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Best Water Filter System for You

Written by Irina Webb
Health-related claims have been reviewed by Myrto Ashe, MD, MPH, IFMCP

Buying a water filter is a challenging task.  If you do not get it right the first time, correcting your mistake can be time-consuming and very costly.  Besides, how do you know which one is the best water filter system for you?  I have been researching this field since 2012, and I have used my share of filters, too.  In this post, you will find out about some water filtering options that the market has to offer.  Read on to learn what you should know before buying one and discover the best water filtration system for you.

The Best Water Filter System for You. A picture of potentially best water filtration.

I do a lot of research and reading to form an opinion about products.

I have been doing consumer goods research since 2012 when I investigated a supposedly non-toxic baby shampoo.  My spheres of interest range between non-toxic makeup and organic mattresses and include safe cookware and sunscreens, to name but a few.

Over the years, I have created e-books such as Diaper, Baby Wipes, Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Lotion rating lists, and others.  In addition, I have established and run the Savvy Consumer Circle that unites people who desire to make healthy changes in their homes.

When I do research, I rely on credible sources of information including medical and scientific publications.  I also survey the industry the product belongs to and contact manufacturers to clarify the questions I have.  You can learn more about my research process and the sources I use here.  Moreover, the medical information in a growing number of my posts is reviewed by Myrto Ashe, MD, MPH, IFMCP.

In 2012, I bought what I considered to be the best water filter system out there.  But the truth was, I had no idea what contaminants it filtered out, and what media (aka components/cartridges) it had.  I did not even know what kind of contaminants my drinking water had.  So, I continued researching the market and found what was in my opinion the best water filtration product.

But first things first – why do you even need a water filter?

You need the best water filter system to clean your water of pollutants.

The short answer to the question why you need a water filter is because our water is polluted.  In other words, your best water filtration system must be able to clean your water of all the pollutants.

On the one hand, the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 is supposed to protect our water supply.  However, in practice, it does not always work well.  Indeed, records have shown that 49 million Americans drink water that contains illegal concentrations of chemicals.  They include lead, arsenic, dangerous bacteria, and even radioactive substances.  The worse news is that you might be one of these 49 million.

On the other hand, the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 covers only 91 contaminants out of 85,000 chemicals used commercially within the United States (source).  That is to say, many chemicals used by industry find their way into streams, rivers, lakes, and, ultimately, water supplies.  In large part, this happens because the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 does not cover them.

Now, let’s talk about common contaminants in your drinking water that the best water filtration system must deal with.

Remove PFAS, chlorine, and chloramine from your drinking water.

Definitely, the best water filter system must be able to handle PFAS, chlorine, and chloramine.

Common uses of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) include non-stick coating in cookware and water- and stain-repellent finishes in clothes and carpeting.  Unfortunately, they are associated with such health problems as an increased risk of cancer, potential harm to the developing fetus, and even reduction of vaccine effectiveness

Further, municipalities use either chlorine or chloramine (chlorine plus ammonia) to kill pathogens, viruses, and mold in our drinking water.  However, we need to remove the disinfectants and their by-products from our water before drinking it. 

The problem is that chloramine is harder to remove than chlorine, and a granular activated carbon filter cannot do it.  So, your water filter would need catalytic carbon or KDF (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion) media to deal with chloramine.

The best water filtration product must remove lead from your water.

In addition, chloramine has a tendency to pull more lead from lead-soldered water pipes (source).  Therefore, if you have lead-soldered water pipes and your municipality switches from chlorine to chloramine, you can expect more lead showing up in your drinking water.  In fact, houses built before the mid-1980s would most likely have lead-soldered water pipes.

As for regulations, the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) limit for lead is 0.2 ppb (source).  However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no safe level of lead for children. 

In contrast, the Federal government considers 15 ppb level safe, which seems like a compromise between industries and health advocates.  Note that it is 75 times higher than the California Health Goal.  By the way, when testing for lead, make sure that the lab’s minimal detectable level is at least 1 ppb. 

Thus, if you have chloramine in your water and lead-soldered water pipes, the best water filter system for you must be able to remove lead, not just reduce it.

Fluoride may cause health issues.

To begin, they started adding fluoride to the public water supply in the 1950s.  Before that, it was considered an environmental pollutant resulting from the aluminum and phosphate fertilizer industries.  Besides, when governments decided to add fluoride to water, there was scarce health research on the subject.

A recent study requested by the EPA reported that even current levels of fluoride may cause tooth and bone damage.  There is also growing evidence associating fluoride with an underactive thyroid.  Additionally, studies show that even 2 ppm (or 2 mg/L) in drinking water can damage kids’ kidneys and liver (source). 

However, not every water filter system removes fluoride.  Thus, when searching for the best water filtration product, confirm that it has a filter medium that works for fluoride.

Below are my thoughts on three water filter brands that I studied in detail to figure out how they work.  Also, in a private consultation, I can present you with my research into a water filter of your choice.

In my opinion, Berkey is not the best water filter system.

On the one hand, Berkey has advantages because it can work without electricity and does not demineralize water. 

On the other hand, there are several things to bear in mind when you look at Berkey’s water test reports.  The way the testing was designed might produce an impression that Berkey filters remove all contaminants, which carbon filters usually cannot do.

The following information will help you decide whether Berkey is the best water filtration method out there. 

Berkey’s ability to remove fluoride, lead, and PFAS is controversial.  

First, Berkey filters use activated alumina to deal with fluoride.  How well it removes fluoride depends on your tap water.  Thus, it works best with water whose pH is between 5 and 7 and at a slower flow rate (1).  As I understand it, normally tap water pH is higher than that (e.g., our tap water pH was 8.17).  With pH higher than 7, activated alumina might not be the best option for removing fluoride from your tap water.  Hence, Berkey does not seem to be the best water filter system for you.

Second, for lead, the Berkey report shows the detectable minimum of 2 ppb.  This is 10 times more than the California Health Goal’s level of 0.2 ppb (source).  In other words, the test will not detect anything less than 2 ppb.  So, if the water has 1.9 ppb, the result will be negative for lead.  Under the circumstances, I would find this rather misleading.

Third, scientists at the Duke and North Carolina State Universities tested some filters, including Berkey filters, to see how well they removed 11 chemicals of the PFAS family.  According to the tests, Berkey pitchers removed some PFAS, reduced others, and in one instance, actually added more PFAS.  In this testing, the Big Berkey with 2 black filters did poorly.  Indeed, it removed some PFAS, did not significantly reduce PFPA, and actually added GenX and PFBA.  

Based on this, I do not think that Berkey is the best water filtration product out there. 

I do not consider Aquasana the best water filter system either.

Like Berkey, Aquasana filter systems are popular because they are budget-friendly.  Besides, the Duke University and North Carolina State University scientists tested Aquasana filters for PFAS, and all models fared well.  In addition, I called them to ask for a list of filtration media that go into their filters. 

Among four Aquasana under-sink models, the most powerful one is the OptimH2O® Reverse Osmosis + Claryum®.  Indeed, it includes granular activated carbon, catalytic carbon, ion exchange, sub-micron filtration, reverse osmosis membrane, and remineralization technologies.  Supposedly, the remineralization cartridge puts back calcium, magnesium, and potassium into the filtered water.  Generally, reverse osmosis is the best water filtration method for the removal of fluoride, arsenic, and hexavalent chromium.   

Additionally, Aquasana carries a whole-house water filter for city water and well water.  You place it where your water enters the house, and it filters the water before it gets to anything else.  On the one hand, having a whole-house water filter is great for reducing chlorine and other contaminants.  But on the other hand, you still need a kitchen filter to reduce many other contaminants.  Thus, normally, whole-house water filtration systems are not designed to remove fluoride, arsenic, radioactive elements, chromium-6, and other contaminants.  Most of them focus on dealing with removing chlorine or chloramine, at best.

My experience with Aquasana was unsatisfactory.

I do not consider Aquasana the best water filter system for the following reasons. 

First, after several attempts, I couldn’t get a satisfying answer regarding the amount of beneficial minerals their remineralization medium adds to drinking water.  This is a concern because if you add too much, it can make your water too alkaline.  As a result, alkaline water may interfere with the stomach’s natural acidity and undermine digestion and absorption of nutrients.  Clearly, this is not a characteristic of the best water filtration product.

Moreover, in 2021, I installed the Aquasana Reverse Osmosis filter and tested the filtered water using Tap Score test kit.  The test revealed that the filter removed the contaminants well, including 100% of uranium, but it raised the water pH to 9.5.  (Read my post to learn more about potential harms of uranium in water and what the government does about it.)     

Besides raising the pH, the water filter did not do a good job adding back much needed magnesium and calcium.  It added potassium which is not an important mineral for me to have in my water. 

Furthermore, when a plumber, recommended by Aquasana, installed the filter, it leaked.  For some reason, it took Aquasana 2 weeks to ship a replacement part even though I paid for expedited shipping.  Therefore, I cannot vouch for the quality of Aquasana filters and their customer service.

So, we ended up returning the Aquasana Reverse Osmosis filter and installed the Pure Effect water filter instead. 

I believe that Pure Effect is the best water filter system.

In 2015, when I first came across Pure Effect, I was skeptical about them.  They claimed that their water filter systems were as powerful as reverse osmosis, but that they did not demineralize water.  To make sure that it was the best water filtration system, I contacted Pure Effect’s founder Igor Milevskiy.  I appreciate the fact that he took the time to educate me and answered all my questions to my satisfaction.  

So, I bought this Pure Effect water filter system and tested it with the Tap Score service.  It showed that the Pure Effect filter worked well.  Among other things, it removed 100% of uranium.  However, it did not remove fluoride 100%.  That was when I bought the Aquasana Reverse Osmosis filter and had the experience I described above.  In the end, I went back to Pure Effect and could not be happier.

True, it did not remove fluoride 100% in our water.  However, Katie, one of my Savvy Consumer Circle members, tested her filtered water with Tap Score testing kit and discovered that fluoride was 100% gone.  I believe that it did not remove fluoride completely in our water because our water is extremely hard.  Indeed, they consider water with above 10.5 grains per gallon very hard, and our water has 16.11 grains per gallon.  Plus, our municipality adds much more fluoride than the usual 0.7 ppm.  Thus, the combination of both factors probably makes it hard to remove fluoride without any trace amounts left.

What I like about Pure Effect

First, the owner of the company designed this best water filter system himself.  Also, he is knowledgeable and courteous and provides great customer service. 

Second, Pure Effect systems reduce fluoride, radioactive elements, arsenic, chromium 6, and pharmaceuticals.  Essentially, these are the pollutants that reverse osmosis systems are designed to deal with. 

Though the Duke and North Carolina State study did not include Pure Effect best water filtration system, I feel it would have fared very well.  To clarify, in the Duke/NCSU study, even some simple pitchers or filters with 2 stage filtration did well.  And the Pure Effect filter is a great deal more robust.  It even removes fluoride which is one of the hardest chemicals to remove from water.

Third, Pure Effect carries several different models so that you can choose which one is right for you.

Next, unlike reverse osmosis filters, the Pure Effect best water filter system does not use a water storage tank.  This is a good thing because manufacturers typically line the tanks with plastic.  Plus, Pure Effect filters, unlike Reverse Osmosis systems, do not waste water.

Moreover, the filtered water will contain magnesium, calcium, chloride, and sodium – minerals our bodies need.  In the modern world, many of us (including me) are deficient in magnesium.

Above all, over the years, I have never heard bad Pure Effect filters reviews. 

This is what Nickie, a member of my Savvy Consumer Circle, said about Pure Effect:

Conclusion about finding the best water filter system

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that everybody’s drinking water is different. Therefore, different water filtration technologies deal with different water pollutants.  Thus, there is no best water filtration system in absolute terms.  

Ideally, it is best to test your water before and after filtering to know how well your water filter works.  The reason for that is that water in different locations has different chemistry: contaminants, pH, and hardness.  So far, the best lab I have found for that is Tap Score.

However, if you have no time or the resources to test your water, you can choose the water filter that I have tested.  I have already done all the research and testing for you.  As a result, my personal choice is Pure Effect water filtration systems.  You can also book a consultation with me to get help finding the best water filter for you.  The peace of mind you will gain from having chosen the best water system for your water is worth it.

Finally, visit my shop for multiple options of healthful products, including non-toxic makeup.  Check out my e-books and join the Savvy Consumer Circle to get support on your healthy living journey.

Reference:

  1. Kamble, S., Deshpande, G., Barve, P., Rayalu, S., Labhsetwar, N., Malyshew, A., & Kulkarni, B. (2010). Adsorption of fluoride from aqueous solution by alumina of alkoxide nature: Batch and continuous operation. Desalination, 264(1), 15-23.

63 thoughts on “Best Water Filter System for You”

  1. Thank you for sharing your valuable knowledge with us. We’ve been using Clearly Filtered for a few years now. We use both the water pitcher and shower head filters. A whole home filter is definitely on my list of future investments. Have you heard of Clearly Filteted? If yes, would you recommend their products?

    1. Hi, Chelsea: Their website does not have information to arrive at a conclusion. I would need to give them a call to learn what type of filter media they use and what chemistry of water they used for their testing. I would definitely be happy to consult with you on this. As I said in the post, one size does not fit all. One thing I can say though, I do not like that the water pitcher is plastic. Looking at the picture, I assume it is plastic. I wonder what type… Thank you for your question, Chelsea. ~Irina

      1. Hi Irina, Clearly Filtered updated their pitchers last year to be made of Tritan, which I understand to be fairly safe (even though it’s still plastic) and non-leaching? I’m not sure if this applies to the interior plastic reservoir that initially holds the water as it’s filtering down, or just the pitcher itself.

        1. Thank you, Chelsea. I think the more important question here is that what water contaminants you need to remove or reduce and whether the Clearly Filtered pitcher deals with those contaminants. ~Irina

      2. What are your thoughts on Berkey water purifiers?
        it’s the system Chris Wark uses and reviews are very positive.

        Thank you

        1. Hi, Karen:

          I like Chris Wark’s work. It depends. Some people do not like a water filter sitting on the countertop. The best way to find out is to test the input and output water to see how the water filter performs on your water. Are you considering to buy Berkey or do you own it already? ~Irina

    1. Hi, Sylvia, what specifically are you asking about? Ion exchange can be used as a water softening standalone system or as a filtration medium in drinking water filter systems. Ion exchange is a water treatment method where undesirable contaminants are removed from water by another substance, usually sodium. The drinking water is exposed to a resin that usually contains electrically-charged sodium ions. As these ions escape the resin and enter the water, contaminants in the water are replaced with sodium. This process produces a salty brine. Ion exchange systems are used not only for water purification but also for water softening. Water softening is used for hard water, which means that it has a high content of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals.

      Does this help? ~Irina

  2. I have been using the Big Berkey system and going to also buy their shower filter. The only downside is when I travel for extended periods, their Flouride filter can only be stored in the refrigerator so it does not dry out inside for 14 days. I could ask someone to pour water thru it once a week but hate to do that. But these filters are affordable for filtering Flouride and Arsenic.

    1. Kathy, how do you clean the Big Berkey? I heard that it is not easy to clean and keep it mold-free? Thank you! ~Irina

  3. Stephanie Walton

    We distill our drinking water. From the research I have done, this is the superior method for extracting contaminates. It’s a stainless steeler distiller with glass pitcher. What are your thoughts about distilled water?

    1. Hi, Stephanie: I believe distillers will remove minerals and volatile organic compounds, but some pesticides & herbicides are not properly
      removed in distillation systems unless there’s an activated carbon pre or post filter. Also, there is a controversy about demineralization. Have you looked into that? ~Irina

    1. Hi, Dmytro: I would have to contact them and find out if they disclose specific filtration media they use. This is how we can get comfortable with their impressive claims because they are not NSF-certified. I can do that for you for a fee. ~Irina

  4. Hello Irina. Have you done any research regarding alkaline water? I received a link to a company called Turapur (pro.turapurwaterpitcher.com). I’ve read alkaline water can have many benefits for your health and this company claims their particular method of alkalizing the water creates even more health benefits than traditional alkaline water. I’m curious if you’ve heard of them or have any thoughts. Thank you!

      1. Dear Irina,

        I would love to know why you don’t recommend alkaline water. We have two Kangen water machines. When we bought them it was because these machines were being used in Japanese hospitals with wonderful results for healing. In as much as the cause of so much illness seems to be over acidity, it seems alkline water is perfect to decrease acidity. (By the way, the Kangen machines allow for acid water for cleaning, etc.

        1. Hi, Linda: there is no scientific basis that alkaline water alkalizes the body. Eating green vegetables does. Moreover, our stomachs have to be acidic. The acid in our stomachs has to be of a pH of 2. It is necessary for breaking down foods and killing off bad bacteria. Drinking alkaline water can raise the pH of your stomach acid resulting in indigestion, poor absorption of nutrients, and increased potential for getting sick from pathogenic bacteria. ~Irina

          1. Wow!! What an educated and detailed answer! Thank you so much, Irina!! Praise God for you!

  5. Do you still recommend the unit you mentioned last year? I think the name was Ever pure…
    Is that the system you current use?

  6. Hey Irina! Yes, a water filtration system must be able to clean your water of all the pollutants. Because polluted water could be very dangerous for our health. Thank you for your recommendations on choosing the best water filter system. Keep sharing, keep blogging!

  7. Hello, Irina.

    I would love to know your opinion what kind of water is best for internal human consumption. There are so many conflicted studies out there, as with any other topic… So, what should we choose: filtered water, distilled water, hydrogenated water, reverse osmosis water, ionized water, energized water, etc.? There are so, so many and the topic about water is so, so, vast… I more I read about this topic, the more confused I am. =))

    Thank you.

    1. Iona: I described the two brands that I think are good. The type of water you choose should be based on understanding what the water is. I can address all your questions in a consultation. ~Irina

  8. Thank you for this information!
    I’m curious whether you’ve ever looked into or heard of MultiPure?
    We currently have their AquaVersa undercounter model.

  9. Hellow, Irina
    I am still using Propur 304 stainless ProOne-G filter system and you still recommend this water filter
    unit?

      1. Megan Sullivan

        Hi Irina,
        Yes, it will grow mold if it’s not cleaned out every two weeks or so. Hope this helps. My long term goal is to have a whole system, but for now we have a propur or now called proOne.
        Thank you.
        Megan

  10. Thank you for all of this valuable information! Do you know if the Pure Effect filters are NSF certified?

        1. They haven’t because it is very expensive. Also, because of the unique structure of the water filter, there is no right NSF standard for them that would fully capture the essence of their technologies. ~Irina

  11. Hi Irina
    I would love to know what you think of Ultrapure Aragon Under sink filter as I’m moving into a new apartment and need to invest in one. I’m in Australia and that’s an Australian company. I’ve done your check of lead, chlorine and fluoride ( no cloramines though). I would appreciate your thoughts before I commit to buying it. Thanks so much. I love your work.

    1. Hi, Marcelle: I can take a look at it for you. Please book a consultation for that. Thanks. ~Irina

  12. Thanks so much, Irina for your response to my question. I am just wondering how/why the Japanese are so gung-ho for alkaline water in their hospitals if it’s not good for you. They are probably trying to treat the whole system, perhaps, not just the stomach??? Intriguing question.

  13. Hi Irina!

    Thank you so much for sharing this information!

    I just looked up my water and the levels of arsenic are sickening – 397x higher than EWG’s health guideline 🙁
    https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/system.php?pws=WI2680253

    That being said, it sounds like the Aquasana OptimH2O Reverse Osmosis + Claryum is my best option? Do you know what the tank is made of? Any other recommendations since writing this post?

    Thank you!!
    Jenny

  14. Hi! I always find your posts so valuable. Have you heard of Radiant Life water filtration systems? Just wondering if you’ve had any experiences with them (good or bad).

  15. Express is a high quality product. The canisters are enclosed in a metal frame that helps protect them. Also, it comes with three very nice liquid filled pressure gauges which are pre-wrapped with teflon tape. It also includes o-rings for the gauges, which makes it easy to install – just hand tight.

  16. As you’ve described above, we must filter water before drinking it. I agree. But It also true that sometimes we found a different taste of water after filtration. That’s for the materials countains in the water. Drink safe, live safe.

  17. Hi there!
    I’ve just moved to the new house and it seems that the water here contains a huge amount of arsenic. It turns tubs and clothes orange due to buildup over time. Luckily, Berkey water filter could help me improve significantly that bad situation. The filtered water tastes very clean and pure. Although it is large and takes up vertical space.

  18. Hi Irina! This post is super helpful, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us! I’m currently using an aquatru then I add minerals back in with Concentrace. Since the Aquatru wasn’t one of the systems you reviewed here I was curious if you have heard of that brand and had any thoughts?

  19. Hi Irina,

    Thank you so much for sharing this information. Do you still recommend Aquatru? I know in the past you marked it as “best” in an Instagram post.

    Thanks!

    Megan

    1. Hi, Megan: I believe that you should choose a filter based on the contaminants in your water, your health, your preferences, etc. In my Instagram, I estimated which filters will work the best to remove fluoride. Since Aquatrue is certified to remove fluoride and it is RO that are best suited for fluoride, I put it in the best category. However, personally I would not want to use for me because it sits on the countertop, demineralizes water, and the water sits in plastic. You can learn more about which filters I tested here: https://ireadlabelsforyou.com/what-you-can-do-about-uranium-in-water/ ~Irina

  20. Thanks for the update on water filters Irena – do you know why PureEffect has temporarily discontinued their whole house water filter for city water?
    Their website also mentions countertop and under counter filters are optimal for drinking / cooking water and their shower water is good for showers. I wonder if you have thoughts on why this would be the case? A whole house water filter sounds like it would be the best case scenario!
    Thanks!

  21. Hello Irina,
    First of all thank you for your research and opinion, I am a follower of EWG b/c I believe in toxic free life.
    I am looking, not just for a filter to remove contaminates but also for non toxic water filter and I am really confused b/c the more research I do, it gets more harder for me to choose the right one for me and my family. We live in apartment so i can not do for whole house system…. but that will be a later thing I will discuss with you when we buy our house. Do have any suggestions in mind for me?
    Is pure effect toxic free? What are the cartilages made of? Any plastic in this?
    And I am requesting everyone who come across to my post, please share ur opinion and experience to choose the right filter for me. Really appreciate it and thank you all and Irina.

    1. Hi, Savita: I think it’s a long road to take and it may lead to a lot of frustration and stress, which is counterproductive to our health. Instead, you might test the filtered water, which should show not only how well the filter works but also whether the materials used to make the filter leach into your water. Good luck. ~Irina

  22. Hello Irina,

    Thanks to your always amazing research and wealth of information, I am purchasing the Pure Effects under counter filtration system. Would love to know if you added on the UV (virus removal) feature also, and whether you feel that is a necessary addition. Are you able to share with us what exactly you ended up purchasing, including any accessories? Again thank you so much, God bless you and your team!

  23. Hi Irina! How often will filters need to be replaced on the Pure Effect system? I’m having trouble finding an answer on their site. Thank you <3

    1. Hi Audra! This is what their website says, “Filter Replacement: Every 6-12 months (dependent upon usage) for consistently superior performance.” We hope this helps!

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