Most of us know that staying hydrated is an essential part of staying healthy. You’ve probably heard the famous eight glasses of water a day recommendation before. Drinking water helps your body flush out toxins, distribute nutrients, and digest your food efficiently. What many people don’t realize is that drinking unfiltered tap water can actually be quite dangerous.

Many people are turning to different water filters or purification tablets for their daily water filtration needs. This article aims to compare and contrast the two filtration systems. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about how they both work and the pros and cons of each method. We’ll also recommend our favorite filters and tablets. Be sure to check out the water purification tablet FAQs at the end of the article for answers to all of your questions. 

Why we need to purify our drinking water

First of all, we need to understand why it’s so important to drink filtered or purified water. Surely, tap water can’t be that bad?

While tap water across the United States is cleaned and is generally safe to drink in small doses, it does contain residual contaminants that pose health risks over time. Common water-borne contaminants include ammonia, arsenic, aluminium, copper, fluoride, bacteria, among many other substances. 

Water contamination is a wide-scale problem across the country, with 19 million people exposed to dangerous drinking water in the U.S. on a daily basis. Because of the levels of water pollution across the country, you should always take measures to filter or purify your water prior to consumption.

Giardia and Cryptosporidium are two types of parasites commonly found in tap water and other unfiltered water. When ingested, these parasitic cysts can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating, nausea and fatigue.

So, what is the real difference between water filters and purification tablets? 

Water Filters 

Water filters work by pushing the water through a filtration system that removes any contaminants. Here is all the information you’ll need to decide whether this system is right for you.

Types of Water Filters

The five main types of water filter are:

  1. Mechanical filter
    This type of filter physically removes sediment, dirt and other particles from the water using the filter as a barrier. The micron rating indicates how effective the filter is. For instance, a 5 micron rating will remove particles that are visible to the naked eye, while a 0.5 micron rating can remove tiny cysts like Giardia and Cryptosporidium. This is the most common type of water filter for commercial water jugs.
  1. Absorption filter
    These filters use carbon to capture waterborne contaminants through absorption. This type of filter is commonly found in industrial gas plants and in some respirator masks.
  1. Sequestration filter
    Sequestration is when substances are chemically isolated. This type of filter is best for preventing scale formation on surfaces that the water comes into contact with. This type of filter is not used in commercial applications. 
  1. Ion exchange filter
    This process is useful for softening hard water as it exchanges magnesium and calcium ions in the water with ions like sodium and hydrogen. This type of filtration is useful for reducing limescale and for coffee machines where the water is kept at a high temperature. This type of filter is used in many household applications including water jugs and laundry detergents. 
  1. Reverse osmosis filter
    Reverse osmosis is when dissolved solids are removed from the water by pushing water through a semipermeable membrane. Most contaminants can be removed from water with this system, making it a wonderful method for creating safe drinking water. This type of filter is usually installed within a household’s water system to purify water before it reaches your taps.

What are the Best Water Filters Jugs on the Market?

These are five of the best water filters available for purchase and at-home use.

  1. Brita Style Water Filter Jug
    The Brita Style filter is a modern, sleek jug with an excellent filtration system. The MicroFlow technology in the filter reduces limescale, metals, and chlorine, leaving behind clean water with a fresh taste.
  1. ZeroWater 7-cup water Filter Jug
    This large filter jug has the capacity of seven glasses of water. This jug allows you to pour filtered water without spilling unfiltered water in the jug, meaning you don’t have to wait to hydrate. The filter reduces lead and chromium along with almost all dissolved solids in the water. 
  1. Epic Pure Water Filter Jug
    The Epic Pure jug removes fluoride, lead, chromium, heavy metals, microorganisms and chemicals. With a cool, modern design, this jug looks great while performing well.
  1. BWT Penguin 2.71 Water Filter Jug
    This filter comes in a modern, eye-catching Scandinavian design. With 2.7 liter volume and LCD display, this jug uses Magnesium ion exchange technology which reduces the water’s pH level more than other mechanical filters. 
  1. BRITA Flow
    The Brita Flow filter is an extra large option. Store this water tank in the fridge and hold up to 8.2 litres of water. This filter uses Brita’s famous filter technology to remove most contaminants from your water for a fresh, clean taste.

What are the Downsides of using a Water Filter?

While water filters are the most popular method of water filtration, they do come with their downsides. Here are a few reasons why you may wish to choose another filtration system:

  • Not always portable especially on a hike or camping trip
  • Expensive
  • Requires maintenance and upkeep

If you are planning a trip and need a cheap, portable filtration system, you may wish to consider purification tablets as an alternative.

Purification Tablets

Purification tablets work differently to water filtration systems. These tablets work by killing pathogens in the water making it safe for drinking. But, what are water purification tablets made of, how do they work, and what are the pros and cons of using them?

What are Water Purification Tablets?

Water purification tablets were invented in the 1940s at Harvard University. They were created for the U.S. Army to be used in emergency situations to disinfect water. Since then, they have become popular tools for backpackers, campers, and travellers thanks to their portability and efficiency.

Most water purification tablets are made of chlorine dioxide, iodine, or pure chlorine. These tablets generally need to sit in the water for 30 minutes to 2 hours to fully disinfect the water. After placing a tablet in the water, it is drinkable for several days.

How do Water Purification Tablets Work?

Water purification tablets work by killing certain pathogens in unsafe drinking water. Once they are dropped in the water, they dissolve and kill microbes, dissolving their cellular make-up

What are the Different Types of Water Purification Tablets?   

There are three main types of water purification tablets available:

  • Iodine tablets kill bacteria and viruses in around 30 minutes. Particularly effective at killing Giardia. Leaves a metallic aftertaste.
  • Chlorine tablets dissolve the cells membrane of any pathogens in the water. The tablets kill bacteria and viruses within 30 minutes. Particularly effective at killing Giardia. Leaves an aftertaste.
  • Chlorine Dioxide takes around 30-50 minutes to kill bacteria and viruses. Unlike iodine and chlorine, this type of tablet can tackle Cryptosporidium in 4 hours and leaves no aftertaste.

Why Choose Tablets over a Filter?

So, what are the pros of using water filtration tablets?

  • Portable
  • Lightweight
  • Pre-measured
  • Simple to use

What are the Best Water Purification Tablets on the Market?

These are our five favorite brands of water purification tablets, perfect for hikes, camping trips and other water purifying emergencies.

  1. Potable Aqua with PA+
    Potable Aqua comes with 50 iodine tablets that work within 35 minutes to remove bacteria and Giardia from contaminated water. These tablets are used by the military and by other organizations around the world. 
  1. Aquatabs
    Aquatabs are made with sodium chloride and kill microorganisms and bacteria. Aquatabs are used by hikers, campers, and travellers, as well as military and health organizations. Aquatab is devoted to providing safe water to the developing world. Their commercial tablets are perfect for your emergency water purification needs.
  1. Katadyn Micropur
    Made with chlorine dioxide, Katadyn Micropur tablets will purify your water in just 15 minutes. In 4 hours, they will also remove all Cryptosporidium from the water.
  1. Aquamira Tablets
    These tablets are made of chlorine dioxide and kill bacteria and viruses in 15 minutes. They are capable of removing contamination from up to 50 liters of water.
  1. Purinize Drops
    These drops are an alternative to the tablets we’ve listed above. Made of Sulphate Mineral Salts, these drops purify water in one hour. These drops are a wonderful option if you are after emergency water purification that contains zero chemicals. 

Purification Tablets FAQs

Are water purification tablets safe?

In most cases, water purification tablets are completely safe to use. In some cases, iodine tablets may be unsafe. For instance, pregnant women or those with thyroid issues should avoid using iodine-based tablets.

It is also possible to overuse these tablets which can lead to nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. If you experience any of these symptoms after using a purification tablet, we recommend seeing your doctor as soon as possible.

To avoid any negative side effects, be sure to read the product instructions before use. 

If you purify dirty/cloudy water do you also need to filter it?

If you are in a situation where you are drinking “dirty” or cloudy water, you may need to take multiple steps to ensure the water is safe to drink. Boiling water or using purification tablets disinfect water, but do not remove other contaminants that make the water cloudy. If you need to use cloudy water, we recommend using a portable filter or a filter jug prior to disinfection. 

How many water purification tablets do I need to use?

The dosage will depend on the brand of tablet you use. Most brands will require one tablet for every 1-2 liters of water. Follow the instructions on the package and you will not risk using too many or too few tablets.

Can you eat water purification tablets?

It is very unsafe to digest water purification tablets before they have dissolved in water. Eating tablets may result in irritation of the mouth, throat and stomach. It’s important to keep water purification tablets in a labelled container and away from children to avoid accidental consumption.

If you or one of your family members has accidentally eaten a water purification tablet, drink lots of milk or water and seek professional medical advice as soon as possible.

Can water purification tablets expire?

Yes, water purification tablets do have an expiry date. The shelf life of most brands is somewhere between 4-6 years. Be sure to check the package for your specific expiry date.

Once your tablet has dissolved in the water, the water will stay fresh and disinfected for up to 7 days in a sealed container and 24 hours in an open one.

Can you make your own purification tablet at home?

Making water purification tablets is a fairly complex process to do at home. Buying professionally-made tablets is the safest way to ensure your water will be drinkable. We recommend purchasing tablets to avoid poorly made, ineffective tablets.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are heading off on a hiking adventure, or you are simply looking to upgrade your filtration system at home, purifying your water so that it is safe to consume is essential. 

Water filters are generally the best option for at-home use. They are reusable, reliable and chemical-free. Tablets are a fantastic alternative for emergency situations, such as on hikes or during a camping trip. 

If you are planning on using water purification tablets, we recommend reading the instructions carefully, as dosage and dissolving times will differ depending on the brand you have selected.

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