When you make a purchase through our links, we may earn a commission from Amazon or other retailers. You can learn more about our affiliate policy here.

Best Activated Carbon Water Filters - NSF Certified

Water Filter Review Process

This review article discusses the different types of activated carbon water filters used for common contaminants in your waterOur primary goal is to answer one question: does the filter do what it says it will do?

To answer this question, we look for three specific criteria:

   1. Number of contaminants the filter claims to remove

   2. Quantity and quality of 3rd party certifications verifying contaminant reduction claims

   3. Supporting testing data that verifies contaminant reduction rates

These three criteria are essential in determining if you are purchasing a high-quality filter.

Filters we recommend have the highest level of certifications to back up their claims and are either directly certified by NSF or they are certified to NSF standards by a reputable 3rd party organization such as the Water Quality Association (WQA) or the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO)

Our Top Picks

Aquasana Claryum 3 stage max flowAquasana Claryum 3 stage max flow

Key Features

The Aquasana Claryum 3 stage is NSF Certified to remove/reduce 78 total contaminants. The 3-stage filter contains a sediment filter, ideal for well water, followed by 2 activated carbon block filters. With a higher flow rate and capacity, you won’t notice a significant drop in water pressure. 

This filter is certified by NSF to remove or reduce the following contaminants. For more details on removal rates see the Performance Data Sheet.

Chlorine, Chloramines, Bromodichloromethane (THM), Chlorodibromomethane, Bromochloroacetontrile, Dichloroacetonitrile, Particulate, Turbidity, Asbestos, Cysts (Cryptosporidium & Giardia), Lead pH 6.5, Lead pH 8.5, Mercury pH 6.5, Mercury pH 8.5, MTBE, Bisphenol A (BPA), Nonylphenol, TCEP, TCPP, PFOA & PFOS, Benzene, Carbon Tetrachloride, Chlorobenzene, dichlorobenzene, p-dichlorobenzene, 1, 2-dichloroethane, 1, 1-dichloroethylene, cis-1, 2-dichloroethylene, trans-1, 2-dichloroethylene, 1, 2-dichloropropane,Ethylbenzene, Dibromoacetonitrile, Trichloroacetonitrile, 1,1-dichloro-2-propanone, 1,1,1-trichloro-2-propanone, Hexachlorobutadiene, Hexachlorocyclopentadiene, Styrene, 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane, Tetrachloroethylene, Toluene, 2,4,5-TP (Silvex), Tribromoacetic Acid, 1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene, 1,1,1-Trichloroethane, 1,1,2-Trichloroethane, Trichloroethylene, Bromoform, Chloroform, Xylenes, DEET, Linuron, Metolachlor, Alachlor, Atrazine, Carbofuran, Chloropicrin, 2,4-D, Dibromochloropropane (DBCP), cls-1, 3-dichloropropene, Dinoseb, Endrin, Ethylene Dibromide (EDB), Heptachlor (H-34, Heptox), Heptachlor Epoxide, Lindane, Methoxychlor, Pentachlorophenol, Simazine, Atenolol, Carbamazepine, Estrone, Ibuprofen, Meprobarmate, Naproxen, Phenytoin, Trimethoprim

This filter was tested and certified to NSF/ANSI Standards 42, 53, and 401 for the claims specified on the Performance Data Sheet.

NSF/ANSI 42 – Reduction of aesthetic contaminant concerns such as chlorine, taste and odor, and chloramine.

NSF/ANSI 53 – Over 50 health-related contaminant reduction claims. See the Performance Data Sheet for specific claims.

NSF/ANSI 401 – Removal of 15 specific contaminants related to prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbicides, pesticides, and chemical compounds.

 

Filter replacement is recommended at 800 gallons or 6 months of total flow. The filter will notify you automatically when the filter needs to be changed out.

Pros

  • The second carbon block filter provides very high reduction rates
  • A dedicated Faucet keeps your filtered water line completely separate from the unfiltered water line
  • NSF certified to remove a very large number of contaminants

Cons

  • Set-up requires some additional plumbing to install the extra faucet
  • Can be bulky in under-sink cabinets and may not fit for some people
Aquasana Rhino

Key Features

Reduces chlorine and other contaminants in your house using catalytic carbon and KDF media. Ideal for protecting your softener resin, drinking water, and shower water without any drop in pressure. Upgrades are available for higher capacity, UV filtration, and a salt-free water conditioner.

This filter is certified by NSF to remove chlorine. Whole home-activated carbon filters are typically used before a softener to protect the resin.  For more details on removal rates see the Performance Data Sheet.  Point-of-use systems are best for the removal of specific contaminants in drinking water as they go through more rigorous testing.

This filter was tested and certified to NSF/ANSI standard 42 to remove up to 97% of chlorine and the Rhino® tank is WQA certified to NSF/ANSI/CAN Standard 61 the claims specified on the Performance Data Sheet.

NSF/ANSI 42 – Reduction of aesthetic contaminant concerns such as chlorine, taste and odor, and chloramine.

NSF/ANSI 61 – Certification of the pipes, gaskets, and meters utilized for water delivery are drinking water safe. 

Filter life options available are 6 years (6,000,000 gallons) or 10 years (10,000,000 gallons) for the Rhino max version. 

For larger homes, the Rhino® Max Flow boasts a 14.5 gallon/minute peak flow rate — perfect for larger homes and those seeking maximum performance.

Pros

  • Removes chlorine and other contaminants from drinking water and wash water
  • Ideally installed before a softener to protect softener resin from chlorine degradation to extend softener life
  • Can last up to 10 years so the filter does not need to be changed out that often
  • No drop in water pressure

Cons

  • Higher chance for bacteria growth in areas of the house that do not use water as often. Should be installed with a bypass so the homeowner can run chlorinated water through the entire house periodically.
  • Expensive and bulky. More difficult to change out filter media.
  • Not certified for anything but chlorine. This does not mean it does not remove other contaminants but the main focus of whole home units is typically to remove chlorine before a water softener.
  • Requires plumber or plumbing experience for installation.
Brita Everyday Elite Water Filter Pitcher with SmartLight Filter Change Indicator, BPA-Free, Replaces 1,800 Plastic Water Bottles a Year, Lasts Six Months, Includes 1 Filter, Large - 10-Cup, White

Key Features

Brita’s water filter pitcher has more contaminant removal certifications than any other pitcher on the market. Low-cost filter replacements (twice/year) and Smartlight to notify when it is time to change the filter.

This filter is certified by WQA against NSF/ANSI Standards 42, 53, and 401 for the reduction of the 32 contaminants listed below. For more details on removal rates, see the Performance Data Sheet.

Chlorine, Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Asbestos, 2,4-D, Atrazine, Benzene, Endrin, Ethylbenzene, Carbon Tetrachloride, P-Dichlorobenzene, Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS), Simazine, Tetrachloroethylene, Atenolol, Bisphenol, Carbamazepine, DEET, Estrone, Ibuprofen, Linuron, Meprobamate, Metolachlor, Microplastics, Naproxen, Nonyl phenol, Phenytoin, TCEP, TCPP, Trimethoprim

This filter is certified by WQA against NSF/ANSI Standards 42, 53, and 401 for claims specified on the See Performance Data Sheet

NSF/ANSI 42 – Reduction of aesthetic contaminant concerns such as chlorine, taste and odor, and chloramine.

NSF/ANSI 53 – Over 50 health-related contaminant reduction claims.

NSF/ANSI 401 – Removal of 15 specific contaminants related to prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbicides, pesticides, and chemical compounds.

Brita’s Elite filter should be used for maximum filter life. One elite filter cartridge typically lasts 6 months. Filter life is dependent on both water quality and total volume of water consumed. If you purchase a Brita filter system with the Smartlight option, you will be notified when the filter needs to be changed out.

Pros

  • No additional plumbing or installation required
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy filter changeouts
  • Can be kept in the fridge to keep water cold

Cons

  • Contaminant removal rates are not as good as under-sink options
  • Have to wait for the water to filter once filled
  • Requires frequent cleaning to prevent bacteria buildup
PUR PLUS Faucet Mount Water Filtration System, 3-in-1 Powerful, Natural Mineral Filtration with Lead Reduction, Vertical, Grey, FM2500V

Key Features

Certified by NSF to remove 70 contaminants, significantly more than other faucet-mounted filters.

This filter is certified by WQA and NSF against NSF/ANSI Standards 42, 53, and 401 for the reduction of the 70 contaminants listed below. For more details on removal rates, see the Performance Data Sheet.

Chlorine, Atrazine, Benzene, Carbofuran, Carbon Tetrachloride, Chlordane, Endrin, Heptachlor Epoxide, Lead, Lindane, Mercury, Methoxychlor, Chlorobenzene, o-Dichlorobenzene, Simazine, Tetrachloroethylene, Toluene, Toxaphene, Trichloroethylene, VOC (chloroform surrogate), Atenolol, Bisphenol, Carbamazepine, DEET, Estrone, Linuron, Meprobamate, Metolachlor, Nonyl Phenol, TCEP, TCPP, Trimethoprim, Alachlor, Benzene, Carbofuran, Carbon tetrachloride, Chlorobenzene, Chloropicrin, 2,4-D, Dibromochloropropane (DBCP), o-Dichlorobenzene, p-Dichlorobenzene, 1,2-Dichloroethane, 1,1-Dichloroethylene, cis-1,2-Dichloroethylene, trans-1,2-Dichloroethylene, 1,2-Dichloropropane, cis-1,3-Dichloropropylene, Dinoseb, Endrin, Ethylbenzene, Ethylene dibromide (EDB), Bromochloroacetonitrile, Dibromoacetonitrile, Dichloroacetonitrile, Trichloroacetonitrile, 1,1-Dichloro-2-propanone, 1,1,1-Trichloro-2-propanone, Heptachlor, Hexachlorobutadiene, Hexachlorocyclopentadiene, Pentachlorophenol, Simazine, Styrene, 1,1,2,2-Tetrachloroethane, 2,4,5-TP (silvex), Tribromoacetic acid, 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene, 1,1,1 -trichloroethane, 1,1,2 – trichloroethane, Chloroform (surrogate chemical), Bromoform, Bromodichloromethane, Chlorodibromomethane, Xylenes

This filter is certified by NSF/ANSI for standards 42, 53, and 401 for claims specified in the Performance Data Sheet.

NSF/ANSI 42 – Reduction of aesthetic contaminant concerns such as chlorine, taste and odor, and chloramine.

NSF/ANSI 53 – Over 50 health-related contaminant reduction claims.

NSF/ANSI 401 – Removal of 15 specific contaminants related to prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbicides, pesticides and chemical compound

Filter life up to 100 gallons or 3 months. A visible indicator of filter status lets you know when the filter needs to be changed out.

Pros

  • Easy to install and requires no additional plumbing
  • Inexpensive
  • A visible indicator light that lets you know when you need to change the filter

Cons

  • Does not fit all faucets and can be annoying when it comes to using the kitchen sink for anything but drinking water.
  • Filter only lasts 3 months
Aquasana Clean Water Machine

Key Features

Certified to reduce 77 contaminants including PFA’s. Uses a pumping system that is activated at the push of a button to deliver water 5x faster than traditional gravity filter options. Filled from the top so there is no need for additional plumbing.

This filter is certified by WQA to remove or reduce the following contaminants. For more details on removal rates see the Performance Data Sheet.

Chlorine, Chloramines, Brxomodichloromethane (THM), Chlorodibromomethane, Bromochloroacetontrile, Dichloroacetonitrile, Particulate, Turbidity, Asbestos, Cysts (Cryptosporidium & Giardia), Lead pH 6.5, Lead pH 8.5, Mercury pH 6.5, Mercury pH 8.5, MTBE, Bisphenol A (BPA), Nonylphenol, TCEP, TCPP, PFOA & PFOS, Benzene, Carbon Tetrachloride, Chlorobenzene, dichlorobenzene, p-dichlorobenzene, 1, 2-dichloroethane, 1, 1-dichloroethylene, cis-1, 2-dichloroethylene, trans-1, 2-dichloroethylene, 1, 2-dichloropropane,Ethylbenzene, Dibromoacetonitrile, Trichloroacetonitrile, 1,1-dichloro-2-propanone, 1,1,1-trichloro-2-propanone, Hexachlorobutadiene, Hexachlorocyclopentadiene, Styrene, 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane, Tetrachloroethylene, Toluene, 2,4,5-TP (Silvex), Tribromoacetic Acid, 1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene, 1,1,1-Trichloroethane, 1,1,2-Trichloroethane, Trichloroethylene, Bromoform, Chloroform, Xylenes, DEET, Linuron, Metolachlor, Alachlor, Atrazine, Carbofuran, Chloropicrin, 2,4-D, Dibromochloropropane (DBCP), cls-1, 3-dichloropropene, Dinoseb, Endrin, Ethylene Dibromide (EDB), Heptachlor (H-34, Heptox), Heptachlor Epoxide, Lindane, Methoxychlor, Pentachlorophenol, Simazine, Atenolol, Carbamazepine, Estrone, Ibuprofen, Meprobarmate, Naproxen, Phenytoin, Trimethoprim, microplastics.

This filter was tested and certified to NSF/ANSI Standards 42, 53, and 401 for the claims specified on the Performance Data Sheet.

NSF/ANSI 42 – Reduction of aesthetic contaminant concerns such as chlorine, taste and odor, and chloramine.

NSF/ANSI 53 – Over 50 health-related contaminant reduction claims.

NSF/ANSI 401 – Removal of 15 specific contaminants related to prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbicides, pesticides and chemical compounds

Filter life is 450 gallons or 6 months.

Pros

  • No installation or plumbing is needed to set up
  • Delivers water on demand at the push of a button with no need to wait for the water to be filtered like traditional filters
  • An indicator light tells you when the filter needs to be replaced

Cons

  • Needs to be plugged in so it cannot be placed in the fridge.
  • Takes up space on the kitchen counter.
Aquasana Shower

Key Features

Tested and proven to reduce over 90% of chlorine in water. Uses a combination of coconut shell carbon and KDF media. No noticeable drop in water pressure.

Independently tested to NSF/ANSI Standard 177 to reduce over 90% of chlorine for 10,000 gallons or up to 6 months.

While not officially certified, this is the only shower filter we could find that backed up its claims with raw data. The shower head filter was independently tested against NSF standard 177. The Performance Data shows the chlorine reduction throughout the entire filter life of 10,000 gallons of flow.

10,000 gallons or 6 months.

Pros

  • Independently tested and certified with detailed data showing chlorine removal rates throughout the filter life
  • No noticeable change in water pressure
  • Works with most showerheads
  • Over 90% chlorine removal, the best on the market for shower filters

Cons

  • No 3rd party certifications for contaminant removal. Most shower filter’s available on the market do not have certifications
Aquasana claryum 3 stage

Key Features

Certified by IAPMO, an ANSI-recognized national standards institute, to reduce 77 contaminants in drinking water. Connects directly to your existing faucet without a major drop in water pressure. The filter is connected directly to your cold water water line, leaving hot water pressure unaffected. 

This filter is certified by IAPMO to remove or reduce the following contaminants. For more details on removal rates see the Performance Data Sheet.

Chlorine, Chloramines, Brxomodichloromethane (THM), Chlorodibromomethane, Bromochloroacetontrile, Dichloroacetonitrile, Particulate, Turbidity, Asbestos, Cysts (Cryptosporidium & Giardia), Lead pH 6.5, Lead pH 8.5, Mercury pH 6.5, Mercury pH 8.5, MTBE, Bisphenol A (BPA), Nonylphenol, TCEP, TCPP, PFOA & PFOS, Benzene, Carbon Tetrachloride, Chlorobenzene, dichlorobenzene, p-dichlorobenzene, 1, 2-dichloroethane, 1, 1-dichloroethylene, cis-1, 2-dichloroethylene, trans-1, 2-dichloroethylene, 1, 2-dichloropropane,Ethylbenzene, Dibromoacetonitrile, Trichloroacetonitrile, 1,1-dichloro-2-propanone, 1,1,1-trichloro-2-propanone, Hexachlorobutadiene, Hexachlorocyclopentadiene, Styrene, 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane, Tetrachloroethylene, Toluene, 2,4,5-TP (Silvex), Tribromoacetic Acid, 1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene, 1,1,1-Trichloroethane, 1,1,2-Trichloroethane, Trichloroethylene, Bromoform, Chloroform, Xylenes, DEET, Linuron, Metolachlor, Alachlor, Atrazine, Carbofuran, Chloropicrin, 2,4-D, Dibromochloropropane (DBCP), cls-1, 3-dichloropropene, Dinoseb, Endrin, Ethylene Dibromide (EDB), Heptachlor (H-34, Heptox), Heptachlor Epoxide, Lindane, Methoxychlor, Pentachlorophenol, Simazine, Atenolol, Carbamazepine, Estrone, Ibuprofen, Meprobarmate, Naproxen, Phenytoin, Trimethoprim

This filter is certified by IAPMO against NSF/ANSI Standards 42, 53, and 401.

NSF/ANSI 42 – Reduction of aesthetic contaminant concerns such as chlorine, taste and odor, and chloramine.

NSF/ANSI 53  Over 50 health-related contaminant reduction claims. See the Performance Data Sheet for specific claims.

NSF/ANSI 401 – Removal of 15 specific contaminants related to prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbicides, pesticides, and chemical compounds.

784 gallons or up to 6 months

 

Pros

  • Under sink option that directly connects to your existing faucet, making it easier to install
  • Minimal footprint fits in smaller cabinets

Cons

  • You may notice a slight drop in your cold water pressure
Scroll to Top