The Most Effective Water Filter Brand & Common Tap Water Contaminants to Avoid

Best Water Filter & Tap Water Contaminants

When switching to a low-tox lifestyle, something that often gets overlooked is the quality of the water that you’re drinking. Sure, you might have one of those Brita filters or use the dispenser from your fridge, but to be honest, those don’t filter out much. And it’s actually kind of crazy how many additives and contaminants there are in most tap water. So let’s take a look at what chemicals are commonly found in our drinking water and what to look for in a filter! 💦

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The Problem with Tap Water

You might assume that by the time your tap water comes out of the faucet, it’s clean and ready to drink! Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The tricky thing about water is that there isn’t an ingredient label! The Environmental Working Group tested almost 49,000 water utilities across the United States and found a shocking 267 contaminants of concern. Of those detected:

  • 93 were linked to cancer
  • 78 were associated with brain and nervous system damage
  • 63 were of concern to the development of children and fetuses
  • 38 were linked to fertility problems
  • 45 were connected to hormone disruption

It’s important to remember that legal does not equal safe. Just because something is allowed in our tap water, doesn’t mean it’s any good for us!

Common contaminants found in tap water:

  • Aluminum
  • Ammonia
  • Arsenic
  • Chloramine and chlorine
  • Disinfection byproducts: When water is treated, there are byproducts produced that are actually more harmful than what they are intended to treat! These include trihalomethanes (THMs), haloacetic acids (HAAs), chloroform, and more.
  • Fluoride
  • Hormone and endocrine disruptors
  • Lead
  • Nitrates/Nitrites (groundwater is becoming contaminated from pesticide and fertilizer usage and runoff!)
  • Mercury
  • Parasites
  • Perfluorinated “forever” chemicals (PFAS, PFOA, PFNA, PFHxS, and Teflon)
  • Pharmaceuticals and drug residues
  • Synthetic organics (SOCs)
  • Uranium and other heavy metals
  • Volatile organics (VOCs)
  • See more contaminants on the Water Quality Association website

A note about fluoride…

I know fluoride is a bit controversial. After all of the research I’ve done, I personally avoid it as much as possible.

Fluoride has been added to our water supply since around 1945. The purpose has been to protect teeth from tooth decay. Contrary to popular belief, it is actually doing more harm than good. The problem is that we are being overexposed to it: it’s also added to most toothpaste and mouthwashes. However, fluoride actually occurs naturally in many foods like dried fruits, tea, cocoa powder, and walnuts.

A two-year Canadian study actually discovered that added fluoride barely helps at all in the prevention of cavities. The difference? Half a cavity. And there are other natural ways to prevent tooth decay, therefore the addition of fluoride is excessive.

The FDA actually requires all fluoride toothpaste in the U.S. to include a poison warning on the label. The overuse of fluoride can cause stomach ailments, altered thyroid function, acute toxicity, skin rashes, impairment in glucose metabolism, as well as permanent tooth discoloration called dental fluorosis. These can come in the form of tiny white streaks or even more severe dark-colored stains (I, unfortunately, had these as a child and they are still slightly there!)

Fluoride does occur naturally in water, but usually at low concentrations under 0.3 ppm (parts per million). After the addition of extra fluoride to our water supply, the level is about 1 ppm (roughly 1 milligram per liter). You can check your local water supplier here to see what the fluoride level in your area is.

How to Know What’s In Your Local Tap Water

The Environmental Working Group has a really cool Tap Water Database. You can enter your zip code and it will bring up a list of pollutants found in your local water utility. Warning: it’s kind of gross and might shock you!

For example, my local water system has 15 contaminants that exceed EWG’s guidelines. This includes things like nitrates, radium, and arsenic.

EWG Tap Water Database Wisconsin
A look at what’s found in my local tap water, nasty!

Do you need to filter well water?

While well water is generally much safer than public city water, I recommend getting yours tested yearly to see what’s in it! Sadly, even well water can be contaminated and may need to be filtered.

Is Bottled Water Really Better?

The short answer: NOPE. According to EWG:

Laboratory testing by EWG has found all sorts of nasty stuff in popular brands of bottled water – disinfection byproducts, industrial chemicals, prescription drugs and even bacteria. And unlike your local tap water utilities, which are required to test for contaminants each year and disclose the results to the public, the bottled water industry can hide the results of its testing.

Bottled water also costs more because you are essentially paying for the brand name and packaging. Not to mention the adverse health effects of plastic and the waste it creates in the environment. I advise avoiding bottled water for these reasons.

Bottled water

Not All Water Filters Are Created Equal!

Now that you know what is likely to be found in tap water, let’s talk about water filters! It can be really confusing because there are so many options on the market, all at different price points. The truth is that you get what you pay for and need to determine what level of filtration you want. Some go too far and filter out EVERYTHING, including beneficial minerals that should remain. Some only target certain pollutants. Here are a few types of common filters:

  • 3-stage countertop filter (this is the type I use and suggest! keep reading for more details)
  • Reverse osmosis filter (these filter out EVERYTHING, even the good stuff)
  • Distillers
  • Ionizer
  • Pitchers (such as Brita. I mostly suggest avoiding these since they’re not very effective. The best one I’ve come across is this Clearly Filtered Pitcher)
  • Gravity filter (this is the next best option in my opinion if you get one with a fluoride filter; the brand Berkey is a popular one)

To see a detailed comparison chart of the different filter types, click to enlarge:

Water Filter Comparison Chart

Pure Effect Ultra 3-Stage Water Filter

So which one is best? I personally use and recommend the Pure Effect Ultra 3-Stage water filter. I bought one a few years ago and am STILL using it because it’s so amazing. It’s low-maintenance and doesn’t take up counter space.

Pure Effect Ultra Water Filter

Here’s why I love it:

  • It filters out more contaminants than the other types of filters, without removing beneficial minerals (go here to see a full list of what it filters out)
  • It sits on your countertop and attaches directly to your faucet (they also make a unit that can go under your counter or a kit to convert it to under-counter)
  • It’s easy to set up and requires minimal maintenance (cartridges need to be replaced every 6-12 months depending on usage)
  • The water supply is instant – no need to wait for filtration
  • Water is not sitting in an open reservoir which poses bacteria risks
  • Works without electricity
  • Raises and balances pH to alkaline
  • Supports natural minerals, electrolytes, and antioxidant potential

Each cartridge has a specific filtration purpose: one filters out chemicals and sediment, one tackles fluoride, and one removes radiation and heavy metals while revitalizing water with beneficial minerals.

The owner is also extremely helpful and knowledgeable. Overall, I highly suggest looking into this as an option for your home! It’s definitely well worth the investment.

Shop Pure Effect Ultra Water Filters Here

On-the-Go, Bath, & Shower Filters

Travel, Bath, and Shower Filters

Clearly Filtered Water Bottles: These have a built-in filter that targets 220+ contaminants such as chlorine, fluoride, lead, mercury, herbicides, pesticides, phthalates, VOCs, and pharmaceuticals. You can even purchase just the top portion which is compatible with most wide-mouth stainless steel water bottles! Super handy for traveling.

GoPure Personal Water Filter Pods: A more affordable option albeit not as powerful. These pods use diatomaceous earth and last about six months. Just pop one in your water bottle to neutralize contaminants like chlorine, heavy metals, fluoride, and lead!

Lard Self-Cleaning Water Bottles: These PURIFY, which is different than filtering, by using a mercury-free UV-C LED light to sanitize the water. So they won’t remove physical impurities from water, but do neutralize bacteria such as E-coli.

Jolie Showerhead Filter: Chlorine exposure from a ten-minute shower is equal to or greater than chlorine exposure from drinking 8.5 cups of chlorine-treated tap water a day! Not only that, but chlorine can actually make your hair dull and affect its color. It can also irritate skin; so if you have conditions like eczema, dryness, rashes, dandruff, psoriasis, itchiness, etc. then filtering your shower water can potentially help. Jolie filters are so CUTE and use a KDF-55 and Calcium Sulfite filter to remove chlorine, heavy metals, and contaminants.

Crystal Quest Bath Ball: If you prefer baths or have kids, this attaches under the bath faucet to neutralize chlorine and contaminants.

Please keep in mind that these will NOT filter out as much or as effectively compared to the filter linked above. It isn’t possible to do so with large amounts of running water (ie. bath or shower). But they can help with more simple pollutants such as chlorine.

Find a local spring near you!

Another option, if you can’t swing a water filter, is to search for a natural spring nearby to fill your own bottles. You can use to search in your area. Many of the springs have ratings and water testing results available too.

I truly think investing in a good water filter is one of the BEST things you can do for your health! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments. Thanks for reading 💚

Becca Signature



How to Pick an Effective Water Filter | Pin me on Pinterest!

Written by: Becca

Becca is a blogger, wife, and dog mom living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Having seen firsthand the benefits of switching to a natural lifestyle herself, she's passionate about helping women make the switch to clean beauty products, organic skincare, and a holistic way of life (without the stress of being perfect about it!).

2 comments on “The Most Effective Water Filter Brand & Common Tap Water Contaminants to Avoid”

  1. Hi Becca,

    Thank you for this wonderful review. I was looking at the Radiant Life water filter system until I came across your review of Pure Effect. I like that the price point is affordable for a high quality water filter. Is there a reason why you would choose this filter over the Radiant Life other than the price point? I’m strongly considering the Pure Effect water filter now.

    1. Hi Emily! I haven’t heard of Radiant Life but I just looked them up quickly. Looks like their $1,500 model is reverse osmosis and they supply drops that you have to add in, because reverse osmosis actually takes beneficial nutrients out of the water. That’s why I like the Pure Effect one, it leaves the beneficial nutrients in! Plus like you said the price point is really awesome. Hope that helps! I’ve had my filter for a few years and it’s still running strong.

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