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Can I Use My Refrigerator without the Water Filter?

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

can i use my refrigerator without the water filter

Are you one of those people who have this question buzzing in their heads, ‘can I use my refrigerator without the water filter?’ The water filter is an essential component of your fridge’s built-in water dispenser and ice maker systems. It is natural to wonder if it will work even without this device. It is possible but it depends on the type of refrigerator.

Answering this question helps you determine what you can and cannot expect from your refrigerator. For example, will you still have fresh-tasting water or crystal-clear ice for your drinks without the water filter?

Let us find out, shall we?

Table of Contents

Will a Fridge Work without a Water Filter?

Modern refrigerators can work without a water filter, depending on the type, brand, and model series.

Most fridges have a built-in filter bypass that diverts water around the water filter and straight to the refrigerator’s ice maker and water dispenser components.

A bypass refrigerator water filter effectively replaces the water filtration unit. You only need to remove the water filter by turning it counterclockwise, sliding it out of the filter housing, and inserting the bypass filter.

Water from your distribution line will go through the filter housing and straight to the refrigerator without undergoing filtration.

Some refrigerators do not have a bypass plug. Instead, these fridges require removing the cap from the water filter’s end. This action pushes water through the filter housing without removing any water contaminants.

More advanced refrigerators have a computerized system that automatically bypasses the water filter. It will allow you to use the fridge even without the water filter.

Will a Whirlpool refrigerator work without a water filter? I think you already know the answer. You will have to check if your Whirlpool unit has a built-in bypass mode or a bypass plug.

How Do I Know If My Fridge Has a Built-in Filter Bypass?


Not all fridges have an integrated filter bypass mode. If you want to determine this technology’s availability in your refrigerator, you might want to check the owner’s manual.

If you can no longer find the manual, you can perform a simple test to check if your refrigerator has a filter bypass.

Locate your refrigerator’s water filter and remove it by twisting the canister counterclockwise or pushing it against the assembly.

If you can get water from the dispenser after removing the filter, you can say your fridge has an automatic filter bypass mode. It is also safe to assume that the fridge and ice maker work without filters.

However, if you cannot get water from the dispenser or your ice maker stops working, you must install an appropriate water filter bypass plug.

Why Do Some Refrigerators Not Work with Universal Filter Bypass?

Some refrigerator brands like to keep their components exclusive, requiring only OEM and compatible parts. That is why it is often not a good idea to install a filter bypass with a universal design.

A case in point is ultra-modern General Electric refrigerators that use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology embedded in their water filters and filter bypass units. An excellent example of this is the GE RPWFE Refrigerator Water Filter.

The refrigerator’s onboard computer communicates with the RFID chip to check if a genuine component is present in the system. Your fridge’s ice maker and water dispenser will never work if the refrigerator’s computer cannot connect to the RFID or if it receives a signal different from its programming.

The RFID chip serves another function in these ultra-modern refrigerators. The technology keeps a timestamp of the water filter lifespan and commands the refrigerator’s computer to stop making ice or dispensing water upon reaching the filter’s expiry.

For example, the refrigerator will stop dispensing water and producing ice after six months if the water filter has a six-month service life.

The same thing happens if the RFID detects a leak in the system. It automatically shuts off the water going to the refrigerator’s ice maker and water dispenser.

Hence, you can only use genuine and model-specific water filter units and filter bypass plugs. Otherwise, you cannot expect your fridge to work.

Why Do I Not Want a Water Filter for My Fridge?


Most households have a whole-house water filter or a reverse osmosis water treatment system installed at the main water distribution line. Having a water filter built into a fridge is redundant and can increase operating and maintenance costs.

Refrigerator water filters have a short service life, lasting only six months on average. It translates to twice-yearly filter replacement, which can add to the cost of replacing the filtration membranes in a whole-house or RO system.

That is why many households prefer not to use their built-in refrigerator water filter without sacrificing the ice maker and water dispenser convenience.

Can I Opt Not to Replace My Water Filter?

As mentioned, most refrigerator water filters will only last five to six months. If you wish to use your fridge’s ice maker or water dispenser without a filter, it would be best to remove it instead of leaving it in the refrigerator.

Water passing through the filter can bring minute particles that clog the filter pores over time. That is why manufacturers recommend replacing the filters every six months or so. If not, you will experience a gradual reduction in water pressure going to your ice maker and water dispenser.

Leaving the filter in place can also promote mold and slime growth, making your water taste bad and ice look cloudy. There may be other microorganisms and harmful chemicals you do not know, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases.

If you do not wish to continue replacing the water filter, it would be best to install a filter bypass plug. Know that this technique only works if you have a whole-house water filtration system or a reverse osmosis water treatment technology in the house.


So, can I use my refrigerator without the water filter? The answer is yes; you can if your fridge has an automatic filter bypass mode, or you can install a filter bypass plug. It is also possible to uncap one end of the filter to redirect water flow without undergoing filtration but only if your fridge has a non-bypass filter design.

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