Pitcher-style water filters are popular because they're easy to use, don't require installation and can be stored in the fridge. Most use an activated carbon filter that improves water taste and odor, and some are certified to do more. If you just want water that tastes fresher and don't have any serious water issues, this may be the way to go. However, you'll be limited by the volume of the pitcher and you have to refill it. Pitchers won't be the best choice if you have a large family, drink a lot of water, or need it for uses other than just drinking. In that case, we would recommend a faucet water filter, an under-sink water filter, or a whole house water treatment system all of which we discuss elsewhere in this report.
One of the biggest complaints we see about pitcher water filters is that they're so slow. After filling the upper reservoir with tap water, it can take 10 to 30 minutes for gravity to pull the water through the filter to a storage tank below. Which is why our top recommendation in this category is the Clear2O Water Filtration Pitcher (Est. $25). It's one of the fastest filtering carafes because it attaches directly to the kitchen faucet with a hose and uses the pressure of the water to push water through the filter.
In professional tests, the Clear2O does an excellent job of removing lead and organic compounds. It also reduces contaminants, including disinfectant byproducts and organic particulates, and owners say they've noticed clearer, better tasting water from this carafe-style filter. Each cartridge filters 50 gallons of water, and a filter replacement indicator light measures actual water usage and alerts you when it's time to change the filter -- it turns yellow at 40 gallons, red at 50 gallons. It's relatively affordable too, with a low initial cost and filters that are priced at about $12 each. How long each filter lasts will depend upon how quickly your family goes through 50 gallons of water. Although the Clear2O is a fairly slim pitcher, it holds nine 8 ounce glasses of water.
The only real complaints we saw about the Clear2O is that it can be a hassle to attach it to the faucet to fill it, and the adaptors don't fit all faucets. Most were able to solve the problem with a trip to their hardware store, but some gave up in frustration and returned the pitcher. It seems as if those with older faucets had the best luck, while those with more modern spray- or swivel-type faucets had the most trouble. It also has to be set close to the faucet to fill because its hose is rather short, so some people will need to buy the optional Quick Connect Hose Extender (Est. $18).
Water filters from Brita and Pur are close runners-up to the Clear2O. Both companies are very well-respected in the world of water filters and both have a full line of water filters and water purifiers. Among the best are the Brita 10-cup Everyday Water Filter Pitcher (Est. $25), the 5-cup Pur Water Filter Pitcher CR-4000 (Est. $20) and the larger Pur 18-cup Dispenser (Est. $25). While these specific models have not been tested in professional settings, similar models have been and get top marks for removing contaminants and particulates.
All three of these water filter pitchers get rave reviews from users for their performance in improved taste, so two main factors in choosing one over the other will be fridge size and water consumption rates. The 18-cup Pur will fit only in the largest refrigerators (although some owners leave it out on the counter), while the smaller, 5-cup Pur should fit just about anywhere.
Having said that, the Pur 5-cup is certified to reduce chlorine and remove 99.0 percent of microbial cysts; the Brita 10-cup is a better choice for reducing more taste-related contaminants, and the Pur 18-cup removes mercury and chlorine. All are BPA-free.
As with most water filter pitchers, the Brita and Pur models will take a bit of time to filter -- although many reviewers recommend adding to it as you use the water -- which is why the Clear2O is our top pick.
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 faucet water filters: Countertop and faucet-mounted water filters give you unlimited amounts of filtered water without a permanent installation; these are the best, easiest to install faucet water filters.
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.