What Is a Sediment Water Filter and How Does It Work?

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Both public and private water supplies can contain sediments that could impact your entire plumbing system.

Fortunately, you can remove these particles with a sediment water filter.

This general guide will explain what a sediment filter is, what it does (and what it doesn’t do), what types of sediment filters are available, and more.

Key Takeaways

  • A sediment filter acts like a physical barrier and removes non-dissolved particles like sediment, dirt, sand, etc.
  • A sediment filter improves your home’s water quality and prevents sediment from damaging your plumbing and water-using appliances.
  • Different types of sediment filters offer different degrees of filtration.

What Is a Sediment Filter?

Sediment and various other types of solid particles have the potential to enter a home’s water without a barrier in place. This is particularly true if you rely on well water.

A sediment filter simply establishes a physical barrier to prevent these particles from entering your plumbing system.

What Does a Sediment Filter Do?

A sediment filter removes sediments and other such particles from your water right after it reaches your home. Be aware, a home sediment filter only removes floating (or non-dissolved) particles.

The benefits of installing a sediment filter are many. They include:

  • Preventing sediments from clogging your household plumbing
  • Preventing sediment-contaminated water from reducing the lifespan of your water-using appliances (such as your water heater, dishwasher, and washing machine)
  • Keeping your drinking water relatively clean

whole house water filter cartridges of different sizes


Sediment water filters serve many purposes. All these applications share one trait in common: they’re good for your bank account.

Whole House Sediment Filtration

A whole house sediment filtration system improves the overall quality of water running through your home. If you compare water that’s been filtered through a sediment filter with water that hasn’t, you might even notice that the unfiltered water looks much dirtier.

You and your loved ones will be less inclined to drink your home’s water if it’s not crystal clear. You may thus resort to buying bottled water, which can become surprisingly expensive over time. Or, you might simply drink less water than you should, which can prevent you from enjoying the health benefits of proper hydration.

If your water is clean, you’ll be more likely to drink it often. This will boost your health and save you money you might have otherwise spent on bottled water.

A whole house sediment filtration system further saves you money by protecting your plumbing system and various appliances. If sediment particles are in your home’s water, the water itself will actually damage appliances and plumbing components. Removing sediment limits the damage, ensuring you likely won’t have to spend money repairing or replacing plumbing components and appliances earlier than expected.

Pre-Filter for Carbon, Reverse Osmosis, UV, Water Softening and Other Treatment

If you care about optimizing your home’s water quality, you may have already installed other types of water treatment equipment, such as:

  • A reverse osmosis system
  • A carbon filter
  • A UV water purifier
  • Water softening equipment
  • …and more

Sediments in water can damage the components of this equipment. This reduces their efficacy and lifespan. A sediment filter prevents this, allowing your other water treatment equipment to work reliably for a long time.

Additionally, sediment can actually create a “shadow” behind which bacteria and other microorganisms can essentially hide when a UV filtration system is in operation. When this happens, your UV filtration system isn’t disinfecting your water to the extent that it’s meant to.

Don’t invest in water treatment equipment only for it to deliver poor results. Install a sediment filter to ensure your equipment does its job.

What Does a Sediment Filter Remove?

Despite its name, a sediment filter can remove more than just sediment from your water. It can also remove:

What Does a Sediment Filter Not Remove?

A sediment filter is only capable of removing floating particles. In other words, it can’t remove such contaminants as:

  • Dissolved heavy metals
  • Chemicals
  • Salts
  • Radiological elements
  • Minerals
  • Various other dissolved impurities

Also, different types of sediment filters remove different contaminants. For example, a sediment filter with a micron rating of 1 could protect your home’s water from such extremely fine particles as bacterial cells. A sediment filter with a micron rating of 100 would be limited to removing larger particles, such as rust chips.

Discuss these factors with an expert when choosing your sediment filter to be certain you’re installing one that will serve your needs.

How Do the Different Types of Sediment Filters Work?

There’s no single type of sediment filter on the market. Different types of sediment filters function differently. The following overview will help you better understand your options.

Depth Filter Cartridges (Melt-Blown, Spun, String-Wound)

Depth sediment filter cartridges come in two basic varieties: melt-blown/spun and string-wound.

Benefits of a melt-blown filter include:

  • Ability to remove fine particles of less than 10 microns
  • Maximum sediment filtration
  • Long filter life

Benefits of a string-wound filter include:

  • Strong dirt holding capacity
  • Ability to trap both large and small dirt particles
  • Unique cartridge structure prevents clogging

Surface Filter Cartridges

This type of sediment filter has a large surface area which allows it to collect large quantities of particles without significantly impacting water pressure. Additional advantages include:

  • Washable and reusable filters
  • High capacity
  • Long lifespan

brown whole house water filter

Spin-Down Filters

Spin-down filters are available in filtration sizes ranging from 20 microns to 1,000 microns. Because they can be easily flushed, they’re ideal for highly sediment-laden water. Also, depending on the model, a spin-down filter may be able to work with a water pressure of up to 150 psi, ensuring a drop in flow rate is unlikely. Other benefits include:

  • Small size
  • Some models have an auto flush feature
  • Doesn’t need replacing


A backwashing filter is one in which, as the name suggests, contaminants which are collected on a filtering media are eventually backwashed down the drain. This optimizes the media’s lifespan.

Bag Filters

Bag filters are exactly what they sound like: sediment filters which trap particles and contaminants in a bag. This type of sediment filter tends to be more commonly used in spaces with high flow rates. For example, a bag filter might be used to filter water for a boiler system.

Sediment Filter Cartridge Sizes

These are the most common sediment filter cartridge sizes:

  • 5 x 10 inches
  • 5 x 20 inches
  • 5 x 10 inches
  • 5 x 20 inches

The 2.5 x 10, 4.5 x 10, and 4.5 x 20 sizes are used for whole home filtration.

Proprietary sizes are also available. However, they’re not ideal for most because:

  • They’re expensive
  • Finding replacement parts is challenging

Absolute and Nominal Micron Ratings

Understanding the difference between absolute and nominal micron ratings is very helpful before purchasing a sediment filter.

A nominal rating indicates a filter was tested and confirmed to remove a specific percentage of contaminant size. Usually, it’s 80%, but that’s not always the case. Sediment filters from some manufacturers remove less, so it’s wise to check.

An absolute micron rating tells you that a filter has been tested to remove all sediments of a particular size and larger. If you’re looking for the best-performing filter, this is a more valuable metric to check.

Do I Need a Sediment Filter for City Water?

Typically, a municipality or private water utility will filter city water already, so a sediment filter isn’t always necessary. That said, there are some instances when installing a sediment filter even though you use city water is smart. They include the following:

  • The plumbing system is deteriorating
  • The municipality or private water utility is unreliable
  • You want absolute peace of mind

How Often to Change a Sediment Filter

There is no universal schedule you should follow when determining how often you should change a sediment filter. The basic rule of thumb is to change it every 3 to 12 months. The manufacturer’s recommendations for your specific model can provide you with more valuable information about this topic.

Factors affecting the lifespan of a sediment filter include:

If you have any questions about what a sediment filter is, how it works, and what it does, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

About the Author Gene Fitzgerald

Gene Fitzgerald is one of the founders of BOS and currently head of content creation. She has 8+ years of experience as a water treatment specialist under her belt making her our senior scientist. Outside of BOS, Gene loves reading books on philosophy & social issues, making music, and hiking.
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