Faucet Filter vs Pitcher Filter: Which One Do You Need? 

Updated on:
October 23, 2023

You’ve managed to narrow down your endless choices for water filtration to a faucet filter or a pitcher filter, but you still can’t decide. Well, you’ve come to the right place. 

To help you choose the best one for your needs, I’ve conducted a thorough comparison of water filter pitchers and faucet filters. Let’s get into it.

What Is a Water Filter Pitcher?

A water filter pitcher is simply a jug with filter cartridges assembled inside. As you pour water into the jug, it passes through a series of filters that screen out all the harmful pollutants and release fresh and crisp water into the main reservoir. Depending on quality and size, water pitchers can take 10 to 30 minutes to filter one batch.

Water filter pitchers come in a variety of designs and shapes. Many come with spouts at the bottom so you can easily access clean and cold water without lifting the water pitcher every time. You can also find alkaline water pitchers that, in addition to removing pollutants, increase the pH of drinking water by adding minerals.

Water filter pitchers are mainly categorized on the basis of filtration capacity, filtration speed, cartridge life, and the types of contaminants they can remove.

How does a water filter pitcher remove contaminants?

Typically, water pitchers use a combination of nano filters, activated carbon, ion-exchange resin, UV filters, and electroadhesion to remove a wide variety of harmful contaminants from water. Let’s talk about what each technology is capable of removing from your contaminated tap water.


Nanofiltration uses a semipermeable membrane of pore size 0.001 microns. This membrane of nanofiber filter media is made from a synthetic polymer, usually cellulose or polyester. These fine fibers weave together to create a screen that captures any pollutant molecule larger than 0.001 microns. 

The pollutants that nanofiltration can remove include chromium, lead, copper, nickel, zinc, viruses, bacteria, and organic matter. Nanofiltration is especially useful in removing metallic compounds from your tap water. In addition, nano filters can remove 50%–90% of fluoride, chloride, and sodium ions.

Activated carbon

Almost all water pitchers use activated carbon or carbon block to improve the taste and smell of tap water. Even modern nanofiber technology incorporates granular activated carbon in many water filters. These filters use porous carbon to adsorb chemicals and pollutants, making your water taste fresh and crisp. 

Activated carbon is most effective against chlorine, chlorine by-products, bleach compounds, and sulfur. Carbon-block filters can also tackle heavy metals and PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds).

Ion-exchange resin

Other water pitchers use ion-exchange technology to remove minerals like calcium and magnesium. Some ion exchange resins can also remove heavy metals like iron, lead, and mercury. Ion exchange resin swaps the charged mineral particles with sodium ions. 

You might be familiar with ion exchange as it pertains to water softeners. Note that a water pitcher is not the best choice to soften tap water full of calcium and magnesium. You need to install a designated water softener to deal with high water hardness. 


Electroadhesion is the process in which a positively charged filter attracts negatively charged ions (or compounds with a negative potential) and traps them in the filter bed. It can also trap bacteria, viruses, metals, and colloidal particles.

By itself, electroadhesion only has a 2–3 micron filtering capacity, but electroadhesion is typically combined with other filtering media, including nanofiber and activated carbon.

Ultraviolet (UV) filtration 

UV filtration uses UV rays to zap all microbial contamination in water that can cause gastrointestinal diseases, such as stomachache, diarrhea, and vomiting. 


The cost of water filter pitchers lies within the range of $20–$1,000. Water pitchers with a big list of certifications, large water capacity, and stronger capability of removing contaminants lie at the higher end of the spectrum.

Not all water pitchers are created equal, though, and the expensive ones don’t always guarantee quality. You can easily find an effective, good-quality filter pitcher for around $100. To know that you’re buying a good-quality pitcher water filter, look for certifications, micron size, and water capacity.

The cost of replacing pitcher filters accumulates to about $100 annually, which is affordable for most people.

Advantages of Water Filter Pitchers

While water pitchers can remove a wide array of contaminants for a small price, the advantages don’t end there. Here are some other benefits a water filter pitcher offers:


If you’re not fond of rummaging in the toolbox for screwdrivers and wrenches to perform handy tasks, a water filter pitcher is your best pal. Some pitchers come pre-assembled and ready to use, while others require assembling and setting up, which takes no more than 10 minutes. 

Filter pitchers are very quick and easy to use. Just fill the pitcher with water, wait a few minutes, pour the filter into a cup, and enjoy great-tasting drinking water. 

Filter pitchers also come in handy during emergency water shut-offs or flooding in wells or water storage tanks. You should keep a filter pitcher in your kitchen so your pure drinking water supply is never interrupted even during emergencies. 


A water filter pitcher is a great choice to filter water for people who like to travel or camp a lot. It is compact, lightweight, and easy to secure in a backpack. You can quickly filter lake water or rainwater and make it drinkable. In fact, many water filter pitchers are made specifically for travel.


Water pitchers are made of sturdy, long-lasting BPA-free plastic. If you invest in one today, your kids and grandkids might use the same water pitcher.

Disadvantages of a Water Filter Pitcher

While there are many advantages to filtered water pitchers, you should keep in mind the following downsides to a water filter pitcher.

Small filtering capacity

Water filter pitchers cannot clean more than one gallon (8–16 cups) at a time. Even if a pitcher could hold more than a couple of gallons of water, it’d be too heavy to move, which is too inconvenient.

A water filter pitcher is good enough for a small family of two or three people. If you’re buying it to cater to a big family with a large daily water intake and to perform other house chores, like watering plants and filling the aquarium, you’re making the wrong decision. 

Slow filtration 

An average water filter pitcher takes about 10 to 20 minutes to filter one batch of water. This means you need to wait at least a few minutes before you can pour out clean and filtered water. Although it’s not that big of a disadvantage, some people may find it a nuisance.

Manual refilling

Compared to other types of water filters, water filter pitchers demand manual refilling, and filling pitchers repeatedly can quickly become a hassle for even the most easygoing person.

Limited effectiveness

Not all water pitchers are capable of removing all types of contaminants. You must learn about the filters being used in the pitcher and their certifications to judge if it is good enough for what’s lurking in your tap water.

If your water supply is full of dirt, debris, and solid particles, install a sediment filter to remove solid particles before using a water filter pitcher.

A water pitcher is not suitable for removing a high concentration of hardness-causing minerals like calcium and magnesium from water. The filters will quickly clog up with minerals and, if not replaced in time, can attract mold and give off an objectionable smell.

If you have excessive iron and manganese in the water, a water filter pitcher might not be your best option. Try looking for a reverse-osmosis system to clean out ferric, ferrous, and manganese compounds. 

Although many filter pitcher brands claim to remove bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens from water, not all are capable of removing a very high concentration of microbial contamination. Even a small number of untreated bacteria and viruses in water can cause gastrointestinal diseases, so you need to take special care with such contamination in water. 

Alternatively, you can look for a water pitcher with an ultraviolet filtration system, which is best for treating microorganisms.

Frequent replacements 

Frequent filter replacements may be a significant downside for some consumers. The average life of water filter cartridges is around two to three months. Some advanced filter pitchers will give an indication in the form of a digital display when it’s time to replace the filter. If your pitcher filter doesn’t have that feature you must simply note the change in the filtering speed. A worn-out and clogged filter cartridge usually filters water very slowly. This is a clear indication that you need to change your filter cartridge. 

Don’t forget to change the filters when they reach their maximum capacity, or you might ingest fatal, unfiltered impurities. Leaving the cartridges in for a long time can also develop mold and fungi.

What Is a Faucet Filter?

A faucet-mount filter or a tap water filter is an attachment placed at the mouth of the tap that filters water on demand. Faucet water filters clean water at 0.68 gallons per minute. One important thing to mention here is that faucet water filters are only able to improve water quality by 10%–20% due to less contact time with the filtering media, so they are best with water that does not have a high concentration of dangerous contaminants. 

Faucet filters are typically 3–4 inches long and are very easy to install and uninstall—perfect for people who move a lot or don’t need permanent changes in the plumbing system. With a faucet filter in place, you can switch between filtered and unfiltered water depending on what you’re using it for.

Faucet water filters come in various colors, designs, and materials, including plastic, chrome, or stainless steel to match your kitchen hardware. 

How does a faucet water filter remove contaminants?

Like water filter pitchers, faucet water filters use a variety of water filtration technologies to tackle a variety of contaminants. Manufacturers also add silver to the filters to treat bacteria and fungi.

Faucet-mount filters improve the taste and smell of tap water by eliminating dirt, chlorine, chlorine by-products, sulfur, iron, lead, copper, mercury, industrial chemicals, and other organic pollutants.

Activated carbon

Almost all faucet water filters use activated carbon to banish chlorine and its by-products, as well as lead, lindane, atrazine, and other organic compounds that give tap water a bad odor and taste. Water filtered through activated carbon smells and tastes fresh. 

Ion exchange

Ion exchange in faucet filters is responsible for adsorbing heavy metals like lead, arsenic, copper, and chromium in water. 

Sub-micron filtration

This includes steel and polymer meshes with a pore size smaller than many contaminants. Sub-micron filters include microporous filters (0.05–0.22 microns), ultra-filters (0.001–0.01 microns), and nanofilters (smaller than 0.001 microns).

Impurities like particulates, colloids, bacteria, and viruses passing through sub-micron filters are easily trapped. Once these cartridges reach their full capacity, they need to be replaced.

Kinetic Degradation Fluxion (KDF)

KDF media is a high-purity alloy of copper and zinc in granulated form. It removes chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, algae, bacteria, organic matter, heavy metals, and other inorganic impurities using redox reactions. In most cases, KDF is used in conjunction with other filter media, such as activated carbon. 


Like pitcher filters, faucet water filters are pretty affordable and lie within the range of $20–$100. Faucet filters that last longer, are able to clean a wide variety of contaminants, are made of strong materials, and can attach to any type of faucet can cost you more than $70. 

All faucet filters require filter replacement after 2–4 months, which can set you back $80–$100 annually. 

Advantages of Faucet Water Filters 

For such a small price, faucet water filters are indeed a great investment. Here are a few other benefits associated with a faucet filter:

High filtering capacity

Unlike a water filter pitcher, faucet filters can filter water continuously. Just turn on the tap and fill your cup with clean and crisp water. 

Easy to install

If you’re a little handy, you can easily install a faucet filter within 30 minutes. However, some models are trickier to install than others, and if you haven’t touched a wrench in decades, you might need to call a plumbing guy, who’d charge you about $80–$100 for installation. 

Compact and minimalist design

For people who don’t want to clutter their kitchen countertops with filtering gadgets, a faucet filter is the best solution, as it attaches to the tap directly without taking up extra space on the kitchen sink. Their compact and minimalist design easily matches any kind of kitchen interior. 

Disadvantages of Faucet Filters 

Here are a few downsides to keep in mind before you buy a faucet filter for your home:

Lower filtering capability

If you’re getting untreated water full of contaminants, you should not depend on a mere faucet water filter to make it drinkable. In such cases, you need to invest in an under-the-sink, countertop, or whole-house reverse osmosis system to treat every last contaminant.

Faucet filters are not suitable for softening your tap water. As I mentioned earlier, they can only improve the quality of your tap water by 10%–20%. Such filters must not be relied upon to treat excessive concentrations of ferrous and ferric iron. 

If, however, you’re on a municipal water supply that contains a few untreated contaminants like chlorine, sulfur, or lead, faucet filters can easily handle that. 

Reduced water flow

Faucet filters filter the water at the rate of half a gallon per second. This is almost 50% less than the normal tap water flow rate. Although you get a continuous filtered water supply, you’ll need to wait 10–20 seconds for the water to fill your glass. As the filter cartridges get clogged with time, the flow rate is further reduced. 

Regular replacements

Like a water filter pitcher, you need to replace the faucet-filter cartridges once every two to three months. This can set you back a few hundred dollars annually, which is not a lot, but changing filters frequently can become a hassle for some people. 

Less durability 

Unlike water filter pitchers, faucet filters may wear out or crack with time due to continuous water pressure. Plastic faucet filters have a shorter life-span than chrome-plated or stainless steel filters. 

Compatibility issues

Faucet filters are only compatible with standard taps. They are not suitable for pull-out, spray faucets or any other fancy faucet that is different from standard, conventional designs. 

Faucet Filter vs Pitcher Filter: Similarities

While there are quite a few differences, both faucet filters and water pitchers are environmentally friendly and prevent the use of plastic bottled water. Switching from bottled water to water filters can save you a fortune. 

An average family spends around $1,350 on bottled drinking water annually. On the contrary, an average filter and its replacement cartridges cost only $200–$300 per year. 

Both faucet filters and water pitchers are affordable and can clean a wide array of pollutants in water, depending on the quality of the unit. These filters are convenient and easy to install, operate and maintain. They all have almost similar filter life-spans of one to three months, and the annual cost of the replacement filters is almost the same as well. 

If you need a quick solution to make tap water drinkable, water filter pitchers and faucet filters are the best choices.

How to Choose the Best Type of Filter for Your Needs

Yes, faucet water filters and water filter pitchers are pretty similar in the larger scheme of water filtration, but you’ve still got to choose one or the other. Don’t worry. Deciding between a water filter pitcher and a faucet filter is really not that difficult. I’ve already done all the legwork for you. So close all those tabs and simply ask yourself the following questions (take a screenshot if you need to): 

1. What contaminants are present in your tap water?

It is imperative to test your well or city water supply to confirm what is in the water you consume. You need this information so that you can be sure the type of water filtration system you buy can actually remove any dangerous contaminants you may have in your water. 

You can perform at-home tests or test your water at an accredited laboratory for more accuracy. Tests like these usually cost $20–$100 and can accurately identify all the contaminants present in the water, down to parts per million (PPM). 

2. How effective is the unit at removing contaminants? 

If your water has a very high concentration of any type of pollutant, neither a faucet filter nor a pitcher filter is the right choice. You need to consult a water specialist and find a bigger, more efficient filtration unit like a countertop, under-sink, or whole-house purification system.

If your water contains small quantities of dirt, chlorine, sulfur, and heavy metals, you can use a faucet or water pitcher. Look for a unit that can tackle the type of contaminant in your water.

3. What is your household’s daily water intake? 

An average family drinks about 3–4 gallons of filtered water daily. Water pitchers can filter 8–16 glasses at a time. Look for a pitcher filter with a higher volume ratio of the upper tank to the lower filtered water tank. This way, you can reduce the frequency of your trips to the kitchen sink to fill the pitcher with tap water. 

If you have a big family or entertain guests often, a water filter pitcher might not suffice. 

Another factor to consider here is the filtering speed. The water pitcher takes a minimum of 10 minutes to produce a glass of water. On the other hand, faucet filters can produce a continuous supply of clean water, albeit at a slow flow rate, but without any interruption.

4. Are you buying a certified product? 

The most important thing to look for in any water filter is a certification that confirms a brand’s authenticity so you don’t fall for a false advertisement. 

Look for an NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute) certification mark on the product packaging. NSF/ANSI is a surefire way to gauge if a product can clean out the impurities, won’t leak, and is safe for you and your family. Moreover, NSF-certified units are rigorously tested to ensure they fulfill the claims made by the manufacturers.

Final Thoughts—Faucet Filter vs Pitcher

Faucet-mount filters and water pitchers are affordable, quick, and convenient solutions to strip off metallic and chemical impurities from tap water. 

Most of these filters use carbon, ion-exchange, KDF, and sub-micron filtration to treat pollutants like chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, microorganisms, and other organic compounds.

Before choosing between a faucet filter and water pitcher, it is important to first identify your filtering needs based on what contaminants are in your water. Choose a filter that fulfills your preferred water needs, installation requirements, and water quality goals. Good luck!

If you’re seeking further comparisons between different water filtration options, there are several other important considerations to explore. Check out our pages for the best well water filters below:

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