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12 Different Types of Water Filters (With Pictures)

We all need clean drinking water that’s free of chemicals, bacteria, pesticides, and other contaminants that can be detrimental to our health. Water filters will remove all of these harmful contaminants, as well as odors, discoloration, sediment, and even bad taste1. Today, water filters come in many different varieties that give you plenty of choices about how you’d like your water to be purified. These vary greatly in price, speed, filter lifespan, capacity, and more. Since there are so many options to choose from, we’ve written this short guide to quickly compare each of these 12 different types of water filters to help you decide which one might be the best choice for you.

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The 12 Different Types of Water Filters Explained:

1. Water Pitcher Filters

Brita Metro

A large pitcher with a built-in water filter, water pitcher filters are an affordable way to get clean filtered drinking water in your home. Compared to other types of water filters, they have a somewhat limited capacity, usually between six and ten cups. Some larger ones may hold up to 23 cups of filtered water with a push-button nozzle that’s designed to stay in the fridge except to fill.

2. Faucet Filters

Brita tap filter system

Faucet filters screw directly onto your sink faucet. They will have a pass-through that allows your sink to flow freely when the filter isn’t in use. To get pure water, you simply flip the switch on the filter to activate it. Your water flow will be diverted through the filter, and the output will be delicious filtered water. Since it comes straight from your main water line, you’ll have an unlimited capacity, enabling you to produce as much filtered water as you need.

3. Countertop Filters

SimPure Countertop Filter

Countertop filters come in two different types. The first type has a large reservoir on the bottom with a filter on the top. They can hold much more water than a pitcher-type filter, even as much as 2.25 gallons. However, they won’t fit in your refrigerator, so many of them will only provide room-temperature water.

The second type of countertop filter hooks into your home’s main water at your kitchen sink. It will have its own faucet that dispenses filtered water when you turn it on. These tend to be much smaller and take up very little counter space, though they can also be a bit expensive. They have an unlimited capacity since they’re hooked into your main water, but they can be a bit slow to produce it.

4. Under-Sink Filters

 Frizzlife Under Sink Water Filter

This type of filter fits underneath your sink, exactly as the name implies. It hooks directly into your main water line so you get an unlimited capacity for filtered water. They generally include their own small faucet that gets mounted by the main faucet on the countertop. These filters can consist of a single filter, or multiple filters, designed to filter out a larger number of contaminants in a multi-stage process. The filters will be easily replaceable when they reach the end of their lifespan. Thankfully, they tend to have longer lifespans than many of the other types of water filters, so you won’t be replacing them nearly as often.

5. Whole House Filters

Aquasans Whole House Filter

Whole-house filters are the largest and most expensive type of water filter. At several times the price of most other filters, they’re designed to purify all of the water for your whole home. To that end, they feature flow rates of 10-15 GPM and even higher. These are often multi-stage filtering systems that can remove every major contaminant. Many of these systems are also water softeners that will eliminate water spots. Whole house filters hook into the mainline of your home and may require a professional for installation.

6. Water Bottle Filters

LifeStraw Go

Water bottle filters are some of the smallest and most inexpensive filters available. They also have a very small capacity since you’re limited to the size of the bottle, generally around 20 ounces. These often feature a filter straw you drink through that filters the water on its way to your mouth. You can find these at many retailers for a low-cost way to have filtered drinking water anywhere you need.

7. Straw Filters

Propur Propur Prosip

Straw filters are light, portable, and easy to use. Even better, they’re very affordably priced. It’s a small cylinder with a mouthpiece at one end. All you need to do is place the other end in your water source and drink through the straw. The water is filtered on its way to your mouth so it’s clean and delicious by the time you taste it. To make these more portable, some are designed to work inside of water bottles.

8. Ultra-Violet Filters

3Aquasana EQ-WELL-UV-PRO-AST Whole House Well Water Filter System

Ultra-violet filters are a unique type of water purification that work by exposing the water to ultra-violet light that kills bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and more. They’re generally small and lightweight, and they run on batteries. These are a bit more expensive than other portable types of water filters. Unfortunately, they do nothing to remove sediment from your water, so it’s not the best choice for water that’s heavy with solid particles.

9. Water Softeners


Water softeners remove the hard minerals from water by exchanging them for sodium ions. This doesn’t make the water taste salty, but it does soften it, providing several benefits. Soft water doesn’t leave limescale behind when it dries. It’s also much better for your skin and hair. Water softeners tend to be one of the more expensive water filter types, and they’re generally designed to soften the water to your whole house.

10. Reverse Osmosis Systems

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis systems force the water through semi-permeable membrane filters. They remove all the chemicals, contaminants, and particles, but they also remove the minerals that are essential for health, such as magnesium and calcium. For this reason, many reverse osmosis systems have an alkalization stage that balances the pH of the water and adds the essential minerals back in.

11. Squeeze/Gravity Filter

Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter

This type of filter is small and portable. It’s designed mainly for backcountry and emergency use, so they’re durable and reliable. Gravity filters have you hang the reservoir and let gravity pull the water down through the filter. Squeeze filters allow you to force water through the filter using a water-bag reservoir, but they can also be used the same way as a gravity filter. These compact filters are fairly inexpensive, but they aren’t intended to filter large quantities of water at once.

12. Portable Pump Filter

Sawyer Products SP128 MINI Water Filtration System

Portable pump filters are designed for backcountry and emergency use so they’re tough and reliable. You put the hose into your water source and manually pump a handle that creates suction. The water is then pulled through the filter and expelled from a hose on the other side. These are quick-working filters that generally have a replaceable filter cartridge. They’re a bit larger and heavier than other styles of portable filters.

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There are many different types of water filters available on the market and it can be hard to decide which one to choose. After reading this synopsis of each of them, you should be able to narrow down your search to the type of water filter that best suits your needs. No matter your situation, there is a water filter available that will be the solution to your clean water conundrum. Whether you need a permanent solution to filter water for your whole home or just a small portable filter that you can carry around with you, hopefully, this article has helped you determine which type of filter will serve you best.

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Featured Image Credit: Carbon water filter by Richard Smith licensed by CC 2.0.


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