The human body is made up of 55-65% water. Don’t you want that water to be as clean and healthy as possible? Whether you’re on well water, municipal water, or other water source, a whole home water filtration system is an excellent idea to filter out impurities such as microbes, lead, or radioactive radon. Barring that, a countertop water filter is a great way to ensure clean drinking water from at least one faucet.
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And don’t forget your shower! Warm, aerosolized water makes it more likely you’ll breathe in or absorb chlorination byproducts, microbes, and more.
With 1 in 4 Native Americans without access to safe water, and 1 in 12 Americans as a whole exposed to unclean, unsafe drinking water, filtering your water at home is one of the smartest things you can do to support good health.
Things to look for when buying a water filter
You’ll probably notice that some shower filters mention vitamin C, which might seem a little odd at first. There’s good reason for this, however. Vitamin C (as sodium ascorbate or ascorbic acid) rapidly neutralizes chlorine. As such, vitamin C has become quite popular with sanitation engineers who need to quickly and safely dechlorinate waste water before sending it back out into the natural environment.
Even a little bit of chlorine residue in treated wastewater can have devastating effects on local wildlife. Happily, vitamin C is not toxic to wildlife and does not lower the dissolved oxygen in water as much as sulfur-based chemicals. Ascorbic acid is mildly acidic and reacts with chlorine to form hydrochloric acid. Don’t worry, though, this has a negligible effect on the pH of the water exiting your shower head. And, if a system uses sodium ascorbate, this is neutral and does not affect the water pH.
One other thing to watch out for with water filters, especially faucet and pitcher water filters, is the presence of antimicrobial substances and chemicals. For example, we would have included the DuPont WFFM100XCH Premier Faucet Mount Drinking Water Filter in our directory if it wasn’t for the presence of Microban in the product. Microban is the trade name for triclosan, a chemical increasingly linked to the development of antibiotic resistance as well as detrimental effects on human health, soil health, aquatic plants, and the environment in general (R, R).
Below are our top picks for any and all of the water filters you may need or want in your home. If the pick made this list, they’re a good choice, but you’ll want to consider your own family’s needs as far as the size and scale of the water filter you go for. If you want to know how we came to our conclusions, check out our methodology here.
The best home water filters: our top picks
Highlights: Removes 99% of most contaminants at a rate of .5 gallons per minute. Tests show very promising results for its filtration capabilities when it comes to eliminating exactly what you want gone from your water.
My top recommended reverse osmosis water filter is easily the Aquasana OptimH2O, with 5/5 leaves. This USA-made filtration system combines activated carbon filters and RO membranes to create a spectacular piece of gear. It is not only certified to NSF 53, it is also tested and certified to meet standards 42, 58, and 401 (the Emerging Compounds standard) as well as P473. Currently, no other RO system appears to carry such a wealth of certifications and the Aquasana also provides remineralization, ensuring that water retains healthy mineral such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. This RO system also improves water pH balance for optimally alkaline drinking water.
The unit offers instant access to healthy water by providing 0.5 gallons per minute. Tests show that the Aquasana eliminates pretty much everything you want to get rid of in your water supply, removing 99% of most contaminants, including pharmaceuticals and more. It’s even certified to reduce perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to below the health advisory levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Because this is an RO system, it requires some DIY skills for installation, typically under the kitchen sink. Once installed, this system is low maintenance. The carbon and Claryum filter housings easily twist off for fast and simple cartridge replacements. The RO membrane is certified to last a year, as is the Remineralizer. The filters should be changed every 6 months, and the whole unit comes with a 2-year warranty and a 90-day guarantee.
Reverse osmosis systems offer the safest, most effective form of water filtration and treatment available in the home. All RO systems produce waste water, but the Aquasana performs a little better than some as it only produces 3 gallons of waste water per every 1 gallon of drinking water.
Other reverse osmosis options to consider
Runners-up for a whole home system include the iSpring RCC7 75GPD (View on Amazon), which is a high capacity system that is easy to install and easy to maintain. This one may also be compatible with the Watts Premier ZeroWaste® Reverse Osmosis Retrofit Kit (View on Amazon), which enables you to divert waste water into the hot water supply (away from drinking water) and reduce water waste. The Aquasana isn’t compatible, sadly. If you do install the ZeroWaste® kit, you will also want to install a shower filter (given that your ‘waste’ water is being diverted to hot water).
Highlights: Very easy to install, with color-coded plug and play connections and a UV intensity monitor that makes it easy to monitor performance, albeit at a cost a fair bit higher than other types of home water filtration systems.
My top recommended Class A certified UV water filter system comes pre-assembled and has a flow rate of 10 gallons per minute. Made in Canada, the Viqua Pro10 UltraViolet (UV) Disinfection System is one of the most stylish of these types of water purification systems and one of the few fully NSF certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 55 Class A (for Flow Rates of 10 GPM). It is very easy to install, with color-coded plug and play connections and a UV intensity monitor that makes it easy to monitor performance. The UV lamp has twice the output of current high-output lamps but the CoolTouch fan significantly reduces water temperature, so you don’t waste water running the tap until water runs cool.
Viqua also offer a 20GPM option, the Viqua Pro20 (View on Amazon), in addition to the PRO10S, PRO20S, PRO30 and PRO30S, which are all also certified Class A.
Other UV options to consider
Runners-up for UV water filters include the Pelican Water PUV-8 (View on Amazon) and PUV-16 (View on Amazon), which are NSF Standard 55 certified to Class B. The Viqua SV8Q-PA Silver Series NSF Class B UV Water Purification System (View on Amazon) also offers a reliable, cost-effective, and chemical-free way to disinfect drinking water, as does the Viqua E4-V Water Purification System (NSF Standard 55 Class B Certified, with a flow rate of 15.8 GPM) (View on Amazon).
Top tip: Most NSF certified UV systems are manufactured in Canada, with very few made in the US. Beware cheaper UV water systems sold in the US without certification as these are unlikely to have a UV light that offers any real efficacy against microbes. Even amongst those that are certified, very few are Class A certified, with most only carrying Class B certification (which assumes water is already potable and safe).
Highlights: The Aquasana whole house water filter is the best, most comprehensive whole home water filtration system we could find. Its 5-stage filtration process includes carbon filter components, NSF Standard 42 media filtration, UV Sterilight filtration, and more. This system will help ensure all water used from the shower to the kitchen – and everywhere else – is adequately filtered and safe.
If you’re looking for the best, most comprehensive whole home water filtration system, Aquasana have you covered. With 5/5 leaves, the Aquasana Rhino 10-Year, 1,000,000 Gallon Whole House Water Filter is very low maintenance, has quality parts that are unlikely to need replacing, includes a sediment pre-filter, a water softener cylinder, activated carbon filters, and a UV Sterilight. The Rhino has a GPM of 7 (meeting the needs of most homes) and is one of the most sought-after activated carbon systems.
Despite not being NSF certified, this system uses the same activated carbon filter components and media as the EQ-600 system which is certified to NSF Standard 42. In fact, the EQ-1000 filters contain more filtration media, giving them an even longer lifespan. The activated carbon filter system has been tested by PACE analytical laboratory and shown to remove 97.4% of chlorine, and the UV lamp used in this model also appears to be the same as those in the Viqua UV systems that are NSF Standard 53 Class B certified.
This Aquasana system has a 5-stage filtration process that removes or reduces at least 75 contaminants including lead, mercury, and pesticides. And, thanks to UV Sterilight Filtration, this system also addresses microbial contamination, removing 99.99% of viruses and bacteria like e-coli and chlorine resistant cysts like giardia and cryptosporidium.
Other whole home options to consider
If you’re a stickler for certifications and still want a complete system, go for the iSpring WGB32B or WGB32BM and pair it with a certified UV system and water softener. Or, if your water is pre-treated and doesn’t need the microbial UV filter, choose the much less expensive iSpring as both this and the Aquasana deliver excellent performance with great customer support.
The iSpring WGB32B 3-Stage Whole House Water Filtration System (View on Amazon) is an effective and inexpensive, certified activated carbon whole house filtration system with a ⅘ Leaf Score rating, a GPM of 15, and a 100,000-gallon capacity activated carbon filter that should cover a household of four for a year, depending on water consumption.The iSpring is certified by the NSF to remove any particles larger than 5 microns and is effective at removing chlorine, sediment, herbicides, pesticides, rust, and up to 95% of the contaminants in your water.
If you are on well water or have unusual contaminants in your municipal water supply, consider the WGB32BM over the WGB32B as it has an additional FM25B iron and manganese removal filter that lasts up to 3 times longer and helps to protect household appliances from mineral damage.
Highlights: US-made shower filter that is NSF certified to NSF 42 and NSF 53, meaning your shower water will be drinking water quality.
Arguably the best shower filter currently available, the Propur ProMax gets 5/5 leaves and a whole lot of love from the Leaf Score team. Made from stainless steel and ABS plastic, with a BPA-free chrome finish and proprietary filter technology, this US-made shower filter is NSF certified to NSF 42 and NSF 53, meaning your shower water will be drinking water quality. This model is also EPA WaterSense certified.
The Propur ProMax reduces or removes over 200 potential contaminants, including volatile oil compounds (VOCs), lead, fluoride, heavy metals, pesticides, DBPs, chloramines, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, and micro-organisms, among other things. This system has been independently tested and the results are published online here. Standard white plastic and chrome options are available, with a wall-mounted or wand-style set-up. It’s easy to install and easy to change filters (which you’ll want to do every 6-9 months).
The Propur Chrome Shower Filter is a 5-function massage swivel shower head rated at 2 gallons per minute (GPM). It fits half-inch NPT, ISP and BSPT pipe thread standards, includes a 48″ Stainless Steel Flex Hose that is not plastic coated. The filters can last up to 9 months and contain no resins or beads.
Unlike carbon block and ceramic composite filters, ProMax™ filters do not require cleaning to help maintain flow rate and contaminant reduction.
Other shower filter options to consider
Runners up for the best shower water filters include the Culligan Wall-Mount Filtered Showerhead (View on Amazon) (with ⅗ leaves), and the Raindrops Shower Head with Filter (View on Amazon) (also with ⅗ leaves). But, with no independent certifications, you’re better off skipping the Berkey KDSF-HEAD shower filter (View on Amazon). The only reason I’ve given this ⅖ leaves is because the filtration medium is similar to that of the certified filters.
The OPUS Aroma Sense Aromatherapy Vitamin C Handheld Shower Head (View on Amazon) is also a good option if you’re looking for a scientifically sound handheld shower water filter. Thanks to the vitamin C-packed natural lemon oil cartridge in this filter unit, you get both an at-home spa experience and effective filtration and neutralization of chlorine and trihalomethane. This handheld shower filter also helps you conserve water (by as much as 25%) while maintaining good water pressure. The cartridges do need changing every 30-45 days, though, and this one also lacks NSF certifications. Read our full review here.
Highlights: Certified to reduce up to 15 separate new and emerging pollutants including pharmaceuticals, BPA, herbicides, and pesticides.
The best countertop water filter for apartments by far, the Aquasana Claryum Countertop gets 5/5 leaves, has a GPM of 0.4, is made in the USA, and is certified to NSF standards 401, 42, and 53, as well as P473.
This means that it not only reduces or removes all those things you’d expect, such as chlorine and fluoride, it is also certified to reduce up to 15 separate new and emerging pollutants including pharmaceuticals, BPA, herbicides, and pesticides. All that and the Aquasana is super easy to install and maintain, preserves essential minerals, is reasonably priced, and can be moved from home to home (or take it with you on vacation!).
Lest you be tempted by the allure of the ubiquitous Berkey, bear in mind that one Aquasana Claryum filter has 11 times the capacity of the leading gravity-based pitcher, making this a very cost-effective option. And, because this system was designed with the environment in mind, plastic waste is reduced by minimizing disposable plastic parts.
Other countertop options to consider
Runners-up for a countertop water filtration system include the gravity-fed ZeroWater model (⅘ leaves), which is conveniently portable, so you can take it with you to picnics and parties. ZeroWater’s 40-cup dispenser is attractive (it’s BPA-free and made of glass and steel for the most part), and is certified to NSF Standard 53. Although it looks similar (if more expensive) the popular Big Berkey with black filters (View on Amazon) gets just ⅕ leaves because the company stubbornly refuses to submit their systems to independent testing for NSF certification. The Berkey may well be one of the best activated carbon filter systems around, but without such testing, I can’t honestly recommend it unless you have no other option.
All in all, if serious filtration is what you’re after from a countertop unit, go for the Aquasana AQ-4000.