The Best Water Filters

The best water filter for you depends on what's in your water — and what you want gone. Weird taste? Bad smell? Scary contaminants? We talked with filter designers and water experts, determined the most important certifications, analyzed long-term costs, and poured a lot of water to find sturdy filters that live up to their claims.

The 3 Best Water Filters


The Best Pitcher Filter
Mavea Elemaris XL
Mavea
Well-designed and smooth use.
Pros
Great taste
Thoughtful design
No filter pre-soak
Cons
Not NSF-401-certified

Why we chose it

Great taste

In addition to removing all of the crud like cadmium, copper, mercury, atrazine, benzene, simazine, and tetrachloroethylene, the Mavea Elemaris produced some great-tasting water. It reduced the TDS level in our water from 172 to 148, the sweet spot. “I’ve found that if you do any baking, a TDS of 150 makes a far better product,” says Beeman. “It sweetens it. If you start making pancakes with 150 TDS water, you won’t go back. The flavor change is just that dramatic.”

Thoughtful design

The Mavea sidesteps those awkward flapping, hinged caps; instead, water from the faucet pours through a spring-loaded cap that works like a doggy door. And, most strikingly, it touts a feature all pitchers should have, but don’t: Everything stays in place when you pour. One lovely, controlled stream of water streaming smoothly to its destination. No muss, no fuss.

No filter pre-soak

Unlike most carbon-activated filters, Mavea’s filters don’t require any pre-soaking, so you don’t have to wait to get your water. This can save you 10 to 20 minutes when you’re trying to swap out an old filter for a new one.

Points to consider

Not NSF-401-certified

If we had one complaint about the the Mavea, it's that it’s not certified for NSF-401. While we didn’t require this of our top picks, it was a notable omission in an otherwise-great filter.


The Best Faucet Filter
PUR 3-Stage Horizontal Water Filtration Faucet Mount
PUR
Fresh water from the faucet with a simple click.
Pros
Easy to install
NSF-401-certified
Cons
Bulky
Cheap material

Why we chose it

Easy to install

The PUR has “one-click” installation technology — all you have to do is hold down a few buttons on the side of the unit, press it up to your faucet, and let go, and the faucet mounts nice and tight.

NSF-401-certified

Of the five faucet filters we tested, PUR was the only one that is NSF-401-certified. It’s capable of filtering microbiological and pharmaceutical contaminants like bacteria, herbicides, and ibuprofen. While the risk from these contaminants is low, the certification is still reassuring.

Points to consider

Bulky

The PUR is a downright giant. When we did dishes, the PUR was always in the way. Anyone without the luxury of a dishwasher might have to navigate around the faucet attachment whenever they’re rinsing the dishes.

Cheap material

When we first took it out of the box, the PUR looked pretty with its stainless steel finish, but it felt cheap because it was just metallic film over plastic. Many reviewers complained that after some use, the housing of the PUR filter cracked or leaked water. PUR has handled this feedback by offering a metal adapter attachment for free to customers who had any problems and offering a 30-day money-back satisfaction guarantee; however, it’s an inconvenience that’s hard to ignore.


The Best Budget Filter
Culligan FM-25 Faucet Mount Water Filter
Culligan
A cheap filter that looks and works well.
Pros
Price
Useful features
Cons
Weaker filter

Why we chose it

Price

Depending on the finish you choose, the Culligan comes out to half the cost of the PUR, with comparably priced replacement filters. That’s not to say it sacrifices quality; the Culligan is made of real metal, and it has a uniquely compact look. As such, it feels like an actual part of a sink, not like a shiny, plastic barnacle. Unlike the PUR, it doesn’t impede dish washing and it integrates well with any existing design.

Useful features

The filter trigger is a metal pin: Pull it out and wait for the water to flow through. It takes longer to trigger than the plastic switches on the PUR or Brita, but it also feels like it’ll outlast them. Turn off the faucet and the filter defaults back to unfiltered water — a handy feature that’s unique among its competitors.

Points to consider

Weaker filter

Our biggest complaint about the Culligan is the shorter list of NSF-53 contaminants it filters out. It only catches four: lead, atrazine, cysts, and/or turbidity. That’s part of the reason the filter lasts as long as it does — it just doesn’t have to work as hard. The filter is still certified-safe, and you’ll receive good-tasting water, but know that you’ll be getting a few more contaminants than with our other picks.

How to Find the Right Water Filter for You

Read your municipal water quality report

You won’t know what you need to filter out of your water until you know what’s in it. Your municipal water service is required to report on the most common contaminants in your water — just give them a call. The EPA also has a helpful online database with this information, or you can ask for a copy of your water utility’s annual report.

Look into a free lead test

If you’re worried about lead leaching from your pre-1986 pipes, see if your utility offers free lead tests. For drinkable water, look for a water filter that indicates the ability to filter out lead. Many with carbon filters can, including our faucet top picks.

“When in doubt,” Beeman says, “run your water through the filter two or three times. It’s all about contact time — the longer your water runs through the filter, the higher the chance the bad stuff will get filtered out.”

Compare ongoing costs

Even though a water filter may seem like a one-time investment, you will also have to purchase replacement filters every three to six months. Before choosing a water filter, look at filter lifespans and the cost of replacements. If you have a lot of people in your household, filters will need to be replaced more frequently — so it’s wiser to choose a pitcher or faucet with cheap replacement filters.

Water Filter FAQ

Do all water filters remove lead?

No. Not all activated carbon filters can remove lead. If lead is a concern in your household, check the manufacturer’s website or product description of any water filter you’re considering to ensure that it can meet your needs.

What happens if I don't replace my water filter?

Continued use of the same filter could lead to black specks appearing in your water. In the case of a Brita filter, these specks are activated charcoal, the main filtration component. Impurities stick to the charcoal but, over time, they break away and can end up in your water. Faucet filters can experience a similar decline in water quality if they are not changed.

Are water filters worth buying?

The need for a water filter depends on your living situation and your preference in the overall taste of your water. If your water quality is well within acceptable margins, you may not need to purchase a water filter. Check with your municipal water service to learn more about the overall quality of the water in your area.

The Best Water Filters: Summed Up

Mavea Elemaris XL
PUR 3-Stage Horizontal Water Filtration Faucet Mount
Culligan FM-25 Faucet Mount Filter
The best
Pitcher filter
Faucet filter
Budget filter
Price
$79.95
$39.99
Starting at $21.48
Filter type
Pitcher
Faucet
Faucet
Filter life (gallons)
40
100
200
Filter price
$9.99
$26.99 (pack of 3)
Starting at $12.59