Your Guide to Water Filtration Systems

Different types of drinking-water filtration systems have flooded the market. Learn what systems may be best for you.

Water Filtering Systems Water Filtering Systems

663 million.

That's how many people in the world lack access to "improved" drinking water. "Improved” means that it's good-quality water piped into the house in adequate regular quantity. It doesn't always mean 100% safe or at an adequate distance from sanitary facilities.

For many people in developing nations, water purification/filtration is a matter of life or death. However, even in the US, many families choose plastic-bottled water to drink because they don't trust their tap water. Nearly $13.8 billion worth of bottled water was sold in the US in 2018.

Filtering your tap water instead of buying plastic water bottles would not only save you money, but it would prevent hundreds or even thousands of plastic bottles from entering the waste stream.

Types of Water Filtration

There are four basic categories of water-filtration systems:

Physical Filtration

This type of filtration targets larger particulate matter suspended in your water. Whether these particles are too small to see or large enough to cloud the water, physical filtration strains them out. A filter sifts materials out of the water as it flows through, trapping matter and letting cleaner water emerge on the other side.

Chemical Filtration

This method passes water through a barrier with a chemical property that kills harmful bacteria in the water. Other types of chemical filtration add a clumping ingredient to the particulates, allowing them to be trapped in a physical filter.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis systems use pressurized water through a semipermeable filter that contains tiny holes to trap harmful bacteria. Reverse pressure then washes away the strained sediments and bacteria. Reverse osmosis produces a great deal of wastewater.


Distillation isn't technically a form of filtration, although it is used to separate water from impurities. Heat is used to change water to its gaseous state (steam/vapor) which leaves minerals and impurities behind. The water vapor is then captured and returned to a liquid state.

Typical Household Issues

If you're dealing with any of the following issues in your water, you might want to consider filtration.

Water Hardness

If your water is hard (meaning it has a higher concentration of minerals), you might see mineral deposits on dishes and glassware. Other symptoms include stiff laundry with soap residue and poor cleaning, dry skin and hair, and scale build-up in pipes and on appliances.


Notice a chlorine taste in your water? Is there a scent of chlorine in the air when you drink? Or are your fabrics fading too fast? You may have a high amount of chlorine in your water supply.

Iron or Manganese

These metal residues give water unpleasant tastes and leave red or black stains on plumbing fixtures, which can begin to color your water.


Foul, rotten-egg smell and taste in your water can signal that you have sulfates, sulfer bacteria, hydrogen sulfide gas, or other sulfur-based contaminants.

Cloudy water

Turbid or cloudy water has large particles of sediment, sand, silt or rust. This can be caused by the water source or the plumbing.

Low pH Water (Acid)

Green- and blue-green-tinted water may indicate you have acid water with a low pH factor that can dissolve pipes and minerals. Look for green stains on porcelain surfaces and plumbing fixtures.

Test Your Water

Water testing helps determine the safety of your drinking water and pinpoint any of the above water issues. Once you've determined what issues your water has, you can start researching which filtration system might be most effective.

Let's look at some excellent filtration options.

Personal Water Filters

Survivalists count on personal water purification to keep drinking water safe from bacterial and parasitic contamination. Products like the LifeStraw, Sawyer Products Mini System, Katadyne Vario, and Survivor Filter Pro promise to keep you supplied with fresh drinking water from almost any source for up to 100,000 gallons.

For personal camping and hiking use, even in difficult conditions, you can't go wrong with the time-tested LifeStraw or the Sawyer Products Mini System. Both are lightweight, portable (especially the LifeStraw) and long-lived.

If you're looking for a traveling water bottle to improve taste and encourage you to drink water on the go, look no further than the Brita 20-Ounce Sport Water Bottle. The activated charcoal filter removes odors and particulates from the water for a refreshing drink.

Family-Size Water Filters

A Brita or Pur pitcher in the refrigerator is probably sufficient for most off-tasting water in the US, but some families prefer the convenience of an under-sink system. These multiple-stage filtration systems provide many gallons of drinking water per day.

These systems work inline, meaning they connect to your plumbing at the point of use and then dispense through a fixture at your sink or through your refrigerator.

For those families with a GE Refrigerator, the GE SmartWater Inline Filter is an excellent choice. It's compact, easy to set up, and lightweight. The inexpensive filters last six months, produce as much as 750 gallons of water, and are readily available.

For families who use filtered water for cooking as well, a sink-side tap is a good choice. The Watts Water Filter System has a 20,000-gallon capacity and hooks up to refrigerators as well as drinking-water taps on the counter. The filtration system features a multi-stage media filter, bacteriostatic filtration, and reverse osmosis.

Home and Business Size Filtration

A whole-house system provides clear, tasty, soft water to your entire home or building to protect appliances and plumbing from hard-water-scale, foul odors, and more. It treats water at the point-of-entry to your home, which means it doesn't solve any issues caused by old or damaged plumbing.

Some full-house systems use a large filter to remove particulates, a salt system to remove hard water minerals, and then a reverse osmosis system to provide drinking water to select taps.

A DuPont Universal Water Filter comes with a 3/4" connection to provide your whole house clean and clear water. The DuPont filter block reduces sediments for up to 15,000 gallons of water before needing a change. The replacement block is an easy snap-in design.

The Pelican PC 600 is ideal for households who have safe incoming water with excess chlorine smell and taste. The dechlorination process greatly improves the water by reducing 96% of chlorine in the incoming water supply and by eliminating other contaminants like petroleum residues, pesticides, and industrial solvents. It uses both physical and chemical filtration to eliminate and halt bacterial contaminants as well.

Need a Filter for One Million Gallons?

The Aquasana 10-Year Whole House Water Filter is a super long-lasting multimedia physical filter that purifies up to 1,000,000 gallons!

Armed with a decade-long warranty, this filter removes chlorine, iron, manganese, and other chemicals. It also contains a chemical barrier to prevent microorganism buildup in your otherwise pristine plumbing.

Find The Right Filtration for Your Self, Family or House

There are hundreds of possible water filtration systems available for lease or purchase in 2019. The question "What is the best water filtering system" is best answered with a whole series of questions.

  • How much water do you need to filter?
  • What are your water problems?
  • Does the system need to be portable, for drinking and cooking, or for showering and laundry as well?
  • Do you prefer point-of-use or point-of-entry filtration?
  • What is your budget?
  • How important is energy efficiency?
  • How often do you want to replace the system's filter?

Want to learn more? Check out our other articles about water filtration systems.

In this post: water filtration systems, water filters, water filtration