How Do Brita Filters Work and Are They Safe?

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Brita filters can help turn contaminated tap water into healthier drinking water.
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Having clean drinking water isn't just important for the sake of great taste. Contaminants commonly found in drinking water, including chemicals and organic materials, can pose serious health risks. This is why water filtration systems, like Brita, are so popular.

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Brita water filters can provide a way to remove contaminants from drinking water, ensuring the water is safe to drink.

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Drinking contaminated water can have immediate health effects, such as nausea and dizziness. But certain contaminants are also linked with long-term effects, such as an increased risk of cancer, nervous system disorders and liver and kidney damage, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

While the U.S. has one of the safest drinking water supplies in the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), contamination can still occur.

How Do Brita Filters Work?

Brita filters work by using an activated charcoal and ion exchange filtering system. Although the exact filtration process Brita uses is "patented," a look at how a typical activated charcoal and ion exchange filtering system functions can give you a general idea of how the process works.

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In this process, the pores of the activated charcoal trap larger particles, and positively charged materials in the carbon filter attract negatively charged ions in smaller water contaminants, causing them to stick to the filter, according to water filter company Tapp Water. The size of the mesh screen in the filter determines its effectiveness.

The Brita company manufactures standalone filters and installed water filtration systems. Standalone filters include portable pitchers and dispensers. Installed water filtration systems include faucet filtration and refrigerator water filters.

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While Brita products don't provide inherent health benefits, they may help reduce the risk of future health problems stemming from damage due to pollutants in water.

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Are Brita Filters Safe?

Brita filters are effective at removing contaminants from drinking water. Brita products are certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), which means they meet the requirements for providing safe drinking water.

Brita filters are also certified under the Water Quality Association (WQA) Gold Seal Product Certification Program. Products with WQA's Gold Seal are noted as meeting or exceeding industry standards for specified contaminant reduction, structural integrity and material safety.

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How effective Brita filters are depends on whether they are used properly. This means they must be used according to manufacturer's guidelines and the filters must be replaced regularly.

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No matter what brand of water filter you choose, you'll want to check that it is certified by the National Sanitation Foundation, according to the CDC. The NSF certification shows that the product has been evaluated and approved for safety. You can take a look at the best NSF-certified water filters at WaterFilterData.org.

Replacing Your Brita Filter

In order for Brita products to remain effective, their filters must be replaced according to manufacturing guidelines.

Brita filters are designed to filter out impurities from your water; however, if you do not change your Brita filter at the recommended time, it may be less effective.

If you see tiny carbon pieces inside of your pitcher or glass, your filter may need to be changed.

Most water filters need to be replaced after they have filtered 40 gallons of water, which takes about two months in a typical household, according to Waterful.org. How often you replace the water filter will depend on other factors, including:

  • How much water you drink
  • What type of filtration system you have
  • The water's overall hardness
  • Your water's contamination level

Brita makes different water filters, some of which require replacement more often than others. How often you change your Brita filter depends on the specific product you're using and how much you use it. Many plastic Brita pitchers come equipped with an indicator that will signal when it's time to replace the filter.

The chart below is based on Brita's suggestions for replacing your filter; be sure to also read the manufacturer's guidelines and pay attention to any indicators on the products. Note: The timeframes for replacing filters are averages for most households.

How Often to Change a Brita Filter

Brita Model

Filter Replacement by Gallons

Filter Replacement by Time

Everyday Water Pitcher with Longlast+ Filter

120 gallons

Every 6 months

Grand Water Pitcher

40 gallons

Every 2 months

Cascade Stream Water Pitcher

40 gallons

Every 2 months

Metro Pitcher with Longlast+ Filter

120 gallons

Every 6 months

Source: Brita

What Does Brita Filter Out?

There are many types of Brita products on the market, and each one's ability to filter certain materials will vary, so it's important to check the NSF-certification. According to Brita, certain systems will filter the following:

  • Asbestos
  • Benzene
  • Cadmium
  • Chlorine
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Zinc

Some people have concerns that filtering water will remove fluoride, a water additive that promotes strong teeth. According to its manufacturers, Brita retains a healthy level of fluoride in the filtered water.

Lead contamination is often a primary concern when it comes to drinking tap water, according to the Lead Education and Abatement Design Group. So, do Brita filters remove lead?

Research has found that Brita's filtering systems consistently filtered 80 percent or more of both lead and copper, according to the Lead Education and Abatement Design Group. When used properly, Brita filters meet regulatory guidelines.

Both BritaFaucet Systems and Brita Longlast+ Filters help to reduce 99 percent of lead present in tap water, according to Brita. "If your household water source contains levels of lead that are above the EPA's maximum level, these Brita filters can be used to provide you with safer water for drinking and cooking," the brand's website reads.

How to Choose a Water Filter

There are several factors to take into consideration when buying a water filtration system.

It's important to find out which kinds of contaminants your water contains before choosing a filter, according to Consumer Reports. If your main concern is taste, some models are designed specifically to improve the flavor of your H2O.

If contaminants are a concern, however, you'll need to choose a model that meets your needs.

If you use a public water system, contact your supplier to inquire about water testing results. The EPA also lists certified water testing labs by state. If you get water from a well, the CDC recommends contacting your local health department for assistance in locating an agency qualified to test your well water. Local health departments can often test well water free of charge as well, according to the EPA.

Brita also recommends determining water quality before purchasing a water filtration system. Once you are aware of the materials and chemicals in your drinking water, you will be in a better position to purchase the best system for your needs.

Bonus Benefits of Water Filters

Drinking water regularly has many health benefits. Water filters can make water taste better, which may make you more likely to drink it.

Water filters can also benefit the environment by reducing the amount of plastic bottles used and discarded. When you switch to a filtration system, you can replace up to 1,800 single-use plastic bottles per year, according to Brita.

The brand has partnered with Terracycle, a global leader in recycling, to keep Brita products out of landfills. The program helps people recycle Brita filters, pitchers, dispensers, bottles, faucet systems and packaging.

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