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5 Things to Know About Water Filter Pitchers

Whether we drink it from a plastic bottle or a kitchen faucet, we expect clean, crisp water. In spite of this, headlines about toxic lead and chlorine remind us that our water doesn’t always flow from cascading mountain waterfalls. How safe is our drinking water?

Consumer Reports and The Guardian found measurable levels of lead in almost every water sample from community water systems serving 19 million people. Among all organic metals Lead is a heavy metal that can leach from corroded water lines and home plumbing fixtures.

At any level, it’s unsafe. Water systems use chlorine to kill germs, but disinfection byproducts can also cause health problems. Cancer rates are higher in areas with high levels of chlorine, particularly in rural and low-income areas.

It isn’t possible to find a magic bullet when it comes to water filter pitchers, but many are effective at reducing lead, chlorine, and unpleasant odors and tastes.

After refrigerator water filters, pitchers are the second most popular type of water filter. Additionally, they are relatively inexpensive, typically less than $40, and easy to use. After you fill the cartridges at the tap, wait for the water to flow through them.

Yes, Filters Can Improve Water Taste and Remove Odor

Chemicals and compounds such as zinc, chlorine, and hydrogen sulfide can cause water to taste metallic or smell like sewage. During our testing, we evaluate how well pitchers remove contaminants from water, and we create a combined rating for flavor and odor reduction. According to our tests, most models are quite effective at reducing odors and flavors. Five pitchers registered as Very Good, with one pitcher earning an Excellent rating. Both low-rated pitchers fail the flavor-smell test, scoring Poor.

Know What’s Actually in Your Tap Water

Even if your main reasons for using a water filter pitcher are taste and odor, it is a good idea to research other potential contaminants in your municipality’s water. The Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) of your local water supplier will reveal the levels of contaminants, such as heavy metals, pesticides, and microbes.

Water quality can also be affected by the plumbing in your house or apartment. You should check your water for lead if it was built before lead-free pipes were mandated in 1986. There’s no safe level of lead exposure. The result can be high blood pressure, decreased kidney function, reproductive problems in adults, learning disabilities, slowed growth, and anemia in children.

The state or local health department may offer free kits that test for a range of contaminants, including lead. Alternatively, you can send a sample to a certified lab for analysis, which can cost $20 to $100.

All Water Filter Pitchers Are Different

There is no one filter that does it all. Pitchers can remove contaminants like chlorine, zinc, and hydrogen sulfide. Lead is removed by others. A pitcher that filters out lead — or other contaminants like volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and hormones — should display a separate certification mark for each. A water pitcher filter might not be sufficient to protect your water from serious contaminants. Perhaps you need a more comprehensive filtration system.

The Cost of Replacement Filters Adds Up

You can find the manufacturer’s instructions on how often to change the filter. Generally, it’s every two months or every 40 gallons, whichever comes first. Filters clogged with particulates won’t function if you don’t follow those guidelines. Additionally, the activated charcoal found in filters that trap odors and flavors is limited in its ability to absorb them. Five of our tested pitchers scored Excellent for clogging (meaning they typically don’t clog), while two models failed miserably.

Water flowing slowly from your pitcher may indicate that the filter is clogged, and it’s time to replace it. There are water filter pitchers with a filter-life indicator that tells you when it’s time to replace the filter. In our tests, the filter cost per year varies from $27 for the pitcher with the best clog score to $150 for the pitcher with the worst score. This is a simple decision. The Features & Specs tab in our ratings lets you compare costs.

Pitchers like these take a while to filter

A pitcher filters water at the same rate, you might think. Not so. When it came to filtering time, we found that the two top-scoring pitchers varied considerably. With a filter-as-you-pour pitcher, a quart of water was filtered in 1 minute, 15 seconds. The other pitcher took nearly 15 minutes to pitch. The manufacturer claims the long filter time is due to proprietary technology that removes 99 percent of lead.

You may not be concerned about the flow rate if you normally fill up your pitcher and store it in the fridge. If you have a large household that goes through a lot of water every day. Our tests for flow rate and clogging give this Brita top marks: CR members may compare the water filter pitchers in our water filter reviews and explore all the options in our water filter buying guide.

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