The lack of safe water creates a tremendous burden of diarrheal disease and other debilitating, life-threatening illnesses for people in the developing world. Point-of-use (POU) water treatment technology has emerged as an approach that empowers people and communities without access to safe water to improve water quality by treating it in the home. Several POU technologies are available, but, except for boiling, none have achieved sustained, large-scale use. Sustained use is essential if household water treatment technology (HWT) is to provide continued protection, but it is difficult to achieve. The most effective, widely promoted and used POU HWTs are critically examined according to specified criteria for performance and sustainability. Ceramic and biosand household water filters are identified as most effective according to the evaluation criteria applied and as having the greatest potential to become widely used and sustainable for improving household water quality to reduce waterborne disease and death.