Published: May 1, 2015

    The Many Flaws of Water Pitcher Filters

    Water filter pitchers are very popular. Designed to sit in your refrigerator, pitchers feature a charcoal-based filter that’s supposed to remove metals and chlorine residue from tap water. Such pitchers are available in almost any grocery or big-box store in the country.

    Despite their popularity, these low-cost, brand-name water filter pitchers simply aren’t very effective—and can even add contaminants to drinking water.

    Water Filter Pitcher Operation

    The theory behind most water filter pitchers is simple. You pour water into the top, which filters through the charcoal and into the reservoir. You then store the pitcher in the fridge until you need it. Instant fresh-filtered, contaminant-free water, right?

    Not so fast. Most pitcher filters only remove chloride and a few select metals, normally lead, mercury, copper, and cadmium—and many don’t effectively remove lead. They also don’t remove pesticide or pharmaceutical residue, bacteria, viruses, parasites, or other microorganisms.

    As for what the pitchers do remove, research suggests they don’t do a very good job. A study at the Arizona Laboratory for Emerging Contaminants at the University of Arizona reports brand-name pitchers only remove 49-80% of the contaminants they claim to filter, leaving anything from 20- 51% in your drinking water.

    Even more troubling, water pitcher filters actually add bacteria to drinking water. The charcoal filter sits directly in the water reservoir, and when a filtration substance sits in water for long periods, it builds up a biofilm of microorganisms. Aquariums use this principle to create colonies of healthy microorganisms, but what’s safe and healthy for a thriving fish tank is by no means suitable for drinking.

    How bad is the bacterial contamination in a pitcher filter? All the way back in 1996, German researchers warned us water from a pitcher filter contains more bacteria than tap water. Some of the microorganisms they found were virulent enough the researchers recommended people with compromised immune systems boil pitcher-filtered water.

    In comparison, Pelican Water’s countertop and whole house filtration systems with UV remove metals, pesticide and pharmaceutical residue, water treatment byproducts, organic and chemical compounds, and microorganisms, which are killed by ultraviolet light.

    The Convenience Argument

    Let’s assume you’re not put off by the idea of adding bacteria to your drinking water. Pitchers are convenient, cheap, and take up less room than larger filtration systems, right? Let’s take a look at each of these claims.

    Convenience is, apparently, in the eye of the beholder. It takes anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to filter one pitcher’s worth of water. Four people can drink it all in less than five minutes, then have to wait another half-hour or more to have another drink.

    Also, even if the pitchers were super-efficient filtration systems, they’re only suitable for drinking water. Your cooking, bathing, dishwashing, and laundry machine water still come straight from the tap.

    As far as space is concerned, the pitcher only takes up the same amount of space as a gallon of milk, but it’s taking up that space in your fridge, where real estate is limited. Pelican’s under-counter filtration systems take up less space than a pitcher and tucks conveniently under the sink, providing filtered water straight from the tap.

    We can’t argue brand name pitchers are cheap. Of course, you need to replace the filters at least every two months, and a pack of three filters costs $20, so you’re spending a minimum of $40 a year for a filtration system that can’t remove all of the contaminants it claims to remove, adds in bacteria, and takes time to process less than a gallon of water.

    Give us a call and we’ll help you choose a better water filter—one that’s affordable, environmentally-friendly, versatile, and most importantly, effective.