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What Do Refrigerator Water Filters Remove? Here is the Answer!

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

what do refrigerator water filters remove

There are many types of water filters in the market, and a refrigerator water filter is one of the most affordable options that work effectively and efficiently. Given the many advantages of refrigerator water filters, you may have considered buying one. But you also might have been wondering “What do refrigerator water filters remove?”

Typically, refrigerator filters remove contaminants such as sediments, lead, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chlorine, and several other harmful contaminants as well as unpleasant odors and tastes.

Table of Contents

How Do Refrigerator Water Filters Work

Refrigerator water filters work through a process called absorption. They make use of an activated carbon block. The activated carbon block consists of numerous nooks and crannies, which is what makes it effective in getting rid of contaminants in water.

As the water passes through the activated carbon block, the contaminants would get stuck in the filtration medium. As a result, refrigerator filter users get cleaner water free of unpleasant odors and tastes.

What Contaminants Refrigerator Water Filters Remove


Before your water supply reaches your home, it travels for several miles in pipes. As it makes its way to your home, it can accumulate all sorts of contaminants.

You wouldn’t want to ingest those contaminants, as they can cause various harmful effects on your health. Equipping your fridge with a refrigerator filter can help cleanse the water for your consumption. Below are the main contaminants that water filters for fridges can eliminate:


Discoloration or the presence of particles in water is the sign of sediments. Those sediments may either be sand, minerals, rocks, or organic particles of plants or microbes. You may experience this when disturbances occur in your water supply’s distribution system.

Although your water supply may undergo filtration through a treatment plant or an aquifer, a very thin layer of sediments will develop in the water mains over time.

And disturbances that occur in the water system such as hydrant use, high usage of water, loss of pressure, opening and closing of valves, water main breaks, or ongoing construction can stir up the sediments, which would mix with the water. But it would usually clear out after a few hours.

It is not advisable to drink water contaminated with sediments, especially for those whose immune systems are compromised, children, and infants.

Moreover, there are also potential health risks from sediment-contaminated water, as dangerous pathogens and pollutants such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa, pesticides, fertilizers, mercury, arsenic, etc, can attach to these particles.

In the filtration process of a refrigerator filter, sediments are one of the contaminants that get filtered. When the water passes through it, they get trapped in the refrigerator filter’s substantial inner surface area.


Water can be contaminated by lead when it passes through plumbing systems with lead corrosion. Older homes and cities are usually the source of this contaminant, as it wasn’t until later in the 20th century that the harmful effects of lead were discovered. The use of lead in plumbing has since then been banned.

However, even in modern homes where lead is not used for plumbing, lead contamination can still be a problem. They are often caused by lead solder used in connecting pipes, brass faucets, or chrome-plated brass faucets.

Ingestion of lead can be very dangerous. In children, even a low lead level in their blood may result in problems in behavior and learning, low IQ and hyperactivity, delayed growth, hearing impairment, or anemia. In worse, but rare cases, it may cause seizures, coma, or death in children.

It also has harmful effects in pregnancy such as impeded fetus growth and premature childbirth. Moreover, if a breastfeeding mom has been exposed to lead, their child can ingest lead from her breast milk. This would have long-term adverse effects on the child’s neurodevelopment.

In adults, it can adversely affect the cardiovascular system, increase blood pressure, cause hypertension, decreased kidney function, and cause reproductive problems both for men and women.

The refrigerator filter removes lead among other harmful compounds with its activated carbon block that works like a magnet. The lead from the water would get caught in the filtration medium and stick to it once the water gets in contact with it.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Most volatile organic compounds are chemicals that are man-made for use in the production of pharmaceuticals, refrigerants, and paints. Often, VOCs are also ingredients in paint thinners, dry cleaning agents, petroleum fuels, and hydraulic fluids.

They are also fuel oxygenates like methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), industrial solvents like trichloroethylene; or water chlorination by-products like chloroform.

Pesticides such as insecticides and herbicides are also VOCs. Although more often, VOC exposure is from the surrounding air, paint, and preservatives, they can also be contaminants in water through industrial waste and agricultural runoff.

The harmful effects of ingesting VOCs include a weakened immune system; kidney, liver, and reproductive system problems; heightened risk of cancer; and central nervous system depression.

VOCs, too, are vulnerable to refrigerator filters’ carbon block filtration medium. They would get stuck in the medium as water passes through.


It was early in the 1800s when chlorine was first used for disinfecting water. It helped prevent waterborne diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and dysentery. But it also has some harmful effects on our health, so the use of chlorine has been limited for the safety of water consumption.

While ingestion of chlorine from drinking water may not have immediate adverse effects, it can result in long-term negative effects on our health, and it leaves an unpleasant odor and taste to our water.

Some of the effects of chlorine on our health are exercise-induced asthma symptoms; promotion of food allergies; birth defects such as poor brain development, ventricular septal defects, and cleft palates; or higher chances of cancer in the bladder and rectum.

When water enters a refrigerator filter, the refrigerator filter removes chlorine among other chemicals through the chemical reactions that occur within the filter. The removal of chlorine also gets rid of unpleasant odors and tastes.

Do Refrigerator Filters Remove Fluoride


Fluoride is a monatomic anion mineral present in the soil, the earth’s crust, food, and water. It actually has many benefits like protecting and strengthening teeth as well as preventing tooth decay and cavities. That is why it is used in toothpaste and in treating water in some communities, which is called water fluoridation.

Water fluoridation is implemented in some communities to prevent tooth decay, which has become a major issue in public health. The process adjusts fluoride levels in communities’ water supply. The fluoride concentration is regulated to levels safe for consumption.

However, there are still concerns about the negative effects of fluoride on our health when ingested through drinking water. Excessive ingestion of fluoride can cause bone fractures, thyroid issues, malfunction in brain development, dental fluorosis, weakened bones, and skeletal fluorosis.

Very high levels of fluoride can even lead to fluoride poisoning. Defluoridation is carried out when the fluoride content in the water has reached great levels that are not suitable for consumption.

To ensure that you are kept safe from the harmful effects of fluoride, you need to have your water supply filtered. However, refrigerator filters are not capable of filtering out fluoride from water. For filtering out fluoride in your water supply, it is recommendable to use a reverse osmosis filtration system.

Reverse osmosis filtration systems are capable of filtering out more contaminants such as fluoride, arsenic, nitrate, nitrite, radium, barium, and selenium. Although refrigerator filters work effectively, they can’t remove those other contaminants.

Reverse osmosis systems typically come with different stages, usually three stages with the first and third filters acting as the pre and post-filter, making use of activated carbon to remove sediments, lead, VOCs, and chlorine.

And the reverse osmosis system, which is the second stage, is the one responsible for the other contaminants activated carbon can’t get rid of. If sediments, lead, VOCs, and chlorine are your only concerns though; you’ll be fine with just a refrigerator filter.

Maintenance is Key

As refrigerator water filters sift out contaminants from your water supply to provide clean, safe drinking water, the contaminants would build up over time. Once the refrigerator filter becomes full of contaminants, it can no longer filter your water supply. Water will just pass through the filter and remain contaminated.

Refrigerator filter maintenance is key to having a clean supply of water continuously. The recommended schedule to change your refrigerator filter according to manufacturers is after six months of usage.

But there are also other factors that may affect your filter replacement schedule, like your water supply’s quality, how often you get water from your fridge dispenser and/or ice from the fridge ice maker. If you don’t exactly know the quality of your water supply, using water test strips can help you identify it.


What do refrigerator water filters remove? You can rely on a refrigerator water filter to get rid of water contaminants like sediments, chlorine, lead, VOCs, and etc. Just always make sure to replace your water filter regularly, typically every six months or so or depending on your water quality or frequency of use.

But if there are other contaminants present in your water that a refrigerator filter can’t handle, it’s best to go with a reverse osmosis system, as it can remove most contaminants.

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