Recently, a reader got in touch to ask about the best options for plastic-free water filters. As it’s plastic-free July, it seemed like a great time to try and find the answer.
Many of us like to incorporate filters into our home life and drinking supply, but there’s a range of opinions on what’s best to use. This isn’t an area that I’ve dedicated a huge amount of time to, so I thought the question was a good prompt to do some research and share with you all. Below is what I’ve found; I’ve tried to include a range of different prices and options so you can find what’s best for you.
Before you buy a filter
Before you get started it’s good to research your area, as water quality varies depending on where you live. There isn’t one water filter that can do everything, so it’s important to find out the situation with your specific water source in order to cater your choices to what you actually need. For example, there’s no point getting a filter for lead if there’s no lead in your water.
In the USA the EPA issues a water quality report known as a Consumer Confidence Report, you can find the report for your area here. In the UK you can find information on the quality of your water here. In general, your local water provider should be able to provide more information, and you should be able to find contact information on your water bill.
If you feel it’s necessary for your situation, there are also ways that you can get your water supply tested, however it can be expensive and not particularly useful. The UK advises the following steps before contacting a lab:
- Approach your water supplier and explain your problem to them. Companies will normally take a water sample in response to a complaint from a consumer, depending on the nature of the complaint.
- Your water supply company should be testing water daily in your area, and should give you the results on request. You can often also find information on the website of the water company.
- If you aren’t happy with the actions taken by the water company, the Drinking Water Inspectorate can be asked to review the complaint handling performance of the company. While they don’t test the water themselves the inspectorate can commission water sampling if there is a clear concern for the wider public.
In the USA if you’re concerned about your water supply you can contact the Water Laboratory Alliance, your county health department, or call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.
If you are in another country, contact your local council, health authority or water company for more information.
After this is done, you can then look for water filters that fit your specific requirements. There is an in-depth website here that lets you explore filters depending on your needs and location, providing you with lists of manufacturers that fit your requirements. It works for an array of different countries (although it doesn’t cover all of them).
If this level of depth is a bit too overwhelming and you’re just looking for some general options, below are some of the most popular options I’ve come across.
1. Charcoal, £4.40+
Charcoal naturally bonds with toxins, meaning that charcoal sticks in your water will remove things like mercury, chlorine, copper, pesticides, VOCs and lead, though they won’t remove fluoride if that’s something that is important to you, and they won’t remove pathogens so can’t be used in bodies of water such as creeks. They do have the benefit of being plastic-free, cheap and reusable, however. When they’re finished you can use them as refrigerant deodorisers, or use them in your garden soil to improve water absorption.
Some places to buy charcoal include:
Miyabi for charcoal made from bamboo, which needs to be replaced every four weeks.
Kishu for charcoal made from oak branches in Japan. Can last up to four months, just boil for 5 minutes once a month to keep its pores open.
Charcoal People for UK based deliveries of bamboo charcoal.
2. Phox, £48+
This UK company uses a 5 step Alkaline filtration system to remove chlorine, heavy metals, contaminants and odour. Their new Phox V2 is currently in production after a successful Indiegogo campaign and should be available to purchase in the coming months. The filter is made from glass and recycled plastic, and uses cartridges that are refillable instead of recyclable. Instead of shipping new plastic cartridges, customers will instead receive the materials to put into the filter (coconut shell carbon, ion exchange resin and electrolytes) delivered in Kraft paper bags inside a cardboard box small enough to fit through the letterbox. The filter is also made in the UK, minimising the product footprint through localised production.
3. GoPure Water Pod, $24.95+
GoPure technology works to neutralise and optimise the pH of any contaminants in tap water. They take the form of portable pods that purify drinking water whilst improving taste too, as the ceramic inside acts as a magnet to attract impurities. They can be used in any device, from a water bottle to a coffee maker, and each pod can last up to 6 months and purify up to 1200 litres before needing to be changed. It removes up to 99% of lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals, plus 97% of chlorine and fluoride. You can also sign up to an auto-pod delivery every 6 months.
4. Soma Water Pitchers, $29+
A certified B-Corporation, Soma’s filtration system is BPA and Phtalate free, as it’s made with sugarcane plant-based materials. It filters out mercury, chlorine, zinc and copper, as well as improving taste and odour. The filter utilises certified sustainable activated coconut shell carbon and ion exchange, and needs to be changed every two months. For every water filter purchased, Soma donates a portion of their proceeds to charity:water, improving access to clean and safe water for more people around the world.
5. Aquaovo, $499+
While expensive, Aquaovo’s sustainable countertop filtration systems are definitely effective. Their filters work for tap, river and lake water and are made of either glass or porcelain. They utilise multilayer filtration technology to neutralise up to 99% of chlorine, lead, mercury, nickel, chromium, and other heavy metals while also fighting limescale, bacteria, algae and fungi deposits. The filters last for four months of normal usage, and are recyclable and BPA and Phtalate free.
6. ZeroWater, $74.99
ZeroWater’s 40-cup countertop system is predominantly made with glass and metal, with a 5-stage filter that removes pesticides, chlorine, chromium, lead and other heavy metals with 99% efficiency. The filter can work for up to 180 litres of water before it needs to be replaced, and ZeroWater will let you send used cartridges back to them for recycling in exchange for coupon codes.
7. Propur, $189+
Propur’s countertop stainless steel gravity filters come in a variety of sizes, with the largest holding up to 17 litres. The filter through two containers that stack together, you pour water into the top part and gravity pulls the water down through filters which contain activated carbon in a case of silver infused ceramic, dispensing filtered water at the bottom. They filter heavy metals, chlorine, fluoride, pesticides, herbicides, lead, microplastics and more (independent test reports can be found here). The filter itself needs to be replaced every 12 months, although I can’t find information on whether they can be returned or recycled.
8. Reverse osmosis
I did want to mention this, as it is another option that sometimes comes up during research. Reverse osmosis is an effective way to purify water; it uses a membrane to remove things such as arsenic, asbestos, heavy metals and fluoride followed by an activated charcoal filter to remove chlorine, and is usually mounted under the sink with a holding tank.
Unfortunately, it’s also a very wasteful system, as for every 1 litre of purified water the process wastes 3 litres. You can set up a system to recycle this wastewater, for example into your warm water tank, but most people won’t go to such extreme lengths for water filtration. Additionally, the filtration can also remove naturally occurring minerals, such as calcium and magnesium.
I personally wouldn’t recommend this option unless it is the only one available to you, but you can learn more here.
Overall, hopefully somewhere on this list you’ll find something that suits what you need and your budget. There are many different approaches to water filtration, which made it super interesting to research, so there should be something that aligns with everyone’s concerns somewhere out there. Hope this helps, and stay hydrated this summer!