According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), tap water contains over 300 chemicals and pollutants even after being treated at treatment facilities.[1]

In fact, municipalities do not remove most of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as pesticides and herbicides just to name a few. These compounds get into the system from run-off from farming and other sources of manufacturing and construction, eventually working its way down into the water table, rivers and lakes, ultimately ending up in a water treatment facility before it is piped into your home through your tap. Ready for a glass of water now?

Obviously this is a bit unnerving since these VOCs have been shown to cause damage to internal organs such as the liver and kidneys among others.[1]  The long-term effects on the reproductions system are still unknown.

Most tap water in the United States naturally contains high sources of lead and mercury depending on what part of the United States you live in and the age of the pipes in your area. Furthermore, fluoride has been added to the water supply for decades in an attempt to address tooth decay, however, there is a lot of debate among Endocrinologists that it does more harm than good because of its effects on the thyroid.

So given all of that, what can the average person do to mitigate the risk and get better tasting water?

One solution is to use one of the many filtration pitchers available on the market. These work by slowly filtering tap water through some type of activated carbon housed within the pitcher as it is sits in your refrigerator.  However, you should be aware that these do not remove many of the toxins discussed above. While they will reduce the amount of chlorine in your tap water, they are not designed to remove VOCs, heavy metals or fluoride. For that you will need a more robust solution.

However, if your goal is to reduce your consumption of unfiltered tap water when cooking or reduce the amount of gallon jugs of spring water you carry from the grocery store, these types of products are a good option.

What is Activated Carbon?

When referring to carbon, what we are really talking about is charcoal that has been treated with oxygen to open up its tiny pores between each of the carbon atoms. These active porous charcoal atoms are used in filtration systems to absorb odors from the air and contaminants from liquids. As anything passes through the carbon, it is absorbed, or rather it attaches itself to the atoms of the charcoal essentially trapping it. However, at some point, the filters have to be replaced because they simply cannot absorb anything else.

Activated carbon is also found in filtration systems for fish aquariums as well as other products such as Odor Eaters.

How Water Filters Work

Best Way to Purify Water under $30Credit: Amazon.comPitcher water filters use granulated activated charcoal to remove some of the contaminants in tap water. They tend to be less expensive than other purification options in upfront costs, but depending on how much you use them, can be more expensive in the long run if you use a lot of water and need to replace the carbon filter often. Carbon activated filters do not remove all toxins as stated before. But they will improve the taste by removing the chlorine.

There are two things to look for when deciding upon a carbon activated filter.  

Size of the Actual Filter – the larger the filter the more it will come in contact with the water and thus absorb more contaminants. More surface area means more absorption.

Type of Activated Carbon – basic carbon filter will remove chlorine and some VOCs. However, to remove all chloramines, you will need a filter that uses a catalytic carbon filter.

Best Pitcher Filters Under $30

The following pitcher filtration systems all work in the same way, although some hold more water than others. If you are thinking of giving one a try, you might want to start with one of the lower cost five cup models and see if you notice the difference.

As stated before, these types of filters at this price range will not completely purify all toxins from tap water. But it will remove the chlorine and make tap water taste a lot better.

PUR 18 Cup Dispenser

Price:    $29.89

  • Holds 18, 8-oz cups (1.125 gallons) of water
  • Removes an average of 96% of trace levels of pharmaceuticals
  • Slim, space-saving design
  • Water filter provides up to 40 gallons of clean water

Brita Everyday Water Filter Pitcher

Price:    $25.99

  • 10 cup water filtration pitcher
  • 1 water filter can replace 300 standard 16.9 ounce water bottles
  • Reduces chlorine taste and odor, zinc taste, copper, mercury and cadmium
  • BPA-free pitcher
  • Sticker filter indicator for tracking when to change the water filter

ZeroWater ZP-010 

Price:    $26.99

  • 10-cup reservoir
  • 5-stage dual-ion exchange filtration system
  • Certified to remove lead, chromium and mercury
  • Built-in Total Dissolved Solids meter
PUR 18 Cup Dispenser with One Pitcher Filter DS-1800Z
Amazon Price: $39.99 $19.10 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 29, 2015)

Brita Slim Water Filter Pitcher

Price:    $10.99

  • Five, 8 ounce cups of water filtration per pitcherBest Way to Purify Water under $30Credit:
  • Carbon can filter up to 300, 16 ounce water bottles
  • BPA-free pitcher with compact design

PUR 7 Cup CR-6000 Pitcher

Price:    $11.99

  • Pitcher holds seven 8 oz glasses of water
  • Removes an average of 96% of trace levels of pharmaceuticals
  • Compact design
  • Filter provides up to 40 gallons of clean water on one cartridge

Brita Atlantis 6 Cup Water Filter Pitcher

Price:    $22.99

  • Six (8-ounce) cup capacity
  • Narrow contour
  • Soft-grip handle and flip-top lid
  • BPA free pitcher
Brita Water Filter Pitcher Advanced Replacement Filters, 3 Count
Amazon Price: $33.40 $9.50 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 29, 2015)


Brita Water Purifiers
Credit: mjpyro

If you are using a pitcher to filter water and you notice a change in the taste after a while, change the filter because it has reached its absorption limit and the clhorine and other contaminants are passing through into your drinking glass.

These types of filtration systems are not designed to block all contaminants but can be used to improve the taste of your tap water and as one piece in a system of filtration methods to get cleaner and healthier water. For instance, I use filtered tap water inside my Keurig machine, which also has another filter inside the tank. I also use it for making tea or whenever I cook anything on the stove.

If you are still not sold on the benefits of pitcher filters, you could also use distilled water to pour into the pitcher for double filtration. However, since that comes in gallon bottles, that sort of defeats the purpose of avoiding lugging them from the grocery store.

If you are looking for a more robust system for purification system, you will need to install a larger sink filtration system or an even more whole house solution which work much better to remove more contaminants.

Brita 10-Cup Everyday Water Filter Pitcher
Amazon Price: $41.39 $19.99 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 29, 2015)