Do you know what your water filter removes?

Most filters will make your water taste better. The best way to tell whether they also get rid of the contaminants you’re concerned about is to check their certification with NSF International (formerly the National Sanitation Foundation). That’s easier said than done.

The NSF’s website is difficult to navigate. So we’ve compiled a list showing whether some widely available filters remove four contaminants— lead, arsenic, MTBE, and VOCs. (VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, include disinfection byproducts and some pesticides and industrial pollutants.)

Of course, these and other filters also remove other contaminants. (For example, the Brita pitcher removes mercury, cadmium, and copper.) For a complete list of what each filter is certified to remove, try For more information on water filters by brand and model, see the ratings on the Consumer Reports website (available to subscribers).

Keep in mind that many brands use the same filter in more than one model.

Water Filters

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11 Replies to “Do you know what your water filter removes?”

  1. I was disappointed to see that the PUR water filter pitcher (what we use) doesn’t filter out as much as I thought. Reverse osmosis appears to be the best, but I’ve read that it uses a lot of water for the filtration process. Thanks for the article.

    1. No mention was made of removing chlorine or fluoride or the DBPs (Disinfection By-Products) formed by reaction of chlorine and organic matter. I believe that most carbon filters remove the Cl and DBPs, but it would be nice to be sure. Fluoride cannot be removed by most filters, but can be removed by distillation and reverse osmosis, and there is quite a bit of evidence that it has health issues, also.

  2. Well, I’m very disappointed with this, because I have a brita pitcher that doesn’t remove ANY of the most important contamenants. However. . . I’m glad to know. Wish I’d saved my money though.

  3. 1st off, NSF is not the National Science foundation. Who controls it’s output is anybody’s guess. I believe that’s one of the reasons why the site is so un-user friendly. I am on my 4th email to not only them but britta as well trying to find out more about the basic pitcher filter that britta (now owned by clorox) sells Britta has sent me to several links which do not work. I did get that chart which NA has provided in this article however I find it inadequate. I believe it is at the very least disingenuous that britta sells these filters which don’t filter much out. This corporate fire wall seem pretty effective at keeping interested consumers from finding out all but the most basic information.

  4. We love our Multipure water! So happy to see that the Multipure water filter we have been using since 1995 continues to reduce all four of the listed contaminants. Based on NSF certification, Multipure’s systems are NSF certified to reduce/remove the broadest range of contaminants of health concern (more) than any other filter on the market, whether RO, pour-through pitcher, carbon block, distillation, etc.

  5. Not all water filters are NSF tested and certified and not all NSF certified water filters are equal in performance. It’s always good to go to and see what contaminants the filter system is certified to reduce. And, if possible, obtain a Performance Data Sheet or factual, up-to-date documentation proving that the system/filter contaminant reduction claims are true and what percentage of the contaminant(s) is certified to reduce.

  6. What about “soft water” systems? My plumbers all tell me I should install a “soft water” system to protect all my plumbing from the “hard” calcium buildup in all my plumbing equipment. But what does this do to my drinking water? Is it safe for my body fluid intake? I am told no chemicals are used but that the sodium count in the water is higher. Please inform me.

  7. This chart is rather confusing to me. There are carbon filters, distillation filters, reverse osmosis filters, each with different capabilities. It’s hard to tell whether the information I’m seeing for a particular filter is due to its type or to different levels of effectiveness within the same type.

    Also, what is MTBE?

    1. From Nutrition Action:

      To see more types and brands of filters, you may find the ratings on Consumer Reports’ website helpful:

      MTBE is a gasoline additive that reduces carbon monoxide and ozone levels in car emissions. It has now largely been replaced by ethanol. While MTBE that leaked from gasoline pipelines and storage tanks into the soil can take years to degrade, ”it is not clear if exposure to MTBE causes long-lasting health effects,” says the American Cancer Society. Here is a link to more information from the American Cancer Society:

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