Chances are you occasionally eye the family drinking pitcher with the kind of apprehension you would reserve for murky waters of the deep. (What exactly is lurking is in there, anyway?) And who could blame you. Given recent headlines about water crises in California, New Jersey, Ohio and Michigan—yes, Flint is still in the process of swapping out lead pipes—it’s not surprising that nearly two-thirds of Americans are worried about polluted drinking water, according to a 2017 Gallup poll. Happily, there are some practical things you can do to make sure your family’s water supply is safe, and you don’t necessarily have to spend thousands on filters or go all Erin Brockovich in the process. Next up: some simple steps to get you started.
Pick Your Equipment
Filter with confidence: The systems listed here have been vetted by EWG or NSF International, both independent organizations.
FYI: Most use carbon filters to bond with and trap certain contaminants.
Pros: Inexpensive—and, hey, no professional installation.
Cons: Won’t remove all contaminants, and the filters have to be changed every couple of months, which is more often than other systems. Most people are surprised to learn that these can ultimately cost more than a faucet-mounted system, just because the cartridges can get pricey.
Try: Zero Water 23-Cup Dispenser. An ion exchange and granular activated carbon remove heavy metals like lead and mercury. Amazon.com, $40; $32 for a two-pack of replacement water filters (switch them out every eight weeks).
Brita Everyday Pitcher. This, too, uses an ion exchange and activated carbon to remove heavy metals, including cadmium and copper. It can help on the taste and odor fronts. Amazon.com, $37; $34 for a three-pack of replacement filters (change every eight weeks or so).
FYI: These filters generally use the same carbon technologies as their pitcher counterparts.
Pros: Easy to install and relatively inexpensive, especially if you’re looking to outfit one or two faucets. A mounted filter also makes it easy to switch between filtered water for, say, cooking a pot of pasta, and unfiltered water, for filling a bucket to mop the floor.
Cons: The mounts don’t fit on all faucet heads, and they can slow down water flow. Also, you still need to change them every couple of months.
Try: Culligan FM-15A Faucet Mount Filter. The carbon block removes lead and small amounts of dirt and sand particles. Amazon.com, $27; $15 for a three-pack of replacement filters (replace about once every two months).
Brita Basic Faucet Filtration System SAFF-100. Filters out more than 60 contaminants, including lead and asbestos. Amazon.com, $20; $30 for a two-pack of filters (replace about every four months).
FYI: These filters (either carbon or ion exchange) are fitted to the cold water pipe underneath your sink, and the water flows through its own faucet on top of the sink. This way, you can use filtered water for drinking and cooking and stick to regular tap for, say, washing dishes.
Pros: The system is hidden under your sink and requires little maintenance.
Cons: Professional installation, which can cost hundreds of bucks, is usually required. You may also have to sacrifice cabinet space, since some models are bulky (like, larger than a toaster oven).
Try: Multipure Aquaversa Model MP750 Drinking Water System. This system uses a carbon block to filter out a variety of contaminants, including lead, arsenic and asbestos, and can also improve water’s look and taste. Amazon.com, $486.
Aquasana AQ-5300 3-Stage Under Counter System. Removes dozens of contaminants (lead, mercury and pesticides among them) and some pharmaceuticals. Amazon.com, $200.