When it comes to filtering water, reverse osmosis (RO) filters are the most effective. These units use a multi-stage filtration process to remove sediment, organic contaminants, and chemical contaminants from water. The first stage is a sediment pre-filter, designed to remove larger particles such as sand and silt. The second stage is a charcoal filter to remove organic contaminants, including those that affect the smell and taste of water.
The third stage is a semipermeable membrane that handles chemical contaminants. In some reverse osmosis filters, there is even a fourth and final “polishing” stage. The downside is that reverse osmosis filters do not mitigate the presence of microorganisms. The type of filter you choose will depend on your specific needs.
Big Berkey filters use carbon and ion exchange to remove more than 200 contaminants, including bacteria, pesticides, and heavy metals. Refrigerator filters can reduce many of the same contaminants as countertop or undercounter filters. Carbon is the most common material used for absorption in water filters, as it is very effective in capturing water-borne contaminants. No matter which water filter you choose, it's important to remember to change the filter as recommended.
Brands like Berkey claim to filter chlorine, mercury, zinc, cadmium, copper and other unwanted flavors and odors through activated carbon and coconut shell charcoal. However, it's important to note that no filter can remove all contaminants, and many are specialized. All certifications are made with filter life in mind, so it's important to replace them as needed. Ion exchange and activated carbon are two of the most common methods used in water filters to eliminate viruses, bacteria, protozoa, particles such as microplastics or sediments and heavy metals such as lead or arsenic.
Some filters come with sensors that indicate when it's time to make a change, so you don't have to track time or usage. If you buy separate filters for the shower, water jug, and sink, you'll need to remember to change them separately; so it may be wise to consider a whole-house filter that only requires one replacement.