How to Remove Fluoride From Water Cheaply

Reviewed by: James Layton
Updated on:
January 15, 2024

Key Takeaways

How to Remove Fluoride From Water Cheaply 

The best way to filter fluoride from your water without breaking the bank is to avoid whole-house solutions, which require a considerable initial investment, in favor of a more budget-friendly point-of-use system.

Read our article about the best water filters for removing fluoride, or keep reading for an in-depth explanation of the types of filtration that will remove fluoride and how much they’re likely to cost you.

There are primarily four effective water treatment methods that meet that description: reverse osmosis, activated alumina, bone charcoal, and distillation.

1. Reverse osmosis

Reverse osmosis (RO) is highly effective at removing almost 90% of fluoride from tap water. It can also tackle many other pollutants, including bacterial viruses, heavy metals, organic compounds, and industrial chemicals.

It works by pushing polluted water through a semipermeable membrane with a pore size as small as 0.001 microns. Reverse osmosis filter membranes must be replaced periodically, usually once a year.

The best thing about reverse osmosis is that you don’t have to pay out the nose for this level of filtration.

You can find under-sink reverse osmosis systems for as low as $200, and you can even rent one for as little as $30 a month. Expect to conduct annual routine maintenance and change the filter once every 6–12 months and the membrane every two years, both for around $50.

Here are the best tankless reverse osmosis filters.

2. Activated alumina

Activated alumina is a widely trusted method to remove fluoride in water. It absorbs fluoride in a bed of active aluminum hydroxide (Al2O3) granules. As budget options go, it’s not the cheapest, but it’s reasonable considering the efficacy.

Activated alumina filters come in myriad sizes and designs. You can opt for point-of-entry, under-sink, or countertop filters, depending on your family’s needs.

In some homes, a sediment pre-filter may be required to prevent clogging of the alumina bed.

A point-of-use activated alumina filter will cost you $80–$300, with replacement cartridges that cost $30–$100.

If countertop filtration sounds compelling to you, consult our list of the best countertop water filters, or see below for filter pitchers and gravity filters, both of which you can find with activated alumina.

Water-filter pitchers

Water filter pitchers are a quick and convenient way to remove contaminants from drinking water. This equipment uses filter cartridges to capture and absorb over 300 contaminants in water.

Unfortunately, filter pitchers come with a caveat, since most are made with activated carbon. Activated carbon won’t be able to remove fluoride to the degree you’re looking for, if at all.

Look for pitchers that combine multiple types of filtration, especially activated alumina, for optimal fluoride removal.

The best thing about pitchers is how easy they are to use. Just fill the pitcher with tap water and wait 15–20 minutes until all the water passes through the filter media and is ready to consume.

While a water filter pitcher is convenient, it comes with a few downsides in addition to potentially limited fluoride removal. Pitchers can only filter a small amount of water at a time, slowly. The filter cartridge is also small and needs replacing once or twice every month.

Water filter pitchers are available for anywhere from $20 to $200. But you can always find a good-quality pitcher for less than $100. Remember, expensive doesn’t necessarily mean good quality, but, again, the cheaper ones will probably less effective against fluoride.

Gravity-based filtration

Gravity water filters — as you may have guessed — work by using gravity to pull water through a filtration membrane, such as activated alumina. These portable devices use minimal space and don’t require power to operate. In addition, they come in many sizes and designs.

Gravity filters come with a combination of filtration technology, including activated carbon and submicron filtration membranes to treat a range of contaminants.

Of course, those containing activated alumina will be the most effective against fluoride.

The cartridges usually need to be replaced once every year, but it solely depends on the quality of your unit. Some might need replacement every six months, or even sooner.

You can find gravity filters in the price range of $80–$500, depending on size and capacity, as well as filtration technology.

If you think a gravity-based filter will suit you, check out our list of the best gravity water filters.

3. Bone char filtration

You can also remove fluoride with a bone charcoal filter if you can find one, but they’re not common. Bone char is an amorphous material formed by crushing, drying, and heating animal bones in the absence of oxygen at a very high temperature.

The hydroxyapatite groups in bone char filters absorb fluoride ions and many other contaminants like lead, arsenic, and radioactive particles.

Don’t confuse bone char with activated carbon though. Bone char is different in that it is a combination of carbon, calcium phosphate, and calcium carbonate, while activated carbon is just purified, powdered charcoal, or sometimes coconut shells.

Obviously, this type of fluoride filtration is not suitable for vegans.

4. Distillation

Distillation is the process of vaporizing water to remove all kinds of contaminants. Distilled water is the purest form of water you can achieve at home. It can remove 99.9% of the minerals in the water, including fluoride.

One downside to a distiller is it takes four to six hours to produce one gallon of clean water. If you have a big family, this is not practical. But the water you’ll get will be free of all minerals and toxins.

While many distillation units cost thousands of dollars, affordable countertop and portable distillation units can be found in the range of $180 to $300. Keep in mind, though, the increased energy costs of distilling water.

We’ve made a list of the best water distillers, and some of them are budget friendly.

How to Choose the Best Fluoride Removal Method

This quick checklist of important factors to consider can help you decide the best fluoride removal system for your tap water.

Contamination levels

Before you jump to an online store and start scrolling through fluoride filters, get your water tested to determine the exact level of fluoride in your tap water.

You may find that you also need to eliminate other contaminants besides fluoride.

In such a case, it’s best to look for water treatment systems capable of removing a wide range of pollutants. 

Take a look at our list of the best water filters for every scenario.

Budget

The type of filter you choose boils down to your budget. If money is not an issue, you can simply opt for one of the best whole-house filters, but not all of them remove fluoride.

On the other hand, if you want a quick and affordable solution, go for gravity-fed filters, water pitchers, and countertop filters.

They’re usually the most affordable, but make sure you factor in replacement cartridges, which can total a few hundred dollars per year, depending on the brand and method.

Average water usage

Water pitchers and gravity-fed filters are typically good for one or two people. But for a big family, you’ll either have to invest in whole-house filters or countertop distillers capable of filtering a few gallons of water at once.

Under-sink reverse osmosis systems usually have enough capacity for a family of four, and they’re convenient because they have a dedicated tap.

Space

Do you have enough space in your kitchen for a big distillation tank? Or do you want a more discrete solution, such as an under-sink RO filter or a filter pitcher that you can store in your refrigerator?

Look for a size that suits your home and fulfills your water needs.

How Does Fluoride Get into Your Water?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral ore. It’s present in trace amounts in soil, groundwater, and natural springs.

Some human activities also contribute to the amount of fluoride in the ground. For example, areas near industries making fertilizers, steel, and aluminum release high amounts of fluoride, contaminating groundwater.

The major source of fluoride in your tap water is water fluoridation, which occurs in public water systems across the US.

Since 1935, hundreds of cities have adopted this process, and now the US has a national goal of providing fluoridated water to 77% of Americans by 2030.

Effects of Fluoridated Water

Fluoride, if consumed in appropriate amounts, is good for dental health and prevents tooth decay and the formation of cavities.

The CDC defines the safe and optimal fluoride levels as 0.7–1.2 parts per million (ppm). Research spanning the last 50 years suggests consuming fluoride improves oral health, especially in children.

High amounts of fluoride may cause dental fluorosis, bone diseases, thyroid problems, and some neurological problems that affect the IQs of children.

Excessive fluoride intake also leads to cardiovascular, skin, and reproductive issues. However, dangerous levels of natural fluoride are not currently a concern in the US.

As Dr. David Okano of the University of Utah indicated in an interview, fluoridation has shown remarkable results, but you can have too much a good thing.

Debunking Myths About Removing Fluoride From Water

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation on the internet about ways to treat fluoride.

Much of the content online is based on false research but I’ve got you covered. Here are some of the methods that do not remove fluoride from water.

Holy basil

I see people suggesting using holy basil — an Indian herb — to remove fluoride and decontaminate tap water by boiling it for some time. It seemed too good to be true — and it is.

While according to one study it can remove up to 40%–70% of fluoride from water, other sources suggest it cannot remove fluoride at all.

I tried to dig deeper, but unfortunately, research on the topic is limited.

If you want to perform a little experiment and test your fluoride levels before and after using holy basil, go ahead and see for yourself. Maybe you can have your results published.

Boiling tap water

Sorry to burst your bubble, but boiling water does not remove fluoride. While boiling water can kill bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, it has no effect on minerals, metals, or chlorine in the water.

In fact, boiling makes the water more concentrated with contaminants. As clean water evaporates into the air, it leaves behind solid particles.

Activated carbon filter

During my research for this article, I was surprised to see how so many people confidently claim that activated carbon and carbon block filters can completely remove fluoride, while studies suggest activated carbon has no effect on fluoride.

Most filtration water bottles, water pitchers, countertop filters, and tap attachments use carbon filters to remove contaminants. Although they can effectively remove chlorine and other smelly pollutants, I’d hesitate to trust such units to filter fluoride.

Lemon

Lemon in water has many benefits, but it cannot remove or treat fluoride in your tap water. Although one study suggests using lemon tree leaves to treat fluoride, there’s still not enough evidence.

How to Remove Fluoride From Water Cheaply: Final Thoughts

There are many methods to remove fluoride from your water, such as water pitchers, gravity-fed filters, activated alumina, reverse osmosis, and distillers, each available in different shapes and sizes to suit your budget and needs.

Looking to expand your understanding of various water treatments? Take a deeper look with these extra sources:

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