Multiple studies have shown that chlorine and its disinfection byproducts in particular can pose a serious health risk. This is why, in this article, we are going to explain everything you need to know about chlorine in tap water – from why it is being added to our water supply systems to how to remove it naturally and without chemicals to make water ready for drinking. We also address chloramine further down below.
On this page you will learn:
One could ask: Why do water utilities add chlorine to municipal water in the first place? In our opinion, that’s a fair question and here’s the answer:
First of all, untreated water can be highly dangerous when consumed. It may contain harmful pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses and parasites, that can make us sick, very sick. Some of these pathogens might only cause mild symptoms like diarrhea, others severe illnesses that theoretically speaking can even result in death – think typhoid fever.
On a side note: Each year, about 400 cases of typhoid fever occur in the U.S. Roughly 100 of those are NOT acquired while traveling abroad.
That’s why these microorganisms need to be removed from our water before we drink it, use it for washing or to prepare our meals.
For more than 100 years, chlorine has been widely used as a cheap yet effective disinfecting agent to make water potable. In fact, chlorine treatment is the cheapest way of water disinfection that we know of. The halogen gets added to the water after it was treated with other chemicals and filtered to remove dust, sediment and other contaminants.
Apart from low costs, the benefits of using chlorine to disinfect water are:
Another important question to ask is: Is chlorinated water actually safe to drink? Because if it is, then we don’t really have to worry about it. Sure, it adds an unpleasant taste and odor to our water, but that doesn’t matter from a health perspective.
However, what if chlorinated water is not safe to drink? After all, according to Scientific American, “Chlorine is currently employed by over 98 percent of all U.S. water utilities that disinfect drinking water.”
The most notable side effect of chlorine in tap water is of aesthetic nature: It makes our waters taste and smell bad, and can also alter the taste of tea, coffee and all other foods that get in contact with it.
But what about negative effects on our health?
The Environmental Protection Agency defines the standards for and regulates the quality of (drinking) water in the U.S. It has set the limit for chlorine to 4 milligrams per liter (mg/L). In other words, 4 mg/L is deemed safe for human consumption. But how much chlorine can actually be found in our tap water?
In many cases, municipal water has to travel a long way until it reaches its final destination: Your home. That’s why it’s important to maintain a sufficient level of chlorine throughout the whole journey, as pathogens might enter the water via old pipes and storage tanks or due to leaks.
How much chlorine can be found in your water depends on where you receive your water from. Chlorine levels differ from one utility to the next, so here are a couple of examples:
|Water System||People Served||Average Chlorine Levels|
|East Bay Municipal Utility District (CA)||1,379,000||2.1 mg/L|
|Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department (FL)||2,300,000||1.7 mg/L|
|New York City System (NY)||8,271,000||0.7 mg/L|
|Dallas Water Utility (TX)||1,197,816||2.12 mg/L|
|Columbus Public Water System (OH)||1,196,848||1.05-1.43 mg/L|
Why is there chlorine in bottled drinking water anyway? Oh, of course! 64% of the water is nothing but fancy looking and overly expensive tap water. Examples: Aquafina and Pure Life. So chlorine levels vary from one brand to the next, as these companies draw their water from different supply systems.
Water from bottlers that only rely on ozone or UV light for disinfection and that don’t use chlorinated water from public systems should not contain any chlorine at all – or only insignificant levels.
No one doubts that chlorine has many benefits as a water disinfectant. However, concerns about the consequences of long-term exposure to chlorine and its byproducts have arisen in recent years – and rightly so!
That’s why many households are now looking for ways to remove chlorine from their tap water.
The good news is that removing chlorine and many of the harmful byproducts is fairly easy with the help of specialized filter systems.
First, you can choose between point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) systems:
When you consider that the biggest part of our daily exposure to chlorine does not come from the water we drink, but from what our skin absorbs and our lungs inhale while showering, POE systems make a lot of sense. Alternatively, you could combine a point-of-use system for the water that you use for drinking and cooking with a shower filter.
Second, no matter what type of system you choose, what’s important is that it utilizes at least 1 activated carbon block or granular activated carbon (GAC) filter stage. The carbon medium will adsorb up to 99% of chlorine, its byproducts and many other natural and synthetic compounds from water and traps them in the tiny pores on its surface without the use of chemicals.
By the way, when it comes to carbon filters, it’s important to size them appropriately. The more water that needs to be treated within a given period of time, the larger the filters needs to be. And remember that, as with most other types of filters, carbon filters require replacement about every 6 months or so to maintain their removal capabilities and avoid bacterial infestation.
A viable but less common alternative to carbon filtration is UV light treatment. Broad-spectrum ultraviolet systems can reduce chlorine and chloramines into easily removed byproducts.
Apart from filtration, there are several other methods for how to dechlorinate water. You can learn more about these methods in our FAQ below.
Enough of the theory. Let’s talk business. Which type of water filters remove chlorine?
Yes, it does – well, at least a multistage reverse osmosis system does!
While the semipermeable membrane itself doesn’t do much against chlorine, every single system that we reviewed applied at least 2 carbon pre and post-filter stages.
The advantages and drawbacks of using an RO system are:
These are 3 of our most favorite RO systems and their tested chlorine reduction rates. You can learn more about each one of them by clicking on “Read Our Review” in the table below the product images:
Best Rated RO System: Home Master TMAFC-ERP
Read Our Review
Lowest Maintenance Costs: iSpring RCC7
Read Our Review
Looks like we’ve already answered this question (yes, they do). Of course, there are different types of filter systems that utilize carbon medium:
As the name suggests, with whole house filters the chlorine removal begins right where the water enters your home and before it gets distributed to the various outlets and appliances.
Our favorite system: The iSpring WGB32B – removes more than 97.0% of chlorine!
Using a water filter pitcher is the simplest way to get chlorine-free drinking water.
Our favorite pitcher: The Aquagear – removes 99.9% of chlorine + chloramine!
Countertop water filters combine ease of use with decent filtration performance.
Our favorite countertop filter: The Home Master TMJRF2 Jr F2 – removes up to 93.0% of chlorine!
Similar to countertop filters, faucet mounted filters are affordable while doing an okay job at eliminating impurities from water.
Our favorite faucet filter: The Culligan FM-25 – removes 97.4% chlorine on average!
Installing a shower filter in your home is a great idea Why? Because as long as you are not using a whole house filtration system you will be exposed to chlorine each time you take a shower.
Our favorite chlorine shower filter? The Sonaki which is based on vitamin C and neutralizes 99.9% of all chlorine (and chloramine)!
Yes, it does. In fact, the simplest way to remove chlorine from water is by letting it evaporate. Chlorine as a gas is a volatile solute, which means that it will escape into the surrounding air over time.
How long does water need to sit to dechlorinate?
This depends on water temperature and surface area, air temperature, and the level of dissolved chlorine. For example: If you put a large but very flat bowl of water containing chlorine out in the sun, the dechlorination process is much faster than if you’d put a glass of the same water in your refrigerator.
Generally speaking, you should let the water sit for about 24 hours. For more control over the process, you can use chlorine test strips to determine how much chlorine is left.
The main benefit of this methods is that it’s free. Drawbacks are that the evaporation takes a long time, it’s less effective with chloramines and your water might get contaminated with other impurities.
Absolutely, it does. How long does it take for the chlorine to dissipate? Simply boil your water for about 15 to 20 minutes and voila, all chlorine will be gone. Obviously, this method is much faster than waiting for “natural evaporation” (see question above).
The biggest drawback is that quite a lot of energy is required for the heating and, again, it’s a little harder to get rid of chloramine.
Yes. Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, can neutralize both chlorine and chloramine in water. It comes in form of dechlorination tablets and can be used to treat large volumes.
Compared to other chlorine neutralizers, the advantages of using vitamin C are that it’s an environmentally safe method and that ascorbic acid can be obtained for little money from many different places, like your local pet store.
How much vitamin C is needed?
Although this depends on individual chlorine concentrations, you want to add about 1 teaspoon per gallon.
Yes, it does. The Brita Longlast for filter pitchers reduces 97.4% of chlorine according to independent lab test reports. What’s more, we know that the Brita Standard (also for filter pitchers) reduces chlorine, too – we just don’t know how much of it.
Brita’s On Tap faucet mounted water filter removes 97.5% chlorine.
Yes, the ZeroWater filter pitcher removes 97.4% of chlorine according to a test conducted by NSF International.
Yes, PUR’s Basic and Lead Reduction pitcher filters remove at least 96.9% of chlorine. The PUR faucet filter removes about 96% of chlorine and 99.7% of THMs, a group of dangerous chlorine disinfection byproducts.
Like all other water filters that use carbon medium, refrigerator water filters do remove chlorine. You can learn more in our refrigerator water filter guide.
Unfortunately, conventional softeners do not remove chlorine, chloramines or any of the disinfection byproducts from water. To be precise, a softener does not remove anything from water except calcium and magnesium ions, and in some cases bits of iron and manganese.
You have to know that water softeners are not meant to filter water. To remove chlorine, you would have to use a softener that has an additional filtration stage integrated, or use an entirely separate filtration system.
It really depends on what you are trying to achieve or rather what you want to use the water for. For more guidance, see questions above.
Chlorine is likely to cause harm to aquarium fish. If you want to remove chlorine from water to fill your fish tank, here is what you can do:
Chloramines, just like chlorine, can be used to disinfect water. But what are the differences between chloramines and chlorine?
Chlorine is a chemical element (symbol: Cl). Chloramines only form when chlorine is mixed with ammonia. By the way, the reason why we use the plural here is because there are different types of chloramines, such as monochloramine (NH2Cl) and dichloramine (NHCl2). But only the former is stable enough to remain in water, which is why it’s widely used for disinfection.
But enough with the chemistry. What’s really interesting to us is that more and more municipalities are currently switching from chlorine to chloramine for water treatment. The reasons are manifold:
A statistic provided by the CDC shows that almost 70 million Americans received drinking water treated with chloramine in 2012. If this is the case for your water supply, too, you need to focus on chloramine instead of chlorine reduction.
The easiest way to find out if your city water is being treated with chlorine or chloramine is by calling the local authorities.
Also, you should be aware that chlorine test strips are useless for chloramines.
What are some of the side effects associated with chloramine?
Activated carbon is perfect to filter chlorinated water. For chloramine, however, it won’t suffice. Well, actually it does, but it takes a longer contact time and bigger filters to achieve the desired results.
That’s where catalytic carbon filters come into play. Catalytic carbon medium is like activated carbon on steroids – at least that’s how we like to put it. Not only does it remove chloramine and chloramine by-products, it’s also highly effective at reducing THMs and VOCs. The only downside is that catalytic carbon filters are more expensive.
UV light is also good at destroying chloramines in water.
Yes, installing an RO system in your home will help you to reduce the amount of chloramine dissolved in your water. We recommend you to take a closer look at the following 3 systems.
While Home Master does not provide specific reduction rates for chloramine with their TMAFC-ERP model, it’s still our favorite product. Both the Aquasana OptimH2O and the iSpring RCC7 have proven to be capable of chloramine reduction in independent lab tests:
Best Rated RO System: Home Master TMAFC-ERP
Read Our Review
Lowest Maintenance Costs: iSpring RCC7
Read Our Review
There are 3 non-RO under sink filters that we recommend for chloramine removal:
The Sonaki shower filter is most effective at chloramine neutralization rendering it harmless. More details above.
Monochloramine is much more stable than chlorine and does not dissipate as fast. Yes, boiling will still help to remove chloramine from water, but it takes longer.
Now, we know that Brita filters are very popular, because they are inexpensive. So, sorry to spoil the party, but Brita’s Standard and Longlast filters are not certified to remove chloramine. The same goes for the Brita On Tap – although this does not automatically mean that they are ineffective against chloramine!
Vitamin C neutralizes chloramines just as it neutralizes chlorine. The biggest benefit of this method is that vitamin C won’t add any unwanted chemicals or salts to your water.
If you have any questions about how to remove chlorine or chloramines from water, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!
And don’t forget to come back to this page from time to time, as we are going to add new information occasionally.