The Culligan Water Guide to Hospital Water Treatment

Patient care depends on high-quality water. Culligan Water supplies hospital water treatment solutions for sterilization, dialysis, laundry and more.

Hospital bed
There's no denying that water is essential in healthcare. Especially in hospitals and clinics.
And because patients often have compromised immune systems, it's vital that water quality is closely monitored.

Common Water Treatment Needs in Healthcare

In medical facilities, the need for high-quality water spans many different departments. Including central sterilization, dialysis, laboratories, laundry and more.

Central Sterilization

Central sterilization involves the decontamination of surgical instruments and other medical devices.
Why exactly does this matter? Because certain medical devices could introduce contaminants directly into the body. Especially parts of the body normally protected by skin and other membranes.

Water Quality and Sterilization

Water is the most important part of sterilization. Since it dissolves more substances than any other liquid.
While alkaline and acid solvents can only remove compounds of the same pH, water dissolves compounds of any pH. Because it is considered a neutral substance.
Therefore, the entire decontamination process uses water. Which includes soaking, manual or automated cleaning and rinsing.
Water that is safe to drink may not be acceptable for the sterilization of medical devices. Plus, its quality varies from place to place and changes depending on the season of the year.
Most U.S. public water systems contain substances like chlorine, dissolved salts, minerals, organic contaminants, bacteria and endotoxins. This contaminated water results in the formation of scale. Which leads to stained instruments and inactivate disinfectants.
Therefore, experts recommend reverse osmosis or deionization for the treatment of water used in all sterilization efforts.

Laboratory Uses

Healthcare laboratories require high-quality water for several reasons. One is to reduce risk of variability. Another is to prevent bacterial disease.
Water is the most common reagent used in lab settings. And even the smallest traces of salts or other contaminants can impact data. Because of this, many laboratory scientists consider water quality to be one of the most critical factors influencing their testing.
Guidelines from the Clinical and Laboratories Standards Institute (CLSI) define specifications for the purity of testing water. They additionally require continuous measurement and monitoring for the presence of contaminants.
Let's dive further into some common contaminants and their impact on laboratory testing.


High incidence of bacteria in water increases the level of calcium-binding proteins. Which ultimately leads to cross-reaction.
Additionally, bacteria and its byproducts change the pH of a solution. This prevents cell growth, affects IVF success and results in contaminated culture.


Gases present in water, such as nitrogen, oxygen, chlorine and carbon dioxide, form bubbles that interfere with accurate measurements.
These gases also block optical sensors. And sometimes fluid lines.
Chlorine in water can be especially problematic. Because it bleaches the staining in histopathology slides.

Organic Contaminants

Generally speaking, organic contaminants include carbon-based chemicals. Such as solvents and pesticides. These have the ability to enter water supplies through agricultural runoff or discharge from factories.
In healthcare laboratories, these contaminants interfere with the absorption of UV. They also consume calcium and reduce actual calcium in the specimen being tested.
Lastly, this group of contaminants deactivates enzymatic reactions and inhibits cell growth, negatively affecting studies.

Inorganic Compounds

Inorganic compounds include heavy metals. Like lead, mercury, and zinc. It's important to monitor their presence in laboratory water. Because they are considered toxic to various cells.


Dialysis is a medical procedure used on patients who have temporarily or permanently lost kidney function.
High-quality water is required for this process, because adverse patient outcomes could be experienced as a result of water containing certain chemical or biological contaminants.
During hemodialysis, blood flows out of the body by one side of a semi-permeable membrane. Meanwhile, Dialysate, which is the fluid in a dialysis machine, flows by the opposite side.
Undesired waste moves into the dialysate. And bicarbonate, which helps balance pH, flows from the dialysate into the blood. The clean blood then returns to the body.
Removal of this harmful waste assists in maintaining blood pressure, pH and plasma volume, similar to the results of a healthy kidney.
Water quality is vital for this process. Because a standard treatment exposes hemodialysis patients to extremely large volumes of water.
Chemical contaminants in the water cause toxicity if present at higher concentrations. Which leads to a range of symptoms, including speech and motor difficulties, seizures, nausea, hypotension and diarrhea.
Meanwhile, microbial contaminants in dialysis water produce chronic inflammation. Contributing to the leading cause of death for dialysis patients, cardiovascular disease.


In healthcare facilities, laundry includes bed sheets, blankets, towels, personal clothing, patient gowns, uniforms, scrub suits and drapes for surgical procedures. With poor water quality, laundry becomes scratchy and uncomfortable.
Hard water additionally requires the use of more chemicals, soaps, energy and water. Installing a water softener reduces the hardness. Which helps to save on both energy and detergent. It also eliminates scale buildup and extends the lifespan of facility equipment.

Hospital Water Treatment Solutions

It is crucial that treatment systems improve the water in healthcare environments, so Culligan water solutions are designed to provide treated water 24/7, 365 days per year.
Below are just a few common water treatment solutions used in hospitals and the healthcare industry.

Water Softening

Water softening utilizes a process called ion exchange to remove dissolved hard water minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese. These minerals can't be trapped by a filter, so a molecular reaction is required.
Water softeners contain resin beads that hold onto sodium. And as the hard water flows through the resin, the sodium is swapped for the hard water minerals.
The hard water minerals are trapped in the softener and a minuscule amount of sodium flows out with the softened water.


Deionized water is water that has had most of the mineral content and dissolved ion content removed. It is considered high purity water.
Deionization uses an ion-exchange process in which water flows through resin beds or resin beads. Cation resin exchanges hydrogen ions (H) for positive ions. While anion resin exchanges hydroxide ions (OH-) for negative ions.
Culligan deionization products reduce total dissolved solids (TDS) from water in a way that is easy to use and maintain.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis is the process of pushing water through a semipermeable membrane to remove impurities and harmful contaminants.
First, pressurized water passes through a particle filter to remove impurities like salt, sand and sediment. The water then moves to an activated carbon filter that traps and removes minerals and contaminants such as chlorine, mercury, copper and pesticides.
The pressurized water then forces its way through the membrane's tiny holes where the smallest impurities are trapped and only clean water passes through.
To give you an idea of the membrane's power, the diameter of one human hair is about 100 microns wide. But in reverse osmosis systems, the spaces in the membrane are approximately ONE micron wide.
Eliminated contaminants become flushed away and the treated water is sent to a storage tank to undergo a final activated-carbon filtration. Which improves taste quality before it's ready for use.

Ultraviolet (UV) Disinfection

UV is short for ultraviolet. And ultraviolet describes a wavelength of energy on the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum. The EM spectrum is a term scientists use to show how energy travels in and out of light.
Ultraviolet disinfection is a safe, natural and low-maintenance way to treat water. In this process, water is purified as it runs through a stainless steel chamber containing a UV-producing lamp. As the water flows past the lamp, harmful microorganisms in the water are killed.
Benefits of UV disinfection include low maintenance and reduced carbon footprint. Plus, it avoids the need for harsh chemicals like bleach and chlorine are avoided.
UV also makes for a great solution because it maintains low operating costs (pennies per day) and works well with other water treatments.

Why Choose Culligan?

Culligan water works with many different hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country.*
Hospitals and healthcare facilities choose Culligan because they trust the brand name when it comes to personalized and effective hospital water treatment solutions.
Culligan local water experts always look for ways to improve their knowledge of the healthcare industry. So they actively participate in industry associations. Plus all remain committed to being an experienced, knowledgeable partner.
You can trust Culligan for your hospital water treatment. Because they care for customers in the same way you care for your patients.
*Select Culligan water dealerships offer these services. For more information, please contact your local dealership.