The Best Water Filters
While the water supply in much of the United States is considered very safe (with notable exceptions making headlines), even "safe" levels of contaminants might be more than you and your family would prefer to be ingesting. That includes not only substances known to have harmful health effects, like lead and mercury, but also pharmaceuticals, hormones, and even traces of the chlorine your community water supplier probably uses as a disinfectant, which can affect the taste and smell of your water. Even a cheap water filter pitcher can help reduce many of these contaminants, and if you live in an area with particularly poor water quality, there are pricier filters available that can purify water even more thoroughly.
Cheapism.com pored over expert and user reviews posted on retailer sites like Amazon, Home Depot, and Walmart to determine the best pitcher, countertop, under sink, and reverse osmosis water filters currently on the market. We've put together a list of water filter systems that will help ensure your family's drinking water is both clean and tasty, with popular models from well-known brands like Brita, ZeroWater, and Culligan, as well as some less common names. Even better, by purchasing a water filter, you can help stem the flow of money to expensive and environmentally damaging bottled water, which often may be no better than tap.
Keep in mind that while many manufacturers test their own products, a water filter that's certified by a third party such as NSF International or the Water Quality Association has been independently tested to common standards established by NSF and the American National Standards Institute. These sites have databases where you can find out more about which models filter which specific contaminants. Most of the products we recommend have been tested and certified to meet NSF/ANSI standards.
Prices and availability are subject to change.
Our Top Pick
- Easy to fill and clean.
- Includes a filter-change reminder sticker.
- Narrow footprint fits well in most refrigerators.
- BPA-free (both pitcher and filters).
- Pitcher fills slowly.
- Filter occasionally falls out when pouring.
- Some users say the plastic seems brittle.
Takeaway: Brita is a respected name in the water-filter world, and the Brita Everyday 10-cup pitcher has been a popular choice with reviewers for quite some time and can be paired with different Brita filters. If you need only what experts call "aesthetic" water treatment, to improve appearance and taste, Brita's standard filter ($7), which reduces chlorine and also targets mercury, copper, zinc, and cadmium, is more than sufficient. With the upgraded (and optional) Brita Longlast filter ($12), this carafe is certified to meet both NSF 42 and 53 standards, which means it reduces, among other things, lead, asbestos, benzene, class 1 particulates, and chlorine. Users weighing in on Amazon say that they've noticed an improvement in their overall water quality even with the basic filter installed. Many also say they purchased this inexpensive pitcher to get out of the habit of buying bottled water, and they're very pleased with the money they've saved in the long run. Brita Longlast filters should be replaced every six months, or 120 gallons; the standard filters every two months, or 40 gallons.
- TDS meter measures total dissolved solids.
- Reduces lead with a standard filter.
- Users like the convenience of the spigot dispenser.
- BPA-free (both pitcher and filters).
- Slow to fill.
- Heavy when full.
- Filter life can be quite short in areas with hard water.
Takeaway: If you want to have a ready supply of filtered drinking water for the entire family, this ZeroWater 23-cup water dispenser is one of the largest available. ZeroWater's dispensers feature a 5-stage filtration system that is NSF-certified to reduce lead, pesticides, chlorine, mercury, and other organic and inorganic compounds, in addition to targeting total dissolved solids. It even includes a meter with a digital readout that shows the TDS levels in the water. The lifespan of a ZeroWater filter ($16) varies depending on water quality (expect about 25 to 40 gallons with moderately contaminated water), and the manufacturer recommends replacing the filter when the TDS reading is at "006." As with most replacement filters, buying in bulk dramatically reduces the cost. For those who don't need or can't accommodate a dispenser this large, ZeroWater products are available in a variety of sizes, from 6 cups to 40 cups.
Culligan FM-15A Review
- Easy to install.
- Small, discreet footprint.
- Comes with 2 adapters for standard sinks.
- Auto-shut-off feature switches back to tap when the faucet is turned off.
- Some reports of durability issues and leaking.
- Can be tricky to replace filters; many complaints of sticking.
- Some faucets, newer models in particular, may pose fit problems.
Takeaway: If you're looking to filter more than just drinking water, a faucet filter is a convenient option. It attaches directly to a sink head to filter all the water that comes out — great for cooking or providing pets with clean, fresh water. With the simple diverter tab on this model, it's easy to switch back to tap water when washing hands or dishes. The Culligan FM-15A is a longtime favorite of Consumer Reports, and its chrome sibling, the Culligan FM-25A ($29) also earns a recommendation from testers at Reviews.com. Both are NSF-certified to reduce a variety of contaminants, including lead, class 1 particulates, cryptosporidium, and giardia cysts, as well as chlorine. They're also praised for their low upfront price, low maintenance costs, and overall value long term. As with all faucet-mounted filters, there's no guarantee they'll fit every type of faucet, even with the included adapters, so it pays to do a bit of research before purchasing. A Culligan FM-15RA replacement filter costs $12 (filters for the chrome version cost slightly more) and should last through 200 gallons of water.
- Removes fluoride (up to 93 percent) in addition to common contaminants.
- Easy to install and use.
- Strong water flow.
- Excellent reviews for customer service.
- Comes in black or white to complement decor.
- Some reports of leakage.
- No filter-life indicator.
- Doesn't fit all faucets.
Takeaway: Few water filter systems can remove fluoride without special, often pricey, filters, but the Home Master Jr. F2 is an exception, attacking fluoride with the standard filter, as well as chlorine, chemicals, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), pesticides, and other usual suspects. (It does not remove all dissolved solids, in favor of retaining "good" minerals, like calcium and magnesium.) This portable, compact system sits on the kitchen counter next to the sink and attaches to the main faucet by a tube that connects to a diverter valve. You then pull a pin to direct the water through the filter's faucet as needed. Replacement filters should last about three months, or 500 gallons, and are relatively inexpensive, at just $20 each. Some consumers (especially in areas with hard water) might prefer a system that filters more dissolved solids, and some may be wary of the lack of NSF certification (company representatives offered us assurances that the filtration medium is NSF-certified, even if the Home Master Jr. itself is not). These caveats aside, satisfied owners, many of whom have tried other sink-top systems, praise the Home Master Jr. F2 for its incredibly simple setup and solid performance. A majority who have posted feedback on Amazon, where this countertop model earns a 4.3-star rating from about 270 reviewers, cite a marked improvement in the taste of their tap water.
- Filter-replacement alert.
- Easy to install and use.
- 3 faucet finish options.
- Doesn't take up a lot of cabinet space; attractive design.
- 90-day, full-refund satisfaction guarantee.
- Installation might require drilling a hole for the faucet.
- Flow is a bit slow.
- Some durability issues.
Takeaway: Like a countertop water filter, an under-counter water filter can treat all the water that comes out of the tap; however, the filter itself is hidden under the sink, with just a faucet on the sink or counter. This Aquasana 3-Stage under-counter water filter comes NSF-certified and can reduce 77 contaminants, including lead and mercury. It's Top Ten Reviews' 2018 Gold Award winner for water filter systems, winning points for its low price and a design that's much less bulky than the competition. While a majority of owners are very pleased with how well this Aquasana water filter works — on Home Depot's website, it earns 4.5 stars from more than 1,000 reviewers — we did read commentary from some who were surprised and disappointed to find that TDS levels in their water were higher after filtering. That's because the Aquasana system does not filter out minerals like calcium and magnesium, and for each lead ion it neutralizes via its ion exchanger, it uses two potassium ions. Filters should be changed every six months or 600 gallons. The filter replacement kit for this model is the Aquasana AQ-5300R ($65), and owners who subscribe for delivery through the company can lock in a 15 percent discount and free shipping.
- Combined water filter and alkaline remineralizer.
- Reverse osmosis systems are highly effective at removing contaminants.
- Booster pump for increased water pressure.
- Transparent sediment filter to see what's being captured.
- Installation is simple.
- Excellent reviews for customer service.
- A few reports of leaks.
- Some say the plastic connectors seem flimsy.
- Complaints of the wrong parts arriving in the box.
Takeaway: Reverse osmosis systems connect to existing hoses and push water through a semipermeable membrane coupled with several filters. Cleaned water is collected in a tank that sits under the sink and attaches to a countertop faucet. The iSpring RCC7P-AK 6-Stage Reverse Osmosis System is certified to remove more than 1,000 contaminants, including lead, fluoride, and substances as small as .0001 microns. It then goes a step further, with an alkaline remineralization filter that restores "beneficial" minerals that are stripped in the reverse osmosis process (like calcium, sodium, magnesium, and potassium) while helping to balance pH levels. Also, while all reverse osmosis systems generate waste water as runoff, usually in a 5-to-1 ratio, the RCC7P-AK claims a ratio of 3-to-1, thanks to its pump and improved pressure. With a surfeit of 5-star user reviews on Amazon, this system earns an incredibly high 4.6-star rating overall, with users saying it can remove color, bad taste, and odor from even well water. A set of iSpring F9K replacement filters ($63) is designed to cover one year of use.
- Long filter life for a pitcher: 50 gallons.
- Pressurized system and solid carbon block are more effective at cleaning water.
- Easy to install, if it fits your faucet.
- Filter-change indicator; replacement is simple.
- BPA-free pitcher.
- Poor reviews for customer service.
- Hose is short (although an optional extender is available).
- Some complaints about the durability of the faucet connector.
- Can be difficult to secure the hose to the sink aerator.
Takeaway: This Clear2O water filtration pitcher has been around in one form or another for a long time and been a favorite of experts for its ability to filter out contaminants and for its fast action. Unlike other water filter carafes, which use slower, gravity-fed or ionic technologies to filter water, the CWS100 fills directly at the faucet, forcing the water through the filter much more quickly than most pitchers. The result: instant fresh water and no need to ration when you want clean water for both cooking dinner and for drinking at the table. It's not a top choice for us mainly because it doesn't fit on most modern faucets, contrary to its claim, and the company chooses to forego NSF accreditation. There's also some buzz that the Clear2O CWS100 might be discontinued with upcoming revamps to the brand's pitcher lineup. Still, it's very effective, and verified in third-party independent testing to remove more than 200 contaminants, including lead, which is impressive for a pitcher. A single replacement filter, the Clear2O CWF503, sells for $10 from the manufacturer, or $9 if you opt for auto ship (3-packs are available on Amazon for $30).
- Modern and stylish appearance.
- Doesn't just filter; actually purifies both treated and untreated water.
- Large, 2.1-gallon storage capacity.
- Supports multiple filtering elements, from the standard 2 to 8 total (including fluoride filters).
- Capable of purifying up to 7 gallons per hour.
- Lifetime warranty on the stainless steel chamber and hardware.
- Takes up significant counter space, at 21 inches tall and 8.5 inches in diameter.
- Heavy when full.
- No water-level indicator.
- Filters clog easily and need to be recharged frequently, users say.
- Difficult to set up; reviewers recommend searching for online videos.
Takeaway: Water filters remove most contaminants and improve odor and taste, but they are not purifiers. In addition to reducing lead, chlorine, bacteria, and class 1 particulates, a water purifier also removes viruses. The large and sleek-looking Big Berkey claims to far surpass its competitors in clearing water of all the harmful substances above (including more than 99.999 percent of viruses) for "everyday urban, rural, and survival water purification." It sounds more than a little enticing, but the problem is that most of these claims are not backed up with NSF or WQA testing or certifications. The company insists, however, that its standards actually exceed NSF testing requirements and cites independent third-party lab results as evidence. Despite quibbles over accreditation, clogging, and the fairly high price, the brand has legions of loyalists and this gravity filter is a top seller. Two replacement Black Berkey Purification Elements ($107) can purify up to 6,000 gallons of water.
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