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H2O in the Know: How To Select the Right Water Filter

Looking for the top water filtration system for your home? Our NSF experts have you covered with six tips for picking the best water filter to keep you and your family safe.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Many of us share that popular mantra because we know how important it is to drink enough water.

But the confusion steps in when we consider bottled or tap water and ask, “Is our at-home water safe to drink?” Your water source and quality can vary depending on where you live. Your water may not taste the way you’d like, possibly due to chlorine or other factors. It may have a hardness that builds up on your faucets and in your sink. You may even wonder if it contains harmful contaminants, like lead and pesticides.

Instead of stocking up on single-use plastic bottles and filling up landfills, many homeowners are adding a water filter to their kitchen to help remove the things they don’t want lurking in a glass of drinking water — while some just want to make their water taste better. In addition, certain water treatment systems (those that reduce hardness buildup, for example) can protect and extend the life span of appliances, including dishwashers.

If you’re considering buying a water filter, we’re here to help. Our NSF experts know H2O and can provide tips from the front lines of water safety.

With so many options, the choice can be dizzying. “Starting to look for the right water filtration system for your home can be overwhelming,” says NSF’s international water systems expert Rick Andrew. “With hundreds of products on the market, there are some that may not do exactly what they promise on the packaging. Other filters may look like a certain brand but aren’t even the same product.”

Here Rick offers some advice on selecting the best water filter so you can enjoy the cleanest, purest water in your home.

  • Do your homework. The first step is to understand what contaminants are in your water. If you have city water, your water supplier may give you its most current water quality report. If you’re on a private well, you may consider testing your water at a nearby drinking water lab.
  • Buyer beware. Beware of product claims that look too good to be true. Many products on the market claim they are the best or will do more than what seems possible. These products typically don’t have certification and instead rely on statements made solely by the manufacturer, without any independent verification (like NSF certification) that they are true.
  • Find the Best Filter for You. Water filters come in various forms, including plastic pitchers with filters, built-in refrigerator filters, faucet and under-the-sink filters, and whole-house models. Select the type that best meets your needs and is certified to reduce the contaminants you find in your drinking water.
  • Insist on certified products. To protect against these too-good-to-be-true product claims, check for NSF certification. The NSF mark means that the filter has been tested for safety, leakage, and performance and that its manufacturing facility has been audited. If you see a logo that you’re not familiar with, look it up and read the “About Us” section on the organization’s website, which may tell you how the company is run and what its goals and objectives are.
  • What are the most popular contaminants? We have collected data for many years to learn what consumers want to filter out of their water. Our Contaminant Reduction Claims Guide lists the top contaminants consumers ask about and, for each chemical, shows the filter types that are currently NSF certified to reduce it. Click on the filter type under the contaminant to see a list of model numbers to choose from.
  • Change the filter. No matter which filter you choose, it’s no good if you don’t regularly change it. Many filters have an indicator that lets you know when it’s time to replace them. There are numerous replacement filters available — check our website to ensure that the aftermarket filters meet your needs the same as the original did. Also, after a boil-water notice, follow the manufacturer’s directions for placing the filter back in service.

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