A question we are often asked is: "Why should I buy your product?". We love this question because it gives us the opportunity to explain things in detail to our potential customers. The consequences of drinking polluted water can be far-reaching, if not life-threatening.

The first aspect to consider when choosing a portable water filter is SAFETY. The following information can help you make the safest choice.

Of course, you can always have a water control test with you when you are out, hiking, trekking or traveling. But you can never tell for sure what's really in your drinking water.

The problem: bacteria, protozoa (cysts) and viruses are not visible! The safest assumption you can make is this: Any of these invisible enemies can be in an unknown water source (stream, river, lake, tap water abroad).

There are countless products on the market that claim to filter and purify water in order to turn dirty water into drinking water. The scary truth is that this market is actually unregulated. Manufacturers can make multiple claims about their products because they don't even have to have their products tested!

To ensure you don't fall for these claims and make an informed decision, here are 6 essential questions to ask. We even have the right answers ready for you.

1) What is the difference between a portable ultrafilter and a portable water filter?

A portable ultrafilter removes, kills or deactivates all types of microorganisms that can cause disease, such as bacteria, viruses and cysts.

A portable water filter removes bacteria and protozoa, but not viruses, as these are much smaller and are not filtered by standard water filters.

Conclusion: diseases can be transmitted

2) What standards do manufacturers need in order to be allowed to sell a product as an ultrafilter or as a water filter? 

No. There are no regulations that prohibit someone from building a water filter out of an old sock. The "portable water filter" industry is actually unregulated. So you will find many embellished and misleading statements that are not correct.

3) What should consumers pay attention to when buying a portable water filter? 

The most important thing to look at is credible testing. Each product in a range should have been tested to certain standards. The test certificates should always be available on the manufacturer's website. If a company's products have been tested, then those results should be published.

4) Which standards are suitable for testing? 

And here lies the crux. The following knowledge gives you security. Warning! If you're not bored yet, take a deep breath and read on!

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) protocol was written in 1987 to standardize microbiological testing of water purifiers. This is the gold standard. This determines which content such as viruses, bacteria or cysts must be reduced from water in order to obtain safe drinking water. Another organization concerned with "drinking water standards" is the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation), which makes its own recommendation in the NSF P231 protocol. This protocol is based on the original EPA guidelines and is revised at regular intervals. This allows new technologies and organisms to be tested.

The full NSF P231 protocol tests as follows:

Two different water samples are tested over a period of 11 days (or the life of the filter, whichever ends first).

The filter is subjected to a general water test (type 1) for the first six days. Here spiked drinking water pipe samples are tested to see how the filter deals with viruses or bacteria in the tap water. This testing should not be a major hurdle for any filter.

The real challenge then follows in the next five days, when type 1 water is replaced by type 3 water. Type 3 water is dirty, cold, pH adjusted, contains dissolved solid and organic components and of course viruses and bacteria!

This test simulates the worst case scenario, it is practically waste water. If your water filter passes this test, then you can confidently filter your own water and drink safe water anywhere in the world.

Worryingly, most water filters you can buy in stores fail the second part of the NSF P231 test. Many of these filters would not stand up to deployment in a developing country or after an emergency where all you find is heavily polluted and contaminated water.

So look carefully when you get yourself a portable water filter. Providers that also rely on NSF42&53 do not have the complete test behind them. These tests only include water samples from residential areas, only tap water was used for testing here. These filters will not eliminate bacteria and viruses.

The only true test relevant to a portable filter is the NSF P231 standard, which is very difficult to pass. If this standard is not mentioned by your provider, please ask why this is the case.

ICON Test Certificate

5) Which lab tests can you trust without hesitation?

Testing should always be performed by an independent external laboratory. The laboratory should be ISO 17025 accredited. Here are some laboratories that meet these criteria and also have a lot of experience in testing drinking water:

  • NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  • BCS (Biological Consulting Services) Gainesville, Florida, USA
  • Biovir Laboratories California, USA
  • WQA (Water Quality Association) Illinois, USA
  • SGS Worldwide Locations
  • Several laboratories at universities worldwide (with relevant faculties)

6) What else needs to be considered when it comes to the safety of a portable water filter? 

By now you know that Ultrafilter actually eliminates viruses in addition to bacteria and cysts. There are generally two methods of filtering water.

One method uses hollow fiber membranes that act like a physical barrier. The other method also uses an element that also chemically reacts with the water.

Hollow fiber membranes: The size of the pores (holes) in hollow fiber membranes is immensely important here. These pores must be smaller than the components to be blocked. Most water filters use a pore size of 0.1 to 0.2 microns (100 or 200 nanometers). With this pore size, protozoa and bacteria are safely eliminated. However, viruses are much smaller. Some waterborne viruses are smaller than 0.02 microns (20 nanometers).

The membranes we use in our LifeSaver® ultrafilters have a pore size of approximately 15 nanometers or 0.015 microns. So they're like the strings on a tennis racket, rain (water molecules) can get through, but tennis balls (the smallest water-based viruses) bounce off them.

tennis racket
Hollow fiber membranes work like a tennis racket. Image: Gonzalo Facello (Pexel License)

The beauty of this is that as soon as the membrane is in use, the pores start to clog. Sometimes every single pore of the membrane is blocked. Although this is of course a disadvantage for the user (he has to change the membrane), it is actually a great advantage. Because it is a visible sign that our product no longer works. That's why you can no longer drink dangerous water from a LifeSaver® product if it no longer passes through the filter. FAILSAFE so to speak!

Adsorptive technology: Do you remember the second method we mentioned to purify water? Some water filters rely on this method. They use elements that cause a chemical reaction in the polluted water. These elements create an attraction, similar to electrical voltage (charged hair on a balloon, etc..).

Woman blow-dry her hair in front of her face
Image: CCO License (Pexel-Freegraphy)

As the water flows through the cleaner, contaminants are drawn to and adhere to this element. Only clean water keeps flowing. This method is of short-term benefit. The force of attraction can quickly lose its effect, becoming less effective, especially when cloudy or diffuse water needs to be cleaned. Products using this technology would struggle with TYPE 3 testing (as described above). Precisely because of this short-term nature, only one test with one liter of water is often carried out here.

If the adsorptive element no longer attracts pollutants over time, this can also become really dangerous. Because there is no other physical barrier with these cleaners. And how can the end user know when the time has come to replace the element?

For this reason, some producers often only guarantee a filter quantity of 100 liters. That is why they also suggest automatically replacing the element used every few months. Not very practical!

Products that use the adsorptive reaction are not effective for very long. The end user does not recognize when the effect wears off or expires.

LifeSaver® products purify water with hollow fiber membranes that eventually block and protect the consumer.

IN CONCLUSION

Our products were originally developed specifically for people who live in developing countries or are very vulnerable after disasters. Therefore we had to ensure that our ultrafilters incorporate innate characteristics:

· They must be portable

· They require no chemicals or electricity

They eliminate all types of microorganisms (including viruses)

They must be FAILSAFE (never let unsafe water through)

Water filter for on the go Lifesaver
From left to right: The portable ultrafilters, the Cube, the Lifesaver Liberty bottle and the Lifesaver4000UF

Especially the last two points mentioned fill us with pride. With a LifeSaver® product, you have in your hands the safest water purifier you can find.