Faucet water filters are designed to attach directly to a water faucet and filter out potentially harmful substances. Faucet water filters are meant to clean water of the chemicals that aren’t removed by municipal water treatment procedures; such as chlorine, which are added during treatment. Many manufacturers have their filters tested and certified by third-party laboratories to ensure that their product filters out everything they claim it does (1).
Most of the compounds present in our drinking water are not monitored, even though they may present a health risk (2).
Faucet water filters can help to ensure that your drinking water is safe when you don’t know what might be in the water supply.
1Faucet water filters can remove lead from your drinking water. When Flint, Michigan was dealing with city-wide lead contamination in its water supply, faucet water filters used there were found to be highly effective at removing lead from the water.
In fact, every filtered water sample that was tested had lead content well below the minimum legal standard for bottled water. The filters were so effective that the water in Flint was safe even for pregnant women and children to drink (5).
Lead poisoning can cause abdominal pain, memory loss, and kidney dysfunction. Children exposed to toxic levels of lead early on can also cause intellectual disabilities. Thirty percent of communities in the United States still have lead service lines in their water distribution systems.
These service lines are the pipes that connect your home to the water main, so each of these 6.1 million lead pipes is carrying water directly to homes after the water has already passed through a municipal treatment facility. Each of those lead lines has the potential to contaminate the water supply if it begins to corrode (6).
A faucet water filter protects you from that kind of contamination.
2Faucet water filters can help prevent the spread of disease. An experiment in Fiji showed that installing point-of-use filters drastically lowered the rate of water-borne diseases, so much so that they were effectively eliminated in the community that used the filters (7).
Membrane-type filters can be attached to a faucet remove bacterial contamination of your drinking water. These filters were effective at removing bacterial contamination, even when chemical disinfectants weren’t (8).
Membrane water filters are used primarily in medical settings, but if you’re concerned about water-borne diseases, you could install a membrane filter in your home.
3Faucet water filters can improve the taste of your water. This is actually the main function of most home water filters. They’re designed to filter out substances like chlorine that affect the odor and taste of the water.
The mineral content of water can also affect its flavor, which is why these filters are often made to be effective at removing minerals and heavy metals (9).
Improving the taste of your water can help you to stay properly hydrated, as well.
4Faucet water filters are affordable. Compared to other methods of improving the taste and quality of your water, faucet water filters are often much more affordable.
Many of the alternatives require professional installation, and larger whole house treatment systems often require making serious modifications to the plumbing (10).
In the United States and around the world, the majority of people who lack access to clean water are low-income, so low-cost solutions to water quality problems are vital.
Most faucet filters are available for less than $20 and take only minutes to install on a typical fixture.
5Faucet water filters can reduce plastic waste. Many people drink bottled water because they don’t like the taste of tap water. Bottled water lacks the chlorine, chloramine, and other additives in tap water that affect the flavor, and usually have very low mineral content. Because of this, bottled water tends to have a much more neutral flavor than tap water.
We’re using over one million plastic water bottles every minute, and almost none of them get recycled. Current estimates suggest that, in 2020, over five hundred billion plastic bottles of water will be sold. Most of those bottles will take over four hundred years to decompose. A lot of that plastic ends up in the ocean. So much so that, by 2050, it’s possible there will be more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish (11).
If you’re buying bottled water because you don’t like the taste of tap water, using a faucet filter can help you reduce the amount of plastic you use.
You’ll also save money if you’re a regular bottled water drinker. You’ll only be buying a replacement filter once every few months, instead of buying several bottles of water each day.
6Faucet water filters help you drink less fluoride. Fluoride is added to the water supply because it’s believed to improve dental health. There’s some debate on that subject, though.
Recent research has led many to believe that, while fluoride may be beneficial during tooth development, ingesting too much fluoride over long periods may be detrimental to your health. Fluoride poisoning can cause kidney and heart problems, and, if severe enough, death.
Chronic consumption of high doses of fluoride can also cause discoloration in the teeth and can lead to bones that are dense, but fragile. Finally, it can cause calcification of ligaments in the joints, reducing mobility.
Fluoride was naturally present in the water supply in trace amounts before cities began adding more. Toothpaste and mouthwash usually contain fluoride as well, so many people are skeptical of the need for additional fluoride in our drinking water.
Much of the world either stopped adding fluoride to their water or, in some places with naturally high concentrations of fluoride, have begun removing it from the water supply. Japan, along with the majority of continental Europe, has stopped adding fluoride out of health concerns. Many African nations have naturally occurring fluoride in the water, and are now removing it.
70% of the water supply in the US is fluoridated, and the conventional wisdom that fluoride is harmless and healthy still prevails in most of the country. It’s unlikely that that will change soon. If you’re concerned about consuming too much fluoride, the easiest way to reduce your consumption of it is to drink water with no fluoride in it.
7Faucet water filters can remove chlorine. Chlorine is a disinfectant added to the water supply to prevent the growth of bacteria. This practice dates to at least 1908 in the United States. Chlorine can be added to the water as a compressed gas, or in the form of various salts. It can have an adverse effect on the taste and smell of your water, which is the main reason why filters are designed to remove it. Chlorinated water often smells like bleach, which can be off-putting for many people.
In addition to affecting the taste of the water, chlorine may also be harmful to human health. Asthma, high cholesterol, and bladder cancer have all been associated with drinking chlorinated tap water (14, 15)
8Faucet water filters can remove pesticides. Pesticides used in agriculture often end up in the water supply. The standard water treatment practices used around the world are not completely effective.
Pesticides are also persistent. DDT was outlawed in the United States over 40 years ago, but tests show that it’s still contaminating parts of our water supply. Pesticides can seep into the groundwater from any agricultural field that uses them. The vast majority of agricultural operations continue to use large amounts of pesticides, so this is an issue in much of the water supply.
Most pesticides are unaffected by standard water treatments. Those that are still aren’t removed completely, and they’re often degraded or transformed into new compounds, the safety of which is difficult to evaluate.
Because the standard practices used in water treatment facilities are ineffective, pesticides end up in our drinking water. If you live in or near an agricultural area, you are probably more affected than most. If you don’t live in an agricultural area, the concentration of pesticides in your water is likely lower, but they’re probably still there.
The health effects of consuming pesticides vary depending on the specific pesticide. Some affect the nervous system, others affect the skin, the hormone, and endocrine systems, and others are carcinogens. The National Pesticide Information Center can provide you with information on which pesticides are likely in your water supply.
Activated carbon powder, used in most faucet water filters, is effective at filtering out many of the most common pesticides in use today (16).
A faucet filter is a better solution than a pitcher filter for removing pesticides from your water. A pitcher will remove the compounds just as effectively, but will only remove them from the water you drink. They will still be in the water you use cooking, which means they can still be present in a lot of your food.
9Faucet water filters can make cooking healthier. You may not realize how much water is used in cooking. You wash your produce in tap water and use tap water to cook grains and pasta. Water is the main ingredient in soups and stews, it’s added to every braise and sauce you make, and you wash your dishes with it.
Lead, chlorine, pesticides, and other pollutants that you don’t want in your drinking water are still ending up in your food if you aren’t using filtered water in all your cooking. This means that if you drink filtered water, but don’t cook with it, you are effectively nullifying the benefits of drinking filtered water in the first place.
This is an example of one way in which a faucet filter is better than a pitcher filter. A pitcher prevents you from drinking contaminated water, but you’re not likely to use a pitcher for your cooking water. A faucet filter is a much more convenient source of clean water when cooking than a pitcher is.
Using a faucet filter helps ensure that you reduce your consumption of contaminants and potentially toxic substances much more effectively than a pitcher filter or no filter at all.
10Faucet water filters can make better coffee. Using filtered water improves the taste of any beverage made with it. Coffee is 98% water, and the best water to use for coffee is water with below-average mineral content.
Any off-flavors in your tap water will be evident in your coffee. A faucet filter will remove off-flavors and most of the minerals in tap water, and will dramatically improve your coffee (17).
As with cooking, this is also a health issue, not just a taste issue. The brewing process will not remove any of the contaminants in your tap water. Although many coffee makers now come with a filter built-in, these are rarely as effective as a faucet filter; and it’s easy to forget to replace it because it’s hidden inside the machine. So, even if your coffee maker has a built-in filter, the filter is likely ineffective.
A pitcher can suffice for this, but only if it’s large enough to fill your coffee pot, which many aren’t. A faucet filter is a much better choice for this sort of volume usage.
11Faucet water filters can remove heavy metals. Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements, so there’s no way to eliminate your exposure to them, nor is there a need to. Human exposure has increased far above natural levels, however. Industries such as mining and metallurgy generate heavy metal pollution on an unprecedented scale. Heavy metals are also used in agriculture.
Corrosion of metal structures can also leech metals into the water. Fossil fuel usage, particularly oil refineries and coal-fueled power plants, generate heavy metal pollution as well. Heavy metals are everywhere, and the activities that fuel everyday life are the biggest source of heavy metal pollution, which means reducing the amount of heavy metals in the water supply is not easily done on a large scale.
A better solution is to use an activated carbon water filter. Faucet filters effectively remove heavy metals from your drinking water. You can check the packaging on the filters before you buy them to see which heavy metals each filter is certified to remove.
12Faucet water filters can help clean your dishes better. Minerals dissolved in your tap water can leave deposits on your sink and the dishes you wash in it. These most often appear as small spots, and they’re especially visible on glassware.
This not merely a cosmetic issue. The heavy metals, minerals, and pesticides in your water supply will still be present on your own plates, utensils, and cooking implements. This means that if you aren’t using filtered water to clean your dishes as well you may still be consuming the contaminants in the water supply.
A faucet filter removes those minerals from your water, so when you wash your dishes by hand, they get much cleaner.
13Faucet water filters are more convenient than other filtration systems. Pitcher filters are limited by the amount of water the pitcher can hold. That’s fine if you’re only interested in filtering your drinking water, but if you want filtered water for cooking, cleaning, or your morning coffee, a faucet filter will meet your needs better.
Faucet filters take up less space than bulky countertop filters or under-sink filters.
Whole-house filtration systems offer the benefit of filtered water from every tap in your house, but they often require extensive plumbing work and can be expensive to install and maintain. Faucet filters are easy to install, and their filter cartridges are just as easy to replace. This makes them a much cheaper and easier solution.
1Faucet water filters may remove healthy minerals. Water filters do remove minerals and heavy metals from your drinking water. This is generally considered a benefit, but for many people drinking water is an important dietary source of those minerals.
If you live in an area with especially soft water, meaning water with low mineral content, you may not notice any difference in your tap water after filtering it. In fact, you may find that you prefer the taste of unfiltered water if your tap water is already soft.
2Faucet water filters remove fluoride. While fluoride can be harmful, it isn’t clear if it’s present in our water supply in a high enough concentration to cause toxicity.
The conventional wisdom still holds that fluoridated water is perfectly safe and that fluoridating the water supply was one of the most successful public health initiatives of the 20th century. You may want fluoride in your water. If that’s the case, a water filter may not be a good option.
The most common recommendation is to drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day. However, this is entirely arbitrary. There is no medical reasoning behind it.
It should also be noted that many beverages, including coffee and tea, help to hydrate you as well. This means that you should be tracking your overall fluid intake, not just your water intake.
Still, water intake remains important. There are times when water should always be the beverage of choice. In general, anytime you’re engaged in an activity that causes sweating, you should drink water.
The exact amount of water you need is difficult to prescribe. The best way to determine when to drink water and how much to drink is to drink when you’re thirsty, and stop drinking when your thirst is slated.
Will a faucet water filter remove harmful bacteria from the water? Activated carbon filters will not remove bacteria from the water supply. Membrane filters, however, are very effective at filtering out bacteria.
Are all faucet water filters the same? Different filters have varying levels of effectiveness, and they often filter different compounds. If you’re buying a filter, check the packaging. It should list every compound that the filter is certified to remove from the water.
Will faucet filters fit on any faucet? No. You should always check with the manufacturer of your faucet before buying an attachment to it. Filters will fit on most faucets, but not all of them.
Will a faucet filter remove all harmful substances from my water? There are some substances, such as arsenic, that most filters will not remove. If you’re worried about specific compounds, you’ll want to check the packaging on the filter before you buy it to confirm that it will remove everything you want it to remove.
Faucet water filters are a cheap, convenient tool to improve the quality of your drinking water. The quality of your drinking water is crucial to your health. The odds of lead contamination in your drinking water are high.
Pesticides and heavy metals are common, too. These contaminants don’t have to be present in large amounts to be dangerous; they can build up in your body over time. Chlorine can have adverse health effects too, though that’s less likely. It will, however, affect the flavor and smell of your drinking water.
There are other solutions to these problems. Pitcher filters are essentially the same device as a faucet filter, but they’re limited by the size of the pitcher. Countertop filters can often remove even more contaminants than a faucet filter, but they’re bulky and they filter slowly.
Whole house filtration systems exist, but these are expensive. They also tend to require major plumbing work, which adds to the cost. Because they’re integrated into your plumbing, maintenance is a hassle.
Faucet filters remove most, if not all, of the contaminants the average consumer wants to take out of their water. Lead is one of the most common and most feared water contaminants, and faucet filters can filter enough lead that filtered tap water has lower levels of lead than most bottled water. They do this much more cheaply and conveniently than most other filtration systems. They require no maintenance other than periodically switching out the filter pod.
Unless you have unusually soft, clean water or unusually hard, polluted water, a faucet filter offers an excellent way to improve the quality of your drinking water.