What Happens If You Don’t Change Your Refrigerator Water Filter?

What is the point of the refrigerator water filter, and how often do you need to change it? If you’ve ever wondered what happens if you don’t change your refrigerator water filter, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are some of the questions we answer in this article:

  • What are the dangers of not changing my refrigerator water filter?
  • Is it really necessary to change my refrigerator water filter every 6 months?
  • Do I need a refrigerator water filter if I have reverse osmosis?
  • Does the refrigerator water filter affect the ice maker? 
What happens if you don’t change your refrigerator water filter

In short, if you drink water dispensed from your refrigerator often, you should pay attention to refrigerator water filter maintenance.

This directly affects the quality of the water you consume, which in turn directly affects your health.

Read on to learn more about refrigerator water filters. 

Dangers of not changing refrigerator water filter

Many refrigerators now have an added water dispensing function built in. Typically water filters are included in the water dispensing system. Their purpose is to remove excess contaminants such as lead or rust from the water prior to consumption.

A water filter’s purifying ability is measured in microns. The lower the micron rating, the more contaminants it can collect. In general, refrigerator water filters have a rating of 20 microns to remove most taste and smell contaminants. 

Refrigerator water filters function by filtering out contaminants and foreign particles, only allowing fresh, clean water to pass through. As time passes, the foreign objects filtered from the water accumulate and clog the filter.

A general rule of thumb you can follow is to change your refrigerator water filter every six months. If you do not change your filter, traces of dangerous bacteria such as E. coli can sneak in to your water supply. These pose a risk to your health. This is why changing your refrigerator water filter is so important.

Tap versus fridge filtered water

While tap water is relatively safe to consume without filtration, it can have too much chlorine or fluoride.

In other cases, the raw water supply has the potential to contain contaminants. Although tap water is run through a water treatment plant before piped to homes, it does have potential to contain impurities when consumed.

These include:

  • Deteriorating pipes
  • Manufacturing waste
  • Sewage
  • Agricultural runoff
  • Medication
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Many of these contaminants are toxic or carcinogenic. 

The substances your fridge water filter can catch include:

  • Arsenic
  • Asbestos
  • Excess chlorine
  • Excess fluoride
  • Heavy metals
  • Lead
  • Nitrates and nitrites
  • Pesticides
What Happens if you don’t change your refrigerator water filter

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Is it really necessary to change your refrigerator water filter every six months?

Most water filter manufacturers set the six-month mark as the recommended usage duration. That is because after six months, water filters usually start to wear out and their filtering ability declines.

If you drink more water than most people or if you have a large family, you should change your water filter more often than the recommended frequency of six months. 

Most refrigerators have indicator lights to remind you of when the water filter needs to be changed. However, some refrigerators don’t have this indicator light, or the water filter is kept out of sight so it can be easy to forget to change the refrigerator water filter.

Here are some common signs that your refrigerator filter should be changed: 

Water dispensed has a bad taste or smell

A water filter left unchanged for too long will become clogged with contaminants. These contaminants can enter the water and change the taste and odor in unpleasant way.  

Cloudy ice from ice maker

An old filter will not properly weed out impurities in the water used to make your ice. While it is normal for ice to be a little cloudy on the inside, abnormally cloudy ice could be be a sign of an issue with the refrigerator water filter.

Slow flow when dispensing water

A clogged water filter means water cannot flow through as freely as it normally would. The result is slower water dispensing. Keep in mind that on average, a refrigerator water dispenser fills a standard eight ounce glass in seven seconds.

Do I need a refrigerator water filter if I have reverse osmosis?

Below are the five most common types of water filters:

  1. Activated carbon filters
  2. Reverse osmosis filters
  3. Alkaline or water ionizer filters
  4. UV filters
  5. Infrared filters

Of the five, the first two types of water filters are the most common in homes. 

Activated carbon filters function by absorbing large particles like sediment and silt from the water. One of the most common water filters used in households, activated carbon also removes chlorine from water by reacting with the chlorine to form chloride ions – this neutralizes the chlorine and makes your water taste and smell better.

Meanwhile, reverse osmosis filters use a semi-permeable membrane, also known as a thin-film composite membrane (TFC or TFM) in the filtration process. Incoming water passes through the membrane. This is where contaminants and impurities filter out. 

Refrigerator water filters are usually activated carbon filters unless specified. Typically, reverse osmosis filtration units are a little harder to come by and more costly. That being said, activated carbon filters do the bare minimum in only removing the most immediate of risks, and some are not up to par with international standards. Unlike a reverse osmosis water filter, activated carbon filters don’t remove heavy metals and hard water minerals.

If you already have a reverse osmosis water filtration unit in your home, you won’t need an activated carbon refrigerator water filter. However, if your refrigerator has an alkaline or ionizing water filter, a UV filter, or an infrared filter that adds to the filtration of the water you consume, keeping the extra water filter will be a good idea. 

Does your refrigerator’s water filter affect the ice maker? 

Refrigerators that have ice makers and water dispensers usually have both systems integrated for ease of use, so if the water filter in the dispenser is not working as it should, it will also affect the performance of the ice maker as the dispenser and ice maker get their water from a common source. 

If the refrigerator water filter clogs, the flow of water will slow and the ice cubes made by your refrigerator become smaller. Dark and cloudy looking ice, funny tasting or smelling ice, or ice that has a strange texture are also signs that you should replace your refrigerator water filter. 

Overall, the water you consume has a significant effect on your physical health. Water that is free of harmful contaminants will protect not just your well being, but also that of your loved ones. If something seems out of the ordinary with your refrigerator’s water dispenser, err on the side of caution and replace the water filter. 

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Nick Evans

Nick Evans

About Home Appliance Hero

Hi I’m Nick, and I run Home Appliance Hero. Thank you for visiting!

I started this site to help people better understand the countless options for home appliances.

On this site you will find different how to’s as well as thoroughly researched product recommendations. 

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