The History of Water Filters

Centuries ago, if you wanted to filter your water at home, you’d likely have to boil the water then pour it through sieve-like cloth bags to trap sediments that caused foul taste and smell. Water filtration was no more complex than that, at least not until thousands of years later. Nonetheless, continuous efforts to obtain “clean” drinking water led to many breakthroughs in water filtration throughout the ages.

These days, we have access to a vast array of modern home water filters equipped with state-of-the-art features and technologies to help produce the cleanest, purest, and highest-quality water possible. As a result, clean drinking water has become so widely available today that many people take it for granted.

Modern water filters can treat large quantities of water, usually behind the scenes, with little to no human intervention. However, while you can find these devices in many American households, very few of us know their origins and evolution. Sure, these systems may seem like a new development, especially if you live in an area with limited access to clean water, but they have a history that stretches back thousands of years.

In this post, we’ll be tracing water filters back to their origins, how they’ve evolved through the ages, and what’s their state in this modern era.

Timeline: The Evolution of Water Filters/Filtration

2000 BC

The earliest attempts to discover or produce pure water go as far back as 2000 BC. During this period, Ancient Greek and Sanskrit methods ranged from boiling or placing hot metal instruments in water before drinking it to filtering that water through crude sand or charcoal filters. People developed these methods to provide better-tasting drinking water because, during that time, they determined water purity by taste. They did not (or couldn’t) yet connect impure water with diseases, nor did they have the technology necessary to recognize tasteless yet harmful microbes in drinking water. They knew to try to reduce cloudiness, objectionable taste, and appearance in water but didn’t know much or any at all about chemical contamination or microbes.

1500 BC

As early as 1500 BC, the Egyptians discovered the principle of coagulation, which involved using alum to clarify water. The alum caused suspended particles to settle in the water, after which people would skim the “clean” water from the top of the container.

500 BC

Centuries later, around 500 BC, Hippocrates, the famed father of medicine, designed a crude water filter to “purify” the water he used for his patients. This filter was later known as the “Hippocratic sleeve.” It was essentially a cloth bag that they poured the water through after boiling it. The cloth would trap any sediments in the water that were causing bad taste or smell.

1600s AD

For over 1,000 years, there was very little to no interest shown in water purification, leading to a lack of improvement. However, in the 1600s, Sir Robert Bacon began experimenting with sand filtration as he attempted to remove salt from seawater. While his desalination experiment was unsuccessful, he laid the groundwork for other scientists to get involved in the field. In the 1670s, the microscope was invented, and with its invention, humans would be able to detect microscopic organisms and other particles in water. During this time, scientists created the first multi-stage filter. Both these inventions proved beneficial to the water treatment process.

1700s AD

In the mid-1700s, Joseph Amy obtained the first patent for a water filter. His design incorporated charcoal, wool, and sponge layers to eliminate unwanted organisms and particles. These filters were made available for sale in 1750. By the late 17th century, the development of the microscope had given scientists new insights into the innumerable microorganisms present in water. Soon after, water filtration became the preferred water purification method for many communities as they started using domestic water filters. While these filters weren’t perfect, they were indeed a considerable improvement on anything introduced before.

1800s AD

In 1804, Robert Thom designed the first municipal water treatment plant, later built in Scotland. The treatment was based on slow sand filtration, and horse-drawn carts distributed the treated water to communities and cities. Some three years later, the first water pipes were installed. The suggestion was that every person should have access to safe drinking water, but it would take somewhat longer before this was brought to practice in most countries.

In 1854, a breakthrough came via an unfortunate event. Researchers discovered that an epidemic of cholera infection spread through water and that the outbreak had been less intense in areas that had sand filters. British scientist John Snow found that it was sewage water contaminating the water pump. After several experiments, he also found that chlorine could be used to purify the contaminated water, which would then establish the practice of chlorination for water disinfection.

During that time, the water had smelled and tasted fine, so this was when they concluded that those factors weren’t enough to guarantee the safety of drinking water. As a result, cities began installing municipal water filters, and government water regulation became the norm.

1900s AD

By the late 18th century into the 1900s, significant advances were made in the water filtration arena. While slow sand filtration became popular in water filter systems in many European and American cities, it used up a lot of land space and could not keep up with the rapid population growth. As a result, rapid sand filtration was introduced to improve slow sand filtration’s speed and efficiency.

Thom’s slow sand filters included two main features: the reverse flow wash and the false bottom. The issue was that they used mechanical agitators for loosening debris and water jets or backwashes for cleaning filter media. On the other hand, rapid sand filtration involved pretreatments, such as coagulation and settling to reduce sediment load on the filter, and charcoal filtration for improving the water’s taste and odor. Besides, the rapid sand filters used a Jetstream to clean the filter and improve its capacity.

At the same time, more and more cities were building water treatment facilities and using several filtration methods, along with water chlorination and ozone, to help purify water. As these methods became more widespread, the outbreaks of waterborne illnesses like cholera and typhoid declined. However, it wasn’t long before chlorination started to reveal its dark side. Research linked chlorine ingestion to various respiratory diseases and other health effects, forcing experts to search for alternatives.

Realizing the importance of providing clean drinking water for its residence, America passed the Clean Water Act of 1972 and the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, which were developed on the premise that everyone has a right to safe water. This was also when the major public health concerns about drinking water shifted from disease-causing microbes to manufactured pollutants like pesticides, industrial sludge, chemicals, etc. By the 1980s, researchers developed the first membranes for reverse osmosis systems after previously developing effective treatment methods, such as aeration, flocculation, and granular-activated carbon absorption for removal of organic contaminants. As advances in technology and competition grew, it paved the way for modern, sophisticated water filtration methods, many of which are still used today.

The 20th Century: The Boom of Modern Water Filters

By the end of the 1900s, most developed nations already began imposing minimum water quality standards. It was these regulations that encouraged and incentivized the private sector to devise new and better filtration methods.

Throughout the 20th century, the popularity of home water filters became a massive trend. Today’s customers are spoiled for choice with options ranging from whole-house filters and under-sink reverse osmosis filter systems to ultraviolet (UV) purifiers and sediment filters. These sophisticated options came when experts detected more chemicals, impurities, and chlorine-resistant pathogens in our precious waterways.

Many modern water filtration systems use multiple filtration stages involving different filters, each designed to target and eliminate specific contaminants. For instance, some whole-house filters use five stages to filter water. Whole-house filtration systems are made to treat all the water entering into a household, while others (countertop filters, under-sink filters, etc.) connect directly to the tap and treat water at specific points in the home. Some filters also use high-quality filtration media and come with innovative features to enhance their usability and filtration performance.

Benefits of Water Filtration for You, Your Family, and Household

By now, you might be wondering if you should invest in a water filter for your home, but you’re not sure – perhaps because your water already tastes and smells great. The truth is, even if your tap water tastes and smells clean, there’s likely some level of contaminants in it.

Some contaminants in drinking water are manufactured, while others occur naturally. Rivers and lakes are often some of the best natural water sources, yet they still get contaminated by polluters, storm runoff, and acid rain. Plus, there are many contaminants in water from factories and industrial sites. Because of these factors, many homeowners are turning to home water filters for various reasons. Here are some of the benefits you can expect from installing one of these systems in your home:

Enjoy safe drinking water all day, every day. Drinking unfiltered water can have some dire consequences on your health. Pollutants like heavy metals and chemicals can have profound health effects at worst, or at best, make your water undrinkable. While the vast majority of municipal water systems do an excellent job of treating your tap water, there’s always the risk of system failures, water main breaks, and other unfortunate events that can affect your water quality. As a result, it’s best to install a water filter to be safe.

Save money. If you’re purchasing bottled water for your family to use at home, the costs can add up quickly. The average family drinking 2-3 bottles of water a day can rack up significant annual costs exceeding $500. That’s money better spent on a water filter that can last around 5-10 years, or even longer, depending on several factors.

Reduce potential plumbing issues. Heavy metals, chemicals, and some minerals in water can corrode pipes and plumbing fixtures and cause damage to water heater systems and water-using appliances. By installing a water filter in your home, you can eliminate these potentially destructive agents at the source so that you can extend the life of your pipes, plumbing, water heaters, and home appliances.

Prevent skin and hair irritation. Long- or short-term exposure to certain chemicals sometimes found in drinking water can wreak havoc on the skin, especially for people with sensitive skin or who experience skin irritations, such as eczema or psoriasis. Chemicals like chlorine can aggravate these conditions and may lead to more severe skin issues. A reliable water filtration system in your home can go a long way towards alleviating these problems. But even if you don’t experience these conditions, there’s no better more enjoyable than showering or soaking in a tub with clean, fresh, contaminant-free water.

Provides better-tasting and -smelling water. Filtering water also helps improve its taste and smell because of the impurities removed. The water will likely have a more refreshing and enhanced flavor, resulting in a higher sense of satisfaction after drinking filtered water. Tap water tends to taste and smell like chlorine, whereas distilled water has all the minerals removed, making it taste very bland. However, filtered water removes contaminants but leaves minerals that make the water taste good.

It helps preserve the environment. Bottled water is a huge source of pollution as it takes plastic bottles 300 years or more to degrade. Moreover, producing the bottle itself consumes a lot of water, perhaps about three times more than it takes to fill it. By filtering your tap water at home, you will be helping the environment by reducing the number of plastic bottles in it every year.

The Best Home Water Filter for Cleaner, Safer, and Better-Tasting Water

The Springwell CF1 Whole-House Water Filter is a perfect example of a modern water filter with all the features required to produce clean, great-tasting, high-quality water for the entire household. It uses top-quality catalytic coconut shell carbon, certified KDF media, ActivFlo technology, and other related features and functions to remove up to 99.6% of waterborne contaminants. Some of these pollutants include chlorine, chloramine, PFOA, PFOS, VOCs, TTHM, MTBE, lead, iron, pesticides, herbicides, haloacetic acids, and many more.

The CF1 also filters water through a rigorous 4-stage filtration process to provide better-tasting water, cleaner and better-tasting food, and so on. It also has a 5-micron sediment prefilter that blocks out the tiniest impurities so that the remaining filters can significantly improve the quality of water for the whole house. Furthermore, it can produce up to 1,000,000 gallons of fresh, clean water to supply a household with 1-3 bathrooms with no decrease in water pressure. It has 1-inch plumbing connections and an impressive 9-GPM flow rate to help transport contaminant-free water to selected areas of your home at a rapid pace.

If you’re experiencing problems with bacteria and other unwanted pathogens in your water, you can add Springwell’s state-of-the-art Blackcomb 5.1 UV system add-on to the CF1. The UV system destroys 99.9% of harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses, etc.

Our modern and innovative home water filtration systems are designed to provide the highest quality water using the least resources possible. To learn more about the best solutions for your home, talk to one of our friendly experts at 800-589-5592 or write us.

Final Thoughts

Clean drinking water is essential to human survival. In fact, it has remained a primary interest for civilizations throughout history, from the early Egyptians and ancient Greeks to the modern and industrialized communities. Thanks to the many innovations in water filtration made through the ages, we now have access to some of the most advanced water filtration systems – even in the world’s most remote locations. These systems are crucially important to our well-being as they help remove potentially toxic metals, chemicals, and impurities from our drinking water to keep us safe and healthy.

If you’re considering a water filtration system in your home, the Springwell CF1 Whole-House Water Filter System is one of the most innovative, reliable, and affordable water filters money can buy. Reach out to us with any questions or concerns you may have, and we’ll gladly provide all the information you need to make an informed buying decision. We look forward to hearing from you!