This is not a top 10 best water filter list with affiliate links. Instead it's an attempt to help you find the best water filter for your needs.
The most common issue with tap water in Europe and North America is taste and odor due to chlorine. But there are also growing concerns about microplastics, lead, other heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, hormones, chlorine by-products, fluoride and many other substances.
In this blog we help you choose the best water filter for your needs.
Where does your tap water come from?
Most homes in Europe and North America are served by public water utility providers. Their purpose is to ensure the public, farms and industries have access to clean tap water. These are highly regulated by the EPA and EU (as well as local regulators) in terms of content, testing, treatment and reporting. In fact much more than the bottled water companies in most countries. The Maximum Allowable Level (MAL) for each substance monitored are set with a safety buffer.
Public tap water suppliers add chlorine or chloramine to protect it from pathogens (primarily bad bacteria). Before this the water is usually filtered with activated carbon, sometimes the pH is adjusted and often small amounts of chemicals are added to control pipe corrosion. E.g. phosphates, silicates, calcium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, sodium bicarbonate, and sodium carbonate.
If your local water provider says the water is safe then it’s very unlikely to make you sick. At least in the short term. Longer term the consumption of chlorine bi-products, small concentrations of heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and unregulated substances (e.g. microplastics) that are still present could pose a risk. This especially applies for infants and children. But the fact is that we don’t know how big the risk is.
If your water source is a local well then water should be tested by a lab before deciding on the best water filter for your needs.
How does your tap water get to your faucet from the water provider?
Once the water has been treated and tested it enters the public tap water system. This means big main pipelines that supply water into each neighbourhood and subsequently smaller ones to each building. The pipes are typically cast iron, copper, steel or some kind of PVC/PEX. However, some mains from before the 1920s and service lines until 1986 were made of lead. Unless the pipes contain lead the water infrastructure is not a major concern for contamination.
Read more about pipe corrosion and how to prevent issues.
What are the issues with the water that comes from your tap?
Finally, the tap water enters your building whether it’s a detached house or multiplex housing. Here there are a few possible areas of concern including
A) pipe corrosion or leeching (with lead being the main issue but also plastic pipes)
B) water storage tanks as these may cause bacteria growth even if the water is chlorinated - common for really tall buildings and in countries where water disruptions are common (e.g. Mexico)
C) water left in pipes or water filters for an extended period of time (days) which may cause bacteria growth or other types of corrosion
One very common issue is lack of maintenance and replacement of water filters. We’ve found that many households with reverse osmosis and pitcher carafes actually drink filtered tap water that is worse than the unfiltered tap water. The reason is that bacteria grows inside the filters and tanks and contaminants build up over time clogging the filters. Therefore it’s critical to always make sure the filters are maintained and replaced as per instructions.
After an extended holiday the water pipes and filters should always be flushed and used filters usually replaced.
What does the tap water taste like?
Possibly the most important consideration is taste and odor. Even if the water is safe to drink it may not taste or smell good. This is often an issue for water with high mineral content (hard water) combined with chlorine or chloramine but there could be many other issues.
But taste is subjective. Water that tastes great to one person might be considered flat, tasteless or strong to someone else.
Therefore taste preference is a key consideration for the choice of water filter.
Who’s drinking the water?
This is the last but not least thing to consider.
Healthy adults have a much greater tolerance to chemicals than infants, children and people with special medical conditions. This includes for heavy metals but also nitrates, chlorine bi-products, pathogens and most likely microplastics. Therefore it’s recommended to be more cautious with the young and vulnerable.
One additional factor is psychological. For some people the knowledge that their family is safer is enough to make them feel better.
What is the best water filter for you?
Choosing the best water filter for you has never been easier.
To make it simple for you’ve we’ve created a short quiz to understand your tap water issues and suggest the best solution.
Take the quiz now to find the best water filter for you!
For additional information about the best water filters
- Bottled vs tap vs filtered water - what’s healthier?
- Microplastics in drinking water - You are drinking a credit card of plastics every two weeks
- Water filter comparison - Brita, PUR, Culligan, TAPP and Zerowater
- TAPP 2 detailed product description including contaminants removed
- Complete water filter guide - more technical overview of different types of water filters
- Best Shower Water Filter