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Filtration vs. Reverse Osmosis: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 17, 2023
Filtration is a process of separating solids from liquids or gases using a filter medium, while reverse osmosis involves water purification by forcing water through a semi-permeable membrane.

Key Differences

Filtration is a physical or mechanical process used to separate solids from fluids by passing them through a filter medium. In contrast, reverse osmosis is a specialized filtration method that removes impurities from water by pushing it through a semi-permeable membrane.
The principle of filtration involves trapping particles larger than the pores of the filter medium. Reverse osmosis, however, operates by applying pressure to overcome osmotic pressure, allowing only water molecules to pass through a very fine membrane.
Filtration can be applied to various materials and fluids and does not necessarily require pressure or electricity. Reverse osmosis specifically targets water purification and typically requires external pressure to be effective.
In filtration, the efficiency and effectiveness depend on the pore size of the filter and the nature of the material being filtered. In reverse osmosis, the efficiency is influenced by the membrane's selectivity and the pressure applied to the system.
Filtration is widely used in industries, laboratories, and for air purification, while reverse osmosis is predominantly used for desalination and in residential and commercial water purification systems.

Comparison Chart

Basic Principle

Separates particles based on size.
Removes impurities using a semi-permeable membrane.


Broad (liquids, gases, air).
Primarily water purification.

Energy Requirement

Often passive, no pressure required.
Requires pressure to overcome osmotic pressure.

Pore Size

Varies widely.
Extremely fine, allowing only water molecules.

Common Usage

Industrial, laboratory, air purification.
Desalination, drinking water purification.

Filtration and Reverse Osmosis Definitions


A method to purify or clarify a substance by passing it through a medium.
Filtration of the sample resulted in a clear liquid.

Reverse Osmosis

A technology used in water treatment by forcing water through a membrane.
The reverse osmosis unit is a key component in home water purifiers.


A process of separating solid particles from a fluid.
The filtration system removed impurities from the water.

Reverse Osmosis

A filtration method for producing high-purity water.
Many bottled water brands use reverse osmosis in their production.


The act of removing particulate matter from air or water.
The aquarium used a filtration system to maintain clean water.

Reverse Osmosis

A process to separate solvent molecules from solute molecules.
Reverse osmosis helps in obtaining pure water from contaminated sources.


The process of trapping and removing suspended particles.
The filtration of air in the lab prevents contamination.

Reverse Osmosis

A technique to remove ions and impurities by applying pressure.
The reverse osmosis system effectively reduced water hardness.


A mechanical or physical operation for separating substances.
Filtration is essential in chemical laboratories for purifying compounds.

Reverse Osmosis

A water purification process using a semi-permeable membrane.
Reverse osmosis is used to desalinate seawater for drinking.


The act or process of filtering.


The act or process of filtering; the mechanical separation of a liquid from the undissolved particles floating in it.


A totally ordered collection of subsets.


The act or process of filtering; the mechanical separation of a liquid from the undissolved particles floating in it.


The process whereby fluids pass through a filter or a filtering medium


The act of changing a fluid by passing it through a filter


Is reverse osmosis effective for desalination?

Yes, reverse osmosis is highly effective for removing salt from seawater.

What types of filters are used in filtration?

Filters can be made of paper, cloth, ceramic, or other porous materials.

What is filtration?

Filtration is separating solids from liquids or gases using a filter.

Can reverse osmosis remove bacteria?

Yes, reverse osmosis can remove most bacteria and viruses.

Does reverse osmosis require electricity?

Reverse osmosis systems often require electricity to generate pressure.

Can filtration be used for wastewater treatment?

Yes, filtration is a key step in many wastewater treatment processes.

What are the limitations of reverse osmosis?

Reverse osmosis can be energy-intensive and may not remove all types of contaminants.

How does reverse osmosis compare to boiling water?

Reverse osmosis removes more impurities than boiling, which mainly kills bacteria.

What is reverse osmosis?

Reverse osmosis is a water purification process using a semi-permeable membrane.

Can filtration remove dissolved substances?

Standard filtration usually doesn't remove dissolved substances effectively.

How much pressure is needed for reverse osmosis?

The pressure required varies, but is generally higher than the osmotic pressure of the water.

How often should filters be changed in a filtration system?

It depends on usage, but generally filters should be changed regularly for efficiency.

Can filtration remove odors from water?

Some filtration systems can remove odors, depending on the filter type.

How does the pore size of a filter impact filtration?

Pore size determines the size of particles that can be trapped and removed.

Does reverse osmosis waste water?

Some water is typically discharged as waste in reverse osmosis systems.

Is filtration used in air purification?

Yes, filtration is commonly used in air purifiers to remove particles and allergens.

Are all filtration methods alike?

No, there are various filtration methods, each suitable for different applications.

How does reverse osmosis affect water taste?

Reverse osmosis can improve taste by removing impurities and minerals.

Is reverse osmosis water completely pure?

Reverse osmosis greatly reduces impurities, but trace amounts may remain.

Can filtration systems be used for drinking water?

Yes, many filtration systems are designed to purify drinking water.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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