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
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
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
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
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.
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).