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How Often to Change Refrigerator Water Filter?

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

How Often Should I Change My Refrigerator Water Filter

How often to change refrigerator water filter? Does your water smell funny lately? Has your ice maker stopped working?

Well, if you’ve been using the same water filter in your refrigerator for some time, then I’ve got news for you… it’s time for a change.

A refrigerator water dispenser is the peak of convenience. You get cold water and ice on demand! Over time though, the nifty little filter in your refrigerator will wear down and accumulate gunk – potentially contaminating your water.

Know when to change your refrigerator water filter, and spot the signs before it is too late.

Table of Contents

How Does the Refrigerator Water Filter Work?

As its name suggests, this filter comes with the refrigerator and provides you with clean and cold water and ice. It’s connected to your main water supply through a hose and pumps the water through a specially built-filter.

Most standard refrigerator filters are mechanical and absorptive. They contain fine mesh and activated carbon granules that filter out contaminants. It removes unpleasant chlorine tastes and odor and reduces sediments in your water – making it taste a whole lot better.

How Will I Know When to Change my Refrigerator Water Filter?


Manufacturers of refrigerators with built-in water dispensers usually provide manuals with recommendations on when these filters should be replaced. As a rule of thumb, you should replace your refrigerator water filters every six months.

Never leave your filter in the refrigerator for more than a year.

There are red flags to watch out for when a filter is no longer working right. You’ll notice an unpleasant taste, foul odor, discoloration, and a decreased flow rate in your water. It’s highly recommended that you replace your filter before any of these red flags pop up. If you have a busy household, a weekly check-up may be ideal.

Be mindful of maintaining your water filter. It’s suggested that you use a cling calendar to keep track. Some refrigerator water filters come with an electronic indicator, which will notify you if your filter needs changing. For that added security, you can also set alarms on your smartphone.

What Will Happen if I Don’t Replace My Water Filter?

Bad things are bound to happen if you drink contaminated water. It is a breeding ground of bacteria, parasites, industrial waste, and all sorts of other residues. Even just a small amount can send you running for the bathroom with a bad case of diarrhea, and that’s the best-case scenario.

This article lists different types of contaminants found in unfiltered water that could pose serious health risks.

A pathogen called cryptosporidium can cause a potentially fatal gastrointestinal disease. Nitrates are a danger to infants. Continuously drinking water with lead will lead to kidney problems and high blood pressure in adults and children with developmental issues. A significant amount of pesticides also become contaminants.

How Much Does a New Refrigerator Water Filter Cost?

It’s more likely that you’ll be changing the refrigerator filter part that collects the gunk and not the entire filter system itself. Replacement refrigerator water filters will vary depending on what fits into your refrigerator.

Aftermarket replacement filters (generic or off-brand filters) are sold for as low as $5. In comparison, OEM replacement filters (name-brand from the manufacturer) go for more than $500.

In the unfortunate event that your entire refrigerator water filter system breaks, a replacement would cost you a whopping $500 to $11,000.

Should I Get a Name-brand Or Off-brand Refrigerator Filter?

Ideally, you should purchase a replacement filter from the same brand as your refrigerator. These filters are easy to find, guaranteed to function well, and are NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) certified. The only downside to them is that they’re costly.

Generic refrigerator filters are tough to look out for, but they go for way cheaper. They don’t last as long as the branded filters but offer competent performance. If you opt for generic brands, it’s best to keep a close eye on them and check if they are NSF-certified.

How Do I Replace My Refrigerator Water Filter?

Manufacturers will provide you with a manual with detailed instructions on how to replace your good ol’ refrigerator water filter. These instructions are usually easy to follow as their refrigerators are built to be user-friendly. You can go to this site for a general guide on the process.

Can I Clean My Old Refrigerator Water Filter?

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Replacing refrigerator filters is so expensive – I can save time and money by just cleaning my old filters, right?”

Now, no one is stopping you from doing this. Cleaning your old water filter is eco-friendly, as it reduces the waste you’ll be producing if you keep buying new filters.

However, a reused water filter will not work as well as a new one. There are microscopic contaminants that you can’t see or scrub off. The mechanical mesh that separates tiny sediments wears down after a few months. Most domestic filter systems aren’t even dishwasher-friendly.

When coming down to it, replacing your refrigerator filter is safer and recommended. A clean mesh and freshly activated carbon granules do a better job at keeping pollutants out, and in turn, keep you and your loved ones safe from harm.

If you’re worried about the waste involved (as we all should be), do consider recycling old filters into other useful products.

Are There Other Water Filters in My Home That I should Maintain?


If you have more than one type of water filter in your home, here’s a quick rundown on them, how often you should check up on them, and how much it will cost to replace them.

Whole House Water Filter

This filter is installed in the main supply of your home, allowing clean water to flow through every faucet. It’s recommended that you replace this every six months. However, depending on your primary source – municipal or well water – this filter may need to be replaced every three months.

Be sure to contact a professional when having a whole house water filter replaced.

According to this website, a whole house water filter system is estimated to cost you somewhere around $1,000 to $4,200, with replacement cartridges usually costing less than fifty bucks.

Faucet Water Filter

These are easy-to-install, low-cost filters that go directly onto the spout of any faucet. They filter out fluoride and lead as the water passes. They’re convenient but need to be changed regularly. For busy households, it’s advisable to replace these filters every 3 to 5 months. Faucet filters go for as cheap as $2 to as costly as $200.

Pitcher Water Filter

Cheap and easy to maintain. Pitcher water filters remove chlorine, zinc, copper, cadmium, and mercury from your drinking water. Manufacturers usually recommend they be replaced every six months. However, some alkaline pitcher water filters will need to be changed more frequently if used multiple times in a day.

Under Sink Filter

As the name suggests, these filters are installed under the sink and are connected directly to your cold water line. They need to be replaced every 9-12 months, but this will depend on your water quality and usage. If your area has more pollutants, it is best to change your under sink filter every six months.

A new under sink system is about $50 to $200.

Countertop Water Filter

Countertop water filters provide filtered water at your whim. It is connected to your faucet through a small hose and an adapter, and you can switch between filtered and unfiltered water.

Some models even have transparent casings, so you can check on the filter without removing it. They’re trendy, highly recommended, and some models can last up to 12 months before being replaced.

Other models are built to purify a fixed number of gallons before becoming ineffective. However, this will still depend on usage, manufacturer recommendations, and water quality.

Countertops range from $60 to $500, and their replacement packs usually cost less than $50.

Shower Filters

These filters are meant to protect people with sensitive skin from the chlorine used to sanitize water and are installed within the showerheads. It protects children who may accidentally swallow shower water while bathing and reduces chlorinated water’s dangerous effects on the skin.

Depending on the water source and the number of people who use the shower, replacing a shower filter would have to be done every six months, or 2-3 months for busier households.

Shower filters usually cost less than $50, with pricier ones showcasing filters already built into the shower.

Always Remember

Water filters are as vital as the water you drink and should be well-maintained.

Now you’re getting the answer of ‘how often to change refrigerator water filter?’ As a rule of thumb, play it safe when checking up on your refrigerator water filter. Check on it every day if you can help it. Make sure no gunk is clogging it up; make sure the color looks fine. When it comes to maintaining water filters, nip it in the bud – don’t wait for the red flags.

Nevertheless, it will be wise to know “how often I should change my refrigerator water filter” to maintain the filter properly.

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