When you start to take your water quality seriously, you’ll end up wanting to use a water filter it because most water districts have at least some contaminants above the public health goal. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything illegal is happening, but it means you could be putting some family members at risk if they have a sensitive constitution. We’ve recommended tons of water filters. But what about when you shower? You can purchase a whole house water filtration system OR you can pick up a water filter for the shower that will be way less expensive. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you investigations like best & worst cookware, best & worst air purifiers, & best & worst soap & body wash, now join us for the best & worst shower head water filters.
Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links and has been fact-checked by Rebecca Elizabeth Sherrick Harks, RN-BSN
What Is a Showerhead Filter?
A shower head water filter is a filter you put in your showerhead (or attach to parts of the shower) that uses various types of filters to filter out some of the toxins (like chloramine or lead) you’d rather not have absorbed into your body.
In the beginning, these water filters may work only to filter out contaminants, which may mean that you have to change out water filters more often than it says on the box (usually 6-9 months).
You can expect that replacing the filters will slow down over time.
There are a number of filtration methods (and combinations of these filtrations) that can be found on the market.
The most well-known showerhead filters are granulated active carbon (GAC) and kinetic degradation fluxion (KDF), which we will discuss further.
Please note that you can purchase two general types of showerhead filters:
- Filtered showerheads are showerheads or showerheads that have their own filtration system. These normally require you to change your existing showerhead. You may need a professional to install a filtered showerhead system.
- Inline/Portable showerhead filters are sandwiched and installed between the water supply and the existing showerhead. These are usually smallish and just about everyone can install them.
Not All Showerheads Are Made The Same
Make sure to note this: there are about a zillion different showerheads available that change the types of pressure and style of the water in your shower.
While these can make you feel like you’re in a tropical rain forest, getting a massage, or a waterfall, most do not happen to have an actual filtration system attached, which means that it’s usually just providing you aesthetic effects, without the filtration properties.
So before you buy, make sure to read the label fully to ensure that you’re getting an actual filtered showerhead and not just something to make your showers more relaxing.
Ratings and Labels to Look For When Choosing a Showerhead Filter
Fortunately, there are some ratings and certifications that you can look for when you’re looking for the right showerhead water filter:
- NSF 177 – Shower filters attach directly to the pipe just in front of the homeowner’s showerhead and are certified to only reduce free available chlorine and not other elements. You may also see some labeled with other types of certifications, such as NSF 43 (reduces aesthetic issues such as taste, odor, and smell) or NSF 53 (provides a health effect). Here is the available list of NSF certifications for water quality.
- Now known as NSF International, the NSF is accredited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov), the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) (scc.ca), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) (ansi.org) and the International Accreditation Service (iasonline.org). The NSF ratings and stamp of approval are incredibly important for people who are buying water filters or water systems, as it is a third party, independent certification – giving you the very best types of a great number of products.
- Water Sense is run by the EPA -look for the WaterSense label on showerheads along with faucets, faucet accessories, and toilets to help you identify models that save water and perform well. In many areas, utilities offer rebates and vouchers that can lower the price.
- Water Quality Association helps connect consumers with water treatment products that have been tested and certified to industry standards.
- California Energy Commission (CEC) helps to certify goods that are more energy efficient.
Types Of Filters Used in Showerheads
There are a number of types of showerhead water filters and most of them don’t use a single type of filter because each of the filters serves a different purpose. Here are the most common types of showerhead filter materials:
- Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) is probably the type of filter material you’ve heard most about; it is used to remove contaminants that may include: bacteria, chlorine, heavy metals, rust, some additional byproducts, as well as another disinfectant – chloramine.
- Kinetic Degradation Fluxion (also called the snappy KDF-55) is also used in many showerhead filters. This type of filter medium is a highly pure combination of copper-zinc alloy that is used to remove contaminants that may include chlorine, bacteria, and heavy metals using a chemical process called redox, or oxidation-reduction. This filter tends to work well with homes that have well water, though it is not a water softener.
- Calcium Sulfite filters are the only way to remove 99% of the chlorine. Although less useful for chlorine, GAC and KDF filters remove other undesirable contaminants, while inhibiting the growth of algae, fungi, and mold so chances are that any calcium sulfite filter will also have a GAC and KDF filter as well.
- Microporous Membranes are generally used in water filters as a means to get rid of small particulates that may be in your water. Defined as a thin walled structure having precisely controlled pore size typically ranging from 0.03 μm up to 10 μm in diameter, though the size may vary somewhat in each type of filter.
- Vitamin C Filters are one of the newer forms of water filtration and their efficacy is still hotly debated as there has been no scientific proof yet that there is any benefit to using this type of filter.
- Zeolite ceramic balls remove ammonia and improves water clarity, color, and odor via ion exchange. They have been used since the 1970s in water filters, aquariums, and stormwater management.
- Bio-Ceramic Balls for water treatment are made from various types of ceramic materials that are free from heavy metals such as Mercury (Hg), Chromium (Cr), Lead (Pb), and Arsenic (As). Because ceramic balls are resistant to corrosion and damage, their molecular structure, and their purity makes them an excellent choice for showerhead (and other) water filters.
- Tourmaline, in a water filter, is used to naturally transform water into mild alkaline water, reduce water clustering (what happens to our stored water) and has anti-bacterial and deodorant qualities. The scientific community, including the WHO, does not believe that there are valid health benefits to using alkaline water. We agree.
- Infra-Red Balls suppress the growth of excessive free radicals and shorten the cluster chain of water. The purified and activated water has smaller water clusters, which are more efficient at protecting cells from various stimulants.
- Coconut Shell Carbon Systems produces purified water and is excellent at filtering trihalomethanes, or THMs, from the water supply – the harmful byproducts of chlorine disinfection by using an environmentally friendly medium. This form of carbon further is effective at the removal of pesticides, herbicides, and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) from water.
What Are Some of The Contaminants That Can Be Removed By A Showerhead Filter?
For a closer look at many of the contaminants found in our water, this is a link to Mamavation’s recent study of the best & worst water filters.
While these are some of the things that can be removed with a showerhead filter, not every filter will remove all of these.
- Chlorine – active, passive, and residual
- Hard scale
- Color, taste, & odor
- Lead Iron (II)
- Iron (III)
- Chromium (VI)
- Chromium (III)
- Hydrogen Sulfide
- Calcium Carbonate
- & Others
Instructions on How To Find The Very Best Showerhead Filter For Your Home
First and foremost, know thy enemy…er contaminants. Currently, showerhead filters don’t filter nearly the amount that a house or sink filters, which may influence your decisions as to installing a whole-house water system but do remember that when choosing a showerhead filter. There are three very easy ways to determine what’s up with the water in your area:
- Check with EWG’s handy-dandy tap water database which can tell you what’s in your area by providing your zip code.
- You can purchase tap water test kits on Amazon (and other places) that you can use to get immediate results as to the contaminants in your house’s water. This is likely the best way for those of us who have our own water sources and aren’t on any city water system.
- If you want someone else to check out your water in an official lab, this is a list of the EPA’s certification of laboratories that will test your water properly.
Compare the types of filters available that remove your specific contaminants – most of the showerhead filters have a combination of several types of filtration.
Here are the things you should remember when choosing a new showerhead filter:
- Check with showerhead filters third party verifications (NSI/ANSI, WQA, Water Seal (EPA), and/or California Energy Commission) to make sure they do remove a specific type of contaminant.
- Some of the showerheads may not actually have a third-party certification for various reasons (it’s highly expensive), so some of the showerhead filters may not be certified for a specific contaminant; the filter may still help to reduce some part of the contaminant in your water.
Maintaining the filter in your showerhead filter is probably one of the most forgotten – and most necessary – part of having a showerhead filter.
Every type of showerhead water filter has a matching filter, and while most come with a filter or two, it’s important you stay on schedule with changing them out.
Why? Well, bacteria and other germs have been seen to grow on carbon filters that aren’t regularly replaced per the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Most filters last 6-9 months.
Do You Really NEED A Water Filter? Well, Yes But You Don’t Know It Yet.
Health Reasons For Getting a Showerhead Water Filter
First and probably most important is that a showerhead water filter can kill a lot of the bacteria, fungi, algae, and other microorganisms that can grow and proliferate without intervention. If you purchase a showerhead filter, odds are that you may get sick less often.
Most showerhead filters reduce the amount of chlorine with efficacies ranging from 0% to 99% (a reminder that not all showerhead filters are created to be equal).
Why is chlorine in shower water a concern? Because it can be inhaled and absorbed through your skin.
When you shower in hot water, you inhale the steam – water vapor that contains chlorine, disinfection byproducts like trihalomethanes, and other water pollutants.
Researchers have discovered that chlorinated water vapor increases in chloroform in study participants’ lungs of about 2.7ppb after a 10-minute shower.
This matters because while our digestive system is designed to handle chlorine and other chemicals in a way that our lungs are not, so even low-level exposures to chlorine and other contaminants through inhalation might have a bigger negative effect than drinking them in water.
Exposure to chlorine vapor may actually lead to a number of indications far more substantial than skin irritation and may include cough, sore throat, airway irritation, wheezing, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and eye irritation and pain.
So from a health perspective, a water treatment system is quite a good idea; while a whole house water filtration system is best, for those of us who rent or can’t afford a big, lengthy house repair, a showerhead filter may be able to help reduce health risks.
Cosmetic Reasons for Getting a Showerhead Water Filter
Most city wells use chlorine to disinfect our water before it comes into our homes as it can lead to a distinct drop in bacteria and other microorganisms that can happily live in our water systems. Having even trace amounts of chlorine in your shower water is that it may bond to the skin and hair, and may removing moisture and disrupting the balance of necessary, helpful bacteria that resides on your skin.
This can lead to a couple of cosmetic issues:
- Even exposure to slightly chlorine contaminated water can impact our hair – specifically, the minerals in our water can react to soap and shampoo and create compounds that dull our hair.
- Chlorine strips the natural oils in our hair that make it shiny and healthy, which can lead to dry, brittle hair. A new showerhead filter may be able to replace all of the expensive products you may use to add back in the shine and luster of your hair.
- Chlorine exposure from your shower may lead to dry and irritated skin; and possibly may contribute to signs of aging, including as discoloration and wrinkles. A good, proper shower filter may be able to remove these chemicals – mostly chlorine – leaving your skin softer and brighter after showering.
So, cosmetically, the reasons to install a showerhead filter depend upon how much you care about your looks.
How Do I Know If I’m Using Too Much Water With My Current Showerhead Filter?
You probably want the quick and dirty on how to measure your old model’s water flow rate:
- Grab a bucket that’s marked in gallon increments and put it under the showerhead.
- Turn on the shower to the normal pressure you use in a normal shower
- Time how long it takes to fill the bucket up to 1 gallon.
If your answer is less than 24 seconds, you can absolutely save water with a low-flow showerhead water filter.
Does A Vitamin-C Infused Showerhead Filter Really Offer Any Benefit?
First and foremost, if having one makes you feel good? Use it. Be happy with it.
For anyone considering the usage of Vitamin-C Infused Showerheads, here’s a little about the process and what the scientific community has to say about it:
Scientific research has found nothing to back up any benefits of these showerheads – they’ve been around for ages and have only recently come back into public view. While Vitamin C is known to have many healing properties for the skin if it’s formulated properly.
Is there any benefit to using Vitamin C in a shower? Chances are likely to be no, as the formulation to use Vitamin C on the skin is quite specific, and packaged in a very careful way in order to stabilize it and prevent it from becoming oxidized – rendering it ineffective.
But hey, if you love it? That’s awesome, too.
How to Evaluate a Showerhead Water Filter
Ah, the age-old question: “what’s the best showerhead filter?” can be a tricky answer, so we at Mamavation have given you some ideas to consider when buying a showerhead filter, but it must be mentioned that per the results of each home’s water contaminants should be taken into consideration before believing in a single best filter. What’s good for your house may be different than what’s good in mine.
Ignore the Price
Many of us believe that the more expensive the system, the better it will function, but in this case, it’s simply not true. Most of our highest rated showerhead filters turned out to be inexpensive and some a quarter (or more) of the price of the worst and better models.
Consider Whole House Water Filtration Systems
We know that you’re not made of money and we also know that not everyone is able to do this kind of overhaul – it’s expensive and it’s time-consuming. And those of us who rent simply can’t perform this kind of change without irking our landlords. So if the only things you can do to help yourself is to buy a shower water filter, consider yourself miles above the rest.
Even Water-Efficient Models Are Kinda Awesome
Technology is always changing. It used to be that most people (feeling guilty) would avoid purchasing a water-efficient showerhead filter?
Because subjectively, one of the best parts of showering is the water flow and how much it delivered. Today? You can assuage that worry by using the water-efficient showerhead filters as many consumers have found them to feel stimulating and refreshing – even with a lower water flow rate. Plus, most of these showerhead filters offer some sort of trial period.
Mamavation’s Investigation of Shower Filters
Mamavation evaluated about 30 different shower filter products looking for types of contaminants that are filtered out, NSF/ANSI certifications, price, Water Quality Association certification, the EPAs WaterSense label, as well as the California Energy Commissions ratings. This is what we found.
Not Our Favorite Shower Filters
These filters weren’t very impressive to us. They had one or more of the following things wrong with them: (1) contained technology that doesn’t work or have a real health benefit, (2) had consumer complaints or a lawsuit filed, (3) only distributes on Amazon and has no other online presence which we felt was fishy, (4) was not transparent about what technology they are using to the consumer, (5) does not sell in California which means they are purposely avoiding stricter consumer laws, OR (6) has a California Prop. 65 warning meaning it contains materials that are linked to reproductive harm and cancers.
- Alolli High Output Universal Shower Filter with Replaceable 4-Stage Filter Cartridge
- AquaBliss High Output Shower Filter/Revitalizing/Rejuva High Output (SF100, SF200, SF500)
- Aqua Earth 15 Stage Shower Filter with Vitamin C Shower Filters
- Berkey Shower Filter (attaches to existing showerhead)
- CraterAquaSystems: 15 Stages Shower Water Filter with Silver layer
- CuZn: Turboshower TS-105 & TS-105-85
- Ferbers Ionic SHower Head/Aquapower Shower
- iSpring 15-Stage High Output Universal Shower Filter Water Filtration System
- Kanagen Water – The Anespa
- Pure Spa 15 Stage Shower Filter: High Output (J&B002)
- Rainshow’r: Bath-3000 Kinetic Degradation Fluxion Quartz Crystal Bath Water Filter Ball (for bath and shower)
- ShowerEnvy by Ecowater
- Sonaki RAIN VITAMIN C FILTER HANDHELD SHOWERHEAD /Lotus/
- SONAKI VITAMIN C 6-STAGE FILTRATION Vitapure Inline VPX-300 Filter
- Speakman: Icon S-2252-MB, S-2252-ORB-E2, S-2252-PN-E2, S-2252-PB, S-2252-BBZ
- Speakman: Reaction S-4000-E175 ,S-4002-E2, S-4002, S-4001-E175, S-4000
- Sprite Showers 8 Spray Pure Filtered Showerhead (this company has another product in “best” that is certified and sold in California)
- T3 Source Hand-Held Shower Filtration 73303
- T3 Source Inline Shower Filter 73301
- Vitashower: Vitamin C Shower Filter TP-1000
Better Shower Filters
These shower filters did not hold certifications, but we felt they were using better technology and have created a professional reputation that we believe garners more trust.
- Brita Shower Filter Cartridge
- Brita In-Line Shower Filtration System
- Culligan: HSH-C135 Handheld Filtered Showerhead
- HotelSpa Universal Shower Water Filter (#1138)
- Kohler Aquifier Filter #30646-CP
- Pure Effect: Pure Shower Filter
Best Shower Filters
These brands/products have independent 3rd party certification to back up their effectiveness, so basically that means they do what they say they do. Because there are so many selections and brands that are here one day and gone the next, we recommend you spend your money on companies that have time and money invested in proving their products work.
- Aquasana Deluxe Shower Water Filter System:AQ-41005, AQ-4100, (filter = AQ-4100NSH and AQ-4105CHR $65
- Culligan WSH-C125 Wall-Mounted Filtered Showerhead $40
- Invigorated: pH ENERGIZE Multi-Stage Shower Filter
- Moolmang Vitamax Deluxe Dual Shower Filter
- Paragon Water: Sunflower, P2201/P2301,WMF, HFS
- Pelican Water Premium: LWS-PSF-1WC, LWS-PSF-1NHC, LWS-PSF-1C, LWS-PSF-1NH, (filter: LWS-PSF-1)
- Propur Water Systems: PROPUR® BRUSHED NICKEL SHOWER FILTER W/ PROMAX™ & MASSAGE HEAD $80
- Pure Blue H2O: Rain Garden
- Sprite Showers – HK7E-CM Biarritz 7-Setting Hand-Held Filtered Shower Handle, ChromeHKE-CM-R, (filter #SLC), HK $70
- Waterchef SF-7C Premium Shower Filtration System $80