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The 7 Best Water Filters and Purifiers to Remove Contaminants and Impurities

These filters remove bacteria, microbes, and other harmful elements such as chlorine, lead, arsenic, and heavy metals for cleaner and tastier drinking water.
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Among all the things needed to live a healthy life, water is at the top of the list. While many people have access to water through faucets in the United States, two million people actually lack access to untainted water. And according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the number of contaminants that can make water undrinkable is astronomical. That's where water filters come in.

Why are water filters important?

According to Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, certified dietician nutritionist of Maya Feller Nutrition, water filters not only make water taste better, but they also remove harmful contaminants, such as physical, chemical, biological, and radiological elements. "These purifiers and filtration systems remove heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and some pesticides," Feller tells Health. "If we're not drinking clean water, it's actually harmful to our health."

Ingesting water with bacteria, pesticides, E. coli, or heavy metals has been associated with gastrointestinal illnesses, cancer, and reproductive effects and not-so-good symptoms, including stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever, underscoring the importance of having a water filtration system in place.

How do water filters work?

There are three types of water filtration: physical, chemical, and reverse osmosis. With physical filtration, water is strained through a membrane layer, which captures particles and prevents them from entering the purified water. During chemical filtration, water is treated with an active substance, such as carbon, which acts as a magnet and pulls contaminants like lead out.. 

Unlike physical and chemical filtration, reverse osmosis uses pressure to push water through a semipermeable membrane layer. This membrane has pores small enough to trap contaminants but big enough to allow water to pass through.

How to choose the best water filter?

Choosing the right filter will depend largely on your budget and water purification needs. "Different units remove different contaminants or classes of contaminants from water," Mia Syn, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian based in Charleston, South Carolina, tells Health

If you're looking for a filter that does heavy-duty cleaning, Syn recommends reverse osmosis systems because they "force water through a semipermeable membrane under pressure, leaving contaminants behind." What's more, they "are effective in eliminating all disease-causing organisms and most chemical contaminants"—such as bacteria, parasites, heavy metal, and pesticides, she adds. Reverse osmosis systems are ideal for running water from the tap or fresh water sources from streams and rivers. 

On the other hand, filters that use granular-activated carbon––commonly found in water pitchers and filtration bottles––soak up impurities that give water a poor taste or odor, such as chlorine, making this filter type ideal for tap water.

The best water filters and purifiers

​​Overall, "a quality water purifier is a worthwhile investment that is low maintenance, will save you money in the long run, improve the taste of your water, and improve your health," Syn says. 

Ahead, you'll find the seven best water purifiers and filters that'll save you money and remove microbes with each pour.

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Credit: Amazon

Best Overall: Big Berkey Gravity-Fed Water Filter

This filter comes highly recommended by Feller because it does double-duty. It's both a purifier and filter, removing more than 200 contaminants from tap water and water from ponds and streams. The system utilizes a gravity-fed method so you don't have to deal with pumps. Measuring 19.25 by 8.5 inches, this filter holds 2.25 gallons of water, making it ideal for families of up to four people. And because it doesn't use electricity or plumbing, this system is 100% transportable. Plus, you'll save money thanks to the system's long-lasting design and you won't need a replacement until the filtration system hits the 6,000-gallon mark.

One shopper wrote: "I have the nastiest water in my apartment building. It was so foul that Brita filters really didn't put a dent in the taste. When I distilled my water, there were always rusty bits on the bottom and lime scale that just smelled horrific. I did not think that this filter could help but since I could get a refund if it didn't do the job, that's when I took the plunge. The water now tastes delicious! I find myself drinking so much water now. It's super easy to refill and to always make freshwater. I should've done this years ago."

To buy: Big Berkey Gravity-Fed Water Filter, $332; amazon.com

Credit: Amazon

Best Budget: Brita Standard Everyday Water Pitcher

Unlike some bulky water filtration systems, the Brita Water Pitcher has a fridge-friendly design, measuring at 10.7 by 5.4 inches and weighing 1.3 pounds. The brand's filter uses carbon particles that activate when water runs through it, reducing the presence of chlorine, copper, mercury, and cadmium. For best results, the brand recommends replacing the filter every two months. All in all, "Brita is an affordable pitcher and sink faucet home water treatment for those looking for an effective system on a budget," says Syn.

With more than 30,000 five-star ratings, it's no wonder why the filter has built a fan club on Amazon. "We got tired of spending tons of money on bottled water. We live in Florida where the tap water is not very good and heavy in minerals," wrote an Amazon customer. "This is a perfect solution and for whatever reason, I enjoy using this more than an integrated fridge filter especially because the water gets cooler stored inside the fridge vs. automatic filtration. Highly recommend if you're tired of spending $$$ on bottled/jug water."

To buy: Brita Standard Everyday Water Pitcher, $27 (was $35); amazon.com

Credit: Amazon

Best Water Osmosis: APEC Water System Reverse Osmosis Filter System

Syn says that the best water osmosis filters remove most chemical contaminants and this one from Apec Water System reigns supreme. Rated as the number one best-seller in the under-sink and countertop filtration category on Amazon, this five-stage filtration system removes more than 1,000 contaminants like chlorine, arsenic, lead, nitrates, heavy metals, and more. The filters are long-lasting so you don't have to worry about changing them frequently (read: swap them out after 365 days) and the leak-free tubing ensures that the water won't escape.

An Amazon reviewer wrote: "We installed this filter primarily to improve the taste of our well water. Our water quality is naturally good enough that we require nothing more than a sediment filter but there has always been a bit of a sour taste to the water. This reverse osmosis filter system was very easy to install and everyone in the house noticed the difference immediately. It fits snuggly inside our kitchen sink base cabinet while allowing room for detergents, cleaners and other items. To avoid drilling another hole in our solid surface countertop we chose to remove the hand soap pump dispenser and install the faucet which worked perfectly in this pre-drilled hole. Definitely recommend if you're simply looking to add filtered water at your kitchen sink."

To buy: APEC Water System Reverse Osmosis Filter System, $200 (was $260); amazon.com

Credit: Amazon

Best for Easy Installation: Waterdrop RO Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System

Using seven layers of filtration, the Waterdrop filtration system extracts fluoride, limescale, and heavy metals as small as ​​0.0001 microns. Not only does it remove particles from the water, it improves water taste thanks to the activated carbon filters, which soak up contaminants like a sponge. It's also tankless so you can store the filtration system below your sink to free up counter space. What's more, it's extremely fast, filtering a cup of water in roughly 12 seconds.

Amazon shoppers appreciated the easy installation and one reviewer said: "What makes the install easier than previous units is that all of the connections are done in one location. It makes it easier overall. Also, the individual filters are really simple to connect. Just put in the assigned slot and turn. This is a big improvement in my opinion. The unit also has an internal TDS reader which displays on the front of the unit. The best part of the unit is the small amount of area it takes up. It's by far the smallest RO system I've owned. I'm able to stick it under the sink and still have a lot of room for storage."

To buy: Waterdrop RO Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System, $494 with coupon (was $549); amazon.com

Credit: Amazon

Best Countertop: AquaTru Water Filtration Purification System

If you don't fancy plumping or installing, try this three-quart countertop system from AquaTru instead. This 14 by 14 inch, over-the-counter device takes minutes to set up and removes 83 contaminants, such as lead, chromium, copper, radium, chlorine, and more. It does this by using four filters: two pre-filters, a carbon filter, and an activated coconut shell carbon filter. Extremely cost-effective, the filters strain 1,200 gallons of water so you won't need a filter change between six months and two years.

"It's a sleek machine, barely makes a noise. I live in central Florida and city water here has a sulfur smell and taste. It also is hard water. We moved and our regular filter did not fit the new place's faucet. That old one (it was an Aquasana one) did a relatively good job improving the quality of the water, but the hardness was still there," explained a reviewer. "However, with this new filter, the water has a bottled water quality to it: no hardness, no sulfur smell or taste. I have had this filter for a couple of days now and am very happy with my purchase."

To buy: AquaTru Water Filtration Purification System, $426; amazon.com

Credit: Amazon

Best Bottle: Sport Berkey Water Filter Bottle

If you're looking for a portable version of the Berkey filter, look no further than this water bottle. Constructed with a gravity-fed filter, the bottle filters up to 640 refills of tap water and 160 refills of untreated water. Being 11 by 2 inches, this bottle is small enough to stuff in your bag but can hold up to 22 ounces of water, making it ideal for the outdoors or when you're on the go, says Syn. Another notable feature: the bottle is BPA-free and made from non-leaching materials so the product's chemicals won't mix in with the water.

"If I run out of water while I'm kayaking, I can just dip into the lake with my Berkey.....Presto!! Fresh, clean, water," said one customer. "Also, for you outdoor enthusiasts, did you know that most of the portable water filter systems do NOT filter out pharmaceuticals? Nope, not even the most popular, Sawyer Squeeze. So I feel really lucky to have found Berkey, and I've turned so many people on to them. If you're considering this purchase, you won't be sorry."

To buy: Sport Berkey Water Filter Bottle, $45; amazon.com

Credit: Amazon

Best Carbon Filter: Nakii Water Filter Pitcher

Using an activated carbon filter, this pitcher removes 98% of chlorine and mercury for better-tasting water and unpleasant colors as a result of rust. It's also high-performing and can filter up to 150 gallons of water at 1.3 liters per minute. Plus, the pitcher is BPA-free and has been approved by the Water Quality Association.

With nearly 3,500 five-star ratings, it's not a mystery why it's beloved by Amazon customers. "I had another brand for years and found out that it didn't even filter out rust (which is what I needed it for)." wrote one reviewer. "So I looked into it and found that this 1 has the best rating on Amazon and is in my price range. My family and I could not believe how good the water tastes now! GET IT! It works (make sure the filter is in all the way), it's easy to fill, and does not take long for the reservoir to empty."

To buy: Nakii Water Filter Pitcher, $24 (was $37); amazon.com

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