What LifeStraws Do NOT Filter Out Of Water

LifeStraw, a hand-held water purification system, is a pioneer in clean drinking water space. LifeStraw purifies water by removing contaminants, and you might be wondering if there are any contaminants that it cannot filter.

LifeStraw filters cannot remove dissolved salts, minerals, heavy metals, chemicals (except chlorine), and viruses.

This article will take you through the contaminants not filtered by LifeStraw, some disadvantages of LifeStraw technology, how to clean it, and what type of water you cannot use it for (think sea water or urine!)

LifeStraw: What It Can’t Filter Out

The original LifeStraw has proven itself as an eco-friendly solution, catering to hikers, travelers, and those residing in areas with unsafe drinking water. Its effectiveness lies in innovative technology, thoughtful product design, and unwavering product quality.

The significance of clean drinking water cannot be overstated. Between 1982 and 2015, a staggering 9-45 million Americans sourced water from resources that didn’t meet the Safe Drinking Water Act’s standards.

Globally, approximately 2.2 billion people lack access to clean drinking water. Thanks to remarkable technological advances, clean drinking water, a fundamental necessity often denied in many parts of the world, is now attainable.

LifeStraw products were initially devised with the intent of providing clean drinking water access to developing nations, yet they have since made inroads into various contexts.

LifeStraw filters have their limitations. Salts, minerals, and heavy metals fall into this category, as they are dissolved substances that microfilter membranes cannot effectively separate from water.

Furthermore, LifeStraw filters are incapable of removing viruses from water due to their specific design.

The microfilter membranes within LifeStraw utilize hollow fiber technology, featuring tiny straws containing minuscule pores. These pores, measuring 0.2 microns in size, cannot effectively capture viruses, as viruses are smaller in scale.

As a result, viruses remain unfiltered and can easily pass through LifeStraw’s microfilter membranes.

LifeStraw Products

Since it came into being in 2005 as an emergency tool for filtering contaminated water, LifeStraw has evolved over the years, becoming more efficient and easier to use.

The latest LifeStraw products are capable of removing lead (LifeStraw Play with Lead Reduction, LifeStraw Flex, LifeStraw Flex with gravity bag).

Modern LifeStraws also remove some chemicals (LifeStraw Go, LifeStraw Universal, LifeStraw Play with Lead Reduction, LifeStraw Flex, LifeStraw Flex with gravity bag) as well.

Disadvantages of LifeStraw?

LifeStraw offers lots of benefits in cleaning the contaminated water by removing 99.99% of bacteria (including E. coli and salmonella), protozoa (including Giardia and Cryptosporidium), microplastics, cyanobacteria, algae, and other parasites.

However, there are certainly some drawbacks with the mobile versions of the LifeStraw including the Personal water filter, Water filter bottles, Mission Water Purification system, and Flex Advance water filter with gravity bag.

1. Drinking Can Be Somewhat Tricky

You might find the drinking process difficult as you have to lie on your belly beside the water source to suck water through LifeStraw. An empty straw takes a few sucks to get the water flowing through it, and you can’t rush to drink water as the filtration process will also take some time.

Once enough amount of water accumulates, it becomes relatively easy to sip through it, but it is not like a regular straw. LifeStraw might get clogged, so you have to clear it first before reusing it.

2. Can’t Filter All of The Contaminants

Besides biological contaminants such as bacteria, algae, and protozoans, viruses and chemicals equally contaminate the water. LifeStraw cannot filter chemicals, viruses, and heavy metals as it exploits only physical purification methods rather than chemical ones.

LifeStraw doesn’t desalinate water and becomes useless when saltwater, ocean water, sewage, or industrial water are the only available water resources.

3. The Water Can’t Be Used for Cooking

LifeStraw is developed only for cleaning the drinking water, and it is practically impossible to purify water for cooking purposes. It is designed exclusively for filtering drinking water. You can’t just filter the water and store it in some bottle; instead, it requires sucking to transfer it into a container after filtration.

4. Sensitive to Freezing Temperatures

At freezing temperatures, water inside the microfilter can freeze, leaving the LifeStraw cracked. Therefore, it becomes ineffective in areas with freezing temperatures. The cracks might be invisible.  So at high elevations or freezing temperatures, it is recommended to never let the water freeze inside the filter after using it.

5. It Works Only with A Water Resource or Container

You can only use LifeStraw with a water body such as rivers, brooks, lakes, creeks, or other water containers such as a glass or a bottle.

You need a spare container to store water as LifeStraw itself doesn’t offer a storage system.

It becomes ineffective with tap water or fountain if they’re the only available water resource. Although you can use it with a traveling bottle, however, that’s a pretty cumbersome process.

6. Lack of Versatility

LifeStraw is not a versatile device as it comes with a fundamental design without any threaded ends, hoses, or adaptors. The original  Personal use LifeStraw can only be used as a straw while other LifeStraw products exploit innovative technologies that allow gravity bags or bottles to be attached.

7. No Way to Transport Filtered Water

With the original LifeStraw (the one that looks like an actual straw), you can’t transport filtered water. However, some of the later LifeStraw products come with a bottle or a bag that can store water to be filtered when you suck through the straw to drink water.

Can You Clean a LifeStraw?

You can easily clean a LifeStraw filter. Regular cleaning after every use requires a backflush by blowing air into the mouthpiece to remove any water trapped in the filter.

Frequent blowing prevents clogging, giving LifeStraw a longer life. If you’ve access to clean water, Rinse the filter with it. Shake it a few times, uncap LifeStraw from both ends and leave it to air dry.

If your LifeStraw filter has a moldy or unpleasant smell, you can disinfect it by dissolving one tablespoon of chlorine solution into a container containing 1 liter of pure water. Submerge the filter in this container and let it soaked overnight. Rinse the filter with clean water to get rid of any chlorine residues.

It is recommended to backwash your LifeStraw product periodically to prevent clogging and for keeping the membrane mold-free. You can consult the user manual for further information regarding cleaning the LifeStraw product you’re using.

How Many Times Can You Use a LifeStraw?

LifeStraw can be used many times.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter can filter up to 1000 gal, i.e., 4000L. This means that if you use LifeStraw to filter your drinking water every day, it can be used for about four years. If you use it only for outdoor recreational activities and traveling, it can last much longer.

LifeStraw will automatically indicate that it has reached the end of its life. The flow rate of LifeStraw decreases gradually to the point that it stops pulling water.

Can You Drink Seawater with A LifeStraw?

LifeStraw does not filter salts from water. As seawater contains lots of salts and chemicals beyond chlorine, it is recommended to avoid using it even with LifeStraw. Although it can still remove algae, bacteria, microplastics, and tiny plant matter, be cautious as it can’t remove salts and minerals.

So, it would be best if you did not use it for drinking seawater as even a small amount of saltwater can quickly dehydrate you.

Can LifeStraw filter urine?

LifeStraw cannot filter urine. The dissolved ions, salts, and other molecules (like urea) present in urine are too small for LifeStraw microfilters, and they are passed on as such into the filtrate. The design of LifeStraw filters doesn’t allow filtration of non-diluted urine, and you can’t drink urine at all, even in low quantity. Also, LifeStraw neither changes the taste nor neutralizes the smell.

If you choose to drink urine in a life-threatening situation, you’ll have to endure the taste and smell of urine. Hold your nose people!

The Bottomline

LifeStraw is a durable, BPA free and ultimate survival tool for purifying water. Its specifications and efficacy make it one of the best water filter solutions.

LifeStraw has a glorifying history of being used in crisis and calamity situations all over the world. The ability to filter out a wide range of disease-causing organisms and chlorine makes it the perfect solution for quickly cleaning water.

Although it can’t filter water contaminated with viruses or chemicals, its affordability and effectiveness against biological contaminants are highly appreciable. With a little amount of money you pay for it, you get clean drinking water, saving many lives in return.

Russell Singleton

Russell has a Bachelor of Science (Environmental and Marine Geoscience) with Class I Honors. He is currently completing his doctorate in science and is passionate about all earth processes, especially isotope geochemistry and paleohydrology.

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