The drawback to water pitcher filters, which we discuss elsewhere in this report, is their limited capacity. Most are really only suitable for a small family or one or two people, and you have to continually refill them as you use them.
Faucet-mount filters are handy because they tend to be very inexpensive, like pitchers, but they attach directly onto a kitchen faucet for unlimited filtered water at your fingertips; you can also switch between filtered and unfiltered water. Countertop water filters also are linked to the faucet, but, rather than the entire filter attaching to the faucet, the filter sits beside the sink, and a hose attaches to the faucet and diverts water to the filter by twisting a valve or pulling a pin.
Installation is generally easy, though you'll have to remove the faucet's existing aerator. Still, advanced plumbing knowledge isn't required and the filters don't become a permanent fixture in your kitchen.
The Culligan Faucet Filter FM-15A (Est. $25) is a top pick by both experts and consumers. In one professional test, it earns a rating of Excellent for removing lead and organic compounds. It's also certified to reduce parasites, lead, lindane, atrazine and turbidity. Owners say they have noticed vast improvements in the taste and clarity of their drinking water.
Users say the FM-15A installs quickly and doesn't leak. We saw a few complaints about the included adaptors not fitting some faucets, but we see that with all water filters; most reviewers were able to find the right adaptor at their local hardware store. Switching to filtered water is a simple matter of pulling out a stem valve, which owners say conveniently resets back to unfiltered when you turn the faucet off. Filters last for 200 gallons or about two months, and cost around $12, making the Culligan Faucet Filter a very good value as well, and it's named a Best Buy in the professional roundup mentioned above. Both experts and users say its biggest drawback is its slow flow. This is a common complaint for faucet-mount filters, and Culligan rates just below average in this regard. However, the FM-15A gets raves for its durability, with some saying they've had theirs for years and it's still working great and looks like new.
The Culligan FM25 (Est. $25), the Pur FM-3700B (Est. $25) and the Brita Base On Tap (Est. $16) also are top picks in professional reviews. In testing, they all get score an Excellent rating for chloroform and lead removal (except the Pur, which gets a Very Good rating in lead removal), but none score well for flow rate, which, as we noted, is an issue with virtually all faucet mounted filters.
However, none of the three get much love from users. Among them the FM25 gets slightly better feedback from owners, with most saying it's easy to install and use, and has improved their water quality, but there are reports of it leaking after just a few weeks. Pur is a normally very well-respected and popular name in water filters, and we can't ignore that the FM-3700B does well in testing, but it gets extremely poor ratings from owners for durability. When it does work, users say it works well. The Brita Base On Tap gets similar complaints, and compliments, that it works great at first, but doesn't last. Considering the low price of these three units, we saw many comments from owners who say they just toss it and buy a new one after a few months.
Countertop water filters are a very popular option for those who want unlimited filtered water, but don't necessarily want to mount a bulky filter directly to the sink faucet. Countertop filters have a hose that connects to the faucet via a small diverter valve, and dispenses water through a spout attached to the filter on the counter. Countertop water filters tend to have better flow rates and fewer issues with clogging than pitcher or faucet-mounted units.
The Home Master TMJRF2 Jr F2 (Est. $100) is a countertop water filter that gets some of the highest reviews we saw of any water filter. It is also one of the few non-under the sink filters that filters out fluoride -- up to 93 percent according to the manufacturer. That's as good as a reverse osmosis (RO) water filter, but the Jr F2 does not filter out beneficial minerals the way an RO system would. Filters need to be replaced every three months or 500 gallons and cost about $30.
Owners say the Home Master Jr. F2 is very easy to set up and many have noticed definite improvements in water quality, clarity and taste. We saw many comments from apartment-dwellers who purchase this because they could not install a permanent water filter. It's also easy to switch between tap and filtered water
The New Wave Enviro 10 Stage Water Filter System (Est. $80) costs slightly less than the Home Master. It does not remove fluoride, but it gets good reviews from owners for noticeable improvements in water quality. Owners say it's easy to install and use, and you switch between filtered and unfiltered water with the pull of a pin; the filter shuts off automatically when you're done using it. Users also like that it takes up little counter space. We did see a few very low ratings for this water filter from those who were looking for a water purifier, but, as we discuss in the introduction to this report, water filters and water purifiers are two different items. Mostly, users are pleased and say it's better than previous type of water filters they have owned.
Neither of the above two countertop water filters are certified by the NSF; one of the few that is, the Aquasana AQ-4000W (Est. $85) series, gets relatively poor owner ratings for the difficulty in changing the filter and for poor durability. However, even those who decry its short life span say it's one of the best water filters they've ever owned and produces excellent-tasting, clear, pure water. In addition to its NSF certification, the Aquasana AQ-4000W earns Excellent ratings for lead and chlorine removal from one professional testing organization; although it gets lower scores for clogging and flow rate. Replacement filters cost $60 each, and should be replaced every six months. If NSF certified filtration is your top criteria, a gently-handled Aquasana 4000W will probably make you very happy.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best-reviewed water filters: Whether you just want better tasting drinking water, or need to purify your entire water supply, these are the best water filters for improving water clarity, taste and safety.
Best water filter pitchers: A water filter pitcher gives you a supply of cold, filtered water in your fridge at all times. They come in a wide range of sizes and are affordable and easy to use.
Best under-sink water filters: Water filters that install under the sink filter out more contaminants and particulates than most other types of filters; reverse osmosis filters are even more purifying.
Best whole house water treatments: If you need to treat your water problems at the source, whole house water treatment systems are the best choice. We discuss both water filters and water softeners.
Buying Guide: Confused as to what you need to know before shopping for a water filter? Here is the information you need to make an informed decision about the right water treatment for your home.
Our Sources: These are the expert and user reviews and recommendations we used to find the best water filters. They are ranked in order of credibility and usefulness.