Did you know that copper can be found in drinking water? In fact, it’s been reported that up to 2mg/L of copper can be found in some drinking water supplies. That’s why it’s important to know how to remove copper from drinking water if you’re worried about the health effects of consuming too much of it.
- Copper in domestic water supplies mostly comes from the erosion of copper pipes
- Excess copper can cause some health problems, and stain appliances or laundry
- There are several ways to remove copper from well water and drinking water
- Reverse Osmosis is the best way to remove copper from drinking water
- Other water treatment systems like distillation, ion exchange filters, or other point-of-entry systems may be suitable for some people
What is copper in water and where does it come from?
Copper is a naturally occurring metal that is essential for your health. It’s found in rocks, soil, and water. The copper in drinking water usually comes from two main sources: erosion of copper-containing rocks or copper pipes, and corrosion of household plumbing fixtures and appliances.
Copper in Drinking Water & Your Health
Copper is essential to human health because it helps form red blood cells, it’s involved in the absorption of iron, and it helps keep your immune system functioning properly.
The RDA of copper for adults is 0.9mg per day. Most typical diets in the United States easily meet or exceed this level from a variety of foods. However, if you’re drinking water that has a high concentration of copper you may exceed the safe daily dose, which could cause stomach irritation, nausea, and vomiting. But more on that later.
What is a safe level of copper in your drinking water?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a safe level of copper in your drinking water is 1.3mg/L or less  If your water has more than 1.3mg/L of copper, the EPA recommends that you take action to remove it from your drinking water.
How can copper be harmful to your health?
Excessive levels of copper in your drinking water can have harmful health effects. Ingesting too much copper can cause stomach irritation, nausea and vomiting. It can also damage your liver and kidneys. Copper toxicity is rare in the United States, but if you’re concerned about the levels of copper in your water, it’s best to take action to remove it.
Contact your doctor immediately if you’re concerned about excess copper exposure and you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Metallic taste in the mouth 
Copper in Drinking Water and Your Home Appliances
Most of the copper in your drinking water comes from household plumbing fixtures and appliances, not from the water supply. Copper pipes can corrode from the inside out over time, especially if the water is hot.
Hot water dissolves copper pipes much more than cold water does, increasing copper concentrations in your appliances.
If you have too much copper in your water, you may notice
- blue-green stains in your sink or faucet;
- stains in your shower;
- a blue-green or black film on the inside of your hot water tank;
- discoloration of your laundry;
- or metallic-tasting water.
How to remove copper from drinking water?
The best way to remove copper from your drinking water is to use a reverse osmosis water filter. Reverse osmosis removes 97-98% of copper from drinking water . Using a distiller, a water softener, or an acid-neutralizing system are also good options.
Flushing your water system
This is a quick and easy way to get copper out of your water. Turn on the cold water tap and run it for 10 – 15 seconds before use. After 10 – 15 seconds, you should have flushed away most of the copper from your copper piping, and your water will be ready for drinking and cooking.
If you’re worried about wasting water, just use the excess water for plants, or cleaning.
This method, however, doesn’t deal with the root cause of your poor water quality, which is likely erosion of copper piping and copper plumbing. If you’re experiencing health issues or determination of your appliances you’ll need to use one of the copper removal strategies detailed below.
Using a reverse osmosis filter
Reverse osmosis filtration is a water treatment process that reduces many types of contaminants in drinking water, including copper. Reverse Osmosis removes 97-98% of copper from drinking water .
Reverse osmosis systems use a semipermeable membrane to remove particles, ions, and molecules from the water stream. In the case of copper removal, the semipermeable membrane blocks copper ions from passing through while allowing water molecules to pass.
A reverse osmosis system usually consists of a tank that holds the treated water, a membrane unit, and a faucet. The membrane unit is installed under the sink and the faucet is attached to the top. The tank can be either plumbed into the point of entry, under your sink, or purchased as a standalone countertop unit.
Check out our review of the best standalone reverse osmosis water filters.
Distillation is another good way to remove copper from water. Distillation removes more than 99% of all contaminants, including copper.
The steam goes through a filter and the copper stays behind. The filtered steam turns back into water and goes into a tank. The water in the tank is then cooled until ready to drink.
Distillation systems are not as convenient as reverse osmosis because it takes a long time to boil the water, and you can only treat small amounts at any one time. But the best home distillers only take three hours.
If you have plenty of time, you’re organized and you don’t use much water, it still might be a decent option. It’s also one of the cheaper filtration options, so worth considering if you’re on a budget.
Ion exchange water softeners
Depending on the size and type of resin bed, ion exchange can remove up to 95% of the copper from your drinking water .
Ion exchange water softeners are a good option for removing copper from your drinking water. Ion exchange water softeners use a resin bed to remove heavy metals, including copper, from the water.
The resin bed is covered in negatively charged ions. When the metal ions, like copper, come into contact with the resin bed, they swap places with the negative ions. This process is called ion exchange. The resin bed can be regenerated by running a saltwater solution through it.
An acid neutralizer is another option for removing copper from your drinking water. Acid neutralizers use a chemical reaction to remove copper from your water. These systems The most common type of acid neutralizer is a lime-soda ash system.
An acid neutralizer generally removes about 65% of the copper from your drinking water. So it’s not the best option for high concentrations of copper.
An acid neutralizer is a good option for wells and for those who need a whole house, point-of-entry system and want to enjoy the benefits of pH neutral water.
Don’t expose yourself! Choose from our recommended copper water filters
Removing copper from drinking water can be a difficult process. Luckily, there are many ways to remove the metal and ensure that you’re getting clean water for cooking or consumption. The best option is to get yourself one of the best Reverse Osmosis countertop systems, which you can read more about on the Home Water Research Blog.
Or if you’re sick of copper stains and metallic tasting water and you’re ready to buy now, then we recommend the AlcaPure Reverse Osmosis System by RKIN. It’s an attractive model, fantastic value for money, and has a choice of post-filter which you can match to suit your water quality.