Even for those of us who like the way our tap water tastes — shout-out to the beautiful Esopus Creek that feeds New York City’s water supply — filtering your water can have major benefits. The simplest carbon filters can help remove chemicals like chlorine and metals like mercury, making your water both safer to drink and better tasting. Though municipal water supplies are regulated by the EPA, that accounts for only 90 chemicals, says Dr. Aly Cohen, integrative rheumatologist on the faculty at the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine. There are many contaminants including bacteria, agricultural runoff, microplastics, pharmaceutical remnants, lead, and other heavy metals that can still make their way into your drinking water. With the increasing number of natural disasters, like fires and floods, because of climate change, more pollutants than ever are getting into our water systems — and in turn our tap water.
If you aren’t able to install a full on water filtration system under your sink (or aren’t looking for that kind of financial commitment), a water filter pitcher or countertop water filter is a great place to start. Not only do these filters clean up your water at home, having one can also drastically reduce the amount of plastic waste you create from buying individual water bottles on the go. It’s also safer to drink filtered water from a reusable water bottle you fill up at home than to drink water that’s been sitting in plastic bottles in the back of an unrefrigerated truck or hot warehouse for who knows how long. “We really don’t know the history of our water in plastic before it gets to us,” says Cohen, explaining that harmful chemicals from single-use plastic bottles often leach into the water they contain.
But how do you know which of the many water filters on the market is right for you? To find out, we talked to Cohen and eight other doctors, nutritionists, wellness experts, and water filtration professionals about the water filter pitchers and countertop water filters they recommend. Here are their picks:
Dr. Marisa Garshick says that contaminant levels often depend on where you live, so becoming familiar with what’s in your water can be helpful especially if someone in your family has health issues or a weakened immune system. If you are concerned your water is contaminated, Danielle Ryan Broida, a registered herbalist and national educator at Four Sigmatic, recommends getting it tested at a lab in your area by calling the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 or consulting the testing options suggested by the EPA. Once you’re convinced you need a filter, Garshick suggests consulting the NSF database to see exactly what each product is intended to filter out. At home, she uses Brita’s Standard Everyday water filter pitcher, which removes 99 percent of lead and is certified to reduce chlorine, asbestos, mercury, benzene, cadmium, and more. She says it makes her water smell and taste better. She also loves that it’s lightweight, fits in her refrigerator, and is affordable. Baker Michelle Keldgord is also a fan of this Brita option. “Unfiltered water can have a negative impact on the overall taste and appearance of your baked goods, thanks to things like fluorine and chlorine,” she says. “These same harmful ingredients are especially damaging to bread. Unfiltered water can alter the normal reaction of yeast while disturbing the dough’s gluten structure. In turn, the fermentation process is slowed, which leads to bread that does not rise properly.” Like Garshick, she loves that the Brita filter is economical, especially if you use the long-lasting filters, which she has to replace only every five or six months. And as a mom, she likes that it’s really easy to use. “Replacing the filter takes a matter of seconds, and the locking flip-lid makes it so simple to pour, even my 6-year-old can do it,” she says.
Paul Lewin, the founder of the website HomeWaterResearch.com, recommends getting your water tested professionally to help choose the right filter. “Here in Ho Chi Minh City, where I live, the biggest worries are chlorine, which is added by the city, and bacteria that comes from poorly maintained pipes that are contaminated by groundwater,” he says. After testing more than fifty different water filters for his site, he now uses the Epic Water Nano on a daily basis. The filter, made of sub-micron nanofiber, has been tested by outside labs and is NSF certified to remove up to 99.999 percent of all tap water contaminants, including bacteria, cysts, cryptosporidium, heavy metals, fluoride, and other chemicals. In addition to keeping his water safe to drink, he says it makes his water taste and smell better and helps him reduce the amount of plastic he wastes. “Many families here go through dozens of plastic water bottles per week. So not having to carry bottles up to my apartment saves my legs, too,” he says.
Wellness expert Kyrie Luke has two different water filters at home: a stainless-steel Berkey countertop filter (we’ll talk about that one later) and this Propur pitcher. As someone with what she calls “highly contaminated water,” having clean drinking water is important to her for health reasons, but also because she does a lot of fermenting and sourdough bread baking. “This is what we used until we graduated to the Berkey. I love that it’s more compact and each filter lasts up to six months. I don’t love that the pitcher is plastic, but the benefits of filtration outweigh the disadvantages that come with it,” she says. This filter pitcher is NSF certified and independently lab tested and proven to reduce 200-plus contaminants, including fluoride, chlorine, chloramines, VOCs, bacteria, pharmaceuticals, lead, and heavy metals.
Like Lewin, Brian Campbell also started a website. His is called waterfilterguru.com, and it’s devoted to educating people about water filtration. This Clearly Filtered water pitcher is his favorite because it has the best contaminant removal capability he has seen on the market. It is NSF certified and, according to the brand, removes over 270 contaminants while retaining healthy minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Plus, he says, “I really like the water-dam feature in the top reservoir, which allows you to pour out filtered water even if you just refilled it. The filter cartridge itself should last for four months, depending on the source water used. And it even has a lifetime warranty, so if it ever breaks, Clearly Filtered will replace it for free.”
Several people, including Broida and Dr. Michelle Jantzen, mentioned using a Larq water bottle to purify water on the go from faucets or drinking fountains. While the above water filter pitchers use gravity and materials like activated carbon or nanofiber to catch contaminants and keep them out of the water you drink, Larq uses UVc technology to zap and kill certain microorganisms like cysts and giardia that might make you sick. The portable (and Strategist-favorite) Larq water bottle doesn’t have a filter to help remove the chemicals, VOCs, and heavy metals that can’t be killed with UVc light, but the brand’s new UVc water filter pitcher does. Jantzen uses a reverse osmosis water-filtration system to clean her water at home, but if she had to choose a water filter pitcher, she says it would be the Larq.
And two countertop water filters
Everyone we talked to agreed that reverse osmosis filtration systems, like the one Jantzen uses, are the best at removing the most contaminants from water. Cohen points out that reverse osmosis is what hospitals and doctors use in the United States to prepare water to be used for dialysis. Instead of letting gravity push contaminated water through a filter, reverse osmosis filters use pressure and several different types of filters to clean your water. One downside of this process is that it can waste a lot of water. Another is the cost and logistics of installation. Third-generation plumber Gerald Carpenter often works with clients who live in areas with mineral-heavy and very chlorinated water. When budgets aren’t big enough for a full-fledged reverse-osmosis system, he recommends this countertop version with a water pitcher. “It’s currently the most effective water-cleaning solution out there, including for those who live in regions with the dirtiest water,” he says. The KFLOW countertop reverse-osmosis system uses a four-step filtration process and removes over 1,000 contaminants from tap water, including heavy metals, chlorine, microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, and pharmaceutical remnants.
Three of the nine people we talked to own and recommend a Berkey countertop water filter. Luke says that after tons of research and deliberation, it’s the best water filter based on contaminants filtered, longevity of the filter, and value for money. Broida agrees, telling us she loves her Berkey filter “because the filters last for three years, it’s stainless steel (not plastic), and you can filter three to six gallons of water very quickly.” Autumn Blum, CEO of clean skin-care brand Stream2Sea, has both a reverse-osmosis system at home and a Berkey filter for emergencies when the power goes out. Unlike other filters, Berkey designed its filters to both catch large contaminants, like heavy metals, as well as attract the molecules of certain microscopic contaminants, like viruses, to the filter material like a magnet, preventing them from passing into your drinking water.
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