Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Fluoride: The Truth!

Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Fluoride_RO Water Filter Fluoride

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is released from rocks into water, dirt, and the air.  It is in fact not harmful to consume in small quantities.  However, in some cases, ground water can contain high amounts of fluoride that are unsafe to consume in your drinking water. Fluoride is also frequently added to water supplies from utilities as a way to reduce cavities in teeth.[1]  So, does reverse osmosis remove fluoride from your home’s water?

The recommended amount of fluoride in your drinking water is 0.7 milligrams per liter.[2]  But it’s not guaranteed that all water utilities can manage fluoride concentration to that level! How do you know what amount of fluoride is in your home’s drinking water? And what are the negative effects of consuming too much fluoride? Most importantly, how can you remove fluoride from your drinking water? 

In this article, we will cover all you need to know about the effectiveness and efficiency of reverse osmosis filtration. We’ll look at how does reverse osmosis remove fluoride and other harmful contaminants in your water, and what other filter alternatives are on the market to remove fluoride.

Fluoride In Drinking Water: Is It Bad For You? 

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that occurs in the water, just like other minerals calcium and magnesium. That’s typically not the topic of the debate though. Water utilities have been adding fluoride to water for nearly 100 years for its ability to reduce tooth decay.

As we mentioned above, the accepted healthy level of fluoride is 0.7 milligrams per liter. However, research demonstrates that high levels of fluoride can have some serious health drawbacks, including fluorosis, which causes brown spots on the enamel of teeth and bones; and skeletal fluorosis, which causes pain in bones, muscles, and joints. 

For higher-risk populations like babies, health risks become more pronounced.  Babies under 2 years old should not consume fluoridated water, because, well…they have no teeth.  Therefore, it is advisable to avoid mixing your baby formula with fluoridated water.  Additionally, those that consume more water on average like athletes and pregnant women should be cautious with their overall intake of fluoride.  

Studies have shown that topical oral treatments like toothpaste provide a similar level of effectiveness directly to your teeth without any negative impacts of ingesting fluoride into your body.  The overarching point is that while fluoride has its benefits, it is most effective on your teeth, not ingested in high quantities throughout your body.    

How Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Fluoride?

Reverse osmosis removes fluoride by using a semipermeable membrane to separate fluoride from the water. The pores of the membrane are typically as small as 0.0001 microns which doesn’t allow fluoride or other contaminants to pass through. Water is forced through the RO membrane under high pressure so that only the purest water remains. Reverse osmosis filters are able to effectively remove up to 99% of fluoride because its molecules are larger than the water molecules that make it through the RO membrane.  

Does-Reverse-Osmosis-Remove-Fluoride-Infographic-Diagram_RO-Water-Fluoride
Diagram: How Reverse Osmosis Filter Removes Fluoride

If you are looking for a home filtration solution to remove fluoride, reverse osmosis is one of the most effective. Both tank and tankless reverse osmosis systems function in essentially the same way. Not only does reverse osmosis remove fluoride, but it will remove hundreds of other water contaminants from your water supply like lead, chloramines, bacteria, PFAs, and more. 

Do All Reverse Osmosis Systems Remove Fluoride?

No, all reverse osmosis systems cannot remove fluoride. Not all reverse osmosis systems are created equal—some units may not be able to effectively remove fluoride, while others will be able to essentially eliminate fluoride and many other contaminants.

A reverse osmosis system’s ability to remove fluoride depends on the quality of the filter, the size of the membrane pores, and the water flow rate.  Typically only a reverse osmosis filter with a pore size of .0001 micron can effectively remove fluoride. We have reviewed the best reverse osmosis systems for fluoride removal.

Before purchasing a reverse osmosis system, check if the company has any fluoride removal test results. Also, check if the RO filter itself is certified to NSF/ANSI 58 standards for reverse osmosis drinking water treatment.    

How Much Fluoride Does RO Remove?

Reverse osmosis can remove up to 99% of fluoride from your drinking water. This is why reverse osmosis is one of the best solutions for fluoride filtration in your home.  The total amount of fluoride removed from water by a reverse osmosis system depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The quality of the reverse osmosis filter membrane
  • The overall concentration on fluoride in your water source (check here)
  • Other contaminants present in your water source
  • Water pressure and flow rate of the RO system
  • The temperature of your water (higher temperatures increase the rate at which minerals dissolve).

Overall, reverse osmosis systems are designed to remove nearly all water impurities, making them the best filter to remove fluoride.  If you select a high-quality reverse osmosis system, you can have peace of mind knowing elevated fluoride levels won’t be an issue.  

What Does Reverse Osmosis Remove?

There’s a good reason why reverse osmosis filter systems have become so popular.  They remove up to 99.9% of thousands of harmful contaminants from your drinking water.   

The first thing you should do is TEST your water! You cannot remove your water’s contaminants if you don’t know what is in it.

 The list of contaminants removed by RO is extensive, but here is a list of the most common:

  • Inorganic Compounds: sodium, calcium, arsenic, chlorine, magnesium, nitrate, chloride, sulfate, and zinc.
  • Organic Compounds: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), PFAs, herbicides, pesticides and human tissues. 
  • Heavy metals: mercury, cadmium, metal ions, copper, chromium, lead
  • Particulates – these are small particles that can be found in your tap water as well as some other types of liquids like smoke and dust. Particulate matter can cause problems with breathing and heart health.

Reverse osmosis filtration is so effective that even industrial waste water plants use it to purify their water!   

Drawbacks Of Using Reverse Osmosis Systems

Reverse osmosis systems are a great way to remove contaminants from your water. This can help you save money and reduce the amount of chemicals you’re putting into your body. But there are some things you should know about reverse osmosis systems before you decide to buy one for your home.

  • Removes even healthy minerals:  Reverse osmosis is so effective at removing fluoride, that it even removes healthy minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium!  There is an easy solution to this, however.  Some reverse osmosis systems include a remineralization filter that adds back desirable minerals to finish the filtration process. You can also purchase a separate filter to supplement an existing RO system that will provide a crisp mineral water taste.      
  • RO waste water:  A common knock against RO systems is that they “waste” water.  The average reverse osmosis system has a waste water ratio of 4:1. This means it will waste four gallons of water for every one gallon produced.   Thankfully, there are now more efficient reverse osmosis systems that only use one gallon of water for two gallons of purified water.    
  • More expensive:  The upfront price of a reverse osmosis system can be higher than some alternatives. But the effectiveness of reverse osmosis systems are unmatched.  Especially when compared to purchasing bottled water everyday, RO is much more cost effective and environmentally friendly. 
  • Requires installation: Reverse osmosis systems require a little installation to set up.  A point-of-use system that is installed under your kitchen sink might take two hours to set up.  But compared to a whole house system, the requirements are not very burdensome.  If you have a setup where installing an under sink unit isn’t an option, consider a countertop RO system that simply needs to be plugged into an outlet.    

Other Filter Options For Removing Fluoride

Most experts agree that reverse osmosis is the best way to get rid of fluoride, but distillation systems, carbon filters, and activated alumina are also good options.

A distillation system can remove up to 99% fluoride. Distillation boils the water and captures the steam vapor to remove fluoride from the water. Home distillation machines are easy to set up, but they require a fair amount of energy and take a long time to create even one gallon of purified water.

Carbon filters remove fluoride by adsorbing it onto their filter materials. Fluoride is adsorbed through the resin that has been treated with a chemical agent to bind with it. The adsorption process can be carried out at different temperatures depending on how much dissolved fluoride is in your water.

Lastly, activated alumina uses an absorbent property that can remove up to 70% of fluoride in water and other harmful contaminants.

Filtration SystemDoes It Remove Fluoride
Boiled WaterNo
Water Pitcher FiltersMost Do Not
Carbon FilterSome Do
Water DistillerYes
Reverse OsmosisYes

Frequently Asked Questions For Reverse Osmosis Fluoride Removal

Are reverse osmosis that remove fluoride expensive?

The cost of a reverse osmosis system to remove fluoride can cost about between $300 – $1,200.  RO systems can be more expensive than other types of fluoride water filters due to the superior level of water purification that they provide. 

Does RO remove fluoride from drinking water?

Yes, a reverse osmosis unit can remove up to 99% of fluoride from drinking water.  The level of effectiveness depends on several factors such as your water source, fluoride concentration present, temperature and the quality of the RO system.

Why is fluoride added to drinking water?

Fluoridation of water serves as a preventative measure against tooth decay by exposing teeth to low concentrations of fluoride on a regular basis. Fluoride keeps teeth from getting cavities and can even rebuild the surface of the tooth by maintaining the structure and strength of the tooth.

Is there a safe or healthy level of fluoride consumption?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that drinking water can contain no more than 0.7 milligrams per liter of fluoride. You can get a disease called dental fluorosis if you are exposed to higher levels for a long time. Dental fluorosis is marked by a buildup of fluoride in the bones.

Is there a way to remove fluoride in tap water without RO?

Using a distillation method is both efficient and cost-effective. When the water is heated, the steam that is produced by the boiling water is captured in another container. After it has evaporated from the water, fluoride and any other impurities are left behind.

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