The history of drinking water filters


I’m sure there has been a time when you have wondered if you should be using a water filter. Most of us have! In fact, many don’t know what water filters actually are, or what they do.

Aside from the obvious – they filter our water – they are useful if you live somewhere where tap water is not completely safe. There are many debates on the safety of modern-day tap water and whilst we are able to drink it here in the UK, not everyone is so lucky. Using water filters gives peace of mind to those who may be concerned about contamination in their water and allows everyone to drink without concern.

Many underestimate how important water is to us because it is, for many, so readily available. But water is absolutely vital to our systems, and we are dependent upon it. Early civilisations clustered around water systems, and for a long time the type of food from a certain area depended on water availability.

Water treatment methods were actually recommended in Ancient Greek and Sanskrit writings dating back to 2000 BC. People understood that heating water would purify it, and having been educated in sand and gravel filtration, boiling and straining they knew the best way to clean water is by filtering it. Back then, the main reason for water filtration was improving the taste, as not much was known about chemical contaminates.


The first drinking  water filters for domestic use were created in the 1700s and were made of wool, sponge and charcoal. In the 1800s the first large water treatment plant was installed in Scotland, which made people understand that all people should have access to clean drinking water. Municipal water treatment began to take off in the United States in the late 19th century, and as a result the outbreak of diseases such as cholera decreased in the 20th century.

Interestingly, we have the microscope to thank for advancements in our water systems and, eventually, the intention of our modern-day water filters. In the mid nineteenth century cholera was linked to the poor quality of drinking water, and using a microscope enabled researchers to link the bacteria in water to cholera. Water chlorination was invented soon after, and was hailed as the reason for a rapid decline in the number of deaths from cholera.

Nowadays, water filtering is much simpler, and can be done either by fitting a home water filter or by buying a portable filter. Both are effective, but many argue that using a home water filter is quicker and easier because once it is fitted you are able to drink as normal. Despite what many think, taste and clarity is not a good enough indicator of the quality of water and, as the saying goes, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!