Water Filter Pitchers vs. Reverse Osmosis Systems

Author: Rory Mullan - Published: 2022/08/19 - Updated: 2022/12/22

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With so many different water filtration methods available these days, choosing the best option for you is not an easy task. In order to simplify this decision, it helps to understand the characteristics of each method and the situations in which they are most effective.

Both water filter pitchers and reverse osmosis systems are great choices when it comes to water filtration, but one is likely to fit your needs more than the other.

This article will compare water filter pitchers and reverse osmosis systems to determine which works best for you, including their pros and cons.

So, here is our guide on water filter pitchers vs. reverse osmosis systems!


These considerations help you choose between a water filter pitcher and a reverse osmosis system:

  • The best answer would be to have your water tested for its quality and contaminants present so that you know what filtration solution is the most appropriate. Consider your volume of water consumption as well.
  • Water filter pitchers are generally good enough for basic filtration and drinking water needs. However, it is much better to implement a reverse osmosis system for severely contaminated water.
  • In terms of volume or filter capacity, water filter pitchers can only filter a very limited volume of water per batch. On the other hand, reverse osmosis systems have a much higher filtration volume capacity, but these systems would require more space (especially for the storage tank).
  • As for maintenance, water filter pitchers will need more frequent changes of the filter element.
  • In terms of costs, reverse osmosis systems are more expensive upfront and in the long run.

What’s a Water Filter Pitcher? How Does One Work?

The term “water filter pitcher” refers to a pitcher with built-in water filtration. They are often made of plastic, glass, or even metal and are designed to be a portable solution you can easily carry around your home.

For larger households, a water filter pitcher may be more adequate than fitting filters to all faucets or installing a whole house water filter.

Contaminant Filtration Process

Although most water filter pitchers are small and portable, they can still do an excellent job removing harmful contaminants. The most effective models will even have multiple filtration stages, though they tend to cost more.

Water filter pitchers generally remove most common contaminants effectively. If you want to target specific types of pollutants, however, you’ll need a more advanced solution or invest more in a high-quality pitcher.

What’s Reverse Osmosis? How Does an RO System Work?

The reverse osmosis process is a more complex filtration technique that involves forcing water through fine membrane pores so tiny that only water molecules can pass through. Therefore, almost only pure water reaches the other end, leaving behind any contamination.

Unlike most other types of home water filters, this method offers more advanced filtration without compromising water quality.

Furthermore, reverse osmosis systems use multiple pre and post-filtration stages to remove additional contaminants.

Contaminant Filtration Process

An RO system is excellent for removing most contaminants from your water supply.

However, they may also target many water elements that are harmless, or even beneficial. A typical example is minerals. Most household water supplies contain a relatively consistent amount of calcium, which is beneficial to your health. Since RO systems don’t differentiate between particles, any that can’t pass through their membranes are filtered out, including, well, calcium.

Water Filter Pitchers vs Reverse Osmosis – What’s Better?

Water Filter Pitchers vs Reverse Osmosis Systems thumbnail

When deciding whether a water filter pitcher or reverse osmosis system is the best option for your household, consider some of their common advantages and disadvantages:

Carbon Filtration isn’t as Thorough as Reverse Osmosis

Water filter pitchers typically use carbon filtration as their primary filtering method. This solution may not be adequate if you’re interested in removing a wide range of contaminants from your water supply.

Water Filter Pitchers Are Limited in Several Ways

There is a limit to the amount of water a filter pitcher can dispense. You will have to refill smaller pitchers more frequently since they can only hold so much water. Individuals may not have a problem with this, but if you live in a large household, you may frequently find your pitcher close to empty – especially if others aren’t as considerate as you.

As most reverse osmosis systems use a large storage tank or pressure pump, they are not susceptible to this disadvantage.

Filter Pitchers Require More Frequent Maintenance

Filter cartridges need to be replaced less frequently with reverse osmosis systems.

Compared to a water filter pitcher, a single filter in an RO system typically lasts between 6 to 12 months, and can process much larger volumes of water.

Reverse Osmosis Also Removes the Good Stuff

Again, the process of reverse osmosis doesn’t just eliminate contaminants. Your water supply is also stripped of minerals and other valuable elements. If you are used to getting minerals from your drinking water supply, you might need to supplement it with foods or medicine when switching to an RO system.

Reverse Osmosis Systems Are Costly

There is typically a higher upfront cost associated with reverse osmosis systems.

However, this is offset by low running costs since RO filters need to be replaced less frequently compared to most water filter pitchers.

Nonetheless, you’ll still have to pay a relatively large sum upfront, which may not be ideal for people on a tight budget.


Reverse osmosis wastes water as a result of the way it works. You can expect up to 80% of your water to be wasted when you use a traditional reverse osmosis system without a pump.

So, What’s Right for You?

It is clear from the above that no single solution will fit everyone’s needs. You need to consider your water quality and filtration needs when choosing a water filtration system for your home and family.

A small water filter pitcher can be perfectly fine for some people, particularly if they only need a simple filtration system. Others may need to consider reverse osmosis or more advanced solutions if they are facing more pressing water quality issues.

Have Your Water Tested

water quality test at bathroom tap

It’s best to have your water tested before committing to a specific model or filtration system if you don’t know what contaminants you’re dealing with. A laboratory can evaluate your drinking water’s contents and tell you how many pollutants it holds and their amounts based on the sample you send them.[1]

DIY tests can also be performed at home, but they have severe drawbacks. For instance, some tests only alert you to specific contaminants but don’t tell you their concentration levels. Sometimes, this can lead to misleading results.

Last but not least, if you have access to it, consider ordering a water quality report for your area. US residents can access this service for free.

What Do You Want/Need?

When making a purchase, you should also consider your personal needs and preferences. To get you started, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Do you live with more than one person?
  2. What is the average amount of water you drink each day?
  3. Are there any specific contaminants that need to be removed?
  4. Would it be okay if you only filter the water you drank (not the water you used to shower and cook with)?
  5. Are there small children or older adults in your household who might have trouble handling a heavy pitcher?


If you are looking for a filtration method that’s easy to use, affordable, convenient, and can be taken with you wherever you go, choose a water filter pitcher.

However, if you need a system that has a higher capacity and can provide you with more thorough water filtration, opt for a reverse osmosis system.

In the end, the correct answer will be up to you.

Further Reading


Meet Rory Mullan

Rory Mullan Rory has joined the Water Masterz team as a contributing writer. He has covered all sorts of topics in the last several years.

Outside of his writing work, Rory enjoys photographing the Irish landscape and making music!

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