Nothing beats an ice cold glass of crystal clear water. Whether it’s after a workout or just before bed, having access to cool, refreshing, clean water straight from your refrigerator filter is a true luxury. If you are lucky enough to have access to a refrigerator filter, it’s important to take good care of the machine. 

Many people don’t realize the importance of cleaning and maintenance and consequently, they end up with a filter that isn’t actually doing much filtering. If you’re wondering whether your refrigerator filter needs cleaning or replacing, this article will help you to troubleshoot and diagnose your current system. Hopefully, you'll be back in business soon enough.

About refrigerator water filters

When a refrigerator water filter is functioning properly, it is an amazing tool that makes your tap water 100% safe drinking water. While tap water is treated at local plants, there are still contaminants and particulates left in the water. That’s why having a sophisticated filtration system at home is crucial to you and your family’s safety.

Although the US is known for its clean tap water, there are up to 42 million cases of waterborne illness across the country every year. Installing a water filtration system is the best way to prevent contaminants from tap water entering the body and causing health problems now or down the line. Plus, refrigerator filters have a positive impact on the environment as they minimize the need and demand for bottled water.

Many people believe that once their refrigerator filter is installed they are guaranteed safe water forever. However, without regular maintenance and cleaning, these filtration system can become ineffectual and, eventually, dangerous.

Recommended general maintenance

1. Regular checks

Most manufacturers will recommend regular checks. If you check the entire system once a month for signs of mold, dirt or discoloration, you can rest assured that your water is still being filtered properly.

2. Bi-annual filter replacements

Most filters need to be replaced at least once every six months. This depends on the quality of the tap water in your area. Extra hard water tends to wear down filters a little quicker. 

Before you begin the filter replacement, ensure you have a new filter of the right make and model ready to go. If you have lost the instruction manual explaining the filter changing process, don’t panic. Most filter changes are easy and quick. Your filter will probably be connected to the fridge by either a twist cartridge or a push-button cartridge. Either twist or push the cartridge to release the filter, then insert the replacement.

After installing the new filter, run a few gallons of water into a bucket to remove any residual build-up of carbon in the machine. If the filter is also connected to an ice machine, you should dispose of the first two batches of ice after inserting a new filter.

3. Pay attention to warning lights

Modern models usually come with advanced technology that alerts you when a filter change is needed. If you notice a warning light indicating a clogged or dirty filter, be sure to heed the warning, even if six months hasn’t elapsed since the last change.

4. Keep the nozzle and tubing clean

While changing the filter is an important part of the filtration system’s maintenance, you will also need to ensure that the other components of the system remain clean and unclogged. Check the nozzle and the inner tubing for signs of debris or build-up. 

FAQs about refrigerator water filters

What happens if I do not change my refrigerator filter? 

So, what actually happens to the water itself when it’s pushed through an old filter? You may think an old filter will result in unfiltered water (the same as your regular tap water), but an old filter can actually result in water that is even more harmful than the water from your tap.

Old filters become clogged and dirty over time. All of the contaminants they keep at bay remain stuck in the filter. So, when tap water is pushed through this dirty filter, it comes into contact with even more contamination and bacteria and can result in water that is even worse than tap water.

Why do most manufacturers recommend that you replace the filter every six months?

What makes six months the optimal changing time? Six months is the average time in which a filter becomes too clogged. The amount of time can change based on a number of factors. For instance, if you have a large family and use the filter frequently, you will likely need to change the filter earlier than a couple without any children. Or, if you live in an area with particularly hard water, your filter will also have a shorter lifespan.

Can I keep hitting the reset button and be okay?

The reset button is in place to switch off the warning light indicator after you’ve changed the filter. Most refrigerators have the capacity to tell you when the filter needs changing, but they do not switch off the warning light automatically.

The reset button does not change the filter. If you hit the reset button without changing the filter, the quality of your water will not change - in fact, it will continue to get worse. Chances are, the light will come back on in a few days.

We strongly recommend heeding the warning and physically changing the filter before hitting the reset button.

Can I opt to clean the water filter out and put it back? 

Many people are tempted to simply remove the water filter, clean it and then reinsert it into the machine. While cleaning the filter may help remove some of the contaminants, it is not a safe alternative to a filter replacement in the long run. 

What do fridge filters even remove, and why does that matter?

If you’re curious about the types of dangerous contaminants that are swirling around in your tap water, here are a few examples.

  • Physical contaminants include sediment, soil and other visible residue from lakes and rivers where the water has been sourced from.
  • Chemical contaminants include nitrogen, bleach, salt, metals, and bacteria. These contaminants enter the water at the source or during distribution to your home.
  • Biological contaminants are tiny organisms called microbes that can exist in tap water. 

Although tap water has been treated, all of these contaminants can remain and, over time, result in serious health issues. You may not even notice a difference in taste when drinking filtered water, but you can rest assured that you are protecting yourself from the long term build-up of these contaminants in your body.

Can I remove the filter and go without it? Will the refrigerator still work?

It is possible to use the refrigerator tap without a filter in place. If you remove an old filter and continue to use the system without a new filter, you will be drinking refrigerated tap water. In some cases, this may be safer than continuing to use an old filter. 

If you haven’t had a chance to buy a new filter, but have already removed the old one, you can drink the tap water that comes through the system at your own risk. Of course, we strongly recommend changing the filter as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts

Refrigerator water filters can be a great addition to any household. They are an excellent investment that will keep you and your family safe, hydrated and healthy. Plus, you’ll save some money and some of the ozone by cutting back on bottled water. If you remember to replace your filter and take care of the system properly, you will enjoy many years of refreshing and healthy drinking water straight from your fridge.