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how to change refrigerator water filter

If you haven't changed your refrigerator water filter in a few months, a year, or several years, you may be wondering when you should replace it. Maybe your water still tastes fine, so you're questioning if changing your fridge filter is even necessary. Just because your water tastes fresh, does not mean it is. Many contaminants are tasteless. 

A family of four who use their water dispenser and ice machine often should get a new filter every six months; whereas, a couple without children may only need to replace it once a year. If you haven’t replaced your fridge filter in several years, you’re not drinking filtered water but something else entirely.

Buying a replacement refrigerator filter from the original manufacturer can be expensive. Aftermarket refrigerator filters cost less but sometimes at the risk of quality. Changing your refrigerator water filter is crucial, so we'll help you understand the language of the replacement filter market to find the best fit for your refrigerator and budget. 

What to know before buying a refrigerator filter:

1. How a fridge filter works ⌄

2. Why change your fridge filter ⌄

3. OEM vs. aftermarket filters ⌄

4. How to install a fridge filter ⌄

How a refrigerator water filter works

Most refrigerator filters are designed to remove bad tastes and odors using a combination of sediment and carbon filtration. Refrigerator filters contain a carbon block core wrapped in a material like polypropylene. Water flows mechanically through the outer material to remove debris and suspended solids. Other unwanted particles cling the surface of the carbon block.

Contaminants in water adhere to the carbon in a refrigerator filter through a process called adsorption. They don't soak into the surface (absorption) of the carbon but adhere to a spot within carbon's enormous surface area (adsorption).  

Learn more about how activated carbon filters work.

What a refrigerator water filter removes

Water travels through miles of underground pipes before ever reaching your home or business. Along the way, it may collect lead from old pipes, agricultural runoff, and other harmful compounds. 

Most fridge filters are designed to remove three major contaminants: lead, chlorine, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some are rated to remove cysts and chloramine as well.

what a refrigerator water filter removesLead

Until the twentieth century, lead was considered harmless and useful in the production of paint, pottery, and plumbing pipes. 50% of solder used for plumbing prior to 1986 contained lead. Because water is a great solvent, it collects lead from old pipes and carries them to your faucet. A building constructed before The Safe Water Drinking Act probably has lead pipes and lead soldered copper and fixtures that could leach into your water.

Because lead is toxic, the EPA sets the maximum contaminant level for lead in drinking water at zero. Ingesting lead leads to reproductive problems, premature birth, and brain, hearing, heart, and kidney damage. See a full list of the health effects of lead from the EPA.

Chlorine

Chlorine disinfects drinking water and has virtually eliminated waterborne diseases like typhoid and dysentery. But it also ruins the flavor of your water. Carbon fridge filters are great giving chlorine-treated drinking water a fresh taste. 

Chloramines are a combination of chlorine and ammonia that municipalities use to reduce the formation of harmful disinfection by products such as trihalomethane. Few studies on the health effects of chloramines have been conducted, and the results of ones that have are unclear. Fridge filters with catalytic carbon remove chlorine and chloramines by separating the chlorine from the ammonia and converting the chlorine into chloride. 

VOCs

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are harmful chemicals like herbicides, pesticides, or insecticides. Exposure to VOCs comes primarily from air pollution, paints, preservatives, but they can enter drinking water through agricultural runoff or industrial waste. Many VOCs are carcinogenic or cause liver, kidney, and reproductive problems. 

Are refrigerator water filters necessary?

New refrigerator filters provide clean water, reduce contaminants, and prevent bacteria from getting in your water. However, the carbon has limited capacity. The longer you wait to change your filter, the worse your water gets.

Here's what happens if you don't change your refrigerator water filter:

  1. Your filter clogs. It reaches a point where it will no longer filter because it’s packed with dirt and debris. You know it’s past time to change your filter when water stops flowing out.
  2. Carbon reaches maximum capacity. Water continues to flow through the filter even if the surface area is full, but the water carries contaminants along with it. Imagine going to a mall at Christmas. After driving up and down rows of cars and finding no place to park, you get back on the road and head somewhere else. Similarly, when all the spaces in an old carbon filter are taken, particles accumulate or pass through the filter.
  3. Your filter grows bacteria. A loaded carbon filter collects particles that living organisms feed off of and becomes a campground for bacteria.

Can old refrigerator water make you sick?

Refrigerator filters are intended to work on already micro-biologically safe water. City water has already been chemically treated for viruses and pathogens. But if you continue to use a filter past a year, your tap water could be enhanced with all of the contaminants previously blocked. An old filter becomes prime living quarters for living organisms that could enter your digestive tract or gastrointestinal tract and cause flu-like symptoms.

How often should you replace your refrigerator water filter?

Refrigerator filters should be replaced every 6 months. Never leave a filter in place longer than a year. The longer you use a carbon filter beyond its maximum capacity, the more harmful your water could become.

Are refrigerator water filters effective?

Refrigerator filters are effective at what they're designed to do. They are excellent at chlorine taste, odor, and sediment reduction. They will not soften water, remove iron, or prevent health hazards in untreated water. If your water comes from a well, then you're responsible for its safety and need more than a fridge filter to treat your water. Well water typically requires whole house water filtration, including some type of bacteria treatment.

Learn how a UV system deactivates bacteria or how to install a well water system.

Finding the best replacement refrigerator filter

 When it comes time to change your refrigerator filter, you have two purchase options:

OEM replacement filters: name-brand filters from the original manufacturer

Aftermarket replacement filters: generic or off-brand filters

OEM vs aftermarket refrigerator water filters

Whenever you're shopping for a new refrigerator water filter, purchasing one from the original manufacturer (OEM) is a safe, easy option. Just know that OEM filters could cost $50 or more. If you're looking for a more affordable filter, then you may want to purchase an aftermarket filter compatible with your refrigerator style.

OEM refrigerator filters

Advantages

  • Simple search
  • Expected quality performance
  • NSF certified

Disadvantages

  • More expensive

Aftermarket refrigerator filters

Advantages

  • Cheaper
  • Quality compatible options

Disadvantages

  • Risk of lower performance
  • May or may not be NSF certified
 Brand Aftermarket Filter Our Price OEM Price
LG LG LT700P $21.95 $49.99
Maytag UKF7003 $22.95 $49.99
Samsung DA2900020B $22.47 $49.99
GE GE MWF $29.95 $49.99
Kenmore LG LT700P $21.95 $49.99

Shop discounted OEM refrigerator filters by brand:

Comparing aftermarket fridge filters

Each style of refrigerator matches with one OEM filter and a few different aftermarket refrigerator filters. Some aftermarket filters are designed with high standards for quality, and others are not. Once you locate the model of your refrigerator or filter part number, finding the best aftermarket refrigerator filter gets tricky. Here's what to consider before making your final decision:

Filter micron rating

The carbon block in a fridge filter is often wrapped in a material with small pores that stop sediment and other particles from flowing through. The size of the pores is measured in microns. The smaller the pore size, the finer the particles blocked and the better the filter. Refrigerator filters come in class I, II, or III with different micron ratings.

  • Class I: 0.5- 1 micron (the most particulate removed)
  • Class II: 1- 5 microns
  • Class III: 5- 15 microns

Nominal vs absolute rating

A refrigerator filter may claim to have an absolute 0.5 micron rating. This means the filter pore size is exactly 0.5 micron-- nothing larger will pass through. If a 0.5 micron size is described as "nominal," then the pores are roughly that size. Look for filters with absolute ratings for the greatest contaminant reduction. 

Certifications

If a fridge filter is NSF certified, then it meets certain standards set by NSF International. The two most common NSF ratings for fridge filters are:

NSF 42: Filter meets criteria for material safety and structural integrity.

NSF 53: Filter meets criteria for contaminant reduction.

Some aftermarket filters are certified by other third-party organizations. Sometimes these testing laboratories follow the NSF testing protocol, other times, they don't. Use caution when purchasing a refrigerator filter without valid third party lab using NSF testing protocol.

 Contaminant Reduction Neo-Pure Tier1 Waterdrop Refresh Aquacrest Excelpure Swift Green Aquarius
Sediment Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Turbidity Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Sand Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Chlorine taste Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Silt Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Rust Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Asbestos 99.99% Y N N N N N N N
Lead (8.5 pH) 99.99% Y N N N N N N N
Mercury (8.5 pH) 99.99% Y N N N N N N N
Cysts 99.99% Y N N N N N N N
Benzene 99.99% Y N N N N N N N
Particulates 99% Y N N N N N N N
Manufactured in China N Y Y Y Y Y N N

The Neo-Pure refrigerator filters are part of our own line of compatible replacement filters. They are certified to NSF 42 and designed and tested in an independent laboratory according to NSF protocol. Here's how the performance of a Neo-Pure filter compares to a Kenmore refrigerator filter:

Kenmore replacement filter

Contaminant Reduction Avg % Reduction
 Chlorine T&O 97.2%
Nominal Particulate Class 1 98.7%
Asbestos >99%
Lead (6.5 pH) >99.3%
Lead (8.5 pH) >99.3%
Mercury (6.5 pH) 96.1%
Mercury (8.5 pH) 90.1%
Cyst 99.99%

 

Neo-Pure replacement filter

Contaminant Reduction Avg % Reduction
 Chlorine T&O 97.6%
Nominal Particulate Class 1 98.7%
Asbestos >99%
Lead (6.5 pH) >94%
Lead (8.5 pH) >94%
Mercury (6.5 pH) 96.1%
Mercury (8.5 pH) 99.99%
Cyst 99.99%

 

Watch this Neo-Pure video to learn more about the brand.

Is replacing your refrigerator water filter worth it?

Seventy percent of your body is made up of water. If the water you’re drinking is not good quality, then your body is going to suffer. Grabbing a plastic water bottle on the go is certainly convenient, but filling a reusable bottle with filtered refrigerator water is friendly to the environment. Using two refrigerator filters a year conserves around 3,000 bottles of water, saves you $600 a year, and reduces plastic pollution.

How much does a refrigerator water filter cost?

Let’s compare changing your filter with changing the oil in your car.

Cost of replacing refrigerator filters: The price of refrigerator filters varies. Aftermarket filters cost around $30, which means purchasing a filter every 6 months would cost $60 per year. OEM filters cost around $50, totaling $100 per year.

Cost of changing oil: Every 3000 miles or so, a car needs new oil to ensure the longevity of the engine and reduce costly repairs. 4 oil changes per year would cost approximately $140.

Changing your oil is necessary for your car to run, and drinking clean water is just as important for your health.

How to replace a refrigerator water filter

How you change your filter depends on the design of the refrigerator. A refrigerator filter inserts into a receiver. Receivers are located in the back corner, on the lower base grille, or inside of an opening like a mailbox at the top of the fridge.

How to replace your refrigerator water filter

How to replace the filter in a Kenmore Elite refrigerator

Location: Upper left corner

  1. Place a towel under the filter to absorb water. 
  2. Turn the filter to the left to unlock.
  3. Remove the filter.
  4. Insert the new filter into the filter holder.
  5. Turn to the right to lock in place.
  6. Hold down the filter change indicator button to reset. 
  7. Let water run into a container for 5 min to flush. 

How to replace the filter in a Whirlpool refrigerator water filter:

Location: Front base grille

  1. Locate the filter and rotate the cap counter clockwise.
  2. Turn to the left to remove the filter. 
  3. Pull the filter out.
  4. Slide the cap off the end of the cartridge and do not discard.
  5. Remove new filter from packaging and remove the over from the O-rings.
  6. Slide the cap onto the new filter. 
  7. Insert the filter into the grille.
  8. Rotate counterclockwise to lock in place.

How to replace the filter in an LG french door refrigerator:

Location: Top left corner

  1. Locate shut-off valve behind the fridge.
  2. Turn to the right to shut off the water. 
  3. Dispense remaining water from fridge.
  4. Place a towel under the filter to absorb excess water.
  5. Locate the filter holder and press the sides to open.
  6. Pivot the filter downward to remove it.
  7. Align the tabs of the new filter with those on the filter holder.
  8. Press and pivot filter upward to insert.
  9. Close the filter holder and turn the water back on.
  10. Hold down the indicator light to reset.
  11. Run water into container for 5 min. to flush the filter.

How to replace the filter in a Samsung refrigerator filter:

Location: Back right corner

  1. Grab the base of the filter.
  2. Twist to the left to unlock. 
  3. Remove safety seal on new filter.
  4. Line the filter up with the filter holder.
  5. Turn to the right to lock in place.

Don't see a filter replacement video for your style of refrigerator? Visit our YouTube channel for more tutorials.


7 comments

  • Great question, Christine! If your ice maker doesn’t get water, or if the flow rate to fill the ice tray is so slow that it freezes in the inlet, then the ice maker will not make ice. In both cases, the filter is either not fully engaged to open the valve all the way or it’s blocked or clogged.

    John Woodard, Master Water Specialist on

  • Can water filter keep ice from making

    Christine Angelle on

  • That’s great to hear, Jen! Happy we could help :).

    John Woodard, Master Water Specialist on

  • Super helpful article! I’ve been trying to convince my boyfriend that we need to change it and he kept saying “it’s fine”, this article changed his mind :)!

    Jen on

  • If you fall to change your water filter will effect our damage the service of your Ice maker

    Bobby Johnson on

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