Can You Buy a Shower Head to Filter Hard Water?

Are you constantly battling dry skin and lifeless hair? Do you find it difficult to lather up your shampoo or soap? If so, then hard water may be the culprit behind your everyday struggles. Many companies advertise a shower head to filter hard water as a simple, effective solution, but a closer look at the science behind their marketing claims reveals otherwise. 

A shower head filter is a small but powerful device that attaches to your shower head and filters out the harmful minerals, leaving you with healthier, cleaner water. The numerous benefits of using a shower head with a filter make it an essential investment for protecting your health, but is it possible for a shower head to soften water?  

In this article, we investigate whether or not a shower head filter for hard water can follow through on its promises, and outline exactly how a shower filter can make a big difference in your daily routine.

Common Signs Of Hard Water In Your Home

Hard water is water that contains high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can wreak havoc on your skin, hair, and nails. Before you toss out the shampoo, lotion, or laundry detergent, let’s see if your issues with these products are actually the effects of hard water:

Dry skin and hair? 

Minerals in hard water can strip away the natural oils, leaving your skin and hair dehydrated and lackluster. Consistently depriving your skin and hair of their natural oils can cause:

  • Breakouts and worsening of skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema
  • Clogged pores
  • Fading of color treated hair
  • Dry, flaky scalp 
  • Brittle or frizzy hair

Buildup accumulation from hardness minerals is also prone to mixing with natural oils and may make hair or skin MORE greasy, generally leaving you feeling weighed down and dull.  

Soap scum and residue? 

Hard water can make it difficult for soap and shampoo to lather up properly, and in turn reduces their effectiveness. This can result in soap scum and residue being left behind on your skin, hair, and bathroom fixtures. 

Cleaning your shower head regularly is definitely a good thing, but routinely addressing hard water mineral buildup elsewhere in the bathroom can start to feel like a full time job.

Stained sinks and bathtubs? 

The minerals in hard water can leave behind stains on sinks, bathtubs, and other bathroom surfaces. These stains can be difficult to remove (especially if you prefer to use natural cleaning products) and can make your bathroom look dirty and unappealing.

Faded, stiff or dingy clothing? 

When you wash your clothes in hard water, the minerals can affect the colors and texture of the fabric. Your clothes may appear faded and feel stiff or scratchy. 

Minerals found in hard water prevent your detergent from mixing with the water to form an effective cleaner. This leads to mineral deposits being left behind on your clothing that actually ATTRACT dirt rather than removing it! 

Clogged pipes and appliances? 

If you frequently experience clogged pipes, faucets, or showerheads, it may be a result of mineral buildup from hard water. This can reduce water flow and shower pressure and put added strain on your plumbing system.

If you found yourself answering yes to any of the ongoing problems listed above, you are most likely among the 85% of Americans that have hard water.

Water softening systems are pricey and invasive, making the idea of a budget-friendly product that targets hard water issues in the shower a welcome solution that many companies are eager to capitalize on. But before you invest in a hard water filter for your shower, read on to uncover the truth of what this product can (and can’t) deliver:

Effects of Hard Water

Using a Shower Head to Filter Hard Water: practical solution or marketing ploy?

Let’s start with the basics:

How does a water softener system work? 

Home water softener systems remove calcium and magnesium from water through an ion exchange process. This requires installing a large tank, typically at the main water line of your home, filled with resin beads. These beads trap calcium and magnesium, turning them into sodium or potassium, before releasing the water to flow into the home.

How do filtered shower heads work?

A shower filter is a compact filtration system either integrated into the shower head itself, or installed between the shower head and the shower arm. Shower water filters use various types of filtration media, the substance found inside of the filter, to remove or neutralize chlorine and other harmful contaminants.

So—

Is it possible for a shower head to filter hard water?

No,despite the wide range of filtration media available on the market, none of them can replicate the ion exchange process responsible for softening water. 

As shower head water filters have grown in popularity, the number of companies claiming to offer a hard water filter for showers has also increased. The majority of these same companies rely on marketing tactics rather than effective filtration media and proven results.  

While water hardness or softness is a common pain point and topic of discussion, many people don’t realize that chlorine and contaminant content can have an even greater impact on your shower experience and water quality.

Benefits Of Using A Shower Head with a Filter

Even though you cannot use a shower head to filter hard water, several issues associated with hard water are exacerbated by, and in some cases could be attributed to, the presence of chlorine, chloramines and other contaminants in your shower water.

Using a shower head with a filter to eliminate or reduce your exposure to these harsh chemicals can comprehensively mitigate the effects of hard water—providing immediate results with long-term improvement.

A shower head water filter can transform the disappointing scene you encounter day after day in your bathroom into the invigorating, worth-aspiring-to shower experiences pictured everywhere: 

  • Slathering sudsy mounds of shampoo all over your hair? Check.
  • Bathroom surfaces and fixtures that are a testament to that deep clean for longer than a day or two? Check.
  • Reuniting your skin and hair with the oils they need to look and feel their best? Check. 

Ah, goodbye squeaky and dry—hello hydrated. 

But beyond cosmetics and conveniences, shower head filters are an all too often overlooked component of overall health and well-being.

Understanding The Effects of Unfiltered Showers On Health

You might be thinking—hard water is a nuisance, but is investing in a filter for my shower head really worth it?

Emphatically, yes. Many of us are aware of the presence of contaminants and additives in our municipal drinking water. Filtering water from the tap before consuming it is commonly accepted best practice, and now more and more people are addressing the elephant in the bathroom. 

Our skin, the body’s largest organ by far, is capable of adapting to our environment in many ways, but repeated exposure to harsh conditions takes a toll. These same contaminants we avoid drinking are absorbed by our skin when we shower, and research suggests we are dealing with a host of evolving and unregulated disinfection by-products (DBP’s) that pose significant health risks. 

DBP’s are a result of added disinfectants- mostly chlorine and chloramine- reacting to natural organic matter (NOM: think plant material, bacteria, and algae) found in the water. Hundreds of DBP’s are known to be in treated water, but the EPA has studied and set legal limits for only 11 of them. 

Water Treatment Plant Shower Head Filter for Hard WaterDisinfectants are necessary and do good things for our water supply; nobody wants to live with the threat of infection from water-borne pathogens like Salmonella or E.coli. But their helpful role in the water treatment process does not mean our continual exposure to them is healthy. 

Luckily, affordable alternatives to expensive, invasive whole house water filtration systems (which are effectively made inaccessible to renters) are readily available. A shower head with a filter is an integral link in that chain of protection throughout your home.   

Types Of Shower Head Water Filters 

There are about as many options for shower head filters as there are reasons for investing in one. From a design standpoint, there are two main types: filtered shower heads and in-line shower filters. 

Filtered shower head 

A filtered shower head combines the shower head and the filter into one product. This style isn’t the most customizable, and it narrows your shower head selection. But the incorporated construction makes the design elements more cohesive and eliminates the need for matching finishes.

In-line shower filter

In-line shower filters are universally designed to be attached between the shower arm and the shower head. Going this route opens up some of the cheapest options and means you won’t have to update anything else.

But, not only does investing more at this stage save money in the long run, it also gives you the opportunity to select better materials—like saying no to cheap plastic and yes to All Metal—for a more durable, efficient shower head that resolves any other issues you may be experiencing. 

Next, we’ll look at the four main types of filtration media that are inside the filter doing all of the dirty work:

Types of Shower Filter Filtration Media 

KDF  

KDF (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion) filters are made of a combination of copper and zinc. They are effective in removing heavy metals, chlorine, and other impurities from the water. KDF filters can also help inhibit the growth of bacteria and algae, ensuring clean and safe water for your shower.

Calcium Sulfite

Calcium sulfite is frequently used in conjunction with KDF, and for good reason. A chemical reaction occurs when calcium sulfite comes into contact with water, converting the chlorine into harmless chloride ions. Unlike some filtration media that require longer exposure time to be effective, calcium sulfite works in less than one second: making it well-adapted for use in shower filters.

Activated Carbon 

Carbon filters use activated carbon (also called activated charcoal) and are an effective option for removing chlorine and other chemical contaminants from the water. They can also help reduce odors and improve the taste of the water.

Unfortunately, activated carbon should not be used at temperatures higher than 80°F. Although there are many shower filters on the market that utilize activated carbon, hot water is shown to damage the media and potentially release trapped contaminants.

Vitamin C  

Vitamin C filters use a form of ascorbic acid to neutralize chlorine and chloramines in the water. They are an excellent option for individuals with sensitive skin or those who are concerned about the potential health effects of chlorine exposure. Vitamin C filters can help improve skin and hair health by providing a gentle and natural filtration method.

While ascorbic acid is extremely effective for chlorine, it will not remove heavy metals or other contaminants. It also loses its potency much faster than most filtration media and requires a replacement cartridge as early as 4-6 weeks from the first use.

Many shower head filters combine multiple filtration methods for enhanced coverage and water quality, but beware multi-stage filters and untested or ineffective filtration media.


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Factors To Consider When Choosing A Shower Head with a Filter

When you are ready to make the transition to using a shower water filter, keeping these key points in mind can help guide your decision making:

Filtration Media  

A shower head filter is only as effective as its filtration media. KDF and Calcium Sulfite are science-backed and proven to provide consistent, powerful results. Look for filters that not only use KDF and calcium sulfite, but pack in enough of them to allow sufficient contact time for the chemical processes responsible for filtering the water.

NSF Certification 

NSF is an internationally recognized testing agency whose work has helped shape public health standards since 1944. If you see this certification, it means that the manufacturer complies with national standards and the filter has undergone extensive testing. You can rest assured the filter does what it claims to do and that peace of mind can go a long way.  

Filter Lifespan  

Different shower head filters have varying lifespans. Some cartridges need to be replaced every few months, while others can last up to a year (and some allow for ingenious hacks that potentially double the filter lifespan in less than 2 minutes!). Consider how frequently you are willing, physically and financially, to replace the filter and choose accordingly.  

Installation  

Consider the ease of installation when choosing a shower head filter. Look for filters that are easy to attach and require minimal tools or plumbing knowledge. You might also consider the complexity of the filter itself and whether or not replacement parts for the filter housing and new cartridges are easy to find, repair, or modify to your specific needs .

Maintenance

Some shower head filters require regular maintenance, such as cleaning or backwashing. Consider your willingness to perform these maintenance tasks and choose a filter that aligns with your preferences.

Price 

Shower head filters come in various price ranges. Consider your budget and choose a filter that provides the best value for your money. Keep in mind that investing in a high-quality filter may have long-term cost savings by preventing plumbing issues and prolonging the lifespan of your appliances.

Not to mention the innumerable benefits of protecting yourself from all of the toxic effects of shower water contaminants: being proactive about your health is priceless. 

HammerHead Showers Hand Held Shower Head and Sprite Shower Head Filter

Installation And Maintenance Of Shower Head Filters

Installing a shower head water filter is a relatively simple process that can be done without professional help. Here are the general steps to follow:

1. Prepare the shower head  

Start by removing the existing shower head from the shower arm. Use an adjustable wrench or pliers to unscrew it carefully. Be sure to protect the shower arm by wrapping it with a cloth or using a protective tool.

2. Attach the filter  

Take your new shower head filter and attach it to the shower arm. Ensure that it is tightly secured, but be careful not to over tighten it, as this can cause damage to the filter or shower arm.

3. Test for leaks and flush the filter  

Turn on the water and run for at least a minute to flush the filter of any filtration media residue. Check for any leaks around the filter. If there are any leaks, try tightening the connection further. If the leaks persist, remove the filter and inspect the rubber washers or gaskets for any damage or misalignment.

4. Reinstall the Shower Head  

Thread the shower head onto the filter and firmly tighten. Check for leaks and carefully tighten the connection further if necessary. 

In terms of maintenance, shower head filters usually require periodic replacement of the filter cartridge. The frequency of replacement will depend on the specific filter you choose and the quality of your water.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for filter replacement, and be sure to keep track of when the filter needs to be changed. Regular cleaning of the filter and shower head can also help maintain optimal performance and prolong the lifespan of the filter.

Best Shower Head Water Filter (and what to look for when buying one!)

With such a wide range of shower water filters available, there is no shortage of choices to be made. But not all shower head filters are created equally. The most important factor to consider is the quality of the filtration media, followed closely by the outer casing material. Fortunately, we take our showers pretty seriously around here, and that dedication led us to a filter that is effective, affordable, durable and highly adaptable to any shower setup.

HammerHead Showers All Metal Shower Head Filter

All Metal Shower Filter HammerHead Showers

Buy Now

Our top pick, the HammerHead Showers Shower Head Filter, is 3rd Party Lab Tested and has a filter cartridge that lasts up to 12-months. It comes built to last in a high-strength brass housing with a proprietary blend of KDF 55 and Calcium Sulfite, giving you all of the protection and perks of a shower head filter with none of the hassle associated with leaks, breaks or frequent cartridge changes.

To make your shower experience something to truly look forward to, pair your new shower filter with our powerful and incredibly economical All Metal 2-Inch High Pressure Shower Head. Enjoy healthier, cleaner showers without breaking the bank or sacrificing the coverage and pressure you love. 

Common Questions About Shower Head Filters For Hard Water

Is a shower head filter the same as a water softener? 

No, a shower head filter does not soften water by removing all of the calcium and magnesium, and water softeners do not filter out any chlorine or contaminants.  

Will a shower head with a filter fix hard water in the shower?

While it is not possible for a shower head to filter hard water, shower water filters mitigate the effects of hard water and drastically improve the overall quality of the water. Many of the problems associated with hard water (like dry skin, hair, nails, and limescale or mineral deposits) can be improved by removing chlorine and other impurities from your water with a shower head water filter.

Will a hard water filter for showers affect the water pressure? 

No, shower head filters—when installed properly—will not decrease water pressure. If you notice a reduction in flow rate, it might be time to change the filter cartridge. 

You may even have the filter to thank for consistently keeping the water pressure at optimal level by removing debris and buildup that can cause clogs in the shower head.

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