How to Choose a Water Filter Pitcher: 8 Key Considerations

So, you’re set on buying a water filter pitcher to filter your tap water. You’ve made a great choice – but the decisions don’t end there.

There are tens – maybe even hundreds – of water filter pitchers available today. And while that’s a great thing for making manufacturers work hard to stay competitive, it also means that the endless options can be too much to take in. At worst, you might be so overwhelmed that you end up wasting your money on an unsuitable product.

In this article, we’ve shared all the considerations you should make when deciding on the right water filter pitcher for you.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • Before anything else, make sure the water filter pitcher targets the contaminants you want to remove!
  • Additionally, consider your budget, design preferences, filter type, filtration speed, and maintenance requirements.
  • Consider pitchers that offer better features than their competitors, such as testing to NSF Standards or official NSF certifications, and long warranties and money-back guarantees.

📝 Choosing a Water Filter Pitcher: What To Consider

Trying to decide between the best water filter pitchers? Wondering how to make the smartest investment in a single product? Consider the following things while you research the market:

Your Budget

Start by determining your budget.

One of the biggest appeals of water pitcher filters is their affordability. The average everyday water filter pitcher costs within the range of $25-$85.

The cost of a water filter pitcher depends on factors including its performance, its filter lifespan, and its water holding capacity.

📌 We recommend spending at least $35 on a water filter pitcher to get good long-term value from your purchase. If you have a bit more money upfront, consider the more expensive pitchers, which can often remove hundreds of contaminants.

Your yearly filter replacement cost is the only long-term expense to consider. Most water filter pitchers have an annual filter change cost of $40-$80.

Pitcher manufacturers often sell replacement filters in multipacks at a reduced cost per filter, so this is a great way to save money if you’re confident that you’ll use your pitcher for the foreseeable future.

Side view of a Clearly Filtered pitcher cartridge

Your Water Quality

Once you’ve established how much you can afford to spend on a filtered water pitcher, consider your water quality.

If you’re yet to test your water, we recommend starting here. For the most accurate insight into what your water contains, get a laboratory test that detects a range of impurities in your water supply.

Water testing with tap score

If you want to spend as little money as possible, purchase an at-home DIY water test kit, which will give you an indication of whether or not your tap water contains the most common contaminants.

Review your test results and write down the contaminants that concern you the most. Common trace contaminants in tap water supplies include:

  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Heavy metals (including lead, mercury, and arsenic)
  • Chlorine taste and odor
  • Nitrates and nitrites
  • Emerging contaminants (like pharmaceuticals)
  • Pesticides and herbicides

You might also want to test for total dissolved solids to give you an indication of how contaminated your water is. But remember that healthy minerals and salts contribute to TDS, so finding a filtered water jug that reduces TDS isn’t essential.

Once you know what your water contains, you can look at water filter pitchers that can reduce or remove these impurities.

Alternatively, you can use this EWG tool or the EPA’s Consumer Confidence Report lookup tool to get a general idea of what your tap water might contain.

Your Design Preferences

There are several different pitcher designs to consider when you’re choosing a suitable pitcher:

Design Materials

The most popular pitcher jug materials are plastic and glass. A few manufacturers also offer metal pitchers, which are designed to be portable but aren’t the best choice for day-to-day use since you can’t see from a glance how much water is left.

Decide whether you prefer a glass or plastic pitcher design.

Glass pitchers have a more modern, upmarket appearance, and often look more attractive on a kitchen countertop. However, glass is heavier and more prone to shattering, and it’s often more expensive than plastic.

If you’re set on a plastic pitcher, make sure the material used is sturdy, durable, and BPA-free. Tritan plastic is a popular option for jug filters because it’s all three of these things.

Lifestraw home water filter pitcher on wooden table

Chamber Filtering Vs Filtering Out The spout

Another design feature to consider is chamber filtering versus filtering out of the spout.

Most pitcher water filters use chamber filtration, meaning that you add unfiltered water to the top chamber, and water flows through the filter and into a separate bottom chamber.

A few pitchers offer spout filtration. Here, you simply add water to the jug, then pour the water into your glass. Water travels through a filter before leaving the spout.

Either way, the filtration process is powered by gravity, so it probably won’t be much quicker to use a spout filter versus a chamber filter. We recommend chamber filter pitchers because you won’t have to put the effort into tilting the jug for the filtration process to work.

comparing water filter pitchers chamber filtration vs our of spout filtration

Jug Holding Capacity

Also consider your preferred tap water holding capacity for a water filtration jug.

Most pitchers hold 6-12 cups of water. Manufacturers usually offer a range of pitchers in various sizes that you can fit their filter in, so you can choose the pitcher size that’s best for you.

Smaller pitchers need refilling more frequently, but they’re easier to store and carry than large pitchers, and you won’t have the issue of stale-tasting drinking water that has been sitting around for hours.

Filter Type

Most water pitcher water filters use some form of activated carbon filter to remove basic contaminants, including chlorine, taste and smell.

The best pitchers combine carbon media with other capable filtration media, including ion exchange resin and nanofilter media – all within a single filter cartridge.

The benefit of multi-media filters is that they’re capable of more thoroughly filtering water. Many pitcher water filters with several media types can remove tens, even hundreds, of contaminants, including heavy metals and volatile organic compounds, Some can even reduce bacteria, microplastics, and other tiny impurities.

Because of the complexity of these filters, the pitchers are often costlier to buy upfront, and replacing filters is a little more expensive, too.

Alkaline vs Normal Filter

Alkaline water pitchers are a popular subcategory of filtered water jugs available today.

An alkaline pitcher water filter combines carbon filters with alkaline filter media. This pitcher reduces common contaminants, like chlorine and heavy metals, and increases water alkalinity and pH, usually by adding healthy trace minerals to water.

We love alkaline pitcher filters because they give drinking water a crisp, mineral taste. But these filters often have limited contaminant-removal abilities because their main selling point is their pH boosting and mineralizing abilities.

Drinking water

NSF Certifications & Testing

If you’re looking for the best reassurance that a drinking water jug can remove certain impurities from contaminated water, choose a pitcher with an official NSF certification for its performance.

Manufacturers can pay for the NSF to test water filter pitchers and certify them for the removal of certain contaminants. Two popular certifications and NSF 42, for chlorine reduction, and 53, for the removal of lead and other contaminants that pose a health risk.

Second-best to official NSF certifications is testing to NSF Standards. Many pitcher manufacturers share their third-party test results online, showing exactly why contaminants their pitchers remove, and to what percentage.

Filtration Speed

Water filter pitchers are by no means a fast water filtration solution.

The average time for filtering tap water in a pitcher is 10-20 minutes, depending on the pitcher size and the filter used.

The good news is that most filter pitchers let you pour water from the jug at any point during the filtering process, so you don’t have to wait for a batch of water to be filtered before you can have a drink.

Slow filtration has the benefit of a long contact time between water and the filter, allowing for more thorough contaminants removal.

Maintenance Requirements

A good water filter pitcher shouldn’t require excessively frequent maintenance.

The biggest maintenance task is replacing the filters. Most pitchers have a 2-3-month filter lifespan, meaning you’ll need to buy a filter replacement 4-6 times a year.

You’ll usually know when to buy a replacement filter because your filter speed will slow right down. Some manufacturers offer pitcher jugs with built-in filter-change reminders, which change color when the filter needs replacing.

Aside from replacing the filters, you’ll also need to clean the pitcher filter regularly to prevent mineral buildup on the inside of the jug. Simply wash the pitcher in warm, soapy water once or twice a week.

Assembling a water filter pitcher

Warranty & Guarantee

Finally, look at the manufacturer’s warranty before buying a pitcher.

Even though pitchers aren’t huge investments, you should still aim to find a product that has a minimum 6-12-month warranty or some form of guarantee.

Warranties tell you that the manufacturer trusts in their own product to live up to performance and quality expectations. It gives you the reassurance of knowing that your purchase is protected should the pitcher be faulty or poorly designed.

❔ How to Choose a Water Pitcher Filter: FAQ

How do I choose a water pitcher?

To choose a water filter pitcher, consider your budget, your water quality and contaminant removal preferences, your design preferences, your preferred jug holding capacity and filtration speed, and the manufacturer’s testing/certifications and warranty.

What water filter pitcher removes the most contaminants?

The water filter pitcher that removes the most contaminants is the Clearly Filtered Water Pitcher. When we reviewed this pitcher, we found that it removes 365+ contaminants – more than any other manufacturer currently claims (to our knowledge). Some of the contaminants removed by this pitcher are chlorine, chloramine, fluoride, lead, VOCs, disinfection byproducts, nitrate, nitrite, and arsenic.

What are the best water filter pitcher brands?

Some of the best water filter pitcher brands are Clearly Filtered, Epic, PUR, and Proone. Check out our current favorite brands in our best water filter pitchers guide.

Can you get reverse osmosis filter pitchers?

No, reverse osmosis filters can’t be included in a pitcher water filtration system. Reverse osmosis systems require a lot of space, need to be powered by water pressure, and waste water – bus some manufacturers now offer countertop water filters that filter water into a pitcher jug.

Which is better Brita or ZeroWater pitcher?

We think the ZeroWater pitcher is better than Brita pitchers because ZeroWater removes more contaminants (23 vs Brita’s 5-7+ contaminants, depending on the filter type). However, neither of these filters are our current top picks because there are other water filter pitchers that remove hundreds of contaminants and are much more thorough.

Which is better Brita or PUR pitchers?

In our opinion, the PUR pitcher is better than the Brita filter pitcher because PUR removes more contaminants – 20 vs Brita’s Standard filter’s 5 contaminants and the Elite (formerly LongLast) filter’s 7+ contaminants. We’ve compared Brita and PUR in detail in this review.

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