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It’s estimated that almost 36 million plastic bottles are used every day in the UK. We know from documentaries and news reports how harmful plastic is to the earth – particularly its seas, where much of it ends up.
But even the 55 per cent of those bottles that do find their way into the recycling pile are problematic. See, recycling plastic is an intensive and selective process, and the quality of the plastic deteriorates with each cycle it goes through.
A substantial proportion of those plastic vessels are what we drink our water from, with loads of us preferring the pure flavour of bottled mineral water to what we get out of the tap at home.
Water filter jugs might just be the answer. Not only do they improve the taste of tap water (and thus help us to drink more of it) while eliminating the need for plastic bottles, but they often work out cheaper than buying the packaged stuff, too.
Purified water makes for better-tasting hot drinks as well – just ask the barista at your local café – and even your plants prefer it to tap. Ever noticed a fine white coating on top of the soil of your house plants? It’s made up of the minerals and impurities from tap water.
The filters in water jugs vary hugely from brand to brand. They use different materials to absorb and catch impurities and may have multiple stages of filtration, each having its own specific job.
As well as the traditional filters that we’re most used to – the ones that sit inside a jug and that we pour water through in batches – there is also the more simplistic charcoal filter. This started to appear more in the West over the last few years, although it has been used in Japan to purify water for centuries. It’s essentially a stick of charcoal (not the type you’d chuck on the barbie, mind) which is highly porous and attracts chemicals and impurities which then attach to it, leaving the water purified.
In our testing, we tried both these types of filters, paying close attention to the flavour and purity of the water, as well as their eco-credentials. We also considered the jug itself: its capacity, ability to fit into your fridge, style, and handling. The cost was taken into account too – both of the jug and the replacement filters.
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The best water filter jugs for 2021 are:
Best overall – Brita style : £15.49, Buysbest.co.uk
Best eco and budget friendly filter – Black + Blum eau carafe: £31.50, Friendlyturtle.com
Best good-looking traditional filter – LifeStraw home: £51.72, Lifestraw.com
Best budget buy – Aqua Optima liscia: £8, Argos.co.uk
Best for purifying – Zerowater 12-cup jug: £39.99, Zerowater.co.uk
Best for retaining minerals – Klar fluoride water filter pitcher: £42.99, Shopsmarts.co.uk
Best for entertaining – Wanda carafe and filter: £29.95, Livewanda.com
Best eco-friendly jug – Phox V2: £39.99, Phoxwater.com
Brita is surely the best known brand in the water filter arena. This neat, fuss free model was one of the smartest-looking traditional-style filter jugs we tried, and fitted neatly into our fridge door.
Storing 1.4l of filtered water at a time, it’s easy to fill one-handed, thanks to a lid you can flip open with your thumb. Each full batch of water takes just under five minutes to filter through into the main jug. The Smart Light LED – a small bulb in the top of the lid – flashes each time you pour, using a green, orange and red colour code to let you know when the filter is coming to the end of its life (usually after about four weeks).
The maxtra+ filter itself is easy to fit and gives water a noticeably purer taste. Inside it are microcarbon pearls made from coconut shells for trapping chlorine and other chemicals; ion exchange pearls, which soften the water and reduce any metal residue from old pipes; and a superfine mesh which will catch anything more solid. Expect to spend around £60 a year on new filters – but don’t chuck out your used ones. Instead, take them to a local Brita recycling point: there is a list of locations on the website.
Buy now £15.49, Buysbest.co.uk
Black + Blum eau carafe
Best: Eco and budget friendly filter
Black and Blum’s activated charcoal sticks are made using sustainably sourced wood and last for six months – you just need to boil them after the initial three to “recharge” them. When each one is spent, you can break it up and feed it to your plants (it adds nutrients to the soil) or compost it. This makes the eau carafe good and green – a great shout for the eco-conscious.
The cool hand-blown glass jug (which is dishwasher safe) is ergonomic and satisfying to handle, pouring really well. It looks smart on the dinner table, too. It’ll fit in most fridge doors although we found it stored well lying on its side in our fridge’s wine rack too, the silicone coating on the cork stopper forming a surprisingly good seal.
Because of the nature of the charcoal filter, you can’t keep topping it up and drinking from it as you go, as the new water mixes with the purified instead of filtering through from a separate compartment. But the water is improved after just an hour – although for the very best results, leave it for eight. The sustainable charcoal sticks cost around £27 for a pack of four – considering that’ll last you up to two years, it’s pretty solid value.
Buy now £32.50, Planet Organic
Aqua Optima liscia
Best: Budget buy
For under a tenner, you can’t go far wrong with this little number. It’s compact and slim, fitting well into your fridge’s door and holds up to 1.2l of filtered water (with a 2.5l capacity over all).
The refill vessel is big enough that you can filter a decent batch of water at a time – and it passes through pretty quickly with the whole vessel filtering in under two minutes. This means you can drink the purified water almost immediately if you’re super-thirsty – or particularly impatient.
Made from BPA-free plastic, the jug has a functional, no-frills look – fine if you plan to store it away in the fridge for well-chilled water – and is easy to fill without spillages, thanks to a lid you can lift with your thumb as you hold the handle. The evolve+ filters it uses are really easy to install – just twist and click into place – and last a month a piece (or 100l). Replacements aren’t too dear either, with a year’s worth setting you back roughly £40 if you shop around.
Buy now £8.00, Argos.co.uk
Best: Eco-friendly jug
This jug takes the eco credentials of filtered water one step further. For starters, it comes in completely recyclable packaging – even the bags that the filter granules come in are compostable. And speaking of those granules, they go into a reusable filter cartridge, meaning there’s no plastic to throw away or try to recycle when a replacement is needed. Just unscrew the cartridge, empty out the used granules (which are mostly natural) and fill back up with fresh ones.
Each refill pack lasts for around about 45 days (or 200l), and comes in letterbox-friendly, plastic-free packaging. Expect to spend £14 every three months. Not bad, right? There’s also two types of filter packs to choose from – “clean”, which is intended for really hard water areas, and “alkaline”, which purifies while also adding in minerals and electrolytes to boost hydration. The water tastes fresh and clean from both, although we perhaps preferred the alkaline option.
In terms of looks, this number is a happy departure from the style of traditional filter jugs, made from sturdy, dishwasher-safe glass with a black lid and handle. It is chunkier than the others we tested which meant it didn’t fit in our modest-sized fridge door – but this won’t be a problem for those blessed with a larger capacity in theirs.
Buy now £39.99, Johnlewis.com
Best: Good-looking traditional filter
The filtration system in this jug is pretty robust: an activated carbon and ion exchange filter takes care of chemicals and improves taste (and lasts for around two months). While the membrane microfilter sees to nasties like bacteria, parasites and microplastics (this one should last for around a year). Expect to spend around £80 a year on replacements of those two.
The capacity is substantial, although the trade off is that the jug didn’t fit in our fridge. It was fine left on the counter though, and we didn’t mind it being on show thanks to its sleek style.
It’s a good-looking jug with a minimalist design – there’s something of a science lab look about it. It was definitely one of the most elegant traditional-style jugs we tested, and you can even remove the filter to put it on the dinner table as a neat-looking water jug. It’s easy to pour from with a good sized handle, while the nifty refill lid makes it really easy to top up, too.
Buy now £51.72, Lifestraw.com
Zerowater 12-cup jug
Best: For purifying
If, for you, filtering water is about chemical purity as well as taste, you’ll appreciate that this jug comes with a TDS reader. Admittedly we didn’t know what this meant at first, but it stands for total dissolved solids. Just dip it into your filtered water to check its content and keep tabs on when you need to change the filter. Our water had a reading of 243 straight from the tap (the World Health Organisation recommends aiming for less than 300, but, really, you’re fine until you hit 1,200) and came up at 0 after the filtering process.
Said process has five stages, with each refill taking about five minutes to pass through – you’ll need about two batches to fill up the jug. Replacement filters are £25 for two – each lasting a month, give or take, which does make this jug a more expensive option in the long run than some of the others we tried. That said, if you like your water to be as pure as possible with a really stripped-back taste, this might be the one for you.
The jug pours well and there’s also a small button-operated outlet at the base that you can use to fill a glass, water cooler-style, as the water is filtering in. This substantial 12-cup model holds 2.8l, but different sizes are available.
Buy now £39.99, Amazon
Klar fluoride water filter pitcher
Best: For retaining minerals
This speedy system takes about a minute for over a litre of water to filter through, making it ideal for a busy house where it’ll get used regularly and need plenty of refilling. Filters last around two months (or 350l), which is double the length of time most can be expected to weather. A digital display in the lid tells you exactly how many days your filter has left, so it’s easy to keep up with replacements. New filters are around £11 each, giving you an annual cost of £66, or 18p a day.
The Klar filter not only removes all the undesirables from tap water (including microplastics) but it adds in some beneficial minerals too, like zinc, selenium, potassium and magnesium. This gives the liquid some of the mild benefits of mineral water and is why it had slightly more of a mineraly flavour than most of the other filtered waters. It makes the liquid alkaline too, which is thought by some to have extra health benefits.
With an overall capacity of 3.5l, this jug holds the most earth juice of all. It’s easy to fill too, with a smartly designed lid that tips under running water, allowing it to flow straight in.
Buy now £42.99, Amazon
Wanda carafe and filter
Best: For entertaining
The Moso bamboo charcoal filter in this jug makes it all the more eco-friendly. This bamboo is known to be an abundant, sustainable material, which can grow up to a metre a day without needing pesticides, fertilisers or too much water to thrive.
Like all charcoal filters, this one is filled with innumerable tiny pores that trap all the unwanted impurities from tap water, leaving behind purer, better tasting liquid. It also adds some natural minerals back into the water, like calcium and magnesium. Lasting about a month (and fully compostable), its replacements are £9.95 each – so while they’re kind to Mother Earth, they’re less easy on the wallet.
The 1.3l jug is handmade from glass (a specific type which is resistant to changes in temperature – great if it’s going in and out of the fridge or into the dishwasher) and the lid is made of bamboo, too. It’s another good-looking carafe that would sit well at the centre of the table when you have people over, although it’ll fit happily in most fridge doors too.
Water needs to be left for at least an hour to get the benefits of the filter – we found it already had improved flavour after that time.
Buy now £29.95, Livewanda.com
The verdict: Water filter jug
Each of the jugs we tested has its virtues – be it cost, eco-credentials or practicality – and they all come with at least one filter as standard. It was a tough call, but the best all-rounder for us was the Brita style. It’s not too slow to filter, fits easily into our fridge, looks smart and offers a few convenient recycling points for our used filters, so we know they’re not going to landfill.
If you have the fridge space (or don’t mind your water sitting on the counter) the Phox V2 is really nifty, with its reusable cartridge and letterbox-sized refill packages, meaning you don’t have to wait in for deliveries.
And if you want a stylish glass filter jug to bring out when you have guests over, the hand-blown glass Black + Blum eau carafe is tough to beat, with great looks, a satisfying pour and an annual cost of under £14 for replacement filters.
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