Does your water filter really clean contaminated water? Probably not. Learn why, and see how we remove these dangerous chemicals and heavy metals.
Confusion is a good thing: you know you have a problem and you try to fix it.
But there’s one thing in the preparedness community that many aren’t even aware of: that not all water purification systems are the same, and that the most popular ones can’t filter out important substances.
In what follows I want to shed some light on the matter. I won’t give you definitive answers as to what filter to get, but consider this article a starting point to do your own research.
There’s only one thing that’s worth debating and that’s what these filters can and cannot remove from water.
Real Life Filter Expectation
If you look at the most popular filters on Amazon (LifeStaw, Saywer Mini, Berkey), you can see they are good at removing:
- protozoan parasites
- organic compounds (such as pesticides and herbicides)
You probably saw that the Sawyer Mini is even guaranteed to filter 100,000 liters of water. Pretty cool for such a small device, right? You might come to the conclusion that it’ll last a lifetime. And it could…. except that these filters can’t remove EVERYTHING.
Things like these are rarely removed, if ever:
- heavy metals
- viruses (except the Sawyer PointZeroTWO, it can filter viruses)
- chromium 6 (a cancer-causing metal present in most of the drinking water in America)
- and even bad taste
That last one may come as a surprise since removing bast taste is even mentioned on Lifestraw’s product page. You’d expect that the most popular water filter of all times would remove bad taste, right?
Well, not for 20 bucks!
Heavy Metal Filtering Is A Different Process
Heavy metal filtering requires a different process and costs more than simple filtering.
The fact of the matter is, none of these 20 dollar water filters can remove heavy metals such as copper, arsenic and mercury. Even a top of the line 0.02 micron Sawyer PointZeroTWO simply cannot filter out these molecules because they are too small or literally bind with H20 and slip right through.
Since you never know what will be in your water post-collapse, that’s a serious problem with all of these extremely popular filters. Many people are going to poison themselves after the SHTF because they trusted a filter to do a job it was no created to do.
Even rainwater (said to be potable in most parts of the world) is likely to have heavy metals to some degree. Not to mention that if you drink downstream from a river or a lake near a farm, factory, or the industrial part of town (while bugging out), the heavy metal concentrations in the water are going to be high.
To be clear, I’m not saying something will happen to you if you ingest small quantities of these heavy metals. People who have copper pipes inevitably get this metal in their drinking water, for example. It becomes a problem when these contaminates are at dangerous levels, usually because of chemical runoff from farming and industrial applications.
Though I am not a doctor, I think age, health and how much you drink are important factors too, and it is a very important issue to think about.
Your Filter Options
So where does that leave you? How can you remove these heavy metals?
What’s the best water filter for your bug out bag and for your home or bug out location? What’s the best filter for long-term SHTF events? What are your options?
First, you should know that the tried and true water purification method of boiling can remove bacteria and viruses if done properly, but not metals and other chemicals. In fact, boiling your water merely concentrates this bad stuff hiding in your water.
It’s best to use the two pronged approach of filtering AND boiling if you think your water source has chemicals and heavy metals.
There are filters out there that handle heavy metals but they don’t remove bacteria and viruses so you still need to boil your water or use a second filter that does remove them, such as the Sawyer PointZeroTWO.
ZeroWater is one of the best based on actual third-party lab tests, but the other problem then is this filter is made to be used with their pitcher only, which obviously won’t fit in a carefully-packed bug out bag.
Luckily ZeroWater now offers a low cost portable version that will fit perfectly in a bug out bag. You’ll still need to boil your water however.
Desalinization is another option and is said to remove almost everything, including bacteria and viruses, although I’m not fully convinced. If there were even a few viruses in my water, I wouldn’t risk drinking it because I have no way of knowing if they would contaminate my purified water too.
I suppose it depends on what type of desalinization process you use and how well the desalinator is constructed (a simple one can be made at home with cheap materials).
There’s another way, and that’s to distill your water (btw, while they are similar, distilling and desalinization are two different processes with two different goals). But distilling not foolproof either, because chemicals below or close to the boiling point of water will also distill and contaminate your new water.
Luckily the vast majority of chemicals are above the boiling point so you might be fine, but that’s impossible to say because no one knows exactly what your water source will hold.
So What Can You Rely On?
So which filter is proven to remove bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, and other chemicals? If you’re looking for a all-in-one portable solution you’re limited by chemistry and today’s technology.
There is no good answer, you’ll have to use two filters. Use the first filter all the time and the other filter only when there might be chemicals or heavy metals in the water.
1. Use a Sawyer PointZeroTWO for the best possible filtration of any water source. Since bacteria and viruses are everywhere, and of much greater concern than chemicals and heavy metals, this is the best filter for the vast majority of real world situations.
2. If you suspect your water source might be contaminated with chemicals or heavy metals, use a ZeroWater filter too as is the best at removing them based on third-party laboratory testing.
The only drawback of ZeroWater filters is that they can be “used up” early if you try to filter very high mineral content water through them, such as heavily mineralized well water or naturally mineralized springs.
Brands like Brita and PUR will not filter any of the above, not even large bacteria, and should never be used on anything but water from a working faucet.