Your refrigerator's water and ice dispenser is more than a quick way to get a cool drink of water. When the right water filter is in place, your fridge will also be a source of clean, pure water that will keep you and your family healthy and hydrated. Find out why it's important to replace the filter on time, what the filter does, how to replace it and more.
If you have a refrigerator with a built-in ice maker and water dispenser, you will know about the importance and high cost of water filtration. Refrigerator filters generally only need to be changed every 6 months, or after 200 to 300 gallons of water, but the price and quality of these filters varies a lot. Having said that, you need to make sure that you are getting the best refrigerator water filter, meaning one that will actually improve the quality of your water and at a reasonable cost.
A Guide to Quality and Certified Refrigerator Water Filters
- Remove the filter from your fridge (don't worry, the water will shut off automatically)
- Find the part number printed on the filter
- Type it into the search box in the top right corner and hit enter.
More than just making your water look and taste good, fridge filters can remove a variety of contaminants that can cause illness. Some can filter out as many as 66 different contaminants including pharmaceuticals, waterborne parasites, lead and mercury, pesticides, asbestos and industrial chemicals. Drinking water filtered by your refrigerator will help you and your loved ones stay healthy and hydrated.
The first step is to check for official NSF product certifications that pertain to water filtration standards. Companies voluntarily submit product samples for NSF testing and verification. NSF 42, NSF 53 and NSF 401 are dealt with together as the core standard:
NSF 42: This applies mostly to aesthetic effects such as “taste and color of your filtered water. It covers chlorine, taste and odor, chloramine, particulate, iron, manganese, zinc and total dissolved solids (TDS).”
NSF 53: “This standard offers over 50 contaminant reduction claims.” Some of the most popular include: lead, cryptosporidium parasites,volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), and chromium.
NSF 401: “This standard offers up to 15 specific contaminant reduction claims”, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbicides, pesticides and chemical compounds.
When do I need to replace my fridge filter?
Most manufacturers recommend replacing the filter every six months, depending on water quality and use. If there's a lot of sediment in your system, it may need to be replaced more frequently. If you have a large family that drinks a lot of water, it'll need to be replaced more often than a single person's filter.
There are four reliable ways of knowing when it's time to replace your refrigerator water filter:
- Follow the manufacturer' recommendations. Their specified replacement timing will err on the side of caution so you can be assured that your water quality is always safe.
- Look at the light. Most fridges with built-in water systems have a status indicator light that will glow when it's time to replace the filter.
- Pay attention to taste. Your taste buds will tell you when it's time to replace the filter because when the filter is exhausted and no longer purifying your water, the flavor will become unpleasant. It might change in visual appearance too.
- Monitor flow. If your icemaker is only producing one or two cubes at a time, it's time for a fresh filter. The slowed production is a sign of a full or blocked filter.
NSF 372 and 61: This certifies that the material and components and of your water filter are not contaminated with any dangerous levels of lead only.
As you can see, NSF 42 is the most basic certification for clean looking and good tasting water. Depending on your local water quality, this might be sufficient. For most urban or industrial centers, NSF 53 is recommended and additional NSF 401 is the safest option.
Is NSF Assurance Enough?
An NSF seal alone doesn’t verify the degree to which contaminants are reduced. Two products with the same NSF verifications could have vastly different filtration outcomes.
For further quality assurance you may want to look for the WQA—Water Quality Association —Gold Seal Product Certification Program. Their certification verifies safe construction materials, and that packaging claims are backed up by data.
Another third party certification often seen is IAPMO’s Water Systems Certification Program. Other assurity can come from independent lab test results sometimes audited by companies themselves.
Unfortunately, the independent Consumer Reports group, as of yet, do not test refrigerator water filters. You can, however, do your own inexpensive home water test, or you can evaluate ad hoc tests done people who have purchased the same product.
How do I find the right filter for my fridge?
With dozens and dozens of filter sizes and styles available, finding the right filter can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. Don't worry, all the information you need is right there in your fridge no user manual needed. Using the Fridge Filter Finder tool, follow the four step-by-step instructions to identify the right replacement filter. It will ask you easy questions about your fridge's brand and style. In just a few clicks you'll have a selection of right-size filters to choose from.
Generic vs Manufacturer OEM Brands
Although most people feel more secure with popular OEM manufacturer brands, some have the need to look for more affordable options. Almost all generic water filters are rebranded products. It’s important, therefore, to research the brand name distributor, their website, and what information is available on the parent manufacturer.
Many generic brand names carry NSF and WQA certification seals, but people have trouble finding them on search databases. This is because NSF certifications generally appear under the parent company manufacturer. In this case, you should search using the product model number. If the product is WQA certified, it’s easy to just use the brand name. Just because a product is packaged with a nice certification seal, doesn’t mean you should automatically trust it.
Researching Generic Brands: Asking the Hard Questions
Always read the claims manufacturers or distributors make about the product on their website, online store, and packaging. Make sure these claims match the certifications they carry, and that claims on the package match the claims made in their product promotions.
Although most products are backed up with at least one NSF certification and data sheet, other publicly available data sheets deemed trustworthy should also be fine. If a product carries more than one certification, that is all the better. We do not recommend products that don’t meet these basic criteria.
How do I install my new refrigerator filter?
Even though there are seven standard fridge styles and dozens of different fridge filters, every replacement filter can be installed without tools or the help of a plumber. While the process varies between fridge styles and filter placement, in less than simple 10 steps, you can replace the filter yourself. Each replacement filter comes with easy step-by-step instructions, or you can review the steps online by fridge brand:
Check Points Before Choosing Your Refrigerator Filter Replacement:
- Although we do this for you, search the product for their NSF or WQA listing or any other data to back up product claims.
- Check to see if a data and installation sheet is available through the online vendor or website— these may often contain test results.
- Investigate the company website to see if they are more than just a fancy name, rebranded distributor. Make sure all claims check out.
- Check user reviews for the frequency of ‘leaks’ any ‘tests’ done.
- A no hassle money back guarantee is well worth having.
Why does my water taste funny?
A change in the flavor of your filtered water is a sign that the water filter needs to be replaced. As the filter is used, the particles filtered out are collected and eventually build up to the point that the filter can't do its job anymore. After you replace the filter the water should taste good again.
Why are there tiny particles in my water?
If there is stuff floating in your water, it's time to replace your fridge filter. Your filter has become too old to trap contaminates so they are passing through the system and ending up in your glass. A new filter should fix the issue.
Reviews of The Best Refrigerator Water Filters in 2020
We’ve thoroughly researched and sought out the best water filters for your refrigerator that have stood up to more scrutiny than others.
- Morefilter – Best for Whirlpool and Maytag
- Culligan – Best Inline Refrigerator Water Filter
- PureLine – Best GE MWF & Kenmore 9991 Replacement Filter
- Morefilter – Best LG and Kenmore Replacement Filters
- EcoAqua – Best Samsung DA29xxx & HAF-CIN Replacement Filter
Here are our picks for the Best Refrigerator Water Filters in 2020:
1. Morefilter – Best to Buy for Whirlpool Filter 4 and Maytag
This filter is a replacement for the Everydrop Filter 4 for Whirlpool and other selected Maytag side-by-side refrigerators. WaterDrop is a Californain company and their filters use a renewable, activated coconut, carbon-block filter. Carbon block is a structure with immovable carbon particles that ensures more uniform and better filtration.