Simple Guide to Choosing a Water Filter

Having access to fresh, running water right from our faucets is a luxury, especially considering the inaccessibility of clean water in undeveloped parts of the world. And for the most part tap water is super safe; but using a home water filter is an easy way to eliminate any contaminants that might sneak their way into your glass.

What’s in Your Tap Water?

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates municipal tap water and sets legal limits on over 80 contaminants—including arsenic, E. coli and lead—certain chemical contaminants in municipal water supplies aren’t regulated. And runoff from pesticides, fuel and other toxins can make their way into the water flowing from your tap.

The good news is that many of the pervasive contaminants found in tap water can be removed using simple at-home filtration techniques. According to the Environmental Working Group, everyone should be filtering tap water.

To determine the filter that’s best for your home, start by finding out which contaminants are actually in your municipality’s tap water. The Environmental Working Group makes this easy with a database of local water reports by zip code.

To know exactly what’s coming out of your specific tap, however, you may want to invest in a test by a state-certified lab, especially if infants, the elderly or someone who is pregnant is living in your home. You can find a lab in your area by calling 1-800-426-4791 or visiting

Choosing the Best Filter

There are a dizzying number of home water filters on the market—including pitchers, faucet mounted, in-line refrigerator, separate tap, plumbed in, countertop, shower or sports bottle. Each of these filter styles can use a different type of filtering technology too. But once you’re aware of which contaminants need to be filtered out of your tap water, you can shop smartly for the right filter for your water, and your budget.

  • Activated-carbon filtration removes chlorine, chloramines and other chemical contaminants, including asbestos, lead, mercury and volatile organic compounds or VOCs.
  • Reverse osmosis removes many contaminants not removed by activated carbon, including arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrates and perchlorate.
  • Ceramic filters feature tiny holes that let water through but block solid contaminants such as cysts and sediment. They don’t remove chemical contaminants.
  • Distillation heats your water enough to vaporize it and then condenses the steam back into water. This removes minerals, bacteria, viruses and chemicals that have a higher boiling point than water. It does not remove chlorine or VOCs.
  • Ozone and UV filters kill bacteria and other microorganisms but do not remove chemical contaminants.

Be sure to check the label on the filter box to make sure it has been certified to remove the contaminant you’re concerned about. Finally, make sure to replace filters at the recommended expiration date. And before tossing your old filter in the trash, check the box or contact the manufacturer to see if a recycling program is available.

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