How to Remove Fluoride From Water Cheaply

Did you know fluoride is purposely added to private water systems to prevent tooth decay? And this act is considered one of the ten greatest public health achievements?

While it may have prevented a lot of dental decay, the latest studies suggest that high amounts of fluoride in drinking water can do more harm than good to the human body. And that’s why more and more people are now searching for filters that remove fluoride from tap water. So if you’re one of them, congrats, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ll talk about some of the affordable and budget-friendly ways of removing fluoride from drinking water, and I’ll also tap into the details of why it is so important to remove it.

How Does Fluoride Get in Your Water?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral ore on earth. It’s present in trace amounts in soil, groundwater, and natural springs. Some unmindful 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 fluorine in the environment, contaminating groundwater.

One major source of fluoride in your tap water is “water fluoridation,” which occurs in all public water systems across the US. In the words of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), community water fluoridation is the process of regulating the fluoride amount in water to match the level recommended by health experts for preventing dental diseases. 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.

But you may wonder why people are removing fluoride from tap water if that’s the case. Your question makes absolute sense. Let’s find the answer.

Health 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). Much research spanning the last 50 years suggests consuming fluoride improves oral health, especially in children.

However, fluoride is also present in fruits and vegetables and products such as toothpaste and mouthwash. This may lead to consumption beyond safe levels, which is risky. Many experts argue that once fluoride is added to water, it’s consumed by everyone regardless of their age, need, and medical history and can be detrimental to some people. For instance, kids only require a small daily intake of this mineral, which they might fulfill with toothpaste alone, so drinking fluoridated water can put them at risk. 

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.

As Dr. David Okano of the University of Utah said in one of his interviews, fluoridation has shown remarkable results, but too much of anything is bad, and we must look for high fluoride concentrations.

How to Remove Fluoride From Water Cheaply 

Now to the part you’ve been waiting for—how can you remove fluoride from your tap water in a way that won’t break the bank? Well, there are primarily five treatment methods used for fluoride removal: activated alumina, reverse osmosis, distillation, bone charcoal coal, and liquid filter cartridges.

These purification devices come in many shapes and sizes to suit your budget. For example, instead of going for a point-of-entry filter (placed near your home’s main water supply), you can opt for point-of-use filters (placed near taps and faucets) to save money.

Since fluoride is only harmful if consumed through drinking water, there’s not much need to remove it from every tap in your house. Instead, you can get a handy fluoride filter for your kitchen tap only, and you’re good to go.

Water-filter pitchers

Water filter pitchers are a quick and convenient way of removing fluoride from your drinking water tap. This equipment uses filter cartridges that can capture and absorb over 300 contaminants in water—depending on the cartridge quality. Just fill the pitcher with tap water and wait for 15–20 minutes until all the water passes through the filter media and is ready to consume.

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.

While a water filter pitcher is a very convenient option, it comes with a few downsides. Pitchers can only filter a small amount of water at a time. Plus, one batch takes about 15 minutes to become available for drinking. The filter cartridge is small and needs replacing once or twice every month.

Nonetheless, filter pitchers are a great way to eliminate excess fluoride in your drinking water.

Gravity-filtration units

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

Some gravity filters also come with a combination of filters, including activated carbon and submicron filtration membranes to treat a range of contaminants. Gravity filters may need to be replaced once every year, but it solely depends on the quality of your unit. Some might need replacement every six months.

You can find gravity filters between the price range of $80–$500, depending on the size and amount of water it can filter for you.

Activated alumina

Activated alumina is a widely trusted method to remove fluoride in water. The Environmental Protection Agency also vouches for activated alumina’s ability to banish many contaminants from water, including fluoride. It works by absorbing fluoride in a bed of active aluminum hydroxide (Al2O3) granules and performs best if the water pH is between 5–6.

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 order to prevent clogging of the alumina bed, it’s better to install a sediment filter to remove suspended particles in water. You might also want to bring down the levels of iron and manganese for activated alumina to work efficiently.

The point-of-use designs of these filters are fairly affordable and can cost you $80–$200. But the average cost of a whole-house activated alumina filter is $900. 

Bone-char filtration

Another known method to remove fluoride is bone char. 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 this filter absorb fluoride ions and many other contaminants like lead, arsenic, and radioactive particles. It’s not a vegan or cruelty-free option, however, so you may choose to opt for other eco-friendly filters to remove fluoride.

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.

Bone-char filter cartridges will cost you around $100.

Distillation units

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. Unfortunately, this is also why distilled water tastes flat and bland.

You can go for countertop and portable distillation units at an affordable price range of $180–$300. 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, it can be a tad problematic. But the water you’ll get will be free of all minerals and toxins.

Reverse-osmosis filters

Reverse osmosis (RO) is highly effective in removing almost 90% of fluoride minerals from tap water. Not only minerals, but it can also tackle almost all kinds of 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. Only water molecules can pass through the filter membrane, leaving behind all pollutant molecules. Reverse-osmosis filter membranes must be replaced every two years, but good-quality ones can last longer.

Many RO systems are available in combination with other filtration units, such as active carbon and ultraviolet, to make your water squeaky clean and fresh.

The only con of the RO system is its high up-front cost. But you can always opt for the countertop, under-sink, and tap attachments available for as low as $200. An RO filter doesn’t require regular maintenance, so once you install it, it will definitely pay off in the long run.

Debunking Myths About Removing Fluoride From Water

Fluoride is tricky to remove, so you need to be vigilant in deciding on a filtration method. 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 many 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 yes—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, there aren’t many research articles on the topic. I believe it’s better not to trust mere leaves and stems to remove fluoride from your water without proper evidence. 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.

Boiling tap water

Sorry to burst your bubble, but boiling water does not remove fluoride. While boiling 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, leaving 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 there are studies suggesting that activated carbon has no effect on fluoride. Some high-quality carbon filters attached to other filtration systems may remove one out of three fluorine isotopes (40%–60%) in water, but that might not be enough for some people.

So, carbon filters cannot be trusted to treat fluoride levels unless you test the filtered water in the laboratory and compare it with your contaminated tap water. You could also contact the filtration unit’s manufacturer and ask them about the efficiency of their technology. 

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 be hesitant 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 around the topic.

How to Choose the Best Fluoride Removal Method

Here’s a quick mental checklist for the next time you go shopping for a water filtration system. This list 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 in an accredited laboratory to determine the exact level of fluoride in your tap water. You may find that you also need to eliminate other contaminants, so go with a filter capable of tackling all the pollutants in your water. In such a case, it’s best to look for water distillers and reverse-osmosis units as they are capable of removing a wide range of pollutants. 

Budget

The type of filter you choose boils down to your budget. If money is not an issue, you can simply opt for whole-house filters to remove fluoride from the main supply. On the other hand, if you want a quick and affordable solution, go for gravity-fed filters, water pitchers, and over-the-counter and under-sink water filters.

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.

Space

Do you have enough space in your kitchen for a big distillation tank or a countertop RO system? Or do you want a more discrete solution, such as an under-sink filter? Look for a size that suits your home and fulfills your water needs.

How to Remove Fluoride From Water Cheaply: Final Thoughts

The municipal authorities add fluoride to drinking water to prevent tooth decay in adults and children, but too much fluoride can be harmful to your health. You must regularly check what lurks in your water, whether you’re on public water supply or own a private well.

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. So, pick wisely!