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Ceramic Water Filter: How Does It Work?

ceramic water filters working principleCeramic water filters are a highly effective method for water purification. Ceramic filters use the small pore size of ceramic to remove bacteria and sediment from drinking water. Due to their long lifespan, filtration properties, affordability, and longevity, ceramic filters represent a very popular choice.

A ceramic water filter is made from upper and lower containers that house the ceramic candles. The system also includes a tap and a lid (which prevents water contamination). The ceramic candles are screwed into the base of the lower container. This container includes a tap that allows the safe withdrawal of the water.

Ceramic water filters are effective against most bacteria, thus removing 99% of pathogens such as E. Coli, salmonella, or shigella. Sediment like dirt, rust, and debris is also effectively removed by these filters. Ceramic filters also remove turbidity, restoring water to a clear crystal state.

However, the ceramic filters do not prove very efficient against minerals. Water softeners tend to be more helpful in this case. Viruses are also very difficult to remove through mechanical filtration, so a UV water purifier is much better. Total dissolved solids are another challenge for the ceramic water filters, this being a case where a reverse osmosis system works better.

Nevertheless, combined with ion exchange resins or activated carbon, ceramic water filters will remove heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and chlorine. Understanding how a water filter works is important in order to decide what is the best solution for residential or industrial applications. 

What is a Ceramic Water Filter?

A ceramic water filter is media with tiny pores to lead out bacteria, sediment, and turbidity from the drinking water. Ceramic water filtration is the oldest filtration method on the market and was discovered by the British potter Henry Doulton in 1827. He noticed that flowing water through porous ceramic media would remove pathogens like cholera or typhus.  

The composition of the material from which ceramic water filters are made may differ. However, ceramic water filters are made from silica powder obtained from the microscopic algae deposited in lake beds ages ago. The prehistoric material is called kieselguhr or diatomaceous Earth. This silica is turned at high temperatures into ceramic filter candles.

Compared with other water filtration systems like reverse osmosis or UV filtration, a ceramic water filtration system for the home will not remove some contaminants such as viruses, total dissolved solids, or heavy metals. However, ceramic water filtration works well in conjunction with other filtration methods such as activated carbon or silver.

How Does a Ceramic Filter Work?

Ceramic water filters work based on mechanical filtration, where the filter functions as a screen. Water flows through the ceramic filter surface, and particles larger than the ceramic pores are blocked and retained. Microscopic contaminants with particles bigger than 0.5 microns will not pass through the ceramic.

The ceramic water filtration method copies some of the Earth’s natural water purification processes. Water from aquifers flows through layers of rocks, thus being purified of impurities.

Many ceramic water filters will include silver to remove bacteria and prevent mold or algae inside it or activated carbon against chlorine, chloramines, and other organic compounds.

What is in a Ceramic Filter Candle?

A ceramic filter candle is a simple device made out of clay used to filter drinking water. Mechanical trapping and adsorption are applied to remove pathogens, sediment, and turbidity from the water. Water flows from the upper container through a ceramic candle based on the bottom. Once the water passes through the ceramic, it is collected in the lower container.

One of the main advantages of using ceramic water filtration systems is the possibility of storing purified water. Plus, the system does not require electricity to function, and it does not involve high costs. As for drawbacks, the ceramic filter candles are very fragile, heavy, and do not remove all contaminants. Also, they have a low flow rate.

What is the History of Ceramic Water Filters?

The inventor of the ceramic water filter is the British pottery maker Henry Doulton. Back in 1827 in London, people used to drink water from the Thames. This drinking water was contaminated with raw sewage. Therefore, cholera and typhoid epidemics were common.

Henry Doulton invented the first ceramic filter using earth and clay materials. His water filtration system caught Queen Victoria’s attention. In 1835, Doulton created an elegant and efficient gravity-fed stoneware filter for the queen’s royal household. By 1846 the ceramic water filtration method developed by Henry Doulton became popular and largely used.

Lately, ceramic water filters have been significantly improved and transformed. Manufacturers often combine ceramics with other filtration media, such as activated carbon or silver. However, Doulton filters remain a popular choice for many consumers.

What are the Most Common Applications for Ceramic Water Filters?

Ceramic water filters were developed to remove waterborne pathogens and sediment from drinking water. However, with the latest developments, these filters started to be used in a wide range of industrial applications. The rising environmental concerns led to using ceramic water filters to remove suspended solids and oils from wastewater.

What Does a Ceramic Filter Remove?

Ceramic water filters can remove or reduce pathogens, sediments, and turbidity from drinking water. Thus, they are widely used as filtration systems for homes. They make great under-sink or countertop filters. Moreover, the gravity-fed filters can be used in the kitchen and taken on camping trips.

The ceramic shell can also retain cysts that are too large to pass through the pores (Giardia and Cryptosporidium). Furthermore, silver ion impregnation of the ceramic keeps the filter’s surface clean as bacteria cannot resist silver. Ceramic water filters with activated carbon can significantly reduce chloramine and volatile organic compounds that get into water due to agricultural runoff.

What Ceramic Filters Don’t Remove

Ceramic water filters do not remove a series of harmful compounds such as:

  • Viruses
  • Minerals
  • Heavy metals
  • Pesticides
  • Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

In addition to the previously mentioned contaminants, 100% ceramic water filters cannot remove chlorine, chloramine, or trihalomethanes.

What are the Types of Ceramic Water Filter?

Depending on the different filtration media included in the ceramic candle, there are two types of ceramic water filters:

  • Ceramic filters with activated carbon
  • Ceramic filters with ion exchange resin

1. Ceramic Filters with Activated Carbon

As stated before, 100% ceramic water filters can not remove chlorine and a series of volatile organic compounds. Often, activated carbon is either blended in the ceramic or included in the inner core of a ceramic water filter. Due to the activated carbon, these ceramic filters can now remove chlorine and chloramines from drinking water. Also, the level of volatile organic compounds such as pesticides or paints is significantly reduced.

Using a ceramic water filter with activated carbon is a good solution for removing the unpleasant taste and smell of drinking water (as it removes chlorine and its by-products) but will also prevent people from consuming harmful compounds.

2. Ceramic Filters with Ion Exchange Resin

Ion exchange resins have the capability to reduce heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, copper, mercury, or zinc. The ion exchange resin layer is added to the core of the ceramic water filter. Water flows through the ceramic. Thus, pathogens and sediment are retained. The next layer is represented by the ion exchange resin that retains the heavy metals.

A high concentration of heavy metals in drinking water poses a great risk for human and animal health. Using a ceramic water filter with ion exchange resin significantly decreases the risks associated with consuming these elements.

Why is Ceramic Filter Beneficial?

ceramic water filter explanationThe main benefits from using ceramic water filters are:

  • Reduction of bacteria, cysts, and protozoa in drinking water: Ceramic water filters are highly efficient in reducing these contaminants. Therefore, such a filtration system is ideal for kitchen and camping trips.
  • Cost-effective: Ceramic water filters are reasonably priced, and considering their long lifespan, they return an excellent value for money.
  • Versatility: These filters can be used anywhere. For example, gravity-fed filtration systems are easy to make using a ceramic candle filter and two recipients. This way, water from streams or wells can be easily filtered even when camping.
  • Long lifespan: A ceramic water filter can last for a whole year if appropriately cleaned. Ceramic water filters with activated carbon might need replacing every 6 – 12 months, depending on the water quality.
  • Easy to install: Installing a ceramic water filter does not require electronics or complicated fittings. Also, it is easy to notice when the filter needs cleaning or replacing.

Does Ceramic Filter Waste Water?

Yes, ceramic filters do filter wastewater.

Due to the rapid growth of population and development of the economy, some regions face a shortage of water resources. Thus, it has become extremely important to treat wastewater and reuse it. One of the technologies used for wastewater treatment is the ceramic membrane. Among the many advantages of using ceramic for wastewater treatments, the high-temperature resistance, antimicrobial ability, high mechanical strength, and lack of toxicity are worth mentioning.

Using ceramic for wastewater treatment is an excellent way to prevent water wastage. For example, ceramic membranes are capable of removing a high percentage of cleaning agents.

Is Ceramic Filter Good for the Environment?

Yes, ceramic water filters have beneficial effects on the environment. They represent an environmentally friendly method of purifying water because no chemicals are used.

Being made from naturally occurring raw materials, ceramic water filters are easy to dispose of and biodegradable. Moreover, some filters have a very long lifespan (up to 5 years). Using such a filtration system instead of buying bottled water has a significant impact on saving the environment.

Is a Ceramic Water Filter Good for Health?

Yes, using a ceramic water filter is good for human health.

In some parts of the world, water is contaminated with bacteria and protozoa that cause diarrheal diseases. Since ceramic is proven to filter such contaminants, using a filter made of this material significantly reduces the risks of getting such diseases. The main benefits of ceramic water filters for human health are:

  • Remove bacteria, protozoa, and cysts
  • Do not remove useful minerals such as calcium, magnesium, or sodium
  • Ceramic water filters are self-sterilizing

What is the Cost of Ceramic Water Filters?

The price of ceramic water filters depends on the local production costs, and it usually ranges between $15 – $25. Replacement elements will cost $4 to $6.

A ceramic filtration system for home usually falls in the cost range of $100 – $200.

How to Clean a Ceramic Filter

Ceramic water filters can be cleaned and reused many times before needing replacing. Water contaminants build up on the exterior of the ceramic candle, causing water flow to slow down or stop. When this happens, it means the filter requires cleaning.

To clean the ceramic water filter, the ceramic candle must be removed from the housing. This operation requires attention as ceramic is a fragile material, and it can crack if dropped. The following steps involve cleaning the ceramic candle under running water without soaps, detergents, or rough materials. A toothbrush can be safely used for this operation. After checking if the sealing’s washer is correctly seated, the filter can be re-installed.

What is the Lifespan of Ceramic Water Filters?

ceramic water filter and its benefitsThe lifespan of a ceramic water filter is roughly one year. Depending on the water quality, a ceramic water filter should last at least one year. However, some manufacturers produce filters that can last more than 18 months if properly maintained.

An important thing to notice is that some internal components of the filter might have a shorter lifespan than the ceramic. For example, ceramic water filters with activated carbon require replacing every 6 to 12 months, depending on the water quality.

To prolong the life of ceramic water filters, all that is needed is regular cleaning and attention when manipulating the device. Sometimes small cracks in the ceramic are not visible, but they damage the filter and affect its performance.

What are the Ceramic Water Filter Brands?

The most important brands that produce ceramic water filters are listed below:

  • Doulton: The original brand, with industry-leading filtration solutions, has been present on the market since 1827, continually improving its products.
  • Big Berkey Water Filters: Ceramic filters produced by this company are considered the gold standard in the water filtration industry, according to satisfied customers and different independent laboratories.
  • Aquasana: The American brand is well-known for its performant and eco-friendly water filtration solutions preferred by many homeowners.  
  • AquaTru: Famous for its industry-leading water filtration products, the Dutch company has customers worldwide. 
  • SHTFandGO: Although the American company is known for its survival products, the ceramic filters sold by them are the best solution, especially in case of emergencies (storms, earthquakes, etc.). 
  • AquaCera: AquaCera is the brand of ceramic filters developed by Ceramic Filters Company (CFCI), a company that has kept improving the water filtration solutions since 1989.

What are the Ceramic Water Filter Products?

Ceramic water filter products are listed below:

  • Pot-type ceramic filters: they come in a flowerpot shape and can hold up to 10 liters of water.
  • Candle-type ceramic filters: more durable and flexible than pot ceramic filters as they are protected by metal or plastic housings.
  • Inline ceramic water filters: remove the need for a separate filter next to the water tap.

Apart from the above types of filters, manufacturers also offer ceramic water filter cartridges and accessories.

Which Ceramic Filters Should be Preferred?

Some of the best ceramic water filters are listed below:

  • Doulton W9121200: The W9121200 model from Doulton costs $60.21, and it is an excellent choice for household use. Doulton included an activated carbon layer inside the ceramic candle and silver ions within the ceramic shell. This three-filtration stage system is proven to remove pathogenic bacteria, rust, suspended solids, turbidity, and cysts. However, the W9121200 model is not recommended for high-pressure water systems, although the water treated this way is crystal clear and has a pleasant taste.
  • Doulton W9123053 Ceramic Filter Candle: Another excellent Doulton product is the UltraCarb ceramic filter candle. This model is fairly priced, $35, and represents an ideal choice for household usage. The W9123053 model is made from a silver impregnated ceramic and includes an activated carbon layer. Apart from harmful bacteria, turbidity, and other impurities, this ceramic water filter also removes lead and hydrogen sulfide.
  • SHTFandGO Ceramic Dome Water Filter: The ceramic dome water filter produced by SHTFandGO can remove bacteria, organic and inorganic chemicals, lead, and other harmful impurities. This silver-impregnated ceramic filter costs $26 and represents a good solution for household usage. However, it does not include activated carbon, but it still does a great job with water filtering.
  • Big Berkey Water Filter: Big Berkey is one of the most popular water filters produced by the American company. Due to its size and versatility, this water filter is perfect for small houses or other places where space is an issue. For $317, the customer gets the unit and two additional replacement filters. This gravity water filter removes a wide range of pollutants, lead included. Also, by adding fluoride filters to the unit, it will filter out this compound and arsenic. Due to these features, Big Berkey can be used for emergency preparedness and off-grid living.
  • Katadyn Vario Water Filter: Katadyn Vario ceramic water filter is an excellent option for traveling or camping trips. It costs $75.80 and is capable of producing up to two liters of freshwater per minute. The Vario water filter uses a dual technology for removing waterborne pathogenic bacteria and chemicals such as pesticides.
  • Aquaboon CE-S Water Filter: The silver impregnated ceramic water filter manufactured by Aquaboon is capable of removing impurities larger than 200 nanometers. Pathogenic bacteria, volatile organic compounds, or chlorine are easily removed from the drinking water. Due to its capabilities, this ceramic dome is ideal for any household, although it might not fit some water systems brands. But, for $18, it makes a good investment.
  • SHTFandGO Gravity Well Ultra Water Filter: This unit has many appealing features, such as three ceramic carbon activated candle filters, seven gallons of storage, safe locking lids, and a removable paracord handle. Plus, the filter can remove most harmful bacteria and cysts and heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, or chlorine and chloramine due to the small pores’ size. Sold for $195, the SHFTandGO gravity well also comes with changing tools. This unit is perfect for any household but also for emergencies.
  • AquaCera Stainless Steel Countertop Ceramic Water Filtration System: This unit is a free-standing ceramic filter for countertop use. It does not need plumbing modifications, and it is easy to install. The filtration system can be used in apartments, cabins, boats, and other small spaces. For $210, AquaCera guarantees the reduction of pathogenic bacteria, cysts, chlorine, chloramine, lead, debris, and volatile organic compounds.
  • Huining Ceramic Dome: The South Korean brand offers an affordable product to budget-conscious homeowners. Made out of natural diatomite, this filter contains no chemical synthesis materials. Moreover, it fits all water systems, including countertop and water cooler models, water reservoirs, or emergency water systems. The Huining ceramic dome costs $23 and can remove pathogenic bacteria, lead, arsenic, iron, or aluminum.
  • Lelekey Tap Water Filter System: The Lelekey water filtering system comes with six stages of filtration and an excellent price of $16. Its ergonomic design includes activated carbon fiber which removes chlorine, thus giving the water a pleasant taste and odor. Perfect for any household, the filter effectively removes debris, rust, and heavy metals. It needs replacing every 3 months, depending on the water quality.

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