According to research by the CDC, across the country, anywhere from 4 to 32 million people fall victim to waterborne illnesses every year. If like us, you hold the notion that most of us have access to pristine water, you will be particularly shocked by this statistic.
A significant percentage of these infections result not from the lack of clean tap water, but the numerous contaminants it picks up along the way.
Despite the extensive filtration system employed by the water grid, it is not uncommon to find traces of lead, chlorine, and microbes like cryptosporidium in tap water tests.
This is common knowledge.
A 2019 water quality survey by Consumer Reports found out that from a sample of 4,225 Americans, almost half of the respondents boil or filter their tap water before use. “Use” in this case includes for drinking and cooking.
Aside from the potential health risks from contaminated water, another concern is unpleasant tastes and smells that often result from exposing water to heavy metals like lead.
In-house water filters provide an extra layer of protection against all possible contaminants you tap water could have picked up along the way. You can never have too much filtration. That’s why water filters now feature in almost every kitchen appliance in the typical American home.
Pitcher-style water filters and refrigerator water filters are pretty standard in most households. You could also install a water filter to your kitchen faucets, and refrigerators that come with inbuilt water filters are pretty commonplace.
How Do Refrigerator Water Filters Work?
Many side-by-side refrigerators have a little water dispensing paddle at the front of the fridge that lets you collect chilled water at a moments notice.
This water dispenser gets its water by controlling a valve at the back of the fridge. The lid has a water supply line plugged into it straight from the water grid. So, water passes through this valve into a small temporary in-fridge receptor where it is cooled and stored until you need it.
A refrigerator water filter works by being attached to this water system. Depending on your fridge design, a water filter sits either outside the refrigerator housing, in line with the water source.
As your drinking water goes through the system, the water filter rids the liquid of common contaminants through a three-stage filtration process. The cleaner works using both mechanical and carbon filtration.
Large Mechanical Filtration
The first filtration stage uses a shell made of porous material to rid the water of large contaminants like sand, rust, and other forms of debris.
Fine Mechanical Filtration
An even more delicate inner layer takes care of fine sediments and smaller elements that are too minute for the outer shell. On some of the high-end systems, their second stage filtration is competent enough to catch some organic compounds and dissolved solutes.
The most critical layer is a carbon filter that uses activated carbon to catch microbes like bacteria and fungi. Carbon also traps an array of chemicals that include chlorine, lead, pesticides, and herbicides, as well as several harmful volatile organic compounds. The active layer also removes taste and odor from water.
Activated carbon works via a process called adsorption, whereby pollutant molecules in the water get caught inside the pore structure of the carbon substrate.
Are Refrigerator Water Filters Any Good?
There is no one single water filter that will remove all impurities and give you 100% clean water.
However, water filters can be very effective at removing most contaminants from your water. Hence using a combination of water filters in addition to the ones on the water grid is a sure-fire way to get the cleanest water possible.
The typical refrigerator water filter is efficient at most physical pollutants, chlorine, lead, organic compounds, as well as helping to improve the taste and odor of water. However, there are some contaminants your water filter can’t catch.
Traditional water filters are ineffective at removing dissolved salts, minerals, and inorganic substances. Furthermore, you will need an oxidizing filter for more stubborn metals like Iron and manganese.
Your refrigerator water filter also can’t help you with hard water. In this case, you need a water softener that properly oxidizes your water and rids it of calcium and magnesium ions.
Typical particle sizes that your the water filter in your fridge can handle range from 0.5 to 50 micrometers. The effectiveness of your refrigerator filter also depends on the flow rate of incoming water.
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Reasons Why You Need Filtered Water
If you are not sold on the idea already, here are the top reasons why your refrigerator needs a water filter:
Filtration eliminates chlorine and lead from your drinking water
You can finally let go of your bottled water purchases. Bottled water is often as damaging to your balance sheet as it is to the environment
Filtered water is free from pathogens and carcinogens, significantly reducing your risk of waterborne illnesses
Activated carbon filters provide an extra layer of protection against modern organic pesticides that dissolve in water and can quickly get into the water grid.
Selecting The Perfect Water Filter
Factors to consider when selecting the right water filter for your refrigerator include:
OEM vs. Off-Brand
When replacing your refrigerator water filter, you could opt to stay with the brand and buy a genuine GE replacement filter for your GE fridge. Alternatively, you can instead choose an off-brand filter that is made to fit your fridge or multiple refrigerator models. While buying OEM can cost you as much as three times as going off-brand, with the latter, you have to be wary of effectiveness and compatibility issues.
Before buying a new filter, confirm that the cleaner will work smoothly with your refrigerator. An excellent way to figure this out is to refer to the owner’s manual, the fridge label, or the label of the old filter for your refrigerator’s model number. Compare this model number with the compatibility list of the unit before purchase.
You should also ensure that the filter is the right size to fit your refrigerator. You can confirm this by using the part finder tool on Amazon to verify that the unit and your fridge match.
Filter Lifespan/Filtration Capacity
The lifespan of a refrigerator water filter, measured in gallons, estimates how much water the filter can clean before requiring replacement. Typically filtration capacity for these filters range between 200 to 400 gallons.
When buying new filters, you should always check for NSF Standard 42 Standard 53 certifications. The NSF Standard 42 measures the filter efficiency at eliminating chlorine, sediments and other common impurities, while the latter test its performance against microbes, cysts, heavy metals, and volatile organic compounds.
Particle Capture Size
A good refrigerator water filter should have at most a 0.5-micron opening to effectively capture impurities.
Types of Refrigerator Water Filters
When the water tastes terrible, or you get a hint of bad odor, it might be time to change the water refrigerator water filter. However, your first problem might be trying to find the location of the unit on your fridge.
Here are the 4 main types of water filters you can find on a refrigerator:
The most common type of refrigerator water filter is a long oblong or rectangular cartridge that sits at the back of the base of the fridge, near the Grille. The grille filter often comes with a push-button or features a quarter-turn motion that ejects the filter cartridge. This type of filter is common among Kenmore and KitchenAid fridges.
Slide Out Filters
Slide-out filters are similar to Grille in both design and placement. The difference is that they “slide out.” Refrigerators made by Frigidaire, Electrolux, Kenmore, or Bosch usually have their filter cartridge installed near the back of the fridge with either the Grille or slide-out ejection method.
Some refrigerators feature barrel-shaped filters that hand down the back of your fridge. Some of these filters sit in a protective cup with a rubber O-ring gasket that you should replace after every third filter change.
Other manufacturers conceal their water filters in an interior dropdown compartment. You can find this design on several smart fridges like those from LG, Amana, Maytag, and GE.
Other Types of Filters You Can Use with Your Refrigerator Include:
Your refrigerator may not have a built-in water filter. Or maybe you want double the protection; then inline filters are a great way to cleanse your water line further. Inline filters sit outside your refrigerator, either on the waterline or near the faucet head, filtering the water before it gets to the fridge valve. However, some inline filters may require professional installation.
If you already own a comprehensive home filtration system, you may want to skimp on the recurring cost of refrigerator water filter replacements. An excellent way to avoid the extra cost is to use a dummy filter. These bypass filters offer no filtration as they do not contain any filtration layers. Dummy filters serve as a space-filler for traditional filter units. However, if you can afford the extra 20 to 60 bucks per year, we recommend that you keep a regular filter, as more filtration has never hurt anyone.
Best Refrigerator Water Filter Models
All the filters we recommend in this report meet the NSF 42 and 53 standards for certification
Best Filter for All Refrigerators: CuZn ILFC-200 Inline Refrigerator Water Filter
The CuZn ILFC-200 Refrigerator Water Filter is a capable inline water filter that will fit most fridge types. The refrigerator’s strong suit is its 4-step filtration system that is capable of removing even chloramine and fluoride without effect essential minerals. The model comes packed with accessories for an easy install.
This filter is on the heavier side; hence, you need to fastest it securely to the back of the fridge. If possible, secure the unit with extra fittings.
Best Filter for All Refrigerators 2: Woder 10K-JG-1 Inline Refrigerator Water Filter
The Woder 10K-JG-1 Inline Refrigerator Water Filter is an ultra-compact inline filter that fits on the waterline of most refrigerators or ice machines. This model is super efficient at cleaning chlorine, detergents, pesticides, and up to 99.9% of pollutants, including potentially poisonous chemicals like mercury and chromium. Thanks to its 10000-gallon rating, the filter is durable enough to serve you for three years without any issues. The cleaner is super easy to install, and you will be up and running in no time.
The filter significantly reduces water pressure to ensure a thorough clean. However, this can create supply problems if the water pressure of your dispenser is already too low.
Best Filter for GE Refrigerators: GE RPWFE Refrigerator Water Filter
If you own a GE french door refrigerator, this filter is your best bet. The unit is an OEM water cleaner that brings the latest in GE filtration technology to the newer GE french-door refrigerator models. The filter has a standard filtration capacity of 300 gallons that will serve you for up to 6 months. GE reports that independent tests found the filter capable of removing up to 98% of chlorine-resistant cysts and lead and up to 97.7% of chlorine and chloramines for improved water taste.
This filter is on the pricey side.
Best Filter for Frigidaire Refrigerators: Frigidaire WF2CB PureSource 2
The PureSource 2 is a versatile filter that works with Frigidaire refrigerators made after 2004 (fridges with their filter in front, right top.). It also fits perfectly on majority of Sears and Kenmore fridges.
Thanks to it 3-layer filtration system, the filter is a worthy combatant for chlorine and other chemical contaminants. Furthermore its surpasses the NSF Standards 42 and 53 guaranteeing 99.9% removal of microbes and chlorine-resistant cysts. The filter also removes up to 99.3% of lead and mercury traces.
Best Filter for Samsung Refrigerators: Samsung Genuine DA29-00020B Refrigerator Water Filter
For your samsung fridges, this filter is a contamination-proof protector of your drinking water. Thanks to a high grade carbon block, the filter removes up to 99% of all impurities and organic contaminants. The water cleaner is fully tested and certified for use with Samsung refrigerators.
Best Filter for Kenmore Refrigerators: Kenmore Elite 9081
Get clean tasting water from your Kenmore refrigerator with the Kenmore Elite 9081 water filter. Big pluses with this filter is that its a capable performer, and its one of the cheapest OEM cleaners out there. It is super easy to install with the Kenmore slide-to-fix and it is compatible with most Kenmore fridges. In addition to the NSF 42 and 53 certification, the Kenmore Elite 9081 passes an additional NSF 401 certification for its ability to reduce up to 15 of emerging contaminants. The filter comes with a 200-gallon rating that will last you for up to 4 months.
A common review complaint is a slight pounding noise when the filter is active. This noise is caused by air pockets that form inside the filter. To fix this issue remove and empty out the filter before reinstallation.
Best Filter for LG Refrigerators: LG LT700P
The LG LT700P is a versatile water filter that provides superior performance on most LG refrigerator models. The filter is LG’s recommended replacement for most models and we couldn’t find anything better. The filter is rated to reduce up to 99.3% of lead and other metals, up to 90% of trace mercury, and up to 99% of asbestos. Rated for only 200 gallons of water, you will need to change this filter every 3 to 6 months.
Off-brand replacement filters for LG refrigerators abound on the market. However, this filter is hands down one of the best performs, and with its half decent price, there’s no reason to look elsewhere.
How Often Should You Change Your Refrigerator Water Filter?
Should you change your refrigerator water filter every six months as every manufacturer recommends? Or is the “change filter” light just a ploy by the industry to create a never-dying cash cow?
Based on our research, the six months date only hold for some filters. Depending on its filtration capacity, a good fridge filter can last you anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. A 10,000 gallons Woder 10K-JG-1 will easily last you for up to two years.
However, you should change most 3000-gallon filters every 6-8 months.
A good rule of thumb is to change the filter any time you notice a hint unpleasant odor or icky tastes.
How to Replace Your Water Filter
Installing a new refrigerator water filter is often quite easy. With every new unit, the installation instructions and the included accessories are pretty much all you need. After figuring out how to change the filter from the guidelines you should:
- Disconnect the water supply line to the refrigerator
- Attach the unit to match the instructions
- Reattach the filter’s quick-connect wires
- Prime the filter by reconnecting the waterline and letting it run for about 10 minutes
- After confirming that everything is as it should be, you can permanently reconnect the waterline and screw all loose ends