Water Filters vs. Water Purifiers: What is the Basic Difference?

here is confusion about the definition of water filters and water purifiers in the water industry. Many industries use both terms to express the same process likely filtration.

A technical definition of pure water may indicate water containing oxygen and hydrogen molecules. Pure water may not occur in the world naturally. All water contains some impurities in it rather than hydrogen only.

When water passes through rivers and streams, it brings mineral sediments with it. Underground water is the main source of municipal water systems.

It contains remnants of herbicides, pesticides and industrial waste. Besides, water normally carries some viruses and bacteria with it as well.

In most of the industries, pure water means water without bacterial components. The definition does not refer to chemical contaminants. EPA has defined pure water in its way.

They state that water which is free from all kinds of viruses and bacteria is pure water. A water purifier system can remove all bacterial components except unexpected minerals and chemicals.

Therefore a water purification system is different from water filtration system. A water filtration removes unexpected minerals and chemicals from water.But it fails to remove virus and bacteria.

Every municipal water system implements water chlorination in this regard. Water which enters into home’s plumbing system may disinfect by chlorination.

Finally, water filter removes chlorine and chlorine resistant parasites i. e. giardia and cryptosporidium.

Water Purification

Of the 2 terms, the most misunderstands word is purification. Normally most people believe that pure water means there is nothing mixed with water. Therefore the root of the word purification is ‘purify.’ Purify means to eliminate what is unexpected.

Water Purification

It doesn’t mean removing all irrelevant matters. After all, pure water means there will be no unhealthy and unexpected materials in water. A product claims to purify water but may not claim to distill. There is difference between distill water and purify water.

Water Filtration

Filtration is very simple to understand. The base word is a filter which is what filtration functions. Water filtration works like a sieve to take off undesired particles from water.

The 2 most commonly used water filtration systems are activated carbon filters and sediment filters. Sometimes these two ideas become amalgamated.

Water Filtration

Normally sediment filters remove pollutants according to its size. This filter can remove microscopic contaminants.

But dissolved pharmaceuticals, viruses and some undesired minerals are very small to trap. They can easily pass through instead.

Activated carbon is a general thing used in all purification systems to remove pollutants. The carbon is much activated.

This carbon filter traps any carbon based particles. Carbon based filters remove the majority of harmful pollutants from water.

What's in Water That We Want Out?

The best point to learn about purifier. We like to remove impurities from water. Maybe this is the most important issue regarding water purification. We know it well that the purest form of water is oxygen and hydrogen of H20.

But this pure water isn’t possible naturally. Water picks up minerals, compound, and other impurities through its journey on the way.

What's in Water That We Want Out

Some of these minerals are expectable like magnesium and calcium. Other items we find in our municipal or groundwater collection.

Most sources of municipal water contain pesticides, chlorine, industrial waste, herbicides and sometimes viruses and bacteria.

The pollutants mentioned above may be removed or filtered by purifiers or filters. We will discuss each of them in details later on. There are some additional elements in water which we like to remove from water.

These things are unrelated to our health. We like to remove them as these reduce scale build up. Sometimes it increases the lifespan of your appliances.

The Difference Between Purification and Filtration

There are dissimilarities between these two things. A purification system removes unwanted things from water.

A filtration process resists unwanted thing entering into a water system. When someone adds chemicals to water, it causes contamination. This is thought filtration as it prevents unwanted particle passing through.

When the pores are very small, and the viruses may not pass or restrain, it is known as purification. Though this is a filtration process, it can remove most impurities from water.

Some companies avoid labelling as both systems overlap as purification seems a bit confusing. For this reason, many water quality systems come with labeled filtration instead of the purification system.

Backpacking  Water Filters vs Water Purifiers

What is the difference between a backpacking water purifier and a backpacking water filter? Why do you like to buy one over the other?

Backpacking  Water Filters vs Water Purifiers

In the smallest sense, a water filter removes parasites and protozoa even bacteria from water. But it can’t remove viruses from water. On the other side, a water purifier removes all the mentioned thing and viruses.

Some people think about chemical contaminants. But this is another story. Know well that there is no exact way to remove contaminants from water.

The good story is that the hiking track infrequently below the spaces. If you like to stay in a foreign country for a short time, you must buy a water purifier. You don’t know what remains in your drinking water.

One can use iodine tablets or boil water to kill the virus in water. But there are disadvantages of each method.

Iodine and chlorine affect the taste and color of water. It leaves a taste in the mouth of the hikers what they do not like at all.

Some people are suffering from allergic. This water is not suitable for them. Pregnant women should not drink this water.

Boiling water needs fire or a stove and fuel. The process takes a lot of time. You may spend this time for checking the review of water.

You may apply time for swimming or trading story with some other backpackers. Chlorine or iodine can remove parasite which is the cause of cryptosporidiosis.

When your water is full of particles and sediments, tablets fail to remove these elements; you have to use a water filter. Otherwise, you have no other way without drinking dirty looking water.

A filter is very simple to use. It can’t affect the color and taste of water. Most people use a type of small pump system which is same as the bicycle pump. Some use more energy to pump water through the filters. All systems need periodical cleaning.

They may have ceramic, metal or plastic internal parts. In cold temperature plastic normally breaks down. Do not use ceramic one as it may shatter. Ceramic will add weight to your pack. There are lots of things you have to consider.

You like to buy a water filter. Then you must consider chemical treatment type, pore size. Moreover how much time needs to fill a 1 liter filter and the average duration of the filters? Moreover, you have to consider how much weight it adds to your backpack, price? You are just in the middle of somewhere.

You have to depend on something for the little filter to survive. Every day more and more products are coming on the market. Technology is upgrading besides this. Just 10 years ago, water filter technology removed protozoan cysts and bacterial below 1 micron.

Now they can remove them down to .02 microns. At present question arises how small the macros are. You can measure a human hair is 80 to 100 microns.

How to Choose a Water Filter | Ask This Old House

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do water filters actually purify water?

No. Water filters, water treatment systems are not 100% effective in removing all contaminants from water. This is because water treatment systems only remove certain contaminants and do not remove them all. Also, water treatment systems have a limited lifespan and must be replaced after a certain time.

What do water filters not remove?

Water filters are commonly used to remove contaminants and impurities from water. However, there are some contaminants that water filters don't remove. For example, chlorine removes a musty odor and kills microorganisms and bacteria. Unfortunately, water filters also do not remove bacteria, harming people.

What type of water purifier is best?

Reverse osmosis water purifiers are best to purify the water. To make the water safe for consumption and to remove contaminants, the RO system uses a semi-permeable membrane to filter the water from various pollutants like viruses, chemicals, heavy metals, hormones, etc., to purify the water. Due to the high pressure and special membrane, the reverse osmosis system eliminates all the pollutants from the water.

Are drinking water filters worth it?

Yes. There are many ways in which a water filter can provide you with health benefits. A filter works like your immune system. It purifies the harmful toxins and bacteria from your water before you drink it. This results in many benefits, like killing the germs that cause diseases.

Is boiled water the same as filtered water?

It is not true that boiled water is the same as filtered water. Boiled water is boiled water. You forgot to add one important factor left behind in the boiling process, i.e., impurities. While with a water filter, you not only boil the water but also make it free from harmful germs. According to scientists, boiled water does not provide the full benefit of water as filtered water does.


There is a difference between filters and purifiers for sure. Filters can treat all kinds of water, while purifiers are more selective in their choice of contaminants to remove. If you want to use only one option, then go with purifier instead of filters. But if your budget allows you both the options, it’s better to opt for purifier as they work faster than filters with larger capacity and can also be used regularly.

As far as health issues such as allergies or diarrhea are concerned, it’s also essential to keep an eye on the quality of purified water you use at home.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 3 comments

Important post the difference between water filters and water purifier very well written in this article.


This is a very basic question but confused with the term. You have explained it well.

    Sarah J. Gregory

    Thanks Kedy! very well said


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