When setting up a healthy kitchen for you and your family, a key product to consider is a water filter. But water filtration needs are complicated—they’re personal; based upon the quality of your tap water supply, its taste and odor, and any additional health circumstances in your household. So while some families are filtering for taste or convenience, others do it out of necessity—i.e. for safety.
“When choosing a home water filter, you should know where your water comes from. This will help determine what type of filter is best for you and your family,” says Jonathan Yoder, Epidemiologist and Water Emergency Preparedness Coordinator at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the EPA, if your tap water is coming from a private well, you should have it tested by a state-certified lab once a year, and again if someone in your home becomes pregnant, or if you notice any change in the taste or color of your drinking water. Be sure to hire a professional that’s certified. He or she should test for nitrates, total dissolved solids, pH levels, total coliform bacteria, and other contaminants common in your area.
If a public water system provides your drinking water, you should receive a report (called a Consumer Confidence Report, or CCR) about its quality and whether it meets regulatory standards annually, as this is required by the EPA.
Understanding what, if any, contaminants exist in your drinking water will help you choose which type of filtration system is right for you. “Different water filters have different functions. Some can make your water taste better, while others can filter out harmful chemicals or germs,” says Yoder.
Many of the popular refrigerator pitchers and filters on the market solely work to improve the water’s taste or odor, as disinfectants like chlorine—that keep your water safe from germs— can add an unpleasant flavor. These pitchers (like the activated carbon style) are ideal for those in regions where accessing healthy drinking water is as easy as turning on your faucet from an EPA-regulated public water system. (Most don’t fully protect against other contaminants.)
If this isn’t the case for your family, you’ll need a filter that removes other potentially harmful compounds like lead, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrates, arsenic, giardia, or Cryptosporidium. To find a filter that will remove the contaminants you’re concerned about, this database provided by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) is a great resource. It will tell you which models have been tested and certified by the regulatory agency for removing each specific contaminant.
No matter the reason, keeping a pitcher around that’s chilled and freshly filled is a surefire way to make sure you and your loved ones stay hydrated. We also hope your family will discover less of a need for disposable (read: wasteful) plastic water bottles. Whether you’re filtering for safety or just want to improve the taste of your tap water, there’s a pitcher here that’ll do the trick.
PRETTY PITCHER: SOMA PITCHER
Soma’s 6-Cup Water Pitcher is so stylish and sophisticated that you’ll find yourself contemplating making it a permanent centerpiece on your kitchen table. It’s made of shatterproof plastic and has a sleek white oak wood handle that feels comfortable to grip. Soma’s filters are made from 60% plant-based renewable materials, including activated coconut shell carbon and sugar cane, so it’s an eco-friendly option. Filling the Soma is as simple as holding it under the faucet—the lid door automatically opens from the water pressure.
Filters for: Chlorine for taste and odor, mercury, copper, zinc
FASTEST FILTER: HYDROS PITCHER
There are a few things more agonizing than standing over your sink waiting for ages while water from the tap slowly drips its way through your pitcher’s filtration system. Short on time? Meet this 8-cup pitcher from Hydros. It’ll filter an entire 64-ounce carafe in a minute, which comes out to about one ounce per second. The Hydros pitcher is made from super lightweight plastic so it’s easy to pour from even when filled to capacity, and the silicone handle and base (available in blue, white, red, and grey) keep it secure in your hand and on the counter. Even better, the filter uses only 100% coconut shell carbon so it’s another eco-friendly pick.
Filters for: Chlorine for taste and odor, sediment
FAMILY-FRIENDLY: BRITA STREAM CASCADE
Because of its 12-cup capacity, the sizeable Brita Stream Cascade pitcher is a great model for big families. And despite its large interior, the BPA-free plastic body is efficiently designed to fit into most refrigerator doors—genius! Filter setup is a breeze: just run the new filter under the faucet for 15 seconds then slide it into the pitcher lid. It has Brita’s signature filter-as-you-pour technology so you won’t have to wait around before you can fill up your drinking glass. Available in burgundy and pale blue.
Filters for: Chlorine for taste and odor
FOR SMALL SPACES: EAU CARAFE
If you’re in search of a water filter that won’t hog your refrigerator space and can be taken on the go, the Eau Carafe is it. This ultra-elegant 1-liter bottle comes with a stick of Japanese binchotan active charcoal (it’s made from tree branches and is completely plastic free) that you drop into the base of the vessel. Over time, the binchotan naturally softens your water, adds minerals, and absorbs unwanted tastes and odors. The ergonomically-shaped carafe is made from hand-blown glass and topped with a natural cork sustainably sourced in Portugal.
Filters for: Chlorine for taste and odor
SMART SYSTEM: AQUASANA
Aquasana’s Clean Water Machine filters out chlorine, lead, asbestos, herbicides, pesticides, cysts and more, making it a great product for families concerned about the safety of their tap water. The Machine sits on your countertop and must be plugged in to work. It comes with two compartments: A 16-cup dispenser and an 8-cup pitcher that can be stored in the fridge after it’s filled. Aquasana’s high-tech system filters in seconds and can be connected to a companion app that tracks water consumption, notifies you when it’s time to replace your filter, and measures the environmental impact you’ve made by not using water bottles. How smart is that?
Filters for: Chlorine for taste and odor, lead, asbestos, cysts, giardia, cryptosporidium, herbicides, pesticides, VOCS
SAFETY FIRST: ZEROWATER
This sleek stainless steel model from ZeroWater is one of the few pitcher-style filters on the market that is certified by the NSF to reduce lead. Plus it features the brand’s unique five-stage dual-ion exchange filtration system: a fancy phrase for a process that removes virtually all dissolved solids in your water. The pitcher actually includes a TDS (total dissolved solids) meter that you can use to confirm that you’re drinking water that’s 000 PPM (parts per million) on the TDS level (for reference, TDS meter readings for tap water in the U.S. average between 190 to 200 PPM). When you see TDS levels start to rise, you’ll know it’s time to swap out the filter!
Filters for: Chlorine for taste and odor, lead, chromium, mercury
FOR FAUCETS: PUR CHROME WATER FILTRATION FAUCET MOUNT
Faucet filtration systems pose several advantages: They don’t need to be continuously refilled like pitchers do, plus they don’t require any valuable refrigerator storage space. This filtration system from PUR mounts to your faucet horizontally so it has an even more space-saving design. What’s better, the PUR filter uses activated carbon and ion exchange to certifiably remove 99% of lead and 71 other contaminants. It has an LED-lit monitor on its chrome exterior to indicate the filter’s status (yellow means time to replace) and is compatible with all standard faucets.
Filters for: Chlorine for taste and odor, lead, mercury, certain pesticides, industrial pollutants, pharmaceuticals, disinfection by-products
FILTER POWERHOUSE: BIG BERKEY WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM
The Big Berkey water filtration system is just the thing you’ll want to have on hand in unexpected emergencies, when traveling to remote areas, or for outdoor activities like camping where access to safe drinking water is unlikely. It does an expert job of purifying both treated water and untreated water from sources like stagnant ponds to water supplies in foreign countries with looser regulation. Just clear out some storage space before you buy: the Berkey system has a capacity of over 2.25 gallons; the stainless steel body stands nearly 20-inches in height and has a 8.5-inch diameter. After water has filtered through the system, you can use the handy spigot to serve yourself an *impeccably pure* glass.
Filters for: Chlorine for taste and odor, lead, mercury, nitrates, pathogenic bacteria, cysts, parasites, rust, sediment, herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, VOCs, organic solvents, radon 222, trihalomethanes
FLUORIDE FILTER: iSPRING REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM
If you’re concerned about fluoride, the style of water filter to look for is a reverse osmosis system. This one from iSpring gets mounted nicely under your sink and removes up to 99% of over 1,000 contaminants, including fluoride, lead, bacteria, and more—it’s certified Gold (the highest ranking) by the Water Quality Association. The iSpring utilizes a complex five stage filtration system that removes all hardness and sodium from up to 75 gallons (!) of water per day, so you know your family will always have plenty of safe drinking water on hand. Just keep in mind that reverse osmosis filters work to remove all minerals from your water, including beneficial ones like calcium and magnesium.
Filters for: Fluoride, Chlorine for taste and odor, lead, mercury, arsenic, hormones, asbestos, calcium, sodium, bacteria, giardia, viruses, and more.