What’s the best water filter for your home? That depends on your needs. There’s no one-type-fits-all solution for water filters. Do you want to eliminate chemicals and contaminants from your drinking water? Are you interested in having a faucet sink water filter? Do you want to improve the quality of your entire home’s water? Whichever type is right for your home, our guide will help you determine the best water filter solution.
Washing lettuce under a kitchen faucet.
There’s a variety of contaminants that may show up in water. Below are some examples.
Tastes and odors may not be harmful but can be unpleasant.
Rust particles and other sediment can settle in drinking water, clog sink aerators and affect appliances, such as ice makers and washing machines. The condition where water has enough sediment and particles to be cloudy is known as turbidity.
Bacteria and parasites can be health concerns, particularly for the young, the elderly and anyone with weak immune systems. While well water is more likely to be contaminated by bacteria and parasites, these organisms have been known to contaminate chlorinated municipal water.
Lead can be present in water. Houses built before 1986 may have pipes joined with lead solder. Some municipal water systems may be composed of components that contain lead. Lead in water is tasteless and odorless but should be avoided as much as possible. You can find filters that reduce it, but if you’re concerned about the possibility of lead in your water, have a professional test it.
There are other potential contaminants, including pharmaceuticals, heavy metals and viruses, that may be present. Before you choose your water filter, learn what’s in your water and determine what you want to remove. Most public water suppliers, such as cities or other municipalities, must publish an annual water quality report known as a Consumer Confidence Report. If you want specifics on the water coming from your tap and not just the general water supply, test your home’s water. You can purchase water test kits and do it yourself, just make sure you understand what they test for. If your water comes from a well, you’ll need to test the water to find out what contaminants it contains.
Pay attention to exactly which contaminants a water filter is designed to reduce or remove. Look for National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certification, which indicates the filter has been independently tested to verify, among other things, that it reduces the contaminants it claims to reduce. Different water filter systems are certified to different standards. Some are certified to simply reduce contaminants that affect taste and smell, while others are certified to reduce contaminants related to health.
Consider the amount of filtered water you need and what you want to filter (water for drinking, cooking, bathing, etc.). You can find containers that filter a few cups at a time for drinking, faucet sink water filters that filter kitchen tap water for drinking and cooking, and whole house water filtration systems that filter all the water coming into your home.
If you’re looking for a water filtration solution that doesn’t involve a lot of extra components, refrigerator filters:
Come built into many refrigerators
Provide ongoing filtration of water for drinking and making ice
Reduce sediment as well as chlorine taste and odor; some types also filter lead, mercury, cysts and more
Typically use carbon filtration
If you want a compact, self-contained solution, water filter pitchers:
Require no installation
Filter water for later use
Fit in your refrigerator or on a countertop
Filter smaller amounts of water
Depending on the model, can reduce chlorine taste and odor, sediment, lead, cysts and pharmaceuticals
Available with carbon and ion exchange filtration
For an easy-to-install, above-the-sink solution, consider faucet mount water filters (also known as faucet sink water filters).
They screw onto the end of a standard sink faucet for simple, toolless installation.
They provide ongoing filtration for drinking and cooking.
Some have a diverter valve to switch between filtered and unfiltered water.
Typically, faucet mount water filters reduce sediment, lead, and chlorine taste and odor.
Some models also reduce cysts and pharmaceuticals.
They’re available with carbon or carbon-and-ion-exchange filtration.
An A C Smith under sink water filter and a sink faucet on a white background.
For a seamless filtration system, under sink water filters:
Offer a solution that’s concealed under the sink
Provide ongoing filtration for drinking and cooking
Require a more complex installation, including changes to your plumbing
Sometimes use a dedicated faucet (typically included) that requires a mounting hole in your sink or countertop
Take up more space than faucet-end filters
Multi-stage models (image to the right) can include sediment pre-filters, carbon filters and reverse osmosis filtration
Reduce sediment, chlorine taste and odor, lead, cysts, bacteria, pharmaceuticals, and viruses, depending on the filter type
Shower Head Filters
For your bathroom, shower head filters:
Fit between the shower head and the shower stem/arm
Simple, tool-less installation
Reduce sediment and chlorine taste and odor
Use carbon or oxidation reduction filtration
For improving the quality of your home’s water supply, whole house water filters:
Filter your entire home’s water supply for drinking, cooking, showers, clothes washing, etc.
Some systems include a water softener
More complex installation process that requires a licensed professional
Depending on the filter types, reduce sediment, chlorine taste and odor, lead, cysts, bacteria, pharmaceuticals and viruses
Filter types range from sediment-filter-only to high-end well water systems (image to the right) with multistage sediment prefilters, carbon filters and UV filtration
A multi-stage under sink water filter.
Particulate filters reduce sediment, such as rust particles, dirt and sand. Multi-stage systems often use particulate filters as a first stage to keep the particles out of other filters.
Activated carbon filters chemically bond with certain contaminants to reduce them. These are common filter types for addressing tastes and odors that chlorine causes. Some activated carbon filters also reduce other contaminants, such as lead and mercury.
Reverse osmosis filtration forces water through a membrane, collecting contaminants larger than the water molecules. While reverse osmosis doesn’t remove chlorine, it does reduce other contaminants that carbon filters can’t. Reverse osmosis systems generate several gallons of waste water for every gallon they filter. They can also remove beneficial minerals in addition to contaminants, so some systems are designed to restore these minerals to the water. Reverse osmosis can reduce contaminants, such as lead, bacteria, parasites and viruses.
Ion-exchange filtration replaces contaminant ions with additives that are more acceptable. Water softeners use this process to treat hard water, exchanging magnesium and calcium for sodium. Ion-exchange filtration also reduces containments, such as cadmium, copper and zinc.
Oxidation reduction (redox) filtration converts contaminant molecules, such as those of chlorine, into different molecules that lack the negative effects. This filtration method can reduce chlorine, lead and bacteria, among other contaminants.
Ultraviolet (UV) filtration uses UV light to remove some bacteria, viruses and cysts. UV filtration doesn’t remove chemicals.