Home Health The Best Water Filter For Home Use (Pitcher, Charcoal, Under-Counter)

The Best Water Filter For Home Use (Pitcher, Charcoal, Under-Counter)

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Humans can survive for weeks without food, but only a few days without water. To say fresh water is important would be an understatement! But as important as it is to drink enough, it’s equally important to drink clean water! Here are the best water filter options for your home.

A high-quality water filtration system is an important part of a healthy home. Plus it’s one of the easiest switches to make for a healthier life. You can easily find great water filters for any home, from countertop units to whole-house water purifiers.

While our family prioritizes nutrient dense food, healthy water is just as important. Some water sources have hundreds of chemicals, many of which are more easily absorbed from water than food.

The Best Water Filter

Already know you want to get a water filter for your home and want to jump ahead? Spoiler alert: here are my favorite options:

If you’re going backpacking or traveling the Lifestraw is a good portable option.

What’s In Your Water?

If you’re drinking tap water, the answer to that question is 300+ chemicals and pollutants, according to the Environmental Working Group. Test results reveal we have a big problem with our water supply. Among these contaminants are:

Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)

VOCs, like pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful chemicals. These chemicals are found in most municipal water sources, well water, and other sources due to agricultural contamination. Research links certain VOCs to damage in the reproductive system, liver, kidneys, and more.

Heavy Metals

You’ll also find metals like lead and mercury in some water sources. Areas that still use lead pipes are a big contamination source. These heavy metals can lead to a host of health problems, especially in young children.

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

These chemicals may mimic or interfere with the normal hormones in the body. And they’re being found in increasing amounts in the water supply. These chemicals are known to affect animals when they enter the water supply as well.

Increasing evidence shows these chemicals can cause issues ranging from diabetes to PCOS, to cancer. One of the biggest ways these chemicals get into the water supply? Hormonal birth control pills.

Fluoride

This may be the most controversial of the contaminants in water (if something like water contaminants can be controversial!). It’s purposefully added to the water and there’s much heated debate about the benefits/harm. More and more scientists and doctors are speaking out about fluoride.

And even if fluoride has any benefit, it would be directly to the teeth. Drinking fluoride hasn’t been shown to increase oral health. Plus, fluoride is linked to thyroid problems and other disorders when swallowed.

If that weren’t enough, here are a few more common drinking water pollutants and impurities.

  • Chlorine bleach (added during city water treatment)
  • Corrosion from lead and copper pipes
  • Bacteria, viruses, and harmful microbes
  • Radioactive pollution
  • Iron oxides and sediment (hard water)
  • Arsenic
  • Nitrogen and phosphorous runoff (from farm fertilizers)

Check Your Water

You can check your local water quality report to see what contaminants are in your water supply. This helps determine what you need to filter out when choosing a filter.

The easiest way to find your local water report is to check your local water company’s website. The report should be publicly available. You can also view detailed water reports for most cities at EWG here.

If you have a well you can have your water tested. If you want to skip testing water, simply opt for a filter that removes all the everyday contaminants.

Choosing The Best Water Filter

So what are the options for those of us not interested in drinking a chemical cocktail every time we pour a glass of cold water? There are options for every home and budget. From filters that just take out the basics like chlorine to ones that remove all contaminants and remineralize the water!

Some filters are ANSI/NSF standard approved. This means they meet certain guidelines to remove specific known contaminants. Looking for these certifications is a good place to start. Some popular options include Aquasana, Brita, and AquaTru.

I’ve tried several dozen of the thousands of options available. Keep in mind this is my own experience and I haven’t tried every option. Here are my top picks and what I’ve tried in order of my least favorite to the filters we use now…

Bottled Water

Bottled water has started falling out of favor lately and with good reason. Mark’s Daily Apple did an in-depth analysis of why, but bottled water isn’t a good option for several reasons:

  • Chemicals from the plastic bottle itself can leech into the water. Even BPA-free bottles.
  • In most cases, the water isn’t any different than tap water
  • Bottled water costs more in many cases that drinking tap water
  • Water bottles and other plastic waste are a major source of pollution

Verdict: Not the best option on price, taste, or health so I skip it. Some bottled water companies are now starting with healthier water, but once it’s bottled in plastic you have many of the same problems.

That said, bottled water is convenient, and there are some great sustainable options. Instead of plastic bottles, choose a high-quality reusable one. Here are my favorite plastic-free, sustainable, and reusable water bottles!

Best Water Filter Pitcher

Water filter pitchers usually use granulated activated charcoal to remove some contaminants. They are cheaper than other filter options upfront. The downsides are the frequent filling and cartridge replacement (which makes them more expensive in the long run). The filter lifespan isn’t as good compared to some other options. And with 6 kids I need something with a good filter life as replacement filters can get expensive

They may improve the taste but they won’t remove all the toxins. Pitcher filters will reduce chlorine but don’t effectively remove VOCs, heavy metals, endocrine disruptors, or fluoride.

This category also includes faucet mount external filters, which use the same technology. Some other popular options include the Brita pitcher and PUR Plus.

Verdict: Better than nothing, but doesn’t remove the worst offenders and is somewhat costly to use compared to other options. If this is the only option that will work in your home, choose a high-quality pitcher. I like this Soma Filter system or Clearly Filtered. If you have the space and the budget though, there are better options.

Charcoal Stick Water Filters

For those tight on space, charcoal sticks are a great alternative too. Charcoal sticks can be used in any pitcher or water bottle and remove contaminants in the same way many pitcher water filters do.

They’re reusable and last for months. You can even use them as a refrigerator deodorizer or in the garden when you’re done with them!

Verdict: These charcoal water filter sticks are a great eco-friendly, zero-waste option for those tight on space. Ideal for couples and those just filtering water for 1-2 people.

Reverse Osmosis (RO)

Reverse Osmosis filtration uses a membrane that removes many water contaminants. You’ll often see it as an under the sink water filter with a holding tank. While it filters larger particle contaminants, it rejects a lot of water in the process.

It results in several gallons of water wasted for every gallon filtered. RO also removes naturally occurring minerals we need (including calcium and magnesium). When we cook with this demineralized water it leaches essential nutrients from the food by up to 60-86% or more.

Not only does RO water not have beneficial minerals in it, but there’s some concern drinking it pulls these minerals from our bodies.

We used this type of filter for a long time but added trace minerals back into the water to replace the ones that were filtered out. It does remove a large amount of contaminants but it’s not the best option.

Pros:

Removes a large amount of contaminants. Many units are stored under the sink and have a simple spigot over the counter for getting water. It reduces arsenic, asbestos, heavy metals, and fluoride.

Cons:

Wastes more water than it produces. Doesn’t reduce VOCs or endocrine disruptors. Requires adequate water pressure to work so it’s not usable if the home water supply is cut off. Takes up to an hour to filter one gallon of water and filters need to be replaced regularly. Removes necessary minerals from the water.

Verdict:

Certainly better than a lot of options out there and it does remove fluoride. But not the best due to water waste and costly filters. My parents have the AquaTru countertop RO system which wastes less water and can be a good option.

Distilled Water

The distillation process uses heat to turn water into steam. The steam then rises and moves to a cooling chamber where it turns back into liquid, leaving behind many contaminants. This type of filtration reduces large particles like minerals and heavy metals. However, it doesn’t remove endocrine disruptors or VOCs since they vaporize at equal or lower temps than water and rise with the steam. It does effectively kill bacteria.

Pros:

Removes a large amount of contaminants. Does reduce arsenic, asbestos, and heavy metals. Does remove fluoride.

Cons:

Doesn’t reduce VOCs or endocrine disruptors. Home distillation systems are often large and expensive. Uses a large amount of electricity and won’t work in power outages. Removes necessary minerals from the water. Long-term use can cause mineral deficiencies.

Verdict:

Better than bottled water, but definitely not the best option out there, especially for home situations.

Solid Block Carbon Filters

Recognized by the EPA as the best option for removing chemicals like herbicides, pesticides, and VOCs. Activated carbon block filters remove chemicals, pesticides, bacteria, fluoride (with filter attachment), heavy metals, nitrates, nitrites, and parasites. Most are gravity based and can safely transform any type of water into safe drinking water including rainwater, pond water, and even sea water. Though these types of water will clog the filters much more quickly and aren’t ideal.

While these can be more pricey than pitcher filters or other filters up front, they seem to be the least expensive in the long run. Plus they require the fewest filter replacements (a big plus for me!). These types of filters also don’t remove naturally occurring minerals from the water so the water tastes better.

A popular option is the stainless steel Berkey filter and it’s what we used for many years. We now have a whole house and under the counter filter system and I like them better than the Berkey. While I think it’s still helpful, there are better options out there.

Pros:

Filters heavy metals, VOCs, microbes, and particles, depending on the micron size of the pores in the filter. Can be inexpensive per gallon and makes for great-tasting water. Doesn’t require electricity or water pressure to work. Portable options can even be used while traveling.

Cons:

Does require counter space and has to be manually filled. More expensive up front. Doesn’t remove endocrine disruptors and there are some concerns with third-party testing with some brands. There are also some recent reports that indicate these filters may not remove fluoride as well as claimed.

Verdict:

Better than some, especially in places where under-counter or permanent systems aren’t an option. I’d opt for under the counter filters instead or a Clearly Filtered pitcher if you need something on the counter.

Under Counter Multi-Stage Filters:

After years of research and trying all of the options above at some point, we finally found an under-counter multi-stage water filter system. It meets all of my criteria and exceeds them. I review the one we personally use in depth in this post. But in short, it filters water through a 14-stage process that utilizes most of the methods listed above. Plus it uses UV and adds minerals back in.

It removes fluoride, lead, chlorine, MTBE, chromium-6, nitrates, pesticides, pharmaceutical residues, water-borne illnesses, and more. This filter has worked well for us for years and I’ve recommended it to my own family members.

Pros:

Removes the widest range of contaminants. Very easy to use with no manual filling required. Spigot attaches near the sink for easy use. And the water tastes great.

Cons:

Must be installed under the sink. We had to hire a plumber for this, though we probably could have figured it out ourselves, but I was reluctant to try. More expensive than other options.

Verdict:

It’s definitely the best option I’ve found and the one we currently use.

A Step Above Filtration

Interested in going above and beyond filtration? There are options that also enhance the water as well as clean it. I’ve spent the last few years researching options like water alkalizer, hydrogen water, and all of the other methods that claim to optimize water in some way.

Here are the ones I’ve personally tried:

Alkaline and Ionizer Water Filter Combinations

These filters are increasingly popular in recent years. Manufacturers claim alkaline drinking water has various health and longevity benefits.

Here’s how it works:

Positively charged calcium and magnesium ions to pass through the membrane and become concentrated at the negatively charged plates. Calcium and magnesium are alkaline earth metals, they are responsible for giving the alkaline water, made by a water ionizer, its alkaline pH.

I have a Life Ionizer system currently installed under my kitchen sink. I like that it has options for regular purified water or alkaline water with easy to control levels of each. This page explains more about how the technology works and all of the options.

Pros:

These systems come with a reverse osmosis system so they filter water. They may also have some added health benefits from the alkalizing process. There are both countertop and under counter options to fit in most kitchens and can be less expensive depending on the model you choose. This process also generates hydrogen in the water, which may have some additional benefits.

Cons:

They do require some space and aren’t the cheapest option. They also must be installed under the sink and require a plumber if you can’t do this yourself.

Verdict:

We’re currently using this alkalizer/ionizer and like the water taste and quality.

Final Thoughts on the Best Water Filters

There are so many water filter options available ( I think we’ve tried most of them over the years!) and the quality can vary greatly. Since drinking clean water is one the most important things we can do for health using the best water filter is at the top of my list! If you’re lucky, you may also be able to find fresh spring water in your area.

What type of water system do you use? Do you drink tap water? Is water filtration a priority for you? Share below!