Everything you need to know about Water Filter Pitcher

The ‘filtered water vs. tap’ debate is the new ‘tap vs. bottled’. 

We now realize that bottled H20 is expensive, wasteful, unsustainable, and often no different in quality to tap water. But, we still want the perceived benefits in taste, smell, and cleanliness. 

Ensuring that you and your family have the cleanest possible drinking water is a key part of fostering a healthy household. That’s where filters — and particularly filter pitchers — come in. Filters enable us to drink clean water that tastes good, free of the contaminants associated with your tap. Adding this extra layer of filtration helps to filter out any pesticides, micro-organisms, or other chemicals that may slip through. 

But, how do they stack up against other types of filtering systems? And is using a water filter pitcher that much better than drinking from the tap? There’s a lot to unpack here!

Overall, water filter pitchers are well worth using. But why? 

Here we will break everything down for you, so you can make an informed decision when investing in your water filter pitcher.

What Is Water Purification and Why Is It Necessary?

Let’s start off with why you should be purifying your water.

While each system may do it slightly differently, filtration is the process of removing contaminants from H20. The effect is to make it safer, cleanerand taste better. Raw water straight from the source is not safe to drink, so municipalities treat it to make it safe.

This doesn’t guarantee that water is in perfect condition, however. In places like Newark and Flint, Michigan, the water supply is poisoned with lead, and no home water filtration system would solve that. In general, home water supplies are safe to drink, but may still contain some contaminants. 

From city to city, the treatment processes can vary in quality, as can the chemicals they use and leave out. Other factors can affect the quality of your water even if your municipality has a good treatment process. You may live in an area with very hard water, which means it has a high level of naturally occurring minerals. Or, it may become contaminated after treatment if the city’s pipes are old and outdated. 

It is worth researching the quality of your local H20 supply before you buy a filter pitcher. It is good to be aware of this issue as it may determine which filter you buy. 

How Do Water Filter Pitchers Work?

One of the reasons filter pitchers are so popular is because they are very easy to use and involve very little hassle. 

Simply fill up your jug directly into the filter, which includes a ‘media’ that is designed to catch, absorband extract certain contaminants and toxins. Most filter pitchers use activated carbon, in some form or another, to reduce impurities in your water. 

Activated carbon purifies your water by absorbing contaminant molecules, which bond strongly to the carbon. Carbon has a large surface area that soaks up toxins as it passes through the filter. 

The filter in your jug also helps to remove odors, smells, and unpleasant tastes. Some filters may even be able to extract biological organisms and chemicals.

There are some filters that use ion exchange resin. Calcium and magnesium ions can cause hardness in your water, which ion exchange resin seeks to fix by removing these ions. Hard water is not harmful but, again, can affect the taste and smell of your water. 

Filter pitchers may remove the following from your drinking water:

1. Lead, copper, mercury and other metal elements

2. Chlorine and pesticides

3. Other foreign or organic compounds

As an example, a standard Brita pitcher — possibly the most recognizable brand (although there are many options to choose between) — uses a coconut-based activated carbon to extract zinc, cadmium, and other metal elements mentioned above. They also help to reduce the presence of limescale, and top-of-the-range editions can eliminate lead.

Despite this, the filters cannot catch everything. Some nitrates, dissolved minerals, and bacteria can make it through the filtration process because they don’t bind to the carbon like metal compounds. Dissolved minerals aren’t too much of a health problem but may affect the taste. Most taps are also filtered to remove harmful bacteria, so you needn’t worry if your filter doesn’t catch everything.

Because the water needs to go through the filter media and be purified, it can take a little while for your jug to fill up and be ready to drink. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to 10-15 minutes, depending on the size and type of jug. If you’re prepared to wait a few minutes for your drink or fill up your jug in advance, this shouldn’t be a problem.

To maintain a pitcher jug for the long term, you will have to replace the filter regularly for fresh ones. In some instances, not replacing it for long periods of time can cause more harm than not having a filter at all. 

Most jugs can be refrigerated, but check before you buy. If the smell is a prime concern for you, putting it in the fridge can also help minimize any chlorine odors.

What Are the Benefits?

There are plenty of benefits to choosing a filter pitcher over drinking tap or even bottled water. Here are just a few:

1.Convenience

Water filter pitchers are extremely easy to use — they’re designed to be used multiple times every day.

Jugs can easily be stored on a countertop or in the fridge. They’re built to store a lot of H20 in one go — so you don’t have to constantly fill and refill every time you want a drink — but are compact enough so you can store them away neatly. Apart from replacement filters, you need no other containers or gadgets, and many pitchers even have indicators to let you know when it is time to replace the filter.

2. Encourages Water Drinking

Anyone who has owned one knows that they start drinking more water as soon as they’ve bought a filtering jug. Consciously or not, we find ourselves hydrating more, encouraged by the presence of the new domestic toy that rests on the side or in the fridge. Each time we see it we are reminded to drink more water. 

Reviews of filters often note that new owners are surprised to find they are drinking more water after buying a filter. If you are somebody who is sensitive to the impurities of tap water — or the supposed purities of bottled water — you no longer need to avoid tap water or have to keep restocking on bottles. The water you want to drink is always there unless someone else in your home forgot to fill it up. 

3. Improves the Taste

A range of different compounds can affect the taste, such as: 

 -Zinc

 -Chlorine

 -Hydrogen sulfide

These elements can give your tap H20 a metallic flavor and a terrible smell, depending on how strong they are. 

High mineral content in your local supply can create hard water, which also affects the taste. If you have consumed hard water, you know it isn’t completely terrible to drink, but it isn’t exactly nice either.

As described above in our section on how filters work, they do so by removing these contaminants. Using a filter provides you with pure, healthy drinking water with improved taste and smell. A bad taste and smell in your water is usually linked. All pitchers are good at removing bad odors, but can sometimes fall down when it comes to the taste. 

If your main concern is the taste, then make sure you do your research before buying to find the filters best for improving taste. Personal preference is key, and online reviews are a good indicator for considering which filter to buy, as many people will comment on the taste.

4. Makes Tastier Food 

While removing contaminants can improve the taste of your drinking water, we often overlook the effect on cooking. Indeed, if you filter the water you use in your cooking, removing chemicals and contaminants helps to preserve the natural flavors in your food.

This is fairly logical: elements that are present in your water will interact with nutrients, minerals, and flavors in the food. The compounds present in unfiltered H20 can absorb the flavors in your food. While boiling water does kill contaminants, it won’t kill all the compounds that occur in tap water. 

So, instead of boiling the water, you use for cooking beforehand, consider filtering it. It should enhance the natural flavors in your food, or at least not detract from them. 

5. Reduces and Removes Contaminants

Contaminants are the cause of bad tastes and odors. While they aren’t often hazardous, they aren’t necessarily good for you either. And, in some cases, they can be dangerous if they occur in too great a quantity in your water. This can happen because of neglect, accidents, and decay, or because of mistakes in your municipality’s treatment process.

In very serious — and rare — cases, contaminants can endanger human health, causing and spreading diseases. While this is unlikely in your area of the U.S., filtering reduces the risk of harm from drinking tap water.

 One specific way it reduces the chance of harm is by removing heavy metals from your water. Water supplies can become contaminated with lead, mercury, and dioxins, all of which have been found in the U.S. over the years. While these rarely reach dangerous levels (examples of Flint and Newark aside), their presence poses a risk. Little is known about whether these chemicals could spread in the coming years.  

There is no safe level of lead consumption, which is linked to many health problems including increased reproductive problems for men and women and prostate issues for men. 

6. Eliminates Dissolved Organic Contaminants

Heavy metal and chlorine are the most well-known foreign agents found in H20, but other organic compounds can slip in as well. There are increasing concerns that compounds such as drugs, pesticides, and hormone residues are dissolving into the water supply. 

As it is a relatively new problem, there is little concrete research about the extent of the problem or how harmful this may be. Many people are naturally put off by the idea of these compounds dissolving into their water. And ultimately, only perceived risks matter. 

Water filter pitchers will remove and reduce the effect of dissolved organic compounds. The greater the quality of the filter you buy, the better capacity it will have to extract these compounds. It is useful to look for a filter with many layers and elements to remove as many contaminants as possible.

7. Sustainability

If you are anxious about drinking from the tap and don’t have a filter, the only viable option is to buy plastic bottles — and lots of them. This is far more expensive than buying a pitcher and regularly replacing the filter, and it is bad for the environment. 

Bottled water might be very convenient when you’re in the grocery store — all you have to do is bring home a mega-pack of plastic bottles and your family has safe drinking water. It’s also the most convenient when on-the-go. If you’re traveling, your only option is to give in a purchase a bottle at the convenience store. 

However, bottled water is a well-known scourge of the environment. This is an issue that people are increasingly more aware about, and a reason that at-home filters are becoming more popular. 

The Water Project tells us the following about U.S. bottled-water usage:

1. Manufacturing bottles in the U.S. requires 1.5 million barrels of oil, excluding the fossil fuels required for and emissions created by transporting bottled water. This would be enough oil to power a city of 100,000 people.

2. For every 1 liter of bottled water created, 3 liters is used.

3. Plastic bottles take around 1,000 years to biodegrade, and 80% of bottles are discarded as litter each year.

Instead of relying on these single-use plastic water bottles, and funding an incredibly resource-intensive industry, you can obtain the same kinds of benefits through water filters. Their environmental impact is minimal and is dwarfed by the effect the bottled water industry has on the planet.

The more people who trade their bottled water habits for filters, the better. In many instances, the bottled stuff you drink is simply retreated or even just re-purposed tap water. This naturally uses far more energy and resources than necessary, particularly if you can achieve the same effect at home with a filter. 

Are There Downsides to Filter Pitchers?

While filter pitchers are a better option than bottled and tap water, they are not without their limitations. 

For instance, filters aren’t able to remove viruses and bacteria that may cause you harm. Although, if these are in your water supply, you may have greater problems to sort out than which kind of filter to use.

They also don’t remove fluoride, a compound which some people take issue with. While claims about its harm are still not certain, a growing body of research is finding that fluoride might not be as effective at what it is intended to do — which is to reduce the number of dental cavities in the population. While fluoride is effective in small amounts, there are some areas in the United States that have a supply with too much, which can cause damaging effects on the tap drinkers. 

Some nitrates and dissolved minerals may also slip through the filtering process because neither of these can properly bind to the carbon. 

Filtering aside, some users object to the time it takes to filter the water. If you install a filter to your tap or your home’s filtration system, all the water that comes out of the tap is already filtered. You don’t have to worry about waiting for the filter, or whether the jug is filled up. 

A minor drawback with filter jugs is that they can take between two and 15 minutes, depending on the brand and type, to completely purify your water. And of course, an ongoing sore in many families is when someone forgets to fill up the jug!

What Are the Alternatives?

Filter pitchers are the most accessible and convenient, but you have many other options. However, these alternatives tend to be more expensive and require a little work in the house. 

Depending on where you live, you may wish to choose these over filter pitchers. For those who live rurally or maintain their own water supply, a jug filter will be insufficient. Groundwater can become contaminated beyond anything that a filter pitcher could remedy. If this situation sounds like yours, then you may wish to choose one of the following options:

Tap-Mounted Filters 

These are fitted inside the tap head and are easy to use and replace. Not all tap-mounted filters fit all taps; however, they can be frustrating because they slow the flow of water. 

Counter-Top Filters 

This filter is an easy, point-of-use filtration system. This means that the water you take from the filters is already filtered and you can install them wherever you wish. They take up minimal space, while others are portable. 

Counter-top filters can handle lots of water without serious changes to your plumbing if your water pressure is moderate. They do cost more than jugs and tap-mounter filters and can’t be used on all taps, but they are less prone to clogging than these two filters.

Under-Sink Filters 

They are very convenient because they don’t take up any counter space. They also don’t affect the flow of your water. You wouldn’t notice a difference in use after you’ve installed it, and they can handle large volumes of water. 

This option comes in two forms: either filtering water to the main cold tap, or to a new, separate tap that would be installed on your countertop. Again, this option can be a little more expensive because you would likely have to hire a plumber to install it.

Whole-House Filters 

These are by far the most expensive to install, but may be necessary if you live in rural areas or you maintain your own water supply. These systems filter all the water that comes into your home, which is very useful if your water supply is particularly limited or if there is an increased risk to your health. However, installing a whole-house filter could cost thousands of dollars.

Both plumbed-in filtering options have obvious benefits. All water that comes out of the tap is filtered. Their filter cartridges only need replacing once or twice a year, and they can manage much greater volumes of water. This concern is particularly important if you have a large family, or if you want filtered water for other household needs. 

Why Should You Use a Water Filter Pitcher?

You don’t have to have bottled water nor drink from the tap. The benefits of filter pitchers are fairly evident. For most families and households, they are the perfect option for having filtered water. 

Many other filtering systems are beyond people’s means or are simply unnecessary. However, water filter pitchers purify your water to a sufficiently healthy and tasty state. 

What to Consider Before You Buy

It is well worth doing some research before you buy a filter. Not all filter pitchers are made equally. While some top-of-the-range filters are expensive, they may be preferable or necessary. To most users, the most basic filter pitcher will be just fine for you. 

Here is what you need to consider before buying. 

Know What’s Actually in Your Tap Water

The contents of your water should affect the filter you choose, even if your main concern is the smell and the taste. Expensive filters are capable of filtering out more contaminants, and often more harmful ones. 

So, it is vital you research the content and quality of your water to determine what you need. You can find contaminant levels detailed in your H20 supplier’s Consumer Confidence Report. 

Also consider the age of your home and its pipes. Your home’s plumbing can affect your water quality, particularly if it is old and built before pipes were required to be free of lead. There is no safe presence of lead, so it is important to be vigilant. If you rent, your landlord should be able to tell you about the condition of your home’s piping. 

Many state and local health departments provide test kits free of charge, including kits that test for the presence of lead. It is well worth doing. A 2019 Water Quality Survey found that 20% of people who tested their water found contaminants present in their water at unsafe levels.

All Water Filter Pitchers Are Different

After discovering what you need to remove from your water, and to what extent, you can then begin looking into the right filter for you. Each brand of filter should contain certification on their packaging that indicates which specific contaminants it will filter out. This is important to remember because no filter can do everything, so you’ll want to stay away from lofty claims

The majority of filter pitchers remove chlorine, zine, and hydrogen sulfide, compounds that affect taste and smell. But very few remove more serious contaminants such as lead, heavy metals and hormones. Remember that no filter can remove viruses. 

The manufacturer should list what the filter is capable of removing on the packaging. Read these labels so you can be sure that the filter is legitimate before buying.

The Growing Cost of Filters

This is rarely something people think about before buying a filter. You have to replace the filter about every two months, which means buying a new filter once every two months. While this isn’t a major expense, consider the cost of the pitcher’s replacement filter before buying and factor that into your budget.

How Often Should I Change the Filter in the Pitcher?

Manufacturers usually offer two timeframes for how often you need to change the filter; 40 gallons through the filter, or two months of usage, whichever comes first. 

Some pitchers are built with sensors that flash green when the filter is in good condition or red when it needs replacing.

What Happens If I Don’t Replace the Filter?

Believe it or not, continuing to use the filter after it has needed changing can be detrimental to your health. Not only will it not be effective at purifying water and become very slow, but bacterial issues can build up. You risk consuming the contaminants you bought the pitcher to remove, which are now building up in your filter. 

Microbes can flow into your water, adding bacteria to the mix. The moisture is perfect for bacteria to reproduce and exist in higher concentrations. If you drink this long enough, you will get sick. German researchers found that a week’s use of an unchanged filter had more bacteria than tap H20. They believed that a biofilm grew on the filter. 

Is It Really Better Than Tap Water?

The answer to this question is yes. However, each tap is different, and you’ll see varying effects depending on how clean your tap water is. 

For those suffering from dangerous drinking water, filters will make it ingestible. For those that are bothered by their tap water’s distinct taste and smell, a filter will remove these negative effects and give your H20 that pristine, odorless quality. 

This also depends on the filter you buy and it’s quality. Keep this in mind as you shop for filters for your tap! 

Conclusion

Overall, water filter pitchers are certainly worth the investment. The benefits are widespread and definite: 

-They are extremely convenient; all you have to do is buy a jug, fill it up, and replace the filter every two months. 

 -Their presence on the countertop or in the fridge encourages us to drink more water. It puts water drinking in front of mind in a way the tap does not.

 -Filters are naturally more sustainable than forking out on bottled water, which is a costly process that doesn’t offer sufficient benefits. 

 -Water filters purify your water of contaminants and chlorine, which improves the taste and smell. 

The jury is out about which filters are the best, but they are definitely worth having. Depending on where you live, your tap may be perfectly safe and taste fine. But even in those cases, filters provide marginal gains to improve your relationship with water. And if you perceive that water filters help you enjoy water more — and therefore drink more of it — then that is all that matters. 

Put the time into buying the right one. Research your options and the quality of water in your area. And once you find the right filter pitcher, you are not going to turn back and regret it.

Click here to check out my top pick for 2020’s Best Water Filter Pitcher or here for my picks of the Top 10 Water Filter Pitchers and here for anything about Water Filters.