The Only Water Filters Worth Buying (and Why), According to Experts

published Jan 5, 2024
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Closeup on housewife pouring water into glass from water filter pitcher
Credit: Alliance Images / Shutterstock

When my husband and I purchased our home, it came with a water filtration system that was built into the kitchen sink. It was nice not to worry about the tap water or remember to fill a Brita pitcher. But not everyone has the luxury of a built-in water filtration system — and, to be honest, I wasn’t even entirely sure why we needed one in the first place. I mean, does it even really work? And what is it actually doing, anyway?

As it turns out, water filters offer several health benefits. By removing impurities, they provide cleaner and safer drinking water, reducing the risk of consuming harmful substances. Filtered water can improve the taste and odor, making it more appealing and encouraging people to drink more of it. Additionally, some filters retain essential minerals, like calcium and magnesium, which are beneficial for overall health.

But first, you need to know which contaminants are already in your tap water. You can search by your zip code in the Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database to find out which of the EPA’s biggest contaminants may be in your water. According to Logan Cox, assistant general manager of John The Plumber Niagara Falls, an essential aspect to look for in a water filter is its ability to target those specific contaminants. “Different filters employ various technologies, such as activated carbon, reverse osmosis, or distillation, to remove contaminants like chlorine, lead, bacteria, pesticides, and other harmful substances.” Cox also recommends checking if the filter you choose is certified by independent organizations like NSF International, which confirms (or denies) their effectiveness in removing specific contaminants.

Types of Water Filters You Can Buy

But even once you’ve figured out what contaminants are likely in your water, there are still lots of considerations when it comes to water filters. Here’s a breakdown of the type of filters Cox says to look for.

  • Activated Carbon Filters: These water filters use activated carbon, which has a large surface area with tiny pores to trap and absorb contaminants. Activated carbon filters are effective in removing chlorine, volatile organic compounds, some pesticides, and chemicals that affect taste and odor.
  • Reverse Osmosis (RO) Filters: RO water filters use a semi-permeable membrane to remove a wide range of contaminants, including dissolved solids, heavy metals like lead and mercury, fluoride, nitrates, and certain chemicals. The membrane allows water molecules to pass through while blocking larger particles and impurities.
  • Ceramic Filters: Ceramic water filters typically consist of small pores that physically trap contaminants like bacteria, protozoa, sediment, and larger particles. They can effectively remove harmful microorganisms and improve water clarity.
  • UV Filters: Ultraviolet (UV) water filters use UV light to disinfect water by inactivating bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. They are particularly effective in destroying pathogens and ensuring microbiologically safe water.
  • Ion Exchange Filters: Ion exchange water filters use resin beads that exchange ions to remove specific contaminants like heavy metals (like lead and copper), calcium, and magnesium. They work by replacing unwanted ions with more desirable ones, typically sodium or potassium.
  • Distillation Filters: Distillation water filters involve heating water to create steam, which is then condensed to produce purified water. This process effectively removes impurities, including minerals, heavy metals, bacteria, and some chemicals.

As for top water filter picks, Brian Campbell, founder and “lead water geek” at WaterFilterGuru.com, recommends the following:

1 / 9
Best Water Filter Pitcher
ClearlyFiltered
$81.00
was $90.00

This water pitcher can reduce more than 365 contaminants from unfiltered water.

2 / 9
Best Faucet Water Filter
Amazon
$29.95
was $32.99

This budget-friendly faucet attachment has an unrivaled flow rate, as it uses the force of water pressure to instantly filter water.

3 / 9
Best Countertop Water Filter
Amazon
$749.95

This countertop water filter includes a built-in mineral filter, hot and cold water dispensing, smart touchscreen display with preset buttons for various cup sizes, plus it’s easy to set up and install, and totally portable.

4 / 9
Best Gravity-Fed Water Filter
Amazon
$496.00

This jumbo water filter removes 200+ contaminants, has a filter life of 3,000 gallons, and is made from stainless steel to prevent rusting over time.

5 / 9
Best Filtered Water Bottle
Amazon
$60.00

This simple bottle can eliminate up to 99.99% of contaminants, like heavy metals, chlorine, pharmaceuticals, agricultural pollutants, and more.

6 / 9
Best Budget Countertop Dispenser Water Filter
Amazon
$69.00

This budget-friendly countertop dispenser can remove more than 200 drinking water contaminants, offers targeted fluoride removal, and retains healthy minerals.

7 / 9
Best Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System
Amazon
$999.00

This sleek RO filter system removes hundreds of contaminants with thorough RO filtration, blocking particles bigger than 0.0001 microns in water, has long-lasting UV light, and prevents scale formation.

8 / 9
Best Under-Sink Water Filter
Amazon

This under-sink water filter removes up to 99.9% of 232+ contaminants including heavy metals, pollutants, and chemicals. (Although it’s currently out of stock, you can add yourself to the waitlist.)

9 / 9
Best Whole House Water Filter
Walmart
$1737.21

Durable and long-lasting, with a 1,000,000 media lifespan, this whole house water filter system thoroughly removes more than 20 contaminants from your entire home’s water supply. (Although it’s currently out of stock, you can add yourself to the waitlist.)