The 7 Best Water Filters of 2021

Stay hydrated and sustainable with these water filters.

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown
Easy to install and inexpensive, this is a great basic water filter.
Best Low Waste:
Phox V2 at Phoxwater.com
Save plastic with this company’s refillable filter cartridge.
A 3-stage filter that will keep all your home’s water clean with easy-to-change filters.
Best Filtered Water Bottle:
LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle at REI
Whether camping or taking on the concrete jungle, this bottle lets you fill up and go.
This well-designed pitcher has a filter that gets more chemicals out of your water.
Tough on removing chemicals yet easy to install, this filter upgrades your sink with ease.
When disaster strikes, this UV units will rid your house's water from pathogens.

Some people filter water simply for reasons of flavor, while others have had their water tested and aren’t happy with the balance of chemicals they find that flow from the tap other than H2O. Some of those are necessary chemical residues like chlorine that disinfect water (but may have possible health effects), while others might be contaminants that get picked up as the water travels through miles of pipe to get to your house. People with wells may find their super-local water contains a mix of natural minerals that stain bathroom fixtures and smell weird. This water isn’t unhealthy, just unappetizing and tub-ruining.

If you've determined that you need a water filter, below are some of our favorites.

Best Overall: AmazonBasics AMZB-G30CW Filtration System

Amazon Basics Water Filtration System

For the best combination of ease-of-use and value, a countertop water filter is a smart way to go. All the convenience of an under-sink filter system, none of the installation hassles (though it does need to connect to the sink faucet, it’s very simple). This budget-priced unit has a 5-level filtration system that gets rid of chlorine and particulates.

It's worth noting is that this unit is good for filtering 30,000 gallons of water and then will need to be replaced entirely (there are no filters to change). With no maintenance, this unit couldn’t be much simpler. If you are looking for more specific filter though, check out other countertop filters that offer options for filter types—this is, as the name describes, a basic unit.

Best Low Waste: Phox V2

Phox V2

This smallish-but-stylish glass pitcher unit is from a new Scotland-based company. If you are concerned about the plastic waste from the other filter brands available, you’ll love this company’s model, which is a refillable filter cartridge. Instead of buying an entire replacement filter, you get a refill pack in the mail, which contains granules and a carbon filter that you have to replace into the reusable filter by hand.

It’s a little bit fussy, and not as simple as replacing a whole plastic filter with another one, but for people who don’t mind a smidge of extra work for the significant plastic reduction (and, according the company’s site, a 75% carbon emissions reduction), it’s worth it.

Best Whole House: Express Water Heavy Metal Whole House Water Filter

Express Water Heavy Metal

A whole-house water filter system needs to be installed by a plumber, but it’s a fairly straightforward job, simply connecting to your home’s water supply at the point it enters the house. The Express Water systems has a few advantages. It has a three-stage filter (many similarly priced units have just two), but that means you will be replacing an extra filter.

The first filter clears sediment from your water, and the second one captures heavy metals like mercury. The third, and activated carbon block, removes chlorine, pharmaceuticals, pesticides and other chemicals. The sediment filter housing is translucent, so it’s obvious when it needs replacing. The filters last 6-12 months (and changing them is easily DIY), depending on how much water your household uses.

Best Filtered Water Bottle: LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle

LifeStraw Water Bottle

Because these BPA-free bottles are used as a convenience for busy urbanites as well as people camping in wilderness environments who get water from untreated sources, the Lifestraw has to filter out harmful bugs as well as other chemicals. As you suck through the straw, it clears 99.9999% of salmonella, E.coli, cholera, and protozoa like giardia with a .2-micron filter.

An activated charcoal filter gets rid of other potentially harmful chemicals, and it works for up to 1,000 gallons before needing to be replaced. It's a great item to keep on hand in case of emergencies that might impact your access to clean water. Lifestraw also gives back by working on clean-water programs in places where kids have limited access to this vital resource.

Best Pitcher: Pur Classic 11-Cup Water Filter Pitcher

PUR Classic Water Filter

Pur isn’t the fastest-filterer on the market, but for what it takes in time to filter a full pitcher (about ten minutes) is made up for by other advantages. It has a comfortable ergonomic handle design that enables one-handed filling, which is handy when you’re doing kitchen chores. Pur water filters are easy to find and reasonably priced, which is useful—no special ordering necessary.

Part of the reason this one takes so long to filter is because it’s got a chunky pitcher that holds 11 cups. So you’ll need to refill it less often. But the other reason it may take longer to clean up your water is that it’s proven by independent assessment bodies American National Standards Institute/NSF International (ANSI/NSF) to remove more potential contaminants. If lead is an issue, they have a filter variety that will specifically target it.

Best Under Sink: Aquasana 2-Stage Under Sink Water Filter

Aquasana 2-Stage Under Sink Water Filter System with Brushed Nickel Faucet

While many under-sink filters need a plumber to connect them, this one is advertised as DIY—and a relatively handy, patient person can indeed set this up themselves in about an hour. The Aquasana removes up to 99% of 77 contaminants—that includes herbicides and pesticides, heavy metals like lead and mercury, and other chemicals like chlorine, asbestos, and pharmaceuticals that are increasingly making their way into drinking-water supplies.

It comes with a faucet just for your filtered water, and the filters need to be replaced every six months. Aquasana also offers a subscription program that will automatically send you new filters, in case you have trouble remembering to order new ones.

Best for Killing Pathogens: Viqua Home Plus 3 Stage UltraViolet Water Disinfection System

The other filters on this list are intended for water that’s been treated by a city or municipal wastewater facility. Treated water won't contain pathogens unless there’s some kind of natural disaster or other unusual circumstance. But if you are filtering water that could or does contain bacteria or other potential pathogens like Cryptosporidium or Giardia, you will need a more robust filter since these bugs can pass through a typical filter due to their tiny size.

An ultraviolet filter like this one will kill pathogens, but won’t remove heavy metals or other chemicals. This unit comes in various sizes, and will filter the water for a whole house, so you don’t have to worry about keeping your mouth shut in the shower. It’s been independently certified by NSF for Class A Disinfection Performance.

Final Verdict

Our top water filter pick is the AmaxonBasics AMZB-G30CW Filtration system (view on Amazon). If you’re in the market for a pitcher system, consider the PUR Classic 11 Cup Water Filter Pitcher (view at Amazon).

What to Consider When Buying a Water Filter

Thinking about why you want a water filter before you buy is important, because it will help you decide which one is the right one for you. If you drink most of your water from a water bottle and don’t want to spend a lot, but still want to ensure clean, tasty water, a filtered water bottle is ideal. If you are just concerned about the flavor of your drinking water and want to filter out any extra chemicals you drink and maybe cook with, your simplest, and least expensive option is a countertop or pitcher unit. The next level up—but not by much in terms of effort—for the same purpose would be an in-door refrigerator unit that connects to your ice maker, too.

If you want all the water you use from your kitchen sink—for cleaning veggies, drinking, and using in recipes, as well as the convenience of not cluttering up your fridge or countertop with containers (and not having to fill up your pasta pot from an inconvenient fridge spigot), and under-sink unit is the way to go.

Finally, if you want to filter all the water you use, from water you may drink from bathroom sinks in the middle of the night, to the water you shower or take a bath in, a whole-house filter is what you need. This would especially make sense if you have hard water that needs softening. The impacts of the energy and materials that go into water softening can be offset by longer appliance life, more washes before clothing goes gray and less detergents needed for effective cleaning.

FAQ

Are Reverse Osmosis filters sustainable?

We’re not recommending Reverse Osmosis filters due to the fact that on average, they use about 4 gallons of water for every 1 gallon they filter. The extra water is considered waste water. Considering that freshwater resources are limited or very limited in many parts of the US and the world, it’s just not a responsible or sustainable choice.

In addition, reverse osmosis filters don’t offer any significant advantage over other types of filters, they are slow to filter water compared to the other types of filters listed here, and they take up quite a lot of space to do the job—they need a several-gallon holding tank.

How do I know if I need a water filter? 

Before you buy any water filter, check your local water supply—you might not need one. Assuming you need a filter because other people have them is not a scientific way to determine what’s right for you. Check out the EPA’s safe drinking water site and click on Consumer Confidence Reports—enter your local information and you will be linked to the report or you can get the direct contact info for your water authority (so you can request a report). You can also try entering your zip code on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Tapwater Database—this will give you information on the legal limits of various chemicals and where your local supply may exceed either those, or EWG’s science-based recommended limits.

How do you dispose of water filters responsibly? 

First: Recycling water filters, which are made from various layers of plastic and metal, with some kind of filtering material (carbon is common), is almost impossible. The fact that filters concentrate and store potentially toxic chemicals means it’s not a good idea to open them up to try to recycle their parts, either. You might see sources online that recommend dumping the filter material outside, but then you’re just creating a mini-toxic waste area wherever you dump the filter material, which holds onto those chemicals. More companies used to take filters back for recycling, but don’t anymore, so other than the brands mentioned above, your best bet is to dispose of your filters in the trash.

Brita is the only larger company that we found currently recycles their filters, through a program with Terracycle. Pur filters can be dropped off at Whole Foods for recycling.

Why Trust Treehugger?

Author Starre Vartan has been an environmental and science journalist for more than 15 years. She founded an award-winning eco-website and has written a book on living green. For this review, she researched many water filtration systems to determine which ones are the most eco-friendly and effective.

View Article Sources
  1. "Chlorine." Environmental Protection Agency.

  2. "Water Health Series: Filtration Facts." Environmental Protection Agency, 2015.