Water filters tap into safety and aesthetic concerns

As a rule, most drinking water in the United States and Canada is safe. But if you have any qualms about the purity of your tap water–or simply don’t like its taste or smell–you may want to consider getting a water filter. (Bottled water is another option; see our current report on page 17.)

As we reported last October, many water filters do a good job of removing potentially harmful contaminants like lead, parasites, and chlorine by-products such as chloroform. They also remove off-tastes and odors. For this update, we tested two new faucet-mounted filters and four models that filter the water a refrigerator uses for its icemaker and water dispenser.

Faucet-mounted filters. Of the two new faucet mounts we tested, we found that the Pur Ultimate FM-4010L, $40, was better than the Brita Ultra FF-100, $37. The Pur was excellent at removing both chloroform and lead and was one of the best of all our tested filters at improving the taste of our test solution of “cabbage soup.” It’s also certified for parasite removal by NSF International, a not-for-profit organization. However, this Pur, like the one we tested in October, clogged more quickly than other models during our rigorous tests.

The Brita generally performed a notch or two below the Pur, but it still did a good job. It clogged less than the Pur and has an effective flashing-light system for letting you know when to change the cartridge. The Pur has a cartridge-life indicator, too, but it wasn’t as accurate in our tests. Both filters would be relatively inexpensive to use: Expect to spend about $80 a year for cartridges for the Pur, $51 for the Brita.

Recommended faucet-mounted filters from our October report include the top-scoring Culligan FM-15, $17 plus $60 a year for cartridges, and the Pur Plus FM-3000, $35 plus $72 a year for cartridges. Refrigerator filters. We tested two built-in filters for specific refrigerators. (For more on refrigerators with water filters, see our June report and watch for a future update.) We also tested two models that can be added on to almost any refrigerator.

None of the refrigerator filters worked as well as the top-scoring faucet-mounted units or carafes, but they do enable you to use filtered water for ice cubes and for your water dispenser. The refrigerator filters remove little if any chloroform, but don’t claim to do so. On the tested refrigerator filters, you replace the whole unit, not just a cartridge.

Built-in filters. The Whirlpool WFINL200 (tested in refrigerator model ED25-PEXH; see Ratings for other models using this filter) was very good overall. It rated excellent for taste and did a very good job of removing lead, even though it doesn’t claim to do so. It costs $30, or $60 a year, based on a claimed six-month life. The Maytag UKF7001AXX (tested in refrigerator model MSD2754FRW; see Ratings for other models) was good overall. It does claim to remove lead and did an excellent job. But it was the only filter we tested that rated poor for taste. It costs $45, or $90 a year based on a six-month life.

Add-on filters. The Argenion 17000 rated good overall. It costs $27, or about $5 a year, based on a five-year life. The Omnifilter R200 also rated good overall. It costs $10, or $20 a year, based on a six-month life. Both were fair at removing chloroform but poor at removing lead, which neither claimed to eliminate. The Argenion had the edge in taste, scoring very good compared with the Omnifilter’s fair. These filters must be installed in the tubing that supplies water to a refrigerator. If you’re not handy, figure a plumber’s services into the cost. Also, if possible, install the filter where it’s easy to access.

Carafes. Though we did not test any new carafes this time, they’re worth considering as a low-cost alternative to installed units. The top-rated model in October was the Brita Pitcher Ultra OB13, $16, plus $44 a year for cartridges. While that’s been discontinued, other Brita carafes using the same cartridge (OBO3) should perform similarly. The Pur CR-500, $15 plus $42 a year for filters, was very good.

See more: Delta says Price Pfister copied faucet

The tests behind the Ratings

Overall score is based mainly on effectiveness in removing chloroform, lead, and off-tastes/odors, as well as flow rate and resistance to clogging. To test removal of chloroform and lead, we added concentrated amounts of both to our water, along with calcium nitrate to increase water hardness. Every few days we analyzed the water to measure chloroform and lead content. To judge taste, we filtered water that had been used to boil cabbage and had a trained sensory panel evaluate taste and odor. For replacement filters, claimed life is as stated by the manufacturer; annual cost is based on the number of cartridges required per year and the average retail for a single cartridge. All filters are NSF certified for parasite removal unless otherwise noted. Price is approximate retail; asterisk indicates price paid.

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