Why Filtering Your Tap Water is Important + Which Water Filters Really Work

Why Filtering Your Tap Water is Important + Which Filters Really Work

Why Filter Your Tap Water?

The Environmental Working Group tested tap water in 45 states a couple of years ago and found 202 chemical contaminants that are not subject to any government regulation or safety standards for drinking water.

  • Chemicals like herbicides, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and by-products from the chlorination process
  • Residue from waste particles, bacteria and micro-organisms that cause illness
  • Heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, and more (lead can enter tap water from pipes in older homes long after the water has flowed from a municipal water treatment plant, and is STILL one of the largest preventable sources of poisoning in children!)

What about bottled water? Despite the marketing hype, bottled water is not necessarily safer than tap water and it can cost up to 1,900 times more! In fact, industry reports show that up to 44% of bottled water is just tap water, sometimes left unfiltered and tainted with the same pollutants.

Not to mention the single-use plastic being tossed into our landfills, and the shear amount of energy used in production. IOP Science did a study evaluating whether the energy consumed to treat the water itself justified the energy expended to make the plastic bottles. Here’s what they found:

Combining all of the energy inputs totals, we estimate that producing bottled water requires…as much as 2000 times the energy cost of producing tap water. Given an annual consumption of 33 billion liters of bottled water in the US, we estimate that the annual consumption of bottled water in the US in 2007 required an energy input equivalent to between 32 and 54 million barrels of oil or a third of a percent of total US primary energy consumption. We estimate that roughly three times this amount was required to satisfy global bottled water demand.

The convenience of bottled water is overwhelmingly negated by the oftentimes poor water quality and energy expenditure in manufacturing. The best choice is to avoid bottled water, and purchase a high quality water filter that removes the largest number of contaminants and saves energy in the process.

Which Water Filters Remove the Most Contaminants?

Choosing the right water filter can be really difficult, especially with the convincing marketing strategies being used. We set the bar pretty high with filtering requirements that include heavy metals, sediment, chemical compounds, pharmaceuticals, and pollutants such as herbicides and pesticides, and after some in-depth research we’ve confirmed the following brands and styles to be the most effective on the market.

Berkey Water Filtration System with Fluoride Filter ($290.00) 

Purifies both treated water and untreated raw water (remote lakes, streams, stagnant ponds and water supplies in foreign countries). The Big Berkey system removes pathogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites entirely and extracts harmful chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, organic solvents, radon 222 and trihalomethanes. It also reduces nitrates, nitrites, unhealthy minerals such as lead and mercury and even food coloring from water without removing the beneficial minerals. Good for 3,000 gallons per filter element.

Zero Water Pitcher ($28.00-$40.00)

5-stage filtration process removes over 99% of heavy metals, and nearly 100% of radioactive elements uranium and cesium, and has an average reduction rate of 99% of chemical compounds, pharmaceuticals and inorganic contaminants including fluoride. Good for 30 gallons.

Instapure Waterpik F8 Faucet Mount Filter ($33.00)

Reduces chlorine taste and odor along with 53 other contaminants including 95% of heavy metals, agricultural and industrial pollutants, and 99% of cysts and turbidity. Good for 100 gallons.

Berkey KDF Shower Filter ($35.00)

The KDF 55 granules and process media remove up to 95% of chlorine, reduce hydrogen sulfide, microorganisms, scale and water-soluble heavy metals such as lead, mercury and iron, and also kill bacteria and inhibit the growth of algae and fungi. Good for 10,000 gallons or one year whichever comes first.

APEC Under-Counter Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System ($200) 

Premium, long-lasting 5-stage filtration process treats tap water, well water, hard and soft water at variable pressures and pH extremes. All reverse osmosis systems have the same fundamental functions: Incoming tap water is pushed through the filtering membrane(s) which removes sediment, bacteria, pyrogens (micro-organisms that cause fever and sickness), viruses, hydrocarbons (benzene, petroleum), radioactive contaminants, chlorine, detergents, industrial wastes, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides, asbestos, dissolved solids, sodium, lime, sulfates, VOC’s, fluoride, and heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium). Made in the USA.

iSpring Tankless Whole House Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System ($600.00)*

Electric booster pump drives extra 200GPD RO membranes and saves more than 40% of water with 2:1 waste ratio vs 3:1 or greater in other RO filters. A high quality, whole-house system like this one not only offers all the benefits of a reverse osmosis system for your drinking water, but also removes contaminants from steamy vapors you and your family inhale while showering and washing dishes.

*See the under-counter RO system above for a complete list of contaminants that reverse osmosis systems remove/reduce.

What About PUR and Brita Water Filter Pitchers?

We also did extensive research on PUR and Brita filters, but found them to be weak performers in water purification and product quality compared to those listed above. The two companies are fairly equal in every product category except the pitcher systems where PUR outperforms Brita by a whopping 15 contaminants.

And last, but not least: don’t forget to choose a stainless steel, glass or BPA-free reusable plastic water bottle to carry your filtered tap water on the go.

P.S. Wondering about NSF Certified water filters? The EWG says if a filter is labeled “NSF certified,” it may be certified their product evaluation company to improve water’s taste and odor but not necessarily guaranteed to remove any specific contaminants. So be sure to read the fine print.

This article was updated on 5/26/2015

, , , ,

  • Audry Strain Pettit

    Any thoughts on the ZeroWater brand?

    • We looked into ZeroWater, but found that the products fall very short in all departments except for heavy metals. They don’t filter any sediment, industrial pollutants, pesticides or microbiological contaminants like bacteria and viruses, and we were able to find much better alternatives in the products we listed. We’ll be adding more water filters over time, so be sure to check back!

  • Miltoncm

    Did you look at the Brita filters?  Are they the same as the Pur systems?

    • As mentioned in the article, our research exposed some big brands like Brita and Culligan as very lacking in their scope of filtration. In fact, they filter only a tiny fraction of what we look for in a filter product. The ones we listed are excellent filters that cover a wide range of water contaminants, and we highly recommend them!

  • Erin

    What about filters that remove fluoride? 

  • Joy

    Thanks ladies for the valuable information you’ve provided here.  I’ll be switching my Brita out for a Pur and picking up a Crystal shower filter.  Thanks for the recommendation.

    Did you research the Kinetico home water system and if so how did it compare to the Crystal?  I have a Kinetico twin tank system spec’d for my home when finances become available, but will consider the Crystal if you think it is significantly better.  Thanks for your thoughts on this. 

    • Hi Joy! We checked on the Kinetico home filter system you mentioned and found that it doesn’t remove more than a couple of contaminants in the water, which doesn’t make it the best choice overall. The company does carry a whole house reverse osmosis system that seems to be a good quality choice.

  • Monique

    Any thoughts about Berkey? 

    • Hi Monique, Berkey filters are pretty impressive as well. They don’t provide any information on pharmaceutical contamination filtration, but they do offer an additional fluoride filter that fits their systems. Overall a very good choice!

      • Burkey

        They will also send you out the full test reports from the lab if you contact them (customerservice@newmillconcepts.com)

        I was wondering about the lack of NSF certification and their response made sense (although they haven’t tested for sucralose/Splenda yet which is becoming more important):

        Thank you for your email. NSF certifications are not required but rather optional. In our opinion, NSF certifications are expensive and somewhat limited in their application with respect to our gravity filtration elements. The only NSF certification available for filter elements is a certification that verifies material safety and if applicable, structural integrity only. This certification does not test for removal of the various contaminates. These test, by in large are automatically performed when certified labs test for more specific contaminate removal. NSF standards require that the filters be tested using water pressure that would be found in a typical home (~60psi). As you know our purification system does not use water pressure, rather it relies on gravity. Therefore we retained several qualified labs to test our purifiers modifying the NSF protocol for gravity filters. When tested, our purifier not only met the NSF standards but also significantly exceeded those standards. For your convenience, I have attached those tests.

  • Aza

    how about aquasana filters? they are amazing, the best i have ever used.

    • Hi Aza, Aquasana filters look great! I’m glad you pointed them out. We’ll be adding more products to our list soon, and we’ll be sure to include them.

      • Aza

        Thanks, TSL sisters, that reassures me. I was very happy when I discovered them, they seemed the broadest in filtration spectrum that I had seen. And the service of automated cartridge replacement is great – I have a shower one and one for the sink; I have just switched for under the sink for more convenience, It is a great investment and I agree with you that the quality of our water is crucial –  we have great municipal water to start with, but still needs improvement. I am happy to give this water daily to my baby and my toddler, and also have them washed in ‘clean’ water. 
        I also bought a glass bottle from them and cand carry my filytered water with me. And I was able to help to the decision making at work too, for a water filtering system, vs those gross huge plastic containers…..
        Anyway, thank you for your amazing work at TSL and keeping our families safe(r).

  • Joy

    yes, it is the reverse osmosis system we are looking at.  Thanks for the input!

    • Aza

      the only hic is that they also remove heathy salts from the water; it becomes dead

  • SR

    I have the radiant life 14-stage biocompatible water purification system. Any thoughts on that? I believed I was buying the best of the best. I hope I did!

  • Flour Sack Mama

    Will any of these remove flouride from drinking water?

    • Burkey

      You can remove fluoride using a Berkey Water Filtration system and adding PF-2 filters for the bottom chamber.

  • Pingback: Now You Can’t Drink…Water | Talesfromthelou's Blog()

  • Burkey

    I picked up a Royal Berkey from Amazon a couple years ago adding 2 PF-2 fluoride filters and have been really happy. This was after I realized just how poor a job filters like Pur and Brita do. I have an Aquasana filter on the shower to get rid of chlorine. Amazing what you learn about your water when you take the time to do research. Anyway, here looking for toothbrushes! =D

  • Pingback: Water water everywhere but what is safe to drink? | Laurel Standley's Blog()

  • lisa

    I never hear anything about the water filters in refrigerators. I am concerned about the water coming in contact with BPA or phthalates in the water line, ice cube dispenser, water holder, etc. Anyone know if these two chemicals are found in these places?

    • That’s an excellent point Lisa! We’ll add it to our list of research projects (it’s important!). ~Alicia

      • Lisa

        Thanks. I did some research but didn’t come up with much.

    • Jesse Leigh Brackstone

      All refrigerators (and all other gadgets, appliances, etc.) leech phthalates into any and all fluids – from blood to drinking water. If a gadget contains plastic tubing (this includes IV feeds and dialysis machines), it’s going to leech phthalates into whatever runs through the tubes.

      Hope this helps.

  • Rachel

    I am curious about the Pur water filter that is designed for Whirlpool refrigerators. Also, we are looking into Ecowater systems for under the sink reverse osmosis and whole home softening/filtration. Any thoughts on either would be great!

  • Rich

    What are the oily spots on the surface of my filtered drinking water?
    We are using aquasana 5300 under counter unit. Thank you

    • Wish we could help, Rich, but we’re not experts on the functionality of each water filter we’ve recommended here. You’ll probably want to contact the manufacturer and ask them about that. ~Alicia

  • Sarah

    What about removing fluoride from tap water?

    • Hi Sarah – removing fluoride is definitely important in our opinion, but water filters that remove it are harder to come by. We’re planning to update our guide sometime in the near future to add water filters that do remove fluoride though. ~Alicia

    • Belinda King

      Berkey does have filters that remove flouride…you use them in addition to the filters that remove the other contaniments from the water. I have used both filters together for over 3 years..replacing the flouride ones as suggested by Berkey.

  • thisoldspouse

    I’m highly skeptical about any filtration system’s ability to actually remove chlorine. Most say that they “reduce chlorine taste,” which is just obfuscation. Chlorine dissolved in water is embedded on a molecular level; mere filters aren’t going to remove this compound.

    Anyone have any ideas on this, short of installing a distiller in the home?

    • Cogito Ergo Sum

      In order to remove chlorine just add powdered Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
      to the filtered water. About 1 gram is good for about 3 gallons of water
      and it neutralizes the chlorine very quickly and its good for your health
      also!!!

  • Linwood Lebell

    I went to the EWG’s original article and discovered this: “In fact, industry reports show that up to 44 percent of bottled water is
    just tap water — filtered in some cases, but not necessarily in all
    cases.” Your article says something quite different, that that same 44 percent is still tainted with the tap water chemicals. Where did you get your information that substantially changes the EWG’s statement? Would you mind posting the reference, please?

    Also, would you mind giving us the figures that demonstrate that Brita filters take out only a tiny fraction of the contaminants in tap water? I am not quite clear what “tiny fraction” means. In other words, please give the total number of contaminants, along with the amounts, and then Brita’s list of what they take out, along with amounts, in such a way that we can see the comparison.

    Thank you so much.

    • Thanks for pointing that out, Linwood. It seems to have been a mistake in our wording, and I apologize for the confusion. We just revamped the article and added lots of new information and products that we’ve found and love. Enjoy! ~Laura

  • Megan Poore

    I have a ZeroWater filter and love the way my water tastes. I worry that I might be missing out on some of the *good* minerals that used to be in my water, though. Do you have any recommendations for re-mineralizing your water?

    • Great question, Megan! Most manufacturers claim their products don’t remove essential minerals, but we know for sure that reverse osmosis systems are so thorough that they definitely do remove too many beneficial minerals.

      Minerals can be easily replaced anytime you think they’re lacking by adding up to 1/4 teaspoon of Himalayan pink sea salt per gallon of water. Easy peasy! ~Laura

      • Megan Poore

        Thanks, Laura! I had no idea that the filters left some of the minerals in there. Good info.
        xo,
        Megan

    • Mary Anders

      I use and love the Nikken Waterfall System. It sits on my countertop and is a gravity fed filtration system-no need for electricity. It has a multiple stage advance filtration and adds the minerals that help adjust the pH to create alkaline, structured water. It meets or exceeds ANS/NSF 42 taste and odor, 53 harmful chemicals, 372 heavy metals. I am a R.N. and this is the only system that I will use and recommend.

  • Katy Jones

    I love the whole-home water filtration system I just bought. Dishes come out cleaner, my hair and skin feels better out of the shower, and the water tastes better. I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know!

    • Anabanan

      Which home water filtration & model do you have? TIA

  • Anu

    Hi,
    Do you have any small inline water filter system you would recommend?
    Thanks

  • Cogito Ergo Sum

    In order to remove chlorine just add powdered Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to the filtered water. About 1 gram is good for about 3 gallons of water and it neutralizes the chlorine very quickly and its good for health also!

  • Audra Scott

    I’ve been looking into the Pure Effect Filters, has anyone used these or know anything about the whole home option? Thanks!

    • I have one of these and purchased it because I heard about it from Debra Lynn Dadd. I like mine, it’s an under counter model with 3 filters.

      • Audra Scott

        Thanks Erin!

  • Karine Cousineau-Ouimet

    Have you done some research on Binchotan (the charcoal), which presumably absorbs chlorine, mercury and others from the water by just letting it sit in the water for a few hours. I haven’t been able to find serious studies about it. Thanks for your work!!!

    • Hi Karine, We haven’t researched Binchotan in depth and a quick search around the internet yielded no scientific studies, however, it appears that type of white charcoal is processed to be especially hard and long-lasting with a much more porous quality to it which is the reason it’s supposed to be the ultimate water filter. It’s definitely something worth looking into! ~Laura

  • Susann Ratliff Konkus

    All this talk about water filtration systems has me thinking about all those old filters sitting in landfills. I have used a Brita pitcher in the past and stopped because I don’t know what to do with those giant plastic carbon filters after they are used up. Any suggestions?

  • Jeremiah Leeper

    Please explain, and if possible a link or citation to show proof, Pür and Brita’s underperformance. As of today, Pür says, all over their site, that their faucet filters remove 99.9% lead among other metals. Three sources that I’ve found, including yours, speak of the opposite, that they DO NOT perform that well. Also I’ve seen that lead is easier filtered in cold water but hardly at all in hot water.
    Anyone?

    Anyone?

  • Great question, rp17! ZeroWater has definitely improved their performance, hence the recent inclusion in our article. As for our top pitcher recommendation, ZeroWater would be the one we’d choose. ~Laura

  • Anabanan

    Is there any water filters thats mounted that removes VOC? Wanted an undercounter filter but don’t want to change my faucet. Any suggestions ?

  • SoulSeekerUSA

    I disagree with this article, PUR is by far the best out of all of them.

    • Rollonubears

      it doesn’t remove lead, so i have to disagree with you. the packaging used to say it removes lead, but now it doesn’t. check for yourself. the faucet one does, but not the pitcher. i think there could be a big lawsuit coming. i’m pretty mad about it, actually. been using it for years under the impression that it removed lead.

  • John Landau

    I ordered a Berkey. Sent it back. The rubber petroleum base was gassing out chemicals in the house – made me very ill. The water tasted like plastic. I got very sick from this system. I don’t understand why people think this is the best when it clearly is toxic. The spicket is made from plastic (ew!) and the water tasted like plastic. We bought all the filters, to no avail. They need to go back to the drawing board and make a safe product. MCS individuals, avoid.

  • Julian Topolski

    We have a problem with our water supply. It comes from wells and a reservoir and was found to exceed EPA levels for PFCs. We have a Pur faucet filter, will this remove PFCs?

  • Regina Ryerson

    Thanks for your research, and this post! I sent the link to one of my cleaning customers. Based on what he read here, he bought a Zero Water pitcher.

    Zero Water specs may have changed since this post. From the co’s site:

    Chloramine: “Our filters can reduce chloramine”. “Reduce” could be anything from 1% to 99%.

    Pharmaceuticals: “… Designed to treat organic substances such as the active ingredients in many pharmaceuticals”. “Many” is a vague number. And for all we know, inactive ingredients may make up the bulk of pharm products.

    My customer’s trying to heal from a major gut condition. So I’m concerned about the effects of these chemicals.

    • ChuckNoland

      Good luck with the Zero Water. Even though the the dissolved solids in my local water register on the low end of the spectrum I only got about 5 weeks out of this product before the most disgusting rotten meat (or fish as some have said) smell permeated my kitchen and had me looking for a dead rodent in the cabinets before i finally realized the vile putrid smell was coming from my ZeroWater.

  • Daddio53

    I live in Security, Colorado where our water is currently poisoned with PFCs at rates as high as 30 times over the “safe” levels. The local water board says it isn’t necessarily unsafe, but might be on certain days. I don’t know exactly what they are saying there, but I am certainly not going to drink unsafe water or give it to my pet. This is something that’s been going on since the 1970s, and every ow and then something will bring it to the forefront. Right now the Air Force is absorbing the blame for the PFCs which are a possible overflow of chemicals they’ve been using to train firefighters for over 40 years. They’ve allocated $400 million to “fix” this problem all over the USA where they’ve used the chemicals. The local food program supplied 2 caes of bottled water per week, but the noise has died down and they decided to no longer provide the water. The Air Force said they were going to provide $100,000 of free water to those of us in the worst zone of contamination, but never said how that would be distributed. Trying to buy bottled water or a filter around here is difficult right now as the demand exceeds the ability to provide. The installation of the necessary plumbing and filtration to provide “clean” water to the zone in which I live won’t take place until fall of 2017, 18 months after the emergency notification to quit drinking the water. In the meantime, we either drink the water and guess which days it is dangerously contaminated, our we come out of pocket to purchase our own purification systems at an average cost of $400. Most of us in this zone are retired and living on Social Security so we need a good cheap way to filter our water. The water board tried to tell us that a Pur Filter Pitcher will filter out the PFCs, and here your article says the filter pitchers don’t do a lot of filtering. So, what do you think would be our best bet when it comes to cheap filtration that will actually clean the water we drink?

  • Sway

    I’d like to know about emergency water filtration. Let me know if you review those. I want one that removes bacteria, viruses, protozoa, etc, but also, heavy metals, radiation too. And anything else that ought to be removed, ie. pharmaceuticals.

  • Hi Laura! I really learned a lot in this article of yours. Your list of water filters is really good. Thanks a lot for writing this helpful article. Surely this can help a lot of people looking for a good water filters for their home.

  • I have sent customers to this page! Thank you for this article.

  • If you are interested in investing in a shower filter I recommend checking out the companies Omica or Sprite – I use the latter but if I was to start over again I would go with the Omica. The Omica seems more thorough.

Designed by Alicia Voorhies

627 Shares
Share
Pin
Tweet
Yum
Stumble