Chlorine is a great tool to kill bacteria; that’s why municipal water suppliers add chlorine or chloramines (chlorine with ammonia) to drinking water, staying within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulations of 4 parts per million (ppm).
However, chlorine can give water an unpleasant taste and a ‘bleach-like’ smell that people find unpleasant. If this is the case, follow these steps to remove the chlorine and get back to enjoying tap water again.
The first step to removing chlorine from your water is identifying the source. You’re most likely reading this because you noticed a different smell or taste in your drinking water, but your home may have multiple trouble spots.
If there is a bleach smell that can’t be accounted for by cleaning products, try to identify the source. Is it coming from a sink, shower, or somewhere else entirely?
This water source is where you’ll take your samples from for testing in step 2.
The second step is further troubleshooting to make sure that testing for chlorine is the right solution. While chlorine is the most likely culprit for an off taste and smell, other chemicals like algicide can affect drinking water.
Before you invest in a treatment method to remove the chlorine from your water, purchase a test kit that will help you determine the current chlorine levels of your water.
Most test methods can determine the total amount of free chlorine in the water, which is the chlorine available to disinfect in the water, as well as calculate the total amount of free and used chlorine.
Pool owners use these kits to test the water, ensure the levels of added chlorine are balanced and protect against bacteria without injuring swimmers. The kits are available in various styles, but one of the most common is to use a liquid chemical orthotolidine (OTO).
Liquid OTO reacts in chlorine’s presence by turning bright yellow, making it a great indicator. Testing is as simple as filling the tube with water from the source, applying the orthotolidine, and waiting to see what happens.
Keep in mind that the amount of chlorine will impact how yellow the water turns after the OTO is added. The water will only turn vibrant to dark yellow if it is pure chlorine.
It’s more likely to turn translucent or pale yellow if chlorine is present in water since the amount of chlorine will likely be very small.
Test strip-style kits are also available. With these, you dip the strip into the water, which changes to a color shade almost immediately corresponding to the chlorine level in the sample.
Pool test kits can be purchased online, in big department stores, through pool supply stores, and even from home improvement stores.
Another option available is a color wheel test kit that measures free and total chlorine. This highly portable, accurate, and affordable option uses a reagent in the form of an organic compound diethyl-p-phenylenediamine (DPD) solution.
Whether in a powder or a tablet form, after adding the chemical DPD to water, the reagent reacts to chlorine and other disinfectants and changes the color of the water to pink. The great thing about this method is that you can determine the chlorine concentration in your water.
When you purchase this test kit, it comes with a color wheel that you can compare to your water.
Depending on the color and shade your water turns, you will be able to determine the chlorine concentration in the water.
The most accurate testing method available is a digital colorimeter. It is a standard testing method by scientists working in developing countries to test and measure free chlorine in their drinking water.
Similar to a color wheel test kit, you place DPD tablets or powder in a vial of sample water. The DPD reacts to the free chlorine in the water and causes the water to turn pink.
You can then insert the vial into the digital colorimeter, which determines the intensity of the color change by emitting a wavelength of light and measuring it.
The meter determines the color intensity and provides a range of chlorine concentrations. This method is the most accurate and delivers fast results without the need for laboratory equipment.
The only downside is that it is expensive to purchase this test kit compared to other methods.
Now that you’re sure there is chlorine in your water and you’re choosing to remove it, it’s time to choose the treatment method that will work best for your home, considering a variety of factors such as effectiveness, cost, and if there are other additives you wish to remove.
One of the easiest and most practical ways to eliminate chlorine from water is to use a distiller. This machine boils the water to vapor, allows it to condense, and separates impurities, leaving just distilled water.
Water distillers can be purchased online or at any department store at a variety of price points depending on the size of the distiller, which can range from countertop size to large commercial units.
Using a water distiller will remove 97% of chlorine, but adding activated carbon filters before the water reaches the distiller can aid in the removal of up to 99%
As an added benefit, water distillers can also remove other unwanted additives that can affect the water’s taste and smell, such as:
- Iodine ions
While the distiller can’t ensure completely chlorine-free water, it will be as clean as possible.
Unlike a water distiller, a reverse osmosis system uses pressure to remove impurities instead of heat. Water molecules are forced through the semipermeable membrane (filter) and as the chlorine cannot follow, it’s left to be washed away.
This method relies on the effectiveness of the reverse osmosis membrane in the system and the pump’s ability to flush away the leftover contaminants after the clean water has been pushed through.
This method can be expensive and is usually installed in the home right on the water line to benefit both drinking water and water used for cleaning and bathing. If you choose this method, you must change your filter regularly to maintain a high degree of effectiveness.
A filter left for extended periods without being changed can become a breeding place for bacteria.
High-intensity UV light can turn chlorine to easy to remove byproducts. When the wavelengths of light sit between 180 and 400 nm, the UV light can produce a photochemical reaction that changes the free chlorine in the water into the elements necessary to form hydrochloric acid that you can remove.
This method relies on relatively clear water to be effective and won’t filter out dissolved impurities as some other processes will. For small amounts of clear water, UV light can be beneficial for removing chlorine.
Boiling water before use, called a boil order, when mandated by local government, is commonplace in areas where water treatment facilities go offline or if circumstances allow for contaminants to build to dangerous levels.
Just like the first stage of distilling, after boiling for at least 15 minutes, the chlorine is boiled away, escaping as a gas with the water vapor into the atmosphere.
This method can be time-consuming if a large amount of water is needed or if the water needs to be cooled again before use, but it requires no additional equipment other than a stovetop and pot.
An activated carbon filter is a valuable method on its own but works better when paired with another treatment method like reverse osmosis, distilling, or UV light treatment.
The filter removes additional impurities, improves taste, and helps purify the water before it reaches the next stage of chlorine removal.
If you choose this method, make sure the filter you purchase has an NSF 42 logo on the packaging. This symbol indicates that it can work with chloride levels between 3 and 0.5 ppm, which is the usual level for tap water.
Chlorinated water left out for a day or two will have a reduced chlorine level due to natural evaporation. Like boiling or distilling, the chlorine evaporates with the water vapor leaving just water behind.
This method won’t remove all the chlorine from the water, and it takes longer than the mechanical treatment methods, but it is inexpensive and requires no special equipment.
After deciding how to remove the chlorine from your water, the final step is to check your work and see how effective the treatment method was.
Any of the test methods mentioned in step one will work well in this situation, but it’s recommended to repeat the same test you used the first time to ensure accurate results and to have an even playing field to compare results.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about removing chlorine and chlorine-treated water.
Chlorine is added to residential water during the water treatment process as a disinfectant to prevent germs from contaminating.
The addition of chlorine can also impede or prevent the growth of harmful viruses, bacteria, and microorganisms such as salmonella and the norovirus.
Drinking water with small amounts of chlorine has been proven safe in otherwise healthy adults over a long period.
However, if there is excessive chlorine in your water or the person suffers from another illness, you can experience adverse health effects that are unpleasant and even dangerous.
Common health effects are upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea from drinking chlorinated water and dry skin from using it to bathe.
The CDC states that it is safe to have up to four parts per million of chlorine in your water. These levels are considered safe.
Several things can tip you off that your drinking water has abnormally high chlorine levels, but the most obvious ones are the smell, taste, and appearance of your water.
Water with high levels of chlorine can smell like a pool. This is because chlorine is added to swimming pools to help reduce the risk of microorganisms growing. Others report smelling bleach for a similar reason.
It may have an unusual or unpleasant taste, either tasting like it smells or an unrecognizable chemical taste.
Highly chlorinated water also appears discolored. The water may appear hazy, rusty-colored, or have an unappealing greenish or yellow hue.
Ultimately, the cost of removing chlorine from water depends on your chosen method. If you decide to use a filter, you can purchase one from your local department store for $10 to $20.
However, you cannot use this method in cases with very high levels or when the water has added impurities.
It can cost you extra money if you need to turn to one of the more drastic chlorine removal methods. However, the process should not be too expensive. You probably will not need to spend more than $100 unless things have gotten out of control.
The cheapest way to remove chlorine from your drinking water is to install a carbon or activated charcoal filter on your water line or purchase a standalone water distiller. These countertop distillers are inexpensive and available at most department stores.
Baking soda can effectively remove chlorine from your hair but cannot directly reduce chlorine levels in the water.
It can assist other chemical processes, however. It increases alkalinity when added to water, allowing other chemical neutralizers to react with the dissolved chlorine.
Yes, letting water sit removes chlorine over time. If left to sit at room temperature, chlorine becomes gaseous and will escape with evaporating water.