Bottled water is certainly convenient, but having a countertop filtration system at home is a much more sustainable option that helps protect you from lead, PFAS, and other pathogens. Not all filters remove all contaminants, though, says Rick Andrew of NSF International's Global Water program—that's why it's important to first know exactly what's in your water. You can find out from your local water utility's annual water quality report, a resource available to all residents. If you suspect a problem with the plumbing in your home or are using well water, you can have it tested in a private lab.
Once you find out which impurities you need to remove, you may begin your search for the right filter. Make sure to look for the NSF certification mark for assurance that it actually does what it says it will do, and beware of counterfeits. These won't remove contaminants, and if made with substandard materials that leach, they could make your water even worse. Plus, counterfeit replacement cartridges may not fit tightly into the filtration device, leading to water leaks and possible costly repairs—that's why, in the list below, we've only featured NSF-certified products and products certified to NSF/ANSI standards by a third party. (You can also check NSF's online listings to verify that a specific product is actually certified.)
iSpring CKC1 Countertop Water Filtration System
This compact filtration system from iSpring has a modern design that looks subtle yet sleek on any kitchen counter, whether that's in your home, apartment, camper, or RV. In addition to white, it comes in a transparent purple option, too.
iSpring says its coconut-shell carbon block filter lasts six months and removes 95 percent of chlorine, odors, sand, silt, sediment, and rust. The company also claims it's highly effective on volatile organic compounds (VOCs), like pesticides, herbicides, and industrial chemicals. While this product is not certified by NSF, it has been tested by the Water Quality Association (WQA) to meet NSF/ANSI standards.
Beyond the removal of contaminants, this product is easy to install. All you have to do is remove the aerator from your faucet (if it has one), connect the diverter valve (two adapters and sealing washers are included to match either internal or external threads on the faucet), and turn on the water until it runs clear to flush out the loose carbon. Turning the diverter handle in line with the connecter gives you regular tap water, while moving it perpendicular to the connector gives you filtered water to drink straight, bake bread, use for coffee, and more.
Price at time of publish: $43
Filtration Type: Carbon CTO (chlorine, taste, odor) | Contaminants Filtered: Chlorine, sand, silt, sediment, rust | Retains Minerals: Yes | Certified By: WQA | Dimensions: 9.5 x 14.5 x 16.25 inches | Warranty: 1 year
Look for products certified by independent third-party certification bodies like NSF International (NSF) or other organizations accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Certifications are proof product claims can be trusted. When considering a countertop filter or any type of filtration device, consumers should read packaging carefully. There is a difference between “certified to NSF/ANSI standards” and “tested to or meets NSF/ANSI standards.” The latter may be true of uncertified products, but they cannot use the NSF mark or imply that the product is certified by NSF if they have not been tested and approved by NSF.
Best for Fluoride Removal
RKIN AlcaPure Zero Installation Purifier Reverse Osmosis Countertop Water Filter
Some studies suggest that high levels of fluoride in drinking water can damage teeth and weaken bones. Fortunately, there are certain water filters that can remove most of the fluoride present in tap water. This model in particular does an excellent job of that, as the company claims it removes up to 95 percent of fluoride and up to 99 percent of other contaminants from tap water.
No installation or assembly is required: The filter sits on your kitchen counter, and all you have to do is load tap water into the front. It filters the clean water into the top of the unit through a four-stage process, including one of the most efficient reverse osmosis filters. The process takes approximately 15 minutes for a half-gallon of water. Of note: The company says this device has an NSF/ANSI 58 Certified Reverse Osmosis Membrane, but it is not a fully NSF-certified product, according to the NSF database.
Customers love the modern, stylish look of this countertop water filter. It is also compact, measuring 9.5 x 14.5 x 16.25 inches. Unfortunately, this filter doesn't come cheap; it's on the higher end of available products. The three filters must be replaced about every 12 months, and the reverse osmosis membrane must be replaced about every two years.
Price at time of publish: $489
Filtration Type: Reverse osmosis | Contaminants Filtered: Chlorine, industrial chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, turbidity, VOCs, microorganisms | Retains Minerals: No | Certified By: NSF/ANSI | Dimensions: 12.63 x 4.5 x 6 inches | Warranty: 1 year
"Reverse osmosis filters remove a large number of contaminants but are generally more expensive. Most models come with an activated carbon filter to remove additional contaminants and protect the sensitive membrane of the reverse osmosis filter. One drawback of these types of filters is that they can waste three to five times the amount of water they treat." — Sydney Evans, Science Analyst at the Environmental Working Group
Best for Easy Installation
Brondell H2O+ Cypress Countertop Water Filtration System
Countertop water filters use incredible technology to filter your tap water without the need to install anything under the sink. This one uses a three-stage patented Nanotrap technology, which is typically only found in under-counter systems. It has been tested and certified by the Water Quality Association to comply with NSF/ANSI Standards 42, 53, and 372 and will not only reduce bad tastes and odors, but also volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chlorines, and lead.
Measuring 3.75 x 10.5 x 13.5 inches, this model takes up little room on the counter, and customers agree that it looks sharp with its slim and sleek design. There are three filters included, each corresponding with a different filter stage. Stage one (composite plus filter) and stage three (carbon block filter) require replacements every six months, and stage two (the Nanotrap filter) requires a replacement about every 12 months.
Reviewers rave about the quick and easy installation. Requiring about 10 minutes or less, the Cypress simply attaches to your faucet, and voilà, you’ve got clean water.
Price at time of publish: $155
Filtration Type: 3-stage carbon filtration | Contaminants Filtered: Fluoride, chlorine, heavy metals, lead, PFOA, PFOS, others | Retains Minerals: Yes | Certified By: WQA | Dimensions: 10.5 x 13.5 x 3.75 inches | Warranty: 1 year
When buying a water filter, watch out for red flags. The number one indicator of a fraud? Price. Counterfeit filters and replacement cartridges usually cost significantly less than authentic certified products, Andrew says. Some other red flags include light weight (because they don't contain the proper materials to do the job), small certification marks as to not draw attention, and glossy packaging to appear high-quality.
Aquasana Countertop Water Filter
Transform ordinary tap water into a clean, crisp beverage with this countertop filter from Aquasana. Certified to NSF/ANSI standards 42, 53, 401, and P473, this system reduces contaminants including mercury and lead, asbestos, chlorine, chloramine, cysts, and estrone.
Claryum technology (activated carbon, catalytic carbon, ion-exchange, and absolute sub-micron mechanical filtration) preserves naturally occurring minerals that your body needs, including calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
Reviewers love how easy this is to install. Simply screw the faucet attachment to your sink and enjoy clean water straight from the tap. Another plus? Fewer filter replacements. One Aquasana Claryum filter lasts six months or through approximately 450 gallons of water (whichever comes first). If for some reason, you're unhappy with its performance, there is a 90-day guarantee and, separately, a one-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: $65
Filtration Type: Carbon filtration and ion exchange | Contaminants Filtered: Chlorine, chloramine, lead, VOCs, asbestos, mercury, cysts, PFOA/PFOS, herbicides, pesticides, pharmaceuticals | Retains Minerals: Yes | Certified By: NSF/ANSI | Dimensions: 9 x 4 x 9.5 inches | Warranty: 1 year
Best Reverse Osmosis
AquaTru Countertop Water Filtration Purification System
Reverse osmosis filters water through semi-permeable membranes to clear out physical contaminants such as salt, dirt, and other particulates. The membranes are so fine that it can even filter out microorganisms and contaminants on a molecular level. AquaTru’s Countertop Reverse Osmosis Filter goes through a four-step filtration process to purify drinking water. Fill up the 1-gallon tap water tank and it will flow through three long-lasting filters and into the 3-quart clean water tank, ready to drink with the tap of a button.
Setup could not be easier. It’s a freestanding countertop filter, so there is no need to fiddle with hoses beneath the sink. It’s a sleek, modern-looking water filter complete with a digital display that alerts you when it’s time to change the filters. While it won’t take up too much counter space, it does require a wall outlet for power.
Tested and certified by the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) to meet NSF/ANSI standards, the filters remove 83 contaminants including lead, arsenic, fluoride, chlorine, and nitrates. While AquaTru can be used to soften hard water, if the water exceeds 10 gpg (grains per gallon) hardness, lime scale may build up on the filter. If that happens, it’s time to descale (a mix of water and vinegar is a popular solution).
Overall, reviewers rave about the simplicity of the machine as well as the crisp, pure taste of the resulting water. If you want clean water with minimal effort, consider this AquaTru model.
Price at time of publish: $450
Filtration Type: 4-stage reverse osmosis | Contaminants Filtered: Removes 83 contaminants, including lead, arsenic, PFAs, fluoride, chlorine, and nitrates | Retains Minerals: No | Certified By: Tested and certified by IAPMO to meet NSF/ANSI standards 41, 53, 58, 401 | Dimensions: 14 x 14 x 12 inches| Warranty: 1 year
Best With Removable Pitcher
Bluevua RO100ROPOT Reverse Osmosis System Countertop Water Filter
Many people like the convenience of a pitcher when it comes to pouring drinks—this freestanding water filtration system from Bluevua comes with a removable glass carafe for just that reason. The pitcher is made of sturdy borosilicate glass, holds 7 cups of filtered water, and even has handy measurements on the side. This machine is wonderfully fast, able to produce a full pitcher of clean water in just five minutes.
This machine uses reverse osmosis to filter the water through a four-step system. The filters themselves last between six and 12 months, but there's no need to keep track of that yourself. The digital LED display indicates when the filters need replacing as well as the quality of the water and the amount in the pitcher. Setup is a easy as cake: Put it on the counter, plug it in, and you're ready to go.
Certified by NSF, TÜV Rheinland, and SGS, Bluevua goes as far as to display the SGS tests right on the Amazon sales page for full transparency and peace of mind. It's a fantastic system that will serve up clean drinking water and look good doing so.
Price at time of publish: $434
Filtration Type: 4-stage reverse osmosis | Contaminants Filtered: Chlorides, lead, chlorine, fluoride, heavy metals, mercury, radium, chromium, arsenic, chloramine | Retains Minerals: No | Certified By: NSF | Dimensions: 14 x 17 x 18 inches| Warranty: 1 year
The iSpring Countertop Drinking Water Filtration System gets our top recommendation for its WQA-tested filter, which effectively removes 95 percent of chlorine, odors, sand, silt, sediment, and rust—and it's easy to install, too. If you're looking specifically for a filter capable of fluoride removal, the RKIN AlcaPure is one of the most efficient reverse osmosis filters.
What to Look for in a Countertop Water Filter
There are two styles of countertop water filters: faucet diverters and free standing.
Countertop filters that connect to the faucet direct tap water from your sink through the filter via a small hose. The filtered water is dispensed through a tap built in to the water filter instead of your sink faucet. This type of water filter requires user installation, but the process is usually quick, easy, and requires minimal tools.
Free-standing countertop filters don’t connect to your water supply. Instead, they need to be manually filled with water from your faucet. A pitcher usually works well for this or a hose, if your faucet is equipped with one, can be used to fill a water filter reservoir. This type of countertop filter tends to be larger and takes up more space than faucet diverters. However, freestanding water filters can be placed anywhere and don’t need direct access to a water source.
One thing to keep in mind when shopping for a free-standing water filter is the capacity of the water reservoir. If there are several people in your household who will be drinking filtered water, a model that can hold several gallons will cut down on frequent refilling.
There are two main reasons to invest in a countertop water filter: to improve the taste of your drinking water and/or remove unwanted substances. Water filters designed primarily to remove odor and chlorine, which can affect the taste of your water, tend to be less expensive than filters designed to remove long lists of substances. The only way to know whether a more expensive filter is worth your while is to research your water quality. Don’t worry—it’s not as tough a job as it sounds.
If you have city or municipal water, water quality reports detailing contaminant levels are available to you. If you have trouble locating them, contact your water supplier. If you have well water, you can have your water quality tested independently. Once you know what contaminants are in your water, you can decide what kind of filter you want and need.
Basic countertop filters are equipped with a single carbon filter that improve the odor and taste of water by absorbing contaminants from the water. Other countertop filters have multiple filters designed to remove contaminants through a combination of carbon absorption and ion exchange. Reverse osmosis filters also include a semi-permeable membrane that separate contaminated water from clean water.
All countertop water filters require filter replacement. How often you have to change the filter depends on the estimated filter life span. A filter's life span is typically provided to consumers in months. Most of the countertop water filters on this list use filters that last an average of six months. However, you should also pay attention to the amount of water the filters can process before they need replacing. If your household goes through a large amount of filtered water, you might need to replace the filters more frequently that what is recommended.
You should also take note of the cost of replacement filters before purchasing a countertop water filter. Countertop water filters can last a long time when the filters are routinely changed. Be sure to check whether branded or generic replacement filters are recommended with your model.
Choosing a countertop water filtration system that has been independently certified can provide peace of mind that the filter is doing what it's intended to do. The most common certifications to look for are NSF (National Sanitation Foundation), ANSI (American National Standards Institute), and WQA (Water Quality Association).
Water Filtration Speed
While faucet diverter water filters are connected directly to tap water, freestanding filters require manual filling. It takes some time for the water to trickle through all the filters in order to drink, but how much time it takes depends on a number of factors including capacity, the number of filters, the material used in those filters, the size of the holes in the filter, the quality of the water, and the age of the filter. For example, a large-capacity freestanding water filter with five-month-old fine mesh membranes will take longer to filter than a smaller-capacity model with brand new filters and soft water to filtrate.
Ultimately, it comes down to preference. Models with finer filters may be able to trap more contaminants, but take longer to fully filtrate. Models with larger holes in the filters can be quicker and more convenient, but may not clean the water as thoroughly.
What is the best way to filter tap water?
This is a matter of personal preference, the space you have available, and the contaminants you want to remove from your water.
A countertop water filter is a good choice if you're just looking to filter enough tap water for drinking and cooking. If you have plenty of counter space, you may opt for a free-standing water filter. If you want to filter water directly at the faucet, a countertop filter that diverts water from your faucet be a better choice.
If countertop filter options don't appeal to you, there are also pitcher water filters, under-the-sink water filters, and whole-house water filtration systems.
The most important consideration in choosing a water filter is what you want to reduce from your tap water. Reviewing a water quality report from your water supplier or an independent party is the first step in identifying potential contaminants and/or impurities in you water. Then, choose a filter that can reduce your top concerns.
Do countertop water filters remove fluoride?
Not all countertop water filters remove fluoride from tap water, but some can. If fluoride removal is a must-have for you, be sure to read through the list of compounds a filter can remove before buying a countertop water filter. Reverse osmosis water filters are typically the best choice for reducing the amount of fluoride in your water. Keep in mind no water filter is capable of removing 100 percent of fluoride—or anything for that matter.
How often do you need to change countertop water filters?
Most countertop water filters are estimated to last for about six months, but some need more frequent replacing every three months and others are rated to last approximately one year. You should keep track of when you change your filter and stick to the recommended replacement schedule to prolong the life of your filtration system.
Do water filters work for well water?
While most Americans get their water from municipal sources, people in rural areas may draw it from groundwater through wells. Municipal water is regulated by federal law, but private well water is regulated by state law, so regulations on maintaining wells vary by location. Be sure to check with your state’s natural resource department for more information.
The quality of well water can be impacted by two factors: non-natural contaminants and natural soil pollutants. There are tests available at state-certified labs to check the potability of well water, looking for such contaminants as coliform bacteria, pesticides, dissolved solids, VOC, and nitrates. The EPA recommends conducting these tests at least once a year. You should also ask your health department what contaminants are common in the local groundwater. States may have regulations in place dictating what makes water safe to drink, but it’s the responsibility of the property owner to maintain their wells to that regulatory standard.
So, getting back to the question: Do water filters work for well water?
Yes! In fact, most water filters that work with municipal water will also work with well water. Many models are whole-house systems, though there are some under-sink filters, too. There is also a variety of filtration methods ranging from eliminating bacteria with UV bulbs, fine filters to block out physical sediment, and reverse osmosis systems, among others. You’ll want to aim for a model that filters out both chemical and physical contaminants.
It’s incredibly important to stay up to date on your state’s regulations for well water, perform annual tests, and stay vigilant about the appearance and taste of well water.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
As a longtime user of home water filters, Taylor Rock, The Spruce Eats' commerce editor, is always looking for ways to reduce her carbon footprint. For this roundup, she interviewed Rick Andrew of NSF International’s Global Water program and used his expertise as guidance in researching top-rated and properly tested products.
Sharon Lehman, RDN, a freelance writer, recipe developer, photographer, and registered dietitian nutritionist, updated this article, as did Allison Wignall, staff writer for The Spruce Eats.
An earlier version of this roundup was written by Erica Puisis, who interviewed Sydney Evans, a science analyst for the Environmental Working Group, for background information on the different types of water filters, what they do differently, and how to pick the right one.
Rick Andrew is the Director of Global Business Development of Water Systems at the National Science Foundation. He has 30 years of experience in preserving and maintaining clean drinking water and is responsible for NSF’s global sales and structuring of water-related programs.
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