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Water filter pitchers can serve two purposes in a home. They can improve the taste of water by filtering out substances that, while safe to drink, may still create an undesirable taste or smell for some consumers. They can also reduce harmful substances, like lead, from drinking water. There are many at-home filtration systems, including whole-home filters and filters that attach to faucets or under sinks, and while many of these systems can reduce similar impurities, water filter pitchers are often preferred since they can keep water chilled in the fridge.
Here are the best water filter pitchers.
Best Overall: Pur Classic 11-Cup Water Filter Pitcher
Most extensive NSF certifications for a basic filter
Reduces chlorine for taste and odor
Reduces heavy metals and pharmaceuticals
Not certified by NSF for lead reduction
Like most pitcher water filters, the Pur Classic filters water via gravity: You fill up at the top, and then the water flows through the filter to reduce contaminants. The Pur pitcher holds up to 11 cups and includes an easy-fill lid that allows you to refill the pitcher at the sink without taking the whole thing off. The spout does include a cover to prevent splashes. Most important, however, is the included filter. It fits tightly into the pitcher, ensuring all water flows through and no leaks occur.
The Pur filter is certified to reduce 12 contaminants as well as pesticides, heavy metals, chlorine for taste and odor, pharmaceuticals, and more, by 95 percent or more. Pur’s filters are designed to be replaced every 40 gallons or about every two to three months. The Pur pitcher also comes with a monitor that indicates when it's time to replace the filter. Green signals the filter is performing well, yellow indicates the filter is nearing the end of its ability to filter effectively, and red indicates it's time to replace. The yellow indicator light is especially handy for reminders to place refill orders if needed.
Because Pur’s basic filter (which the pitcher is sold with) doesn’t filter for lead, it will generally filter faster than a lead-reducing filter. If you later decide you want a filter that reduces lead, Pur’s lead-reducing filter is compatible with this pitcher.
Capacity: 11 cups | Certified By: NSF | Contaminants Removed: Pesticides, heavy metals, chlorine for taste and odor, pharmaceuticals, and more
Best Budget: Amazon Basics 10-Cup Water Pitcher with Filter
Filters compatible with similar Brita filters
Less ease of use
While many budget-friendly filters promise the reduction of certain contaminants, many fail to have certification from NSF or WQA (Water Quality Association), or claim in small print only to be tested “to NSF standards” by an independent lab. Amazon’s own generic option, from its Amazon Basics line, proves a rare exception to the rule: It's tested and certified by the WQA for both aesthetic effects (NSF/ANSI 42) and health effects (NSF/ANSI 53). NSF/ANSI 53-certified filters can reduce heavy metals, like mercury and copper, whereas NSF/ANSI 42-certified filters reduce chemicals that may be safe to drink, but can affect taste, including chlorine and iron.
Best yet, this pitcher's replacement filters are compatible with both the Amazon Basics filter and Brita pitchers. The only drawback is the ease of use, not the effectiveness of the product. Some reviewers complain that the Amazon Basics lid and filter require a bit more “elbow grease” to set up and replace.
Capacity: 10 cups | Certified By: WQA | Contaminants Filtered: Chlorine for taste and odor, copper, mercury, benzene
Each item included in this roundup has either been certified by the NSF, a health and safety standards testing company, or tested and certified by an independent third party to meet NSF standards.
Best for Lead Removal: ZeroWater 10-Cup Ready Pour Pitcher
One of a few NSF-certified filters for lead removal
More expensive refills
While all pitchers filtered on this list are certified under the NSF/ANSI 53 certification process for health effects, not all NSF/ANSI 53 certified products reduce the same health-related contaminants. Currently, ZeroWater is one of very few pitchers that is certified by NSF, not just to NSF standards, to reduce lead in drinking water. ZeroWater is also certified by NSF to reduce chlorine, mercury, and other heavy metals. ZeroWater also claims to reduce elements like asbestos and fluoride, which it doesn't currently have NSF or WQA certifications for.
To reduce so many contaminants, ZeroWater has larger filters that work slower than many standard pitcher filters. Additionally, the filters are more expensive. However, if you know you have lead in your drinking water, either because of a known issue with your city’s water or simply having older pipes, the peace of mind is worth it.
Capacity: 10 cups | Certified By: NSF | Contaminants Filtered: Lead, chromium, chlorine, mercury, and more
Best Large Capacity: Waterdrop 10-Cup Water Filter Pitcher
Filter lasts five times longer than standard
Removes chlorine for best-tasting water
Water filters through quickly
Filters harder to come by in store
Doesn't physically hold more water than standard pitchers
The standard size for filtration pitchers is 10 cups. For larger capacity, you may want to consider upgrading to a water dispenser that sits in your fridge and typically holds around 30 cups. But, if you want the convenience of a pitcher and plan to drink lots of water, you can find ways to avoid constantly buying refills and waiting for water to filter before drinking. Waterdrop’s filter design lasts up to 200 gallons of water—five times longer than most competitors, which need replacing every 40 gallons. Once it's filled up, it will take about a minute to filter through, compared to three to seven minutes for similar competitor pitchers.
Waterdrop is certified NSF/ANSI 42 for aesthetic impurities, like chlorine for taste and odor, and NSF/ANSI 372 for lead removal.
Capacity: 10 cups | Certified By: NSF | Contaminants Filtered: Arsenic, lead, fluoride, and more
When buying a water filter, watch out for fraudulent products. Counterfeit filters and replacement cartridges usually cost significantly less than authentic certified products, says Rick Andrew, the director of NSF's International Global Water program. If you're suspicious, you can always reference the NSF's database to make sure a company's claims are true.
Best Compact: Brita 6-Cup Metro Water Filter Pitcher
Great for small spaces
Uses standard Brita filters
Limited reduction of health effects contaminants
For many pitchers, it’s the filter, not the size, that matters. Since most widely available water filter companies sell standard filters that fit a number of devices, smaller pitchers work in the same way as larger ones, but with a smaller footprint. Brita’s 6-Cup Metro pitcher is great for people who live alone or want to keep filtered water somewhere convenient, like a bedside or desktop.
Like all pitchers that use a standard Brita filter, this is NSF/ANSI 42-certified to reduce aesthetic contaminants and odor, like chlorine, as well as NSF/ANSI 53-certified to reduce three substances that can have adverse health effects: cadmium, copper, and mercury. If you want reduction of other substances, the Brita Longlast filter can also be used, a more expensive model that's WQA-certified to reduce lead, asbestos, and other substances in addition to mercury.
Capacity: 5 cups | Certified By: NSF | Contaminants Filtered: Chlorine, cadmium, copper, mercury, and more
"This is a nice pitcher for single households, although it does take a bit of patience for the water to filter through. If you pour too soon, prepare to get doused." — Taylor Rock, Associate Editor
For great-tasting water from an 11-cup pitcher with the most extensive NSF certifications for a basic filter, Pur has you covered with its Classic Water Filter Pitcher Filtration System (view at Amazon). If you're looking for lead removal specifically, we recommend the ZeroWater 10-Cup Ready Pour Pitcher (view at Amazon).
What to Look for When Buying a Water Filter Pitcher
Water filtration is common in American households for a number of reasons. Often, water is treated for taste or to reduce certain substances from the water that may have adverse effects on humans or even the home itself. For water with high mineral content that is otherwise safe to drink, whole-home filtration systems are often used to demineralize it and keep buildup from damaging pipes and appliances. If the concern is safety or taste of water for human consumption, less expensive filtration systems, like pitchers, can be used, says Rick Andrew, the director for NSF International’s Global Water program. Many work by filtering out trace amounts of chlorine that keep our drinking water free from bacteria and can even reduce more harmful substances, like lead.
If you're shopping around for a filter, it's understandable that you want the best one possible, but because of the varied reasons you may shop for a filter, Andrew notes that there is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach. If there is no lead in your drinking water, for example, there is no reason to pay more for a pitcher that is certified for lead reduction. If you're worried about harmful substances in your drinking water, either because your house has old pipes or there are issues with your city’s water generally, it's helpful to start with a water quality report, so you can identify which substances you want to reduce from your drinking water and move from there. For many substances, including lead, chlorine, copper, and mercury, a countertop pitcher with a filter will reduce much of it. For other contaminants, like bacteria, alternative filtration and water treatment systems may be needed.
To ensure that your water filter pitcher is removing the substances it claims to, we recommend checking against an independent certifier, like NSF International or the Water Quality Association (WQA). These organizations test claims about reduction for what the NSF defines as aesthetic impurities, like chlorine, that affect taste, as well as health effects. Aesthetic impurities are certified as NSF/ANSI 42 standards for filters and NSF/ANSI 53 standards for health effects.
To complicate matters slightly, these standards do not secure a guaranteed list of substances that are reduced. A filter that has been tested and certified under NSF/ANSI 53 standards, for example, may or may not reduce lead. If you're concerned about a specific substance, it's best to check directly with the NSF or WQA websites. Many companies may provide a long list of contaminants it claims to reduce by up to 99 percent, but will only be certified for a small amount.
Additionally, many water filter companies will say they're tested to NSF standards, but by independent labs. Because of the lack of transparency in these independent testings, we only recommend filters that use the NSF or WQA certifications.
Most companies that sell water filter pitchers use a standard filter, often with an upgraded filter that targets contaminants like lead, that works in a variety of systems. Because it's the filter, not the pitcher, that is certified, that means you can find pitchers and water dispensers that work the same at various sizes. The standard size is 10 cups, with smaller pitchers usually around 5 or 6 cups. Dispensers, which hold up to 30 cups and sit on a shelf on your fridge or counter, can hold as much as 30 cups.
Water filters are designed and certified to only work for a limited amount of time. Eventually, the filter stops reducing contaminants as effectively and the filtration time extends as water takes longer to pass through the filters, says Andrew. The standard for many filters is around 40 gallons, or requiring replacement every 2 months. Some pitchers come with indicator lights that help alert you when it's time to replace the filter.
Many brands, like Brita and Pur, offer replacement filters that may be able to filter for more impurities or last longer. Like with the initial purchase, it's important to make sure any replacement filters are also NSF certified. Many compatible replacement filters, which offer a lower price than the name brand, are not certified to the same standards.
Almost any water filtration system requires replacements, and water filter pitchers are no exception. The good news, however, is that many replacement options, even from name brands, are relatively affordable, often around $6. The price goes down if you buy in bulk, as well. Replacement filters that are targeted for lead reduction, however, tend to be more expensive. We recommend only buying the more expensive filters and replacement filters if you know you do need specific substances reduced from your drinking water.
Brita is such a ubiquitous brand that it's nearly synonymous with "water filter pitcher," much like Band-Aid is for bandages. Easy to buy and typically affordable, Brita’s standard filters are best used for reducing aesthetic impurities, like chlorine.
Brita’s biggest competitor, Pur has the distinction of being certified to reduce more substances that may be harmful to health if present in water. Like Brita, all of Pur’s filters are compatible with various pitchers and water dispensers.
The only NSF-certified countertop pitcher that reduces lead, ZeroWater’s heavy-duty filtration is slower and more expensive than the competition, but if lead is present in your drinking water, it’s an investment you’ll want to make.
Which water filter pitchers remove the most contaminants?
Many water filter pitchers tout a long list of contaminants they can reduce. However, if those substances aren’t present in your water, it’s not doing anything. Rather than looking for a pitcher that reduces the most contaminants, your best bet is to identify what it is in your water that you want reduced, and then find a pitcher that does that. Impurities will vary greatly depending on your municipality, pipes, or whether you are on well water.
How do you obtain a water quality report?
You can search your local area’s annual water quality report via the Environmental Protection Agency. If you have a private water source, like a well, or believe that your water may be contaminated by old pipes, you can also have your water tested by a county health department or state-certified lab. For more information on the best sources for testing your water, you can look to resources provided by the EPA.
How does a water filter pitcher work?
Water filter pitchers use gravity to pass water through a filter, reducing impurities that may affect taste as well as water safety. Because they're designed for home use, they can’t reduce small contaminants, like bacteria, and reduce fewer overall contaminants than other systems, like reverse osmosis. Price-wise, many people favor water filter pitchers, especially for improving taste in water.
How often should you replace the filter?
Most water filter pitchers need to be replaced every 40 gallons, or around 2 months. When NSF tests its standards, it will test water at the beginning and end of the manufacturer’s stated lifecycle and a little beyond to ensure the filter still works if you don’t immediately replace it. However, to ensure the filter is effectively reducing the contaminants you want, it's important to be consistent about replacing the filter as directed.
How do you clean a water filter pitcher?
Most water filter pitchers are dishwasher safe, and the pitcher itself can be washed as needed. The filter cannot be washed, though frequently replacing it as needed will help keep your pitcher clean.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Marshall Bright is a freelance writer covering food and cooking. A self-taught home chef, Marshall is passionate about making home cooking approachable and fun for more people. She has written numerous buying guides for The Spruce Eats, from water filters to bento boxes.