How Effective Are Carbon Water Filters?

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Filtration is a common method of water purification that has taken place for years now. There are many types of filters that people use. One of the most common filters is the one made of filters.

Carbon filtering removes impurities from a water using activated charcoal. The activated charcoal used here make water safe for use through adsorption. We are going to talk about the types of carbon filters, how effective they are  and much more.

How Effective Are Carbon Water Filters?
How Effective Are Carbon Water Filters?

What Are Carbon Filters?

A carbon filter is a collection of activated charcoal put together to form a purifier. The process used in this case is known as adsorption. Adsorption is where an item attaches to another item through chemical attraction.

Since activated charcoal has a large surface area, it possesses numerous bonding sites. That is why, when certain impurities pass through it, they are trapped.

Normally, the carbon is designed to offer the largest surface area possible. With this, contaminants have the most exposure to the filter media. Let us take, for example, one pound of activated carbon. In this particular case, you will find that it has a surface area of about 1km/kg.

Typically, the carbon is activated with a positive charge. This allows it to attract negatively charged impurities. You will find carbon filters being used extensively in water purification centers. However, they can also be used in the purification of air.

Types of Carbon Filters

Now that you know a little bit about carbon filters let us look at the types of carbon filters. There are two types of carbon filters. We have the granular activated filter (GAC), and the carbon block filter is the other.

A granular activated carbon filter is a filter that comes in a grounded form. It is usually held up using a cartridge. A carbon block filter is a type of carbon filter that comes in the form of fine powder.

I know all of these carbon filters are grounded, but there is a difference between the two. The difference is that the carbon in carbon block filters is crushed into a finer powder. Basically, the granular filter has carbon that looks like granules. The carbon block filter’s carbon, on the other hand, is a fine powder.

The fact that the carbon in carbon block filters is in powder form means that the particles are or compact. Therefore, carbon block filters filter out more impurities than GAC filters. This is because, in the GAC filter, there are large spaces between the carbon particles. These large spaces may allow impurities to flow through.

The compactness of particles in carbon filters is also disadvantageous. Since there are little/no spaces between particles, the contaminated water flows slowing. This then means it takes a very long time to purify even small water quantities. Here is where a GAC comes in.

With this filter, water flows faster, and you get to complete the purification process in no time. Although it may not be as effective as the Carbon block filter, at least you will complete the task quickly.

Effectiveness of Carbon Water Filters

One of the most common questions about this topic, how effective are carbon filters? Well, the answer is carbon filters are highly effective. The reason is that they are great for the removal of a wide range of impurities like chlorine.

Chlorine is not the only impurity that a carbon filter can remove from water. If you have dirty water with particles like sediments, the best option is to use a carbon filter. Carbon filters can also remove volatile organic compounds like methylene chloride and xylene.

Another reason why we say they are highly effective is that they are good at eliminating odor. Let us take the example of water purification. Some chemicals like hydrogen sulfide cause an unpleasant smell and taste in water.

That is why to get rid of the odor and taste; you need to remove the chemical first. That is what Carbon filters do. After filtration, the water will have its original taste and odor.

On the flip side, there are instances where it is unable to remove certain impurities in water. One of these impurities is minerals. When you have water that has minerals, you should not use a carbon filter as it will disappoint you.

Carbon filters are also not effective in removing inorganic substances and salts.

Advantages of Carbon Filters

  • Natural Filter media – a carbon filter is a natural substance that can purify water. This, therefore, means that no chemicals are added during filtration. In the end, you are able to achieve a natural filtration process.
  • Low cost – the cost of purchasing a carbon filter, regardless of the type, is relatively low. This then means you get a highly effective filter at a very low price.
  • Easy Maintenance – maintaining a carbon filter is not demanding at all. As earlier stated, you need a cartridge to use a carbon filter. Usually, these cartridges have a service life. All you have to do at the end of the service life is replace it, at a small fee.
  • Heavy Metals – carbon filters are excellent at removing heavy metals such as Lead, Cadmium, Nickel and Copper from water.

Disadvantages of Carbon Filters

  • Short Service life – carbon filters usually have a short service life. This is because their bonding sites get full quickly. The only option a user has, in this case, is to get another carbon filter.
  • They cannot remove some impurities – they cannot get rid of nitrates, and sodium.


Carbon filters are unique filters that can get rid of impurities using adsorption. Chlorine and sediments are some of the impurities removable using carbon filters. Odor and taste can also be removed from water using carbon filters.

You should look keenly at the results you would want, before selecting a carbon filter. Such factors may play a huge role in determining which filter you will choose.

All in all, no matter the type of carbon filter you choose, you will still get exceptional results. However, some water purification centers use both in the treatment process.


This is George, the Aquaman, editor at AquaMantra. I'm a water quality analyst by profession, and used to work at one of the largest water bottler company.
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