Types of Water Filtration Systems – (All Kinds & Types)

There are a lot of places where the water isn’t clean enough to drink. We need water to survive, but we can’t risk drinking pure gunk and filth. Thankfully, we have different water filtration systems to save the day.

Water filters are indeed a lifesaver. If it weren’t for water filtration and purification systems, we wouldn’t be able to drink healthy and clean water. When you get a house or an apartment, one of the first things you do is install a water filtration system.

Types of Water Filtration Systems

There are many different types of water purification systems, and if you don’t know which is which, you may install the wrong one. Many people also confuse the different types of water filtration systems with that of purification systems, so it’s best to know about each.

Here is a detailed guide for the types of water filtration systems and their functions so you know exactly what you need:

Key Takeaways

If you’re in a hurry, here is a quick overview:

  • There are a lot of different types of filtration systems
  • Not all water filtration systems are purification systems, but most water purification systems are also filtration systems
  • You can attach a purification system to most water filtration types
  • Different types of water filtration and purification system give different types of filtered water
  • You can attach a water filter anywhere; inside your house to any faucet or main pipeline, and even in the main tank or supply system
  • Mechanical filtration systems work by separating bigger sediments and sand and dust from the water; they cannot remove viruses
  • Absorption systems are one of the most effective water filtration systems; carbon block and activated alumina filters attract contaminants toward them
  • Sequestration filters use chemicals to enhance the flavor and quality of water by separating essential minerals
  • Iron filtration systems work by various mechanisms (air injection, chemical injection, and greensand filtration) to remove toxic metals and iron from the water
  • Reverse Osmosis is one of the most common and effective types of water purification systems
  • Distillation is the oldest and simplest method of purifying water
  • UV light can target bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms and removes them from the water without using chemicals
  • Ultrafiltration removes up to 90-100% of pathogens and microorganisms from water
  • Ionization softens your water and turns it alkaline

Difference between Water Filtration and Water Purification Systems

Difference between Water Filtration and Water Purification Systems

Before we talk about the types of water filtration systems, let’s discuss water filters and purifiers.

What is a water filtration system? What does a water purification system do? Are water filtration and purification systems the same?

Let’s answer all your questions now.

What is the Difference Between Purification and Filtration?

Not many know that there is a difference between filtration and purification.

Filtration is a process in which large particles and substances separate from the smaller particles through a barrier. In standard terms, filtration is when you separate bigger pieces from the smaller ones.

Filtration isn’t only a process to clean water; you can use filtration for many things. For example, when you make tea and use the sieve to separate the tea leaves, you are filtering the tea.

After removing the tea leaves, the water remains black because you mixed the tea and water. Filtration does not separate the tea and the water; filtration simply separates the tea leaves, which are big enough to stay in the sieve.

Similarly, when you drain rice or lentils after washing them through a sieved bowl, you filter the rice water by keeping the bigger particles (rice and lentils) in the bowl.

So you see, filtration is simply a process where the bigger and smaller particles separate. Filtration does not directly remove germs or bacteria.

On the other hand, purification is a process where you remove the bigger particles and eliminate germs and small particles that pass through a sieve.

For example, after filtering out the tea leaves, if you were to pour some chemical that removed the dissolved tea from the water completely, then you’re purifying the tea.

Water Filtration Systems: What Is It?

A Person holding Water Filtration System

Many people think a water filtration system thoroughly cleans their water. While a part of it is true, a water filtration system doesn’t exactly cleanse your water as you think.

Imagine a water body with dirt, debris, stones, mold, and fungus. Gross right? When you use a water filtration system, the same dirty and moldy water goes through a sieve that collects the fungi, stones, mold, and mud particles.

The water that goes through a filtration system is still dirty because there might be smaller dirt particles dissolved or mixed directly with the water, even if the water appears clear.

If you run the same water through another sieve with smaller holes, you might collect finer and smaller particles of dirt and debris.

In this case, your sieve is a filter, and you’re filtering your water through a water filtration system to remove visible and larger dirt particles.

A water filtration system works by forcing water through a sizeable sieve-like container, or a filter, which collects big dirt particles to clean the water. The water is cleaner but isn’t purer because it may still have germs and bacteria from the dirt and debris.

What is a Water Purification System?

Types of Water Filtration Systems

A water purification system uses a combination of sieve-like filters, semipermeable membranes, and, sometimes, chemical treatments to remove contaminants from the water.

When you use a water purification system, you remove larger particles like dirt and debris and invisible particles like microorganisms, chemicals, and salts from the water.

If you run filtered dirty water through a water purification system, you can purify the water further and eliminate all kinds of harmful contaminants.

Are Water Filtration and Water Purification Systems the Same?

The biggest question is, are water filtration and water purification systems the same thing? If yes, how, and if no, what makes the two different? A water filtration system is different from a water purification system.

A filtration system only separates bigger particles from the water and cannot eliminate viruses, bacteria, and mixed contaminants like chemicals and harmful salts. A water purification system removes viruses, microorganisms, and toxic chemicals from the water.

Water Filtration SystemsWater Purification Systems
Removes big particles like dirt, debris, dust, and larger bacteria attached to the dirt.Removes big and small particles, including bacteria and viruses.
Does not remove viruses and harmful chemicalsRemoves viruses and toxic chemicals
Uses a filterUses a filter and unique treatment processes
Leaves smaller bacteria and impurities in the waterCompletely eliminates all impurities

Can A Water Filtration System Pair with A Purification System?

Yes, a water purification system pairs with a water filtration system. Typically, you use a water filtration system to separate the contaminants and a water purification system to purify the water.

You may also use a water filtration system on its own, although it won’t be as effective as a water purification system.

Kinds of Water Filters

Now that you know a little about filtration and purification let’s talk about the types of water filters. Based on where you can install your water filtration/purification systems, there are different kinds of water filters:

●    Whole House Filters

A picture of Whole House Filters

A whole-house water filter is one that you attach or install on the main water line of your house. Connecting the whole house water filter to the main inlet/line ensures that you get clean water in every room of your house, including the kitchen, the bathroom, and any hoses outside.

A whole house water filter may use a singular, large filter to clean the water off the whole pipeline or a grouping of different filters to clean the water.

You can get a whole-house water purification system or a whole-house water filtration system.

●    Under-sink Water Filters

A Man Fiiting an Under Sink Water Filter

As the name suggests, an under-sink water filter is a filtration system that goes directly under the water source. You can place an under-sink water filter under your kitchen or bathroom sink.

This water filter only cleans the water directly connected to it.

●    Countertop Water Filters

Countertop water filters are similar to under-sink water filters, except you can place them directly above your kitchen top. Countertop water filters may or may not be portable.

Countertop Water Filter

Using a countertop water filter is more manageable than an under-sink water filter because you can directly attach and detach the filter from the water. Countertop water filters are among the few types of water filters for homes that are accessible.

●    Water Bottle Filters

Types of Water Filtration Systems - (All Kinds & Types)

You can fit a small filter inside your water bottle. These water bottle filters keep your water clean and make getting water from public sources safer.

●    Showerhead filters

Types of Water Filtration Systems - (All Kinds & Types)

Isn’t it annoying when you’re taking a shower, but the water turns orange? Rust in water pipes can contaminate the water, even when using a whole-house water filtration system.

Luckily for you, different types of water filters directly clean the water from the source. You can directly attach a showerhead filter onto your showerhead to filter rusty water as it pours out.

●    Faucet Filters

Faucet Filter in kitchen

Like showerhead filters, faucet filters directly connect to your faucet and filter water as it pours out. You can use a faucet filter on your kitchen sink, bathroom sink, and even gardening faucet.

●    Portable Personal Water Filters

Personal Portable Water Filter Near River

It can be challenging to adjust to impure water when you’re using a water filter at home. Quite a few people have stomach problems and can’t afford to drink clean water, which may not be pure.

If you don’t want to take the risk, you can always carry a portable water filter that does the job for you.

●    Water Filters: Pitchers

Types of Water Filtration Systems - (All Kinds & Types)

Some companies also offer portable water pitchers with attached filters.

●    Straw Filters

Straw Filter

A recent addition to the world of water filters, a straw filter allows you to purify water as you drink it. This innovative filter uses a strong membrane that purifies the water and eliminates up to 99.99% of bacteria.

You can use a straw filter directly with any utensil or get a bottle integrated with a straw filter.

Types of Water Filtration Systems and Filters

There are many different types of water filtration methods, and each technique either uses a particular water filter or may use a combination of different water filters. Let’s look at each water filter type in detail:

1.  Mechanical Filtration Systems

Types of Water Filtration Systems

Mechanical filters separate visible and large contaminants using simple filters; the process of filtering water through a mechanical filter is mechanical filtration.

In mechanical filtration, you can use different types of water filters to separate the contaminants.

➔   Sand and Sediment Filters

Sediment Filter on a Table

The simplest water filter, sand, and sediment filter is a type of mechanical filter which removes visible contaminants like dust, dirt, and debris. These water filters work by separating larger impurities through a sieve-like membrane, allowing the rest of the smaller and invisible contaminants to remain in the water.

Not many people rely on sand and sediment filters because these types of water filters don’t guarantee purity.

You can use a sand and sediment water filter to strain gravel, sand, dust, dirt, stones, shale, and coal, but this filter can’t manage more.

➔   Ceramic Filters

Types of Water Filtration Systems - (All Kinds & Types)

Ceramic filters are one of the oldest mechanical filtration systems. Ceramic filtration systems use a porous ceramic filter at the core that catches all sediments and even some bacteria.

You can use a ceramic filter in your house and even on large-scale pipelines.

2.  Absorption Filtration Systems

Absorption Filtration Systems

In absorption filtration, a particular membrane attracts and absorbs all harmful contaminants from the water.

The absorption process uses different water filter types, but the most common is carbon absorption using carbon filters and activated alumina filters. Filters used in absorption filtration are absorption filters.

➔   Carbon Absorption Using Carbon Block/Activated Carbon (AC) Filters

Carbon Absorption Using Carbon Block

The most common filter in all filtration and purification systems is a carbon block/activated carbon filter. This filter attracts contaminants toward the carbon center and allows the rest of the water to move through the membrane.

You can get a simple carbon block filter. However, activated carbon filters attract all sorts of impurities, including chlorine, industrial solvents, cleaners, chemicals, and pesticides/insecticides.

Carbon filtering is the filtration process that uses activated carbon filters. Both water filtration systems and water purification systems utilize carbon filtering.

See Also: Best Solid Block Carbon Filter

➔   Activated Alumina

Activated alumina filters use activated alumina (a material from aluminum hydroxide) to filter toxic minerals like selenium, arsenic, and fluoride.

Activated alumina works the same way as a carbon filter; the activated alumina absorbs harmful chemicals and minerals, effectively cleaning the water during the process.

3.  Sequestration Filtration Systems

Sometimes, it so happens that your water contains minerals like calcium and magnesium, which corrode and attack the pipelines, contaminating the water. When this happens, you want to remove the minerals, so you use an advanced filter that removes essential minerals like Iron and Magnesium along with harmful chemicals.

However, using advanced filters to remove minerals isn’t always the best step.

Removing such minerals often means wasting the water’s healthy nutrients and components.

You can use a sequestration filter to prevent this dilemma and sequester the water. In sequestration, you don’t remove these harmful minerals but use chemicals to separate these minerals from the water.

Typically, you sequester groundwater, but you can get filters that sequester water within your filtration systems.

4.  Iron Filtration Systems

Usually, iron is healthy for us. However, iron in unfiltered water can be dangerous and even toxic, especially if it risks interacting with other chemicals and minerals like manganese, magnesium, etc.

Often, water contains ferrous iron, excessively consuming which can disrupt bodily functions and cause iron poisoning.

Different types of water filters for your home can tackle dirt and debris, but only a few can handle intricate filtrations like iron. Here are a couple of water filters used in different types of iron water filtration:

➔   Air-injected iron filters

Air-injected iron filters filter out heavy metals from the water.

Since the iron in the water might be in dangerous forms, the air-injected filter uses a mechanism of drawing air to isolate the iron. The filter then oxidizes (attaches oxygen) to the iron to convert it into a solid form, which the filter then traps into its mesh-like membrane.

An air-injected iron filter not only separates iron but works to isolate several heavy metals, including sulfur. Air-injected filters are a great way to remove heavy contaminants from your water without additional chemicals.

➔   Chemical Injection Filters

Chemical injection filters work almost the same way as air injection filters, except they use chemicals.

With this method of filtration, the filters inject various chemical liquids into the water. These chemical liquids can remove corrosion, heavy metals, and iron and regulate the pH of the water.

➔   Greensand Iron Filtration

Greensand is a sandy rock mineral. Greensand filters remove iron and heavy, toxic metals from water. Greensand filters work by reacting with the harmful elements in the water, converting and attaching to them.

With a greensand filter, you can remove iron, manganese, arsenic, hydrogen sulfide, radium, and more toxic elements from your water.

Types of Water Purification Systems and Methods

Similar to the various types of water filtration methods, there are also different types of purification systems. The purification systems combine multiple types of water filtration systems with purifiers.

1.  Reverse Osmosis

Reverse Osmosis Filter

Most water filtration system types use membranes that allow minute and smaller organisms and contaminants to pass through. However, with purification techniques, you use a semipermeable membrane.

A semipermeable membrane only allows specific molecules to pass through, cleaning the water more efficiently than your typical water filter.

Reverse osmosis is a water purification technique that uses a semipermeable membrane filter. A reverse osmosis water filter removes all kinds of sediments, dirt, debris, stones, and microorganisms.

There are various types of reverse osmosis filters; you can attach up to 6 RO filters. RO systems are types of filtration systems that utilize generic filters and special membranes.

●    Three-Stage RO Filters

A 3-stage RO filter uses a combination of filters and membranes to purify water. The first filter is a sand and sediment filter, the second is an activated carbon block filter, and the final is an RO membrane.

A three-stage RO filter removes sediments, sand, dirt, debris, chlorine, arsenic, lead, and copper.

●    Four-Stage RO Filters

A 4-stage RO filter has a sand and sediment filter, an activated carbon filter, a simple RO membrane, and a Color Changing Resin Deionization filter. The 4-stage filter works the same way as a 3-stage filter, but the fourth filter works as a water polisher.

●    Five-Stage RO Filters

A 5-stage RO filter is identical to a 4-stage RO filter, but it has an additional 5th filter that polishes and cleans the water to a greater extent.

●    Six-Stage RO Filters

A 6-stage RO filter is a 5-stage RO filter with a 6th filter that works as a mineralizer. A 5-stage RO filter removes some minerals that you need to keep your water healthy, and the 6th mineralizer filter adds the same minerals back, only they are cleaner and healthier.

Check Out: Best Reverse Osmosis System

2. Distillation

a man pour water for distillation

Let’s travel back in time to our chem classes; you might recall the word distillation. Distillation is a process in which water vaporizes (converts into mist or spray-like form) and then converts back into water droplets through a process called condensation.

Distillation creates distilled water, one of the few types of filtered water that are purely clean. Distilled water doesn’t contain minerals, metals, or even electrolytes.

Water distillers work by heating the water at a high temperature to turn them into mist or gaseous drops. During this process, all contaminants convert into vapor too.

The distiller then re-converts the vapor into the water but transfers it into a separate container without contaminants. Distilled water is the purest form of water that you can get.

Related: Best Water Distillers

3.  UV Disinfection Filtration

Types of Water Filtration Systems - (All Kinds & Types)

UV Disinfection filtration is perfect for those who can’t trust chemical processes and would rather aim for the types of water filter systems that don’t rely on using chemicals or complex techniques to purify your water.

A UV Disinfection filter works by emitting ultraviolet (UV) light. UV is a unique form of light with a particular wavelength strong enough to disrupt some organisms. A UV water filter emits UV light directly onto the water. The UV light hits microorganisms hidden in the water, attacking their DNA and killing them.

Microorganisms in water can hurt humans and even animals because they enter, reproduce, and spread in our bodies. Since UV light directly attacks the microorganisms’ DNA, it also alters their DNA in a way that they are no longer able to reproduce.

So, UV disinfection filtration kills and removes all microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses, purifying the water. Of course, UV light can attack microorganisms, but it can’t remove general dust and dirt, so a UV disinfection filter typically pairs with a water filtration system.

4.  Ultrafiltration

Types of Water Filtration Systems - (All Kinds & Types)

Among the most effective types of purification systems is ultrafiltration (UF), a technique that uses a semipermeable membrane but does not allow even the smallest organic molecules and microorganisms to pass through.

In an ultrafiltration filter, the water passes through a semipermeable membrane which separates solids and molecules with a heavy weight on one side. The water and lowweight molecules transfer across the semipermeable membrane on the other side.

There are quite a few benefits of using this particular type of purification system; a UF system stabilizes the water and removes up to 90-100% of pathogens. A UF filter also foregoes chemicals unless you’re about to wash the membranes.

Other Processes Involved in Water Filtration and Purification

In addition to the different types of water filtration systems, you also have special filters and additives that serve a particular function during water filtration and purification.

●    Ion Exchange Filter in Ionization

An Ion Exchange device in a water filtration system ionizes the water. During ionization, the ions in the water split according to their charge.
Our water commonly contains many ions, but some water filtration system types tend to neutralize them. An ion exchange filter does the complete opposite; instead of removing these ions, the device simply separates them.

●    Water Softener

An ion exchange filter is also a water-softening filter, which means separating the ions distributes the water’s hardness. Most types of water filtration systems eliminate harmful microorganisms, dust, and dirt, but they leave hard minerals that may not be suitable for everyone.

●    Alkaline and Water Ionizers

You can add an Alkaline water filter to your water filtration or water purification system. Alkaline and water ionizers work by ion exchange filtration, but they turn the water alkaline in nature

Ionized water is relatively healthy for us; it has high antioxidant properties and is much better for us to drink than unionized water.

Types of Water Filtration Methods

Here is a tabled summary of the types of water filtration systems:

Filtration SystemFiltration MethodTechnique: Filtration or PurificationType of Filter Used
Mechanical Filtration SystemMechanical FiltrationWater FiltrationSand and Sediment Filter
Ceramic Filters
Absorption Filtration SystemAbsorption FiltrationWater FiltrationCarbon Block Filter for Carbon Absorption
Activated Alumina Filter for absorption
Sequestration Filtration SystemSequestration Water FiltrationSequester Filter
Iron Filtration SystemAir Injection
Chemical Injection
Greensand Filtration
Water FiltrationAir Injected Iron Filter
Chemical Injected Iron Filter
Greensand Filter
Reverse Osmosis SystemReverse OsmosisWater Purification3-Stage RO Filter
Sand and sediment filter
activated carbon filter
RO membrane
4-Stage RO Filter
Sand and sediment filter
Activated carbon filter
RO Membrane
Polishing membrane
5-Stage RO Filter
Sand and sediment filter
Activated carbon filter
RO Membrane
Polishing membrane
6-Stage RO Filter
Sand and sediment filter
Activated carbon filter
RO Membrane
Polishing membrane
Distillation SystemDistillationWater PurificationWater Distiller
UV Disinfection Filtration SystemDisinfection by Emission of UV LightWater PurificationUV Light Filter
Ultrafiltration SystemUltrafiltration through a semipermeable membraneWater PurificationUF Filter
Ion Exchange FiltrationIonizationBoth Water Filtration and Water PurificationIon Exchange Device
Water Softener
Alkaline Water Filter

Conclusion | Types of Water Filtration Systems

We can get severely sick from drinking unfiltered, dirty water. Luckily for us, various types of water filtration systems tackle the dirt and mold in our water.

However, water filtration systems cannot effectively remove pathogens, microorganisms, and viruses so that we can get sick even after filtration. It is best to use an additional purifying filter in the main water filtration system for pure water.

There are several types of water filtration systems; mechanical filtration systems are the oldest and only remove sediment and some bacteria. Absorption systems are one of the most commonly used filtration systems and are much more effective than mechanical filters.

However, even if we use the best filtration systems, we may be unable to remove harmful and minute pathogens. Purifying filters that use semipermeable membranes or UV light can not only remove but kill harmful microorganisms.

Recommendation | Types of Water Filtration Systems

Drinking dirty and unfiltered water can make us sick. Various types of water filtration systems clean and purify our water to make it healthier. Most filtration systems remove dirt and dust from the water, but not all of them can purify it.

You can use special filters and techniques to remove all contaminants, including microorganisms, from the water. Water filters work wonders, but they often remove essential minerals that we need along with the pollutants or leave some metals in the water.2

Some types of water filtration systems contain special semipermeable membranes that can re-mineralize water and soften it. Other types of water purification systems can convert toxic metals into safer and drinkable forms.

You should get a system with an added purifying filter if you want an effective water filtration system that kicks all dirt and sediments and leaves no bacteria or viruses behind.


This is my blog about the ways and solutions that can help you improve your health by taking more value from drinking water. As improving health means a lot to me, I decided to create the Water On Top project with the purpose to reveal the benefits of water, the finest products to take our daily water to another level, and much more great stuff about water that I believe is on top of our nutrition.

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