride water filter, pick one with charcoal instead. Charcoal is known to be able to extract chlorine ions in chloramine molecules. You can then link the filter with an RO unit to handle ammonia products in the water.
Showerhead filters are marketed to be able to help breakdown chloramine in water but we suggest reading up a bit more before going for that method as the screen is not expected to perform effectively simply due to the speed and amount of water involved.
It’s recommended to opt for a whole house water filter instead that can be installed at the point of entry to your home. This will ensure that your entire house gets to benefit from clean, filtered water that’s free of chlorine. However, if you have a tight budget, you can consider using an undersink water filter instead to help offset chloramine.
Activated Carbon Filter
Carbon filters have been proven effective in removing chlorine but not all of them work. Certain types of carbon filters like activated and catalytic are good at chlorine removal.
An activated carbon filter uses an adsorption process where a large surface area of carbon traps chlorine and other harmful contaminants in its pores, preventing them from passing through. Since chlorine and chloramine molecules are larger than water particles, chlorine is not able to fit through the filter pores as water passes through.
Catalytic carbon filters tend to have better capacity at trapping chlorine and chloramine thanks to an even larger surface area. This is what makes them an increasingly popular filter choice among homeowners concerned about chemicals in their drinking water supply.
We have come to the end of our article with different methods for filtering chlorine. Regardless of whether you prefer to use specialized water treatment facilities or to rely on a more natural solution, there’s no doubt about the many benefits of drinking chlorine free water.