Why Drink Filtered Water?
You may be accustomed to drinking tap water, which is inexpensive, readily available, and low-waste (no plastics needed!). However, there are many reasons to avoid drinking municipal water and seek out filtered water instead. For some, taste is a concern – you can generally taste the differences in tap water in different cities. The differences in taste in tap water reflect the different combination of dissolved solids in the water, which commonly contains contaminants such as fluoride, nitrates, arsenic, and metals like lead, copper, and aluminum.1 You will also find pesticides and pharmaceuticals in most municipal tap water, which can bioaccumulate in your body. These are of particular concern to infants, children, and pregnant or nursing women.2, 3
Home Water Filter Versus Water Bottles
We recently purchased a Zero Water filter to use in our Branch Basics office. Previously we had glass containers, which we would take to the grocery store and fill with reverse osmosis water. Although buying the water from the store and storing it in glass containers ensured that we had pure and inexpensive (about $0.25 per gallon) drinking water in the office, it quickly became cumbersome to constantly be running to the store to refill the bottles. Not only was it a pain to spend time each week doing that chore, we found that it was a waste of gas to drive the bottles back and forth. The glass bottles (we typically used 2.5 gallon bottles) are also quite heavy to haul!
For these reasons, we decided to invest in an economical countertop water filter that we could refill with tap water at our office. As a bonus, our new Zero Water filter came with a digital Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) tester. We found that Austin tap water from our office sink was about 155. You are looking for an ideal TDS reading of TDS of 5 – 10, and really no higher than 15 – 20. If you haven’t figured out by the name, “Zero” Water refers to the promise that their filters should give you a zero TDS reading. The Total Dissolved Solids test is used as an indicator of the general quality of the water. Dissolved solids refer to any minerals, salts, metals, cations, and anions dissolved in water. A high level does not necessarily mean that the water is contaminated, it means it could be contaminated or could just have a high mineral content (this is often considered “hard water”).
What to Look for in a Water Filter
If you are shopping for a portable home/office water filter, look for a water purifier that is BPA-free and removes lead (and other heavy metals), perchlorates, hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs now found in municipal water supplies. We chose Zero Water because it meets all of these standards and is certified to meet the highest standards for removal of lead, iron, zinc, and mercury. It also removes up to 99.4% of fluoride and reduces arsenic in the 99% range as well. The Zero Water purifier even removes contaminants that many other popular units do not. We recommend you compare specifications of any water purifier you are interested in – for example some purifiers may lower lead levels, but do not totally remove it. The Zero Water purifier even removes chloramines and ammonia because the water is purified through the deionization method. Zero Water purifiers are recommended for use on municipal water supplies, not for well water. If you drink well water at your home, you’ll have to do your research to determine which water purifying option would be best for your home.
How Does it Work?
Zero Water filters are gravity-fed, with a 5-stage ion exchange filter that delivers water with a TDS of 000 and that rivals the best reverse osmosis purified water. You should keep your TDS monitor handy and periodically test the quality of your filtered water. When the TDS reads 006, then it is time for a new filter.
How to “Sun” or Offgas a Plastic Water Filter
Although Zero Water filters are the best on the market (in terms of in-home water filter pitchers), they now only offer plastic filters rather than glass. While we would always prefer a glass option for filtering and storing water, we still find that their filtration system is the most healthy. As with nearly any new purchase, particularly plastic ones, we first offgassed the VOCs from the water filter unit by sunning it outside for several hours. You may have seen the photograph of Tricia testing the Austin tap water with the new Zero Water kit. We got a lot of questions about what sunning is and how to do it. Our sunning method works equally well on smaller pitchers as well as water bottles and other new purchases. Here’s what Kelly did to speed up the offgassing VOCs from our new Zero Water kit:
- Fully unwrap the new water filter kit and place outside in full sun, ideally on a hot summer day.
- Allow the filter to offgas in the sun for several hours. This process may need to be continued for several days. Check on the plastic occasionally by sniffing the filter and container. If the “new” plastic smell seems to be gone, the offgassing is complete.
- Wash and rinse the new filter well with Branch Basics All-Purpose and set up the kit in your kitchen.
- Fill the filter with water from your sink and enjoy! Refilling Tip: we keep a glass pitcher by the filter, which we use to transport water from the tap and pour into the filter unit.
Tips for Using an In-Home Reverse Osmosis Filter:
- Reverse osmosis system water, like distilled water, is called “empty water” and is very aggressive water that can leach minerals from the body if no minerals are added. Unfortunately, in order to remove the bad (like toxins and pesticides), you have to also remove the good (healthy minerals). To compensate for this issue, you can add a pinch of himalayan pink salt to your water, which carries minerals like magnesium and calcium. You can also add minerals into the water with a mineral product like Hydra Booster.
- To regularly maintain a clean, healthy water container, spray the interior of the bottle, pitcher, or crock with All-Purpose Branch Basics. Let sit for 5 minutes, add hot water, shake, swirl, and rinse with water.
What Do You Drink When Traveling?
Traveling in a healthy way can be a breeze if you plan ahead. We compiled our favorite tips in a Healthy Travel Guide in a previous post, which is helpful if you want to consider common toxins you encounter when you’re on the go. For water specifically, Zero Water also sells a smaller water bottle filter that is great for travel. If you will have filtered water available where you are traveling, glass bottles are the best option. You can even save a glass water or kombucha bottle to reuse as a temporary drinking bottle while on the go. Check out Switching to Glass for our recommendations for glass water bottles.
Drinking water from plastic bottles sold in the grocery stores (or the airport) – even the ones from the “safer plastics” is not recommended. A 2009 German report states that some as-yet unidentified chemicals in these plastics have been shown to have the potential to interfere with estrogen and other reproductive hormones, just as the plasticizers BPA and phthalates do.4
Current recommendations in the U.S. are that if you find that you must drink water from a plastic bottle, check the number inside the triangle on the bottom of the bottle and drink only from the safer plastics. Numbers 2, 4, or 5 are considered the “safer plastics”. There are also some #1 bottles that are BPA-free (typically noted on the label). Also, make sure you never leave a plastic water bottle in a car or in full sun in hot weather. The heat will leech even more plasticizers into the water.
As with tabletop water pitchers and filters, always wash your water bottles out before refilling. Spray the interior of the glass bottle with All-Purpose Branch Basics (our 2 oz travel spray works equally well for this), let sit for 5 minutes and add hot water. Shake well and rinse with water.
What About Stainless Steel or Metal Bottles?
Stainless steel is a popular, lightweight, sturdy material for water bottles. However, beware that metal bottles, like stainless steel, may not be totally safe. Do your research on the bottle company and the full material list they use for their bottles before you buy. While many of these bottles are healthy and convenient, others contain BPA and other toxins.
What are VOCs? Find out everything you need to know aboutVolatile Organic Compounds and How They Affect Your Health.
Break the fragrance habit. Use these Nontoxic Air Fresheners instead of the synthetic variety to remove odors.
Address SVOCs with a HEPA Vacuum. HEPA filters are indoor air pollution’s worst nightmare. Here’s How to Choose One for Your Home.
Going on a trip? Check out our Healthy Travel Guide for our favorite travel snacks and tips for preventing sunburn, jetlag, and more!
Improve your indoor air quality by using The Official Branch Basics Deep Cleaning Method.
Ready to streamline your routine? Read Clare’s tricks in Safe + Simple: Tips from a Minimalist Mama.
Want another trick for improving indoor air quality? Find out why we’re loving Himalayan Pink Salt Lamps!