The 6 Best Whole-House Water Filter Cartridges: Reviewed and Ranked (2024)

Reviewed by: James Layton
Updated on:
February 21, 2024

Of the hundreds of whole-house filter cartridges out there, I tested the top 12 filter cartridges using a rigorous seven-step review process. With input from our in-house filter specialist, James Layton, I was able to identify the six best. 

The SimPure Sediment and Carbon filter is the best whole-house water filter cartridge on the market. US Water and Crystal Quest also offer cartridges that suit a wide variety of whole-house systems. If you’re new to cartridge filters, check out the “before you buy” guide to learn more. Here are our recommendations for whole-house filter cartridges.

Best Overall: SimPure Universal Sediment and Carbon Filter 9.75/10

  • Removes chlorine, lead, sediment, and more.
  • Improves taste and odor.
  • Works with both city and well water.
  • Universal design makes it widely compatible.
  • Affordable 3-pack price fits all budgets.
  • Only available for 10” housings

The SimPure Universal Sediment and Carbon filter cartridge is the best overall filter cartridge because in addition to effectively removing both city and well water contaminants, it’s compatible with a wide range of filter housings, and comes with a reasonable price tag.

PROS

Here are three pros you can expect from the SimPure Universal Whole House Sediment and Carbon filter cartridge.

Pro 1/3: Effective whole-house filtration

The first reason the SimPure Sediment and Carbon filter is the best overall filter cartridge is that it effectively filters common water impurities with a combination of polypropylene and granular activated carbon. While the technology behind filter cartridges isn’t vastly different from one to the other, the layers in this filter mean it’s putting in the work of more than one cartridge.

These layers work together to remove small and large sediment, chlorine and chloramine, lead, and a wide range of chemicals. It also removes common well water pollutants, like hydrogen sulfide and heavy metals, meaning you can use this filter with city water or well water. The dual-micron construction also helps prevent clogging, and the porous, absorptive nature of the carbon improves your water’s taste and odor as well.

If you’re looking for a well-rounded filter cartridge for your whole-house system that actually filters what it promises to, then the SimPure Sediment and Carbon filter cartridge is the cartridge for you.

Pro 2/3: Universal design and compatibility

The second-best thing about the SimPure filter is its compatibility with any 10” filter housing on the market. 

The 10″ x 4.5″ universal filter fits easily into any 10-inch “Big Blue” whole-house filter housing, regardless of the brand. Some manufacturers produce filter cartridges that can only be used with their filter housings to ensure more sales, but SimPure lets you use this cartridge with any brand of whole-house filter.

This means that if you have a 10-inch whole-house filter and you’re looking for a cartridge that can fit it easily, you can use the SimPure Sediment and Carbon filter to clean and purify your water — enjoying its low price all the while, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Pro 3/3: Affordability

Finally, the cherry on top is the affordability and convenience of the SimPure filter cartridge

At about $20 a pop, it can filter up to 30,000 gallons, which for an average family of three to five people can last up to six months when used as a part of multistage filtration, or three to six months as the single method of filtration. If your family is smaller and your contaminants are mild, it may last longer. The SimPure sediment and carbon filter is reasonably priced and comes in a pack of three, making it super convenient. You can have replacements on standby for the whole year, or longer, and spend less in a year than it costs for two people to eat dinner out on the town. 

If you want a reasonably priced and effective filter you won’t have to order multiple times per year, then the SimPure Sediment and Carbon filter cartridge is the way to go.

CONS

While the SimPure is the best overall filter cartridge for whole-house systems, it does have one minor drawback. 

Con 1/1: Only available for 10” housings

Even though it fits virtually all 10” filter housings, you won’t get to enjoy its benefits if your whole-house filter system requires cartridges of any other size. 

SimPure does sell other sizes of filter cartridges, but not the Universal Sediment and Carbon filter, which is the best for filtering multiple contaminants with the same cartridge. For a sediment and carbon cartridge that comes in multiple sizes, check out my review on the Crystal Quest filter cartridge, which comes in four different sizes to accommodate a wide variety of filtration systems. 

OVERALL: 9.75/10

The SimPure Universal Sediment and Carbon filter cartridge is highly effective for removing sediment, lead, chlorine, chloramine, chemical pollutants, and more. Its convenient and well-priced three-pack provides a solution for both well water and city water.

While it only comes in the one size, it universally fits all 10” by 4.5” filter systems.

For an efficient whole-house filter cartridge that delivers comprehensive filtration with a single cartridge, the SimPure Universal Sediment and Carbon filter is your best bet.

#2 US Water Lead & Cyst Carbon Block Filter 9.55/10

  • Removes 95% of chlorine and chloramine while maintaining a high flow rate of up to 5 gpm.
  • Also treats lead, sediment, and more.
  • Most economical water filter cartridge relative to performance.
  • Only available for 10” filter housings.
  • Not suitable for heavy sediment contamination.
  • Claim of cyst treatment is dubious.

The US Water carbon filter combines effective filtration with affordability, making it a leading choice among cartridge filters. 

PROS

The US Water Lead & Cyst carbon block filter is the second-best filter cartridge on this list for two compelling reasons.

Pro 1/2: Effective filtration

The best thing about the US Water filter cartridge is that it can achieve an almost 95% reduction in chlorine and chloramine in water. Not only that, it also removes lead, sediment, and more. 

The carbon block, made from coconut shell, also eliminates any odors and foul tastes commonly found in city water. Plus, it is certified against NSF 42 standards for removing chlorine, taste, color, and odor. It’s rare to find high-quality, high-performing whole-house carbon filters with a 0.5-micron rating. In fact, the US Water Systems’ Lead and Cyst filter is the only one that made it to the list; all others are rated for 5 microns.

You can count on the US Water cartridge to ensure clean and safe water throughout your home.

Pro 2/2: Low price 

The second pro of the US Water cartridge is its low price.

Since you have to replace a whole-house filter regularly, you must consider the cost. At the time of writing, the US Water filter cartridge is available for about $18 and will even come automatically with subscription. This makes it one of the most affordable on this list. The only ones that come close are the SimPure Universal and the PurePlus 5-micron whole-house filter.

If you’ve already spent a fortune on your whole-house filtration system and you want to save money on an effective replacement cartridge, you won’t be disappointed in the performance of the US Water carbon block filter.

CONS

There are three main limitations of the filter cartridge to consider, however.

Con 1/3: Size availability 

The first con of the US Water cartridge is its limited size availability.

It fits easily in any standard 10-inch filter housing. However, this particular filter cartridge is only available in a size of 2.5” (diameter) x 9.8″ (length). It doesn’t come in any other size. For comparison, the SimPure cartridge is 10” by 4.5”, so this filter is only for use with even smaller filtration systems. As a result, this cartridge may only work for smaller homes with lesser filtration needs.

If you’re looking for a filter cartridge with more size availability, you’ll want to check out my Crystal Quest review next. 

Con 2/3: Not for heavy sediment contamination

This cartridge’s second drawback is that it’s prone to clogging in homes with heavy sediment contamination, which means it’s more effective for city water than well water. 

A 0.5-micron filter is really effective, but since the mesh inside is so fine, it’s prone to clogging by bigger sand, silt, and clay particles, reducing the lifespan and effectiveness of the filter. Before choosing a filter cartridge, have your water tested. If it turns out you don’t have a lot of large sediment, this cartridge will work fine. 

Get your water tested here.

For homes with heavier, larger sediment, consider adding a 5- or 10-micron filter cartridge, like the Express Water sediment filter below, before this one so that it works properly and removes lead and chlorine as it’s supposed to. 

Or for a separate inline sediment filter to use as pre-treatment for your whole-house filter system, check out the best whole-house sediment filters

Con 3/3: Cyst and other pathogen removal unlikely

The third downside of this cartridge is that it really isn’t a practical or effective solution for cysts. US Water claims this filter cartridge can remove lead, cysts, and many other pollutants larger than 0.5 microns. This claim is dubious for two reasons. 

One, carbon block is made up of pores of various sizes, some small, some not so small. This means that while some pathogens will be caught by the smaller pores, others will make it through the larger ones. The second reason this claim is dubious, if not dangerous, is that when the carbon block catches the pathogens, they stay on the media, effectively re-contaminating what is supposed to be filtered water. Since these tiny parasites can cause stomach distress, and in more severe cases, lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, and cramps, you’re much better off trusting a UV purifier to filter out pathogens than you are activated carbon. 

Here’s a list of the best UV purifiers.

That being said, if you are using this cartridge for city water, you don’t need to worry about cysts and pathogens anyway. Your municipal water treatment will kill and remove all microbes from your water. If you are on city or well water and you test positive for microbes, something is going on with your pipes that you need to sort out right away.

OVERALL: 9.55/10

US Water’s whole-house lead and cyst filter cartridge removes anything bigger than 0.5 microns, such as lead, chlorine, chloramine, and sediment, and it’s a few dollars cheaper than the best filter cartridge, the SimPure

If you want an effective 10” filter cartridge at a super-low price, get the US Water Lead & Cyst Filter today.

#3 Crystal Quest Carbon Filter Cartridge 8.70/10

  • Effectively filters chlorine, SOCs (soluble organic compounds), and sediment.
  • Improves water quality, taste, and odor.
  • Lasts far longer than others on this list.
  • Multiple sizes will fit a wide variety of filter systems.
  • Low flow rate
  • A bit expensive

The Crystal Quest carbon block filter cartridge is the third-best filter cartridge because it effectively filters contaminants but it also lasts up to 18 months and comes in four different sizes.

PROS

Here are three reasons the Crystal Quest filter cartridge is one the best.

Pro 1/3: Effective filtration

First, Crystal Quest’s 5-micron whole-house carbon filter works efficiently for removing chlorine, chloramine, and sediment from drinking water. 

But it isn’t just any carbon filter. It’s made from acid-washed activated carbon that enhances its performance, giving it some extra filtration capabilities, such as removing SOCs (soluble organic compounds), like pesticides and dioxins, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds), such as chloroform and petrochemicals. Its organic coconut shell construction can also improve the taste of your drinking water and remove any discoloration and foul odor. The end result is pure, fresh water.

This means that the Crystal Quest cartridge is a good choice if you’re looking for advanced, through filtration.

Pro 2/3: High capacity and long lasting

The second biggest advantage of Crystal Quest filter cartridges is that they last far longer than other carbon block filters on this list. 

Different filter sizes have varying filtration capacities, but they range from 30,000 to 40,000 gallons, suiting both small and big families. According to the brand, all of its filters have a 12–18-month life, which is longer than 70% of filter cartridges in this category. This not only saves you money but also reduces your maintenance commitment.

If you like the idea of not replacing your whole-house filter cartridge every three to six months, but a year or longer instead, you’ll love the Crystal Quest cartridge.

Pro 3/3: Available in multiple sizes

The third and best thing about the Crystal Quest whole-house carbon filter cartridges is that they’re available in multiple sizes, making them universally compatible with any whole-house cartridge filter.

Crystal Quest’s carbon filter cartridge comes in the following sizes:

  • 2 ⅞” x 9 ¾” 
  • 2 ⅞” x 20″
  • 4 ⅝” x 9 ¾”
  • 4 ⅝” x 20″

This means that the Crystal Quest carbon cartridge, which filters a wide variety of contaminants and lasts up to 18 months, can fit virtually any filter housing. 

If you have a nonstandard-sized filter housing and you’ve had trouble finding the right cartridge, look no further with the Crystal Quest.

CONS

Even the best products aren’t without some flaws. Crystal Quest has two downsides that you need to consider.

Con 1/2: Lower flow rate in comparison 

The first downside of the Crystal Quest cartridges is the varying flow rates. The smaller the cartridge, the lower the flow rate. 

The smallest size, designed to fit most 10” filter housings, has a flow rate of 0.5 gpm (gallons per minute), which is a bit on the lower end compared to options like those from US Water Systems and Waterdrop, which offer around 5 gpm. 

Con 2/2: A bit expensive 

The second drawback of the Crystal Quest filter cartridges is the higher up-front cost compared to others on this list.

Okay, it’s more than just “a bit expensive.” The Crystal Quest Coconut Based 5-Micron Carbon Block Filter Cartridge costs twice as much as the SimPure.

While they are a bit expensive, ranging about $22–$50, the higher up-front cost is totally reasonable if you consider that these cartridges last more than double the time of the cheaper ones. 

OVERALL: 8.70/10

Crystal Quest’s high-performing carbon filters effectively remedy chlorine, chloramine, pesticides, VOCs, and sediment, as well as improving any foul tastes or odors.

While it has a lower flow rate compared to others, the premium quality material makes it durable and clog-resistant, which compensates for the lower flow rate.

If you are looking for a long-lasting and high-functioning carbon filter, try Crystal Quest carbon filters.

#4 Waterdrop Iron and Manganese Filter for Well Water 8.1/10

The Waterdrop Iron and Manganese filter is an excellent choice to tackle iron and manganese contamination in well water. It comes in a two-pack with an additional sediment filter, but if you’ve only got a single housing system, the iron and manganese cartridge is available on its own from Amazon.

This 5-micron filter removes about 99% of ferric iron and 96% of manganese in well water, transforming that awful yellowish and reddish-colored water into crystal clear drinking water. It’s equipped with a manganese sand layer sandwiched between polypropylene filters, which does all the magic. Plus, granular activated carbon further purifies the water from contaminants. 

This Waterdrop cartridge will last between four to six months, but it’s priced at the higher end of the spectrum. It is compatible with most 10″ filter housings, though, including a few models of iSpring and Culligan, and obviously Waterdrop’s own water filter systems. Unlike Crystal Quest and PurePlus, it isn’t available in multiple sizes. 

The Waterdrop Iron and Manganese filter cartridge can be used for city water, but it’s a much better choice for well water systems, since it’s designed to tackle high iron and sediment contamination, which is a more common problem in private well systems. For city water, I recommend the SimPure or US Water cartridges.

If your well water supply has reddish-orange discoloration and a metallic taste, then Waterdrop Iron and Manganese filter cartridge is the best cartridge for your 10” filter housing.

#5 PurePlus Whole House Sediment and Carbon Filter Cartridge 7.80/10 

The PurePlus whole-house filter cartridge consists of a combination of three layers of dense polypropylene and coconut shell-activated carbon filter with a rating of 5 microns to trap 99% of sediment, dirt, chlorine, and rust particles in city water. Rust or iron oxide is a real threat from corroding water pipes. Having a carbon block filter that also tackles this issue is really desirable.

With its standard 4.5″ x 10” size, you can use this filter in many different housings, so no matter what brand of whole-house system, this cartridge remains an option.

PurePlus has a decent flow rate of 2.5–5 gpm, which suits most families. The downside to some highly effective filters is that they catch so many contaminants that it slows down the flow rate coming through the filter. But this one is pretty good. The multi-layer filtration keeps the contaminants away but doesn’t affect the flow speed of water, which makes it highly suitable for many brands of whole-house filters. 

The last — and best — feature that makes the PurePlus cartridge stand out from the crowd is its extremely low price of just $12.75. This low price doesn’t mean it expires sooner than similar filters. In fact, it lasts about 30,000 gallons (four to six months), 30% longer than Culligan and US Water Filter cartridges. 

Bad news for well owners, though — this filter isn’t equipped to deal with contamination present in well water like iron, manganese, and hard minerals. The filter only targets chlorine and some rust or sediment larger than 5 microns. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive solution from your whole-house filter cartridge, look into the SimPure cartridge, the best overall filter cartridge for whole-house systems.

If price is really important to you, buy the PurePlus. It’ll get the job done.

#6 Express Water Whole House Sediment Filter 7.3/10

The Express Water whole-house filter cartridge removes solid particles bigger than 5 microns, including rust and other sediment. It’s good for both well water and city water supply and fits most standard-sized (20″ x 4.5 “) whole-house water filter systems. It is compatible with several filtration housing models of brands like Culligan, GE, American Plumber, DuPont, and Aqua Pure.

The filter has a 100,000-gallon filtration capacity, lasting about 6 to 12 months. Additionally, it doesn’t clog quickly like some sediment filters, it maintains a high flow rate for most of its lifespan. A 10” filter housing may be the most common, but not everyone’s got one. Filtration systems come in many sizes, and you need a cartridge that will fit your specific system. This filter cartridge matches multiple brands of systems with a 20” housing.

However, Express Water filter cartridges are only suitable for sediment removal, so it won’t remove chlorine, lead, or anything else besides dirt, silt, clay, and oxidized solid particles. Many whole-house systems these days are multistage systems, so you can use this filter as a single solution if your only problem is sediment, or within a multistage system as a pre- or post-filter.

Though not as multi-functional as my top choices, it’s still optimal for pre-filters. Learn more about the Express Water whole-house sediment cartridge.

The Bottom Line: The Best Filter Cartridge for Whole House Filter

The SimPure Sediment and Carbon is definitely the best whole-house filter cartridge for dealing with a wide array of contaminants in city or well water. Its affordability and universal design combine to make it a solid choice in whole-house water quality management. 

You also won’t go wrong with the US Water or Crystal Quest cartridges, both of which also offer high performance.

Do you have something to share about whole-house filter cartridges? We’d love to hear from you! Feel free to drop a comment below and share your experience.

Research Methodology: How We Test and Review Products

Sorting through so many water filters isn’t a quick job. At Drinking Water, we use a seven-point research process to thoroughly analyze and review each and every detail of the product so you don’t have to. We also partner with biologists and water filtration experts, such as James Layton and Tommy Stricklin, to get the latest insights.

All of this hard work makes it easy to share the best product on the market with you guys. You can get all the details about our water filter product testing methodology. Meanwhile, here’s a brief summary.

Use analysis

The first step in the process is to categorize each water filter for its best use-case scenario. Just like in this review, we have many types of filter cartridges, each designed to target specific contaminants. This initial scrutiny helps us choose the most relevant product for the issue we set out to address.

Learn more about how we conduct our use analysis.

Tech check

Next, we go deeper into the type of technology used in the filter and the claims that the brand makes. Whether the said technology actually does what the company claims or is just a marketing gimmick.

For example, carbon filters are an excellent choice for chlorinated water, and reverse osmosis is a great option for dealing with heavy metals and bacteria. If the company claims otherwise, that’s a red flag. This ensures the brand claims align with the actual capabilities of the filter.

Learn more about technology check here

Water test data

Water filtration process is a science-backed industry, which makes it easier for water treatment specialists like us to verify and debunk data based on observations and test results. In this step, we analyze the certifications, claims, and performance data of each water filter. We have a working relationship with various authentic water testing labs across the states that help us examine the efficiency of water filters.

For details, read our complete guide on water testing data here.

Installation test

Water filters may look the same on the outside, but many have complex installations that make it harder for an average Joe to install on their own. In some cases, people need to buy additional supplies like valves, connectors, or pipes, which can make the process tedious.

So, to make sure our readers won’t get any surprises after purchase, we thoroughly go through the installation guides and examine the details. This helps us paint a clear picture of what to expect when the customer finally decides to buy the filter.

Learn more about our installation test

Cost-of-ownership analysis

Whole-house filters require upkeep that most people overlook. In many cases, water filters with lower up-front costs might appeal to the customer, but they get a rude awakening when the maintenance costs start to add up. So, we go a little more in-depth when it comes to prices and figure out what the water filter will actually cost down the line.

Learn more about our cost-of-ownership analysis.

Warranty check

Warranties are one of those value-added services that aren’t just marketing gimmicks. They represent the trust the brand has in its product, and since whole-house filters can be expensive, it makes all the more sense to buy a filter with a good warranty. 

However, many warranties, and by many, I mean all of them, come with fine print and limitations. To save you time, effort, and money, we do all the reading for you and tell you exactly what you need.

Learn more about our warranty check here.

Customer service test

Lastly, we make sure the company we are sending our readers to will be there when they need them the most. Having excellent customer service makes the overall experience stress-free. This becomes much more important when dealing with bigger water filtration systems.

You can learn all about our customer service test here. 

Before You Buy a Whole-House Water Filter Cartridge 

Knowing what to expect from water filters will help you achieve safe and healthy drinking water. Read this guide to know exactly what to expect from treating water with a cartridge-based filter.

Water sample test 

If you’re just getting into the whole residential water filter scene, meet Johnny Pujol. He’s the water quality engineer over at Tap Score, one of our go-to partners.

According to Pujol, “With well water, there is no regulatory oversight, so it’s up to each well user to ensure the water they are drinking is safe for their health. This means testing at least once a year because well water changes over time. Using laboratory testing is crucial since it’s the only way to get accurate results for low levels of toxic contaminants.”

The same goes for city water, as you never know how corroded the plumbing pipes are or if there is a leak somewhere down the line. Pujol continues to say, “Many of the most toxic contaminants have no taste, smell, or color, so testing is crucial.”

Testing will save you a lot of time and prevent you making the wrong purchase. Once you get the results, you can easily find the particular filter to target the contamination in your water. 

Different micron-sized cartridges

Whole-house filter cartridges are available in different micron ratings. A micron is a unit equal to one-millionth of a meter, pretty small. The smaller the micron number, the greater its capacity to trap tiny contaminants. For reference, a strand of human hair is approximately 70 microns in diameter.

Standard whole-house filter cartridge sizes include 0.5, 1, 5, 10, 20, and 100+ microns. 10-micron filters are good for getting rid of bigger debris or sand particles and are mostly used as pre-filters for a whole-house water filter system. Sediment filters rated 5 microns are effective at removing dirt, sand, and soil. However, for finer particles like clay and silt, a 1-micron filter is needed. When dealing with heavy metals like lead and arsenic or bacteria and pathogens, a finer 0.5-micron filter is necessary.

Filter sizes 

Consult your user manual or contact the manufacturer to determine the size of the filter you need. If, for some reason, those options aren’t available, you can find out the filter cartridge size by measuring the housing from the outside. 

Here is a helpful table of the common filter cartridge sizes:

Water Filters (length)Filter cartridge
10” 2 ½” x 10”
10” 4 ½” x 10”
20”2 ½” x 20”
20”4 ½” x 20”

Back to product recommendations

Dive Deeper: In-Depth Water Filter Guides

At Drinking Water, we’re keen to make sure you get all the help and information you need to understand and treat your water supply. To that end, we’d like to invite you to check out these extra resources right here on our site:

Frequently Asked Questions

What water filter cartridge should I buy?

The best filter cartridge we can recommend is the SimPure Sediment and Carbon filter. But the one you should buy is the one that addresses the contamination in your tap water. It’s better to have your water tested so that you know what you’re dealing with.

Carbon filters work wonders for chlorine, foul odor, and taste in drinking water. Sediment filters, as the name implies, trap sediment, dirt, and clay. Specialty filters are specially designed to treat specific contaminants, such as lead, arsenic, nitrates, fluoride, and other common water impurities.

Which whole-house water filter removes the most contaminants?

Generally, a 0.5–1 micron carbon whole-house filter, like the US Water Lead and Cyst water filter, removes the most contaminants. Such filters can trap harmful contaminants such as sediment, chlorine, chloramine, lead, cysts, and VOCs commonly found in tap water.

Filters with a smaller micron rating might be more effective, but they can clog easily, diminishing the flow rate in the process. You might be better off with a mid-rated micron water filter, like the SimPure. Have your water tested so you can choose the filter best for your needs.

What micron filter is best for the whole house?

For a whole-house water filtration system, 5- or 10-micron water filters work best. They are used for pre-filtration and can even work as a standalone filtration system. Such filters are an excellent choice to capture sediment and debris from the water. 

A 5-micron carbon filter is also an excellent option to remove chlorine, chloramine, rust, bad taste, and smell from city water. However, to treat serious contamination like heavy metals and bacteria, you might need a finer filter cartridge, such as a 0.5-micron filter.

Which type of water filter is best for home?

A whole-house water filter is your best bet if you are looking for a safe and healthy water supply 24/7 and 365 days a year. These filters treat the water right at the source so that you get pure water in every tap in the house. Alternatively, you can install point-of-use systems, such as under-sink water filters.

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