Point-of-use (POU) gravity-driven household water purifiers have been proven to be a simple, low-cost and effective intervention for reducing the impact of waterborne diseases in developing countries. The goal of this study was to compare commonly used water disinfectants for their feasibility of adoption in low-cost POU water purifiers. The potency of each candidate disinfectant was evaluated by conducting a batch disinfection study for estimating the concentration of disinfectant needed to inactivate a given concentration of the bacterial strain Escherichia coli ATCC 11229. Based on the concentration of disinfectant required, the size, weight and cost of a model purifier employing that disinfectant were estimated. Model purifiers based on different disinfectants were compared and disinfectants which resulted in the most safe, compact and inexpensive purifiers were identified. Purifiers based on bromine, tincture iodine, calcium hypochlorite and sodium dichloroisocyanurate were found to be most efficient, cost effective and compact with replacement parts costing US$3.60–6.00 for every 3,000 L of water purified and are thus expected to present the most attractive value proposition to end users.