7 Top Methods to Remove Chlorine from Drinking Water


7 Top Methods to Remove Chlorine from Drinking Water

Are you concerned about the amount of chlorine in your drinking water?

The chlorine that is added to drinking water for disinfection has a lot of benefits. It removes harmful microbes and bacteria from the water, which protects people from getting sick. But at the same time, chlorinated water has a strong chemical taste and can have some negative effects on human health.

Fortunately, there are several methods to remove chlorine from drinking water, including reverse osmosis, activated carbon adsorption, distillation, evaporation, chemical neutralization and boiling the water.

Continue reading to learn more about how you can remove chlorine from your drinking water.

Why is Chlorine in My Drinking Water

Chlorine is added to most public drinking water for disinfection. It is a power oxidizer and disinfectant that can neutralize pathogens like bacteria, viruses, protozoans, and cysts. It kills these harmful microbes and bacteria that can be found in drinking water sources like rivers, lakes, streams, reservoirs and wells.

Chlorine is added to protect people from getting sick by removing the dangerous microorganisms from the water supply. But at the same time, chlorine tastes bad and has a chemical or swimming pool odor.

Some municipalities use chloramine rather than chlorine because it lasts longer which allows it to keep pipes free of bacteria. Because of chloramine’s longer life, it is also more difficult to remove than chlorine.

What Are the Harms of Chlorine

According to the CDC, chlorine levels up to 4 milligrams per liter (4 ppm) are considered safe to drink. The US EPA limits the amount of chlorine that can be added to ensure water is safe to drink. At the levels found in most public tap water, chlorine is not harmful.

Those who are extremely sensitive to chlorine might develop skin irritation. Because the quantity of chlorine in tap water is so low – far lower than that in a swimming pool – this problem is very rare.

The water you drink can have an effect on your health so it’s important that we find out what limits should be set for this chemical agent in order not only protect ourselves but also those around us!

Chlorine forms disinfection byproducts

Chlorine can combine with naturally occurring organic material in the water to form disinfection byproducts (DBPs) during water treatment. After long-term, continuous exposure, DBPs can lead to a variety of illnesses. The US EPA regulates the levels of DBPs in drinking water to ensure it is safe.

Examples of disinfection byproducts are haloacetic acids (HAAs) and trihalomethanes (THMs). THMs include chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane and bromoform. These compounds all have potential health risks associated with prolonged exposure.

Chlorine has a chemical taste and odor

One of the biggest complaints people have with chlorine is the chemical taste and odor. While some people might be able to get used to it, others find it completely unpalatable.

Safe levels of chlorine in drinking water

The US EPA regulates chlorine and disinfection byproducts in drinking water to protect the public’s health.

The Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level (MRDL) for chlorine is 4 ppm. The MCLG for chloramine is 4 ppm.

The US EPA defines MRDL as “a level of a disinfectant added for water treatment that may not be exceeded at the consumer’s tap without an unacceptable possibility of adverse health effects.”

Chlorine and your houseplants

In general, chlorinated water is not harmful to your houseplants. Some people report that the chlorine in tap water can degrade the microbial activity of soil, especially if organic gardening is used. The effects of chlorine on microbes in soil is probably low because of the relatively small amount of disinfectant in water compared to the significant mass of soil

Fish and chlorinated water

Many specifies of fish are highly sensitive to chlorinated water. Chlorine and chloramine can be poisonous to fish, especially at high concentrations or for longer exposure times.

Chlorinated tap water should not be used as a source of fresh drinking water for most kinds of fish.

Methods to Remove Chlorine from Drinking Water

If you are worried about the health risks associated with chlorine or just don’t like the way it smells or tastes, there are several options available to remove chlorine from your drinking water.

1. Reverse osmosisreverse osmosis filter for chlorine removal

Reverse Osmosis is one of the most effective and commonly used means of treating water to make it safe for human consumption. Reverse osmosis works by forcing pressurized water through a semi-permeable membrane which filters out contaminants like bacteria, viruses and other impurities.

RO systems are available as whole-house units or as point-of-use (POU) devices that can be installed under the sink.

RO is effective at removing chlorine, but it also removes many of the beneficial minerals from water like calcium and magnesium. For this reason, it is often recommended to use an alkaline filter to add these minerals back into the water.

RO systems can be expensive to install and require regular maintenance. Another issue with using RO filters to remove chlorine is that is degrades the RO membrane. Over time, exposure to chlorine will result in reduced RO filter performance and, eventually, failure of the membrane. Most RO filters contain carbon filters to remove chlorine and chloramines from the water prior to entering the RO membrane. This will prolong the life of the RO membrane as well as remove the chlorine.

RO filters can be used at the point-of-use (POU), where the water is used, or as a point-of-entry (PIE) system, to treat all of the water that enters your home.

2. Activated carbon adsorptionwhole house carbon filter for chlorine removal

Activated carbon is a filter media that has been processed to increase its surface area and adsorption capabilities. Adsorption is the process where atoms, ions or molecules adhere to a surface of an adsorbent material under certain conditions.

Carbon filters are widely used in water treatment systems because they can remove chlorine from drinking water by up to 99.9%. Carbon filtration is a passive process and does not require any energy, making it an ideal choice for home water treatment.

Read my Activated Carbon Design Guide.

Carbon filters need to be replaced on a regular basis as the adsorption capacity decreases over time.

Carbon filters also remove other contaminants such as organic compounds, some heavy metals and other impurities from water which can lead to undesirable color, odor or taste changes.

For home treatment applications, you can use a point-of-use filter to treat water at your faucet or shower. Many refrigerators have carbon filters that remove chlorine and chloramine to improve the taste of water and ice.

Pitcher filters that contain carbon work well for removing chlorine and chloramine. There are many brands of pitcher filters that remove chlorine, including:

If you are concerned about chlorine exposure, you can also use a whole-house filter to remove chlorine throughout your home. One drawback to this approach is you lose the disinfection benefits that the residual chlorine provides in your pipes – in some situations you can end up with bacteria or other microorganisms in your plumbing system.

3. Distillationwater distiller for chlorine removal

Distillation is a process where water is boiled, and the vapor is condensed back into liquid form. This method can be used to remove chlorine from drinking water as well as other contaminants like bacteria, viruses, heavy metals and minerals. Distillation is also known as evaporation.

Distillation is an effective way to treat water, but it is also one of the most expensive methods. It requires energy to boil the water and the purchase of equipment needed for distillation.

Distillation systems also require regular maintenance to keep them running properly.

Small appliance distillers are available for treating drinking water in your home. These provide suitable quantities for drinking and cooking purposes.

4. Chemical neutralization

Chemical neutralization is an effective way to remove chlorine from water.

There are several neutralizing agents that remove chlorine from water. The most commonly used chemicals are ascorbic acid (vitamin c), sodium thiosulfate, and Camden tablets (for cloramine).

Cambden tablets and sodium thiosulfate both work well, but they also increase the dissolved solids concentration in the water. Ascorbic acid is a better option because it works well at removing chlorine and it does not increase the TDS levels in the water.

It is important to note that chemical neutralization is only suitable for treating a pitcher or glass of water. You can’t use this method to remove chlorine throughout your house or even for the water that comes out of your faucet.

5. Boiling the water

Boiling is a simple and inexpensive way to remove chlorine from drinking water. Chlorine gas escapes into the atmosphere when you boil chlorinated tap water. If you boil the water for 15 minutes, 99+% of the chlorine will be removed. This method also removes other contaminants like PFAS.

You can also achieve the same affect by leaving a pitcher of water out over night. Most of the chlorine will offgas into the air.

On a routine basis, boiling is not a practical solution to chlorine. Other than boiling water for coffee or tea, which you normally do as part of the process, you should look into other treatment methods.

6. Aeration to remove chlorine

Chlorine can be removed from drinking water through aeration.

Aeration is a process that agitates the water to release the gas from the liquid. This is done by forcing air through the water at high speed. The chlorine gas is then released and vented into the atmosphere.

The disadvantage of this system is that it requires a blower or inductor and a tank to properly aerate the water. This requires a lot of space relative to other treatment technologies.

7. Ultraviolet light to remove chlorine

Ultraviolet (UV) light can be used to remove chlorine and chloramines from drinking water.

In the presence of ultraviolet light wavelengths between 180 and 400 nm, a photochemical reaction occurs in which free chlorine is dissociated to form chloride ions and hydrochloric acid. These compounds do not have a bad taste or odor.

Whole House or Point-of-Use Chlorine Treatment

Point-of-entry chlorine treatment

Whole house filters are an effective and efficient way to remove chlorine throughout your home. These systems treat all of the water that goes into your pipes, so you’re not just treating what comes out at faucets or showerheads.

Whole-house carbon filter units are very affordable, and a small unit can remove all of the chlorine in your tap water. You can also purchase a POE reverse osmosis system that can remove all of the chlorine in your home’s water. RO filters can be expensive, but they work well.

Point-of-use chlorine treatment

Point-of-use filters are a good solution if you’re only concerned about chlorine exposure at certain points in your house – like the kitchen or bathroom. These filters attach to the faucet and treat the water as it comes out. You can also find showerhead filters that remove chlorine. These filters typically use activated carbon, but you can also purchase under-sink and countertop RO filters to remove chlorine from your water.

Read my detailed review of POU vs POE treatment systems for more information.

The Importance of Testing Your Water

Before you purchase expensive chlorine removal equipment, you need to know what’s in your water. There are simple and inexpensive chlorine test kits that you can buy at most pool stores and home improvement centers. The tests will tell you how much chlorine is in your water within minutes.

The test results will also give you a baseline so when the system removes some of the chlorine from your drinking water, you will know if it is working correctly. It is important to periodically test your treatment system to evaluate its efficiency.

Certification Testing

There are third-party testing and certification organizations that provide certification for water treatment systems. This testing verifies that the system is capable of achieving a certain level of contaminant reduction and provides a convenient, and reliable, method for you to verify the manufacturer’s claims.

The most common certifications are:

  • NSF Standard 42 – Drinking Water Treatment Units – Aesthetic Effects
  • NSF/ANSI Standards 53 and 58 – Drinking Water Treatment Units – Health Effects
  • NSF/ANSI Standard 55 – Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Systems

Certifications are based on the contaminant reduction capabilities of each system. Certification does not address other factors, such as ease-of-use or installation requirements, that could influence your purchase decision.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can I measure the chlorine concentration in my drinking water?

There are a few methods you can use to measure the chlorine concentration in your drinking water. You can purchase test kits that use drops of reagent or tablets that change color when they come into contact with chlorine. You can also use a digital ORP meter to measure the chlorine concentration.

What is a safe level of chlorine to drink?

The US EPA set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for chlorine in drinking water of four parts per million. This is the legal limit, but it’s not a recommended amount to drink regularly.

Are there alternatives to chlorine for disinfection?

Chlorine is not the only way to disinfect drinking water, and there are several alternatives that remove chlorine from water more effectively than traditional treatment methods. Many municipalities use chloramine for disinfection because it lasts longer than chlorine.

Do Brita filters remove chlorine from drinking water?

Brita filters are very effective at removing chlorine from drinking water. Their carbon filter removes essentially all of the chlorine taste and odor.

Brita filters remove other contaminants such as lead and PFAS.

Do Pur filters remove chlorine from drinking water?

Pur filters remove chlorine from drinking water. They use activated carbon to absorb the chlorine molecules and help improve the taste and odor of the water.

Do Epic Water filters remove chlorine from drinking water?

Epic Water filters are very effective at removing chlorine from water. They use activated carbon to absorb the harmful chemical and improve the taste of tap water.

Do Aquasana filters remove chlorine from drinking water?

Aquasana uses a patented technology that removes more than 97% of all contaminants, including chlorine. The advanced filter is very efficient at removing chlorine and other harmful chemicals from your drinking water.

Do ZeroWater filters remove chlorine from drinking water?

ZeroWater filters are the only filters that certified to remove 99% of all contaminants, including chlorine. Their five-stage filtration system uses activated carbon to absorb the harmful chemical and improve the taste of tap water.

Do Water Softeners remove chlorine from drinking water?

Water softeners do not remove chlorine from drinking water. These water treatment systems are specifically designed to remove hardness (minerals) from water. Water softeners do not have any effect on the chlorine in your drinking water.

Do Refrigerator filters remove chlorine from drinking water?

Most refrigerator filters can remove chlorine from drinking water. These filters often use activated carbon which is very effective at reducing chlorine concentrations. A good refrigerator filter can remove more than 99% of chlorine in water and can last up to 6 months. Make sure to purchase a filter that has been certified by NSF International to ensure you’re getting the best quality product possible.

Are there natural ways to remove chlorine from drinking water?

There are several natural ways to remove chlorine from your drinking water that don’t require chemicals or expensive equipment. You can boil your drinking water to remove chlorine.

You can remove chlorine from your water by pouring from one pitcher to another. As the water flows from one container to the other, it is aerated, which releases the chlorine. If you aerate the water for 5 to 10 minutes, you will release all of the chlorine.

You can let your water sit out over night to remove chlorine from your drinking water. Chlorine is volatile at room temperature and will eventually off-gas from the water. This process typically takes 12 to 24 hours to remove all of the chlorine.

Final Take on Chlorine Filters for Drinking Water

Chlorine is an important chemical that’s used to disinfect water, but it can also cause health concerns and has a bad taste. To get rid of the chlorine in your drinking water you’ll need one of the following treatment methods: reverse osmosis, activated carbon adsorption, distillation, evaporation, chemical neutralization or boiling.

You can tailor the treatment method to remove chlorine from all water that enters your home (POE system) or just the water you drink (POU system). I hope this article has given you some ideas for how to deal with chlorine in your drinking water.

Chief Guru

Richard Boch is a chemical engineer responsible for designing water filtration systems for industrial and residential customers. He has more than 20 years of experience with ion exchange, activated carbon, and reverse osmosis. Richard's expertise has made him a go-to source for municipalities and businesses looking to improve their water quality. When he's not working, Richard enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children.

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