Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Nitrates? – Find Out Here!

Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Nitrates? - Find Out Here!

Worried about nitrates in your drinking water?

Nitrates can be harmful to your health, so it’s important to remove them if they’re present in your water. Luckily, reverse osmosis is an effective way to treat nitrate contaminated water.

Reverse osmosis systems effectively remove nitrates and nitrites to provide you with clean, safe water. You can install a whole-house RO filter to remove nitrates from all of the water you use or put one under your sink to treat the water you drink and cook with. RO systems are a proven and reliable way to remove nitrates from your family’s drinking water.

In this blog post, we will discuss the effectiveness of using reverse osmosis to remove nitrates from water. We will also provide information on what nitrates are, how to reduce their concentration to safe levels, and how to test your water for nitrates. Continue reading to stay safe and healthy!

What are Nitrates

Nitrates are an inorganic compound made up of nitrogen and oxygen that can be found from both naturally occurring as well as man-made sources. They exist at various concentrations throughout nature from soils, water sources such as nitrate-rich ground water, and animal waste or plant decomposition.

In most cases this isn’t a big deal because many natural processes will break down nitrates quickly enough to prevent exposure. People who get their drinking water from wells are most likely to have problems with nitrates.

Health risk of nitrates in drinking water

There have been many studies linking the health effects of nitrate in drinking water to methemoglobinemia, also known as “blue baby syndrome.” Infants who drink formula mixed with contaminated source of tap or ingest water during bathing can develop this serious condition.

Pregnant women should be mindful of the fact that they may pass methemoglobin on to their developing fetuses. Low birth weights have been attributed in some cases due to high nitrate concentrations found in water sources consumed by pregnant mothers.

According to the World Health Organization, exposure to nitrates in drinking water do not pose a substantial health risk for adult humans.

Safe levels of nitrates in drinking water

The US Environmental Protection Agency established a drinking water standard for nitrates of 10 milligrams per liter. This is the same as 10 parts per million (ppm). The EPA considers nitrates to be a primary water quality contaminant because of its health risks. This drinking water standard is enforced by law.

How Do Nitrates Get into My Drinking Water?Sources of Nitrates in Water

High levels of nitrate in well water are often caused by improper construction, location or use. Nitrate contamination can come from the over-use of fertilizers used for growing crops. Run-off from agriculture flows into rivers and streams, many of which are used for drinking water. Septic tanks that are poorly designed or maintained can result in nitrate problems. Another common source of nitrate contamination is manure from animal feedlots. Finally, industrial waste, can produce nitrate problems in our drinking water supplies.

Removing Nitrates from Drinking Water with RO

If you have nitrates in your water, it’s important to take steps to remove them. Reverse osmosis is an effective way to do this. A whole-house RO system can provide you with clean, safe water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. If you have concerns about nitrates in your water, contact a water treatment professional to discuss your options.

What is reverse osmosisHow does reverse osmosis work

A reverse osmosis system works by using a semi-permeable membrane to filter out contaminants from your water. The RO membrane will allow water molecules to pass through but will trap contaminants like nitrates on the other side.

Reverse osmosis filter systems consist of a particle filter, activated carbon filter, and the RO membrane. Some RO systems also include a post-treatment carbon filter to improve the taste and smell of your water.

The RO membrane is the heart of the system and is responsible for removing most contaminants from your water. The RO membrane will remove up to 99% of nitrates from your water, making it safe to drink.

How well does RO remove nitrates from my water

Reverse osmosis is capable of removing up to 99% of nitrates from your water. This makes it an effective way to remove nitrates from your drinking water.

It is important to know that the removal efficiency of nitrates can vary between various manufacturers. Some RO membranes are more effective at removing nitrates than others. Look for NSF certification before buying a reverse osmosis system. NSF standard 58 certifies that the filter has been tested to reduce the levels of nitrate to safe levels.

In addition to the specific make and model, the condition of the RO membrane has a big effect on how well it can remove nitrates. For this reason, it is very important that you properly maintain your system by routinely changing the filters and cleaning the membrane. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for specific maintenance requirements. Read my article on RO filter maintenance.

You should also keep in mind that RO systems remove all contaminants from your water, not just nitrates. This includes minerals like calcium and magnesium,

If you have concerns about the quality of your drinking water, contact a water treatment professional to discuss your options. They can help you find the right system for your home and family.

Whole house RO filters and nitrates

A whole house system, also known as a point-of-entry (POE) treatment system, treats all the water coming into your home. This means that every time you turn on the faucet, shower, or flush the toilet, you will be using treated water. A whole-house system is a great way to remove nitrates from your water because it provides you with clean, safe water for drinking, cooking and bathing.

This type of system is more expensive to purchase and install. It may require a professional to install it unless you have reasonably good plumbing skills.

Under-sink reverse osmosis and nitratesUnder sink RO filter

An under-sink filter, also known as a point-of-use (POU) system, is a great way to get clean, safe water for drinking and cooking. An under-sink RO system is installed under your kitchen sink and provides you with a dedicated faucet for treated water.

An under-sink RO system is less expensive than a whole-house system and can be installed by most homeowners. However, it will only provide you with treated water at the kitchen sink and will not treat water used for bathing or flushing the toilet.

Treatment Methods to Remove Nitrates

There are three commercially available methods to remove nitrates from your home’s drinking water – reverse osmosis, ion exchange, and distillation. We discuss each of these methods below.

1 – Reverse osmosis

Reverse osmosis is a treatment method that uses a semipermeable membrane to remove contaminants from your water. RO filtration is very effective at removing nitrates from your drinking water.

RO systems are available in whole-house and under-sink models. The cost of RO systems varies depending on the size and type of system you purchase.


  • Very effective at removing nitrates and other contaminants
  • Available in whole-house and under-sink models
  • Less expensive than distillation


  • Requires regular maintenance
  • Whole-house systems can be expensive to purchase and install
  • Some people do not like the taste of RO treated water

2 – Ion exchangeIon Exchange for Nitrate Removal

Nitrate removal via ion exchange is the same technology that is used in water softeners. However, rather than using sodium ions like your water softener, it uses chloride ions to remove nitrates.

Ion exchange is a treatment method that uses charged beads to remove contaminants from your water. Water is passed through a tank or cartridge containing the media, and the nitrate contamination is collected on the media.

Once the media is spent, it must either be replaced with fresh resin or regenerated. You can buy systems that regenerate the media – usually a whole-house system, or where you replace a cartridge on a routine basis.

3 – Distillation

Distillation filters work by evaporating water and then condensing it back into a clean, safe drinking water. This process removes contaminants from your water, including nitrates.

Distillation is one of the oldest methods of water filtration and was used long before modern treatment methods were developed. It is very effective at removing nitrates – a typical system will remove 99+% of all nitrates from your drinking water.

A typical residential distillation system will produce a pitcher of water in about an hour. Some units have a built-in tank that allows you to produce up to a gallon of water for drinking and cooking purposes.

How to Keep Nitrates Out of Your Water

The best way to have nitrate-free drinking water is to avoid having it become contaminated in the first place. Here are some tips to help you keep your water clean and safe:

  1. Make sure your well is not located near any contaminants. The most common source of nitrates for homeowners is the septic system. Perform routine septic system maintenance and have it inspected regularly. Do not allow livestock access to your well. Animal waste can contaminate your drinking water with nitrates.
  2. Have your well checked out. It is important to have a qualified well professional inspect your drinking water well to ensure it was constructed properly and is in good condition. Make any recommended repairs or upgrades right away to keep your water free of nitrates.
  3. Fertilizers and pesticides should not be applied near the well. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully when using any agricultural chemicals.
  4. Have your well water tested regularly. This is the best way to know if there are any contaminants in your water. If you live in an area with known nitrate contamination, have your water tested regularly. This is especially important if you have young children or are pregnant.

Testing for Nitrates in Drinking Water

If you are concerned about nitrates in your drinking water, the best way to find out is to have it tested by a certified lab. A simple test can give you peace of mind and help you take steps to protect your family’s health.

If you have a private drinking water well, it is important to have it tested regularly for nitrates and other contaminants. Your local health department can tell you how often your well should be tested. Some states require that you test your well every year.

You can also have your water tested by a private laboratory. Be sure to ask for a nitrate test specifically, as not all labs test for nitrates. The cost of having your water tested varies depending on the lab you use and the type of testing performed.

If you get your water from a public water system, you can contact the water utility to find out if their water has been tested for nitrates. Public water systems are required to test for nitrates and other contaminants on a regular basis.


Does boiling water remove nitrates?

Boiling water does not remove nitrates from drinking water. In fact, boiling can increase the nitrate concentration because some of the water evaporates. If you have nitrates in your drinking water, immediately stop drinking it and find a safe source such as bottled water.

Do refrigerator filters remove nitrates?

Refrigerator filters do not remove nitrates from your water. Most fridge filters use particle filters and activated carbon to treat water. Neither of these technologies can remove nitrates.

Do Brita filters remove nitrates?

Brita filters do not remove nitrates from drinking water. Most pitcher filters use activated carbon and particle filters to treat water. These methods do not work with nitrates. Some filters have ion exchange resins, and, depending on the type of resin used, may reduce the level of nitrates in water.

Do water softeners remove nitrates?

Water softeners do not remove nitrates from drinking water. This type of ion exchange resin works well for calcium and magnesium, but not for nitrates.


So, does reverse osmosis remove nitrates? The answer is yes – but the level of effectiveness will depend on a number of factors such as the concentration of nitrates in your water, how much water you need to treat, and the specific RO system you use.

Nitrates are a serious issue when it comes to drinking water, but fortunately there are several ways to remove them. We’ve looked at three main treatment methods- reverse osmosis, ion exchange, and distillation- and how well each of them can remove nitrates from your water.

If you’re concerned about the levels of nitrates in your drinking water, be sure to test for them and take steps to remove them if necessary. And finally, remember that prevention is always the best cure; make sure you take steps to keep nitrates out of your water in the first place!

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.

Recent Posts