The Best Water Filters Of 2016

by Justin Thomas •

The Best Water Filters

In A Nutshell

I’ve been reviewing water filters for about 12 years. During that time, I’ve become convinced that gravity-fed filters are the best filter you can buy for under $500.

I recommend ProPur or Big Berkey filters. These filters use a combination of ceramic and carbon block filtration. Overall, they are the least expensive type of filters to maintain.

If you are able to spend $2000 to $3000, whole house filters are the way to go. In the long run, they are an inexpensive, hassle-free option. I recommend Pure Effect Filters — these are made in the USA by a family-run company with an excellent track record.

The Details

Typically, you want to remove these contaminants from your water:

  1. Toxic metals (Lead, Mercury, Aluminium, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, etc.)
  2. Additives (Chlorine, Chloramines, Fluoride)
  3. Chlorination By-Products (Trihalomethanes or THMs)
  4. VOCs and other Organic Compounds (Pesticides, Herbicides, Pharmaceuticals, Fuels)
  5. Bacteria and viruses (Giardia, Cryptosporidium, etc.)
  6. Radioactive substances (Radon and Uranium, etc.)

If you use municipal water, these are the most common contaminants you’ll find:

  • chlorine
  • chloramines
  • fluoride
  • THMs
  • VOCs / organic compounds

If you use well water or other non-municipal water, these are the most common contaminants you’ll find:

  • particulate matter
  • bacteria and viruses
  • VOCs / organic compounds
  • radioactive substances

The Effectiveness Of Different Types Of Water Filters

Pitcher Filters

Pitcher-style filters such as Brita filters are inexpensive units, making them very popular with consumers. However, in the long term, they are actually one of the most expensive option. This is because the filters cartridges require frequent replacement — the cost for 40 gallons is $7-$10 each, or $130-$190 for 750 gallons.

Almost all pitcher-style filters use GAC or “granulated activated carbon” as the filtration medium. Typically, GAC is coconut husks that has been heated to a high temperature in the absence of oxygen (or activated) and then granulated. These types of filter do remove some chlorine and hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs odour), but are not effective at removing VOCs, metals, pesticides or fluoride. Overall, they are not very effective water filters.

My Overall Rating: Poor

Colin Ingram, author of the The Drinking Water Book rates all pitcher filters no higher than “Acceptable”.

Faucet Filters

Filters that attach to your kitchen faucet are very similar to Pitcher Filters, but do filter a little better than the pitcher-style filters. However, they have the same drawbacks — they are expensive to maintain and they do not remove many contaminants. You must replace filters every 100 gallons at $20-$40 each or $140-$180 for 700 gallons.

My Overall Rating: Fair

Colin Ingram, author of the The Drinking Water Book rates all faucet filters no higher than “Acceptable”.

Gravity-Fed Drip Filters

In my opinion, the best water filters are gravity-fed drip water filters. These filters are excellent at removing chlorine, chlorination by-products, fluoride, VOCs, pesticides, particulates and pharmaceuticals. These filters use “candle” type filters, which are widely available and can be customized to your specific filtration needs.

Gravity-fed filters require no electricity to operate — water is filtered as it drips from the upper chamber to the lower chamber. Because the water is filtered slowly, the filtration is much more effective than a faucet-mounted filter. Generally, slow filtration methods tend to be best.

Berkey is best-known drip filter manufacturer. They make good quality filters. You might also consider ProPur filters. Their latest filter, the ProOne G 2.0, will remove fluoride — including hydrofluorosilicic acid (few filters remove this contaminant).

These filters use carbon block filtration, which works by the process of adsorption (different than absorption). In this process, the carbon attracts certain contaminants at the molecular level, and the contaminants become attached to the surface of the carbon. Once the surface of the carbon is full, the filter must be thrown out and replaced. However, the ProPur filters can be periodically scrubbed, and thus reused for years.

These filter are certified to NSF/ANSI standards #42 (test for chlorine, taste, odor and particulates), NSF Standard #53 (tests for Cryptosporidium, Giardia, lead, VOCs and MTBE) and NSF Standard #61 (tests that toxins aren’t leached into water). They are manufactured in England.

Berkey filter range in price from $260 to $3380. They are available from Amazon.

Propur filters range in price from $129 to $299. They are available from Amazon.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Reverse Osmosis Filters


Reverse Osmosis filters use a membrane which removes many contaminants from water. They is usually paired with a Granulated Activated Charcoal filter to remove chlorine. Most reverse osmosis filters are installed under the sink and have a holding tank. The semipermeable membrane separates many contaminates (which usually have a larger particle size that water) from the water and rejects a large amount of water in the process. The result is a waste of several gallons of water for every gallon filtered and many naturally occurring minerals (including calcium and magnesium) are also removed from the water.

However, they are quite effective filters, in terms of removing contaminants. However, they do not reduce VOCs or pesticides (unless a Carbon Block filter is included). They can take up to an hour to filter one gallon of water and the filters need to be replaced regularly.

If you want to got this route, I recommend the iSpring Reverse Osmosis System, which is quite reliable.

Overall Rating: Very Good

Countertop Distillers

Countertop distillers are effective water purifiers, but they take some time to distill water (for example 5 hours to distill 1 gallon). They also require electricity to run, and they give off some heat and the integrated fans make some noise. Also, most distillers do not remove VOCs (like benzene) because they have a lower boiling point that water. So they will vaporize together with the stream, resulting in a contaminated distillate.

Countertop distiller that get a rating of “Excellent” from Colin Ingram in the The Drinking Water Book are: Megahome Countertop DistillerWaterwise 4000 and Waterwise 8800, Kenmore 34480 and Pure Water Mini-Classic.

Megahome Countertop Water Distiller


This distiller is sold under many brand names — it’s the most widely distributed distiller in the world. It has many quality components despite being inexpensive. It produces 1 gallon of water in 5 hours. The water is passed through a small granular carbon filter. There’s a sealed connections from the distiller to the water collection container, so there is minimal risk of contamination by air. The unit has a stainless steel boiling chamber that is easily accessible for cleaning.

The Megahome Countertop Distiller is available from Amazon for about $150.

Waterwise 4000 Countertop Distiller

This is a more powerful version of the distiller listed above. It has the same features but produces 1 gallon of distilled water in 4 hours. Also received an “Excellent” rating from Colin Ingram in the The Drinking Water Book.

The Waterwise 4000 is available from Amazon for about $280.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Comments 100

    1. Esther

      If you were asking about eSPRING filter system, send me email or leave your email here. I can provide you the info.

  1. Michelle

    The The Superwater™ Whole House Filter with “Ceramet” sounds too good to be true.

    Is it?

    It’s advertised here in the UK, where we have very hard water. We’re trying to install a whole-house system, and I’m very glad to have come across your site!

    1. master

      I haven’t tried that filter. However, watch out for filters that seem too good to be true. In the US, you can also ask for NSF certifications. I’m not sure what is equivalent is in the UK.

  2. Duncan Sayles

    Hi and thanks for a good review. We took your advice ad now we have bought Big Berkey with 2 extra filters too. We live in United Kingdom and we ordered online from the UK dealer.
    And to answer @ Sayelles, here is the website from them http://www.berkey-waterfilters.co.uk
    Yes they are here in UK :)

  3. Vip

    Which one is more effective?
    Pure effect point of use filter or Promolife point of use filter.
    Promolife uses Bone char while Pure effect uses all-natural alumina-free activated carbon bonded with calcium.
    Both companies provide great filters.
    Anyone had any experience with both of these systems to comment on. Any feedback will greatly be appreciated.


    1. master

      I haven’t tested those filters. I do know that Bone Char is more effective for fluoride removal.

  4. Curls

    Any thoughts on Multipure as compared to Berkey? They have solid carbon filters, so seem to be competitor with Berkey.

  5. Vip Kharva

    For Propur water filter, what kind of filters do you recommend for Fluoride, Chlorine, Chloramine reduction or have had good experience with.
    Is the flow rate decent with Propur?

    1. master

      They both take the same type of standard “candle” filter, so it depends on the kind of filter that you buy.

  6. Emilia Steward

    Another question. What water bottle would you recommend? I am trying to decide between the Berkey and the Clearly Filtered. Thanks again for you help!

  7. Emilia Steward

    Was wondering if you have researched Clearly Filtered water products. I have read some really good reviews about the water pitcher and just wanted to know what you think. Thanks so much.

  8. Vip

    The ProPur website states that they remove 50% – 95% for Fluoride from the water.
    I am not sure if this is an acceptable level or not.

    The whole house Pure effect filters cost about $1400. If you have 4 people in household, you have to change filters every six months for ~ $400. They do have good reviews but then it’s expensive to the point that lot of people can not afford to buy whole house filters from them.

    1. Waterholic

      I have the Pure Effect Countertop fluoride filter, it’s very well made and less expensive.

      But I’ve seen some whole house systems sold for upwards of $3000, that claim you don’t need to change the media for 5 years, so you pretty much pay all the money for the filtration media upfront which gets stagnant and fouled over the years. Better to change it more often IMO, get fresher water that way.

      1. Vip

        How long have you had this filter?
        Has this filter become saturated over time or has it stayed effective throughout the cartridge life?


        1. WaterHolic

          I’ve had their ULTRA countertop system for about 5 years now, and am very pleased with the quality and performance throughout this period.

          As far as the saturation, I change the cartridges at their recommended intervals, which allows me to replace the media BEFORE it gets saturated based on my apx. 1.5 gallon/day usage. I change them once every 12 months.

          They have conducted tests on some of the most difficult to remove contaminants, like chloramine (ammonia + chlorine) for example, and the system removed over 99% of it for at least 1000 gallons, that’s nearly 3 gallons/day for 365 days. So I know these are some powerful cartridges. They also recently did a test for Uranium, which also got removed over 99%. This is the one I have:


  9. Hermann G

    Great post guys and this helped me alot! I been doing my own research here in UK and we have now bought a Big Berkey here in UK and i we LOVE it! Never tasted such a clean and nice water. There is alot of filter options out there but what i been reading the Berkey really are the best and they last so long too!

  10. Danny Tseng

    I’m a passionate water educator for Pure & Secure’s (maker of the Pure Water brand) new line called AquaNui. To learn about our almost 50 year-old company, visit http://mypurewater.com/our-company/ and feel free to check-out our new site at myaquanui.com. Our distillers are, hands-down, the most durable (some are still in use after 40 YEARS) and cost-effective (comes with a 15-year warranty) distillers ever made! If you enter discount code 831244, you will receive a 5% discount.

    To remove all doubt about the long-term, daily drinking of only distilled water, read “The Choice is Clear” by Dr. Allen E. Banik or e-mail dct3@cornell.edu with “water articles” in the SUBJECT line or call me at 786.441.2727 so I can help you dispel ALL the myths surrounding distilled water, alkalized water, water ionizers, “structured” water, etc., etc.

  11. Hregg J

    Good article. We bought a Big Berkey after reading this article and i also did some research and agree. they are the best on the market. We bought ours here in London Uk where we live.
    Thanks for this. One of my best purchase ever! My wife will never drink tap water again. :)

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    1. Holly

      What are your thoughts on Santevia mineralized alkaline water filtration? I have the gravity water system and curious to know if you would recommend it. Thanks!

    1. master

      Yes, drip filters are quite efficient because the water moves so slowly through the filtration media.

  13. Gregg

    Is there a good countertop reverse osmosis filter out there that does not need to be hooked up to a faucet? I live in area that uses ground water and is rock hard with calcium, in addition to possible agricultural chemicals.

    Would love to not have to crawl under sink to replace filters or have cords and hoses running across the counter.

  14. Andrea

    Hello, I am looking at getting an under counter system for cottage lake water, after it has been treated by UV filter. I’m particularly nervous about drinking water originating at the lake but also am wondering if RO is the best option (main issue is it also removes the good parts of the water PRO is that it is safe). If it is the best option I will happily go that route, as safety is first. What would you suggest to be certain of safety – and is there a system that achieves this but also keeps in good minerals ? Also, if there is a sensor indicating when filter should be changed that would be ideal. I’ve spent hours and hours on line trying to find out the answer but haven’t lucked upon an article dealing specifically with originating lake water. Any feedback would be very much appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Sulia Li

      Hi, this is Sulia from Paragon Water System. Actually, Paragon have specialized on water treatment for 26 years, we don’t suggest our customer to drink RO filtration Water for long time, since RO machine only produce PURE WATER, then the helpful mineral substance in water will be filtered. However people need intake a balanced amount of beneficial mineral substance from the drinking water everyday.

      We prefer to suggest customer choose the American patented high-tech KDF process media, it can reduce chlorine, heavy metal, Hydrogen sulfide, bacteriostati, meanwhile it will not filtered the helpful mineral substance such as K, Zn… Anyways, it’s up to you.

      Best regards,
      Sulia Li
      Tel: (+86)21-62670111-255
      Phone: +86-18916628037
      Skype: sulia-mm
      Add:20F,No.188 Wujiang Rd, Shanghai, China,200041

  15. Peter Moss

    The Propur units look very nice and seem to filter out a good long list of contaminants. If I had a bigger kitchen and more counter space I would definitely get one. But since the gravity units need to be placed near an edge (sink, counter), I recently decided to get a Pure Effect water filter instead. I got the 3 stage filter style that attaches to the faucet. It filters everything the Propur does and replacement costs are slightly lower comparably over the long run. It also is endorsed by Debra Lynn Dadd, the queen of nontoxic living.

    If anyone’s interested here’s a link:

  16. Sean

    Not to be a pain, but I don’t think you have deep experience with the Propur versus Berkey filters. I had the Berkey for 7 years and always loved it. I gave the propur a try because of good things I heard on the radio. Well, they turned out to be crap. Filtration was really slow and I had to replace them in like 8 months.

    So, I did some more research and found out that Propur is an ex-Berkey dealer trying to suck away business from Berkey. And, if you look closely at test results from both companies, Berkeys are tested for the life of filter, like 3000 gallons per filter. The propur is a one and done test. In other words, it’s not tested again at different intervals over it’s life of use. That’s shady as heck to me. I want a filter I can rely on at all times, not just when it’s brand new. Even when you look at the comparison chart on Propur’s site, there’s all this bad information about Berkey. It’s obvious they’re going right after their business and not be honest in the process. I stay away from Charlatons like that.

    I did see the black berkey issue you referred too, but from what I can gather that was a batch issue and the filters have been redesigned since, so I think that needs to be pointed out to be fair.

    1. master

      I didn’t say Berkey filters were awful — I just that they made have quality control issues, based on recent customer reviews. It seems that your problem with Propur is that they are competing with Berkley. Propur units have a 100% stainless steel construction, and I’ve found that plastic spigots tend be the first thing to fail. In terms of water cartridges themselves, Propur now produces filters that remove fluoride, which is compelling to me. But I understand Propur doesn’t have a long track record, so I’m willing to be convinced that the filter cartidges have some drawbacks.

  17. Brett Kuntze

    I often wonder about those vending machines that fill your 5 gallon bottles with filtered water that costs 39 cents a gallon commonly found in grocery stores . there is also water shops dedicated to fill your bottles, sell bottles, water coolers, etc and they are a bit cheaper like 30 cents a gallon. Are those the best or better than buying your own water filtration system under sink or on countertop? As long as I am still young and able to haul heavy 5 gallon bottles ( I use 3 gallon bottles), am I buying the best drinking water money can buy ? what about water delivery service that costs considerably more, of course?

    1. Rob

      I too used to self-fill 5 gallons of water (for as little as .25/gal) and had wondered if I could filter my own water at home with equal or better results for less.

      I also factored in gas, time, and convenience and felt that it was time. I found that fridge and faucet type filters didn’t yield acceptable results, so I started with a Brita pitcher filter. While it did bring my 201-226ppm avg. from the tap down to the 176-188 range, I felt I could do better. I next tried Whirlpool’s Everydrop filters hoping to speed up the filtration process, but it yielded worse results, only bring my ppm’s down an avg. of 5-15, less than half as well as the Brita.

      After reading this article, I was ready to invest in distillation or RO when I had stumbled on a Zerowater pitcher type filter. I was at Home Depot when I was asked if I needed any help- I had stopped to look at at in-home water filtration options, and when I shared that I was shopping for a really good water filtration system, he suggested trying the Zerowater pitcher.

      I was skeptical of the “000” claim of filtering ALL contaminates, especially for a $30 pitcher type unit, but I thought, let’s give this a try..

      Took it home and was thoroughly impressed! Through “de-ionization”, a process I’ve not heard of before (nor mentioned in this article), it effectively brought my 200+ ppm fown to an astonishing zero. I thought, what trickery is this? So I read up on it, went to their website, and watched several videos on YouTube and had concluded, this actually works!

      I have only owned this pitcher for 7 days, and have filled 3 1gal. containers and refilled at least 50+ 16.9oz water bottles and using my TDS meter, it’s still filtering my tap water down to zero.

      [using a water quality test kit from Prolabs, I verified the Zerowater filter is removing fluoride, aluminum, copper, nitrates, chlorine, and iron to 0-1ppm, however, it reduces the pH from 7.5 to just 3.8. I am currently experimenting with trace mineral drops to raise pH (as well as replace desired minerals) as well as infusing with fruit and/or baking soda to increase pH. I will report back within a day or two with my results]

      I have the 8 cup unit, so it took several pitchers and time to filter that much water, but I am super happy with the results and have recommended it to several of. Y friends. Replacement filters are $30 for 2 and says to replace when TDS reads 6ppm or more.

      So far, including water I’m giving my dog and water I’m using for cooking, I estimate I’ve filtered about 15 gallons of water that is equal or better than bottled. Buying this same amount in 5 gal containers would only cost me $3.75, plus gas vs. the $30 investment I’ve made so far, so I’do have to be able to produce roughly 10x more clean water on the same filter for this to be a better value (or with my avg. use, get 10 weeks or more from one filter). I’ll report back in 2.5 months (May 15th, 2015) with my results.

      1. lona

        I have bought the Zerowater system as well because I had read some good reviews on it. I was disappointed at how bad and plastiquey the water tasted over the first few runs even though I’d washed it and dried it carefully. My other problem is the acidity like you mentioned. It actually irritates my throat for hours after I drink the water. I’ve been putting baking soda in the water to help that. I was very disappointed at their customer service. They didn’t want to hear my concerns that maybe something was wrong with my filter and had a bad attitude. They told me to return it to the store if I wasn’t happy. I guess that’s my only option. When I later read other reviews I realized that there are actually many unhappy customers complaining of very many issues.

  18. Mary

    Can you tell me about whole home water filtering systems? We have a lot of chlorine in our water and I’m not sure why I should use water pitchers, under the sink filters and shower filters when maybe one filter system will work instead of two or three. I can’t find any independent reviews for whole home water filtering systems on the web. Will you please shed some light on this topic.

    Thank-you in advance,

    1. master

      Mary, I don’t have any specific recommendations for whole house filters. However, I’d suggest starting with Puriteam — they have a lot info on whole house filters.

  19. Shiro

    What’s your intake about Kangen SD501 water ionizer? I have been researching online and that seems to be the best so far. It does not filter radiation however do you think I can connect 2 machines together to have pure,alkaline and clean water?

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