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How to Remove Chloramine from Tap Water

By: David Trinh
Last Updated:
how-to-remove-chloramine

Water treatment plants add disinfectants to water to eliminate bacteria that can make people sick.

Chlorine used to be the most popular option, but it doesn’t last long enough to ensure water safely makes it to people’s homes.

Chloramine is a chemical compound that doesn’t react with air, so it can last longer in water.

This means that disinfected water flows from your sinks and you don’t have to worry about bacteria and viruses making you sick.

You can, however, have reactions to chloramine. While treatment plants must use chloramine to disinfect water on a large scale, you might prefer to filter the water once it reaches your home.

Before you learn how to remove chloramine from your tap water, read about the chemical itself and how it can impact your health.

What Is Chloramine?

what-is-chloramine

Chloramine occurs when chlorine and ammonia mix. Water treatment plants use chloramine as a disinfectant. It removes some of the bacteria and viruses found in water that could make people sick.

It’s common for water treatment plants to add chloramine to the municipality’s water. This long-lasting chemical disinfects water even as it travels the pipelines to reach consumers. Many utility companies have been using chloramine in water since the 1930s.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that water treated with chloramine is safe to drink. You can also use this water for cooking and bathing. It won’t harm pets or plants if you give them chloramine water.

There are different types of chloramine, including monochloramine, dichloramine, trichloramine, and organic chloramines. Though they all disinfect water, monochloramine is the most commonly used for drinking water. Trichloramine is what you use to treat the water in swimming pools.

What Are the Differences Between Chlorine and Chloramine?

chlorine-vs-chloramine

Many water treatment plants use chlorine as their primary disinfectant and chloramine as their secondary disinfectant. Consumers often wondered why plants used both, especially if chloramine is so effective on its own.

Chlorine can disinfect water, but when it mixes with ammonia, it lasts longer. Chlorine alone will dissipate when exposed to air. It can treat water at the plant, but as the water travels the pipeline to your home, it will diminish and be less effective. This means contaminants could infect the water by the time it gets to your sink.

Adding ammonia ensures that chlorine will remain stable. The resulting chloramine that forms stays in water through the pipelines and to your sink. There are still chloramines in your water when you turn on your faucet.

You can ask if your municipality treats water with chlorine or chloramine. You can request a water quality report that has the levels of disinfectants used in the water. If your plant uses chlorine only, you can let water sit out for several days and the chlorine will dissipate as it’s exposed to air.

While it’s safe to drink chloramines, you might want to filter them from your drinking water. Since chloramine isn’t impacted by air, you’ll have to install a filter directly at your water source. 

Why Is Chloramine Added to Drinking Water?

Filling up a glass with drinking water from kitchen tap

Untouched water contains various bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants. This water might be fine to use for watering plants and crops, but it’s not healthy for people and animals to consume.

Some minerals found in tap water can even be harmful if used topically for bathing.

It might seem counterintuitive to add chemicals to the water to make it safe to drink, but that’s exactly what chloramine does. The EPA has ruled that the low level of chloramine needed to kill these viruses is worth the risk of ingesting chemicals. The bacteria could make you much sicker than the chloramine.

Before municipalities disinfected their water, it was common for consumers to get sick with hepatitis, typhoid, and cholera. These illnesses cause a lot of pain and intestinal problems, and can even lead to death.

Chloramine breaks these virus compounds apart so they’re rendered useless. They won’t make anyone sick and they’re not able to spawn to create more viral particles.

It’s possible to remove bacteria and viruses from water using filtration systems, but this isn’t efficient on a large scale. Treatment plants would waste too much water washing away the contaminants.

UV purification is one way to reduce bacteria and viruses without wasting water. This method uses UV lamps to destroy chloramines using a process called photodegradation. The process is too expensive to use on a large scale but you can use it to treat your well water.

You can have a filtration system in your home to remove the bacteria from your water, but a massive treatment plant that serves a large area can’t depend on every consumer having their own filters.

Therefore it’s worth using a low dose of chemicals to make the water safe for everyone at the treatment plant.

In that case, you’ll want to filter chloramine out of your tap water in your own home. The chemical is beneficial for killing viruses in large quantities of water, but you need to ensure that you’re getting the water that is good for you.

Health Effects of Chloramine

While the EPA regulates the levels of chloramine used in tap water, it’s still a chemical that can cause side effects.

Drinking too much chloramine can cause digestive problems and decrease your body’s production of red blood cells.

Using water treated with chloramine to bathe can result in dry, itchy skin and scalp. If you have a skin condition, bathing in chloramine-treated water may cause a flare-up. Taking hot showers with chloramine water can produce a vapor that causes breathing problems and dry mouth.

Since chloramine changes the chemical property of the water itself, it can also influence how water interacts with other surfaces. If you have lead or copper water pipes, chloramine water may leach some of these metals from the pipes and into the water.

Ingesting lead and copper can be harmful, even if you’re only consuming low levels of metals. This is especially dangerous for children, who have a lower threshold for lead exposure when compared to adults.

Healthcare facilities don’t use water treated with chloramine for vital processes, such as dialysis. They use filtered and purified water. If you’re running home dialysis or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, you should filter water to remove chloramines.

If you have pet fish, you should not use tap water with chloramine in their aquarium. Even a small amount of the chemical is toxic to fish, reptiles, and amphibians. These aquatic pets absorb water straight into their bloodstreams, so they need filtered water. Pets that are mammals or birds can safely drink tap water treated with chloramine just as a human would.

Is It Safe to Drink Chloramine in Tap Water?

Tap water

Despite the health effects mentioned above, you can safely drink tap water that contains chloramine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulates that water is safe to consume if it has chloramine levels of less than 4 parts per million (PPM).

If you have any reaction to drinking tap water or bathing with it, you can contact your water treatment plant to find out the precise PPM of your area’s water. Most agencies comply with the CDC and have no more than 4 PPM of chloramine, but you might be especially sensitive to it.

Since chloramine is a chemical, it does impact the taste of your water. Some people buy bottled water specifically because they don’t like the taste of treated tap water. Although buying bottled water can get expensive very quickly, and it creates a lot of plastic waste that doesn’t break down for 450 years.

In that case, you’ll want to filter chloramine out of your tap water in your own home. The chemical is beneficial for killing viruses in large quantities of water, but you need to ensure that you’re getting the water that is good for you.

How to Remove Chloramine from Tap Water

It’s harder to remove chloramine from water compared to chlorine. Since chlorine can’t exist in contact with air, it leaves water quickly once it’s exposed.

Chloramine is more stable, so you have to break it down before you can filter it out.

Water treatment plants use disinfectants to purify water to an extent, but there are other contaminants in the water that comes to your home.

These total dissolved solids (TDS) include calcium, fluoride, magnesium, and more.

While there are quality filtration systems that remove TDS and other contaminants from water, only catalytic carbon filters and reverse osmosis will remove chloramine.

Catalytic Carbon Filter

Carbon-based Whole-house Filters

Catalytic carbon filters are a very common filtration method because they come in many different varieties. You can install a whole house catalytic carbon filter that purifies water before it enters your faucets.

There are different systems available depending on how much water you use every day and what type of water flow you need. They vary in installation expense and don’t require much maintenance beyond filter replacement.

Water pitchers with built-in filters which remove chloramine are also popular because they’re affordable, portable, and easy to store. You can fill the pitcher with tap water from your sink and keep it in your refrigerator. The water stays cold and gets purified as you pour it into a glass.

These filters work by having a large surface area that ensures the water spends a lot of time in the filter. The carbon adsorbs the chloramine by attracting them and trapping them. Water molecules aren’t attracted to catalytic carbon, so they pass through the filter and leave your faucet.

Since the chloramine molecules stick to the catalytic carbon, the filters eventually become too blocked to allow water to pass through. Manufacturers will tell you how often to change your filters, but it’s usually anywhere from every 6 weeks to every 6 months.

You should note that catalytic carbon filters are different from activated carbon filters. Activated carbon filters can remove chlorine, but not chloramine. These filters don’t have the correct flow rate to absorb chloramine. Catalytic carbon filters, on the other hand, break chlorine and ammonia apart as they filter water, purifying it.

Make sure the filter you buy has an NSF 42 certification. This means a third party has tested the filter to verify that it removes chlorine or chloramine. The label might specify what chemical the filter removes, or it might remove both. Buy one that lists chloramine so you know it will improve your water.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis is a filtration method that removes over 98% of contaminants from your water, including chloramine. There are several different filters that water goes through in reverse osmosis, and most systems include two catalytic carbon filters.

A pre-filter removes large contaminants from the water before pushing it through a carbon filter. A semipermeable membrane removes the vast majority of remaining impurities before the water goes through the second carbon filter. Any chloramine that wasn’t extracted by the first filter gets removed in this step.

Reverse osmosis systems include a storage tank to fill since the process takes a lot of time. They also have a separate faucet so the purified water won’t have to pass back through the way the contaminated water initially flowed.

If you think your water contains more impurities than just chloramine, you might want to install a reverse osmosis system under your sink or at your main water line.

Final Thoughts

One in five Americans drinks water that municipalities have treated with chloramine. The EPA and CDC regulate the levels of chemicals used by water treatment plants, so the chloramine you’re consuming is below the legal level.

However, you could still experience side effects from the chemical if you’re sensitive to it.

If you decide to remove chloramine from your tap water, you know you won’t be consuming chlorine and ammonia. This is better for your body in the long run because those chemicals can build up and lead to health problems.

Since there are two quality methods to remove chloramine from tap water, it’s worth finding the one that works best for your needs so you can enjoy the best water for taste and health.

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AUTHOR
David Trinh
David is an expert in all things plumbing, heating, cooling, and water treatment. He got his start in the plumbing business working on fixing all types of home improvement issues including water leaks, broken toilets, appliance installation, and more. Over time, he learned a ton about installing and choosing the correct water treatment products for homeowners.

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