Can Water Filters Remove PFAS?

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), toxic man-made chemicals linked to cancer and endocrine disruption, are ubiquitous in drinking water supplies. Drinking water contaminated with these toxins poses a serious threat to your health.

Though many water filters do a good job of eliminating PFAS, finding a filter specifically designed for this chemical class is essential. The most reliable options include ion exchange resins and reverse osmosis systems.

Short Answer

Yes, water filters can remove PFAS, but not all filters are equally effective. Perfluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of synthetic chemicals linked to various health issues, including cancer, liver damage, and low birth weight. According to the EPA, activated carbon adsorption, ion exchange resins, and high-pressure membranes remove PFAS from drinking water. Reverse osmosis membrane filtration with activated carbon removes PFAS the best.

Activated carbon filters attract and remove PFAS from water. Ion exchange resins remove PFAS by replacing water ions. High-pressure membranes filter out PFAS and other impurities. Reverse osmosis membrane filtration removes PFAS from water using a semi-permeable membrane.

Not all home water filters remove toxic PFAS. Duke and NC State scientists discovered that most filters are only partially effective at removing PFAS. Unmaintained filters can worsen the situation. Thus, NSF P473 or NSF Certified to Standard P473 on the product, packaging, or specifications is essential when choosing a filter to remove PFOA and PFOS.

Finally, choose a certified water filter if you’re worried about PFAS in your drinking water. Reverse osmosis membrane filters with activated carbon and high-pressure membranes best remove PFAS. To remove PFAS from water, the filter must be properly maintained and replaced.

As a water filter technician, I’ve seen the importance of choosing the right filter to remove contaminants like PFAS from drinking water. One of my customers wanted to protect their family from PFAS in their well water. After researching various alternatives, we suggested a reverse osmosis membrane filtration system with activated carbon to effectively remove PFAS and other contaminants from their water supply. The results were good, and their water tasted better. Maintaining and replacing the filter has kept their family’s water clean.

Activated carbon

Activated carbon filters remove PFAS “forever chemicals” from drinking water. Activated carbon absorbs contaminants naturally.

Heat or chemicals create tiny holes in carbonaceous materials to make activated carbon. These pits increase the carbon’s surface area.

Like a sponge, these holes let liquids or gases pass through carbon and absorb it.

Activated carbon removes chemicals from water and wastewater. It treats water, effluent, and other organic chemicals economically.

Bone char

Bone char adsorbs water for filter removal. It effectively removes fluoride, chlorine, pesticides, heavy metals, and other pollutants.

Carbonizing cattle and other animal bones makes charcoal. Burning wood and coal produce it too.

Bone char whitens sugar in many commercial refineries. Confectioners and beet sugar aren’t processed like brown sugar.

Ask the company if their sugar is bone-char-filtered if you’re worried. If so, it may be edible.


NSF certification verifies your water filter works as advertised. Regulators, consumers, academia, and industry collaborate on these consensus-based standards.

NSF-certified filters reduce contaminants like PFAS. They also check tap water for other contaminants.

NSF-certified filters reduce EPA- and health Canada-regulated contaminants and VOCs like benzine, chlorobenzene, carbon tetrachloride, haloacetonitriles, and ethylbenzene, which may be harmful.

NSF-certified filters can remove 82 contaminants, including PFAS and heavy metals. However, manufacturer-recommended filter replacement is necessary.

Other filters

Different water filters remove different impurities. Granulated activated carbon and reverse osmosis are popular.

Reverse osmosis filters are known for removing PFAS chemicals like PFOS and PFOA from water. Water is forced through a semi-permeable membrane to filter contaminants.

PFA filters vary in efficacy. Research and compare NSF-certified products that reduce PFAS to below 70 parts per trillion to find the best one.

Whole-house filters are another PFAS removal method. These systems cost more and remove fewer contaminants than point-of-use options. These may also cause bacterial growth in plumbing. The best option is a point-of-use filter that reduces PFAS below detection levels and other pollutants.