Water filter pitchers make access to purer, better-tasting water simple and convenient. By adding a pitcher to your repertoire of kitchen tools and appliances, you’re giving you and your family or housemates a small but satisfying bump in your everyday experience, often for a pretty reasonable price.
Choosing the right water filter pitcher is about finding a product that fits with how your home runs on a daily basis. This means having an idea of how much drinking water you go through, how often you’ll be likely to reach for a water pitcher, and whereabouts in your home a filter would be most useful—the refrigerator, the dining table, the bedroom, your desk, etc.
No matter how exactly you intend to use your pitcher filter, there’s a product designed with your needs in mind. To help, we’ve compiled this list of the best water filter pitchers out there right now. From the ubiquitous Brita filter to other lesser-known but worthy products, these devices will faithfully filter your tap water for as long as you need them to.
Remember: Water filter pitchers are designed to improve the quality and taste of pre-treated, certified drinking water. So, while they may be able to remove an impressive list of bad-tasting and potentially harmful contaminants (see below), pitcher filters are not capable of turning pond water into Evian—and should not be used as such!
Because of the way that adsorption works, the carbon inside pitcher filters has a certain lifespan. Once the surface of the carbon is saturated with contaminants, the filter will no longer be effective, and it’s time to replace the cartridge. Each water filter pitcher comes with its own recommendations for replacement schedules, but in general, most cartridges should filter around 40-100 gallons of water per cartridge.
Activated carbon is a highly porous charcoal, which is usually created from wood, nutshells, or coconut husks! After producing charcoal through specific types of burning or chemical treatment, the material is ground into a fine powder, creating millions of pores between the carbon atoms.
This process gives activated carbon an absolutely huge surface area. A single gram of material can boast a surface area in excess of 3,000 meters squared or about three-quarters of an acre. The term ‘activated’ refers to the extent to which this surface area is able to make contact with contaminants in water, and bind them to the surface of the carbon. The more surface area; the more contact sites; the more opportunities for filtering.
Contaminants bind to activated carbon through adsorption, and will generally adsorb anything with a carbon composition. That means chlorine, and what are often referred to as Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs). VOCs come from human activity—industrial and household products such as paint, gasoline, and solvents.
Common VOCs should already be dealt with under the EPAs Chemical Contaminant Rules. But due to their abundance, traces often make their way into the tap supply through groundwater, and from there into lakes and reservoirs. Some VOCs are also created during the water treatment process itself, when chemicals react with organic matter like dead leaves.
If you need a full rundown on how activated carbon works in water filters, we’ve put together an article on Everything you need to know about carbon filtering [INTERNAL]. For most of us, however, it’s enough to know that carbon is a highly reliable, tried-and-tested way of improving drinking water.
Since 1944, the National Sanitation Foundation has been testing and certifying products from several sectors, including medical technology, air quality, and water treatment. It now claims the title of the world’s largest water filter testing lab.
The NSF has parity with other large testing bodies, including the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the American National Standards Institue (ANSI). This means that you only need to worry about finding an NSF badge when trying to determine filter quality.
There are two main NSF certifications to look for when shopping for water treatment products: Standard 42 and Standard 53.
- Standard 42 covers the safety of filter materials, product structural integrity, and claims related to aesthetic, non-health-related contaminant reduction performance (i.e. water taste and smell).
- Standard 53 says that a filter is capable of reducing removing lead, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), or health-related bacterial contaminants such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia. Note: a standard 53 filter may only remove one of these categories of contaminants.
Here’s our explainer on Water Filter Certifications [INTERNAL], for the full details on what each marker of confidence means.