Water Filter Pitchers

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Water filter pitchers are one of the most popular at-home filtration solutions. They’re affordable and effective, and the best pitchers are capable of reducing hundreds of common drinking water contaminants. 

📌 In this complete guide to water filter pitchers, we’ll be sharing everything you might want to know about these filters, including:

  • How water filter pitchers work
  • The pros and cons of using a water filter pitcher
  • The safety and effectiveness of filtration in a pitcher filter
  • When to use a water filter pitcher

🤔 What Is A Water Filter Pitcher And How Does It Work?

A water filter pitcher is a jug with a filter built into the reservoir. 

There are a few parts in a water filter pitcher: 

  • The jug – The main body of the pitcher
  • Handle – Attached to the pitcher body, used to lift and pour
  • The reservoir – Slots onto the top inside of the jug
  • The filter – Built into the bottom of the reservoir 
  • The lid – Clicks on top of the pitcher 

Water filter pitchers use gravity filtration to filter a batch of water. 

That means the force of gravity sends water from the reservoir slowly down through the filter, and into the bottom portion of the jug. 

Illustration of the components of a water filter pitcher and how it works to reduce contaminants from water

How do you use a water filter pitcher? Here’s what the process looks like for most pitchers: 

  1. Fill the pitcher reservoir with water and attach the lid. 
  2. Wait for water from the reservoir to filter into the pitcher. 
  3. Tilt the pitcher to pour filtered water from the spout into a glass. 

Some water filter pitchers use pour-through filtration, which means you fill the jug as normal, then pour from it straight away. The water filters through a filter before it leaves the spout. 

📥 What Filter Does A Water Filter Pitcher Use?

A water filter pitcher typically uses a carbon-based filter, sometimes combined with other filters. 

Conventional pitcher filters use a simple activated carbon filter media. Activated carbon has been proven to trap particles associated with undesirable taste, color, or odor in water, including chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, and hydrogen sulfide. 

Carbon is an effective filter media to use in a water filter pitcher because it has a very large surface area, meaning that it can trap the greatest range of contaminants in water, and it’s most capable when water has a longer contact time with the adsorption media (as it does in a gravity filter pitcher) because it gives more opportunity for contaminants to be removed. 

The best water filter pitchers use a blend of filter media that combines activated carbon with other filter materials, like ion exchange resin, activated alumina, and sub-micron filter media, to remove a greater range of impurities. 

Many water filter pitcher manufacturers are secretive about exactly what their filters are made of (likely because they’re afraid of their competitors copying their designs). 

If you want to learn more about a specific filter, it’s worth contacting the manufacturer or reading an in-depth expert review, which might give you the information you’re looking for. 

💲 Average Cost Of Water Filter Pitchers

The cost of a water filter pitcher depends on the pitcher size, filter, and contaminant removal capabilities, and the manufacturer’s popularity in the market. 

The average upfront cost of a filtered water jug is $25-$85. 

Generally, the more contaminants a water filter pitcher is proven to remove, the more expensive it is. Water filter manufacturers with testing or certifications to NSF Standards can also price their products slightly higher because they know this gives them the one-up on many of their competitors. 

Water pitcher filters have an annual maintenance cost of around $100, depending on the cost of replacement filters, and whether you buy multipacks of filters to save money. 

Average cost of each water filter parts

🔎 What Does A Water Filter Pitcher Remove?

A water filter pitcher can remove numerous aesthetic contaminants from water, including: 

  • Chlorine
  • Lead
  • Pesticides
  • Nitrates
  • Hydrogen sulfide
  • Some volatile organic compounds
  • Some heavy metals

The best water filter pitchers have complex filtration media blends and can remove hundreds of contaminants in water, including: 

  • PFAS
  • Heavy metals
  • Fluoride
  • Disinfection byproducts
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Radiological contaminants
  • Some microplastics

Some water filter pitchers can even remove bacteria and other microorganisms from water. 

How can you find out what a water filter pitcher removes? 

The manufacturer should share this information on the product page, or share a link on the product page to a page displaying their test results. 

The best manufacturers tell you exactly how many contaminants their pitchers have been tested to remove, and share a table with each contaminant listed, and what percentage of each contaminant the filter can remove. 

👨‍🔧 Learn more in this Updated List of Contaminants Removed by Water Filter Pitchers.

Removing dangerous impurities

🚫 What Can’t A Water Filter Pitcher Remove?

A water filter pitcher usually CAN’T remove the following contaminants: 

  • Minerals
  • Hardness
  • Salts
  • Microorganisms

Some filter pitchers can reduce bacteria if they use a sub-micron filter, but they’re not intended to purify or disinfect water. 

There are certain contaminants that a water filter pitcher will struggle to remove if they’re present in large quantities, including iron and sediment. You might need a dedicated pre-filter if your water contains any of these contaminants. 

⚖️ Pros And Cons Of Water Filter Pitchers

Here, we’ve outlined the advantages and disadvantages of using a water filter pitcher to treat your drinking water at home. 

👍 Pros: 

Easy To Set Up & Use

One of the biggest advantages of pitcher filters is their ease of use. 

You can quickly set up a water filter pitcher, and you don’t need to be a DIY expert to figure out how to assemble the parts. 

Using a pitcher is also easy. Simply fill the reservoir, wait for the water to filter, then pour yourself a drink. 

If you’re looking for a water filter that’s easy to set up and use, a water filter pitcher is the best solution. 

Assembling a water filter pitcher


A filtered water jug is one of the most affordable filtration methods available today. 

You can spend less than $100 upfront on a filter jug that removes hundreds of drinking water contaminants, transforming your water quality. 

The long-term spend is manageable, too, as there’s only one filter to replace, and you only need around 4-6 new filters per year

If you’re on a budget but you still want a high-quality at-home filtration solution, a water filter pitcher should tick your boxes. 

Portable Filtration

Another big advantage of filtered water pitchers is that they’re portable and versatile

A water pitcher isn’t tied down to your water line. You can take it with you to the office, on your travels, or simply from room to room in your home. 

As long as you have access to a drinking water supply, you can use a water filter pitcher. So if you’re after a versatile water filter that you can use wherever you may be, a filtered water jug should meet the description. 

Pouring a glass of water from water filter pitcher

Improves Water Taste & Quality

Water filter pitchers might not be the most impressive-looking filters on the market – but they’re much more capable than they seem.  

The best filtered water jugs can remove 200-350+ contaminants from drinking water, including contaminants affecting water’s taste and smell. 

The result? Tap water that’s cleaner and better tasting. A water pitcher gives you the quality and enjoyable taste of bottled water without having to leave your home or spend money at the store. 

Small Footprint

If you live in an apartment or your kitchen doesn’t have a lot of space, you might not have room for an under-sink filter or a large countertop unit. 

A water filter pitcher is ideal for small homes or apartments because it has a small footprint, so it doesn’t take up a lot of side space. 

Plus, water filter pitchers aren’t connected to your water line and they don’t need electricity, so you can place a pitcher on any surface that has the most room, without having to make space in a specific location. 

You should also have room to store the pitcher in a cupboard overnight or when it’s not in use. Most pitchers are standard water jug sized and can be stored on their side for convenience. 

Water filter pitcher taking small space on countertop

Simple Maintenance

We’ve already mentioned that filtered water jugs are easy to set up and use – and they’re also easy to maintain. 

There are only two maintenance jobs involved in owning a water filter pitcher: 

  1. Replacing the filters
  2. Cleaning the pitcher

Most filters in a pitcher have a 2-3-month lifespan. Replacing the filter is as simple as detaching the old filter (it might screw or click out of place, or it might slide out of the reservoir when you tip it upside-down) and installing the new filter in its place. 

Cleaning the pitcher is also easy. Just remove the filter, then wash the reservoir and jug as you would wash any other glass or pitcher, with warm water and soap. Some pitchers are even dishwasher-friendly. 

No Plumbing Required

The final advantage of water filter pitchers is that they don’t require a plumbing connection. 

This is advantageous for several reasons: 

  • There’s no difficult installation at your water line
  • You can use the pitcher almost instantly after unboxing it
  • The filter is suitable for rentals (rental terms often don’t allow major changes to be made to the property)
  • You can take the pitcher from room to room – it’s not stuck in one place

If you want the freedom and convenience of a plumbing-free water filter, you can’t go wrong with a filtered water jug.  

Installing the top reservoir of the water filter pitcher

👎 Cons: 

Short Filter Lifespan

One of the setbacks of a water filter pitcher is that the filter lifespan is short. 

Most filters in a pitcher need to be replaced after 2-3 months of use. Pitcher filters have shorter lifespans than larger filters in under-sink, countertop, and whole home units ( which last around 6-12 months). 

Pitcher filters don’t last very long because they’re limited by size, and because they use gravity filtration. Once the filter becomes clogged with contaminants, it becomes unusable because the flow of water slows significantly. 

If you want to limit maintenance as much as possible with a water filter, a pitcher filter isn’t the best solution. 

Limited Capacity

Another disadvantage of filtered water jugs is that they have a limited capacity. 

Most pitcher filters can hold around 6-12 cups of water. If you have a larger family, you’ll need to constantly refill the reservoir if you want access to filtered water around the clock. 

If you want filtered water on demand, a water filter pitcher isn’t the right filter for you. 

Filling the water filter pitcher with tap water

Can’t Purify Water

We’ve mentioned that some of the best pitcher filters can remove hundreds of contaminants from water, but they still can’t purify water. 

A water filter pitcher doesn’t guarantee the removal of all impurities in a drinking water supply. While it may greatly reduce many contaminants, traces of these contaminants could remain. And tiny contaminants, like some microplastics and microorganisms, will simply slip through the filter’s pores with the water molecules. 

If you want to purify your water, you’ll need to look beyond a water filter pitcher to a reverse osmosis system or a water distiller

Can’t Treat Microbiologically Unsafe Water

Water filter jugs also can’t be used to treat water that’s microbiologically unsafe. 

You can only use most pitcher filters with a disinfected city water supply. You can’t use a pitcher to treat water from a lake, stream, or other natural surface water source, which could contain sediment that clogs the media, and microorganisms that aren’t effectively filtered out. 

You’ll need a special water filter to treat water that’s contaminated with pathogens – either a backwashable portable sub-micron filter or a disinfection system, like a UV purifier. 

Slow Filtration Process

The final setback of water filter pitchers is that their filtration process is slow and doesn’t give instant access to water. 

Gravity filtration is slower than filtration aided by water pressure or electricity. You’ll need to wait up to 20 minutes for a single jug full of water to be filtered. 

If you want filtered water immediately whenever you’re thirsty, you might prefer an under-sink water filter or a faucet filter, which filter water in seconds. 

Slow water pitcher filtration process

⚗️ When Should You Use A Water Filter Pitcher?

Here are some of the occasions when you might use a water filter pitcher. 

Water Filter Pitcher For City Water

The most common use of a filtered water jug is to treat city water at home. 

You can use a water filter pitcher to remove common municipal water contaminants, like chlorine, pesticides, and heavy metals

This should remove the chemical taste in your water and make it more palatable. 

Water Filter Pitcher For Well Water

Some water filter pitchers can be used to treat well water supplies. 

These pitchers have special or complex filter media that make them capable of reducing common well water contaminants, like iron, nitrates, and microorganisms. 

You may need to use a pre-filter to prevent high concentrations of well contaminants, like sediment and iron, from clogging or fouling the filter membrane. 

Water filter pitcher cartridge for well water treatment

Water Filter Pitcher For Travel

You can also take a water filter pitcher with you on your travels. 

If you’re traveling to a vacation home, a hotel in a developed country, or to a friend or family member’s home across the country, you can take your pitcher with you so you can enjoy filtered water from any location. 

Note: A water filter pitcher should NOT be used when traveling off the grid or in areas with compromised tap water safety. Most pitcher filters can only be used to filter disinfected tap water supplies.  

👨‍🔧 Explore the 4 Types of Water Filter Pitchers with Insights from a Water Expert.

🆚 Water Filter Pitchers Vs Other Systems

Water filter pitchers are only one type of point-of-use water filter available today. 

Here’s an overview of some of the other filter types to consider: 

  • Under-sink systems are single- or multi-stage systems that are installed at your under-sink cold water line. Some under-sink systems use reverse osmosis purification, which removes up to 99.99% of total dissolved solids with several filters and a semi-permeable membrane. 
  • Countertop water filters are large units that sit on your countertop. Depending on their design, these systems may use gravity filtration, or they may use electricity to power water through a series of filters. Some countertop units use reverse osmosis purification. 
  • Faucet filters attach to the end of your faucet and filter water through a single filter stage (usually activated carbon media) as it flows out of the tap.  

✅ Water Filter Pitcher Considerations

When you’re shopping for a filtered water pitcher, consider the following things:

Your Water Quality & Contaminants Present

First, consider the contaminants that your water contains. This will help you to narrow down your choices based on what a water filter pitcher can remove.  

The higher your water’s TDS (total dissolved solids), the harder the filter will have to work, and the faster the media will become clogged. 

If your water contains high concentrations of TDS like hardness minerals or iron, you’ll need to consider installing a pre-treatment system, like a water softener, to reduce these contaminants to much lower levels. 

Water contamination at different levels

Pitcher Materials

Also consider your preferred pitcher materials. 

Most water filter pitchers are made from BPA-free plastic, like Tritan plastic. Not all pitchers are guaranteed to be BPA-free, so check this before you spend your money. 

If you prefer to avoid plastic as much as possible, opt for a glass pitcher. Many manufacturers offer their gravity filters in several different pitcher models, so you can choose the design and materials that you prefer. 

Filtration vs Filtration & pH Boost

Some water filter pitchers solely filter your water, while others filter your water and boost its pH and mineral content. 

Alkalizing water filter pitchers are a great choice if you want to further improve your water’s taste and health properties by adding traces of healthy minerals, like calcium and magnesium, to the filtered water. 

👨‍🔧 Continue Reading: A Comprehensive Analysis: Do Alkaline Water Pitchers Actually Work?

It’s your decision whether you prefer to spend a bit more on a pitcher that offers additional water treatment, or you’d rather just focus on removing as many contaminants as possible from your water. 


Another thing to look for in a filtered water jug is testing or certifications. 

Common NSF certifications for water filter pitchers are: 

  • NSF 42 – for removing chlorine, tastes, and odors
  • NSF 53 – for removing lead and other contaminants with health effects
  • NSF 244 – for microbiological water treatment 
  • NSF 401 – for removing emerging/incidental contaminants
  • NSF 473 – for removing PFOS and PFOA

Even if a water pitcher filter doesn’t have any official NSF certifications, it’s still reassuring if the pitcher has been tested to NSF Standards by a reputable third-party organization. Testing and certifications tell you that a water pitcher has been deemed capable of removing specific contaminants according to the manufacturer’s performance claims. 

Nsf logo

Pitcher Size & Capacity

Finally, consider your required pitcher size and water holding capacity. 

The bigger the pitcher, the more water it can hold. But a bigger pitcher will also be heavier, more difficult to carry and pour from, and more space-dominating, compared to a smaller model. 

There may be certain reasons why you prefer a bigger or a smaller pitcher. For instance, if you have a large family, using a bigger pitcher that holds more water means you can reduce the number of refills per day. Or, if you have a condition that affects your strength or mobility, like arthritis, a smaller pitcher may be the safer option for you. 

🧽 Water Filter Pitcher Maintenance Requirements

There are three maintenance requirements for a water pitcher filter: 

Replacing Filters

Replacing the filters is the most important maintenance task. 

Once a filter reaches the end of its lifespan, it’ll be unable to effectively filter your water. The clogged filter media will also reduce water flow to a trickle, doubling the time it takes for water to be filtered. 

You should replace the filter in your pitcher every 2-3 months, or as advised by the manufacturer. 

Holding a water filter pitcher replacement cartridge

Priming New Filters

The new filter in your pitcher will need to be primed before use. 

This used to mean running the filter under cold water for a few minutes, and some pitchers still require this. 

Many modern pitchers have an easier priming process that involves filtering a batch of water through the pitcher (containing the new filter), then discarding this first batch. You might need to repeat the process once more before you can start using the filter. 

Priming the filter removes any carbon dust or other particles that may have become dislodged, preventing these from contaminating your filtered water. 

Washing The Pitcher 

You should also wash your pitcher and reservoir occasionally to remove scale and other deposits. 

Remove the filter and place it on one side before washing the pitcher. Use warm water, soap, and a non-abrasive sponge to clean the inside of the jug, being sure to get into all the cracks and crevices. 

Thoroughly dry the pitcher or wait for it to air dry, then reinstall the filter and use the pitcher as normal. 

Some pitcher filters are dishwasher-safe. Check your user manual to be sure before loading your pitcher in the dishwasher. 

Cleaning the water filter pitcher

❔ Water Filter Pitcher FAQs

Do water pitcher filters really work?

Yes, water pitcher filters really work. Many of the best pitcher filters use filtration media that has been proven in numerous studies to trap certain contaminants and improve water quality. Of course, the effectiveness of filtration, and the contaminants removed, vary from one filter pitcher to the next. Some are more capable than others. 

Is it worth using a water filter jug?

It’s worth using a water filter jug if you want to improve the taste and quality of your water. The best water filter pitchers can reduce hundreds of common drinking water contaminants, including chlorine (which gives water a chemical taste), heavy metals like lead, and pesticides and herbicides. Since water filter pitchers are cost-effective, they’re an affordable long-term filtration solution. 

Are Brita pitchers worth the money?

In our opinion, Brita pitchers aren’t worth the money compared to some of the best water filter jugs available today. Why spend money on a pitcher that only reduces a handful of contaminants when you could spend it on a pitcher that removes hundreds? If you want to remove as many impurities as possible from your water, we recommend buying a more capable pitcher, like the Clearly Filtered Water Filter Pitcher

How long does it take water to filter in a pitcher filter?

It takes 10-20 minutes for an entire pitcher reservoir to be filtered in a water filter jug. The exact time depends on the age of the filter (the older the filter, the slower the filtering speed), the size of the pitcher (the bigger the pitcher, the longer it’ll take to fill), and the type and complexity of filter materials used.  

Do water filter pitchers soften water?

No, water filter pitchers don’t soften water. Most pitchers filter out contaminants while retaining the healthy minerals that contribute to water hardness. Some even add extra minerals to the filtered water. There would be no reason for a water filter pitcher to soften water since it filters water after it has already left your faucet, so it wouldn’t protect your plumbing system. 

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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