Water Filter Types
The Pros and Cons

glass of clean water

You may have noticed there are a number of water filter types on the market to choose from.

This summary will help you to consider the different options, based on your filtration needs, budget, and lifestyle preferences.

Each type of water filter can utilize one or more water purification or water filtration methods.

So, if you haven’t already done so, be sure to review our summary of the most common water purification methods.

The following drinking water filters are listed in order, from the least expensive to the most expensive.

We have also included whole-house water filters, shower filters and bath filters.

Pitchers and Dispensers

Water filter pitchers are the least expensive and easiest to use of all the water filter types. Pitchers usually hold between 6 to 12 cups of water.

Water filter dispensers are larger and will usually store anywhere from 1 to 8 gallons of water. The higher quality dispensers will cost just as much as the countertop and under sink filters.

However, one of the main advantages of both the filtering pitchers and dispensers is that they are portable and do not attach to  a faucet or require plumbing.

The way this water filter type works is that you simply pour water into the upper portion of the container and gravity pulls the water through the filter into the receptacle below.

The pitcher of filtered water can then be stored in the refrigerator.

There is one type of water dispenser (the Berkey water filters) that actually purify non-potable water, and is often used in emergency or crisis situations. 

Considering the growing need for clean water, especially during natural disasters and crises, we believe this feature of the Berkey dispensers to be a significant advantage over all other drinking water filters.

See our top picks for water filter pitchers.

The main disadvantages of the pitchers are (1) it usually takes five to ten minutes to produce drinking water, (2) they only filter a limited amount of water at a time and (3) the filters need to be changed frequently.

See our top picks for water filter dispensers.

The main cons of the dispensers are (1) it can take a few hours to fill the large holding tank, (2) they take up counter space, (3) the filters need to be changed more often than countertop and under sink systems.


Portable filters come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are designed to be used by travelers, campers, hikers and anyone else who enjoys the outdoors or traveling.

The main advantage of portable water filters is the obvious:  portability.

Many of the portable filters are only to be used with potable water. However, some are specifically designed to purify un-potable water. They are a great choice when potable water is hard to get, such as for hiking and camping.

When shopping for a portable water filter, make sure you know if the unit filters water (to be used only with tap or potable water) or if it also purifies un-potable water.

Portable filters generally use carbon filtration or a combination of water purification methods, which effectively filter the most worrisome water contaminants.

Our top picks for portable water filters.

Merlin's top picks for portable water purifiers.

The main disadvantage of portable water filters is that they generally do not filter water as effectively as most of the higher quality countertop or under sink water filters.


In the past, we consistently found that refrigerator filters produced bad tasting water and that they were fairly ineffective at filtering water contaminants.

However, some of the newer refrigerator models provide filters with a combination of water filtration methods and have had good customer reviews.

Many people like refrigerator filters because of their convenience and additional perk of producing ice cubes made from filtered water.

We just have not been inspired to review these water filter types yet . . .

Faucet Mounted

These filters are fairly easy to use and to install. The aerator on the faucet is removed and the filter is then attached directly to the faucet.

Faucet mounted filters are convenient to use for most households and can produce a large amount of filtered water. Most have a valve so that you can switch between filtered and unfiltered water.

Another significant advantage of this filter type is that they often use multi-stage filters that are highly effective at removing water contaminants.

See our top picks for faucet water filters.

From researching consumer reviews, we found that some people complained about problems with clogging, leaking or breaking with these water filter types.

In addition, the filter usually slows the flow of water and cannot be used on all types of faucets without adaptors.


Countertop filters are good for filtering large amounts of water without having to change the plumbing.

They are easy to install and are less likely to clog than pitcher filters and faucet mounted filters.

The key advantage of high-quality countertop systems is that they have the most effective filtration media and technology.

Manufacturers offer countertop filters in a wide range of prices, depending on the water purification method and other technologies used.

See our top picks for countertop water filter systems.

One of the disadvantages of countertop filters is that they don’t always fit well with certain types of faucets. A trip to the hardware store for additional fittings may be necessary in some cases.

In addition, some people find that the countertop filters are not aesthetic and can clutter the countertop.

However, some of the best drinking water filters on the market are countertop filters. So I guess it depends on your priority—aesthetics, counter space, or health.

Under Sink

This water filter type is great for filtering a lot of water without cluttering the countertop or sink faucet area. So the aesthetic aspect (of an invisible filter) is an advantage for some folks.

The under-sink or under-counter filter is usually installed by a plumber or other professional into an existing water pipe. It can either be hooked up to the existing sink faucet or by installing an additional faucet.

One of the key advantages of high-quality, under sink filters is that, like the countertop systems, they have the most effective water filtration media.

Another advantage of this type of filter is that the replacement filters usually last months longer than most faucet-mounted filters.

See our top picks for under sink water filters.

A few of the disadvantages of this type of water filter are: (1) they are usually more expensive, (2) they take up under sink cabinet space and (3) they may require plumbing modifications.

Whole House

The whole house, or point-of-entry, filter is the most convenient of all the water filter types because the filters are installed directly into the main water line.

The main advantage of these systems is that they filter all the water in the house, including in the kitchen and bathrooms, removing bad odors and taste.

Most whole-house filters are effective for filtering sediment, rust and chlorine.

Most of the whole-house filters are not as effective as counter top or under sink filters for producing clean drinking water.

In addition, many whole-house water filter systems utilize reverse osmosis technology, which removes health-promoting minerals from drinking water.

However, there are a few whole-house systems that are excellent and provide clean, mineral-rich drinking water for all household uses, including drinking and cooking.

See our top picks for whole-house water filters.

Whole-house filters are typically the most expensive of all water filter types and require professional installation. However, the filters are only changed every 3 to 7 years, compared to every 6 to 12 months for the other types of water filters.

Shower and Bath

Even though this site is primarily about drinking water, we’ve also reviewed shower filters because we consider them to be one of the most important water filter types.

Studies show we take in just as many chemicals from showering as we do from drinking unfiltered tap water.

Shower and bath filters reduce the amount of chlorine and other chemicals we absorb from tap water through our skin and by inhaling the chemical gases that are emitted when the water is heated.

The highest quality shower and bath filters can remove up to 99% of chlorine and reduce levels of other chemicals, as well as lead and iron oxide.

Our top picks for shower filters.

Our top picks for bath water filters.

When using a shower filter, people usually notice their skin and hair feel much softer. Most shower filters are easy to install and they typically use carbon filtration as the primary method.

Return from Water Filter Types to Water Filter Reviews

whole house water filtration system

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