Types of Water Filters: Pitchers and Dispensers

Whether drinking from a creek or right from the kitchen faucet, unsafe contaminants can get into our water. And while it's long been known that filtering water is important when backpacking or camping, home water filtration systems are becoming increasingly important.

Among the easiest to use and most affordable of filtration systems, a pitcher or dispenser filter can remove a variety of contaminants ranging from sediment to lead, producing a clean, great-tasting glass of water that you can feel good about drinking.


To view our entire assortment of water pitchers and dispensers check out our Water Filter Pitchers & Dispensers catalog page!

Easy to use

Free of tubes, pipes or plumbing, water pitchers and dispensers are convenient and easy to use, taking up only a small amount of counter or fridge space. Installation is as simple as dropping the filter into its slot in the pitcher, then filling with tap water. Perfect for apartments and dorms, purifying water is as simple as filling the pitcher with tap water.


The financial investment in a pitcher or dispenser is much less than if you were to only drink bottled water or install an in-home filtration system. You can save hundreds of dollars a year when you use a pitcher or dispenser filter.

Environmentally friendly

When you drink water from a purifying pitcher or dispenser instead of a disposable plastic bottle, you're significantly reducing the amount of plastic that ends up in the landfill. Hundreds of bottles worth of water can be purified with just one filter.



From 40 ounces to 144 ounces, the capacity size of pitchers and dispensers varies greatly. If you and your family drink a lot of water, a larger capacity will mean fewer refills and longer filter life. Smaller reservoirs are a good option if you have limited fridge or counter space, if only one or two people are using it, and you don't mind refilling a few times a day. The size of the reservoir will not impact the performance of the filter.


The days of white being the only pitcher color available are long gone. From bold reds and oranges to cool shades of blue, filter systems are now offered in a rainbow of colors. Pick one that matches your kitchen's decor or simply fits your personal preference.


Round, oval or rectangular, pitchers and dispensers come in a number of different shapes and hold varying amounts of water. Large water dispensers are often rectangular so they can sit in your fridge to keep water chilled without hogging prime shelf space. Oval and round shapes are most common with pitchers, and are becoming increasingly stylized. By adopting carafe-style designs, pitchers are looking more like standard kitchenware you'd find among a department store's house ware selection.


An increasingly common feature on both pitchers and dispensers is a small electronic monitor that tells you when it's time to change the filter. It's an important addition because regular replacement of the filter is critical to maintaining its effectiveness and reducing bacterial contamination. An overused or out-of-date filter will no longer trap contaminants, allowing them to leach back into your water. With the help of the small monitor, you won't have to keep track of how old the filter is - just replace it when the indicator says it's time.


While all filter systems clean out "bad stuff" from your tap water, the way they do the filtering can vary. There are four common types of media that are used in pitchers and dispensers, and each has a unique and important job.

Activated Carbon Block

A very common filter media, activated carbon is different than "regular" carbon because it has been treated to open millions of tiny pores, increasing the surface area of the carbon and helping it to react quickly with chemicals. When in a tight, solid form, activated carbon makes water taste better by removing chlorine, but it doesn't remove other contaminants. When the pores are full, they are no longer able to filter water, and it's time to replace the filter.

Granular Activated Carbon

Activated carbon in granular form removes chlorine taste and odor, but thanks to its shape and size, it treats a great deal more than a block of carbon. Its great amount of surface area makes it possible to quickly remove contaminants - about 100 different ones, as rated by the EPA. Its pores will also fill over time, needing to be replaced.

Ion Exchange Resin

Ion exchange resin works like tiny magnets. The porous beads are usually 0.5-1 mm in diameter and attract certain chemicals, trapping them in the high surface area. Most commonly used in water softeners, ion exchange resins are also used in drinking water filters because of their ability to remove copper and heavy metals like lead and cadmium.

Radiological Filter Media

Like ion exchange resin, radiological filter media attracts and removes very specific chemicals. While ion exchange pulls out lead and copper, radiological filters can attract and eliminate up to 99.99 percent of radioactive particles and radium-contaminants only a select few filters can treat.


Pitcher and dispenser systems generally use a carbon filter to trap contaminants from getting into your drinking water. Depending on the type of filter and size of the reservoir, it can take seconds or minutes for water to pass through the filter and into the tank. Slow filtration is not a sign of a faulty system; it simply means that water is moving through multiple layers of carbon or other filter media for a clean glass of water.

Pitcher and dispenser systems can reduce these contaminants:

  • Atrazine
  • Benzene
  • Cadmium
  • Calcium
  • Carbofuran
  • Carbon Tetrachloride
  • Chlorine Taste and Odor
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Dirt
  • Herbicides
  • Hydrogen Sulfide
  • Iron
  • Lead
  • Lindane
  • Mercury
  • Particulates
  • Radium
  • Radioactive particles
  • Rust and Corrosion
  • Sediment
  • Simazine
  • Tetrachloroethene / Perchloroethylene (PERC)
  • Toluene
  • Zinc


When deciding which pitcher or dispenser is best for your, there are two important questions to ask yourself:

What do I want to filter out? If your goal is simply better tasting water, pretty much any filter system will fit your needs because reducing chlorine flavor and smell is a standard. But some pitchers and dispensers can do so much more. If you want to be sure your water is free of harmful contaminants like lead, mercury, and iron, just read the labels carefully. If it offers advanced filtering capability, it will be listed on the packaging.

How much water is being used each day? Reservoir tanks vary greatly in size. Starting at just 40-ounces and going up to as much as 144 ounces, it's just a matter of deciding how many 8-ounce servings you want before refilling the pitcher or dispenser.


For answers to filter-related questions, recommendations on the best pitcher or dispenser filter, or general water filtration questions, contact us.