Best Water Filter Reviews 2018: Top Rated Countertop, Faucet-Mounted & Under-Sink Filtration Systems

Home / Best Water Filter Reviews 2018: Top Rated Countertop, Faucet-Mounted & Under-Sink Filtration Systems

Water filtration is a daunting proposition for the average person. Unless you’re a scientist or you’ve done lots of research, it’s extremely difficult to know exactly what’s in your drinking water, and what you should do about it!

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the process from start to finish. We’ve included links to water quality resources, as well as a buying guide to help you navigate between your options. On this page, you’ll also find our product recommendations in each category of filter.

Best Faucet-Mounted Filter
black vertical faucet filter

  • Our Rating: 3.7
  • Popularity: High

Best Countertop Filtration System
portable water filtration system

  • Our Rating: 4.6
  • Popularity: Medium
  • 1 Year Limited Warranty

Best Under-sink Filtration System
easy to install under sink filtration system

  • Our Rating: 4.4
  • Popularity: Very High

Best Reverse Osmosis System
high grade 5 stage ultra pure water system

  • Our Rating: 4.7
  • Popularity: High

Whether you own your home, rent an apartment, or are at college filtering water is one of the biggest things you can do to improve your health! After all, water makes up nearly all of our bodies.

If you’re drinking as much water as you ought to, chances are you’re simultaneously consuming all sorts of undesirable things in large quantities as well.

Municipal chemical treatment leaves high amounts of chlorine and fluoride in tap water. That’s not to mention traces of lead, arsenic, or increasingly, prescription drugs which are flushed down drains.

We’ve included all kinds of systems in this guide, so that you can get a feel for what your options are and which will be most effective. Here on our main water filtration page, we’ve included countertop, under-sink, and faucet-mounted models.

If you’re looking for water filter pitchers or whole-house filtration systems, check out our dedicated guides for those two categories! You can find links and featured reviews for each at the bottom of this page.

Best Faucet-Mounted Water Filter Reviews

Faucet-mounted water filters are perhaps the most convenient option for the average person. They’re the simplest, easiest way to clean up your drinking water. As you can guess from the name, these filters attach to the end of your faucet in the kitchen sink. Then, you just use the sink as normal!

faucet water filter with strawberries in the sinkWhile these things can look a bit gimmicky, they’re actually very effective–so much so that they’re what the EPA installed in the wake of the crisis in Flint, MI. As long as you buy from a reputable brand and use appropriate filters, they can make a big difference. Carbon filters are the most common sort to find in these units, but some expensive models offer ion exchange as well.

The main appeal of faucet-mounted filters is that they’re very convenient. They’re better than a pitcher for drinking water, since you don’t have to refill them and you don’t need to sacrifice any fridge space. They’re unobtrusive, and you don’t need plumbing skills to install them.

The fact that they’re so unobtrusive and easy to install makes them ideal for dorm suites or rented apartments. Best of all, they’re relatively inexpensive–most won’t cost more than a pitcher.

Of course, they’re not for entire homes, since they’re only a solution for one sink. They can take up space and make things a bit awkward to navigate if you have a small sink. Still, for cost and convenience, they’re hard to beat!

Here are our favorite faucet-mounted water filters:

1. DuPont Premier

chrome Faucet Mount Drinking Water Filter

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“the least expensive faucet-mounted water filter that really works”

The DuPont Premiere is the least expensive faucet-mounted water filter that really works. It’s dirt-cheap, but it’s sturdier than a lot of models twice the price. The filter cartridges which go with it meet all the appropriate specs, for a cost at which most don’t!

While it doesn’t have as many finish options or as sleek a design as the PUR below, it does the job. We think this is the best faucet-mounted option for folks trying to save money!

Pros:

It’s essentially the same design as any other faucet-mounted filter, only at a fraction of the cost. There’s a dual-channel unit which fits onto your spout, with a filtration chamber and two water spouts. One is for filtered water, and the other is for plain tap water. Inside the filtration chamber sits a replaceable filter cartridge.

The included cartridge (which is DuPont’s High Protection model) filters out all the essentials:

  • sediment
  • chlorine
  • linden
  • cyst
  • benzene (VOC)
  • asbestos
  • mercury
  • lead

As far as we know, it’s the cheapest filter type on the market to be WQA/NSF/ANSI-certified, and specifically tested to remove lead effectively! The High Protection filters meet standards 42 and 53 of the NSF testing, the same as our most expensive pick. So, you don’t have to worry about sacrificing health to save money!

“the cheapest filter type on the market to be WQA/NSF/ANSI-certified”

As with most other faucet-mounted models, there’s a knob which you can use to switch quickly between filtered and unfiltered tap water. We’d use the filter for drinking and cooking, and switch to unfiltered for quick plant watering or mopping.

While this is hardly a premium plumbing fixture, it’s less leaky than other inexpensive models. The plastic components are pretty sturdy, and we haven’t found any real issues with leaks.

It’s very, very inexpensive to buy one of these. Depending on where you buy it, it’s often less than a case of bottled water! Even compared to a pitcher, this is by far the cheapest way to go.

“by far the cheapest way to go.”

It’s simple and low-maintenance. We’re fine with having fewer frills if it means the setup will have a longer working life! There’s no battery or timer to break on this one.

The plastic components and the filter cartridge media have antimicrobial coatings to prevent mold and mildew buildup in the fixture. It’s a great feature, considering how often bacteria get to be issues with these type of setups.

This one’s very easy to install, and you don’t even need tools to do it. The DuPont comes with a range of adaptors and rubber washers to fit just about any faucet.

Cons:

As with so many faucet-mounted models, it does reduce pressure noticeably. This is definitely the slowest of our recommendations, though it still works better than anything else for the price.

It’s bulky, like the PUR below. The DuPont is a lot less streamlined and space-efficient than we’d like.

It’s sturdy enough, but can still leak in some cases. You have to be very careful not to over-tighten plastic components, or they can crack. This is good for the price, but still very cheaply made.

Unlike the PUR, which has timers and such built in, you’ll have to keep track of filter life yourself. They last about a month and a half in a typical household.

Grab some when you buy, too, because this only comes with one! Here’s the most convenient way to stock up:

three water filtration cartrigde

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Be sure to get yours directly from an authorized seller, and don’t be tempted by third-party manufacturers! Many knock-offs are sold, and they’re worthless for actual filtration.

There aren’t many specific filter options available for this one, where the PUR gives you some choices. This is a good all-purpose setup, though!

2. PUR FM-2000B

black vertical faucet filter

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“the most convenient faucet-mounted model to use”

PUR’s faucet-mounted water filter is actually the best-selling on the market these days! It’s earned top marks from Consumer Reports, independent testing groups, and health periodicals alike. We’ve found that it’s the most convenient faucet-mounted model to use, even if it’s not the smallest or most long-lasting.

This is a good buy for folks who don’t want to worry about keeping track of filter life and so forth. It’s priced close to the DuPont, and makes filtering your tap water a lot less of an effort for you.

Pros:

As with the DuPont, the PUR is extremely easy to install. It just clicks onto your spout! There are 4 different adaptors in the box, so that you can get a snug fit on pretty much any fixture.

This is by far the most convenient of our picks. Unlike the DuPont, it has a built-in filter health monitor! That lets you know when you ought to order new filters, and when you need to swap a filter out. The indicator light also blinks green when you run filtered water, to let you know everything’s hunky dory.

While some models with onboard monitors can be gimmicky (like PUR’s bluetooth version), this one does all it needs to and with decent electronics. We’ve found that more sophisticated models malfunction, or have housing that breaks before you get your money’s worth from the onboard computer. This one’s cheap and convenient at the same time!

close up photo of PUR switchOne reason we like using this one more than the DuPont: it’s easier to swap filters on the PUR. While it’s not a huge pain on the DuPont, the PUR simply has a more user-friendly mechanism. The PUR’s filters last as long as the DuPont’s, too: 100 gallons or so.

You also get more options as far as the filters you use! That’s a key reason to get this one over the DuPont. We’re recommending the “Basic” filter type which comes in the box, and is available in replacement packs:

two pack water filter replacement

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It covers all the same things as the DuPont, but it’s slightly more effective and goes further. That’s because it uses an ion exchange and activated charcoal combination material, whereas the DuPont filters use charcoal only.

The PUR filter is NSF-certified to reduce 72 substances and contaminants, so we won’t list them all here. Suffice it to say that this’ll remove anything you can filter with the DuPont, including 99% lead removal, 96% mercury removal, and 92% pesticide removal. It meets all the same standards as the DuPont.

You can also use other PUR filters in this one, since the company has standard filter sizes across their faucet-mounted options. The “mineralclear” type is rather good for improving taste, if that’s something that’s important to you:

MineralClear Faucet Replacement

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It looks very modern. There are white, black, and chrome finish options. So, while it might not be any slimmer than the DuPont, it’s easier on the eyes.

It’s nearly as inexpensive as the DuPont, despite the fact that it’s more sophisticated!

Cons:

Like the DuPont, it’s bulky. Sadly, we haven’t found anything smaller that does as good a job. When we do, we’ll be sure to add it to our recommendations.

Unsurprisingly for the price, the PUR is made from very cheap plastic. It cracks easily, and can be leaky if you don’t treat it very gently.

Overall, we’d say that it’s slightly worse in the build quality department than the DuPont. It’s worth a buy if you value convenience, but the DuPont might last longer without a leak. On the other hand, the PUR comes with a 2-year warranty, so it’s not the end of the world if one leaks on you before then.

We’re linking to an Amazon listing in this review, where you can get add-on protection for a low additional cost. We think it’s worth it, since you won’t have to think about dealing with the company or purchasing replacements in the case that something goes wrong after the initial 2 years.

Best Countertop Water Filter Reviews

Countertop water filters are a popular alternative to faucet-mounted setups. Since they’re not hanging from your spout, these models can pack a lot more filtration media inside!

Countertop filter sampleRather than granular carbon, which can really cut down on a faucet’s pressure output, these models typically use carbon blocks. The block design offers more surface area for contaminants to be captured, so these models don’t impede flow as drastically.

We think these are the best bet if you don’t have room under the sink and you don’t want to use a faucet-mounted filter. Just like faucet-mounted filters, you can switch between regular and tap water using these countertop models.

They’ll give you better filtration overall than faucet-mounted options, and stay out of your way when you’re doing dishes or need space in the sink to fill large vessels.

Just be aware that countertop models are often quite a bit pricier than faucet-mounted units, and so are the filter replacements.

1. APEX

Countertop Alkaline Drinking Water Filter System

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“compact, convenient, and very affordable”

APEX’s countertop system is the least expensive model we recommend in this category. You won’t find anything cheaper that does a decent job in all-purpose filtration! It’s compact, convenient, and very affordable for something which you can use for years. We suggest it to anyone looking for countertop filtration on a budget.

Pros:

It’s one of the least expensive countertop models on the market with NSF certification! You’ll actually find that the majority of countertop filters don’t have certified filtration systems, which is why they can be particularly dicey to shop for. The APEX is the most affordable NSF-certified model we’ve found that works well.

NSF certification is important, because with anything that isn’t certified, you’re relying on the manufacturer’s word that the filter will do its job. With something as important as water quality, you don’t want to have to take it on faith! APEX’s system is the only one we’ve found in its price class that actually meets reputable standards.

“the only one we’ve found in its price class that actually meets reputable standards”

Of course, the low price point is a big appeal of this model. You can certainly get more streamlined or more comprehensive countertop filtrations systems, but the APEX covers all the basics for a lot less money than our other picks! It’s half the price of the APEC Reverse Osmosis system below.

It’s available in lots of different colors, as well as clear housing or a stainless steel option.

Both the filter cartridges and the housing are made mostly in the USA, and to a much better standard of quality control than other brands we’ve reviewed.

All of the components are completely BPA-free, and meet stringent California safety standards.

You don’t have to make any modifications to your plumbing or countertop to use this system. You just run a hose from your faucet, set the filter up nearby, and you’re good to go!

As well as removing harmful substances from your water, it adds in some beneficial minerals! The APEX balances PH levels to give your water added alkalinity, which is purported to have lots of health benefits. Many people also find alkaline water more enjoyable to drink.

APEC’s cartridges use multi-stage filtration to cover all the essentials:

filter process In the first, KDF-85 industry standard filtration removes microorganisms, heavy metals, and chloramines. In the second, coconut shell activated carbon removes chlorine and odor. The third stage corrects for acidity while adding alkalinity and beneficial mineral content (calcium, magnesium, potassium).The fourth is another activated carbon layer, which removes iron, mercury, lead (97%), arsenic, while the fifth boosts alkalinity with calcite.

APEC’s cartridges are very affordable, for components made in the USA. They last for about 750 gallons per filter, which gives you ~6-9 months, but it depends on your usage.

The real value here is that all 10” standard filter elements will work with this setup! It’s built to industry standards, while so many countertop models are proprietary. That makes it easy to customize to your own needs. Anything that’s NSF-certified and 10” in height should work!

“easy to customize to your own needs”

The whole thing is very compact and unobtrusive. The base measures a 4.5” circle, 12” high.

It comes with a hose to run from the faucet to the filter, a spout for dispensing filtered water, and adaptors to fit your faucet.

Cons:

Buyers report mixed experience with the company’s customer service. While some said that their issues were resolved quickly and helpfully, others had issues with getting replacement parts for their filters.

There’s no warranty policy on this, so it’s not as great a long-term investment as our more expensive picks. You’re at the mercy of the company’s generosity if something goes wrong.

The plastic housing fits very tightly together. That’s good news for preventing leaks, but it’s not always easy to open for replacements.

One quick warning: don’t install the clear model in sun, or you could see some mold/algae issues!

The hose doesn’t come with anything to secure it, so you’ll have to work out a way to attach it to your faucet to keep it out of the way while you work in the sink.

As with most countertop systems, you’ll need to judge filter life on your own.

Also like the competition, it won’t work with non-standard (pull-down, etc.) faucets.

This one does a good job filtering out most things thoroughly, but it has limitations. It won’t remove fluoride, and it’s not as good at removing industrial chemicals and such as reverse osmosis setups.

The APEC is much more thorough, and so is the Brondell. Still, the APEX is the cheapest reputable countertop system.

You’ll definitely see better results and performance on our more expensive picks. For example, the block carbon on the Brondell absorbs more than the granulated carbon on the APEX, and faster.

2. Brondell H2O+

white countertop water filter

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“a good choice for anyone on a municipal supply”

Brondell’s water filters have been some of the best new products on the market for the past few years. They’re smartly designed, they look fantastic, and they do as good a job as much larger and more expensive setups.

This H2O+ system is a good choice for anyone on a municipal supply. It’s the best you can do without splurging for the APEC RO system below, which will cost you twice as much!

Pros:

It fits nearly all faucets, even a lot of modern designs which don’t work with other filters. A lot of countertop water filters say they’ll fit your faucet, but most are a pain to actually get set up and sealed. The Brondell comes with 4 different attachments to fit pretty much any fixture.

You can install it under the sink as well, using a T-valve that’s sold separately (although Brondell’s Circle system is more appropriate for under-sink use).

“refreshingly leak-free!”

One of the biggest annoyances with other countertop models these days is leaky housing. The Brondell is refreshingly leak-free! While it’s mostly plastic, the fittings use metal components, and the seals are high-quality.

It filters water quickly, which makes it very pleasant to use. The block carbon material used inside the filter cartridges works much better than the cheaper granular material you’ll find in models like APEX. It actually achieves better filtration scores, while also allowing for faster flow!

Another key difference between this and more traditional setups: it’s easy to swap cartridges. Designs like the APEX can be very difficult to get open for replacements. This one has a lid which pops right open, so you don’t have to take the whole thing apart every time a filter needs to be changed.

Inside, it’s a slightly more sophisticated design than the APEX. The result is better filtration, to higher NSF standards!

There are actually multiple cartridges inside the Brondell, which you wouldn’t expect for something so small. This is a proprietary design, so it’s a bit of a departure from standardized units like the APEX. The 3 filter stages each get their own cartridge. Each is self-contained, and you can swap them independently of each other.

Brondell H2O interiorThe first stage/cartridge filters out particulates, and protects the next two stages from larger contaminants. It’s actually a two-step filter, allowing it to trap both larger and smaller particulate matter.

The next stage/cartridge is the Nanotrap layer, which features mixed alumina and cellulose fibers. They trap microorganisms and reduce turbidity, and the small pores also trap many different types of smaller particulate.

“the best thing since RO, and the next best thing to one of those systems”

We think the Nanotrap design is the best thing since RO, and the next best thing to one of those systems. It’s the main reason we think Brondell is the best new brand in the filtration market.

The third stage is a carbon block filter, which removes VOC’s, chlorine, and other harmful components. It’s a similar media to those you’ll find in other filters, only in a block format instead of granular particles. A block offers more surface area to trap contaminants, and offers less resistance to flow!

The first and last filters are to be changed every 6 months, while the middle stage will last about a year. This is a key reason we actually prefer the split design: if the whole thing was one cartridge, you’d have to replace everything every 6 months. This way, you can save 1/3 of the cost by stretching out the middle stage!

The Brondell might be proprietary, but it’s still certified to the same or higher standards as other models. It actually achieves better ratings than the APEX, despite the fact that it’s smaller and only slightly more expensive.

Brondell’s filter and cartridges meet WQA Gold standards in independent testing. They’re certified to NSF standards 42, 53, and 372. To the average person, that’s to say that they’re slightly more thorough than the APEX, and they beat any countertop system but an RO setup!

Aside from the smart filtration system, there are lots of reasons to love the Brondell. It’s compact and good-looking, for a start. The H2O+ is covered in white and black casing with chrome accents. It fits pretty much any decor, and is a lot more streamlined than other countertop systems.

“a lot more streamlined than other countertop systems”

Unlike the APEX, it’s covered by a 1-year warranty! Brondell also have very good customer service, so you don’t have to worry about getting jerked around should something go wrong.

We’re also directing our product links to Amazon, since it’s easy to tack on extended warranty coverage at checkout there!

It’s not much more expensive than the APEX! In any case, it’s still a lot less pricey than the APEC RO system below.

Cons:

While we think it’s an excellent system, we know that some other reviewers have been less impressed with the Brondell. You’ll find that most poor reviews are concerned about TDS. Buyers tested their water after filtration, and found that the TDS ratings weren’t much lower.

Here’s a quick explanation of what that actually means, and why we don’t think it’s anything to be concerned about. TDS is a measure of particulates, and doesn’t discriminate between beneficial and harmful particulate matter.

Most mineral content is actually good, and that’s why many filtration systems (like the APEX above) actually add some back in. Unless you’re using a whole-house filtration system or RO for drinking water, you’re going to have some TDS readings show up.

Now, does that actually mean anything? No. TDS readings don’t mean much in and of themselves. For instance, you could put something poisonous like bleach into your water, and get the same TDS reading with or without it!

So, this isn’t going to make your well water read 0 on a TDS scale, and it won’t eliminate all mineral content. It’ll rid your water of harmful chemicals, though, and do a good job keeping out any harmful particulate pollutants. Still, it’s better for cities and municipal supplies than well systems.

Unlike the APEX, it won’t help with alkalinity or beneficial mineral content.

The filters are expensive, compared to the rather generic industry-standard ones that systems like the APEX use.

Even this one isn’t as thorough as an RO setup (to be fair, nothing is). You won’t remove fluoridation with this, and nothing besides an RO setup will do a perfect job with other pollutants.

There’s only one reliability issue we’ve heard of with this: the on/off button can get stuck. That’s easy to fix, but it controls the diverter valve, so it can be annoying when it goes wrong. Most buyers haven’t reported any issues, though, and it’s not something we’ve run into ourselves.

As with the APEX, there’s no included hardware to fix the hose in place. That’s something you’ll have to figure out yourself.

3. APEC Countertop Reverse Osmosis System

portable water filtration system

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“maximum filtration in a countertop format!”

Our ultimate recommendation for countertop water filtration is APEC’s RO system. It’s as effective as most under-sink RO solutions, only it’s compact enough to fit on your countertop! This may be the largest and bulkiest of our recommendations, but it’s still a lot slimmer than traditional RO’s with holding tanks.

We suggest it to anyone looking for maximum filtration in a countertop format! It’s even more effective than most under-sink options.

Pros:

Filtration doesn’t get better than reverse osmosis! In fact, the competition isn’t even close. So, it’s no surprise that the APEC absolutely smokes any other countertop system for filtration results.

“absolutely smokes any other countertop system for filtration results.”

We haven’t found any other countertop reverse osmosis systems that actually work to a certifiable degree, and even our NSF-certified recommendations above can’t come close to matching it.

This system has several filter stages, much like the APEX and Brondell.

The first removes sediment, as you’d expect. Anything above 5 microns is captured right up front, so it protects the RO membrane from dust, particles, and rust.

The second stage is an activated carbon layer, which uses granular coconut shells (the same media as the APEX). This takes care of chlorine, VOC’s, and other chemical pollutants, before they even get to the RO membrane.

The third is the all-important reverse osmosis membrane. This is the key component which sets this system apart from the countertop competition. An RO membrane is the best technology we’ve come up with as a species for removing pollutants of any kind.

This is a particularly good example of the technology, as well. It’s set at a 1:2 back-flush ratio, which is more efficient than others. It’s made by Dow Chemical (see the Select Filmtec model), and removes up to 99% of dissolved solids in your water supply:

  • arsenic
  • lead
  • fluoride
  • chromium
  • radium
  • bacteria
  • viruses

*This system is the only countertop setup you can use to remove fluoride from your drinking water! Since we’re all becoming increasingly aware of the negative health effects from fluoride in drinking supplies, it’s a key feature that many buyers are looking for. This is the only system we’ve found for the countertop which can do it.

A final activated carbon stage with crushed coconut finishes the filtration cycle. While not much will make it to this point in the system, it’s helpful for removing any residual taste elements which the filtered particulates have left behind.

All in all, the APEC will filter up to 90 gallons per day (assuming you have the average 60psi water pressure). That’s about 3 gallons per hour, as fast as most under-sink models work. In fact this one has the same daily capacity as our top RO pick with a holding tank!

filtration system on sink counterIf you don’t have experience with reverse osmosis, that speed rating can seem remarkably slow. Sadly, that’s just a fact of life with RO. The APEC is actually the fastest we’ve found.

The best approach is to run the filter into a big pitcher or a countertop dispenser, then refill as necessary. An out-flow line is included, so you can run the system to whichever vessel you prefer.

The APEC’s filter stages are all self-contained, like the Brondell’s. We like that approach because you can stretch out the working life of the RO membrane, which is the most expensive component, as well as the final carbon filter.

The first and second stages are to be replaced every 6-12 months depending on usage, and the RO membrane and final carbon filter last for years (replaced every 3-5).

They’re all easy to swap, since they have quick-connect hoses and fittings.

“the APEC works as well as any full-size (tanked) RO system!”

Both in terms of particulate removal and filtration speed, the APEC works as well as any full-size (tanked) RO system! That’s impressive for something that takes up less counter space than the average drying rack. The only difference is that it doesn’t have a reservoir built-in.

You don’t have to modify your countertop or install a second faucet, either! This one just requires you to attach the inlet hose to your faucet, and then park the unit wherever suits you best.

We especially like that you can also mount the filtration unit on a wall above your counter, or under cabinets. That makes having such a large unit out in the open less of a big deal. Both the standard frame and the enclosed case have mounting holes pre-drilled.

compact APEC water filterPerhaps the biggest advantage of having RO in a portable package is being able to move it between living spaces. This is a great choice for health conscious folks in apartments, where installing something more permanent isn’t feasible or practical. You can take your investment wherever you go!

“by far the best-made countertop system we’ve reviewed”

It’s made entirely in the USA, and absolutely everything in the filter cartridges and frame is NSF-certified and BPA-free. This is also by far the best-made countertop system we’ve reviewed, even edging out the Brondell. It’s covered by a 1-year warranty.

Cons:

It won’t fit any faucets other than those with standard spouts. Pull-down’s, sprayers, and special designer models won’t be compatible, so be sure you know yours is appropriate before you buy!

It’s the slowest of the three (such is the nature of reverse osmosis). Again, while you can certainly use it to filter water in real time, we’d recommend doing batches, and then drinking from a dispenser. You can make this work with pretty much any vessel, since the small hose will fit in a pitcher, jug, or tank.

This is by far the priciest countertop solution we’ve come across. That’s worth it for most of us, though, thanks to the outstanding filtration results. Make sure you can afford this, though.

It’s big for a countertop system, even though it’s compact compared to other RO setups.

It’s not going to do anything for alkalinity (much like the Brondell). You may want to do some remineralization, depending on your preference. We’ve got more advice on reverse osmosis water/alkalinity in our Buying Guide below!

There’s only one weak point we’ve found in the construction: the tubing isn’t super heavy-duty on the way from the faucet to the filter unit. We’ve seen a few isolated buyer reports of bursts. It’ll be replaced under warranty, though, and the vast majority of buyers don’t report any issues.

It’s not particularly nice to look at. There’s an option to get it with a case, and that’s the one we’re recommending. It keeps all the filters and hardware protected, and makes the whole thing much nicer to look at.

We only have one gripe with this one, and that’s the short warranty period. It’s on par with other systems, but less than you’d want for something this expensive. So, we’ve directed our product links for the APEC to Amazon, where you can easily tack on a few extra years of protection at the checkout!

Best Under-Sink Water Filter Reviews

sample undersink water filterUnder-sink water filters are a popular alternative for anyone who doesn’t want to use a countertop/faucet-mounted filter, and can’t afford to invest in RO. We don’t actually recommend any with confidence, though, for a few key reasons:

First, almost none of the under-sink filters on the market are actually certified by the NSF standards or by WQA’s independent testing. So, while many advertise excellent filtration results, there’s no good way to be sure that you’re getting what you pay for.

Second, even those few models with reputable filters inside have pretty shoddy build quality. The pipes and fittings are all cheap plastic, and they have a reputation for cracking and leaking.

Why’s that such a deal-breaker here?

Well, when your countertop or faucet-mounted filter leaks, not much happens. Sure, it’s annoying, but you’ll only see leakage when you have the taps on. You can easily turn them off to fix or replace the leaky component.

The nature of an under-sink filter is that they attach before water actually reaches the valve in your faucet. If one of the fittings springs a leak, it’ll spray water until you shut the entire line off. That can be a disaster if you’re not at home to deal with it right away. Until we see some improvements in the pipes and fittings you get with these models, we have a hard time recommending them to you with confidence.

We’ve featured a review of one model below, which we think is the best on offer. Having said that, it’s not something we recommend to most people. You can do better with a countertop system, and even the average faucet-mounted unit will do as good a job as this (and with less danger of causing water damage.

Here’s a look at the one under-sink model we recommend (with reservations):

*most reverse osmosis systems are installed under your sink, but we’re considering them as a separate category. Check out our RO recommendations further down the page!

Filtrete

easy to install under sink filtration system

Click for Price

This Filtrete under-sink setup is the best in its category, as far as that goes! It’s made in collaboration with 3M, which has a good reputation for filtration technology, and it’s one of very few under-sink models to have full NSF-certification.

We have reservations about it, due to the very light build quality, but if you’re set on this format, we suggest the Filtrete “Maximum” system.

Pros:

It’s one of the only under-sink models from a reputable company. Most are offered by manufacturers you’ve never heard of, and have no good reason to trust. This isn’t exactly 3M’s best product (their whole-house filters are a lot sturdier), but at least you’re buying from a company with a decent reputation.

The system is completely NSF-certified, not just by individual component. That’s a key difference between this and the other under-sink options available right now. Nearly all the competition have NSF-compliant media in the filters, but haven’t been evaluated as a system.

The Filtrete meets the NSF’s standards 42 & 53. That includes 99% lead reduction, chlorine removal, cyst removal, and sediment filtration. In short, this will do anything your average faucet-mounted or countertop system will do.

Be sure to get the “Maximum” filter option. This setup is listed with different filters available, but they’re all priced fairly similarly: so choose the best one! It costs only marginally more, and performs much better than the “Advanced” cartridge

The “Maximum” version is also the only one to remove lead, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals. The weaker filter options won’t do anything about these key contaminants.

It’s relatively affordable. There are a lot of options on the market that are more expensive, but none of them meet any higher certifications or do a measurably better job. In fact, many models which cost more than the Filtrete don’t even meet the certifications on this cheaper model!

It’s pretty straightforward to install. You should be able to do this without a plumber, though it does require you to shut off the pipe that feeds your sink.

Cons:

It’s not as good as a reverse osmosis system, and it’s not any better than faucet-mounted or countertop filters, from a water quality standpoint. The the only advantage is in terms of quantity, and in having the filter out of sight.

Our main complaint about the Filtrete is its dirt-cheap fittings. They’re extremely light plastic, and we’ve heard too many horror stories about bursts and water damage to give this our wholehearted approval.

If you’re set on going the under-sink route, it’s worth knowing that you can easily replace the fittings. It’ll only involve a trip to the hardware store for some brass components. That’s why we feature this one versus more expensive options that have worse filtration but better fittings.

Like a lot of inexpensive options, the 3M filters don’t last as long as advertised. And while they won’t impede flow while they’re working well, they will slacken off your pressure as they clog up.

Best Reverse Osmosis Water Filter Reviews

When it comes to the best method of filtering your drinking water, there’s simply no competition! Reverse osmosis is far and away the most thorough technology we have to date, and it’s the ultimate solution for your home drinking water.

reverse osmosis process

A lot of people are put off by the steep price tag of RO, or the inefficiency of the technology. Still, if you want to get fluoride out of your water, it’s the only way to do so. Plus, it does the best job on other contaminants of any filter type!

This is the most intimidating sort of filtration to get into, though. Reverse osmosis systems are expensive, and the technology is pretty inefficient. They’ll use up many times the water you actually get from them, as filtered backflush.

It’s tough to find the best balance between efficiency and performance, and to find the ideal system for your home. We’ll set you right! Our picks in this category strike the best balance of performance, efficiency, and affordability.

Here are the best options on the market right now:

1. Olympia OROS-50

nsf certified reverse osmosis water filter

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“affordable and certifiably great!”

Olympia’s reverse osmosis system is practically brand new on the market. While it doesn’t have the established track record or high output ratings of the APEC we recommend as our top quality RO pick, it’s affordable and certifiably great!

We think the Olympia is good for a first RO system, or for a household with relatively low water usage.

Pros:

It’s by far the least expensive system with full NSF certification. As we’ve noted in our other reviews, there’s no substitute for independent lab testing when you want to see how a filter actually performs, compared to the manufacturer’s claims!

“excellent value for something so effective.”

In fact, there are a lot of RO systems three times the price which don’t have the Olympia’s qualifications! It’s excellent value for something so effective. Most RO systems on the market get away with having parts and components that are individually NSF-certified, which most people take to be the same thing. It’s not!

Having certified components and filtration media means all the elements are effective in and of themselves, and that’s a starting place, but it doesn’t give you a lab-tested rating for how the whole system will perform. The Olympia is meets full NSF testing and certification standards as a system!

It meets standards 42/58 for chlorine, taste, odor, and TDS (total dissolved solids) reduction. Like most RO systems, it’ll take pretty much everything out of your water:

  • arsenic
  • fluoride
  • barium
  • lead
  • cadmium
  • radium 226/228
  • chromium (3/6)
  • selenium
  • copper
  • turbidity

The Olympia uses 5-stage filtration, just like the top notch APEC.

olympia five stage system

At the front end is a sediment filter which catches all the big stuff and preserves the filters further down the line.

Next, there are 2 distinct layers of carbon block filtration. We’ve explained in our Buying Guide that carbon block filters do a much better job and with fewer impediments than granular carbon filters. That’s true here as well! The carbon stages eliminate VOC’s and other chemical contaminants.

In fourth place is the essential RO membrane unit. It’s a lot more effective than you’d expect for the price. In fact, according to our review team, it’s as effective as anything but the APEC system below!

“as effective as anything but the APEC system below!”

A final carbon stage finishes filtration to remove residual odor and taste.

The system is rated based on the RO membrane, which is good for up to 50 gallons per day. That’s not as impressive as APEC’s membrane, but it’s darned impressive for the price! 50 gallons is more than most people will use in any case, even filling several large jugs/tanks.

You can expect a 6-12 month working life for the first 3 stages, which is comparable to the more expensive APEC offerings. Expect about 2-3 years for the RO membrane and final stage, which is slightly less than you’d get from the APEC (which makes sense, considering the much lower output ratings).

It’s much more convenient to drink straight from this one than from the countertop unit above! That’s because the Olympia gives you an onboard reserve of drinking water, plus an easy way to dispense it.

It includes a 3.2 gallon holding tank for filtered water, and there’s also an independent faucet, so you can have a dedicated drinking water outlet!

Both components are actually really well-made, which is a pleasant surprise. Most included hardware is crappy. This faucet has a ceramic disc valve, and an air gap-proof design. Both it and the tank are completely lead-free!

This tank and faucet setup is much more convenient than having to run hoses from your sink and use diverter valves on one faucet! The Olympia automatically fills the tank, then shuts off until you dispense water from the faucet. That lets you quickly fill glasses, without waiting for the RO membrane to catch up.

“the same design you’ll find on units costing several times the price”

This function is all thanks to a nifty shut-off valve which doesn’t require any electricity to function. It’s the same design you’ll find on units costing several times the price, and the Olympia’s beats most of them!

The Olympia is relatively efficient, for a RO setup. It has a 4:1 back-flush ratio–better than most on the market. You’ll waste a lot less water using this than other systems.

The whole thing fits easily under most sinks, even where space is tight. The tank is nice and squat, and the filters can all be set up at the back of your sink so they’re out of the way.

It comes with everything you need to install, aside from whatever you might need to set the faucet in your countertop. They make it easy for you, too. That’s a big advantage if you’re getting your first RO setup! The Olympia comes with color-coded hardware and quick-connect fittings.

olympia sediment filter

“you’d never guess how inexpensive it is!”

Probably the most impressive aspect of the Olympia (beside the filtration certifications) is the overall quality on this thing. It’s made quite well, and you’d never guess how inexpensive it is! Everything’s both leak-free and BPA-free.

We’re also impressed to see that every component is replaceable, unlike so many cheap, disposable filters.

The company stands behind its products, which is always key for us with a long-term filtration purchase. You’ll get USA-based customer support for life, plus a 1-year warranty. And while this hasn’t been on the market long enough for us to give you a thorough reliability overview, it has a superb track record so far.

Cons:

It’s not as efficient as the APEC. The APEC model below has Dow’s RO membrane inside, which is a key reason it can filter nearly twice as much water in a day.

The Olympia’s not WQA Gold Seal-certified, either, which is a notable difference in the qualifications department. We don’t want to get muddled in the specifics of each rating standard, but that essentially means that the APEC is even more effective than the Olympia (and meets the best standard possible, at up to 99% filtration). This is the next best thing.

There are some differences in practice as well as on paper: for instance, NSF hasn’t certified the Olympia’s removal of selenium and some pesticides, which are advertised in the marketing. We’d say it’s a difference of less than 10% between this and the APEC, but the APEC is worth investing in if you can afford it.

APEC’s filter cartridges also last longer than Olympia’s. You’ll get about the same life out of the initial 3 stages, but the RO membrane that comes with the APEC ought to last a year or two longer. That’s not insignificant, especially given that it’s got a higher duty rating!

Like most RO systems, the Olympia has no alkaline remineralization you can certainly add minerals to your filtered water vessels, though, if that’s what you prefer.

It’s built more cheaply than the APEC, and has mostly plastic components. The Olympia has a great track record, but it probably won’t last quite as long.

The 1-year warranty is a lot better than the nonexistent policies on many RO systems, but still rather short. We’re directing to an Amazon listing where you can easily add coverage at the checkout.

2. APEC Ultimate RO-90

high performance Drinking water system

Click for Price

“our ultimate RO recommendation”

This APEC system is our ultimate RO recommendation. It’s by far the best we’ve reviewed, and even puts the excellent Olympia to shame. This system meets the highest certifications possible for water filtration, and it does so at a much more efficient rate than the Olympia.

We suggest it to anyone looking for the absolute best RO system out there, regardless of price.

Pros:

It has a more established track record than the Olympia, which has only been on the market for a short time. The APEC has been out for a number of years, and has a spectacular track record for long-term reliability and performance.

Like the countertop model we’ve reviewed above, this APEC system has a very efficient filtration rate. It’s good for up to 90 gallons per day, which is nearly twice as productive as the Olympia! That’s thanks to the Dow RO membrane, which works up to as fast as competing components like the Olympia’s.

“this is the best RO option for larger households.”

Because the membrane is so efficient, the system can refill the tank about as quickly as you can empty it, which is far from the case with the Olympia or other models. That’s why we think this is the best RO option for larger households.

One other key efficiency feature we love on the APEC: it doesn’t create as much wasted “brine” water. The back-flush is set at a 1:3 ratio, so you’ll waste a good 25% less water than the Olympia. That adds up fast on your water bills!

It filters pretty much anything, and to a greater extent than other RO systems. The APEC uses a similar 5-stage filtration system to the Olympia, and it’ll eliminate all the same pollutants.

The first stage is a sediment filter, as you’d expect. It’s followed by 2x carbon block filters, which are the best of the bunch for chemical pollutant removal, as far as we’re concerned. They’re rated for 99.9% chlorine removal! A coconut carbon filter finishes the system, removing residual taste and odor from the RO water, just like the Olympia.

“It’s the best on the market, as far as we’re concerned!”

Sandwiched in the middle is the top-notch Dow RO membrane. It’s the best on the market, as far as we’re concerned! We’ve already mentioned how efficient it is, but it’s also long-lasting. So, it offers faster filtration and for longer. That’s a win-win!

While this is an expensive setup, it’s actually a great long-term value. Each stage of the APEC’s filters lasts about twice as long as the competition. Most people won’t have to change any filters more than annually, though of course results will vary. You can get a few extra years out of the RO membrane, too!

The APEC more than justifies the difference in cost between this and the Olympia, both in results and convenience. The main difference is the longer membrane life, greater membrane output, and the WQA certification.

While the APEC’s filter stages might seem identical to the Olympia’s at first glance, they’re not! In addition to the more efficient membrane, all the stages achieve better filtration scores in independent testing.

The APEC is WQA-tested and NSF-certified at the highest standards, even beating out the Olympia. That’s an entire system rating, too. The APEC goes further with Gold Seal certification from WQA–the best grade in the industry! It removes 99% of contaminants, including 97.7% fluoride removal, and is tested to do so by independent labs.

apec water wqa certified contaminants rejection percentage

“if you want the ultimate peace of mind, this is the way to go!”

It’s about a 10% improvement in filtration performance over the Olympia, and that’s not counting the increased longevity and efficiency. Most people won’t notice the difference at first glance or first taste, but if you want the ultimate peace of mind, this is the way to go!

As with the Olympia, it comes with a faucet, so you can easily set up a dedicated drinking water station. The hardware with the APEC is lead-free, excellent quality, and a non-air gap design. In other words, it’s pretty identical to what you get with the Olympia.

The biggest difference in the assembly is the FDA-approved tubing, specially made by John Guest company. It’s both heavier-duty and more secure than what you get with the Olympia. The fittings have stainless steel teeth and special o-rings. They make for easy connections and secure leak-proofing!

Another key difference: the Olympia only fits 3/8” lines, while this will also work for 1/2” inlets!

Under your sink, it uses the same reserve tank system and valve arrangement as the Olympia. So, the system will will keep the tank full, then give you a pressurized output through the dedicated faucet. It works purely by water pressure, and we haven’t run into any issues with it.

The most noticeable difference under the sink is the 4-gallon tank on this one, slightly larger than the Olympia’s.

It’s every bit as high-quality as you’d want for the price. This one has filters produced entirely in the USA, like the Olympia, and while some of the components are globally-sourced, they’re all put together in the States. Everything’s NSF-certified, FDA-approved, and BPA/phthalate-free.

It’s covered by a 1-year warranty, plus a satisfaction guarantee for the same period. You also get excellent customer service for life, with WQA-certified technicians. You can read in buyer reviews how competent and helpful APEC’s folks are on the phone. They’re exactly the kind of providers you want for a long-term filtration solution.

Cons:

It’s expensive, despite the fact that you can get longer lives out of the filters. Be prepared to spend up to twice as much for this as you would for the Olympia.

It’s large, too. The tank is slightly bigger, which is the most noticeable difference from the Olympia. Be sure to measure the space under your sink before you pull the trigger on this one.

Even though it costs twice as much as the Olympia, it still has just a 1-year warranty. Again, we’re directing our product links to Amazon, since it’s so easy to tack on an extra warranty policy there.

Buying Guide

We know how overwhelming water filtration can be for the average person. Don’t worry! We know you’re busy, and have a lot of other things to think about. That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive Buying Guide. It’ll give you all the resources and info you need to figure out what you need to be concerned about, and how best to approach filtering your water.

Here’s how to go about this important purchase:

Establish your contaminants

The first thing any concerned person needs to do is establish exactly what harmful elements are in your water to begin with. Contaminants can differ depending on where you live and how you get your water.

how contaminants get into your waterIf you’re on a well, bacteria and ground minerals are usually the biggest concerns. If you live near conventional agriculture or industrial facilities, chemical fertilizer runoff and other toxins could be leaching into your water supply as well.

For well water users, the best thing to do is to purchase a water testing kit. Since you’re not using a municipal line, you’re responsible for your own testing and monitoring.

Make sure you get something that’s certified by the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) or the WQA (Water Quality Association). These organizations do independent testing to verify manufacturer’s claims on testing kits and filtration systems. The EWG (Environmental Working Group) website is also a great place to find testing resources.

In municipal areas (anywhere you get your water from a town/city treatment facility), lead is often a primary concern. Lead from old piping is very common across the States, and is regulated a lot less than you might think.

Even if your house is newer or has been updated, most municipal lines still have lead! After the recent crisis in Flint, MI, we’ve all become much more aware of this issue. Municipal water is typically treated in some way to prevent lead from leaching out of the pipes, but the process is far from perfect. We all need to be extremely vigilant about this, since even trace amounts of lead can have severe health consequences.

Here’s a fantastic tool which helps you establish whether there are lead pipes leading to your home–it’s free and easy to use. Click this link.

Aside from lead, most folks are concerned about chlorine and fluoride in drinking water. These chemicals are both added by treatment plants, and are present in large quantities across most municipalities.

We’ve known about the harmful effects of chlorine for a number of years, but the research is just coming in on fluoride. It’s not good. A comprehensive Harvard study confirmed a link between fluoride concentrations in drinking water and lower IQ scores, among other alarming effects. Both of these chemicals are heavily overused, and you should consider filtering them out of any water you drink!

The latest source of contamination is pharmaceuticals and prescription drugs, which are often flushed down drains. As these medications make their way into the municipal supply, they’re cycled back to your tap.

Hormones from birth control, opioids, and more have been turning up in alarming quantities, especially in cities which recycle most of their water. All sorts of things which municipal treatment plants were never intended to remove are now present in the water, and there is as yet no governmental plan to deal with them.

We could go on for pages about common contaminants, like radon or nitrates. For now, you should know that over 200 of the 300 measured chemicals found in American drinking water are completely unregulated. That ought to alarm you!

So, before you panic, here’s a practical, easy thing you can do to find out what you’re up against! Request a free copy of your utility’s annual report. It’s quite easy and you can usually do it online. All municipalities are legally required to provide documentation of water quality testing to the public.

Most people don’t even have to contact their utility! The EWG manages an excellent database online: EWG Tap Water Database

facts on tap

Whether you’re on a well or municipal supply, establishing your contaminants will help you figure out which filtration systems are appropriate to use.

Decide on a filtration method

There are a number of different ways to filter your water. We’ve already reviewed most of them above, but here’s a rehash:

  • faucet-mounted filter (the cheapest and most convenient approach)
  • countertop filter (a more durable and out-of-the-way alternative to faucet-mounted filtration)
  • under-sink filter (a basic but functional way to get the same results as above, only hidden)
  • reverse osmosis filtration system (the most effective way to filter drinking water, period)

You can also use a

  • whole-house filter (exactly what it sounds like: filters all your water. Excellent in series with a specific drinking water filter, or on its own)

or

  • filter pitcher (for keeping small amounts of water filtered without hooking anything up to your sink or plumbing–the best approach for dorms and shared living spaces)

You can find detailed descriptions of these last two approaches below! We’ve actually created dedicated buying guides for each, so check those out.

Figure out your budget

Before you get too far ahead of yourself, be sure you know how much you want to/can afford to spend. Here’s a quick price guide by category:

  • faucet-mounted filters ($10-$50)
  • countertop filters ($50-$250)
  • under-sink filters ($20-$100)
  • reverse osmosis filters ($100-$700)
  • whole-house filters ($20-$500)
  • filter pitchers ($20-$75)

First, figure out how much you can afford. Then, as you think about how much you should spend, consider exactly what you want to achieve. Do you want basic, all-around filtration? If so, any type of filter will do the trick, as long as it’s certified.

If you’re looking to remove fluoride, you’re going to have to invest in reverse osmosis, period. As for everything else, you can find something in every category to take care of it. However, reverse osmosis is the most thorough, effective solution for eliminating pollutants of all kinds.

Your living situation is also something to consider as you debate how much to invest.

If you own your home, it makes sense to invest in something more permanent/capable. It’s worth spending more money for something like a reverse osmosis system if you know you’ll get years of daily use from it.

If you rent, chances are you don’t want to be paying for something you have to leave behind–and you probably can’t make any serious plumbing alterations. So, think cheap and portable!

And if you’re in a shared space where others don’t want to get involved or chip in, a decent pitcher is your best friend. It’s cheap enough that you won’t be afraid to leave it in the fridge, and it’s probably as much as one person needs.
Faucet-mounted filters are the cheapest by a long shot. They’re often available for less than a case of bottled water, and even the priciest shouldn’t cost you more than $50

They’re fairly disposable, though, so make sure you get a decent warranty when you buy. Extended policies are handy: it’s better to pay a few extra dollars up front than to pay the entire price all over again!

Whole-house filters can be deceptively cheap, but they will typically involve professional installation. Unless you have the skill and ability to shut off water to your whole house and install one of these with confidence, you’ll need to factor in bringing a professional plumber to do the job. With this in mind, whole-house filters will generally cost as much as a countertop or budget-range reverse osmosis system.

Remember to think about long-term costs

No matter which type of filter you buy, do your research to see how much replacement cartridges cost! Replacements are a big part of a filter’s overall cost.

We never recommend using cartridges from other brands than the filter manufacturer, unless they are an industry standard component and meet equivalent testing standards.

The best way to save money on replacement cartridges is to buy in bulk or to sign up for a subscription program from the manufacturer.

Look for certifications (carefully!)

There are a lot of filters on the market, but not all of them actually do what they claim. Manufacturers love to take advantage of people’s confusion about the science behind filtration, and they’ll make all sorts of claims to get you to buy their products.

That’s why it’s so important to be a smart shopper, and make sure that the filters and cartridges you buy have been certified by an independent organization. Independent testing verifies manufacturer claims, and gives you a firm reason to trust that a filter will do everything it’s advertised to do.

You should get familiar with two organizations right off the bat: the Water Quality Association (WQA) and the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). Both these groups are unaffiliated, neutral, public interest organizations which test filters and create industry standards.

certification companiesThey’re not affiliated with brands, and companies actually have to pay the organizations to test their products. If a company is willing to do so, and earns the certifications, you know the products are worth your money.

The NSF certification is the most common you’ll see. NSF standards 42 & 58 are the ones to keep an eye out for! You can find detailed listings on exactly what each standard indicates on the NSF site, but 42 & 58 cover all the essentials. They indicate excellent construction materials, safe operation, and performance which removes things like lead, chlorine, and so forth thoroughly.

WQA Gold certification is the highest possible rating for filters. Few models achieve it, but we’ve recommended a few here that have earned the distinction. If you can afford something that meets the Gold standards, we recommend going for that.

One additional note on certifications: manufacturers are very tricky with their marketing. You have to be sure to see exactly what the certification is for, once you’ve established that there’s a certification!

In a lot of cases, filters will have components that meet NSF standards, but they aren’t certified as an entire system. That’s a starting place, but whole-system certification is the best. After all, you can have a lot of good pieces, but that doesn’t mean they all work together well. So, double check to see exactly which standards have been met, and whether the whole setup meets them.

Know how filters work

You shouldn’t have to have a chemistry degree to be an informed shopper. We still think it’s a good idea to know a bit about the different types of filters, though! These are the types you’ll see as you shop:

  • sediment

Any filtration system will have a sediment component. These are usually the most porous parts of the filter, and they’re designed to catch larger pollutants in the water. Most importantly, they keep the big stuff from clogging up the carbon filters and everything else further down the line.

  • activated carbon

carbon filter absorption

Carbon filtration is probably the most common on the market. Carbon naturally absorbs pollutants, whether they be VOC’s or pesticides. Contaminants bond to the carbon, like fly paper.

You’ll find that both granulated and block filters are made. Granulated components are cheapest, and they’re usually made from crushed coconut shells. Block carbon filters offer more surface area and faster water movement. They’re more expensive, but a lot more convenient to actually use.

  • ion exchange

ion exchange

Ion exchange filters are fairly uncommon, but they’re becoming more popular. In an ion exchange component, water passes across a resin which swaps good ions for bad (according to what is considered healthy). Water softeners mostly rely on this technology, but it’s usually combined with carbon filtration when you try and eliminate toxins.

  • reverse osmosis

reverse osmosisReverse osmosis is the most sophisticated and effective approach to filtration possible. Reverse osmosis is a process by which water passes through a permeable membrane with microscopic pores. They’re much smaller than the pores on any carbon or sediment filter, so they catch all the finest pollutants which escape other filters.

The difference in performance between an RO membrane and other filtration techniques is vast. RO is the only one to remove fluoride, and it does by far the best job with other pollutants. It’s the only type of filter which removes 99.9% of all dissolved content, including minerals.

There are some downsides, though.

RO wastes a lot of water, and is wildly inefficient. You’ll use 3-20x more water than actually comes out the faucet, since most of the water ends up draining off as “brine” (with contaminants left in).

It’s painfully slow, too. You wouldn’t want to use an RO filter in real time. Instead, you use these with a holding tank, or fill vessels so that you can quickly pour a glass.

Because of the inefficiency of the system and the time involved, RO isn’t a practical solution for all the water in your home. It’s just for drinking water.

There’s also a debate about whether RO water is healthy in and of itself. On the one hand, it removes every last pollutant, and is the purest water you can get for drinking. On the other, it also removes all the mineral content, some of which can actually be beneficial.

It’s common to use a remineralization program with RO water, by adding minerals to a holding tank. However, most people with healthy diets will get all the minerals they need from food, so this isn’t a necessary step to take. Ask your physician or nutritionist if you need advice!

  • UV/ultraviolet

uv raysLast of all, UV filtration is popular these days, although we think it’s generally unnecessary. UV won’t do anything about chemical pollutants or minerals in your water, but it can kill bacteria like nothing else.

Most people don’t need UV filtration. Sure, it kills bacteria, but most chlorinated water doesn’t have more than negligible bacteria counts.This is more useful if you have a well. In any case, most bacteria will be caught in other filtration stages.

We only suggest looking into UV-equipped systems if you have rather high coliform bacteria counts, or something of that sort. Remember that you’ll need to use UV alongside a holistic filter, though, since it only deals with bacterial/viral contaminants.

What’s Next

Check out our other water filter buying guides!

Best whole-house water filter reviews

Here on our main buying guide, we’ve looked exclusively at point-of-use filtration. That is to say, filters for just one sink. You’ll also find that many whole house filters are available, and they’re worth considering if you own a home!

Whole-house filters do exactly what they say they will. They’ll clean up all the water coming into your house. Whether you’re showering or getting a glass to drink, your water will be cleaned up at the point of entry, before it even gets to your tap!

This is an excellent thing to do for your appliances, as well as for drinking and showering. Many contaminants are harmful breathed as steam, or consumed while brushing teeth, even if you don’t drink them in a glass.

There’s a big range of options out there, all the way from $50-$500. Since it’s a lot to navigate, we’ve devoted an entire guide to whole-house water filters!

Our favorite is the AquaPlus:

blue water filter for whole house

Click for Price

The AquaPlus is our top quality recommendation for whole-house filtration. Its cartridge includes carbon filtration and sediment elimination, and lasts for an entire year. We love the heavy-duty build on this thing, as well as the simplified replacement feature. It meets all the appropriate certifications, and you can easily set up several of these in sequence, should you want to combine a few filter cartridges!

Check out our full review of the AquaPlus, and see how it compares to our other whole-house water filter recommendations here!

Best water filter pitcher reviews

If you don’t want to do any modifications to your faucet or plumbing, water filter pitchers are a much more effective solution than people give them credit for! They’re both convenient and practical if you’re a single person or couple who wants filtered drinking water.

These are perfect if you don’t want to stick something on your faucet, and of all filters they’re the easiest to set up and use! You have to be extra careful shopping for them, though. Like many popular and inexpensive products, there are countless knock-off models out there which won’t do anything to improve your water quality.

In our dedicated buying guide, we’ll help you learn what to look for in a water filter pitcher, and introduce you to the best models currently on the market!

There are a lot of brands which market themselves as better than Brita, but for the average person, Brita’s classic design still works the best! That’s why the Everyday is our top choice for most shoppers:

water pitcher with filtration system

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The Brita Everyday is a bigger pitcher than most of the competition. That makes it a lot more convenient to use, since you’ll have to refill less often and wait for the filter to catch up less frequently. It’s also certified as highly as any pitcher on the market. While some other brands might have flashy marketing and exorbitant claims, the Brita remains the Toyota of the marketplace. It’s not particularly fancy or flashy, but it’s a reliable, trustworthy workhorse!

To see our other filter pitcher picks, and to find out more about the Brita, click through to our guide!

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