If you want pure water without the hassle of installing treatment systems, a countertop water filter could be the answer. But with a range of models on the market right now, the choice can be bewildering. Here, we demystify the options and help you pick the one that’s right for you.
Start by taking a look at our reviews of ten of the best countertop water filters out there. And then check out our buying guide for the questions to ask before you choose.
If countertop space is at a premium in your kitchen, the MR-1050 is well worth considering. This compact gadget consists of a simple cylinder attached to its own faucet. It connects to your sink faucet with tubing and takes up very little room.
Installation is easy as long as you have a conventional faucet. You can get the whole thing done in a couple of minutes, and you won’t need a single tool. A handy tip is to rub petroleum jelly around the edge of the filter housing. That will make it easier to remove when it’s time to change the filter.
Beware though, that if you have a pull-down or spray faucet, this won’t fit. And if there’s an aerator on your faucet, you’ll need to remove it before connecting up the system.
The filter here is mainly activated carbon, with additional layers of calcite and alkaline beads. If your water tastes or smells of chlorine, it will greatly improve it.
It also removes sediment and filters out Cryptosporidium and Giardia cysts, both of which can cause stomach upsets. Radon, mercury and pesticides will be captured and taken away too. The treated water will be alkaline.
The filter will purify up to 750 gallons before it needs to be replaced. How long this will last in your home depends on the water quality going in and your rate of use. As a rule of thumb, a household of four can expect to change the filter three or four times a year.
We like the clear housing with this one, which lets you see what’s going on inside. It makes it easier to decide when to change the filter too.
This water filter system from Cleanwater4less is great for anyone who doesn’t want to change filters. It will treat up to 10,000 gallons. That’s enough to last several years, even in high use households. When it’s reached the end of its life, replace the whole thing.
It looks a bit like a large thermal flask. The filter is housed in a stainless steel canister with a black base and lid. There’s a spigot at the top from which the water flows. The unit is attached by a hose to your faucet.
The activated carbon filter will reduce chlorine by up to 97 percent. It will also remove sediment and volatile organic compounds. You’ll get clearer, better-tasting water as a result. And any chlorine odors will be a thing of the past.
The one major drawback here is that there’s no indicator to show when it’s reached the end of its life. For a unit intended to last multiple years, that’s a problem. Especially when you consider that relatively small differences in water use can add up to differences of several years in how long it will last.
A slow flow of water or deterioration in its taste are signs the filter may no longer be working. But the only way to know for sure is to test the water that comes out. An OTO test for chlorine will let you know whether the activated carbon is still working.
NU Aqua’s countertop system may not be the best looking filter on the market – but it’s one of the toughest. It will filter out 99 percent of contaminants including chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, arsenic, fluoride, mercury and lead.
The impressive performance comes from what the manufacturers call “HydraCoil technology”. This produces more absorbent pores in the activated carbon, allowing it to capture even tiny particles. Anything bigger than five microns will be removed.
There are other clever design features too. The heavy-duty silicone O-ring prevents leaking and resists high temperatures. And there’s a robust end cap made of polypropylene for a secure fit.
The white plastic cylinder isn’t the most attractive, but it’s light and portable. Installation is a simple case of removing the aerator from your faucet and screwing in the fitting.
You’ll need a conventional faucet for this to be straightforward. But if you have a spray or pull-down version, don’t despair. Nu Aqua suggests contacting them to discuss workarounds.
The filter here has a decent lifespan of six to nine months. There’s a wrench included in the package to help with the task of replacing it.
One drawback, though, is that there’s no information on replacement cartridges. In truth, this is so inexpensive that you might want to replace the whole thing. That’s not the most environmentally friendly option though.
The other thing to note is that there’s no indicator to tell you when it’s time for a filter change. You’ll have to rely on your sense of taste and smell – or invest in a water testing kit.
iSpring’s countertop system is another that doesn’t have an indicator to show when it’s time for a new filter. It does, though, have translucent filter housing to make it much easier to see that for yourself. It comes in a wide choice of colors too.
And if you prefer a clean finish and guesswork, there’s the option of opaque white housing instead.
The filter in this case is a standard carbon block cartridge. It will remove 95 percent of contaminants like chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, and volatile organic compounds. It will filter out sediment like dirt, sand and rust too. And the water that comes out will be PH balanced.
Installation to a conventional faucet is easy. As with other systems, you’ll need to remove any aerator first. The process will differ slightly depending on whether your faucet has an internal or external thread. But in either case, it won’t take more than a few minutes.
There’s a handle on the side to allow you to switch easily between filtered and unfiltered water. That allows you to preserve your cartridge life by using unfiltered water for kitchen cleaning and washing up.
It uses a standard 2.5 inch by 10-inch carbon filter, so replacing it is simple and cheap. And the whole thing is compact enough to work just as well in a campervan or RV as a traditional kitchen.
One thing to bear in mind is that the unit can leak under high water pressure. There’s no flow restrictor in the faucet attachment, so it won’t be the best choice if you have high pressure.
If you’re looking for a system to remove a huge number of contaminants from your water, check out Aqua Tru’s system. Endorsed by the renowned water quality activist Erin Brokovich, this certainly has impressive credentials. But does it work?
The short answer is yes. The slightly longer answer is – yes, if it’s installed in precisely the right environment.
The system takes water through four stages of treatment. To begin with, there’s a mechanical pre-filter that removes sediment like sand, dirt and rust. Then there’s a pre-filter that removes 99 percent of chlorine and chloramines (disinfectants used to treat drinking water).
That’s followed by the reverse osmosis membrane. This filters out pretty much everything that’s left. It will remove 99 percent of lead, 95 percent of copper and 94 percent of fluoride – and plenty more besides.
Finally, an activated carbon filter removes herbicides, pesticides, solvents and other chemicals.
The three-cylinder filters are easy to change – just twist them to remove. Each will last for between six months and two years.
This is much more expensive than simple cartridge filters, but it will remove far more contaminants. There are just a couple of things to bear in mind.
The second is that this is quite a fussy machine. It needs to be installed somewhere completely flat and dry. And the filters need to be positioned just right – pushed as well twisted into place. If any element is off, it may refuse to work.
The AlcaPure countertop water filter is one of the most attractive out there. If you want something that’s going to look good in your kitchen, it should make your shortlist. But this system has more than good looks going for it.
It uses a four-stage reverse osmosis process to produce clean, alkaline water. A five-micron sediment filter begins by removing any sand, silt or rust. This is followed by an activated carbon filter to remove chlorine tastes and odors, and any other dissolved gasses.
The third stage is the reverse osmosis membrane. This removes tiny particles including fluoride, heavy metals, hormones, nitrates and bacteria. Finally, a post-carbon filter removes remaining impurities and further improves the flavor and smell.
There’s no installation to do at all here – just plug it in. Fill the bottom pitcher with water to get it started. In about 15 minutes, you’ll have half a gallon of purified water in the top container. The system produces about 50 percent wastewater. That compares favorably with other reverse osmosis systems.
The construction is free of BPA, and it’s energy-efficient too. At 30 watts, it will use less power than a standard light bulb.
The main drawbacks here are the price – it’s expensive – and the limited capacity. Unlike cheaper systems that connect to your faucet, you’ll only get half a gallon of purified water at a time.
The Frizzlife countertop filter is another hi-tech looking reverse osmosis system. Finished in glossy black and with a smart digital display, it will look great in modern kitchens.
In terms of water purification, it’s hard to beat. It will remove 99.99 percent of over 1,000 contaminants, including chlorine, fluoride, chloramines and lead.
It also has a clever water recycling facility, which means it generates far less wastewater than other RO systems. The cycle continues until a red “change water” light comes on. You’ll get five parts pure water to one part wastewater with this approach.
The digital display monitors the level of total dissolved solids in the incoming and purified water. And there’s a separate gauge for each filter. This shows how close it is to needing to be changed, giving you time to get replacements.
The four cartridges slot in at the back and they’re very easy to remove when it’s time to change them. Just twist and pull out. You won’t need any tools to do it.
The water is added in a tank and purified at a rate of two gallons per minute. The tank is a little flimsy for our liking – take care when you fill it.
The other minor issue with this one is the touchscreen controls. They’re not entirely reliable, and you may occasionally find yourself repeatedly jabbing at them to make them work.
But get past this, and this is a compact and effective system. Just note that you may want to get a remineralization filter to go alongside it. It will remove any the beneficial minerals in your water alongside the nasties.
This stainless steel countertop water filter from Lake Industries is another one that attaches to your faucet. It has its own integrated spigot so you can get continuous purified water on demand.
You’ll need a conventional faucet to attach this to. If you’ve got a pull-down or spray version, or anything with an unusual shape, it won’t fit. You’ll need to remove the aerator first, then just screw in the connector.
It uses standard filters so they’re easy and inexpensive to replace. They’ll treat about 1,000 gallons of water before needing to be changed.
You won’t get the same degree of water purification as with a reverse osmosis system. This will filter out sediment and remove unpleasant flavors and odors. It’s a good choice if your main concern is the taste and smell of chlorine.
It won’t take up a lot of space, and the stainless steel finish looks smart. You will, though, need to keep the unit attached to your faucet at all times. If that’s not your cup of tea, you’ll need to sacrifice continuous water-on-demand and get a model with a tank.
Brondell’s countertop water filter takes up very little space – and it looks great into the bargain.
Its curved lines and glossy white body give it a designer aesthetic. And there’s a stylish contrast with the mirror black front and chrome spigot. If you’re looking for something to make a statement in a contemporary kitchen, it’s well worth considering.
But what about the technical specifications?
Well, filtration here is provided by three-cylinder cartridges. There’s no reverse osmosis membrane, so it won’t remove as many contaminants. But it won’t produce any wastewater either.
The first stage is a composite plus filter which removes sediment like rust and sand. The second is a patented “nanotrap”, which tackles waterborne microorganisms, including many bacteria and viruses.
The third and final stage is a carbon block. This will reduce chlorine and its associated tastes and smells, as well as volatile organic compounds. It’s the stage that will do most to improve flavor and odor.
The first and third cartridges will last for around six months, while the nanotrap will last for about a year. All systems have been independently tested by the Water Quality Association.
Installation is easy and takes about ten minutes. And the system will fit almost every kind of faucet. If you prefer, it can also be installed under the sink. You’ll just need to buy a T-valve to connect it up.
The filters here are fairly expensive, so take that into account when thinking about your budget. And we’ve heard of some issues with the power button getting stuck over time. It’s not everyone’s experience, so it seems like this is a quality control issue.
This large countertop system includes two Black Berkey filters and two fluoride elements. It will hold up to 2.25 gallons of water and is designed to be used by larger households.
Each filter will treat up to an impressive 3,000 gallons of water before needing to be replaced. This unit contains two filters, effectively doubling this lifespan.
The fluoride filters attach to the main black filters and provide a second stage of filtration. These can treat up to 1,000 gallons of water before needing to be replaced.
The system will remove bacteria, parasites and cysts completely. It will also reduce herbicides, pesticides, solvents, nitrates, lead and water. At the same time, it will leave beneficial minerals well alone.
The filter housing is made of 304 stainless steel, so you won’t have to worry about chemicals leaching into the water. This is a big unit, so you’ll need a reasonable amount of space to put it in. It has a diameter of 8.5 inches and stands 20 inches tall.
If you want to, it’s possible to add in extra elements. This will increase the rate at which water flows through the system. You’ll get the fastest possible rate with four elements, achieving a flow of seven gallons per minute.
There’s one important thing to note here: if this is the system you choose, use it every day. If the filters dry out, they can be a haven for bacteria. So if you go away, take your Berkey with you, or have someone babysit it. The upper chamber nests inside the lower one to make transportation easier.
That brings us to the end of our reviews. Next, we’ll look at the questions to as yourself before you make your final decision.
Continuous water or batches?
The filters on our list divide into those that connect to your sink faucet and those with a tank. The major advantage of a filter that connects to your faucet is that it provides continuous water. As long as the faucet is open, the water will flow.
But in some cases, water pressure can be a problem. If it’s too high, it can cause the system to leak. Too low and it can take ages for the water to flow through the filter.
With standalone models, on the other hand, you’ll get your water purified in batches. If you’re using large amounts – for cooking, say – you may need to repeatedly refill the tank. But you won’t have any installation to do.
Single filter, multiple filter or reverse osmosis?
Different models will remove different levels of contamination. Simple carbon filters are great if you just want to remove the flavor and odor of chlorine.
Multiple filters can remove a broader range of contaminants. Replacing the cartridges will, though, be more expensive.
And reverse osmosis will remove more contaminants than any other process. It’s expensive though, and it produces wastewater as a byproduct. And it will strip out any beneficial minerals as well as unwanted particles.
Some under-sink RO models include a final remineralization stage to address this. However, none of our countertop models have this feature.
How often are you prepared to change the filters?
Different filters will last for different lengths of time. Generally speaking, the larger the filter, the longer you’ll be able to go without replacing it.
Look for systems with filters that are easy to change. Cartridges that twist into place are a good bet. A wrench included in the package can be helpful – but it can also be a sign that you’ll need to use some elbow grease to get the filter out.
Ready to choose?
That brings us to the end of our review of some of the best countertop water filters out there. We hope you’ve found it interesting – and more importantly, that you’re nearer to making your final choice!
Our favorite is the Big Berkey. It’s simple to use and you can add extra purification elements to increase the rate of flow. Just make sure that you use it every day. If the filters dry out, bacteria can grow in them.
Whichever option is right for you, invest in a countertop filter and you’ll soon be enjoying purer, tastier water. Happy shopping!