The Pros And Cons Of Ceramic Water Filters

The biggest disadvantages of ceramic water filters are that they are slow, brittle, need regular cleaning, and are not effective against certain chemical components in water. On the upside, they are affordable, have a long lifespan, retain healthy minerals and are generally low maintenance.

Ceramic water filters are highly effective, natural water filters that are fantastic at removing most types of common water pollutants, giving you clean, uncontaminated water to drink. Before you decide to invest in one, however, you should know that there are certain pros and cons to owning a ceramic water filter.

In this article, we discuss each of these pros and cons of ceramic water filters in detail. We also answer some frequently asked questions about ceramic filters, like their cost, lifespan, maintenance tips, and more. Let’s begin!

What exactly are ceramic filters?

Ceramic filters are essentially a form of cartridge filter that has a central cylinder made of ceramic clay. The central cylinder is also referred to as a ‘ceramic filter candle’. 

Usually, there is a ceramic or plastic receptacle connected to the ceramic candle. Water flows in via this receptacle, gets filtered by the ceramic, and clean water comes out the other end. 

Some ceramic filter candles have a central cavity made of activated carbon, ion exchange molecules, or activated alumina to improve the filtration action of the ceramic.

How do ceramic filters work?

Ceramic is a hard, brittle material created by heating clay at high temperatures. The natural structure of ceramic has millions of tiny microscopic pores up to 0.5 microns in size (the head of a pin is around 1000 microns to give you an idea of just how small the pores on a ceramic filter are).

As water flows through the ceramic, these pores in the ceramic trap contaminants and only allow pure water to go through.

The resulting water is clean and free of most major contaminants.

And as mentioned previously, some ceramic filters now come with extra components like activated carbon or activated alumina, which can enhance the filter’s cleaning capacity. Activated carbon is often added to help remove chlorine (and other contaminants), while activated alumina is used to remove fluoride.

With this basic background covered, let’s now look at some of the biggest advantages of using a ceramic filter in your home.

Pros of Ceramic Filters

1. Highly Effective at removing Contaminants

Some people seem to think ceramic, being a traditionally made material, is not as effective as some modern filters when it comes to treating water.

But make no mistake: ceramic is one of the most effective materials at filtering water, and in fact, one of the very few that can filter out bacteria.

Some of the pollutants that ceramic can effectively filter out include:

  1. Pathogenic bacteria, cysts, protozoans and other microscopic creatures, including most diarrheal pathogens
  2. Chemicals like chloroform, fluorides, pesticides, and disinfectants
  3. Suspended solids, dirt, sediments and debris
  4. Ceramic can even remove certain odors and taste from water.

2. Affordable

If you are looking for a water filter that delivers high efficacy at low cost, nothing comes close to ceramic filters. Their simple, natural build makes them cheap to manufacture and distribute, meaning you will be paying a lot less money for almost the same efficacy as some of the more expensive, high end filters available in the market today.

3. Low Maintenance Cost

Most modern filters have several components (like an activated carbon layer, a porous fabric layer, and so on) that require very frequent changing, sometimes once every couple of weeks! The replacement parts are often expensive, and even if they come cheap, the cost does add up when you consider how often you need to a replacement.

On the other hand, ceramic filters do not need frequent replacements, saving you both time and money. 

4. Retains Healthy Minerals

Although ceramic filters do remove a considerable number of chemical substances, they retain calcium and magnesium in the output water.

This has two main advantages for you.

First, both these minerals are essential for the health of your bones, your metabolism, and your overall well being.

Second, having these minerals means your water will have a refreshing taste to it, unlike the clinical bland taste you would get from distilled water.

5. Natural

Millions of people around the world are looking to live their lives more in sync with nature.

Having a filter that is essentially made from clay will help you do just that.

Ceramic filters do not depend on an external power source, and many do not even contain any potentially harmful plastics or metals. You are ensured a safe, natural experience when you are using a ceramic filter (as long as you keep it clean).

6. Compatibility with Gravity and Pressure Filters

Although ceramic filters can certainly work independently, you can also use them with gravity or pressure filters. This increases the flow of water through the filter, giving you a quicker output. 

7. Reusability and Long Lifespan

Ceramic is a long-lasting material. Even after you have used it for a while, you only need to invert the filter and run the water in the opposite direction and this will flush out most of the contaminants that were lodged in the pores of the filter. This allows you to reuse the same candle again and again.

You can usually continue doing this for about 6 months to 2 years, after which you might need a replacement candle. 

8. Portability

Ceramic filters can be made in all shapes and sizes. This allows manufacturers to produce small, portable ceramic filters – a feature not possible in many other filter types, like RO filters. 

While all these features may sound amazing, ceramic filters are not without their flaws, and some of these cons can be potential deal-breakers. 

Cons of ceramic filters

1. Slow Flow Rate

If you have been using other types of filters, you may notice a rather sharp drop in flow rate when you shift to using ceramic filters.

This is because ceramic uses tiny pores to filter out contaminants, and it takes a while for water to pass through all these pores naturally and come out of the other end.

If you have a device that combines a pressure filter with a ceramic filter, the flow rate will not be as low. However, it is still not going to be optimal.

Thankfully, most ceramic filters come with a reservoir for clean water that keeps collecting water as it gets filtered, meaning you won’t have to wait an hour just to get a glass of drinkable water.

It’s also important to remember that the slow flow rate is what allows the ceramic filter to remove the contaminants.

2. Does not remove certain chemicals

Ceramic filters, in general, are not effective at removing heavy metals like zinc, mercury or lead. If your water supply is known to have these contaminants, then ceramic filters may not be for you.

However, you should know that is an area of active study, and there are certain modified ceramic filters out there that are capable of removing these heavy metals as well. 

3. Brittle Filter Material

Whenever we hear the word ‘Brittle’, ceramic is what comes to mind.

Although there isn’t a significant risk of breaking once the candle is kept in place, many people do end up breaking their candle during fittings or during regular maintenance.

Thankfully, a replacement isn’t too expensive.

4. Need for regular maintenance and cleaning

As we mentioned earlier, how well a ceramic filter works depends on how patent its tiny pores are. Upon usage, these pores are going to be clogged with debris. This will lower the filter’s effectiveness and also make it much slower.

To prevent this from happening, you will need to clean and wash your ceramic candle regularly.

If the sediment load in your home’s water inflow is very high, you may even want to consider installing a sediment filter before the ceramic filter to prolong its life.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can you use a ceramic filter?

Although there is no exact answer to this, you can usually keep using a ceramic filter for six months to two years, with the average lifespan being about a year for most ceramic candles.

The exact time depends on how much water your filter has cleaned, how contaminated the water is, and how often you clean it. 

Some people have ceramic candles that work just as well even after two years of use, but most manufacturers will ask you to replace them at that point for safety purposes.

How often should you clean a ceramic water filter?

On average, a ceramic water filter should be cleaned at least every three months.

However, you may need to do it more often if you use your filter every day, or if the sediment load in your inflowing water is very high. 

Usually, if the filter is working slower than usual, it is a good clue that it is time to clean the candle.

Note that regular cleaning is vital to increase the lifespan of your filter candle and to ensure a good flow rate.

How to clean a ceramic filter candle?

  1. Make sure you have the prerequisites: clean water, a new/clean scouring pad, and a towel.
  2. Clean your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  3. Carefully remove the filter from its housing. Usually, a few gentle rotations should be enough to remove it from its base. Avoid touching the candle with your hands as far as possible.
  4. Use the scourer and gently rub along the length of the candle several times until the grime on the surface disappears and you start to get a good flow through the candle. Never use soap or any other chemical to clean the candle.
  5. Replace the candle, and you are good to go.

Theresa Orr

Theresa Orr is an Earth Scientist who specializes in determining past climates from rocks using geochemistry. Her passion for clean water drives her to breakdown the science to provide easy to understand information that everyone can read.

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