Can You Drink Water from Fridge Without Filter?

Can You Drink Water From Fridge Without Filter

Most fridges have a water dispenser or an ice machine that comes with a water filter system built in. These water filter systems are usually point-of-use carbon filters that require changing every three to six months.

If you are operating a fridge like this, you may be wondering if you can drink water from a refrigerator that doesn’t have a water filter.

As a rule, you can drink water from a refrigerator without a water filter if the source of water is safe.  If you are happy with the quality of your water supply, there is no need to worry if it is not treated by a filter in the refrigerator. Most refrigerators have a filter plug that allows you to use the water dispenser and ice make without having a filter installed.  

In this article will explore in detail why refrigerators have water filters, what the benefit of using a fridge filter is, and better options for treating your drinking water than the small filter that your fridge uses.

Read my ultimate guide on refrigerator filters.

Why Do Refrigerators Have Water Filters

Most modern refrigerators with a water or ice dispenser also have a water filter. The primary benefits of having a water filter on your refrigerator include:

  • Improve the taste of the water and ice
  • Remove odors
  • Filter out suspended particles like rust and turbidity

The standard refrigerator filter includes a particle filter and activated carbon.

The particle filter removes suspended particles, debris, and turbidity from your water. These solids can foul the ice maker or water dispenser. They also make the water look cloudy and dirty.

If you have public water, it will have the disinfectant chlorine in it. The activated carbon in the filter is very effective at removing chlorine from your drinking water. Chlorine can make water smell like a swimming pool and give it a chemical flavor.

A filter that is provided to improve the taste and smell of your water might have NSF certification 43. This rating means it is effective at removing aesthetic issues from the water such as taste and smell.

Read my article about how well refrigerator filters remove chlorine.

Can I Use a Fridge with No Water Filter in Place?

If you remove your refrigerator’s water filter will the dispenser or ice machine still run when the water filter is not in place?

In general, most new refrigerator models have a built-in filter bypass to allow the water dispenser and ice machine to work without the filter in place.  Older models may require a filter bypass plug or cartridge to allow the water dispenser and ice machine to work without the filter in place. 

Most new fridge models include an automatic filter bypass system. This means the water dispenser and ice machine will continue to work without the filter.

Bypassing the refrigerator water filter

You can quickly check whether your refrigerator has an automatic filter bypass.  Remove the filter and check if the water dispenser and ice machine still work.  If they do, your unit has a filter bypass built-in.

If the water dispenser or ice machine does not work when the filter is removed, it does not have the automatic bypass. In this case, you will have to get a filter bypass plug or cartridge.

Related article: Can I Use My Whirlpool Refrigerator Without The Water Filter? 

Check the model of your fridge to see which option will work for your refrigerator.

People choose to bypass their water filters for many reasons. If you have a water treatment system for your home or you’re happy with the quality of your water supply, then you don’t really need a filter on your refrigerator.

Removing the water filter can save you quite a bit of money over the life of your refrigerator.

If your water supply is already safe and free of contaminants, your water will be safe to drink directly from the water dispenser.

Where Does Your Drinking Water Come From

The biggest question to answer if you are thinking of using your refrigerator without a water filter is what is the quality of your water source?

Is your water coming from a public supply? Is your water already filtered with a home filtration system?

Public water is generally very safe to drink because it has undergone treatment to make it safe before it gets to your home. Your water utility should be able to provide you with information on the quality of your water.

If you are happy with the supply of your water and it is safe and uncontaminated it is perfectly safe to drink water from your fridge without a water filter.

Reverse Osmosis Systems

A reverse osmosis system uses a semi-permeable membrane to filter water.  Using this type of system allows you to remove almost all contaminants from your water. RO systems often work in conjunction with a carbon filter to provide very high removal of virtually all contaminants.

The filter has a pore size of 0.0001 microns allowing only the smallest water molecules to pass through.  A reverse osmosis system is very effective at filtering water to provide clean and safe water for your family.

If your house already has a reverse osmosis system in place it will provide clean water to your refrigerator. This makes the filter redundant since your water has already been filtered to a high standard.  In this case, it will be perfectly fine to drink water from your fridge without a filter.

Contaminants Of Concern

We all want to ensure our water is clean and safe to drink.  Are there any contaminates in your drinking water you are particularly concerned about?

People are becoming more aware of emerging contaminants such as PFAS and 1,4-dioxane.

Concerns around lead in water have hit the headlines after the scandal of lead contamination in Flint, Michigan’s water supply.

The first step is to identify what contaminants you are dealing with and to decide what type of filter will be appropriate for your family. If your water is clean and safe, then you may decide not to use a water filter.

Water Filter Maintenance

Water filters need to be maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Most refrigerator filters must be changed every six months.

The inconvenience and cost of replacement may be one of the reasons you decided to operate your refrigerator without the water filter.

If you opt to use the water filter, you need to change it regularly because the carbon has a limited service life. After treating several hundred gallons, the carbon may have no remaining capacity to adsorb (filter out) the contaminants in your water. This is why the filter has to be changed routinely.

If you don’t want to change the filter regularly or you’re happy with the quality of your water, you may be better off bypassing the filter rather than leaving it in place and not changing it.

Fridge Filter Systems and Lead

Refrigerator filter systems are usually a combination of particle filters with activated carbon.  These types of filters vary in efficiency and can also make the situation worse if they are not properly maintained and replaced according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Some carbon filters are capable of removing lead.  Check the individual specification of your water filter to determine what it can remove.  A water filter with an NSF certification of 53 for lead removal has been independently tested and verified to remove most of the lead from contaminated water.


If your drinking water is safe and free of contaminants, it is also safe to drink that water from your refrigerator without having the water filter in line.

Your fridge may have a built-in filter bypass system that allows you to use the water dispenser and ice machine when the filter is not in place.  If your refrigerator does not have this filter bypass, you will have to install a filter bypass plug or cartridge.

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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