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Best Water Filter System for You

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?  In 2012, I bought my first water filter.  I considered it the best water filtration product out there.  But in reality, I had no idea what contaminants it filtered out and what media (aka components) it had.  I did not even know what contaminants were in my drinking water.  After that, I continued researching the water filter system market and found even better options that I’m going to present in this post.  Read to the end to discover the best water filtration system for you.

Best Water Filter System for You. A photo of dew on a green leaf.

Why you need a water filter system

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, but in practice, it does not always work well.  Records have shown that 49 million Americans drink water that contains illegal concentrations of chemicals such as lead, arsenic, dangerous bacteria, and even radioactive substances.  And you might be one of them.

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

Now, let’s talk briefly about common contaminants in your drinking water that the best water filter system must be able to deal with.

Chlorine and chloramine

Normally, water 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 from water than chlorine.  Thus, a granular activated carbon filter cannot remove chloramine, so the best water filtration system would need catalytic carbon or KDF (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion) medium to deal with chloramine.

Lead in your drinking 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 level set by the EWG.

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 in drinking water

Before fluoride started being added to the public water supply in the 1950s, 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 very little health research.

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 that fluoride is associated with an underactive thyroid.  In addition, studies show that even 2 ppm (or 2 mg/L) in drinking water can damage kids’ kidneys and livers (source). 

However, not every water filter system removes fluoride.  Thus, to get the best water filtration product for your home, you need to make sure that you have a water filter medium that works for fluoride.

My recommendations on choosing the best water filter system

First and foremost, I have done a lot of research on water filters trying to find the best water filtration system.  Since I don’t rely on advertisement and mere popularity of a certain brand, I studied each water filter system in detail to figure out how it works.  In addition, I contacted some companies and asked a lot of questions.  In other words, I have done your research for you.  As a result, below you can find out my thoughts about three water filter brands.  Please know that you can book a consultation, and I can present you with my research into any water filter of your choice.

Berkey filters

I know that many of you use them and believe that Big Berkey filters are the best water filter systems out there.  Nevertheless, before deciding if Berkey is the best water filter system, you should know something important about it.

To begin with, Berkey sent its filtered water samples to an independent lab.  To clarify, judging by the way Berkey structured its water tests, it might appear that Berkey filters are superior to any other carbon filters and even to reverse osmosis water filtration systems.  In other words, it may seem that they remove all contaminants, something that carbon filters usually do not.

However, there are several things to bear in mind when you look at Berkey’s test reports. This way you can decide whether Berkey is the best water filtration method out there. 

Berkey’s filter media to remove fluoride

First, even the best water filter system will perform differently on different water. And a filter medium will perform better at the beginning of its life.

For instance, the 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 far as I know, normally tap water’s pH is higher than that.  For example, our tap water’s pH is 8.17.  You can find out your water’s pH from your water treatment municipality report. By law, your water utility must post it online every year.  So, if your water’s pH is higher than 7, the activated alumina in a Berkey filter might not be the best option for removing fluoride from your tap water.

Berkey’s test report on lead

Secondly, pay attention to the minimum detectable levels on the test reports. 

Specifically, for lead, the Berkey report shows the detectable minimum is less than 2 ppb. It is 10 times more than the Environmental Working Group’s safe level of 0.2 ppb (source).  In other words, you won’t detect anything less than 2 ppb.  So, if the water has 1.9 ppb (almost 10 times the EWG maximum “safe” limit), the result will be negative for lead. Under the circumstances, it is rather misleading.

To sum up, I believe Berkey is not the best water filter system.  On the other hand, it has its own advantages. For example, it can work without electricity and it does not demineralize water. 

Lastly, if you already own Berkey and consider it the best water filtration product for your circumstances, you might want to test your tap water and compare it to your filtered water to see how it performs.  The best lab I found for that is Tap Score.  

Berkey water filter and PFAS

Some of the common uses of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) include non-toxic coating in cookware and water- and stain-repellent finishes in clothes and carpeting.  Unfortunately, they are associated with an array of health problems.  For example, they include increased risk of cancer, potential harm to the developing fetus, and even reduction of vaccine effectiveness.  Thus, it is very important that the best water filter system you choose removes them.

Luckily, scientists at the Duke and North Carolina State Universities tested a number of water filtration systems to see how well they remove 11 chemicals of the PFAS family.  Berkey filters were some of the water filters they tested. 

According to the tests, Berkey pitchers removed some PFAS, reduced others, and only in one instance added more PFAS.  But Big Berkey with 2 black filters did poorly.  To clarify, it removed some PFAS, did not significantly reduce PFPA, and actually added GenX and PFBA.  Based on this, I do not believe that Berkey filters are the best water filtration products for you.  To see a full list of tested water filters, please visit here.

Aquasana water filter systems

Like Berkey, Aquasana filter systems are very popular, too.  They carry a carbon water filter system (3-Stage Claryum Under Counter Max Flow or 3-Stage Claryum Under Counter) and a reverse osmosis system (Optim H2O Reverse Osmosis + Claryum). 

Generally speaking, if you have fluoride, arsenic, or hexavalent chromium in your water, and want to ensure the highest degree of their removal, you should go for the Optim H2O Reverse Osmosis + Claryum system.  That is to say, you will get maximum reduction of these contaminants with reverse osmosis.  What I like about Aquasana is that the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) certifies all of their filters.  They do very rigorous testing.  Aquasana has published the NSF testing results on each water filtration product description page.

In fact, the Duke University and North Carolina State University scientists included Aquasana filters in their PFAS test and all models fared very well.  You can see the details of the testing results here.

In addition, I called and asked them for a list of filtration media that go into making the best water filter system they sell.

Aquasana under counter water filter system

Some of Aquasana’s best water filtration products, namely the Aquasana 3-Stage Claryum Max Flow or 3-Stage Claryum, and the Aquasana Optim H2O Reverse Osmosis + Claryum under counter systems, include the following filter media:

  • Granular activated carbon
  • Catalytic carbon
  • Ion exchange
  • KDF
  • Reverse osmosis membrane
  • Remineralization filter that adds calcium, potassium, and magnesium

Obviously, Aquasana filters are very popular because they are budget friendly.  However, after a few attempts, I was unable to get a satisfying answer as to how much 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.

Head over to the Aquasana website for more information.   

Aquasana whole-house best water filter system

First, Aquasana offers a whole-house water filter system for city water and well water.  A whole-house filter does just that – you place it where your water enters the house, and it filters the water before it gets to anything else, including the kitchen sink, showers, etc.

Second, Aquasana best water filtration products are certified by NSF to remove at least 96.9% of chlorine, which is great for your hair and skin, too!

They also reduce herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, industrial solvents, and heavy metals, such as lead and mercury.

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, chloramine, arsenic, radioactive elements, chromium-6, and many other contaminants.

Check out the Aquasana whole-house water filter on their website.

Pure Effect water filters

From the beginning, I can tell you that I consider Pure Effect the best water filter system.

I found Pure Effect back in 2015 and was drawn by their claims that their water filter system was as powerful as reverse osmosis (RO), but that it didn’t demineralize water.  Unlike reverse osmosis water filtration systems, Pure Effect filters do not have water storage tanks.  It is a good thing because they always line the tanks with plastic, and you don’t want that.

Initially, I was skeptical about the Pure Effect water filter.  So, to make sure that their water filters were effective, I asked a ton of questions to the owner of Pure Effect Igor Milevskiy.  By the way, my questions never annoyed him, and he always took the time to educate me and answered all my questions to my satisfaction.  Please watch a video interview with the owner of Pure Effect Igor Milevskiy about why we need to filter water and why their best water filtration system is better than an RO filter here.

What I like about Pure Effect

First, the owner of the company was the one who designed the water filter system.  Also, he provides customer service himself and is both knowledgeable and courteous.  

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 filter. 

Though the Duke and North Carolina State study did not include Pure Effect best water filter 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 filters are a great deal more robust. 

By the way, The Natural Baby Mama blogger tested water filtered by a Pure Effect Ultra Countertop filter.  She found that it removed fluoride that had measured at .72 ppb to not detectable.  I am not sure what the minimum detectable levels were though.  Please see the details of her testing results here.

Third, there is no activated alumina filter in the Pure Effect best water filtration system that is normally used for reducing fluoride.

What makes Pure Effect stand out

To begin with, Pure Effect publishes test reports on its website, using low minimal detectable levels.

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

Next, the Pure Effect best water filter system does not use a water tank and does not waste water. 

Moreover, the filtered water will contain magnesium, calcium, chloride, and sodium – minerals our bodies need.  Consequently, the filtered water will be slightly naturally alkaline due to the presence of these minerals.

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 (I love how supportive the group is):

To find the best water filtration model for your home, check out Pure Effect website.

Conclusion about the best water filter systems

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 filter system in absolute terms.  Hence, it is best to start with your water quality report.

Also, the same filter will work differently on different water.  So, it is a good idea to test your tap and filtered water to know how the water filter you have works on your water.  To learn more about the best lab I found, please visit my Shop.

And finally, if you have any other questions, please feel free to book a consultation with me.  The peace of mind you will gain from having chosen the best water system for your water will be worth it.

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.

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43 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.

  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. Linda Darlene

        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. Maria Simmons

            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. David Wilson

    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?

  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.

  12. Linda Darlene

    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

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