What to Look for When Buying a Water Filter Pitcher
Water filtration is common in American households for a number of reasons. Often, water is treated for taste or to reduce certain substances from the water that may have adverse effects on humans or even the home itself. For water with high mineral content that is otherwise safe to drink, whole-home filtration systems are often used to demineralize it and keep buildup from damaging pipes and appliances. If the concern is safety or taste of water for human consumption, less expensive filtration systems, like pitchers, can be used, says Rick Andrew, the director for NSF International’s Global Water program. Many work by filtering out trace amounts of chlorine that keep our drinking water free from bacteria and can even reduce more harmful substances, like lead.
If you’re shopping around for a filter, it’s understandable that you want the best one possible, but because of the varied reasons you may shop for a filter, Andrew notes that there is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach. If there is no lead in your drinking water, for example, there is no reason to pay more for a pitcher that is certified for lead reduction. If you’re worried about harmful substances in your drinking water, either because your house has old pipes or there are issues with your city’s water generally, it’s helpful to start with a water quality report, so you can identify which substances you want to reduce from your drinking water and move from there. For many substances, including lead, chlorine, copper, and mercury, a countertop pitcher with a filter will reduce much of it. For other contaminants, like bacteria, alternative filtration and water treatment systems may be needed.
To ensure that your water filter pitcher is removing the substances it claims to, we recommend checking against an independent certifier, like NSF International or the Water Quality Association (WQA). These organizations test claims about reduction for what the NSF defines as aesthetic impurities, like chlorine, that affect taste, as well as health effects. Aesthetic impurities are certified as NSF/ANSI 42 standards for filters and NSF/ANSI 53 standards for health effects.
To complicate matters slightly, these standards do not secure a guaranteed list of substances that are reduced. A filter that has been tested and certified under NSF/ANSI 53 standards, for example, may or may not reduce lead. If you’re concerned about a specific substance, it’s best to check directly with the NSF or WQA websites. Many companies may provide a long list of contaminants it claims to reduce by up to 99 percent, but will only be certified for a small amount.
Additionally, many water filter companies will say they’re tested to NSF standards, but by independent labs. Because of the lack of transparency in these independent testings, we only recommend filters that use the NSF or WQA certifications.
Most companies that sell water filter pitchers use a standard filter, often with an upgraded filter that targets contaminants like lead, that works in a variety of systems. Because it’s the filter, not the pitcher, that is certified, that means you can find pitchers and water dispensers that work the same at various sizes. The standard size is 10 cups, with smaller pitchers usually around 5 or 6 cups. Dispensers, which hold up to 30 cups and sit on a shelf on your fridge or counter, can hold as much as 30 cups.
Water filters are designed and certified to only work for a limited amount of time. Eventually, the filter stops reducing contaminants as effectively and the filtration time extends as water takes longer to pass through the filters, says Andrew. The standard for many filters is around 40 gallons, or requiring replacement every 2 months. Some pitchers come with indicator lights that help alert you when it’s time to replace the filter.
Many brands, like Brita and Pur, offer replacement filters that may be able to filter for more impurities or last longer. Like with the initial purchase, it’s important to make sure any replacement filters are also NSF certified. Many compatible replacement filters, which offer a lower price than the name brand, are not certified to the same standards.
Almost any water filtration system requires replacements, and water filter pitchers are no exception. The good news, however, is that many replacement options, even from name brands, are relatively affordable, often around $6. The price goes down if you buy in bulk, as well. Replacement filters that are targeted for lead reduction, however, tend to be more expensive. We recommend only buying the more expensive filters and replacement filters if you know you do need specific substances reduced from your drinking water.
BritaBrita is such a ubiquitous brand that it’s nearly synonymous with “water filter pitcher,” much like Band-Aid is for bandages. Easy to buy and typically affordable, Brita’s standard filters are best used for reducing aesthetic impurities, like chlorine.
Pur Brita’s biggest competitor, Pur has the distinction of being certified to reduce more substances that may be harmful to health if present in water. Like Brita, all of Pur’s filters are compatible with various pitchers and water dispensers.
ZeroWaterThe only NSF-certified countertop pitcher that reduces lead, ZeroWater’s heavy-duty filtration is slower and more expensive than the competition, but if lead is present in your drinking water, it’s an investment you’ll want to make.
Which water filter pitchers remove the most contaminants?
Many water filter pitchers tout a long list of contaminants they can reduce. However, if those substances aren’t present in your water, it’s not doing anything. Rather than looking for a pitcher that reduces the most contaminants, your best bet is to identify what it is in your water that you want reduced, and then find a pitcher that does that. Impurities will vary greatly depending on your municipality, pipes, or whether you are on well water.
How do you obtain a water quality report?
You can search your local area’s annual water quality report via the Environmental Protection Agency. If you have a private water source, like a well, or believe that your water may be contaminated by old pipes, you can also have your water tested by a county health department or state-certified lab. For more information on the best sources for testing your water, you can look to resources provided by the EPA.
How does a water filter pitcher work?
Water filter pitchers use gravity to pass water through a filter, reducing impurities that may affect taste as well as water safety. Because they’re designed for home use, they can’t reduce small contaminants, like bacteria, and reduce fewer overall contaminants than other systems, like reverse osmosis. Price-wise, many people favor water filter pitchers, especially for improving taste in water.
How often should you replace the filter?
Most water filter pitchers need to be replaced every 40 gallons, or around 2 months. When NSF tests its standards, it will test water at the beginning and end of the manufacturer’s stated lifecycle and a little beyond to ensure the filter still works if you don’t immediately replace it. However, to ensure the filter is effectively reducing the contaminants you want, it’s important to be consistent about replacing the filter as directed.
How do you clean a water filter pitcher?
Most water filter pitchers are dishwasher safe, and the pitcher itself can be washed as needed. The filter cannot be washed, though frequently replacing it as needed will help keep your pitcher clean.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Marshall Bright is a freelance writer covering food and cooking. A self-taught home chef, Marshall is passionate about making home cooking approachable and fun for more people. She has written numerous buying guides for The Spruce Eats, from water filters to bento boxes.
For more information, please see more information about Best fridge water filter pitcher