Tap water can contain bacteria, viruses, heavy metals and hormone-disrupting plasticizing chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA). In our increasingly polluted modern environment, it’s important to use a water to remove as many contaminants as possible from drinking and cooking water.
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Our content has no affiliate links and it never will; we want our content to remain impartial because our mission is to provide research-based health advice to consumers and nothing else. We have no partnerships with any company we mention in our reviews.
With that said, here are our recommendations for the best water filter for removing common household contaminants:
Contaminants To Look Out For
A few categories of contaminants in tap water that consumers should be most conscious of are heavy metals, estrogenic plastic chemicals and pesticides.
Heavy metals like lead, arsenic and mercury are present in municipal tap water in many jurisdictions. Although the limits are regulated in the U.S. by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), any amount of heavy metal intake is toxic, so limiting exposure as much as possible is beneficial for health.
Pesticides are also present in tap water, although thanks to efficient water treatment facilities in the U.S. their levels are actually lower in tap water than in rainwater, based on medical research from one state.
We also know from medical research that hormone-disrupting chemical BPA is present in tap water in many countries. While the levels are relatively low based on a linked study, this chemical is unnatural, newly introduced to our environment through plastic use, and has no health benefits so it should be reduced as much as possible.
Most Effective Tested Water Filter
Manufacturers make all sorts of claims about the effectiveness of their filters, but the only way to objectively assess what works and what doesn’t is through independent testing.
A company called ConsumerLab does independent research on popular consumer products, without pay from any of the tested companies, so their results are trustworthy (we reviewed their methodologies if you’re interested).
ConsumerLab tested several of the leading water filters and found that the Brita Soho With Longlast Filter was the most effective overall.
The tests were for both heavy metals and microplastic reduction.
Brita Soho reduced 100% of the chlorine, 100% of the mercury, 100% of the cadmium and 100% of the lead from the test water, and reduced arsenic by 15.4%.
The most impressive result from the testing though was that Brita Soho reduced 100% of the microplastics from the tap water, and it was the only filter tested that did so.
The other benefit of the Brita Soho filter is that it’s relatively inexpensive, retailing for around $20 from big box stores. We find that price to be more than worth it for heavy metal and microplastic reduction in drinking water for over a month.
Most Effective Shower Water Filter
Many consumers are unaware of this, but exposure to contaminants in water is likely higher during a shower than by drinking water.
This sounds counterintuitive, because drinking water is directly ingested, but chlorine in shower water reacts with organic matter at high temperatures and forms trihalomethanes such as chloroform. This is proven in medical research, and we know chloroform to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing). These harmful compounds are inhaled and absorbed through the skin during hot showers.
We don’t mean to fearmonger here, and want to make clear that these risks are relatively low compared with the risks of well-studied lifestyle factors like diet, exercise and sleep. But since there is no benefit to inhaling chloroform we believe it’s prudent for consumers to install shower filters to reduce exposure.
Unfortunately ConsumerLab hasn’t tested the effectiveness of different shower filters, and no shower filter companies we researched published any testing of their products at all.
We recommend the Berkey shower filter, as this is an industry leader that’s been in the water filtration business with great customer reviews for many years.
It’s unfortunate that we have to rely on reviews though, and we hope that a shower filter company in the near future publishes third-party testing proving their products are effective for both chlorine and chloramines.
Even without this testing, there is no harm from these products and they’re relatively cheap. We know that using a shower filter with an activated filter media like the Berkey will reduce contaminant levels somewhat, so we believe it’s worth purchasing for consumers who can afford it.
Which Water Filters Should I Avoid?
We recommend avoiding the ZeroWater 6-cup Water Filter Pitcher because ConsumerLab testing found it to actually add microplastic particles to the water samples.
We don’t know how that’s even possible. Perhaps their filter media contained microplastics that leached out, or the filter itself was made with cheap plastics that leached into the water sample. Regardless, with better options available we believe it’s worth avoiding this product as microplastics from tap water are bad enough as-is. No need to add more.