Although the city water in your home may be safe to drink, it could contain harmful chemicals that are unpleasant-tasting or even unhealthy. A good water filter helps solve those problems by removing heavy metals, pesticides, chlorine, sediment, and other things no one wants lurking in a glass of drinking water.
Today’s water filters come in various forms, including gravity filter pitchers, reverse osmosis systems, countertop filters, and under-sink filters. Some water purifier options even treat all the water in your home. Although they may take different forms, they all use a filtration method, such as a carbon filter, membrane, ion exchange technology, or ultraviolet light, to remove contaminants.
If the water in your home needs further purification, then read on to learn more about what goes into the best water filters, and learn why the models below are some of the best in their class.
- BEST OVERALL: Brita UltraMax 18-Cup Filtered Water Dispenser
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: ZeroWater 10 Cup Water Filter Pitcher
- BEST PITCHER: Brita Longlast Everyday Water Filter Pitcher, 10 Cup
- BEST FAUCET ATTACHMENT: Pur FM4000B Faucet Mount Water Filtration System
- BEST WHOLE HOUSE: iSpring WGB32B Whole House Water Filtration System
- BEST UNDER-SINK: Waterdrop 10UA Under Sink Water Filter System
- BEST COUNTERTOP: Apex Countertop Water Filter
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Water Filter
Water filters come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, which can make choosing one a confusing process. Understanding more about the different options available will help you decide which one is right for your home.
- Water filter pitchers use a carbon filter to remove contaminants from water. They have a basin at the top of the pitcher to fill with tap water. Gravity makes the water run through the filter, filling the lower part of the pitcher with filtered water in about 10 minutes. The best water filter pitchers are not only the most affordable water filtration option, but they’re also easy to use.
- Faucet attachments affix to designated faucets and treat the water as it passes through it, purifying the water for drinking and cooking. These best faucet water filters are easy to install and are relatively inexpensive.
- Refrigerator water filters fit inside the refrigerator, filtering the water that goes into the water dispenser and ice maker. They use charcoal filters to purify the water and are easy to replace, though they can be costly and are designed to fit specific appliance brands.
- Under-sink filters, true to the name, install below the sink, treating the water before it reaches the faucet. These models may feature multiple filter stages, removing more contaminants than other types of filters. Under-sink water filters can be a little more complicated to install, and the replacement filters typically cost more.
- Countertop filters typically attach to existing faucets, which supply water to a small basin. The filter has a small faucet that draws from the basin for drinking water. These countertop water filter units are easy to install but take up countertop space and use visible hoses that attach to the kitchen faucet’s aerator.
- Portable water filters, often used by campers and backpackers, consist of a hand-operated pump that draws water into one end and pushes it through a series of carbon and microfiber filters before expelling purified water at the other end.
- Shower filters purify water for bathing, not drinking. They remove chlorine, bacteria, minerals, and other impurities that can lead to dry skin and damaged hair. These filters are compact and easy to install.
- Whole-house filters connect to the main water supply as it enters the home, filtering all the water a home uses—every faucet and appliance. Whole-house water filters are a cost-effective way of filtering all the water coming into a home.
Water filters use a variety of methods to remove impurities from water.
- Carbon filtration, the most common type of water purifier uses carbon’s porous consistency to absorb water and remove contaminants. It’s especially effective at removing chlorine, pesticides, and solvents. However, it’s not particularly effective at removing heavy metals, such as nitrates, sodium, and fluorine.
- Reverse osmosis filtration uses a semipermeable membrane that allows water molecules to go through it while preventing impurities from passing through. Reverse osmosis systems use multiple filters, making them effective at removing chemical contaminants, such as copper and lead, and hard metals, such as calcium, arsenic, and mercury, but they will not remove certain herbicides and pesticides. Because they use multiple filters, reverse osmosis systems require strong water pressure to force the water through the system’s multiple filters and membranes.
- Ultraviolet filters pass water through a chamber flooded with UV rays. This effectively kills off bacteria, parasites, and viruses; however, it won’t remove mineral contaminants, such as lead, calcium, and arsenic, or pesticides and herbicides.
- Gravity water filters work by filtering water as it passes through a filter to drop from the upper basin of a pitcher to the lower basin. They include charcoal to filter out harmful chemicals and ion exchange resin that captures heavy metals. The best gravity filters remove contaminants such as lead, chlorine, pesticides, and even heavy metals.
- Mixed media filtration systems use multiple types of filtration in a single cylinder or container. Filters ranging from gravity pitchers to reverse osmosis systems feature multiple stages to remove different kinds of contaminants.
Most filtration systems don’t require access to power. Gravity filters use gravity, requiring no additional power, while faucet, reverse osmosis, counter, and under-sink systems use the power of water pressure. Some of these filtered water dispensers need a minimum amount of water pressure to work correctly.
Water Quality and Contaminants
While your city water treatment plant removes many harmful chemicals that can make you sick, they can’t catch everything. Home filtration systems offer an additional layer of water purification by removing a wide range of contaminants, including pesticides, organic compounds, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and harmful heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, and microorganisms. Keep in mind that not all water filters will remove every type of impurity. When shopping for a water filter, pay attention to the kinds of contaminants it can and cannot remove.
Water filters are rated as to the number of gallons of water per minute they can filter. When a gravity pitcher water filter purifies water, it can take a frustratingly long time to provide enough filtered water for even a single glass. While this slow process may be OK for a pitcher of drinking water, it won’t work for water filters designed for kitchen faucets or the entire home. Whole-home water filters, on the other hand, must be capable of filtering many gallons of water per minute since most showers and dishwashers can guzzle up to 5 gallons of water per minute.
Installation and Maintenance
Water filter installation and maintenance range in complexity. A faucet filter involves unscrewing the aerator and attaching a hose, while a reverse osmosis system may require a more involved process. Virtually all water filtration systems can be installed by a DIYer with only basic plumbing knowledge. Maintaining a water filter typically involves the periodic replacement of filters as they wear out, and most systems make changing out the filter a relatively simple task. Cost varies depending on the complexity of the system. Multistage reverse osmosis systems with seven filtration stages may produce some of the purest water you can drink, but the cost of replacing seven different filters can quickly add up.
Our Top Picks
The top-rated water filters detailed here remove many kinds of contaminants from a home’s water supply and feature high capacities, limiting the cost of replacement. These filtration systems come from some of the best-known names in water purification.
Simple, affordable, and its large drinking-water capacity make this time-honored water filter from one of the most well-regarded names in in-home water filtration systems hard to beat. It features a large water dispenser that holds 18 cups, or 144 ounces, of water, and its filter removes chlorine, mercury, copper, zinc, and cadmium. It’s compatible with Brita’s Longlast and Standard water filters, which have a lifespan of 120 gallons and 40 gallons, respectively. That translates to 6 months or 2 months, depending on usage.
At 10 inches tall and less than 5 inches wide, this Brita’s small size means it can fit on a countertop or in the fridge without taking up too much space. An easy-to-use tap makes filling a drinking glass or coffee carafe easy.
- Type: Pitcher
- Capacity: 18 cups
- Installation: None
- Very simple to use
- Large capacity good for families
- Compact size fits easily into a fridge
- Replacement filters can be pricey
Get the Brita UltraMax water filter at Target or Bed Bath & Beyond.
ZeroWater’s 10 Cup Water Filter Pitcher is relatively affordable. This gravity filter features a five-stage system that uses both carbon and ion exchange technology to remove heavy metals, such as chromium and lead, pesticides, herbicides, and chlorine, as well as 99.6 percent of dissolved solids.
Its water-quality meter, which attaches to the top of the pitcher for easy access, allows users to check the cleanliness of their water. This model has a 10-cup capacity and includes a rubberized grip and one filter.
- Type: Pitcher
- Capacity: 10 cups
- Installation: None
- Includes a quality meter
- Has a spigot and a regular pitcher pourer
- Fits easily into the fridge
- Only comes with 1 filter
- Replacement filters can be pricey
Get the ZeroWater water filter on Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, or ZeroWater.
Brita is one of the most well-known manufacturers of water filter pitchers. The company produces a variety of pitchers and filters with different NSF/ANSI certifications. The classic Everyday Pitcher is made of BPA-free plastic and holds 10 cups of water. It features an easy-fill locking lid and an ergonomic handle that makes it comfortable to pour. The pitcher is also space efficient and will fit perfectly on a refrigerator shelf.
The Everyday Pitcher includes Brita’s newer Longlast filter that has NSF/ANSI 42, 53, and 401 certifications. This filter reduces 99 percent of lead, chlorine, cadmium, mercury, benzene, asbestos, and more. Unlike Brita’s standard filter that lasts 2 months or per 40 gallons of water, the Longlast filter lasts for at least 6 months or per 120 gallons of water.
The pitcher itself has a basic sticker filter indicator so you can track the lifespan of your filter. However, even without the extra bells and whistles, it’s a solid product with a highly rated filter for an affordable price.
- Type: Pitcher
- Capacity: 10 cups
- Installation: None
- Filter lasts up to 6 months
- Ideal for smaller fridges
- Easy to clean
- Filter can slow down over time
Get the Brita Longlast water filter on Amazon.
With an attractive stainless steel finish and comprehensive filtration system, this stainless steel Faucet Mount Water Filtration System from Pur uses a mineral filtration system that employs natural minerals, activated carbon, and an ion exchange to filter out contaminants while adding a clean taste to the water.
It filters out a variety of contaminants, including heavy metals such as lead and mercury, as well as pesticides and herbicides. The filter mounts to the faucet with no tools required. Each Mineral Clear filter is designed to provide up to 100 gallons of filtered water, equal to about 3 months of use.
- Type: Faucet attachment
- Capacity: 100 gallons
- Installation: Clicks easily onto the faucet
- Very simple installation
- Fits most faucets
- Easy on/off switch
- Lasts up to 3 months
- Busier households may need more frequent replacements
Get the Pur water filter at Amazon, Target, or The Home Depot.
This Whole House Water Filtration System from iSpringfeatures three filtration stages: One filter removes sediment, while two carbon filters eliminate odors and taste while filtering out pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals. This model doesn’t remove dissolved solids, making it a suitable option for homes on city water.
This iSpring model can treat 100,000 gallons of water before the filters need replacement, which should be enough to handle the water quality needs of a family of four for up to a year. With a maximum flow rate of 15 gallons per minute, it can handle most homes’ needs. Installation is easy with iSpring’s instruction manual and online video instructions.
- Type: Whole-house
- Capacity: 100,000 gallons
- Installation: Experienced DIYers, or hire a professional
- Filters last up to 1 year
- Provides filtered water to the entire home
- Relatively simple to install
- Keeps healthy minerals in the water
Get the iSpring water filter at Amazon, or Overstock.
With a high capacity and an ability to remove different types of contaminants, the Waterdrop 10UA Water Filter System fits under the sink. It boasts an impressive 8,000-gallon capacity to cover a full year of water use by a family of four. It uses a five-stage filtration system that removes chlorine; heavy metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and fluoride; and a bevy of chemical contaminants, such as herbicides and pesticides. It also can filter out faucet-clogging sediment.
Push-connect fitting makes installation quick and easy. A fast flow rate produces 2 gallons per minute at 60 psi (pounds per square inch), so you won’t notice a decrease in water pressure. At just 12 inches long and 3.6 inches in diameter, this filter fits under your sink without hogging space.
- Type: Under-sink
- Capacity: 8,000 gallons
- Installation: Simple
- Compact size fits under most sinks
- Can be installed in just 3 minutes
- Very easy to replace filter
- Relatively affordable
- Filtration can slow over time
Get the Waterdrop water filter on Amazon or at Waterdrop.
This Apex Countertop Drinking Water Filter features a translucent case, allowing users to see the water flowing through each treatment stage before streaming out of the faucet and into a glass. This alkaline system removes a variety of contaminants, including chlorine, sediment, mercury, pesticides, and herbicides.
This 4.5-inch-wide model sits on the countertop alongside the kitchen faucet. To install, simply remove the aerator for the faucet and attach the line for the filter. This system can treat up to 750 gallons of drinking water before needing a replacement filter.
- Type: Countertop
- Capacity: 750 gallons
- Installation: Easy
- Simple to use
- Users can see the filtration process
- Removes common harmful contaminants
- Takes up counter space
- Filter replacement can be tricky
Get the Apex water filter on Amazon or at Mercari.
For large families looking for a simple water filter to store in the fridge, consider the Brita water filter pitcher, which fits easily into the fridge without taking up too much space and provides 18 cups of fresh filtered water. For those not looking for pitchers, our water filter reviews also include the Pur faucet attachment, which is very easy to install and is relatively affordable.
How We Chose the Best Water Filters
To create our list of top-rated water filters, we looked at the wide range of options available on the market to provide a comprehensive list for shoppers to choose from. From simple pitchers that fit easily into the fridge to more permanent fixtures that install either on the counter, under the sink, or hook up to the water system for the entire house, our list of recommendations provides suitable options.
When gathering our top picks, we looked at a range of water filter reviews to ensure we were only including reputable brands that use top-quality materials. Most of our picks use long-lasting filters that—depending on household water consumption—will need to be replaced anywhere from every 3 months up to an entire year.
Our research also showed us that filtered water dispensers vary widely in terms of price. As such, we made sure to include both top-of-the-range filtration systems for shoppers looking for an upgrade and more budget-friendly options that provide clean filtered water without breaking the bank.
If you’re still wondering about what water filters can and cannot do, look below for the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about these devices.
Q: Do water filters remove bacteria?
Only reverse osmosis water filters can remove bacteria. Chlorination and ultraviolet light disinfect water by killing bacteria.
Q: Do any water filters remove viruses?
Using a water filter is not an effective way to remove viruses; however, some water treatment systems can disinfect water by killing viruses. The good news is that through chlorination, most water treatment plants are very effective at killing off all bacteria and viruses in the water before it ever reaches your home. Your home system can then remove the chlorine from the system.
Q: Which filter removes the most contaminants?
A reverse osmosis system is the most effective type of filter for drinking water. Many of them feature seven or more filtration stages, along with the osmosis process, which makes them effective at removing 99 percent of contaminants from water, including chemicals, such as chlorine, heavy metals, pesticides, and herbicides. Some reverse osmosis systems even add healthy minerals and nutrients to the water.