H2Oy vey… water is complicated


All right, I finally got around to my official (and yet completely NOT official) water taste test. I’m going to present the results below in as organized a fashion as possible:

1) ZeroWater jug with TDS (total dissolved solids) meter

TDS reading: 000
Look: 10/10
Smell: 8/10
Taste: 6/10
Sustainability: 8/10
General comments: On the “clean” side of things, it doesn’t get much cleaner than ZeroWater‘s 000 rating, which means there are no dissolved solids whatsoever. What’s weird, though, is that I could smell a bit of plastic odour when I poured it out and there was a definite plastic aftertaste. I asked a company representative if the jug was BPA-free and he insisted it was, so at least it wasn’t leaching estrogenic hormones or anything, but after a few days of repeated tasting, I just couldn’t keep it up. Maybe I need to wash the jug with dish soap or something… who knows. Also, while the product was shipped with a fair amount of Styrofoam and plastic wrap (points docked), ZeroWater was apparently the first company to offer a recycling program for its filter cartriges (points awarded).

2) Old Brita filter with even older Brita jug

TDS reading: 147
Look: 10/10
Smell: 9/10
Taste: 9/10
Sustainability: 8/10
General comments: I’m sure if the fine people at Brita stumble across this post, they’re gonna be all, “Um, hello?! Could you at least have been fair and used a NEW filter?” However, I’m lazy, so the one I’ve got was the one I used, and unfortunately it’s about a year old. Still, despite its age, it managed to get rid of about forty-something parts per million of dissolved solids. Also, there was barely any smell and the taste was perfectly clean — you have to let it sit in the fridge and get a bit cold to achieve this, but hey, not bad. Now, I wasn’t sure what the BPA stats on Brita jugs were, and oddly, when I Googled “Brita jugs BPA”, my own blog post came up as the fourth hit. Yeesh. Anyway, further research seemed to conclude that they don’t leach anything, but what’s really interesting is this article, which seems to imply that the cleaner the water (ie. the lower the TDS rating), the greater chance there is of any BPA or other plastic residues attaching themselves to the water molecules — this might explain why my perfectly clean ZeroWater still tasted like the plastic jug. Finally, on the sustainability front, although I wish Brita made stainless steel containers (HELLO? BRITA? ARE YOU LISTENING?), my plastic one has lasted for years without a problem and the company is apparently going to start taking back its filters for recycling.

2) Sink-top carbon filter

TDS reading: 156
Look: 10/10
Smell: 9/10
Taste: 9/10
Sustainability: 8/10
General comments: First off, can I just complain about the ridiculously high cost of this thing? The filter system and cartridge cost a whopping $175 all together, and honestly, with a TDS rating that’s higher than my crappy old Brita filter and a taste and smell that’s certainly good but also identical to the Brita water, I really think the price tag is kind of insane. Also, I have no idea if I can recycle the cartridge. I understand that the unit is definitely BPA-free and it’s nice that the water goes in and out of it right away without sitting there, but the unit itself looks pretty ugly and I’m just not convinced it’s doing a better job. But hey, water tastes fine.

2) Good old T.O. tap water

TDS reading: 182
Look: 9/10
Smell: 7/10
Taste: 6/10
Sustainability: 10/10
General comments: I was pretty impressed with this TDS rating — for some reason, I thought it would be more in the 400-range — and of course, you can’t get more eco-friendly than drinking straight from the tap. That said, I’m not sure what the fluoride and/or chlorine content is in my city water, and while I try not to be snobby about it, the taste is just kind of gross. I tried letting it sit in the fridge in my Sigg bottle for a bit, but that didn’t really help. It’s obviously way better than most of the world’s drinking water and for that I’m thankful, but it definitely has a metallic taste.

The winner?

As much as it pains my anti-corporate and anti-petroleum soul, I’m going to have to go with Brita on this one. If they’re jugs are, in fact, BPA-free and if they do actually start recycling their filters, I think the sustainability angle is pretty covered because their products last a long time and even a beaten-up old filter still manages to accomplish a lot in terms of reducing taste and odour. The carbon system is a close second because it’s just as good with taste and smell, but I’m not completely sold until I find out whether I can recycle the filter. And finally, I have to say, as much as the plastic taste was driving me crazy when it came to the ZeroWater jug, it technically wins hands-down for most effective filtration — and, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of these TDS tests without the cool meter it comes with (which I highly recommend getting).

19 Responses to H2Oy vey… water is complicated

  1. Caro says:

    Toronto tap water really varies from area to area. I apparently have really good tap water, according to a friend who used to live four or five blocks away but would carry bottles of my tap water home.

  2. ashley. says:

    Tap water for the win!


    It doesn’t taste the best, but it’s free. 🙂

  3. gettinggreen says:

    Caro is totally right — I’ve tasted her tap water and it’s far superior. Always assumed that was just in my head (or that I was just drunkenly thinking that), but good to know.

  4. Thanks for this taste test Vanessa. Up here in Thunder Bay, ON we dip our cups directly into the streams and gulp . Based on your results, I think we’ll continue using our old Brita. I am new to blogging and have started following your blog. Keep up the good work. Thanks.

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  6. Hi Vanessa. Since spearheading the Take Back The Filter campaign, I’ve learned more than I ever thought I wanted to know about Brita filters. We are pretty psyched that Brita has partnered with Preserve to recycle the filter cartridges and that the program includes Canada!

    One thing I do know is that you should absolutely not be using your filter cartridge for a year. For several reasons. First, the particles in the filter attract pollutants until their surfaces are covered, and then they stop working. Second, and more important, the longer you use the filter, the more microbes you’ll have growing in it. Do you want to be adding bacteria and mold to your water?

    After collecting nearly 600 Brita cartridges during our campaign, I can tell you that old Brita filters are FUNKY. Especially when people did us the favor of sealing them up in Ziploc bags before putting them in the mail. Definitely change your filter as often as recommended!


  7. Dr. Chet says:

    I’m not sure that the Brita filter would take out the fluoride and chlorine you are concerned about in the city water. Consumer Reports did a good set of tests on water a few years back. You might want to check that out.

  8. Rebekka says:

    Brita filters definitely remove chlorine, but there’s no way they are removing fluoride. The only sort of filter that can remove fluoride is a reverse osmosis filter, and Brita (and all the other filters you tested) ain’t that.

  9. nyscof says:

    Fluoride chemicals are added to public water supplies in a failed effort to reduce tooth decay. Ingested fluoride delivers risks without benefits see http://www.FluorideAction.net/health

    charcoal filtration, such as Brita, does not take out fluoride. Best to call your legislators and water engineers and tell them to stop adding it in the first place.

    on a national level, you can take action to stop fluoirdation here:


  10. Rebekka says:

    Actually there’s quite a lot of good evidence that fluoride in the water prevents dental caries. See for example this study:

    Personally, I only have to look at the difference between my parents’ teeth – they grew up without fluoride – and mine and my brothers, to know that fluoride helps your teeth.

    Whether or not you want it in your drinking water is another matter – but either way, your Brita is not getting rid of it.

  11. Thank you very much for taking the time to review the ZeroWater® pitcher. We first want to assure you that there is no BPA in our pitcher or filter, so that is not the cause of the taste you describe. The answer to this question as well as others that frequently arise can be found here: http://zerowater.com/Support/FAQ.aspx

    Further, we wanted to comment about the plastic taste you discuss. As you noted, one way to alleviate this is to wash the pitcher, reservoir, and lid with soap and water and then thoroughly rinse the soap so no residue remains. If you have already tried this, are you drinking from a plastic cup or a glass? Plastic cups can impart a taste, as can glasses that contain dishwashing detergent residue. Most customers notice that the taste of their water improves after taking these rinsing steps, and they note that ZeroWater® has a crisp, clean, taste unlike any other water.

    As a final note, we agree that newer filters will usually give you the best results and recommend you change your filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


    Zero Technologies, LLC, the makers of ZeroWater® products.

  12. Mark says:

    Brita filter systems DEFINITELY grow mold. I’ve found a green/black residue in mine, and the smell is unmistakable (using Ultramax filters). Chlorine soak did not help, smell was back in days. Now trying vinegar on all parts and even through filter cartridge itself. May have to go back to plain tap water and just leave standing for a day or so to outgas chlorine.

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