Answered: How Do Water Filter Pitchers Work?

Author: Jason Hollow - Published: 2021/09/30 - Updated: 2022/11/22

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Water filter pitchers are simplistic, compact gadgets that may look small but pack a punch. They can give any average bottled water a cut-throat competition by producing clean, odorless, flavorless filtered water.

But how exactly do these nifty gadgets work? Well, filter pitchers employ filtration media inside the upper chamber of the jug. When you fill it with water, it passes through the filter element and clean water settles in the bottom chamber.

If you don’t know much about water filtration, you must be wondering how such a small device can make your tap/well water safe to drink. This is where we come in. Stay with us as we explore the science behind water filter pitchers, their benefits, and why they are slowly moving towards first place amongst various other home water filtration methods.

So, here is our guide answering the question, how do water filter pitchers work?


  • Water filter pitchers, through the use of various filter media, target the removal of specific contaminants.
  • The filter cartridges, depending on their particular type, adsorb, absorb, restrict, or reject impurities as the water passes through them.
  • Some water filter pitchers utilize physical filtration methods, while others use chemical filtration techniques.

What is a Water Filter Pitcher?

A water filter pitcher features one feed and one filtered water container, and a filter element. You fill feed water into the top container and gravity pulls it through the filter cartridge, where it gets purified, and into the storage tank.

Water filter pitchers are an easy-to-use, affordable and portable method of purifying water. They come in different sizes and styles that meet the needs of a single person or an entire family.

We can assure you that not only do water filter pitchers look nice on your fridge shelf, but they’re also chic enough to be kept on your table or kitchen counter. Some stylish models can also be used at your next dinner party!

Suppose huge multi-stage filtration systems are either out of your budget or impractical for your lifestyle. In that case, you should invest in a suitable pitcher model to guarantee clean and pure water.

What’s more, a filtering pitcher not only improves the flavor and smell of your water but can also remove harmful contaminants like arsenic, lead, hormones[1], pathogens and much more!

If you are fond of cold water, your best bet is to fill your pitcher with water and keep it in the fridge.

Lastly, the best part about filter pitchers is their price. They are incredibly affordable compared to most other home water filter types, including under sink systems and whole house water filters. Typically, pitcher prices range between $20 and $70.

How Do Water Filter Pitchers Work?

How Do Water Filter Pitchers Work Thumbnail

There is no universal answer to how a water filter pitcher works! In reality, it all depends on the model and the filtration technology applied.

Most feature a carbon-based cartridge in their center that effectively removes chemicals like chlorine and pesticides, a few heavy metals, and bad taste and odor.

But the only way to be sure about the filtration effectiveness of a certain unit is to check for NSF/ANSI certifications[2] and honest (read: not paid) reviews.

With that said, lesser-known brands also do quite a good job at making your water safe and clean. For example, the Clearly Filtered pitcher features seven layers of filter media to fish out over 365 nasty contaminants. It uses GAC media in conjunction with ion exchange resin to provide overall protection against pathogens, heavy metals, chemicals and most other unwanted impurities.

Please remember that most water filter pitchers can only be used with microbiologically safe water, though. If you use raw water from a private well, there are high chances that it has dangerous levels of bacteria, cysts and viruses.

In this scenario, you would be better off with a more robust system like a whole house water filter with a UV disinfection stage.

All Filter Pitchers Are Not Created Equal

As mentioned earlier, all water filter pitchers are not built alike. There is a vast difference in the filtering effectiveness of various brands and models depending on what it was designed to do.

Some pitchers focus more on the quick filtration process; others consider ease of usage. On the other hand, some people are interested in battling out specific contaminants like lead or fluoride.

So what exactly do filter pitchers remove? Most famous models like the Brita almost only remove chemicals responsible for unpleasant taste in your water. The cartridges last for an average of 40 gallons and need to be replaced every two months. For comparison, the Aquagear or Clearly Filtered remove dozens of contaminants more, some of which can be really harmful.

So it goes without saying, the ideal water purifier pitcher for your family is the one that targets your specific water problem.

For example, if your water supply is highly acidic, you should look for a pitcher that can neutralize it. Likewise, if you are dealing with lead, you must look for a pitcher that is NSF-tested or certified to remove as much lead as possible to make your water safe to drink.

Those who have a big water-guzzling family should get a model that can carry at least 10 cups at a time, or they’ll end up filling water repeatedly.

In essence, identifying the contaminants in your water and accessing what suits your lifestyle is essential to finding a water filter pitcher that will satisfy your needs.

What Contaminants a Pitcher Water Filter Removes

Pitcher water filters can remove a wide range of contaminants depending on the filter media they contain.

Besides filtering out harmful contaminants, most pitchers also maintain healthy minerals in your water, making it wholesome and fresh.

Here is a comprehensive list of all contaminants that a good water filter pitcher can remove.

City Water

Let’s start with the contaminants common in city water. Please note not all filter pitchers can remove all of them. Thus, always look for NSF certifications if you are facing a high level of contamination from a single pollutant.

  • Chlorine/chloramine
  • Disinfection byproducts
  • Lead
  • Chromium
  • Nitrates
  • Fluoride
  • BPA, pharmaceuticals, PFAS
  • VOCs, semi-volatile compounds

woman in testing laboratory holding dirty water glass

Private Well

The biochemical properties of well water can differ significantly from that of municipal water. Broadly speaking, it may or may not be better than what’s provided by your city water board.

For starters, water from a private well has not been disinfected using chlorine or chloramines, which means it has a high chance of contamination through microorganisms. Regardless, it may taste way better due to the lack of disinfectants and other chemicals.

Naturally, you are responsible for the upkeep, quality and quantity of your well water. Here are a few contaminants that are commonly present in it.

  • Nitrates
  • Coliform and other bacteria
  • Pesticides/herbicides
  • Sediment
  • Iron
  • Mercury
  • Arsenic

Cleaning and Filter Changes

Prompt filter replacements and cleaning your water pitcher are essential to keep it in good shape. Thankfully, it requires less effort to clean a unit than maintaining other kitchen appliances – the key is to get it right.

Unless you are regular with filter replacements, it’s plausible that your pitcher is doing you more harm than good.

Are you one of those people who are overwhelmed by the frequent replacement of cartridges? Thankfully replacing a filter cartridge is relatively simple and requires only five minutes.

Some cartridges can filter 40 gallons of water, while others can treat 120 before needing a replacement. Of course, the quality of your water and your everyday usage will also determine how often you need to replace.

Besides, we recommend washing a water filter pitcher with soap and water every week. Use a small brush or a toothbrush to get into all the grooves and crevices which are highly susceptible to mold.

Don’t use harsh chemicals or bleach, however,, or you may end up causing damage. Also, since most pitchers are not dishwasher safe, you will require some elbow grease to get it spotless.

Benefits of Water Filter Pitchers

Nearly a fifth of the United States, almost 63 million people, was exposed to potentially unsafe water in the past decade. Thanks to industrial dumping, pharmaceutical runoffs, pesticides and deteriorating distribution channels, there is a huge question mark on the quality of tap and well water right now.

No wonder in-house water filtration is the need of time. Water filter pitchers are the easiest and most convenient way for that.

And here are a few other reasons why you should get one for your family too.

Improves Water Aesthetics

Does your water look, smell and/or taste bad? Does the thought of drinking eight glasses of tap water every day make you sick? If you answered in affirmative for both questions, it’s time to invest in a filter pitcher.

Removes Contaminants

A good quality filter can remove impurities such as sediment and rust particles, heavy metals like lead, disinfection byproducts and other chemicals, and so much more.

Water that is free from these contaminants is healthier and improves well being.


On hot summer days, a cool drink is all you need to refresh yourself. Thanks to water filter pitchers that fit seamlessly in a fridge, you can always have cold water on demand.

No More Bottled Water Waste

The problem with plastic is that most of it isn’t biodegradable. Our world is already suffering due to millions of tons of plastic waste sitting in landfills and our oceans, exacerbating climate change.

Correcting our plastic waste problem requires a basic change in our lifestyles which includes ditching all sorts of plastic usage. Once you bring home a water filter pitcher, you can play your role in helping save mother nature from the perils of plastic.


In conclusion, a water filter pitcher is a home water treatment system which consists of two reservoirs, for feed water and filtered water, and a filter element in between those two.

Different water filter pitchers use different filter media or filtration methods. This is what determines how effective a unit is at removing certain contaminants from water.

A good filter pitcher can reduce chlorine/chloramine, lead, possibly chromium 6, VOCs, chemicals like pesticides, PFAS, arsenic and more.

Regular filter cartridge replacement is required in order to keep a unit functioning.

The most important benefits of water filter pitchers: better tasting water, a reduction of harmful contaminants and no more bottled water waste.

Further Reading


Meet Jason Hollow

Jason Hollow Jason is the founder of Water Masterz and head of content creation. After six years in the industry, he has tremendous knowledge and first-hand experience on all things related to water treatment.

His credo: Not a single American should have to drink unhealthy water at home.

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