What Do Refrigerator Water Filters Remove?

By Nick Evans •  Last Updated: 08/14/23 •  10 min read

If you own a refrigerator, it’s pretty common to drink directly from its dispenser. After all, we all trust the filters that our fridge uses to clean our drinkable water. However, have you ever wondered what refrigerator water filters remove exactly? 

In this article, we answer your questions:

  • What are refrigerator water filters?
  • How Do Refrigerator Water Filters Work?
  • How to Install a New Refrigerator Water Filter?
  • Are Refrigerator Water Filters Efficient? 
  • Do Refrigerator Water Filters Remove Fluoride?
  • Do Refrigerator Water Filters Remove Minerals? 
  • Do Refrigerator Water Filters Remove Bacteria?
  • Do Refrigerator Water Filters Remove Chlorine?
what do refrigerator water filters remove

What Are Refrigerator Water Filters?

what do refrigerator water filters remove

A refrigerator water filter is a tool that purifies drinking water that is dispensed from the refrigerator. Most refrigerator filters have at least an NSF 42 certification, which translates to removing only chlorine from water. Getting rid of chlorine is great since most drinking water is treated with it. Moreover, filtering chlorine away helps improve the water’s taste and smell. 

However, many pollutants are just too large for a refrigerator water filter to remove. Lead and chromium-6 are two of the most common toxins on that list. For example, there are still some places in the U.S where there are cases of lead contamination.

More than 286 million U.S. residents get their drinking water from their EPA-sanctioned community water systems. These facilities have purification standards that follow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Safe Water Drinking Act guidelines.  

Every year, more than 30 million Americans still get sick after drinking contaminated water, says a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP).

Some of the contaminants and impurities that may cause such diseases include:

One of the most common reasons people look into filters, according to the CDCP, is that they don’t like the taste of their water. When you drink tap water, you can get a taste of the chemicals that keep it clean. Many of the most famous refrigerator and pitcher filters are designed to improve the taste because it’s such a common complaint.

Recommended >> What Happens If You Don’t Replace Your Fridge Water Filter?

What Do Refrigerator Water Filters Remove?

Refrigerator water filters are designed to effectively remove a variety of contaminants and impurities from your water, including:

How Do Refrigerator Water Filters Work?

what do refrigerator water filters remove
Water filter” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Timmy

Most water filter systems in your fridge use activated carbon technology which works in three ways:

  1. Initially, the broad internal surface area traps sediments and contaminants physically.
  2. When water moves through, activated carbon serves as a trap for compounds like lead and volatile organic compounds.
  3. Finally, chemical reactions inside the filter reduce chemicals such as chlorine when they come into contact with it.

Size and how long the water stays in contact with the filter medium are two factors that decide how efficient activated charcoal filters are at removing pollutants. The amount of filtration media in small filtration systems, such as built-in refrigerator filters, is limited by necessity. 

In comparison to the much larger filter systems used in point-of-entry and countertop filtration systems, the filter’s small size means water spends a limited amount of time in contact with the carbon.

To ensure that water filters are working properly, they should be replaced every six months. The safest way to ensure that your water filter system functions properly and that your water filter is clean is to replace it regularly.

Below are some of our recommended refrigerator water filter replacements for common models.

Samsung Compatible
Samsung Refrigerator Water Filter Replacement

Replacement for DA29-00020A/B, HAF-CIN/EXP, RF28HFEDBSR, RF263BEAESR, RF263TEAESG, RF28HDEDBSR, HAF-CIN, RF4287HARS, RF4267HARS, DA97-08006A

03/07/2024 11:12 am GMT
Samsung Compatible
ICEPURE Refrigerator Water Filter Replacement
$27.99 ($14.00 / Count)

Samsung models RF28HFEDBSR, RF263BEAESR, HAF-CIN, RF263BEAESR, DA97-08006A, RF261BEAESR, DA29-00020A, RF28JBEDBSG, 46-9101,

03/08/2024 04:57 am GMT
GE Compatible
GE RPWFE Refrigerator Water Filter

This works with any refrigerator that currently uses GE RPWF or RPWFE filters. Also compatible with select GE french-door refrigerators.

03/06/2024 10:26 am GMT

When Should You Install a New Fridge Water Filter?

Installing a new refrigerator water filter is essential to maintaining optimal water quality and ensuring the effective removal of contaminants. The general guideline for when to install a new refrigerator water filter is approximately every six months. However, several factors can influence the frequency of replacement:

  1. Usage: If your household consumes a higher volume of water, the filter may need replacement more often than every six months.
  2. Water Quality: If your tap water contains higher levels of impurities, you might need to replace the filter more frequently to maintain effective filtration.
  3. Manufacturer Recommendations: Check your refrigerator’s user manual for specific recommendations from the manufacturer regarding filter replacement intervals.
  4. Filter Indicator: Many modern refrigerators are equipped with filter change indicators that signal when it’s time for a replacement. Pay attention to these indicators and follow their guidance.
  5. Changes in Water Taste or Odor: If you notice a change in the taste or odor of your water, it might be a sign that the filter is no longer effective and needs replacement.
  6. Water Flow: Reduced water flow from your refrigerator’s dispenser could indicate a clogged filter that needs replacement.
  7. Visual Inspection: If the filter appears visibly dirty or discolored, it’s a good indication that it’s time to replace it.

Regularly replacing your refrigerator water filter ensures that it continues to provide clean and safe drinking water, contributing to your health and well-being. Always follow the specific recommendations provided by your refrigerator’s manufacturer for the best results.

How to Install a New Refrigerator Water Filter?

Replacing your refrigerator water filter is very simple. Here’s how:

  1. Make sure you have the right filter number and colored cap for your refrigerator. 
  2. Remove the filter’s cap. Next, find the holder, which is usually at the base of your fridge
  3. Pop out the old filter and wipe the floor of excess water using a dry cloth.  
  4. Reapply the bottom cap to the new filter before sliding it into the holder. If you hear a click, that means that the filter is now locked in place.
  5. Next, run your dispenser to activate the filter. If you hear a loud air pressure sound, that’s pretty normal. 

Remember to replace your refrigerator water filter at least once every six months to ensure you are getting clean water out of your fridge

Are Refrigerator Water Filters Efficient? 

Activated carbon is used as the filtration medium in most built-in refrigerator filters. Such filters operate by causing pollutants to adhere to the filtration medium, a process known as adsorption. Since activated carbon has so many nooks and crannies, it has a wide surface area for adsorption.

Most filters have NSF certification that they can minimize pollutants like chlorine and other small sediments. The amount depends on a variety of factors, including the amount of toxins in your water. Filters also need to be regularly replaced for them to effectively eliminate these pollutants. 

One last point to remember with built-in refrigerator filter systems is the cost of filter replacement. Since activated charcoal filters absorb chemicals, they inevitably clog up and need to be replaced. 

This happens for both a whole house and a limited fridge filter, with one notable exception. Since a whole house filter is larger, you can replace it less often, resulting in less hassle, more flexibility, and less financial strain on your wallet, as well as a more efficient water filtration solution. 

Do Refrigerator Water Filters Remove Fluoride?

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

You won’t be able to flush out toxins like arsenic, fluoride, nitrate, or radium with your refrigerator’s filter. A reverse-osmosis water filtration device is currently the most common way to eliminate fluoride from your home’s drinking water.

Carbon filters, which extract compounds that impair taste and smell, are the most commonly used in refrigerators. The efficiency of a refrigerator filter is determined by the amount of time the water is in contact with the carbon. 

Refrigerator water filters perform admirably when properly handled and replaced regularly. Replace your water filter as directed by the owner’s manual for your unit, which is usually once every six months. This will ensure that your water is clean, clear, nutritious, and delicious.

Do Refrigerator Water Filters Remove Minerals? 

what do refrigerator water filters remove

Water filters are well-known for their ability to purify water and their effectiveness in eliminating unwanted contaminants, but what about safe minerals? 

Most water filters only have very limited protection against inorganic pollutants and heavy metals. Healthy minerals can be retained depending on the water filtration technology used by your water filter system. However, some water filters strip healthy minerals, while others leave them alone and only remove toxins.

In general, minerals are not removed from drinking water by activated carbon or ceramic filters. 

Do Refrigerator Water Filters Remove Bacteria?

Refrigerator water filters typically use carbon and have a 20-micron rating, which means they primarily eliminate pollutants that affect taste and smell. These filters can’t guarantee that all particles and bacteria that may be harmful to anyone who drinks the water are removed. 

The community water systems are there to purify the water until it reaches the refrigerator, but most refrigerator water filters aren’t designed to filter out such harmful pollutants. To live, waterborne bacteria need fungus and moisture, making your refrigerator water filter the ideal environment for them to flourish.

Filters that remove germs and bacteria often aren’t effective at removing chemicals, and vice versa. Reverse osmosis, ion exchange, and distillation systems, which extract chemicals from water, can also remove fluoride.

Refrigerator water filters are only designed to filter out specific pollutants, so if bacteria or particles that should have been removed from the water aren’t, your refrigerator water filter isn’t going to be able to protect you.

Do Refrigerator Water Filters Remove Chlorine?

A refrigerator water filter filters out pollutants from the water entering your fridge. It also eliminates the odors and tastes caused by chlorine and other chemicals.

Refrigerator water filters remove pollutants from water by pushing them into activated carbon within the filters. Pollutants and contaminants are trapped by carbon, which serves as a contaminant magnet.

However, there are also some dangers when you remove chlorine from your water. If you use a whole-house filter to eliminate chlorine from your water, the CDC warns that you could end up raising the number of bacteria and germs living within your plumbing.


Refrigerator water filters are great since they help out remove some of the unwanted pollutants in our drinking water. However, there are plenty of materials that they can’t remove, which can be done by other filtration devices. At the end of the day, though, drinking from filtered water from your fridge is way better than drinking directly from the tap. 

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