Water Filter Pitchers vs Reverse Osmosis: Which is Better?

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Trying to decide between a water filter pitcher and a reverse osmosis system?

In this water filter pitcher vs reverse osmosis system comparison guide, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about both of these water treatment solutions, including how they work, and their advantages and disadvantages, so that you can choose the best filter for your situation. 

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • The main difference between water filter pitchers and reverse osmosis systems is that water filter pitchers are portable countertop water filters that remove up to hundreds of contaminants, while reverse osmosis systems are larger, more complex under-sink or countertop units that remove up to 99.99% of TDS.  
  • You might prefer a water filter pitcher if you have a smaller budget and want a water filtration solution that’s easy to assemble and maintain, and isn’t tied down to one location. 
  • Or, you may prefer a reverse osmosis system if you want to purify your tap water with the most capable process and you have a bigger upfront budget. 

🤔 Are Water Filter Pitchers Or Reverse Osmosis Systems Best? Short Answer

There is no definite winner between water filter pitchers and reverse osmosis systems, but each water filter type is best for specific situations. 

Choose a water filter pitcher if you want a low-hassle, budget-friendly, no-install, portable water treatment method suitable for rentals and apartments. 

Choose a reverse osmosis system if you want to spend more money upfront on the most comprehensive water purification solution and you’re happy to commit to filter changes & spend more on maintenance. 

🫙 What Are Water Filter Pitchers

A water filter pitcher is a portable filtration device that looks like a normal pitcher jug, with one difference: the jug has a built-in filter that removes impurities from the water that leaves the spout. 

The filter typically sits in a compartment on the underside of the upper reservoir. To use a water filter pitcher, you slot the upper chamber onto the pitcher jug and fill the reservoir. Water will travel through the filter and into the lower chamber, which connects to the pitcher spout. 

Some pitchers have pour-through filter spouts, meaning that water travels through a filter as it’s poured out of the spout. 

Clearly Filtered water pitcher on countertop

Pros of Water Filter Pitchers

  • Water filter pitchers are more affordable than reverse osmosis systems, costing less than $100 upfront
  • You can take a water filter pitcher to any location because it’s small and lightweight, and it isn’t tethered to your water supply. 
  • There’s just one water filter to replace, keeping maintenance costs low. 
  • Despite its smaller size and more affordable cost, a water filter pitcher has the ability to remove up to hundreds of contaminants
  • Water filter pitchers don’t remove healthy minerals from water. 

Cons of Water Filter Pitchers

  • Maintenance for a water filter pitcher is more frequent because the average filter lifespan is 2-3 months. 
  • Water filter pitchers don’t purify water like reverse osmosis, so they’re not a guaranteed method of removing every single water contaminant
  • These filters use gravity filtration, so they don’t give you instant access to filtered water – expect to wait 10-20 minutes for a full jug of water to filter.
  • You have to fill the jug every time it empties, rather than getting filtered water on tap. 

⚗️ What Are Reverse Osmosis Systems?

Reverse osmosis systems are comprehensive water treatment systems that purify water using a series of water filters and membranes. 

A typical reverse osmosis system uses the following filters, in this order: 

  1. A sediment filter
  2. A carbon block filter
  3. A semipermeable membrane
  4. A carbon post-filter

Some RO systems also use a remineralization filter, which introduces healthy alkaline minerals back into the purified water supply. 

Most reverse osmosis water filters are designed for point-of-use installation. You can find under-sink RO systems that hook up to your cold water line and deliver purified water on tap, and countertop RO units that use electricity to send water through the filters before dispensing it from a dedicated spout. 

There are also whole-home reverse osmosis systems, but these are less common due to their expensive cost and the additional expense of water waste in such a large system. 

Reverse osmosis filter

Pros of Reverse Osmosis Systems

  • A reverse osmosis system offers the most comprehensive water treatment, eliminating virtually all total dissolved solids with its semi-permeable membrane. 
  • You can choose an RO unit for your preferred install location, whether you’d rather save countertop space and install an under-sink system, or avoid an invasive installation and opt for a countertop unit. 
  • Purified water from a reverse osmosis filter is suitable for cooking, cleaning, drinking, using in fish tanks, feeding to your pets, making baby formula, and much more. 
  • Reverse osmosis filters are cost-effective and easy enough to maintain in the long run. Once you’ve installed the system, it should last for years. 

Cons of Reverse Osmosis Systems

  • Reverse osmosis systems are expensive. The average under-sink system costs $175-$300, and the high-tech systems with all the best features cost up to $600 or more. 
  • The RO process wastes water. While modern systems are more efficient than traditional RO units, they still waste anything from 1 to 3 gallons of water per 1 gallon of purified water produced. 
  • RO maintenance is more of a hassle and costs more than water filter pitcher maintenance. There are multiple filters to change at various points throughout the year. 
  • RO systems remove everything from water, including healthy minerals

🆚 Water Filter Pitchers Vs Reverse Osmosis Systems: Main Differences

Let’s take a look at the main differences between water filter pitchers and reverse osmosis systems. 

Cost 

A water filter pitcher is more affordable than a reverse osmosis system, both upfront and in the long run. 

The average upfront cost of a water filter pitcher is $60-$100, while a reverse osmosis system costs around $300 or more. 

If your budget is low, a reverse osmosis system may be too expensive for you. 

Water Quality

The best water filter pitchers can remove up to hundreds of contaminants, but they still can’t compare to reverse osmosis systems when it comes to filtered water quality. 

RO systems remove up to 99.99% of all total dissolved solids, producing water that’s guaranteed to be clean, pure, and safe for drinking. 

If your goal is to achieve the cleanest water, a reverse osmosis system is your best solution

Waterdrop g3 p800 smart faucet TDS reading

Water pH/Alkalinity

Water filter pitchers aren’t capable of altering water’s pH or alkalinity, but reverse osmosis systems remove all dissolved impurities, including alkaline minerals, which may cause water’s pH to drop slightly. 

If you prefer the taste and health benefits of alkaline water, you’ll either need to look for a reverse osmosis system with a dedicated remineralization filter stage, or opt for a water filter pitcher. 

Maintenance 

Water filter pitchers are cheaper and easier to maintain than reverse osmosis filters – you just replace the filter every 2-3 months and clean the pitcher as you would any of your other cups or jugs. 

Reverse osmosis systems have multiple filters that need replacing every 6-24 months, so while maintenance is less frequent, there’s more effort involved in remembering which filters to replace and when, and the cost of replacement filters is higher. 

If you prefer a system that’s low-maintenance and cheap in the long run, a water filter pitcher is the better solution

Portability 

A filtered water jug is small and lightweight, so it’s easier to transport than a reverse osmosis system. 

You can buy a countertop RO system that isn’t hooked up to your water line, but this unit is much bigger, bulkier, and weightier than a water filter pitcher. 

If you want a filter that you can take with you on the go – whether that’s to work, on vacation, or just into another room in your home – a water filter pitcher is the best choice. 

Portability of water filter pitcher

Speed Of Water Delivery

Reverse osmosis systems deliver purified water at a faster rate than water filter pitchers. 

RO systems have the advantage of water pressure, which forces water quickly through the filter stages and out of the faucet or dispenser. 

Water filter pitchers produce water at a much slower rate because they use gravity filtration, so you won’t get filtered water on demand. 

If you want instant access to purified water whenever you’re thirsty, a reverse osmosis system is the makes-sense solution. 

⚖️ Should You Choose A Water Filter Pitcher Or A Reverse Osmosis System?

When deciding on whether to buy a water filter pitcher or a reverse osmosis system, consider what would work best for your circumstances and preferences.

Water pitcher vs reverse osmosis

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Would I rather spend less money upfront on a slightly less comprehensive filtration system, or can I stretch my budget to the very best water purification solution?
  • Do I want a system that I can keep in my home, or do I prefer a filter I can take with me to the office and on my travels?
  • Do I value portability, affordability, and convenience, or do I think water purity and quality, and accessing purified water quickly, are more important?

Ultimately, the decision is yours – and there’s no incorrect choice, really. When it comes down to it, water pitcher filters and reverse osmosis systems offer very similar end results. Their main differences are their costs, use points, complexity of water treatment, and water delivery speeds. 

Regardless of which water filter type you’re interested in, be sure to make a wise spending decision. Do your research, and look for water filters sold by a reputable company with plenty of positive customer feedback. 

  • Jennifer Byrd
    Water Treatment Specialist

    For 20+ years, Jennifer has championed clean water. From navigating operations to leading sales, she's tackled diverse industry challenges. Now, at Redbird Water, she crafts personalized solutions for homes, businesses, and factories. A past Chamber President and industry advocate, Jennifer leverages her expertise in cutting-edge filtration and custom design to transform water concerns into crystal-clear solutions.

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