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5 Best Activated Carbon Water Filters (2023 Edition)

Scott Winfield
Written by Scott Winfield
Last Updated on

Activated carbon filters are a very popular water treatment option for many reasons. They’re very effective at removing unpleasant tastes and odors, which significantly improves the taste of the water you drink, and are used in many water different filtration units.

The best activated carbon water filter for is the Springwell CF1, which uses catalytic carbon & KDF media to provide 1,000,000 gallons of filtered, contaminant-free water.

Best Carbon Water Filter:

1. Springwell CF1 Whole House Activated Carbon Filtration System

Springwell CF1
  • Capacity: 1,000,000 gallons
  • Price: $981.79
  • Warranty: Lifetime warranty on tanks and valves
Pros
  • Very affordable price for the size
  • 6-month money-back guarantee
  • Effective 4-stage filtration process
Cons
  • The tank is very tall and needs a lot of space

The Springwell is a whole-house filtration system designed to filter and provide water for up to 3 bathrooms. Its capacity results from the 9 GPM flow rate and the 4-stage filtration process removing water contaminants quickly and effectively.

Springwell’s 4-stage filtration process includes:

  1. The flex bed of the filter. While it doesn’t involve filtration, the flex bed’s job is to channel the water through the filtration media increasing contact time and the filter’s effectiveness.
  2. The KDF bed comes next, using a copper/zinc alloy to remove chlorine
  3. The catalytic carbon bed removes organic contaminants from the water
  4. Finally, the 5-micron sediment filter removes any dirt, soil, or other debris from the water

This filtration system removes most water contaminants, from small dirt particles to organic contaminants like chlorine, chloramine, haloacetic acids, PFOA, PFAS, PFOS, and many other pollutants. It’s also very effective at removing herbicides and pesticides.

Springwell CF1 Whole House Filter
Springwell CF1 Whole House Filter

While the price tag seems steep, this unit is still conservatively priced for a whole-house unit. A fact that becomes more obvious when you consider that the Aquasana is another whole-house model with a slightly higher flow rate that costs twice as much as the Springwell.

With the Springwell system, you also get a very large return window of 6 months. If the filter isn’t performing as well as you hoped for, or if there’s an issue, you can return it at any point during the 180 days, and you’ll get your money back (as long as you haven’t damaged it, of course).

The Springwell also comes with other optional filtration systems. These add-ons significantly increase the unit’s price, but they’re designed to attach to the tank easily and eliminate contaminants that the carbon filter can’t handle.

Finally, the Springwell whole house filter also tops our chart of high-quality water filters made in USA.


2. Aquasana Rhino Carbon Filter Water System

Aquasana Rhino Whole House Filter
  • Capacity: 1,000,000 gallons
  • Price: $1,998
  • Warranty: 10-year limited warranty
Pros
  • Very high flow rate
  • Easy to install
  • Comes with a pre-filter that prevents sediment from going into the main tank
Cons
  • Very expensive

The Aquasana Rhino has a filter life of 1,000,000 gallons, which means that it will last for roughly 10 years before you need to replace it. This time frame makes the 10-year warranty ideal since you’ll have coverage for the entire filter’s long lifetime.

This unit has a pre-filter and a main tank that houses the activated carbon filter. The pre-filter uses a small-grain mesh eliminating soil and dirt fragments, so the main tank doesn’t get clogged.

As for the main tank, it uses activated carbon material to absorb unpleasant tastes and smells from your water, as well as organic chemicals like chlorine, herbicides, and pesticides.

This Aquasana Rhino has a single input and output valve, making it incredibly easy to install and attach any additional systems to the main tank.

While we’re on the topic of additional systems, this model comes with a salt-free conditioner that removes hard minerals from your water and a UV filter that kills the organic chemicals that might pass the carbon filter.

The downside of this model is obviously the extremely high price. Paying nearly $2,000 for a filtration unit is pretty steep, even for whole-house models. Still, the Aquasana Rhino makes up for it with the 11.8 GPM flow rate. Due to the high flow rate, the unit is the best option for houses with 4, 5, or even 6 bathrooms.


3. Clearly Filtered Activated Carbon Water Filter Pitcher

Clearly Filtered Water Pitcher
  • Capacity: 100 gallons
  • Price: $90
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty
Pros
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Removes more than 365 contaminants
  • The cheapest product on our list
Cons
  • Needs to be manually loaded and maintained

The Clearly Filtered Pitcher has several notable strengths; the low price tag being one of the most attractive features of this device. Its portability is a close second.

The Clearly Filtered is an excellent option for people that aren’t too sure about whether or not they want to use an activated carbon filter regularly. You don’t need to invest too much money in it; it can be placed virtually anywhere in your kitchen without taking up any space or getting in your way.

On top of that, you also don’t need to worry about using a complicated filter since this pitcher is incredibly simple. You just need to load the reservoir with water, and the filter in the middle will do the rest. When you need to replace the filter, you just need to unscrew it from the reservoir and place a new one.

It’s also worth mentioning that you’ll get a 3–day money-back guarantee allowing you to try out the product and return it if there’s a problem.

The filter complies with NSF standards 42, 53, 401 & 473, meaning it removes lead, BPA, PFOAs, hormones, fluoride, and over 365 common water contaminants. The three-stage filtration process uses a woven mesh screen, a granulated coconut carbon filter, and a composite shell.

The pitcher can filter 80oz at once, which is enough water for around 10 cups. Depending on how often you use the pitcher, the 100-gallon lifetime should last approximately 3 months before you need to replace it. Larger households might need to replace it every two months or less, but that’s still a decent amount of usage for such a simple device.

The only real downside to this pitcher is the cost of the replacement filters. The filters cost $55. This isn’t too steep, but it does mean the filters will more than double the initial asking price of the pitcher itself in just one year.


4. iSpring WGB32B Undersink Filter

iSpring WGB32B
  • Capacity: 100,000 gallons
  • Price: $516.99
  • Warranty: 1-year warranty
Pros
  • Straightforward installation
  • Incredible filter life
  • Three-stage filtration process
Cons
  • The warranty is very short for such an expensive device

The iSpring WGB32B is an excellent option for small homes that want the convenience of an automatic filter that you don’t need to fill yourself.

The iSpring uses a three-stage filtration process that passes the water through a sediment filter and two activated carbon filters. The sediment filter removes soil and dirt particles from the water, protecting subsequent filters from clogging.

The water is then taken into the second casing, passing through a carbon media that absorbs odors, chlorine, and organic chemicals. The third casing holds the second carbon filter that repeats the procedure, ensuring no contaminants pass through.

The 5-micron sediment filter and the two CTO coconut shell carbon block filters effectively remove common water contaminants. And, because three filters share the load, the unit has an impressive year-long filter life.

The three casings have different filters inside, which collectively cost $119.99 to replace. While this might seem like a lot, keep in mind that they can filter 100,000 gallons before you need to replace them, which for most people is around a year of use. So not only are these filters affordable, but they’re a downright bargain.

Additionally, installation is a breeze. All you need to do to install this unit is to attach it under your sink by the two visible screw holes. Once you’ve done that, connect the unit to the water line that leads to the faucet, and you’ll get filtered water in your kitchen. It takes up virtually no space, it doesn’t require maintenance, and your work consists of replacing the filters once a year.

The only drawback of this unit is its short warranty. You still have a year-long warranty, but that’s not much when you consider the filter’s price.


5. APEX EXPRT MR-2050

APEX EXPRT MR-2050
  • Capacity: 750 gallons
  • Price: $113.95
  • Warranty: 1-year warranty
Pros
  • Very affordable
  • Incredibly simple installation
  • Removes impurities and increases the quality of your drinking water
Cons
  • Only filters the water that leads to one sink in your home

This countertop filter is a great addition to any kitchen thanks to its compact size and effective filters. This unit uses a carbon block filter that absorbs unpleasant odors and tastes from the water, as well as many common organic contaminants like fluoride or chlorine.

Aside from the activated carbon filter, the pitcher also comes with a 5-stage alkaline filtration process that improves the pH value and quality of water by adding magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

The APEX is the second cheapest unit on our list, but even if the Clearly Filtered Pitcher is slightly more cost-effective, the extra $13.95 you’ll need to spend is well worth it.

Both filters are easy to attach and remove since they’re located right on top of the unit –  you only need to twist them, and they’ll come off. The filters cost $54,95 if you’re buying it as part of a package deal or $42,75 if you’re only replacing the activated carbon block cartridge.

While this might seem like a lot of money for a single filter replacement, most similarly priced filters only manage to filter around 100 gallons before they need to be replaced, so we believe that $50 for 750 gallons is a pretty good deal.

This unit is very compact, so it’s easy to find a spot for it on your kitchen counter. The simple installation also means that anyone will be able to connect it to their faucet water pipe with hardly any hassle.

The APEX comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, meaning you have a month to return the filter if unsatisfied with the performance.

In conclusion, this is a great activated carbon filter for your kitchen and an excellent option for someone who doesn’t want to pay too much for a filter but doesn’t want to keep manually refilling a pitcher filter.

How We Reviewed the Best Activated Carbon Water Filter

The three major specifications that we took into account when writing our list of the best activated carbon filters are capacity, price, and warranty.

Capacity

Capacity is always an important factor to consider when it comes to filters. It tells you how often you need to replace the filters, which is vital if the filters in question are expensive.

This doesn’t apply to whole-house models like the Springwell and the Aquasana since they don’t have replaceable filters. Still, the 1,000,000-gallon capacity ensures they can filter water for at least 10 years before you need to replace the devices themselves.

As for the other filters, buying a unit based on its filter life is a good start.

Carbon Water FilterCapacity
Springwell CF11,000,000 gallons
Aquasana Rhino1,000,000 gallons
iSpring WGB32B100,000 gallons
Clearly Filtered Pitcher100 gallons
APEX EXPRT MR-2050750 gallons

Price

Price always plays a huge role when purchasing any appliance or device. We understand that you want a good deal on your purchase (everyone does), but you should always prioritize your needs over a bargain.

The smaller units are tempting since they’re way cheaper than the larger models, but they also have a shorter filter life and low capacity. Together, these two characteristics make smaller units unsuitable for houses with more than 2 or 3 bathrooms (some are only designed to handle sinks).

Carbon Water FilterPrice
Springwell CF1$981.79
Aquasana Rhino$1,998
iSpring WGB32B$516.99
Clearly Filtered Pitcher$90
APEX EXPRT MR-2050$113.95

Warranty

The warranty is always important, especially if the device in question is expensive. Luckily, all the filters on our list have appropriate coverage.

The APEX has a more limited warranty since it’s cheaper, while the more expensive Springwell has lifetime coverage on both tanks and valves.

The Aquasana has a 10-year warranty, which is about the same as the estimated lifetime of the filter.

The Clearly Filtered Pitcher is another unit with an outstanding lifetime warranty, despite its low price.

The iSpring is the only flop in this aspect since it only has a 1-year warranty, which isn’t much for a device that exceeds the $500 price point.

Carbon Water FilterWarranty
Springwell CF1Lifetime warranty on tanks and valves
Aquasana Rhino10-year limited warranty
iSpring WGB32B1-year warranty
Clearly Filtered PitcherLimited lifetime warranty
APEX EXPRT MR-20501-year warranty

What is an Activated Carbon Filter?

Activated Carbon filters work by absorbing contaminants. The water passes through the carbon material, and any pollutants that are present gets absorbed while the water passes through the system.

This filtration process is straightforward and very effective at removing chemicals like chlorine and unpleasant tastes and odors from your water.

Activated carbon filters use the same principle, but the material through which the water passes is slightly different. Activated carbon is essentially a form of carbon altered to be more porous.

Increasing the porosity of the carbon granules increases the surface area that devices use to absorb contaminants from the water, making them more effective at removing pollutants.

How Does Activated Carbon Work?

Carbon has an attractive force. It’s not noticeable on a large scale, but at the molecular level, the surface of the carbon granules has a gravitational field attracting certain molecules toward it.

Water molecules also have an attractive force, which is why contaminants latch onto them. Because the carbon material has a stronger pull than the water, the pollutants are attracted and absorbed into the carbon.

In simpler terms, carbon works as a magnet attracting certain contaminants when they pass close. The water passes into and through the filter and leaves behind particles causing unpleasant odors, tastes, and organic pollutants.

Advantages of Activated Carbon Filters

Activated carbon filters come in many shapes and sizes. As you can tell from our list, there’s no shortage of activated carbon media filters. You can easily find something that fits your needs depending on your budget, the available space in your kitchen or home, or the contaminant types and levels in your water.

This filtration medium is a great way to eliminate many organic contaminants from your water supply, like chlorine, pesticides, paint thinners, and other artificial chemicals.

Activated carbon is also particularly effective at absorbing smells and tastes from your water, making your water as clear and clean as possible.

Additionally, the filter is also pretty useful when it comes to removing lead.

Disadvantages of Activated Carbon Filters

One of the biggest disadvantages of activated carbon is that it can’t handle minerals. This makes these filters a less-than-ideal option for areas with high concentrations of calcium and magnesium in the water. In these situations, you’d be much better off getting a water softener to take care of the hard water.

Another issue is that activated carbon filters can’t remove iron or nitrates from the water. While this might not sound like a problem, these are two of the most common water contaminants.

The fact that an activated carbon filter can’t remove two of the most common pollutants means that it often needs to be paired up with another filter, like a reverse osmosis system or UV light system, so it can make up for the inherent flaws in the carbon media filtration process.

Frequently Asked Questions

These are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding activated carbon filters.

What is the cheapest activated carbon filter?

The cheapest activated carbon filter we could find is the Clearly Filtered Pitcher, with a price tag of $90. However, we’d argue that the APEX EXPRT MR-2050, which comes at $113.95, is the more cost-effective option.

While the initial price of the Clearly Filtered Pitcher is lower, the replacement filter will cost you $55, which is more than half the price of the pitcher itself.

On the other hand, the APEX has a negligibly higher initial price, and the replacement filters will set you back $54.95. And before you get confused, the APEX filters have a 750-gallon capacity, while the Clearly Filtered Pitcher filter has only 100-gallon capacity.
Therefore, APEX is a better option since you’ll spend around $20 more on the purchase but save much more on filter replacements.

What is the average price of an activated carbon filter?

The average price of an activated carbon filter will vary depending on the size of the unit.
Countertop models, under-sink units, and pitchers cost between $50 and $500. The exact price will depend on the tank’s size, the filters’ effectiveness, and the features it offers. However, they generally stay in this price range.

Large units providing filtered water for the entire house usually start at around $1,000 and go as high as $3,000. Some models cost more, but they typically come with additional filtration systems besides the activated carbon filters, so the high price is due to a second tank or extra systems.

What’s the difference between a carbon block and granular carbon?

As the name suggests, granular carbon filters are made out of granules of carbon packed into a filter casing, whereas carbon blocks are essentially compressed blocks of powder.
While both filters are made of the same material and remove the same contaminants, carbon blocks are the more effective filtration option.

This is because the blocks have a tighter concentration of carbon in a surface area. To put it another way, if you take two identically sized filters, but one is a carbon block and the other is granular carbon, the block will have a much larger concentration of carbon even though the filter size is the same.

Granular carbon is still a very effective filter, but because there’s more space for water to pass through, it won’t absorb as many contaminants as the more tightly packed carbon block.

What Does Activated Carbon Remove?

According to the NSF International and the Environmental Protection Agency, carbon filters are ranked as an NSF/ANSI 53 system.

In their words, activated carbon filters attract and absorb “liquid, gas and dissolved/suspended matter.” In simpler terms, this means that carbon filters are effective at removing unpleasant smells and tastes from the water and some organic contaminants.

These organic contaminants include chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, benzene, organic arsenic complexes, and more.

However, these filters are much less effective at removing other common water contaminants that don’t include carbon or hydrogen molecules in their structure. Most notably, carbon filters aren’t able to get rid of nitrates from your water, and they’re practically useless when it comes to iron or other minerals found in hard water.

Conclusion

The Springwell CF1 is the best unit overall because it’s a whole-house unit with a very effective filtration process that’s very reasonably priced.

The Aquasana Rhino has the same 1,000,000-gallon capacity as the Springwell but a much higher flow rate making it a much better option for larger houses with up to 6 bathrooms.

The iSpring WGB32B is an ideal choice for anyone that wants to have their drinking water filtered with an activated carbon filter but doesn’t want to spend money on a whole house system.

The Clearly Filtered Pitcher is the simplest filter to use, as well as the cheapest. It’s an excellent option for anyone that wants to try out the benefit of an activated carbon filter without having to install anything.

The APEX EXPRT MR-2050 is another cost-effective option that doesn’t take up much space but can give you all the benefits of an activated carbon filter. It also has a much better filter life than the pitcher, so it’s more economical in the long run.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
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