What is a Water Filter vs a Water Purifier?

February 10th, 2014

Never assume that water even this clear and beautiful is safe to drink! rocky mountain stream

Image via Nate Eagleson (Flickr)

Water Filter, Water Purifier… Same Thing, Right?

Many people believe that water filtration and water purification are one and the same, but this isn’t actually the case. Water filtration and water purification are two different methods of treating water, and it is important to know the difference. Whether you should filter or purify depends on your current circumstances: You won’t always need to purify, but you should always filter. Here’s the difference between the two.

Filtering Vs. Purifying

The difference between water filtering and water purifying is the same as the difference between before and after. If you filter your water, you’re filtering out all of the bad elements before the water reaches your drinking glass. If you purify your water, you’re treating tainted water after it reaches your drinking glass.

Examples of Filtering and Purifying

Filtering before you drink your water removes impurities left behind by water treatment facilities. Even though your water is purified by your municipality or water well system, there are still things in the water that are bad for you. These organic and inorganic materials include water treatment chemicals, fluoride, prescription medication residue, agriculture runoff, or runoff from the result of practices such as fracking. A reliable water filter removes these residual compounds prior to you using the water.

Purifying your water is something you do after you’ve collected it. For example, if you are camping or are visiting a foreign country, you would purify the water you collect for drinking to ensure that it is free of bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. This water would not have been run through a filter before you’ve collected it, so it is necessary to purify it after you’ve collected it. You want to make certain that the water you got from your hostel tap is pure, so you need a water purifier to treat it.

Filtering and Purification Methods

You have several options when it comes to a water filter, but it is important to keep in mind that although you have several options, water filtering methods are not created equally. Whether you use a filtering pitcher, a faucet-mounted filter, or a water filtration system, your water is only as good as the filter that cleanses it. The type of filter you are using will dictate how clean your water is once it is run through the filter, so it is important to read the filter’s specifications and test results to understand what is being removed as the water runs through the filtration system.

Water purification also comes in different forms. When camping or in a place where safety is questionable, you can purify your water after you’ve collected it by using water purification tablets. You can also bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute to kill off bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. I recommend doing both, provided that your purification tablets do not direct you to avoid boiling the water. This gives you the added layer of double-purifying your water before you consume it.

Which Is Better?

You’ve probably figured this out on your own by now, but whether you should filter or purify your water depends on the circumstances. Use a water filter to filter the water coming into your house, including your bathing water, to ensure that it is free from any harmful residue. Purify your water if you are in doubt that it is safe for consumption. For example, if you experience a natural disaster and your water supply is compromised, you would want to use a water purification method to treat your water.

In some cases, it might be wise to do both. I’ve discussed this in previous blog posts, but for example, if you are stranded in the wilderness, you’ll want to purify and filter any water you find because you can’t afford to get sick if you’re somewhere where there isn’t any help. A double-protection plan is best for water coming from any unverifiable source. After all, we need water to live – it’s more important to our survival than food. We don’t need the water we drink to cause harm when it’s meant to cause good!


Written By: Lynn Taylor

Comments are closed.