Can I Use My Whirlpool Refrigerator Without the Water Filter?

Can I Use My Whirlpool Refrigerator Without The Water Filter

Refrigerator users often come to take their water filters for granted. With so many modern units using a filter to provide a ready supply of ice-cold, filtered water (not to mention the ice), if you have an issue with a filter and have to remove it, you can be forgiven for wondering if your refrigerator will work without it.

Whirlpool refrigerators can be used without a water filter, but the water and ice features may not function correctly. This is because the water flows through the filter tube, and the water can no longer reach the appliance. It can also be dangerous to drink unfiltered water in some areas. Whirlpool has a filter plug for most refrigerator models that allow the water dispenser and ice maker to operate without the filter.

If you’ve been missing your water filter for a while, is it really such a problem to use a whirlpool refrigerator without a water filter? Well, almost all refrigerator brands face the same challenge, so keep reading to find out more about why it might not be possible — or a good idea.

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Why Can’t I Use My Refrigerator Without a Filter?

The water filter plays an important role in the way in which modern refrigerators provide water either directly from an in-built tap or as ice. The water entering the property will have to flow through a filter prior to entering the parts of the refrigerator which make ice or chill the water for drinking.

The filter removes impurities, such as sediment and larger particles, and also filters chlorine and some other chemical from the water using the filter’s main component — activated carbon.

Activated carbon is carbon that has been processed in order to dramatically increase its surface area. This increases the ability of the carbon to react with particles in the water passed through it because the high surface area increases the chance of particles engaging with the carbon — allowing a chemical reaction to take place.

Without this filter in place, there are two primary reasons for not using the related functionality in the refrigerator:

  • The water is no longer able to reach the refrigerator
  • The water is no longer filtered, and so poses a health risk

Read my article about your refrigerator filter and whether it expires.

Water Not Reaching the Refrigerator

In many cases, refrigerators, including those made by Whirlpool, will not be able to source the water if the filter is removed because the filter sits in the appliance almost like part of the water pipe.

Bypass pipes

One workaround to this problem is to use a bypass pipe to bridge the gap in the water piping left by the removed filter. These bypass pipes do as the name described — they bypass the filter by effectively plugging the same gap with normal pipe.

This video provides useful information about how the Whirlpool bypass cap works:


Bypass plugs

Many Whirlpool refrigerators can use a similar mechanism to the bypass pipe called a bypass plug. These are inserted into the machine in place of the filter and will push water directly through.

Unfiltered water

The second reason to be careful about trying to use the water features on your refrigerator without a filter is the job that the filter does. If you live in an area that suffers from poor water quality, by drinking the unfiltered water, you are risking the ingestion of whatever is hidden within your water.

This is especially dangerous in areas that have lead or volatile organic compounds in the water, so care should be taken ahead of bypassing a water filter.

Can Refrigerator Water Filters Be Cleaned and Reused?

If you have a water filter that is no longer working correctly or reaching its expiry date, then ideally, a replacement water filter that is compatible with your refrigerator should be installed.

However, if one isn’t available and you do not wish to bypass the water filter, one option that might be available to you is cleaning the filter.

Generally speaking, water filters are not designed to be renewable. They should be used in line with the length of time recommended by the manufacturer in order to ensure that they maintain their effectiveness throughout their use.

This timeline is similar for all brands, but Whirlpool themselves recommends a water filter be replaced once every six months. This is because, at this point, you can expect to see a number of issues, such as:

  • The filter becomes ‘full,’ meaning it has reached the capacity of what it can hold
  • Dirt can begin to clog the filter, making it difficult for water to pass

While it’s difficult to mitigate the first point, it might be possible to remove large particles and calcification from the filter in order to get a few more days of usage to allow time for a replacement to be found.

How Do You Flush a Whirlpool Refrigerator Water System?

Any time a change is made to a water filter, there are certain steps that should be followed. This might be for any of the following reasons:

  • A bypass is installed
  • A new filter is installed
  • A filter is cleaned and reinstalled

By changing the area that water will flow over, you increase the chance of outside contamination, even — ironically — when installing a new filter.

To mitigate these problems, the best course of action is always to flush the appliance of water at least once. By doing this, you allow water to wash through the appliance, allowing for any easily movable contaminants to be carried away. This way should then be disposed of.

For Whirlpool refrigerators, as well as most manufacturers, the easiest way to do this is to continually use the water dispenser to fill a container until the whole system has had adequate rinsing. Whirlpool themselves recommend that this should be up to three gallons of water passing through, depending on the model of refrigerator you have.

Once this is done, the water dispenser and ice maker can be used as normal, although also remember that the water will need time to cool again after having been freshly rinsed through.


While it’s clear that there are ways to use a refrigerator’s ice-making and water-cooling features without a filter, it’s not as straightforward as you may think. By understanding the way your filter works and the quality of the water in your area, you can make an informed decision about how to proceed.

Chief Guru

Richard Boch is a chemical engineer responsible for designing water filtration systems for industrial and residential customers. He has more than 20 years of experience with ion exchange, activated carbon, and reverse osmosis. Richard's expertise has made him a go-to source for municipalities and businesses looking to improve their water quality. When he's not working, Richard enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children. You can also follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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