A shower head filter is a small water filtration system that filters contaminants out of your shower water before it comes out of your shower head and onto your body. Getting one of the best shower head water filters on the market is a worthwhile investment because you can get excellent branded products at an affordable price. To find the perfect shower head to pair with your filter, click here.
Different Shower Filters and How They Work
Multi-Level Carbon Filter:
This is also known as GAC (granulated activated carbon); GAC is an inexpensive medium to remove chlorine and other impurities. However, carbon media do not generally work as well at high temperatures (and most of us like hot showers), so the best shower head water filters typically have other media in addition to activated carbon.
Kinetic degradation fluxion—this is a medium containing copper as a positive ion and zinc as a negative ion.
The ions, the oxygen dissolved in water, and the impurities exchange electrons (negative charges)—until the impurities are rendered innocuous. KDF filters are especially great at removing chlorine and heavy metals, at all water temperatures.
KDF-55 is the most common type. Many KDF filters are accompanied by a calcium sulfite (CaSO3) medium to support the treatment of chlorine.
Vitamin C Filters:
Vitamin C filters are exactly what they sound like—essentially an orange-colored stick of vitamin C that water passes through. Vitamin C is the only medium that removes chloramine.
Therefore, if you know that your water supply is treated with chloramine, make sure that you get a shower head filter that has at least one stage (or filtering layer) with vitamin C. Another perk is that vitamin C filters dissolve in the water over time, so your shower is spraying your skin with a healthful antioxidant.
Shower head water filters can be anywhere between 1 and 15 stages. Stages are just layers of different filtering media. The best shower head water filters use phases that complement one another to create complete purification.
For example, GAC and KDF would be a typical combination in a 2-stage filter to remove chlorine and heavy metals. Polypropylene (PP) cotton—great for removing rust and sediments—is also a common accompaniment to KDF.
The very best filters/filter cartridges have multiple layers, sometimes even two of the same sort of medium, to remove contaminants and reduce microorganism growth thoroughly. AquaHomeGroup, an excellent shower head filter brand, provides a helpful chart to show the layers that compose its 15-stage shower water filter.
In some instances, the media are not just to remove contaminants, but also to add ions to the water that increase its pH, giving it antioxidant properties.
Benefits of Shower Water Filter Systems
Do shower head filters work? Absolutely. They keep you from breathing in vaporized disease-causing chemicals or absorbing them through your open pores. Also, shower filter systems generally make your skin, hair, and nails look better by reducing chemical damage.
1. Reduces Chlorine & Chloramine
Most public water systems (not well water) use either chlorine or chloramine to kill microorganisms. Unfortunately, these chemicals are also fairly harmful to humans and animals.
Therefore, one of the most common reasons to purchase a shower filter is to remove either chlorine or chloramine. Find out which is in your water supply and choose an appropriate water filter accordingly.
2. Softens Water
Water softening is the process of removing calcium and magnesium ions, which contribute to scale, from the water. Most shower head water filters are designed to prioritize the removal of chlorine and heavy metals.
However, those that have ion exchange resin (often in the form of ceramic beads) can double as hard water filters.
If softening is your priority, consider a shower water softening system for this purpose. (You can still add a shower filter system for other impurities if needed.)
3. Stops Bacteria and Viruses
Almost all of the best shower head water filters have some bacteriostatic (halting bacterial growth), anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-algal, and even antiviral properties. Mostly, this has to do with the chemical effects of a medium itself, but the microscopic physical contour might also prevent microorganism colonization.
4. Reduces Harmful Chemicals
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), like chlorine and chloramine, vaporize and dissolve easily so that you end up breathing them in and absorbing them through your skin.
Sadly, a lot of water sources contain pesticides, which are often carcinogenic, and heavy metals, which wreak havoc on skin. The best shower water filters take care of all of these.
5. Safe for Children
Children might be even more sensitive to pollutants than adults are, but sadly, they often are worse at realizing how their bathwater is harming them.
Therefore, a shower head water filter is an important consideration if you have a child with any health problems; many parents observe that pure water alleviates their child’s symptoms. If your child does not take showers, consider using a filtered handheld shower head to run a child’s bath.
Things to Consider When Buying Shower Head Filter
There is always the risk that a shower head filter will somehow lessen the water pressure, making for a more tedious shower. Thankfully, none of the products in the shower head filter reviews below decrease water pressure. In fact, one of them even increases water pressure because of the way the shower head is designed.
Possibly the most important thing to consider when choosing a shower head water filter is precisely what contaminants you are dealing with. Test your water with a test kit, do some research, or contact your local water supplier for information on what is in your water. Your best shower filter system is the one that targets your needs.
Since filters/filter cartridges only last for but so long, it is essential to be able to buy replacements that can go in the filter housing. Ideally, these replacements are easy to find and fit your budget.
Thankfully, you can find replacement filters/cartridges for all of the shower head filters reviewed below—usually both on Amazon and on the company’s website.
While a sturdy housing on a shower head water filter is important, the lifespan of the replaceable filter/cartridge is usually the more relevant consideration.
A common complaint is that the filters do not last very long, especially in high-use situations. Therefore, it is important to consider both the longevity and the price of replacement cartridges.
Ease of Use:
All of the best shower head water filters are very easy to use, so there is never any need to hire someone to install the unit or replace cartridges. Most units come with both instructions and the needed equipment for installation (usually just Teflon tape, washers, and sometimes, a wrench).
Spray settings are only a filter-related question if you are getting a unit or system that includes a shower head.
The majority of units are made to work with any shower head, but many shower filter companies do sell accompanying shower heads if you want them. Many offer the same settings as other shower heads: massage, rain shower, or combined settings.
While some of the best shower head water filters—proven effective by happy consumers—are not certified, certification is a sign that the filter media are up to par.
Common certifying organizations are NSF International, EPA WaterSense (a program of the EPA to promote sustainable water use), and WQA (Water Quality Association).
While shower head water filters are not usually huge investments, it is nice to know that you can get the company to cover your loss if the product does not work as promised.
The majority of shower head water filters have 1-year limited warranties. Limited means that the company only covers demonstrable manufacturing flaws, not damage from inappropriate use.
9 Best Shower Head Filters Reviewed
1. AquaBliss High-Output (SF220)
Best shower head filter (for heavy metals)
Combination—KDF, carbon, cotton, CaSO3
Target of Filtration
Chlorine, heavy metals, sediment, pesticides, bacteria, algae, fungi
10,000-12,000 gallons, or 6-8 months
The AquaBliss High-Output Universal Shower Filter with changeable multi-stage filter cartridge is the best shower filter on the market. Individual cartridges are effective for about 6 months (less time if it is a heavily used shower). You can get replacement cartridges for this unit easily. Users unanimously agree that this unit removes so many contaminants that drastic health and cosmetic results are guaranteed.
This filter has a silvery-looking chrome body that blends in perfectly with the metal finishes of most showers. The 3-stage system, which is made up of 7 sub-stages, seems to take care of everything at all water temperatures. However, it is important to note that it cannot remove chloramine.
On the Aquabliss website, user Lisa reports, "Great service. Great product. Easy to assemble. I'm only sorry I waited so long to get one."
2. Aquasana AQ-4105
Best handheld shower head with filter
Target of Filtration
Chlorine, heavy metals, sediment, pesticides, VOCs, hydrogen sulphides
Plastic (white or chrome-coloured)
10,000 gallons, or 6 months
Yes—1 year limited
This unit promises to remove 90% of the chlorine in your water.
Aquasana’s design—which allows water to shoot down into the unit and flow back up through the filtering media—is intended to increase water exposure to the filter and prevent clogs. Thankfully, this does not seem to lower the water pressure. Also, tall people appreciate that, unlike other shower filters, this one does not lower the shower height at all.
The 5-foot hose on the wand is sufficiently long to clean pets or children and get to hard-to-reach areas. The included shower head has several massaging options, but you can attach it to your original shower head if you prefer.
A happy customer from Maine writes, "I am so happy with my shower water filter and handheld wand. It works terrific. Was easy for me to install and my hair and skin feel so much better. My hair had been getting darker with each wash as it is blonde. My hair now is not only softer but it is keeping its color very well. I am so happy that I got this product!!!"
3. AquaHomeGroup 15-Stage
Best shower head filter for hard water
Combination—carbon, KDF, Vitamin C, CaSO3, steel meshes, PP cotton, ceramic balls
Target of Filtration
Chlorine, chloramine, heavy metals, sediment, pesticides, bacteria, algae,
The best shower head filter for hard water is the AquaHomeGroup’s 15-Stage Shower Water Filter. While shower filters generally do work as water softeners, this one seems to work well enough in this capacity for most people.
Perhaps more importantly, though, it removes both chlorine and chloramine. In fact, it filters out almost everything you could want to be removed. Plus, it adds healthful components to the water—vitamins C and E, and pH-raising chemical groups. This is the ideal shower filter for the person who wants both cosmetic and health benefits from their shower filter.
Unlike others on this list, this unit comes with an extra cartridge, but replacement cartridges are relatively inexpensive. As an added perk, AquaHomeGroup has attentive customer service.
"Great shower filter! I had no idea it made such a huge difference! My hair became softer and skin isn't as dry as before! Very high quality filter and it was very easy to attach." - A review from AquaHomeGroup
4. Berkey Massaging
Best shower head KDF-55 filter
Target of Filtration
Chlorine, sediment, hydrogen sulphide, bacteria, fungi, lime
Plastic (mostly white)
20,000 gallons, or 1 year
Yes—6 months limited
The best shower head KDF-55 filter is the Berkey Shower Filter, which can be purchased with or without the shower head. The redox-driven filter removes an unusually high 95% of chlorine. In addition, this unit effectively removes sediments, lime (which causes scale), bacteria, and fungi. To make the Berkey filter useful for a longer time, be sure to back-flush it as described in the user manual on the Berkey site.
Unfortunately, the buyer might have to be vigilant: Some Amazon sellers appear to deceptively send buyers non-Berkey products—most commonly, Sprite shower water filters (or parts) in place of Berkey parts. On that note, Sprite is an excellent NSF-certified brand, but it is less expensive; therefore, consider it if you want a budget option for a massaging shower head.
Verified buyer Elizabeth C. tells us, "I have used a lot of shower filters but my new Berkey is the best by far. I can see and feel and actual difference. My hair and skin feel like I've taken a rain shower, and I don’t need to moisturize as much."
5. Sonaki Vitamin C Inline
Best shower head filter for removing chloramine
Target of Filtration
Brass, resin, chrome finish
5,000L (1,321 gallons), or 3 months
None, but vitamin C is EPA-proven
The best shower head filter for removing chloramine is the Sonaki Vitamin C Inline Assembly with 3 filters included. Like most vitamin C filters, this one has orange vitamin C housed in a clear tube; you can see the vitamin C shrink as it dissolves in the water over time. You can get replacement Sonaki vitamin C filters in a 5-pack.
Most users notice the complete lack of chlorine or chloramine, as this unit removes an impressive 99.9%.
"The Sonaki Vitapure 100 delivers all the advantages of our Pure, Natural, Vitamin C Filters with significant cost savings because it works with any shower head. Removes Up To 99.9% of Chlorine & Chloramines for softer skin, silkier hair and better health." - Sonaki
6. Sprite Showers HOB-CM High-Output
Best shower head filter for removing chlorine
Chlorgon (a redox medium like KDF)
Target of Filtration
Chlorine, hydrogen sulphide, heavy metals, bacteria, fungi
25,000 gallons, or 12 months
Yes—5 years limited
The Chlorgon redox filtration medium, which is unique to the Sprite filtered shower head, is designed to remove chlorine more effectively than usual KDF in hot water. Of course, this is perfect for shower filters, since most people take hot or very warm showers. It also removes microorganisms, heavy metals, and other contaminants.
You can get the housing for the filter in 4 different finishes, so it is easy to find a good match for your bathroom. Many users will also appreciate that the filter contents are compostable and the filter is recyclable.
7. Jonathan Product Beauty Purification System
Best filtered shower head for hair
Zeolite, titanium silicate, carbon
Target of Filtration
Chlorine, heavy metals, VOCs,
10,000 gallons, or 6 months
If you want the best shower head filter for blonde hair (or any colored or natural hair, for that matter), consider the Jonathan Beauty system. This unit will also give you softer, less irritation-prone skin and stronger nails.
The Los Angeles Times gives the Jonathan a glowing review, saying “…the Jonathan Beauty Water filter removes more than 90% of the chlorine, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds -- stuff like benzene and solvents, known as VOCs -- and more than 70% of lead and copper. These numbers put the Jonathan filter among the most effective shower filters on the market. It has a maximum flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute…” Amazingly, the Jonathan is not that expensive, so it is a wonderful value.
The system contains an oxidation medium to remove chlorine; it also includes a carbon filter and an ion exchange resin, which together remove synthetic organic pollutants, heavy metals, and water-hardening ions. It makes your water like a natural spring.
8. PureAction Vitamin C Filter
best scented/fluoride filter shower head
Vitamin C, stainless steel, ion balls, tourmaline, zeolite
Target of Filtration
Chlorine, chloramine, heavy metals, sulphur, sediments, fluoride, pesticides, bacteria, fungi
1 month (scent filters), 4 months (beads)
Yes—1 year limited
The altogether best fluoride filter shower head is the PureAction Vitamin C system. In addition to fluoride, it removes almost everything.
This filter also is the best-scented shower head filter, as the vitamin C filter adds a noticeable, but not overpowering, citrusy smell to the water. You can also use the lavender, jasmine, or rose filters for different scents. However, note that only the vitamin C filter removes any chloramine.
The practical benefits are real; the indulgence of the scents is a bonus that makes this the perfect gift to pamper someone special.
For even more indulgence: Users love that it increases the water pH to make it more healthy and that it increases the shower’s water pressure.
9. Barclay’s Buys Better Home Goods Filter
best budget shower filter for low pressure
Ion medium, CaSO3, filter sponge
Target of Filtration
Chlorine, dissolved solids
Yes—5 year limited
Barclay’s Buys makes the best budget filter that also happens to be the best shower filter for low-pressure systems—the Clearly Pure Shower Head. You can get both the filter itself and replacement cartridges on Amazon for very manageable prices.
The system removes 80%-90% of chlorine and dissolved solids (heavy metals, VOCs, pesticides). It is water-saving: It allows you to have a comfortable shower with less water, thanks to the laser-cut micro-holes that compose the shower head.
The shower head has 3 settings: massage (without pulse), rain, and combined. Even on the combined setting, it keeps the flow under 2.5GPM. Unlike other shower filters on this list, this one is actually in the shower head, rather than being installed inline.
Understanding Hard Water Problems
The “hardness” of water refers to its concentration of calcium and magnesium ions. Hard water has tell-tale physical properties: metallic smell, a tendency to feel like it is sticking to your skin, and adverse effect on soap lather. Hard shower water can have a drying effect on hair, skin, and nails; therefore, it can aggravate skin conditions.
Softening is especially important in a shower head filter for well water because well water takes up a lot of calcium and magnesium as is passes through rocks and soil. Salt (sodium chloride) is commonly used in whole-house systems to deactivate calcium/magnesium ions; shower filter systems that have “ion exchange” stages work in a similar way.
Difference between Chlorine and Chloramine
Chlorine is the non-metal element that is commonly known as a component of table salt. Chloramine, in contrast, is ammonia with one or more of its hydrogens replaced with chlorine atoms. Both chlorine and chloramine have chemical instability that makes them react with the crucial chemical components of living cells; this is why they are such effective disinfectants for water supplies.
Unfortunately, chlorine and chloramine are similarly harmful to human cells. They damage skin and hair; they vaporize easily in hot steam, so you end up inhaling them in the shower and potentially producing or exacerbating respiratory conditions. Carbon, calcium sulfite, and KDF filters are effective for neutralizing the harmful effects of chlorine, but only vitamin C can do the same for chloramine.
Other Chemicals You Should be Filtering
The first reason people want to remove hydrogen sulfide is the “rotten-egg” smell; however, it also is corrosive to shower equipment and poisonous to your cells.
DDT, perhaps the most infamous chlorinated hydrocarbon, is another example of a toxic water contaminant, but other carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chlorinated hydrocarbons are also found in water.
The industry has introduced fluorocarbons, such as PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), an industrial surfactant; and PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), an ingredient of flame retardant coatings. Trihalomethanes (THMs), used in refrigerants and industrial solvents, are similarly toxic and carcinogenic.
Not everyone has all of these pollutants in their water, but at least a few of them end up in almost all water supplies. Even well water can carry pesticides as it travels through the soil.
Installation, Replacement and Maintenance
Installation and maintenance of a shower head water filter are easy; it does not require any particular physical strength or plumbing skills, and it is intuitive for most people.
Most shower head water filters are inline filters—meaning that they work in tandem with your water source and showerhead. A few are actually in the shower head, in which case you just screw on the shower head filter as you would a new shower head.
To install an inline shower filter: first, unscrew your shower head; screw on the shower filter unit with the cartridge inside; screw on the shower head—that is all there is to it. In some instances, you do need to apply some Teflon (plumber’s) tape or washers to the connections.
Sometimes, a wrench is helpful to get a tight fit. These items are often included with the purchase of the filter unit itself. Usually, some directions come with a product to help you do all of this; if not, check the company website.
For effectiveness, you must change the filter/cartridge periodically (usually at least every 6 months). All you have to do is uninstall the unit, screw it open, and exchange the old filter for the new one.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between shower filters and regular water filters?
There are a variety of water filter systems—whole house, faucet, etc.—but shower head water filters are filters that attach to a single shower and filter the water before it exits the shower head. Unlike filters for drinking water, most shower head filters do not claim to make water potable.
How often should I change a shower filter?
Most companies claim that you only need the change the filter/cartridge every 6 months. However, it is based on how much water you use; therefore, if a whole family is using one shower, you probably need to replace it much sooner—maybe even every 3 months.
Can I clean a shower filter and then reuse it?
Usually not. Some models allow you to turn a filter over, effectively doubling its effective life, but not all do this.
How do I change a shower filter?
To change the entire unit, you have to unscrew it from the shower head and water source and install the new unit. Realize that if it is a different type of unit, the installation could be slightly different. To change the cartridge/filter that goes into the housing unit, just uninstall it, open it, exchange filters, and reinstall.
Will shower filters work on well water?
Yes, but well water generally needs softening more than anything else. Therefore, be sure to get a unit with ion exchange resin/ceramic beads. Also, look for a unit that removes pesticides, as these can get into well water supplies. You do not need to worry about chlorine or chloramine in well water.
Do shower filters reduce water pressure?
The best shower head water filters do not reduce water pressure. A few even are designed to increase water pressure.
The AquaBliss High-Output Universal (best-rated shower head filter in the reviews above) is the best bet for most people’s needs: it removes everything but chloramine; both the housing and the cartridges are very affordable; and it looks good in most bathrooms. While there are pricier options such as T3 shower filters; you can get equally effective, but more economical, shower head filters from Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, and Amazon.
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