Can I Shower in Water That Has PFAS in It?

Can I Shower in Water That Has PFAS in It?

PFAS, or Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, are a group of chemicals that have been used in manufacturing and consumer products since the 1940s. They are often called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment.

PFAS have been found in water supplies across the country, including in some areas near military bases. If you have PFAS in your drinking water, you may be wondering if it is safe to shower in it.

According to the CDC, showering and bathing are not a significant risk for exposure to PFAS. The main way people are exposed to PFAS chemicals is through ingestion – swallowing, drinking, and cooking. The amount of PFAS absorbed through our skin is quite low and not considered a danger during showers. The risk of inhaling PFAS while showering is also low because very little of these chemicals evaporate.

In this blog post, we discuss the risk of PFAS exposure while showering. We review PFAS, their health risks, and where you are most vulnerable to these contaminants. We also provide some simple steps you can take to protect your family from exposure to these harmful chemicals.

PFASPFAS molecule

PFAS are a group of more than 4,000 man-made chemicals. Examples of these compounds are PFOA, PFOS, and GenX.

These chemicals are extremely durable and don’t break down readily. PFAS compounds remain in the environment for many years, and they can build up in your body over time. This is why PFAS are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals.”

A wide range of consumer goods have PFAS in them, including:

  • Non-stick cookware
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Stain-resistant fabrics and carpets
  • Firefighting foam

Not only are these chemicals found in food packaging, but they’re also present in some personal care products. Many PFAS chemicals have been prohibited in the United States, but many others are still in use.

How does PFAS get in my water

Water can become contaminated with PFAS in a number of ways. These include:

  1. Industrial sites: Manufacturing plants or other facilities that use or produce PFAS can release these chemicals into the environment. This might happen through the air, water, or soil.
  2. Aquifers and groundwater: Once PFAS enter the subsurface, they can spread through underground water sources.
  3. Dumpsites and landfills: If PFAS are not disposed of properly, they can contaminate the soil and water around these sites.
  4. Wastewater treatment plants: Wastewater from factories or other sites that use PFAS can end up in treatment plants. Unfortunately, these chemicals are not always removed during the treatment process.

Even though the United States has banned some PFAS chemicals, they’re still being used in other countries. This means that imported products might also contain these harmful compounds.

Health concerns with PFAS

PFAS chemicals can cause a number of health problems. These include:

  • Cancer
  • Thyroid problems
  • High cholesterol
  • Immune system damage
  • Reproductive and developmental issues
  • Hormone disruption
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage

The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) has more information on the health effects of PFAS.

Can I Shower in Water with PFAS in It?Shower head with water flowing

The CDC reports that only small amounts of PFAS can enter your body through contact with contaminated water. In addition, most PFAS molecules are not volatile – so they do not evaporate into the air from water readily.

Showering, bathing, or washing dishes in water containing PFAS is not likely to increase your exposure to these chemicals.

Does PFAS volatilize in the shower

Showering with water containing the common PFAS chemicals, such as PFOA and PFOS, is not likely a health risk for several reasons.

  1. Showers and baths are relatively short. A typical shower only lasts 8 minutes. The exposure to PFAS from a shower is very minimal. because of the limited time you are in contact with the water.
  2. PFAS have high boiling temperatures. Most PFAS compounds, such as PFOS and PFOA, boil at a much higher temperature than water. Because of this, they would not be present in the steam from your shower at significant levels. However, a small amount of PFAS might be in the vapor phase.
  3. Exhaust fans remove vapors. If you run the exhaust fan in your bathroom while showering, this will help remove any PFAS vapors that might be present.

If you are concerned, you can limit your shower time, open a window, or use an exhaust fan to help remove any vapor. You should follow any public health guidelines issued by your state or local government.

Can you absorb PFAS through your skin?

Studies have shown that dermal (skin) absorption of most PFAS chemicals is very low. Our current understanding is that very little of these contaminants can be absorbed. There are more than 4,000 individual molecules in this group, and we don’t very much about many of them.

The main way people are exposed to PFAS is through ingestion. In terms of contaminated water, swallowing is the most significant way people are exposed to these chemicals.

Despite these assurances, a small amount of PFAS could potentially be absorbed through the skin. Since these forever chemicals build up over time in your body (bioaccumulate), you should limit your exposure. You can do this by limiting the amount of time you soak in the tub or not bathing every day.

You can also install a PFAS treatment system on your home’s drinking water. This will help remove these contaminants from your water before you use it.

What about children?

Children, especially young children, tend to swallow water while playing in the bathtub. This means they could ingest PFAS at higher quantities than adults. Children are more vulnerable to the harms of PFAS, so this issue is important.

You can limit your child’s exposure by:

  • not filling the tub all the way to the top
  • supervising them while they bathe
  • avoid giving them baths every day
  • limit their bath time

Try to limit the amount of water they swallow.

How Are You Exposed to PFAS

The amount of exposure you might get from showering and bathing in water that has PFAS in it is very low. Most people are exposed to much higher doses of these chemicals through ingestion.

Here are the six most common ways you might be exposed to PFAS:

  1. Drinking water: This is the most common way people are exposed to PFAS. These chemicals can enter your body through ingestion. If you’re worried about showering in your water, then you are also at risk from drinking it!
  2. Eating food: Food contaminated with PFAS can also lead to exposure. Studies have found that certain foods, such as dairy, meat, and fish, can have high levels of PFAS.
  3. Food packaging: Some food packaging, such as pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags, can be coated with PFAS. This can lead to exposure through ingestion or skin contact.
  4. Working in certain industries: People who work in certain industries, such as firefighting and manufacturing, may be exposed to higher levels of PFAS.
  5. Living near a contaminated site: If you live near a site that has been contaminated with PFAS, you may be at risk for exposure. This is because these chemicals can enter the air, soil, and water near these sites.
  6. Using certain products: Some products, such as water-resistant coatings and stain-resistant fabrics, may contain PFAS. Read my article on household products that have PFAS in them.

If you are concerned about your exposure to PFAS, you should focus on these areas to protect yourself and your family. PFAS are seemingly everywhere, and it’s hard to avoid them. You can, however, take steps to limit your exposure and protect yourself from these harmful chemicals.

What Can You Do

If your water is contaminated with PFAS, you should take steps to limit your exposure. This includes:

  1. not bathing every day
  2. limiting your bath time
  3. preventing children from swallowing water while bathing
  4. installing a PFAS treatment system

If you are concerned about your exposure to PFAS, you can also talk to your doctor. They can provide advice and guidance on what your actual risk might be.

Treat your water to remove PFAS

If your drinking water has PFAS in it, you can remove it using one of the effective water treatment methods below.

Reverse osmosis: This is a common water treatment method that can remove PFAS from your water. It works by forcing your water through a semipermeable membrane, which removes contaminants. RO filters can remove 99% or more of PFAS from your water. Read my article on PFAS treatment using reverse osmosis.

Activated carbon filters: These filters can also remove PFAS from your water. They work by adsorbing contaminants onto the surface of carbon particles. Carbon filters are relatively inexpensive and simple to operate. They remove most PFAS chemicals very well, but some of the smaller compounds may not be removed as effectively. Read my article on removing PFAS with carbon filters.

To protect your family while showring or bathing, you will need a whole-house treatment system. This type of system, also knowns as a point-of-entry (POE) system, is installed on your home’s water supply line. It treats all the water that enters your home, making it safe to use for showering, bathing, and drinking.

Read my article on POE vs POU treatment systems for a great explanation.

Test your water

Testing your water for PFAS is the only way to know for sure if these chemicals are present. If you find PFAS in your water, you can then take steps to remove them.

There are two main ways to test your water for PFAS:

  1. At-home test kits: These kits are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. They can test for a wide range of contaminants, including PFAS. Read my article on the TapScore PFAS test kit.
  2. Laboratory testing: This is the most accurate way to test your water for PFAS. Laboratory tests can detect very low levels of these chemicals. However, they are more expensive than at-home kits and can take longer to get results.

Want to learn more about testing? I wrote a comprehensive article on all of the PFAS testing methods.

Avoid fast food and take-out

Most fast food and take-out containers are lined with PFAS. This helps to keep the grease from soaking through the wrapper and staining your car on the way home. However, it also means that you’re being exposed to these chemicals when you eat from these containers.

To avoid PFAS exposure from these containers, you can:

  • avoid eating fast food and take-out
  • bring your own reusable container when you do eat out
  • choose restaurants that uses PFAS-free packaging

Make sure to check the restaurant’s policy on their packaging before you order.

Educate yourself about PFAS

PFAS compounds are everywhere. Protecting yourself and your family from these chemicals can be difficult. The best way to stay safe is to educate yourself about these chemicals and how to avoid them.

I’ve written a lot of articles about PFAS, and you can find them all on this blog. I’ll also continue to write about this topic as new information becomes available.


Can I cook with water that has PFAS in it?

There is no public health concern over the use of PFAS-containing tap water for cooking. The amount of exposure to PFAS in this instance is much smaller than from other sources, like take-out food wrappers or containers.

Can I wash my clothes with PFAS contaminated water?

Washing clothes in water that has PFAS in it is safe. The amount of PFAS in the water used during a wash cycle is extremely small (less than a nanogram). Most of the PFAS stays dissolved in the water and is dumped down the drain. The small amount of PFAS in the water remaining on your clothes after the wash cycle is not a public health concern.

Can I use PFAS containing water in my humidifier?

You should only use distilled water in your humidifier. Avoid using PFAS-contaminated water in your humidifier. Read my article on using reverse osmosis water in a humidifier.

Can I brush my teeth in water that has PFAS in it?

Brushing your teeth with water that has PFAS in it is considered safe as long as you don’t swallow the water. Your body won’t absorb the PFAS through your gums (an extremely small amount). Children should be closely supervised while brushing their teeth to ensure they don’t swallow the water.

Final Take

PFAS are everywhere – in our food, our water, and even in the air we breathe. Showering, bathing, and washing dishes are not a significant risk for exposure to PFAS. The main way people are exposed to these chemicals is through ingestion. The amount that PFAS enters our bodies through our skin is quite low and not considered a risk.

If you are concerned about your exposure to PFAS, the best thing you can do is educate yourself about these chemicals and how to avoid them. You can also have your water tested for PFAS. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to install a whole-house PFAS treatment system.

Still have questions? Leave a comment below. I’m always happy to answer them.

Boch Richard

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. You can also follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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