Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Copper from Water?

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Copper-contaminated water can damage your health and plumbing appliances. So when people notice copper in their water, they usually try to get rid of it.

Reverse osmosis is constantly marketed as a reliable water purification method. But does reverse osmosis remove copper from water as well?

In this article, we’ll answer all your questions about reverse osmosis and copper removal. We’ll also discuss some other ways to remove copper from water.

Key Takeaways

  • Yes, reverse osmosis removes copper from water.
  • A good reverse osmosis system removes about 97-98% of copper from water.
  • The copper is removed at the reverse osmosis membrane.

Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Copper From Water?

So, does reverse osmosis remove copper from water? Yes, reverse osmosis removes copper from water.

The reverse osmosis membrane stops copper from passing through it, making your water pretty much copper-free.

How Much Copper Does Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Remove?

Reverse osmosis removes up to 97-98% of copper in water. That’s almost all the copper in your water, which means you can trust reverse osmosis to keep your water safe from copper.

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Other Ways to Remove Copper from Water

Reverse osmosis is not the only way to remove copper from water. Here are some other effective water treatment methods:

Water Distillation

Water distillation is the process of vaporizing water to separate it from contaminants. A water distiller (used for distillation) boils water in a boiling chamber until it evaporates completely. Since copper does not evaporate, it stays in the boiling chamber while clean, contaminant-free water vapor moves to the condenser.

The condenser converts the vapor to liquid, and it flows through a post-filter into a reservoir.

Distillation removes over 99% of copper from water. The post-filter also removes other particles that may have been present.

Cation Exchange (Water Softening)

In cation exchange, positively charged ions in water (like calcium, magnesium, and copper) are exchanged with harmless sodium ions. The cation exchanger, or water softener, uses resin beads to exchange ions in water.


Boiling is a common way to purify water, but boiling does not remove copper from water.

On the contrary, it increases the concentration of copper in water. This happens because as the water boils, some of it evaporates, leading to a spike in the concentration of copper.

What Is Copper?

Copper is a naturally soft red-brown colored metal found in rock, soil, and water bodies.

How Does Copper Enter My Water Supply?

There are two ways through which copper enters water supplies.

  1. The first one is through copper plumbing systems. Copper typically dissolves into the water supply when water flows through copper pipes. It gets even worse if the water is hot, acidic, or contains chlorine; in these conditions, the copper pipes corrode quicker, and more copper leaches into the water faster.
  2. The second way copper can enter your water is through industrial and agricultural activities nearby. For example, chemicals used in agriculture may contain copper, and after they’re used on farmlands. These chemicals seep into groundwater sources and eventually your water supply. But this is rare. Copper enters into water supplies mainly through plumbing systems.


On Your Health

Copper is not necessarily a bad element. Humans need copper to stay healthy. But the food we eat contains enough copper, so drinking water with elevated copper levels usually only causes an overdose. Excess copper can have dire health effects.

Drinking water that contains copper may cause stomach discomfort, headache, nausea, and diarrhea. In addition, people with health conditions like Wilson’s disease can experience severe effects from copper-contaminated water, like liver and kidney damage.

On Your Plumbing and Appliances

Copper in water also affects your plumbing system and water appliances. Copper-contaminated water corrodes appliances like faucets, water heaters, and dishwashers, reducing their lifespan.

Copper also leaves blue-green stains on appliances, which can be ugly to look at. Since copper leaches from pipes, your plumbing may also start to leak over time.

native copper chips

Safe Copper Levels in Drinking Water

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the safe level of copper in drinking water to 1.3 parts per million. Once the level of copper in your water exceeds this threshold, you’re at risk of the harmful effects of copper in water.

How to Test Your Water for Copper

You can buy a test kit that detects the presence of copper in water. The color indicator on the kit will confirm if your water contains copper. Alternatively, you can take your water sample to a certified laboratory for testing. The test will reveal the amount of copper in your water and other necessary details.

A third option is to request your local water test results from your municipal water supplier. The results will help you know if the water in your area contains copper, but you cannot be sure if the copper is from your home plumbing.

How to Lower the Chances of Copper Contaminating Your Water

Many homes are prone to copper contamination. Here’s how to reduce the chances of copper contaminating your water:

Use Non-Copper Plumbing

If the copper originates from your plumbing system itself, you could either switch to non-copper piping like PVC which is going to be an expensive endeavor, or you could try to treat your water so that it is less acidic and contains less chlorine. For the latter option, look into whole house carbon filtration and calcite filters.

Water Softeners

If your plumbing system is not what’s causing elevated copper levels, you could install a water softener to reduce copper concentrations at the point of entry. This will provide you with copper-free water throughout your entire home.

Whole House RO Systems

Whole house RO systems effectively remove copper from water and prevent contamination.

However, the filtered water is highly corrosive. As such, if it flows through copper pipes without any post-treatment, you can expect more copper to leach into your water. To use a whole house RO system, you must balance your water’s pH afterwards.

Alternatively, you can use point-of-use (undersink, countertop, or faucet) RO filters. These types filter water at a specific point where needed, and there’s no risk of the filtered water flowing through larger copper pipe sections.

If you have any thoughts about the question, does reverse osmosis remove copper from water, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

About the Author Alexandra Uta

Alex is a content writer with an affinity for research and a methodical attention to detail. Since 2020, she has fully immersed herself into the home water treatment industry only to become an expert herself. Alex has been using water filters and similar products for years which has gained her lots of hands-on experience.
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