Faucet Mount Water Filters: Which is Best?
As many as 63 million people — nearly a fifth of the United States — from rural central California to the boroughs of New York City, were exposed to potentially unsafe water more than once during the past decade, according to a News21 investigation of 680,000 water quality and monitoring violations from the Environmental Protection Agency. (USA Today, August 2017)
That's a pretty shocking statistic, isn't it? It's no wonder that more people all the time are turning to water filters to protect their health.
There are lots of different types of water filters to choose from, each with its own set of pros and cons, and ranging in price from under $20 to thousands of dollars for a full-blown system.
This review covers the simplest and cheapest kind of water filter you can get - the faucet mount water filter. You'll learn about how faucet filters work, the good and the bad points, and what to look for when you're shopping for one.
Also included is a comparison table and then more detailed information about four of the best faucet filters out there.
Now, I have to be honest.
I'm not a big fan of faucet mount filters. There seem to be lots of problems with them. But, for some people, this is the best solution. Maybe that's the case for you. I hope reading this will help you decide.
Use this quick navigation to skip to whatever interests you, or keep scrolling down to read the whole article.
Comparison Table: Best Faucet Water Filters
Contaminants Removed or Reduced
Change Filter Indicator
iSpring DFW1 LittleWell
NUMBER 1 PICK
chlorine, fluoride, germs, cysts, lead, mercury, lindane, atrazine, VOCs & many other contaminants
chlorine, sediment, lead, cysts, turbidity, atrazine, lindane, & particulate class I
chlorine, lead, cysts, VOCs, mercury, 71 total contaminants
sediment, chlorine, cysts, lindane, benzene, asbestos, mercury & lead
What are the advantages of faucet filters?
- Convenience - With a faucet mount filter, you've got on demand filtration right at your kitchen faucet. There's no need to constantly refill containers, and you won't run out of filtered water.
- Low Price - These are among the least expensive water filters. Most models retail for under $50. The replacement filters are inexpensive, too.
- Simple Installation - No tools are required to install a faucet filter. Just take off the faucet aerator and screw the filter on in its place.
- Easy Maintenance - The only maintenance you'll have to do is to replace the filter cartridge every few months. And this is a simple task.
What are the disadvantages of faucet filters?
- Limited Capability - Most faucet filters are not as effective as other types of filtration systems like reverse osmosis or survival type gravity filters.
- Narrow Range of Applications - Do you have a modern pull-out or pull-down faucet? If so, you won't be able to use a faucet mount filter. They can only attach to standard faucets.
- Reduced Sink Clearance Space - Some models are bulkier than others, but all faucet filters take up space under or beside your faucet. This can be annoying when you're filling large containers or washing dishes.
- Cold Water Use Only - These filters are only to be used with cold water. Hot water will damage them.
- Tendency to Leak and Crack - Leaking and cracking seem to be universal complaints by users of faucet filters. This is true of all brands. The most likely cause is the buildup of water pressure inside the housing when the water is turned on too fast. It could also happen if you grab the filter to move the faucet arm back and forth.
How do faucet water filters work?
A faucet mount filter screws onto the end of your faucet in place of the aerator. It has a metal or plastic housing that holds a filter cartridge.
You just turn on the water, and it flows through the filter and out an opening in the filter.
There's always some type of diverter so you can switch between filtered and unfiltered water. You wouldn't want to waste filtered water on, say, washing dishes.
Different brands may use different filtration materials and methods, but most have a couple of things in common.
The basic setup has a layer to block dirt and debris and then an activated carbon block that traps contaminants by adsorption as the water flows through.
Some models have additional layers to reduce a greater number of contaminants. That's why you want to do a little research before buying one.
What should I look for in a faucet mount filter?
Here are a few items to think about when you're shopping for a faucet filter:
- Contaminants Removed or Reduced - This is the most important factor to consider. All filters are not created equal. You want to be sure that the filter takes care of the pollutants that you are most concerned about. Reputable manufacturers will publish lab test results to back up their claims.
- Filter Life - Filter life is measured in gallons. The longer the filter lasts, the less often you'll need to change out the cartridge. Just remember that the advertised number is an average. Yours may wear out sooner or later, depending on the quality of your water.
- Filter Indicator - Some models have some sort of indicator to tell you when it's time to change the filter cartridge. This will affect the price, of course. It's a convenience, but not a necessity. There are obvious signs to tell you when the filter is shot - a significant slowdown in flow rate and/or a bad taste.
- Finish/Color - Some brands offer a choice of colors and finishes. This may or may not be important to you.
- Availability of Replacement Cartridges - Make sure that you're going to be able to buy replacements, or you'll end up having to throw away the whole unit.
- Warranty - Look for a minimum 1 year warranty since this type of filter is prone to breaking. Note that this warranty will normally cover the housing and not the filter cartridge.
A Word of Caution:
Beware of "unknown" brands on Amazon.
Now, this is just me talking, but I tend not to put a lot of trust in brands that don't have a manufacturer's website and have a suspiciously high percentage of 5 star reviews.
I have tried to contact some of these companies to ask questions, but there's no way to get information except by asking questions on the Amazon listings.
When I've asked about lab test results and warranties, I've mostly heard crickets in response.
One seller did tell me that his/her product has a 30 day warranty, but I assume that means the standard Amazon return policy.
Drinking clean contaminant free water is crucial for good health, so I'd advise sticking to known and reputable brands like the ones in this review.
Mini Reviews: 4 Best Faucet Mount Filters
So, after weeding out the lesser quality filters, these are the top four filters that I recommend for your kitchen sink:
#1 - iSpring DFW1 LittleWell
The LittleWell by iSpring is my top choice because of the wide array of contaminants it reduces, including fluoride.
In fact, this is the only faucet mount filter that I'm aware of that reduces fluoride. If you're concerned about consuming fluoridated water, you'll definitely want to check it out.
What sets the LittleWell apart is its multi-layer filter cartridge. There isn't another one like it that I've seen.
First, there's the ceramic shell that encases the other filtration layers. It has tiny 0.1 micron holes that block sediment, rust, and cysts (parasites) as the water passes through. You can scrub this shell when it gets dirty so it'll last longer.
Next, there's a carbon block layer that eliminates chlorine and bad tastes and odors. It also reduces VOCs and other chemicals.
The third layer is a proprietary material that reduces fluoride. I did contact iSpring and asked them what the material is. They told me that it uses activated alumina, which is one of the few materials that are effective for removing fluoride.
Three more layers reduce lead and other heavy metals, atrazine (an herbicide), arsenic, iron, asbestos, and other contaminants. Again, the media are proprietary, so we don't know exactly what they are.
This filter cartridge is held inside a white plastic housing and attaches to the faucet with a metal fitting. It has a push/pull pin for switching between filtered and unfiltered water. You pull it out for filtered water. Then, when you shut off the water, it reverts to the unfiltered position.
I want to point out that you can't actually see the filter layers like you can in the picture above. It's solid white on the outside.
There's no indicator to tell you when to change the filter. The manufacturer suggests replacing it after 300 gallons, or about every 3 months. You can also tell by the taste of the water when the filter is shot.
It's one of the least expensive faucet filters, and the replacement filters don't cost much, either, especially if you buy them in a multipack. (Check Amazon price.)
You get a one year warranty on the LittleWell plus lifetime technical support from iSpring. Their customer service seems to be responsive and helpful should you have any problems.
And, in case you've never heard of iSpring, it's a family-owned business in Georgia that makes commercial and residential water softeners and filters, including reverse osmosis.
#2 - Culligan FM-25
Culligan has been manufacturing water softeners and water filtration systems since the mid 1930's. You generally can only find their products online or at local Culligan dealerships.
The Culligan FM-25 uses a carbon block filter to reduce contaminants like chlorine, atrazine, cysts, lead, and VOCs. It has been tested and certified by NSF International under NSF/ANSI Standard 42 (aesthetic effects) and 53 (health effects).
Lab test results show that it reduces lead an average of 98%. That's not bad, but it's not quite as good as PUR.
This filter has a valve pin that you pull out to engage the filter. It returns to the unfiltered position when you turn off the water.
The FM-25 has a good filter life. It'll go for about 200 gallons before you have to change it. There's no filter change indicator, so you'll have to pay attention to the flow of the water. When it slows down significantly, it's time for a replacement.
And speaking of replacements, you'll probably have to order them online because they're not usually sold in stores. Amazon carries them, and you can save money by buying them through Subscribe and Save.
You can check the price of the FM-25R replacement cartridge at Amazon here.
There are two color choices: white and chrome. The chrome version costs a few dollars more than the white one.
Reading through the reviews on Amazon, there seems to be a problem with the housing cracking prematurely. But, honestly, all of the filters have problems with leaking and cracking. I don't think the Culligan is any worse than the others in this regard. It seems to be the nature of faucet filters.
#3 - PUR PFM400H
PUR is one of the best known and most popular brands of water filters today.
The MineralClear filter, using PUR's MAXION filter technology, does an impressive job of reducing harmful substances like lead, mercury, chlorine, VOCs, cysts, and certain pesticides.
Their lab test results show a reduction of lead up to 99.9%, which is excellent!
This filter has an indicator light to let you know when it's time for a replacement. A green light means the filter is working. Yellow means it's almost time, and red means the filter is worn out and needs to be replaced.
Unfortunately, the battery for the indicator can't be replaced once it's worn out. But, the filter will still work.
So, what is the MineralClear filter made of, and how does it work?
As the video below explains, the main part of the filter is made of high grade activated carbon combined with an ion exchange material.
Water first passes through an outer covering that blocks dirt and turbidity, and then it moves through the carbon block. That's where the toxic contaminants are absorbed.
Finally, it passes through a layer of minerals to improve the taste.
If you go to the Amazon listing, you'll see that there are different finishes available for this filter. You can get it in white, black, chrome, and stainless steel. They all use the exact same filter cartridge.
Another variation is the PUR PFM800HX (see at Amazon). It's the same as the PFM400H except that it's Bluetooth enabled so you can track the filter usage on your phone. I don't see the benefit in that, but I'm sure others might find it helpful.
Just like all the other brands, the PUR filter is easy to install on your kitchen faucet.
It has a lever to turn the filter on and off, and it does not automatically switch to unfiltered when you turn off the water. So you'll have to pay attention or you could end up wasting a lot of filtered water. Plus, if you accidentally turn on hot water with the filter engaged, you'll shorten its life.
As good as the filter is, it doesn't last very long compared to the others in the top five picks. It only lasts for 100 gallons.
It does have a two year warranty, but that's only on the housing and fixture. Each filter cartridge is guaranteed for 30 days.
#4 - DuPont WFFM350XCH
You'll get about 200 gallons out of one filter cartridge, depending on the quality of your water. Replacement filters are available on Amazon and at some local retailers. (Check the Amazon price here.)
The electronics run off a "lifetime" battery. In other words, it can't be replaced. And, unfortunately, according to a number of Amazon reviewers, it doesn't always last as long as it should.
But, the unit does come with a 4 year limited warranty, so if the battery wears out prematurely, I'd ask the manufacturer for a replacement.
This model is WQA certified to NSF Standards 42 and 53, just like the Culligan. Lead reduction averages 99%, so that's slightly better than Culligan and almost as good as PUR.
It has one additional WQA certification - Standard 372 for low lead content and compliance. In other words, the unit itself doesn't have lead.
Like the PUR, there's a lever you have to turn to switch from filtered to unfiltered water, and vice versa. This could be a plus or a minus, depending on whether you are forgetful or not! And it can be a little hard to turn when your hands are wet.
The "CH" in the model number indicates a chrome finish. It also comes in white and brushed nickel. Prices vary slightly.
Verdict: What's the best faucet water filter?
If I were buying a faucet mount water filter today - and especially if my water came from a fluoridated municipal supply - I would get the LittleWell by iSpring.
That's because it reduces the widest array of contaminants plus it has the longest filter life of all the brands.
True, it doesn't have a filter life indicator, but it seems that the indicators on the other brands don't last long anyway.
To check the price of the LittleWell and read the reviews at Amazon, click here.
The other three are all good, but the PUR and DuPont seem to have more mechanical/electronic problems than the Culligan. That's why I rated the Culligan at Number 2.
All four produce clean great tasting water and take care of the most common problems that you'll find in city water. They mostly differ in features that are more a matter of personal preference.
Now that you've made it to the end of this post, I hope you have enough information to decide if one of these faucet filters is right for you. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.