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Water filters may seem like devices that mostly come up when people talk about travels to the backcountry or other countries, but they can be important tools everywhere. Tap water goes through a fantastic journey from rivers and reservoirs through pipes of many sizes to flow through your faucet. Drinking water in the U.S. from public water systems is among the safest in the world, but many households opt for additional filtration. Filtering often focuses on removing funky tastes, smells, and sediment, though many filtration systems also reduce other potentially harmful chemicals. We dove into specifications and certifications of small portable systems up to countertop water dispensers to surface the best water filters for a glass of fresh-tasting H2O.

How we chose the best water filters

Water filters come in as many sizes and shapes as you can imagine. However, we winnowed our list of portable and affordable options for households looking to improve their water taste. We kept our renting readers in mind, so homeowners may want to explore permanently installed options like under-sink water filters or whole-house water filters. We’re not a lab, so we opted for products that meet or are certified to standards set by NSF International/American National Standards Institute and the Water Quality Association.

The best water filters: Reviews & Recommendations

The type of water filter that’s best for you depends on how much you want to treat at a time, how long that takes, what you’re treating it for, and how often you’re replacing filters. Are you looking to remove basics like chlorine and sediment? Is a lead a concern? Different filters target a range of contaminants, such as chlorine, particulates, lead, heavy metals, microbes, bacteria, viruses, or PFAS, more commonly known as “forever chemicals.” Some even filter out microplastics, which is a growing concern for many. 

Best overall: Brita Large Water Filter Pitcher




  • Dimensions: 10.7  x 5.4 x 10.1 inches 
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Capacity: 10 cups
  • Filter: Brita Elite filters (proprietary active filtering agents)
  • Filter lifespan: Replace after 120 gallons or about 6 months


  • Inexpensive
  • Flip top for easy refilling
  • Long-lasting filter
  • Electronic filter indicator
  • BPA-free container
  • Certified NSF/ANSI Standards 42, 53, and 401


  • Slow filtering
  • Frequent refills for thirsty/large households

Our pick for the best overall water filter is an update on a classic. The Brita Large Water Filter Pitcher is the best for most people because of its low cost (about $35), ease of use, and improved filter. Most of us have likely used a Brita pitcher at one point. This model makes some notable design improvements. Instead of removing the whole lid to refill, simply pop open the flip-top. 

The spout features a color-coded system to indicate when to replace a filter. Green is good, yellow indicates replacement is coming up, and red shows it’s time to change. The rest of the form is familiar: The tap water goes into an upper tank, and clean water slowly filters into the bottom reservoir. This model boasts a 10-cup capacity, but households that fill many water bottles daily may find themselves refilling—and waiting—a lot.

The essential improvement in this model is the Brita Elite filter, which catches more contaminants than the standard model and lasts three times longer. You only need to replace the filter once every six months instead of every two, minimizing cost and trash. The filter still results in the crisp, chlorine-free taste Britas are known for and is certified to reduce lead (99 percent), Cadmium, Mercury, Benzene, Asbestos, and more. Many reviewers note that the Elite does have clogging issues, so you may find yourself changing more frequently than the six-month replacement window. Still, the extra protection over Brita’s standard filters seems worth the extra few bucks.

All pitchers have downsides. They don’t purify water, so always start with potable water—and make sure it’s cold or room-temperature, never hot. They’ll need thorough hand washing regularly to keep clean, but most are made of a brittle plastic that chips, clouds, or cracks with age. But they are abundant, readily available, and affordable. Remember to factor in buying and replacing filters as part of the overall expense.

Best pitcher: Brita Large Stream Filter as You Pour




  • Dimensions: 10.75 x 5.6 x 10 inches 
  • Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Capacity: 10 cups
  • Filter: Brita Stream filters (activated carbon in a BPA-free housing)
  • Filter lifespan: Replace after 40 gallons or about two months


  • Low upfront costs
  • Filters as you pour
  • Flip top for easy refilling
  • Electronic filter indicator
  • BPA-free container
  • Certified NSF/ANSI Standards 42 and 53


  • Taste/odor-focused filtering
  • Frequent filter replacement

Usually, a water filter pitcher has an inner reservoir that you fill, and it slowly drips clean water into the bottom half. You have to wait until gravity does its job before taking a sip. The Brita Large Stream Filter as You Pour bucks that trend. The 10-cup pitcher forces water through an activated carbon filter before pouring out of the spout. Admittedly, waiting a few minutes for filtered water to drip from the reservoir to the rest of the pitcher isn’t the most significant inconvenience—but it is annoying if you’re the person who always seems to grab the pitcher when there’s only half a glass left. (And obviously, we’re often that person.)

This Brita water filter pitcher removes chlorine taste and smell but retains fluoride, minerals, and electrolytes. The filter clicks into a cage that then twists into place on the lid. The lid also houses an electronic indicator to remind you to change filters, which is about every 40 gallons or every two months. Brita Stream replacement filters run about $9 to $10 each, a few bucks more per filter than Brita Standard filters but on par with the longer-lasting Brita Elite filter.

Best faucet: PUR PLUS Faucet Mount Water Filtration System




  • Dimensions: 6.8 x 2.9 x 5.2 inches 
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Capacity: N/A
  • Filters: PUR PLUS faucet filters (activated charcoal)
  • Filter lifespan: Replace after 100 gallons or 3 months


  • Small form factor
  • Installs and removes without tools
  • Filter change light
  • Can switch between filtered/unfiltered water
  • Certified NSF/ANSI Standards 42, 53, and 401


  • May not fit all faucets, especially pull-out or handheld faucets
  • Frequent filter replacement
  • Doesn’t filter microbes

Installing a PUR PLUS Faucet Mount Water Filtration System is a low-cost, low-effort filtration system that quickly filters drinking and cooking water. No tools are required: Remove the faucet’s original aerator and washer and replace them with the PUR PLUS Faucet Mount system with the PUR PLUS filter inside. For around $30 to $40, the filtration system helps reduce chlorine taste, odors, and 70 other contaminants, including lead, mercury, and some pesticides. However, the filter does not remove microbes. 

The PUR PLUS filter includes activated carbon from coconut shells and a mineral core to replace some natural minerals—like calcium and magnesium—for a fresh taste. The benefit of a faucet filter is that you can pour directly into a pot or a giant gallon water bottle without repeatedly refilling a filtering pitcher or dispenser. And it filters instantly, so you don’t need to wait around. The PUR PLUS Faucet Mount filters last longer than most pitchers, stretching to 100 gallons or every three months. The faucet system comes in several colors, and the horizontal filter positioning looks sleek.

Best water bottle: LifeStraw Go Series

Abby Ferguson



  • Dimensions: ‎‎3.54 x 3.54 x 10.79 inches
  • Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Capacity: 1 liter
  • Filter: 2-stage filter system (membrane microfilter and activated carbon)
  • Filter lifespan: Membrane microfilter: 1,000 gallons (roughly 5 years), carbon filter: 26 gallons (roughly 2 months)


  • Easy to carry
  • Available in many colors and 22-ounce capacity
  • Cap covers mouthpiece
  • Meets NSF/ANSI Standards 42 and P231


  • Large size doesn’t fit in cupholders or some backpack pockets
  • Two filters will have different replacement schedules

Here at PopSci, we are very much into on-the-go hydration. And carrying a water bottle with a built-in filter can bring peace of mind whether refilling for everyday adventures or traveling to exotic locales. We’ve loved the LifeStraw Go Series for a number of reasons, but largely because of how effective the two-stage filter system is. 

The activated charcoal filter helps keep water tasting fresh and smelling, well, not smelling. The membrane microfilter catches little nasties like bacteria, parasites, sand, dirt, and microplastics—all things that could seriously ruin a vacation. It’s important to note that the charcoal filter lasts about two months (26 gallons), while the membrane lasts for five years (or more than 1,000 gallons). There’s no clear way to track both, so you’ll just have to remember.

The plastic version of this water bottle is BPA-free, made of 50 percent recycled plastic, and comes in 1-liter or 22-ounce sizes. The lightweight materials are ideal for hiking or travel. However, if you want to minimize your plastic use or want insulation, the Go Series also comes in a stainless steel version in 24-ounce or 1-liter capacities. The double-walled bottle keeps water cool—a huge part of hitting your daily water goals—but it’s not for hot beverages. All versions include a cover that keeps the mouthpiece clean, which we definitely appreciate when traveling. 

Best backpacking: Sawyer Products SP129 Squeeze Water Filtration System




  • Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.9 x 1.9 inches 
  • Weight: 2.5 ounces
  • Capacity: N/A, but filters up to 32 ounces at a time
  • Filter: Hollow fiber filter
  • Filter lifespan: Indefinite


  • Lightweight
  • Includes attachments for different uses
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Filters down to 0.1-micron absolute filtration
  • Reduces bacteria, protozoa, and microplastics
  • Can be cleaned and used nearly indefinitely


  • Not for chemical contaminants or viruses
  • Reviewers warn not to let pouches freeze
  • Squeezing and rolling can wear out the pouches
  • Occasional backwashing is needed to restore flow rate

PopSci previously identified the Sawyer Products SP129 Squeeze Water Filtration System as a reliable, portable water filter system for backpackers, hikers, and other adventurers. The tiny size makes it easy to throw in your pack without adding excessive weight, which is a must when backpacking. 

It’s also very simple to use. To clean water, fill a pouch, attach it to the palm-sized filter, and squeeze the water into your mouth. But that’s just one way the kit works. It also includes a straw and a hydration pack adapter to filter inline. Plus, the filter can attach to most standard water bottles, so you don’t need to fuss with the pouches on trips. Reviewers often suggest avoiding the “squeeze” and letting gravity pull dirty water through the filter to prevent wear and tear. 

The system removes most bacteria, protozoa, cysts, and microplastics. In fact, the Sawyer squeeze filter is the only filter on the market that can claim 0.1 absolute microns (every fiber is 0.1 microns in size). For perspective, no harmful bacteria are smaller than that; therefore, none can slip through the filter. As long as you keep the filter clean, this device should last forever. In fact, there are no filters to replace. However, Sawyer recommends periodically backwashing if the flow rate slows, which should restore 98 percent of the flow rate. 

And remember, there are right and wrong ways to handle camping water filter storage.

Best countertop: Brita Hub




  • Dimensions: 12 x 9.5 x 15 inches 
  • Weight: 8 pounds
  • Capacity: 96 ounces
  • Filter: Brita Hub filter (carbon block)
  • Filter lifespan: 120 gallons or 6 months


  • Water reservoir position can change
  • No tools for installation
  • Frees up fridge space
  • Pours 12 or 20 ounces at a time, with one free-flow option
  • Filter lasts up to 6 months
  • Certified for NSF/ANSI Standards 42, 53, and 401


  • Dispenses room-temperature water only
  • Requires counter space
  • Higher upfront costs

For fast-filtered water and less frequent filter changes, check out the Brita Hub. No installation or plumbing is required for this countertop filter system. Simply plug in the sleek, white Hub, fill the 12-cup water reservoir, and instantly get filtered water free of chlorine tastes or odor. The tradeoff for a filter on the counter is that it will only serve up room-temperature water. But it’s a solid option for people who don’t have the fridge space for clunky pitchers or large dispensers.

The carbon block filters (about $30 each) last up to six months, and an indicator light will give a heads-up when it’s time for a change. The Brita Hub is certified to reduce 70 contaminants, such as lead, some forever chemicals, and select pesticides. The main downside is that a unit will run about $180 (at the time of writing), which is more upfront cost than other options on this list. But if you want a large-capacity option for your counter, the Hub is a great choice. 

Best budget: PUR PLUS 30-Cup Dispenser




  • Dimensions: 11.2 x 6 x 16.1 inches 
  • Weight: 4.2 pounds
  • Capacity: 30 cups
  • Filter: PUR PLUS faucet filters (activated charcoal)
  • Filter lifespan: Replace after 40 gallons or 2 months


  • Inexpensive
  • Filter change indicator
  • Slim design
  • Large capacity
  • Certified NSF/ANSI Standards 42, 53, and 401


  • Heavy when full
  • Frequent filter replacement

One of the better bargains for water filters is getting a high-capacity dispenser in your fridge. You can snag a PUR PLUS 30-Cup Water Filter Dispenser for the same price as some water filter pitchers. The slim, deep design doesn’t take as much space in a fridge as it feels like it should, though it can be heavy and awkward to put on a shelf when it’s full. 

A spigot allows easy access, even if the system is still filtering. The dispenser uses the same activated carbon filters as the PUR PLUS faucet mount system, reducing 70 contaminants, such as lead and microplastics. It’s good for chronically parched or large households, though the filter must be swapped out every two months. Like most water-filtering pitchers, this dispenser isn’t a purifier. It refines already drinkable water and doesn’t remove microbes.

What to consider when buying the best water filters

Choosing water filters depends on where and how much water you plan to drink or use for cooking. That said, you could surround yourself with many options, like a pitcher for home use and a water bottle for running around during the day. While all these options will result in crisp, clean-tasting water, consider if you want your filter to offer additional protection.


We stuck to products with relatively low-cost products, but the ongoing cost of each replacement must be factored into the long-term cost of ownership. There’s no hacking a filter: They must be replaced regularly to remain effective. Most use proprietary filters, so you’ll need to stick with the specific filter made for your product. 

Water consumption vs. filter capacity

Compare how much water you drink with how long the filter is supposed to last. Many options above require changes as frequently as two months or 40 gallons. If you’re attempting to drink a gallon per day, that shortens the filter’s lifespan to just over one month. Finding a water filter system that handles a higher volume of water with a longer-lasting filter may be time-saving and cheaper.

Filter type

Most of the filters in this round-up rely on activated carbon, which can absorb chlorine and reduce asbestos, lead, mercury, and volatile organic compounds. Other products use other filtration processes like reverse osmosis, ion exchange, and distillation, which you should consider if installing an under-the-sink or whole-home filter or if you have serious concerns about water quality.

Filtration efficiency

Filter effectiveness varies, so we looked at NSF/ANSI standards. We prefer certified products, which means that NSF International or the Water Quality Association tested and verified the company’s claims. Certification is time-consuming and costly for a company, so we also indicated where outside labs found products that “meet the standards” but aren’t certified.

Here’s what some of the standards mean, but review the manufacturer’s performance data to see the specific contaminants a filter is effective against:

  • NSF/ANSI Standard 42: This is a common standard, which indicates a filter can remove chlorine taste and odor or chloramines.
  • NSF/ANSI Standard 53: Another common standard that indicates the reduction of some heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and mercury, as well as some pesticides and herbicides.
  • NSF/ANSI Standard 401: This indicates the filter removes or reduces up to 15 kinds of “emerging impurities,” such as bisphenol A (BPA), ibuprofen, DEET, microplastics, and some pesticides and herbicides.
  • NSF/ANSI Standard P231: This is where purification comes in. This standard means microbiological contaminants like bacteria, viruses, and cysts are reduced or removed. 


Q: Do I need a water filter?

Whether you need a water filter should be a straightforward yes or no answer, but it’s not. The U.S. drinking water supply is considered safe, and the Environmental Protection Agency regulates public water systems (this excludes wells). You can check annual water quality reports on EPA’s website, but systems can also experience contamination after leaving a treatment plant or have an acute issue due to recent natural disasters or climate change. Plus, some pollutants aren’t regulated yet, like forever chemicals, which the EPA issued proposed rules for in March. Not sure what may be in your water? You can also look up your zip code on The Environmental Working Group’s database of what’s been measured in tap water or get an at-home water quality test.

Q: What contaminants do water filters remove?

What contaminants water filters remove depends on the individual water filter. Most of the filters in this guide are activated carbon, which can absorb chlorine and reduce asbestos, lead, mercury, and volatile organic compounds. You’ll need to review performance data to see what specific pollutants a filter reduces or removes.

Q: How often should I replace my water filter?

How often you should replace your water filter depends on the filter. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations, but other factors may reduce the filter’s life. For example, a particularly active or large household may filter 40 gallons of water through a pitcher well before two months. 

Final thoughts on the best water filters

Anyone looking for the best water filters has plenty of affordable options to cover a variety of needs, whether lugging around a reliable system in the woods or covering a household’s drinking and cooking needs. It’s hard to go wrong with the filters we recommend from well-known, longtime brands like PUR and Brita. Both brands’ filters are readily available and carry multiple certifications. And don’t rule out getting multiple items—you never know when you’ll be thirsty next.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.