The 11 Best Whole-House Water Filter Systems of 2024

Reviewed by: James Layton
Updated on:
March 18, 2024

To choose the best whole-house filter out of the 42 options I reviewed, I used Drinking Water’s seven-point review process and received critical feedback and privileged industry insight from our in-house water quality expert, James Layton

Fortunately, 85% of you can use the filter that aced our tests and earned the #1 spot in our ranking — the SpringWell CF1. Most of the remaining 15% of you can use one of my high-scoring recommendations for hard water or well water. I have additional top-rated options for everyone else. Total newbies should read my buying guide first. Here are our recommendations:

Best Overall Whole-House Water Filter: SpringWell CF1 (9.7/10)

  • Four-stage filtration removes 99% of chlorine, chloramine, VOCs, PFAs, and more.
  • 10-year/1-million-gallon filter capacity reduces maintenance to almost nothing.
  • Filter can be combined with a water softener to also treat hard water.
  • Costs less in the long run compared to cartridge-based systems.
  • Three models are available to accommodate homes of all sizes.
  • Features industry-leading lifetime warranty
  • Won’t soften hard water or filter microbes, sulfur, iron, or manganese (usually only present in well water).

The SpringWell CF1 is the best whole-house water filter on the market because of its effectiveness against the most harmful and common contaminants in city water as well as its lifetime warranty.

PROS

The SpringWell CF1 is the best whole-house water filter on the market for the following five reasons: 

Pro 1 of 5: Effective four-stage filtration

The SpringWell CF1 is my #1 recommendation because it does exactly what it’s designed to do: it removes 99% of chlorine, chloramine, VOCs, PFAS (and other forever chemicals), and many other common city water contaminants. 

It does this using a four-stage filtration process that allows for more-effective contaminant removal than traditional two- or three-stage filters. The first stage includes a sponge-like material (known as a flex-bed) that distributes water over the entire filter media to increase contact time with all filters and improve filtration.

The second stage features KDF, which is a special alloy that reacts with and removes chlorine and many heavy metals, such as nickel, copper, and chromium. The third stage is activated carbon, which removes any remaining chlorine and chloramine as well as VOCs, so-called forever chemicals (PFAS/PFOA, PFOS, etc.), herbicides, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and more. 

This design makes the CF1 much more effective than traditional two- and three-stage filters because chlorine can consume activated carbon’s filter surface area and limit its ability to remove other chemicals. Using KDF media in stage two removes the majority of chlorine before water reaches activated carbon, which allows it to remove the many other chemicals in your water. Stage four is a 5-micron sediment filter that will remove any dirt, dust, clay, sand, etc. from your water before it heads to your tap.

All of this means if you have city water with junk in it, such as chlorine, chloramine, VOCs, PFAS, herbicides, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, or more, installing the CF1 will eliminate these contaminants at a higher rate than other filters and deliver high-quality, great-tasting drinking water to every tap in your home.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of water test results before the CF1 was installed and after. There’s a lot I could say here, but the numbers speak for themselves.

Tap Score Comparison

Before CF1 Installation

After CF1 Installation

Pro 2 of 5: Little to no maintenance

The next biggest upside of the SpringWell CF1 is that it requires very little maintenance.

The only regular maintenance required is swapping out the sediment filter, which you should do every six to nine months. The main filter media needs almost no attention. The size of the carbon-filter bed gives it a total capacity of one million gallons, which means most people can use the CF1 for around 10 years before having to replace the media inside it. 

Pro 3 of 5: Easily combines with a top-rated softener

The SpringWell CF1 scored so well in my ranking because it easily combines with my top-rated water softener, the SpringWell SS1, in a single-tank combo unit called the SpringWell CSS-1.

It’s not uncommon to have hard city water, especially if you live in the western half of the US. Buying this combo unit means you don’t have to mix and match with other manufacturers to build a water treatment system that solves all your water quality issues, and you can also save a little money.

My full review of the SS1 is below, but it ranks so highly because of its ability to soften even very hard water, its efficiency, and its minimal waste, and because it features the same lifetime warranty as the CF1. 

This means that if in addition to filtering out chemicals and contaminants you also want to reduce scale buildup, improve the effectiveness of soap and detergent, eliminate streaks and stains, and save your skin from the liquid sandpaper coming out of your tap, you can do all of this in one unit that combines the CF1 and the SS1, also known as the SpringWell CSS-1

Pro 4 of 5: Low long-term cost of ownership

Another upside of the SpringWell CF1 is that it has a relatively low cost of ownership and pays for itself after just a few years as compared to cartridge systems that are cheaper up front.

These cartridge systems, such as those offered by Pro Aqua and GE, are touted for being inexpensive and effective whole-house filtration solutions. It’s true they are effective, but only if you remember to change filters every six months. These filter replacements are more expensive than the media used in the CF1, so after just a few years, a cartridge system is actually more expensive than the CF1. Over the course of a decade, the CF1 is considerably less expensive to own.

This means that if you want to get the most bang for your buck and also minimize long-term costs, you should get the CF1.

Pro 5 of 5: Lifetime warranty

Given how much time and energy you have already spent researching whole-house filters, and how much money you will be spending on purchasing it and installing it, the absolute worst-case scenario is buying something that winds up breaking down in a few years. Your time is too limited and too valuable to waste chasing down plumbers for repairs, or manufacturers for replacement parts. 

That’s why the biggest selling point for me on the SpringWell CF1 was the lifetime warranty that SpringWell offers on all of its products. No one else on the market even comes close to this. Aquasana and APEC offer 10-year warranties, which is the second best out there. GE only warranties its filters for a year.

It’s one thing to make an effective filter, but it’s another to make something that won’t become a liability in the future. SpringWell went a different route than everyone else by building something that will last rather than something cheap that’s just going to break in a few years. And in the event something does happen, they’ve got your back and will get your system up and running as fast as possible. 

If you want a whole-house water filter that will last for as long as you own your home or more, get the SpringWell CF1.

CONS

There is one major downside to the SpringWell CF1 you should know about before buying:

Con 1 of 1: Only good for city water

The biggest downside of the CF1 is that it doesn’t treat hard water or filter microbes or fluoride. It’s also not suitable for well water; wells are rarely contaminated with what’s found in city water, and vice versa. 

Remember I said whole-house filtration requires matching a filter with your water? This is a perfect example. The CF1 does extremely well at removing a number of contaminants, but it doesn’t do so well at others. 

The good news is that there are plenty of options for these other contaminants that are just as good as the CF1. Check out my reviews below for hard water and well water and see the additional options section for top choices for removing other contaminants.

OVERALL: 9.7/10

The SpringWell CF1 is the market leader for whole-house water filtration because it uses four-stages to remove 99% of chlorine, chloramine, VOCs, forever chemicals such as PFAS, herbicides, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and other common city water contaminants.

It’s true that it doesn’t tackle other stuff, such as hard water, microbes, or fluoride, and doesn’t work on well water. This is likely not an issue for the vast majority of you, but it’s also backed by a lifetime warranty that no other product on the market offers.

To get clean, pure, great-tasting water in your home, get the SpringWell CF1

OR…

If you want additional information, read my full review of the SpringWell CF1. In this review, I go into more detail about the filter media, maintenance, controller head, backwashing, and more, giving you all the information you need to make this important decision.

Best for Hard Water: SpringWell SS1 (9.6/10)

  • Softens even very hard water (up to 15 grains per gallon).
  • Smart monitoring reduces wasted water and salt.
  • Can combine with a whole-house filter to build a complete filter/softener system.
  • Comes in three sizes for any size home and any level of water hardness.
  • Includes an industry-best lifetime warranty.
  • Releases trace amounts of sodium (salt) into your water.
  • Doesn’t include a sediment filter.

The SpringWell SS1 is the best whole-house filter for hard water, aka the best water softener, because it offers superior softening capabilities along with high efficiency and an industry-best lifetime warranty.

PROS

There are five major reasons why the SpringWell SS1 is the best water filter for removing calcium:

Pro 1/5: Completely softens all hard water levels

The SpringWell SS1 earned the #1 spot on my ranking for a hard water solution because it delivers on its promise and softens water no matter how hard it is. 

To do this, the SS1 relies on ion exchange, a chemical process in which hardness minerals in your water (calcium and magnesium) are exchanged for sodium. This is the most effective way to soften water and works no matter how hard your water is. It can even soften “very hard” water with a hardness measure of 15 grains per gallon (gpg) or more. 

The SS1 far outperforms what the alternatives can do. Most of these alternatives are so-called “salt-free softeners” and are offered by big names, such as Aquasana. But a softener that doesn’t use salt isn’t a softener at all because it doesn’t remove calcium and magnesium. Instead, it transforms these minerals so they don’t stick to your pipes, appliances, fixtures, etc. This does eliminate scale buildup, but it does not affect the other annoyances of hard water, such as poorly lathering soap, streaks and stains on your dishes and glasses, and that dry, sandpaper feeling on your skin.

This means that if you have hard water and suffer from scale buildup, bad soap, stains and streaks, and it feels like you’re showering with sand, you should get the SpringWell SS1 and eliminate all these problems.

Pro 2/5: Smart monitoring reduces waste and cost

The second biggest upside of the SpringWell SS1 is that it uses smart monitoring to improve overall efficiency and reduce waste and cost.

It does this by limiting how much salt and water the softener uses. Salt is used in all water softeners to regenerate the media, which involves flushing it with salt water to maintain the proper chemical composition for ion exchange to happen. The more often a softener regenerates, the more salt it uses and the more water it wastes. 

Most softeners, such as the SoftPro and Crystal Quest, regenerate on fixed schedules, usually once every five to seven days. They have no way of taking water use into account. This is inefficient and often causes the system to regenerate before it really needs to. The SpringWell SS1 uses a smart monitoring system to measure exact water use and initiates regeneration only when it’s needed, improving overall efficiency.

If you want a water softener that is cheap to maintain and more efficient than the competition, you should get the SpringWell SS1.

Pro 3/5: Easily upgraded for larger homes

The next biggest upside of the SpringWell SS1 is that it comes in three different sizes to work even in very large homes. 

The base model, the SS1, has a 32,000-grain capacity and a flow rate of 11 gallons per minute (gpm), which is good for up to three bathrooms. The SS4 has a 48,000-grain capacity and a flow rate of 13 gpm, which is good for four to six bathrooms. The SS+ has an 80,000-grain capacity and a flow rate of 20 gpm, which is good for seven or more bathrooms. Note, though, that higher grain capacity does not mean better softening capability. It simply refers to how much hard water the system can handle before regenerating. They all use the same technology and are equally as effective. 

So, even if you have a very large home you can benefit from the efficacy and efficiency of the SpringWell SS1 and not have to worry about it keeping up with your high water demands.

Pro 4/5: Integrates with SpringWell filters

Another major benefit of the SpringWell SS1 is that it is easily combined with SpringWell’s whole-house filters to make a packaged system that can filter and soften your water. 

City water users can get the CSS-1, which combines the CF1, the highest-rated whole-house filter on the market, with the SS1 in a single unit that takes up little space and will filter and soften your water. 

Well owners can get the WSSS1, which combines the WS1, the highest-rated well water filter on the market (reviewed below), and the SS1 into a single system, though this unit has two tanks. 

If you own a well, I encourage you to test your water to make sure you’re getting the right filter for you (more details below in my review of the best well filter), and if you would like more information, read my detailed review of the best whole-house filter and softener combo

All of this means if you need to soften and filter your water, you can get the top-rated water softener and a top-rated whole-house filter in one packaged deal that saves you a bit of money compared to buying them each separately.

Pro 5/5: Lifetime warranty

Hard water is not a temporary situation. If it’s hard now, it’s going to be forever, so the last thing you want is a softener that winds up in a landfill before the next census. These things are too expensive, and you will have spent too much time researching one and getting it installed to even consider the possibility of it not lasting you more than a few years. 

This is why the biggest selling point of the SpringWell SS1 is the lifetime warranty. Anyone can build a water softener, but not everyone can, or is willing to, build one that will last forever. And even fewer companies are willing to stand by their products with a lifetime warranty. SpringWell, on the other hand, is saying “we’ve got your back even if by some fluke this thing does break.” 

Many of the other options I looked at don’t even come close to this kind of warranty. SoftPro, Fleck, Culligan, and Pro+Aqua each only offer 10 years, while Rheem offers five, and GE and Aquasana only offer one-year warranties. In a world where products are designed to break, and you have to spend more money on repairs and replacements, it’s not a surprise to see such limited warranties from other companies, but it makes SpringWell’s warranty all the more impressive.

If you get a SpringWell SS1 today, it’s going to be the one and only water softener you ever buy, which will save you money in the long run and give you the peace of mind these products are meant to provide.

CONS

There are two main downsides to the SpringWell SS1 that you should consider: 

Con 1/2: Adds sodium to your water

As a salt-based softener, the SpringWell SS1 does add a small amount of sodium into your water. 

The reason for this is the ion exchange. When calcium and magnesium ions are removed, the laws of science dictate other ions must go back into the water, which is why sodium is added. There’s no other way around it and it’s how all salt-based, ion-exchange softeners work. How much salt gets added depends on how hard your water is, but even very hard water (15 gpg) only ends up with about 30 mg of sodium in an eight-ounce glass. For comparison, a whole avocado has about 15 mg, and an unseasoned boiled egg has close to 80 mg. For most people, the added sodium is unnoticeable and not an issue. 

For some, particularly those living in California, salt-based softeners are banned for environmental reasons. So even though they are more effective, products such as the SS1 are not an option.

This means that unless you are on a zero-sodium diet as prescribed by your doctor or live in California, the added sodium produced by the SS1 isn’t going to be a big deal. But if you do fit into one of these two categories, you’ll want to check out some water softener alternatives to find the right product for you.

Con 2/2: Doesn’t include a sediment filter

The second downside of the SS1 is that it doesn’t include any sort of pre-filter automatically, not even a sediment filter to protect the components from silt and other particles. 

Most filters, to include water softeners, come with a sediment pre-filter to remove sand, dirt, dust, clay, etc. from your water, but the SS1 does not. You will need to buy this separately. But if you also want to filter your water, you may want to consider testing it first to find out what’s in it. Then, you can buy a sediment filter and a softener at the same time to build a complete water treatment system.

OVERALL: 9.6/10

The SpringWell SS1 is the highest-rated solution for hard water compared to all the others I reviewed. It completely softens water of any hardness level efficiently, combines well with top-rated filters, and can work in homes of all sizes. 

It’s true that it adds a small amount of sodium to your water, but this is not really a concern for 95%–99% of you. And the fact it has a lifetime warranty sets it apart from the competition.

If you want to truly soften your water and remove scale buildup, improve soap lathering, eliminate streaks and stains on your glasses and plates, and stop showering with sandpaper, then get the SpringWell SS1 salt-based softener for your home.

Best for Well Water: SpringWell WS1 (9.6/10)

  • Dual filtration removes high levels of sulfur, iron, and manganese.
  • Best whole house filter for rust
  • Uses 100% chemical-free filtration methods.
  • Works in homes of all sizes with three models available.
  • Includes industry-best lifetime warranty.
  • Filter media lasts 25+ years and requires no maintenance.
  • Can combine with a water softener to also treat hard water.
  • 152-micron sediment filter is larger than most sediment filters.
  • Does not treat hard water (unless combined with a softener) or filter microbes, salt, nitrates, herbicides, or pesticides.

The SpringWell WS1 is the best well filter on the market because it uses dual filtration to remove high levels of the most common well contaminants and also has an industry-best lifetime warranty. It’s also the best whole-house water filter for rust.

PROS

The SpringWell WS1 is the industry leader in well water filtration for the following five reasons:

Pro 1/5: Effective dual filtration

The reason the SpringWell WS1 scored so well in my review and is my #1 recommendation for well water is that it delivers on its claim and is highly effective at removing sulfur, iron, and manganese, the most common well water contaminants. It uses dual filtration to remove up to 8 ppm of iron, 7 ppm of sulfur, and 2 ppm of manganese. 

The WS1 is so effective because it combines two filtration methods that are usually used on their own. The first is air induction oxidation (AIO), which works by spraying water over an air pocket to allow sulfur, iron, and manganese to become solid particles that can then be filtered out. The other is greensand, which has a similar effect and also traps the solid particles in its bed. Each method is very effective on its own, but the WS1 combines them both to pack a more powerful punch and handle higher levels of sulfur, iron, and manganese than competing filters, such as the Aquasana Rhino and the Pro+Aqua well filter. 

The inclusion of a greensand filter bed also allows the WS1 to catch already-oxidized particles in your water. When you have these, your water looks brown right out of the tap and is also called “rusty water.” Because of this design, the WS1 is also the best whole-house water filter for rust.

This means that if your water stinks like rotten eggs or leaves ugly reddish brown or black stains on your sinks, tubs, and appliances, installing the SpringWell WS1 will remove these issues and deliver clean, clear, odor-free water to your entire home.

Pro 2/5: Chemical-free

Another thing that stands out about the SpringWell WS1 is that it’s a 100% chemical-free water filtration solution.

Traditional iron, sulfur, and manganese filters rely on a number of nasty chemicals. For example, the age-old solution is to use a chlorine injector because chlorine reacts with iron, sulfur, and manganese to produce an effect similar to the AIO feature of the WS1. But this makes your water go from smelling like rotten eggs and staining your fixtures to being clean to drink and clear but smelling and tasting like a pool. Hardly an improvement. The WS1 uses regular air to produce these effects, so it has no impact on taste. 

Another chemical used to filter these contaminants is potassium permanganate, also known as pot perm. It’s used in greensand filters to keep the greensand properly charged so it can react with iron, sulfur, and manganese. Breathing it in can cause lung inflammation and coughing, and it can burn your eyes or skin. If you had a filter that required pot perm, you would need to manually add it at least once a month, exposing you to its risks. The SpringWell WS1 uses an improved form of greensand that does not require pot perm and instead can be maintained with regular water. 

This means the SpringWell WS1 can filter out sulfur, iron, or manganese without exposing you to nasty chemicals or affecting the taste or smell of your water. 

Pro 3/5: Low maintenance costs and requirements

A huge upside of the SpringWell WS1 is that it requires very little maintenance and is therefore inexpensive to maintain. 

The AIO part of the filter runs entirely automatically. A special valve pulls air into the system from the surrounding area and requires no manual input. The greensand filter, which eventually becomes saturated with iron, sulfur, and manganese particles, is automatically flushed on a regular basis. The electronic controller installed at the top of the unit measures water use and initiates the flushing cycle so you don’t have to. Lastly, since the WS1 uses an improved type of greensand, it lasts much longer. It can go 25+ years without replacement even under extreme conditions. 

This means that once you install the WS1, you will have to spend very little to no money and time making sure it’s working optimally, and you can trust it’s delivering clean, clear water at all times.

Pro 4/5: Combines with a water softener

The fifth pro of the SpringWell WS1 is that it easily combines with a water softener to allow you to treat hard water and remove sulfur, iron, and manganese. 

SpringWell sells this combo unit as the SpringWell WSSS1, which includes the WS1 and the SS1, the salt-based softener reviewed above that earned the top spot in my ranking for hard water solutions. Getting these two units at once is cheaper than buying them separately, and since they come from the same manufacturer, they are backed by the same warranty and there are no compatibility issues. 

This means that if you have both hard water and high levels of sulfur, iron, and/or manganese, you don’t need to sacrifice quality by mixing and matching softeners and filters. You can get one SpringWell unit, which allows you to combine the highest-rated products in each category for maximum value.

Pro 5/5: Lifetime warranty

It’s expensive enough owning a home, and there’s always something on the to-do list. The last thing you want or need is to spend extra money and time replacing or repairing things you bought just a few years back. This is why the biggest selling point for me on the SpringWell WS1 is SpringWell’s lifetime warranty.

No other water filter company out there even comes close to this kind of commitment to its customers. Pro+Aqua and RKIN only offer 10-year warranties, and Aquasana only offers one year. This suggests they either don’t think their products can last that long or they don’t want to deal with helping you should an issue arise. SpringWell took the opposite route and will stand by you throughout the time you own its products. And if, for some reason, something does go wrong, they will take the steps necessary to fix the problem and get your unit back up and running properly. 

In a world where most companies make you talk to robots for an hour before getting to a real person, and where the majority of the things we buy end up in the trash before the next leap year, it’s extremely refreshing to see SpringWell go the opposite direction by building something that can last and also by standing behind its products for such a long time. 

If you want a well water filter that is going to age well and last as long as you own your home — and maybe longer — then get the SpringWell WS1

CONS

The SpringWell WS1 is an excellent product, but it has two things that hold it back from a perfect score:

Con 1/2: Not effective against certain contaminants

The SpringWell WS1 is designed to remove iron, sulfur, and manganese, which means it is not effective against hard water, microbes, salt, herbicides, and pesticides, and nitrates. If you have hard water and combine the WS1 with the SpringWell SS1, you can build a system that will completely treat and filter your water. But if you have any of these other contaminants, the WS1 will not be the most effective solution on its own. 

This is why it’s so important to test your well water. You can tell if you have sulfur in your well by smelling the water, but there’s no way to know if these other contaminants are in there without sending a sample to the lab.

Either way, to call this a “knock” against the WS1 is a bit misleading. It was designed to remove iron, sulfur, and manganese from water, and it does a superb job at this. But as we’ve ranked it the “best well filter” I wanted to be clear that it might not be the best for all wells. 

If you know you have more than just iron, sulfur, and manganese in your well, read my review on the best whole-house filter for well water to see my top picks for all the different contaminants that can be found in wells.

Con 2/2: Potentially inadequate sediment filter

Another drawback of the WS1 is that the sediment filter could be inadequate for some wells. It comes with a 152-micron spindown filter. 

The advantage of this filter is that it has larger pores so it won’t get clogged as often, and it also uses a mesh screen you can remove and clean. This means you don’t have to spend money on replacement filters. The downside of this filter is that it does have larger holes that will allow finer sediment particles to get through. Some of this sediment will get caught in the greensand filter bed, preventing it from getting into your water but potentially clogging up the greensand filter and decreasing its effectiveness.

Whether or not this is an issue depends entirely on the condition of your well water. If you have super fine sediment, the 152-micron filter will not be enough. The best thing to do is to give it a try. If after you install it, you notice the WS1 is flushing itself more than once a day or you can see sediment in your water, you may want to invest in a second pre-filter with a 5-micron rating.

If you need more guidance on this, read my review of the best sediment filters for well water. In that review, I discuss different types of sediment filters and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

OVERALL: 9.6/10

The SpringWell WS1 is the best well water filter on the market and is the best whole-hose filter for rust because its dual-filtration design removes 8 ppm of iron, 7 ppm of sulfur, and 2 ppm of manganese and requires little to no maintenance. 

Some of you may need to explore additional pre-filter options, but most of you will not. Still, the lifetime warranty is a big upside that cannot be overlooked. 

If your well water smells like rotten eggs or leaves reddish brown and black stains on your tubs, sinks, and appliances, get the SpringWell WS1 to enjoy clean, clear, odorless, and great-tasting water at every tap in your home. 

OR…
If you want to dive even deeper into this filter, check out my full review of the SpringWell WS1. In this article, I talk even more about the technology behind the dual-filtration design and also share additional insights on the warranty and installation process.

Additional Options: Fluoride, Lead, Microbes, Sediment, and More 

City water users, well owners, and anyone with hard water can solve their water troubles with either the SpringWell CF1 (city water), the SpringWell WS1 (well water), the SpringWell SS1 (hard water), or some combination of the two, such as the city water combo CSS-1 or well water combo WSSS1

However, if your water test results reveal additional contaminants besides those removed by one of these filters, you will want to explore other options. I have reviewed products for their ability to remove a number of different contaminants. For each of these reviews, I applied the same testing methodology and ranking system I did here, and also consulted with our in-house water expert, James Layton, to eliminate low-quality products and identify the true best of the best. 

Click on the link most relevant to you to find my recommendations for each situation: 

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that if you have city water, the SpringWell CF1 is the best option for you thanks to superior multistage filtration and a lifetime warranty. If you have a well, 94% of you will be able to install the SpringWell WS1, which uses chemical-free dual filtration to remove even high levels of sulfur, iron, and manganese. 

If you have hard water, the SpringWell SS1 is the way to go. Additional options include the SpringWell CSS-1 (city water and softener combo) and the SpringWell WSSS1 (well filter and softener combo). All of these models offer superior performance and an industry-best lifetime warranty.

Whole-house filtration can be a bit complicated, but if you start by testing your water and then match the filter you buy with the contaminants you want to remove, you’ll find clean, clear, and great-tasting water right around the corner. 

Research Methodology: How We Test and Review Products

To write this exhaustive list of the best whole-house water filters, I used Drinking Water’s seven-point research methodology. This allows me to systematically review all the available products and narrow a large list down to just the top few. You can read all about how we review water filters to see exactly what happens during this process, but here’s a quick summary of the different factors I consider while creating a review.

Use analysis

To determine the best water filter for any category, the very first thing I need to do is determine what each filter is best designed to do. Water filtration is not a silver-bullet solution where you can use one product to solve all your problems. Instead, each filter is best suited for a different use. Figuring this out is always the first step in our review process.

Learn more about how we do our use analysis.

Tech check

Water filters are far more high-tech than first meets the eye. There’s a lot of chemistry and biology going on, and manufacturers often like to use jargon and buzzwords to make their products sound advanced and superior. We vet every filter technology we come across, scouring the literature and using our own expertise to make sure it’s up to the job.

Learn more about the tech check portion of our review process.

Water test data

Data, data, data. That’s what it’s all about. It’s one thing for a company to say its filter is the best at something, but it’s quite another to be able to back that claim up with cold, hard data. We collect data in a number of ways and use it to verify manufacturer claims and ensure the products we recommend will live up to their hype.

Learn more about how we collect and use water test data.

Installation test

Choosing which whole-house water filter to buy is half the battle. Once you get it, you’ve still got to install it. We don’t necessarily think needing a professional is a bad thing, but we also don’t like ridiculously complex installations, and we enjoy seeing companies put effort into making it easier. That’s why we test the installation process for all the filters we review.

Learn more about how we run our installation tests.

Cost-of-ownership analysis

Buying a whole-house water filter is definitely an investment. But up-front costs are not the only thing you need to keep in mind. Replacement filters and other regular maintenance increase the lifetime costs of these products. We do our best to calculate what these are going to be so you know what you’re getting into before you buy.

Learn more about how we conduct our cost-of-ownership analysis.

Warranty check

Due to the high up-front cost of whole-house water filters, product warranties are critical. If something goes wrong, it’s good to know you’re covered. This is why we pour over every detail in a product’s warranty during our review process and give high priority to honest, up-front companies who stand by their products.

Learn more about how we do our warranty checks.

Customer service test

When you buy a whole-house water filter, you’re launching a relationship with the company that can last a decade or more. We don’t want you to get stuck in a bad relationship, so we make sure to vet all the companies we review to ensure they have not just good but great customer service.

Learn more about our customer service test.

Before You Buy a Whole-House Water Filter

Water filtration is not a one-size-fits-all industry. Each home, and each water supply, requires something different. For example, well water and city water have different common contaminants. To improve the quality of each, you need a filtration system designed for the contaminants commonly found in these water supplies. 

In city water, chlorine is a big issue because it’s added to the water at the treatment facility, which makes it safe to drink but also affects the taste and smell of the water.

“Most utility users don’t know that the water that comes out of their faucet may be different in quality from the water tested at the utility. Piping materials can contaminate the water with heavy metals and chlorine added for disinfection can mix with organic matter and lead to high levels of carcinogenic disinfection byproducts,” says Jess Goddard, PhD, and Chief Scientist at Simple Lab.

Filters using activated carbon and KDF media are especially effective against many of the most common city water contaminants. Depending on which (if any) heavy metals are in your water, you may need special filters designed to remove them.

For those on well water, sulfur can enter your water supply and make your water smell like rotten eggs. Iron and manganese can discolor your water and leave stains on your tubs, sinks, and shower stalls.

To deal with these contaminants, you will need to use a special filter, usually one using air injection oxidation (AIO). Poorly constructed or aging wells can also let in bacteria, viruses, nitrates, and more. While the best solution is to fix your well, you may also need to install a UV purifier or a reverse osmosis system.

Hard water, or high levels of calcium and magnesium, affects both wells and city water supplies and causes all sorts of headaches. Hard water is responsible for scale buildup on your plumbing fixtures, skin and hair irritation, and poorly lathering soap that makes cleaning difficult. An ion exchange water softener is your best defense against hard water.

All in all, there are lots of reasons to use a filter and, therefore, lots of different filters you can buy. The best whole-house water filter is the one best equipped to treat your specific water supply. For this reason, I highly suggest you test your water before you buy a filter so you can learn what’s in it. This will tell you exactly what’s wrong and exactly what features you need to look for in a filter.

If you haven’t done this yet, please do so and bookmark this page. When you have your results, use them to find your ideal filter. If you’ve already tested your water, or know which filter is best for you, read about my top choices.

Back to product recommendations

Dive Deeper: In-Depth Water Filter Guides

If you want to get even further into the world of water filters, I’ve got tons of resources I can share with you. Here are some of the most relevant:

Frequently Asked Questions

Which whole-house filter is best?

The best whole-house filter is the one designed to remove the specific contaminants in your water supply. We found the SpringWell CF1 to be the best for most people, but it’s crucial you test your water supply before you buy a whole-house filter to make sure it will be effective.

Which whole-house water filter removes the most contaminants?

Activated carbon and KDF media are two of the most effective filter media out there that are capable of removing the most common contaminants in your water supply, such as chlorine, chloramine, sulfur, VOCs, nitrates, herbicides, pesticides, arsenic, and more. However, they are not effective against all contaminants, which is why it’s so important to always test your water.

Are whole-house water filters effective?

Yes, whole-house water filters are extremely effective provided you use one designed to remove the specific contaminants in your water supply. They filter your water supply before it reaches any of your faucets, giving you clean drinking water throughout the entire house.

Are whole-house water filters worth it?

Whole-house water filters are absolutely worth it if your water has a high level of contaminants or if it has poor taste or a funny odor. They are also extremely worth it if you have high levels of sulfur or iron because of the staining those impurities can produce. In the long run, they cost less than bottled water and produce much less waste. As whole-house solutions, they provide clean drinking water to every single faucet in your home.

How do I choose a whole-house water filter?

The best way to choose a whole-house water filter is to test your water to find out exactly what’s in it. Then, find a filter designed to remove those specific contaminants. Guides such as this one can steer you to the right product once you know which type of filter you need.

What should I consider when buying a whole-house water filtration system?

The most important thing to consider when buying a whole-house water filtration system is what’s in your water and what the filter is designed to do. Beyond that, you’ll want to look at how often the filter media need to be replaced and how much the replacements cost, as well as how good the product’s warranty is.

What are the disadvantages of whole-house water filters?

The only real disadvantage to a whole-house water filter is that they are somewhat pricey up front, usually more than $500 but often more than $1,000. However, this cost is usually offset by bottled water savings and the tremendous peace of mind for those who are worried about the quality of their water.

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Rafael Mendoza

I will like to talking to someone

James Layton

Rafael-Ask any questions right here.

Ricardo

Is the css-1 safe for plants, lawns etc? What about drinking water Doesn’t the salt affect the taste

James Layton

Ricardo,
The water softener uses salt to recharge the resin but it is only exchanging sodium, not full sodium chloride (salt). This means that the softened water will contain some sodium but not enough to affect grass, shrubs, and vegetables. You won’t notice any salty taste. For specialty plants, like orchids, you would want to mist them with reverse osmosis or distilled water since they are sensitive to minerals and salts of any kind.

Kate

Our city has corn and oat processing so they have a lot of bleach in the water. They also produce ethanol. We can smell it quite often. (Cedar Rapids IA) What is the best filter to remove the bleach and whatever else they are putting in the water? Our skin is very dry, the dog won’t even drink the sink water and he is having bile vomit now that we have moved here. I also understand IA has the 2nd highest rate of rising cancer rates in the country. Wondering if it is related since too much bleach over time will cause cancer.

James Layton

Kate, Your water treatment plants use chlorine dioxide to disinfect the water. I see from a recent report that the residual chlorine level is within EPA limits but is on the higher end. This is why you smell/taste it. Phosphate is added to coat the pipes and inhibit corrosion and metals leaching, which is standard practice. Your water also has fluoride added, if that is a concern. Copper and lead has been detected in the water. Nitrate is also present. The Alluvial aquifer, which is the source of the water, was determined to be highly susceptible to contamination because the aquifer characteristics and the overlying materials provide little protection from contamination at the land surface. The Alluvial wells will be highly susceptible to surface contaminants such as leaking underground storage tanks, contaminant spills, and excess fertilizer application. Your best filter system for drinking water would be a reverse osmosis system. Typically it is installed under the kitchen sink but it can be positioned anyplace that does not freeze. For whole house dechlorination, an activated carbon filter placed on the incoming water supply will cover all showers, sinks, etc. The carbon filter removes the chlorine issue but is not as effective at removing a wide array of contaminants like a reverse osmosis system. For drinking and cooking, the RO is the way to go.

J. C.

This seems like a giant advertisement for Spring Well. I am looking for an exterior rated whole house water filter to install outside near my water main. (Also I am going to install an RO under the kitchen sink) Is there a particular product you recommend? Thanks

James Layton

No filter housing will be OK if you get a solid freeze-but I assume you know that. Sunlight speeds the degradation of plastic and fiberglass. Not sure if that matters to you. If I had an outdoor filtration system, I would build a simple shade enclosure to keep direct sun off the system. It will help with rain also. I don’t think you’ll find a consumer-level filtration system coupled with an “It is OK outside” statement from the manufacturer. Industrial-grade filtration system use expensive IP-rated enclosures for the electronics. This guarantees how much water and dust protection the enclosure provides the electronics. This is just too expensive for the average consumer to pay for when nearly all home systems are installed in-doors. That said, with a proper shelter (only you can decide what proper is) many DIY installers have installed an outdoor filtration system.

Steph

Hi Guys, We live in a farming area in Kansas. I am worried about nitrate in our well system. We don’t have a farm but aror surrounded by fields of corn and beans. How do I find out if our water is OK?

James Layton

Step,
The only way to know what is or isn’t in your water supply is by testing. You can probably notice if you have hard water by the mineral build-up. Iron often leaves an orange stain. But nitrate (and nitrite) are odorless, tasteless, and colorless. DIY test kits are available for nitrite and nitrate. We also recommend the Tap Score test system. You send a water sample to the lab and they will run a comprehensive panel of tests and provide a detailed report on your water quality.