9 Common Water Filter Media

Anyone who has been considering purchasing a water filter system for their home is likely to know of the term ‘filter media’. However, many people aren’t familiar with what it really means. It’s nothing to do with radio and movies!

Water filter media is a substance that comes in a powder. It can be of any thickness. It is what lies in your water filtration system to filter the water. There are two main aspects of selecting a water filter. These are the filtration system and the filter media – these are two separate things.

I have written this article as I am in the process of selecting a water filter for my home. I am concerned about the amount of chlorine that exists in our tap water as well as the other contaminants.

So, I have been looking into which water filter media would be best for my needs. I thought I would share what I found out with all of you.

Filtration Systems vs Filter Media – What’s the Difference?

Filtration systems are the method by which your water will be filtered. For example, you could select a gravity water filter or a reverse osmosis system.

These are the literal systems you will pour water into to filter it. Generally, most of these systems need a filter media to function correctly.

On the other hand, the filter media goes inside whichever system you select. It is what does the actual work of filtering. For example, activated carbon or activated aluminum.

Different media are good at filtering different things out of your water, such as using activated carbon for filtering chlorine.

Types of Water Filter Media

water filter media

1. Activated Aluminium

The system that you would usually use activated aluminum in is an ion exchange unit. Activated aluminum is created using aluminum oxide and is a ceramic compound.

If you are looking for a water softener that removes calcium and magnesium from your water, activated aluminum will do the trick.

Depending on how long the water is in contact with the aluminum, it also has the potential to remove arsenic and fluoride. In fact, they can remove up to 99% of the fluoride from your water when used correctly.

This media is even recommended for use by the Environmental Protection Agency. This is due to its ability to remove harmful contaminants and fluoride.

2. Manganese Dioxide

Multiple media have manganese dioxide as the main ingredient for filtering. Manganese dioxide can remove arsenic from water. In addition, it can lower the levels of iron, hydrogen sulfide and manganese in water.

While iron may be good for you in your spinach or red meat, it’s not so great in water. It will cause you issues in your cooking and hot drinks. Too much iron in your water can also stain your laundry and tableware.

You will most often find manganese dioxide in backwashing filtration systems. Check out this video on how backwashing filtration systems work:

YouTube video


3. Reverse Osmosis Membrane

Found in the highly popular reverse osmosis system is the reverse osmosis membrane. While this is not a powder, it is still a filter media that water passes through to clean it. The percentage of contaminants it can remove from your water is massive.

It even removes the toxic substance asbestos as well as bacteria and heavy metals. It works by pushing water through it and these nasty substances get trapped, leaving fresh water on the other side.

This type of system is often found in faucet water filters or under sink water filters. This means that you can fill up your glass from the tap as normal. But rather than drinking basic tap water, you’re getting fresh pure water.

Find out more about how reverse osmosis works:

YouTube video


4. Kinetic Degradation Fluxion

Kinetic degradation fluxion or KDF filter media contain zinc and copper. Generally, this water filter media won’t contain any chemicals and it may be recyclable too, depending on the brand.

The use of this one can lessen the amount of iron, chlorine and hydrogen sulfide in water. It can also keep algae, scale, and bacteria at bay. While it is not as effective as other methods in getting rid of chloramine, it does remove chlorine.

This media is a great option because it lasts for ages and is cheaper than other methods. It works optimally when paired with a carbon filter. That’s because carbon can reduce chloramine and KDF works to extend how long the carbon lasts.

There are many water filtration systems you can purchase which offer the choice of having more than one media, such as a countertop water filter.

5. Ultra Violet Light

You’re likely to be aware that you need to wary of UV rays from the sun harming your skin. So why should you consider using it as a water filter media? Ultraviolet rays can actually attack the microbes found in water.

It stops nasty contaminants like giardia and E. Coli from reproducing by attacking these cells. This makes them harmless for you.

It can obliterate a myriad of viruses and bacteria that are often found in water. It achieves all this with zero use of chemicals. That’s why UV light filtering systems are rapidly gaining in popularity as a safer alternative to filtering alternatives.

6. Activated Carbon

water filter medium

If you were wondering which one the most popular choice is – it’s activated carbon, by a landslide. It is made from natural elements that are naturally high in carbon.

These can include coconut shells, coal or wood. These are warmed using a method that chars instead of burning them. That char is treated with the result being activated carbon.

This material binds to many of the impurities and toxins in water, removing them in the process. This media is found in most water pitcher filters, whole house water filters, and refrigerator water filters.

Carbon has gotten a bad name lately due to the negative effects of coal on the environment. However, not all activated carbon is made from coal. As mentioned above, it can be created using coconut shells. This has a significantly lower environmental impact.

7. Catalytic Carbon

Catalytic carbon is a specific type of activated carbon. The activated carbon has been altered to have more catalytic capabilities. Its main use is to get rid of the chloramine in the water.

Chloramine has become a popular water treatment option in many places. However, having chloramine in your drinking water can be harmful to your health. That’s why many people seek a way to remove it, such as using a catalytic carbon filter.

Chloramine is incredibly tough to remove from water compared to its counterpart, chlorine. You can use normal activated carbon to remove a little of the chloramine content from water, but catalytic carbon is much more successful at this.

8. Calcium Carbonate

water filtration media

Calcium carbonate is an acid neutralizing media. It is usually used on low pH water to neutralize it. Dissolving it in low pH water will heighten the pH of the water. This can help prevent lead, copper and other metals getting into your precious freshwater.

This can be a very useful media. However, it can increase the hardness of your water. If you use this technique, you should consider also using a water softener in addition to calcium carbonate.

9. Mixed-Media

What is mixed media? It is basically anything you like. Mixed media simply refers to using more than one type of water filtering media in your system. For example, catalytic carbon is often paired with KDF.

They work together to filter out many more substances than either of them could achieve on their own. The carbon attacks the chloramine and the KDF destructs the iron and reduces algae.

Another common combination is sand and carbon. The sand acts as a pre-filter which takes out any larger particles found in your water. Carbon can remove odors, leaving your water smelling as well as tasting great.

There are many combinations you can use. It is worth researching what each media will filter and then create your own optimal combination. You generally find mixed media both mixed into a single cylinder to slot perfectly into your system.

As you can see, there are various options you can choose to use as water filter media. Different media will filter different compounds out of your water.

The first step before selecting which media you want to use is deciding which contaminants are most important for you to filter. Then, you can use this information to determine which media is best at filtering those out.

Then, you can start to think about which type of filtration system best suits your home. It could be a whole house water filter or even just a water pitcher filter.


water filter media types

It is highly likely that you will end up going for a mixed media approach, as then you don’t have to choose between multiple contaminants to filter out.

That’s why this type of media is so popular – it does everything! That’s what I’ll be going within my household, to keep my family as safe as possible. The only question now is which one will you choose?

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