What Does Brita NOT Filter Out? (That You Thought It Did)

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Most of us know that Brita filters are capable of removing a handful of common tap water contaminants and improving its taste and quality.

But what CAN’T Brita remove? Which potentially harmful contaminants will remain in your water even after treatment with a Brita filter?

We’ve shared everything you shouldn’t know about what Brita DOESN’T filter out in this guide.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • Brita filters CAN’T remove fluoride, microorganisms, VOCs, chloramine, arsenic, iron, hardness minerals, microplastics, PFAS, or radiological elements.
  • Only SOME Brita filters can remove lead, mercury, pharmaceuticals, pesticides and herbicides, disinfection byproducts, and asbestos.

📋 Brita Filters: Quick Overview

We’re going to be referring to a few different types of Brita filters in this article, so it’ll be helpful for you to know what these filters are and how they work.

Here are the most common Brita water filters:

Filter TypeDescription
Brita Standard FilterBasic, low-cost carbon-based filter that fits in most Brita pitchers
Brita Elite (formerly LongLast) FilterA slightly more capable but still basic filter that has a longer filter life of 6 months and fits in most Brita pitchers
Brita Stream FilterAnother basic filter that removes a handful of contaminants and fits in Brita Stream pitchers
Brita Faucet Mount FilterA filter that attaches to the end of your faucet and removes a few basic contaminants from drinking water.
Brita Bottle FilterAn activated carbon block filter that removes several common contaminants and fits in the Brita filtered water bottles.

You’ve probably noticed a trend here: All these filters are pretty basic when it comes to contaminant removal. That means they have a lot in common when it comes to contaminants they CAN’T remove.

Brita filters

🧫 Which Contaminants Brita Filters CAN’T Remove

Let’s take a look at some of the contaminants that Brita filters can’t remove, including:

  • Fluoride
  • Microorganisms (Viruses, Bacteria, Protozoa)
  • VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)
  • Chloramine
  • Arsenic
  • Iron
  • Hardness Minerals
  • Microplastics
  • PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances)
  • Radiological Elements

Fluoride

None of Brita pitcher filters, nor Brita’s faucet filter or bottled filter, can remove fluoride. In fact, Brita controversially refers to fluoride as an “important mineral” that is retained by its water filters while the bad stuff is removed.

Specialized water filters are needed to reduce fluoride, and since Brita filter media is carbon-based (sometimes with the addition of an ion exchange resin), no Brita filters are capable of removing this mineral.

Alternative Methods To Remove Fluoride

There are a few methods of removing fluoride from water, including reverse osmosis filters, bone char carbon filters, activated alumina filters, and water distillers.

You can find these filter media in different filter applications, including under-sink water filters, countertop filters, and whole-home filtration systems.

Check that a filter has been tested for fluoride removal if this is important to you.

Microorganisms

Microorganisms like viruses, bacteria, and protozoa are too small to be effectively removed by Brita filter pitchers, bottle filters, and faucet filters.

Brita filters are designed to filter municipal water supplies that have been disinfected to kill microorganisms. You shouldn’t use any Brita filter to treat well water because it won’t disinfect or purify your water.

Bacteria on petri dish

Alternative Methods To Remove Microorganisms

The best way to remove microorganisms from water is with a UV water purifier.

UV systems are point-of-entry units that treat water with ultraviolet light, which can kill bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens without the use of chemicals.

Other at-home methods to kill or remove microorganisms are chemical injection systems, boiling water, water distillers, and sub-micron filters that have small enough pores to trap most sources of microbiological contamination.

Continue Reading: Your Comprehensive Source for the Best UV Water Purifiers

VOCs

VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, can usually be removed by activated carbon filters. However, Brita hasn’t listed VOCs as a contaminant that can be removed by its bottle or faucet filters, or any of the Brita pitcher filters.

It might be that Brita simply hasn’t tested its filters for VOCs removal, but we have to take their word for it and assume that these aren’t removed by Brita filters.

There are hundreds of different VOCs, with some of the better-known VOCs being acetone, benzene, chloroform, MTBE, styrene, and vinyl chloride.

Alternative Methods To Remove VOCs

As we mentioned above, activated carbon filtration is typically the best way to remove volatile organic compounds from water.

Our advice is to look for a filter that has been specifically tested for VOCs removal, and has test data that you can refer to that tells you which VOCs the filter can remove, and to what percentage.

There are plenty of water filter systems that can remove VOCs, including some water filter pitchers, under-sink filtration systems, countertop filters, and whole-home filters.

Chloramine

Chloramine is a disinfection chemical that’s used instead of chlorine in thousands of US municipalities. It has similar health concerns as chlorine, and it also affects water’s taste and smell.

None of the Brita pitcher filters can remove chloramine, and nor can the Brita Bottle or Faucet filter. A specialized media is used for chloramine removal, and Brita’s basic carbon filter media simply isn’t capable.

Water disinfection tanks in a water treatment plant

Alternative Methods To Remove Chloramine

The best way to effectively remove chloramine is with a catalytic carbon filter. Catalytic carbon is an upgraded version of activated carbon that can remove additional contaminants, including chloramine.

You can also use a reverse osmosis system or a water distillation system to purify water, removing 99.99% of chloramine and the majority of other contaminants in your tap water.

You can find chloramine removal filters in some filtered water jugs, under-sink filtration systems, whole-home systems, and countertop units.

Arsenic

Arsenic is a semi-metallic element that’s tied to a number of potential health risks, including cancer, developmental effects, and cardiovascular disease.

None of the Brita filters remove arsenic. Brita’s basic carbon media can remove chlorine and several other non-concerning contaminants, but none of Brita’s filters excel at heavy metals removal, and Brita hasn’t tested any of its products for removing arsenic.

Alternative Methods To Remove Arsenic

There are a few different ways you can remove arsenic from drinking water, including with a POE anion exchange system, a reverse osmosis unit, a countertop water distiller, and an activated alumina filter.

Some water filter pitchers with advanced media can also remove arsenic. You can find filters for your countertop, under-sink systems, and whole-home systems that can reduce or remove this contaminant from your tap water.

Iron

Iron is most commonly found in well water and is mostly known for its aesthetic water effects, including its metallic taste and odor, and orange, rusty stains.

As we mentioned earlier, Brita pitcher filters, Brita faucet filters, and Brita bottle filters are only intended to filter treated public drinking water supplies. So, none of these filters have been tested or proven capable of removing iron in water.

In fact, iron could accumulate in the filter and lead to fouling of the media, affecting its ability to remove other contaminants from water.

Iron contamination in sink

Alternative Methods To Remove Iron

In most cases, you’ll need a specialized POE iron removal system to effectively remove iron from your well water.

Some of the best ways to remove iron include ion exchange water softening, chemical or air injection/oxidation and filtration, KDF water filtration, and sediment filtration. These systems are installed at the water’s point of entry into your home, preventing damage to your plumbing system.

The best method for you depends on whether your water contains ferrous iron, ferric iron, or both.

Hardness Minerals

No water filter is capable of removing hardness minerals, and Brita is no exception. We wanted to include this in our list because a lot of people assume that water filters can soften water, and that’s not true. The fact that Brita filters can’t remove hardness minerals isn’t a performance setback specific to Brita.

In fact, Brita markets its ability to “retain minerals in water” as a benefit. Hardness minerals are healthy and contribute to great-tasting water, so in a way, it’s helpful for Brita to retain them while removing contaminants with health effects.

Why can’t Brita or any other water filter remove hard water minerals? The activated carbon filter media simply isn’t designed to trap these tiny contaminant molecules. Hardness minerals can slip through the filter pores along with the water molecules.

Alternative Methods To Remove Hardness Minerals

If you want to remove hardness minerals from your water, you’ll need a point of entry system that will soften your water before it has the chance to do any damage to your pipes and plumbing.

Water softeners, which exchange calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions in a process known as ion exchange, can completely soften water, preventing scale formation, soap scum, and other damaging effects of hard water.

Microplastics

Microplastics have the same problem as microbes in a Brita filter: they’re small enough to slip straight through the filter pores.

That means the Brita Standard, as well as the Brita Stream filter, the Brita Bottle filter, and the Brita faucet filter, can’t effectively remove microplastics.

However the Brita Elite filter is now listed as capable of reducing microplastics.

Microplastics in drinking water

Alternative Methods To Remove Microplastics

A more comprehensive filtration media is needed to reduce or remove microplastics – but you don’t have to spend a fortune for this privilege.

Ceramic filters, some carbon filters, nanofiltration, ultrafiltration, distillation, and RO systems are all great methods that can usually reduce microplastics. Many of these methods use filters or membranes with very tiny pores, which trap microplastics and many other contaminants, allowing only pure water to pass through.

You can find these filters in a variety of applications, including pitchers, countertop units, and under-sink systems.

PFAS

PFAS are a hot topic right now because of our increasing knowledge of their health effects, and news that the EPA is in the process of finally regulating these chemicals in our water.

Unfortunately, Brita filters haven’t been tested or deemed capable of removing any types of PFAS, including PFOS, GenX, and PFOA.

Alternative Methods To Remove PFAS

You don’t need a super-specialist filter to reduce PFAS. In fact, activated carbon is one of the best filter media for removing these chemicals. This makes us wonder whether Brita filters can reduce PFAS to some extent, but not effectively enough for Brita to list PFAS chemicals as a contaminant removed.

Whole home ion exchange systems and RO systems have also proven capable of reducing PFAS from drinking water.

A countertop water filtration system, under-sink system, water pitcher, or point-of-entry unit may all offer PFAS reduction. For extra reassurance, look for a filter that has been certified to reduce PFAS (to Standard P473 or 53).

Radiological Elements

Radiological elements are usually found in well water – which, as we know, Brita filters aren’t designed to treat.

Brita filters work by adsorbing a handful of common drinking water contaminants, and radiological contaminants don’t fit in this category.

Barrels with radioactive waste under the ocean

Alternative Methods To Remove Radiological Elements

Some filters using activated carbon can remove radioactive contaminants, but only under specific circumstances that Brita filters don’t meet. For instance, large amounts of carbon are required, and water must have extended contact with the filter media.

Ion exchange water softeners can also remove trace amounts of some radiological elements, and RO systems can remove radioactive particles, but not gases.

If your water contains radioactive gas, like radon, you might need to install a point-of-entry aeration system to remove the gas before it enters your plumbing supply.

⛔️ Which Contaminants SOME Brita Filters Can’t Remove

Here’s a list of contaminants that only SOME Brita filters can’t remove, while others can. For each contaminant, we’ve noted which specific Brita filters can, and which can’t, remove the contaminant in question.

Lead

Only the Brita Elite filter and Brita Faucet filter can reduce or remove lead in tap water. The Brita Standard, Stream, and Bottle filters aren’t designed to remove lead.

Lead is a highly toxic heavy metal that has several known health effects, including cancer, learning and behavior problems, and kidney damage.

Alternative Methods To Remove Lead

Most filters for drinking water nowadays can remove or at least reduce lead. You have your pick between more affordable carbon-based systems, like water pitchers, faucet-mount systems, and under-sink systems, as well as some more expensive systems, like RO units and whole-home filtration systems.

To be certain that a filter can remove this harmful contaminant, check that it’s certified to reduce lead (NSF Standard 53, or NSF Standard 58 for RO systems).

Mercury

Only the Brita Standard and Elite filters can remove mercury from drinking water. The Brita Stream, Bottle, and Faucet filters can’t remove this heavy metal.

Mercury is one of the most dangerous contaminants in drinking water and has been linked to health effects including mood swings, memory loss, tremors, and muscle weakness.

Mercury

Alternative Methods To Remove Mercury

Most GAC filters can remove mercury, as well as sub-micron filters with adsorptive media, and water purification systems like RO systems and water distillers.

You can find whole-home systems, under-sink and countertop filters, and water pitchers that remove mercury and tens – even hundreds – of other contaminants from drinking water.

Asbestos

Only the Brita Elite and Faucet filter can remove asbestos from water. The Brita Standard, Stream, and Bottle filters aren’t designed to remove this carcinogenic mineral.

Asbestos may enter your water due to natural deposits, pipe corrosion, or contamination from nearby demolition or building work. We don’t know much about the health effects of drinking asbestos in water.

Alternative Methods To Remove Asbestos

There are no specific filter media types that are guaranteed to remove asbestos. Our top recommendation is to look for multi-stage of multi-media filters that have been tested and proven to remove this contaminant.

Some water pitchers, RO systems, countertop filtration units, and water distillers are capable of reducing or removing asbestos.

Pesticides & Herbicides

Only the Brita faucet filter is capable of removing select pesticides and herbicides from water. The Brita Standard, Elite, Stream, and Bottle filters can’t remove or reduce these agricultural contaminants.

Pesticides and herbicides contaminate surface waters as a result of agricultural runoff. These include atrazine, carbofuran, chlordane, lindane, glyphosate, and 2,4-D.

Herbicide water contamination

Alternative Methods To Remove Pesticides & Herbicides

Most filters with carbon media can reduce some pesticides and herbicides – but we assume that Brita carbon-based filters can’t remove these contaminants effectively enough to be listed.

Ceramic filters, RO systems, and water distillers are also capable of reducing or removing pesticides and herbicides from tap water.

Pharmaceuticals

Only the Brita faucet filter can remove select pharmaceuticals from tap water. None of the other Brita filters – including the Stream, Elite, Bottle, and Standard Brita filter, have been tested or proven capable of removing pharmaceuticals.

Pharmaceuticals are emerging contaminants of concern. Some of the pharmaceutical drugs that have been found in trace amounts in drinking water include caffeine, Fluoxetine, Naproxen, progesterone, TCEP, and testosterone.

Alternative Methods To Remove Pharmaceuticals

There are a few different water treatment systems that can reduce or remove pharmaceuticals.

Some water pitchers have been tested to reduce a variety of pharmaceutical drugs, so you don’t have to spend a fortune to remove these from your water.

If you want the most thorough treatment system, look at RO or water distillation units, which purify water and remove the majority of dissolved solids.

Disinfection Byproducts

No Brita filter is capable of removing a range of disinfection byproducts from water. Only the Brita Faucet filter can remove a select disinfection byproduct: TTHMS. The Standard, Elite, Stream, and Bottle filters haven’t been tested or deemed capable of removing disinfection byproducts.

Disinfection byproducts are, as the name suggests, byproducts of water disinfection. If you drink treated municipal water, there’s a high likelihood that it’ll contain DBPs. The types and concentrations of these chemicals depend on how your water is disinfected, and the natural organic matter that’s present in the source water.

Municipal city water treatment plant

Alternative Methods To Remove Disinfection Byproducts

The best way to thoroughly remove disinfection byproducts from water is with an RO system. GAC filters, nano filters, and water distillers can usually also remove these chemicals.

These filters and systems may be point of use (countertop, under-sink, faucet mounted, etc.) or they may be point of entry (installed upstream of your water heater).

📑 Final Word

Most Brita filters remove chlorine, taste, and odor, as well as a handful of other common contaminants in drinking water.

Don’t expect a Brita filter to remove fluoride, PFAS, disinfection byproducts, iron, chloramine, hardness minerals, or VOCs.

Ultimately, if you want to remove as many contaminants as possible from your tap water, we recommend looking beyond the Brita water filter offerings to a more capable filtration solution.

  • 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.

2 thoughts on “What Does Brita NOT Filter Out? (That You Thought It Did)”

  1. Avatar for Brian Campbell

    Hello, have you evaluated/tested Kirland brand (Costco) water filters? They look like Brita equivalents, but the filtered water tastes better. Not sure how it stacks up in terms of filtering out things compared to the top filters you’ve listed? Thank you!

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