Do Refrigerator Filters Remove Lead? Comprehensive Evaluation

Do Refrigerator Filters Remove Lead? Comprehensive Evaluation

Do you have a refrigerator with a water and ice dispenser? If so, you’re probably wondering if refrigerator filters can remove lead.

In general, refrigerator filters that contain activated carbon can remove lead and other contaminants from your water. Coconut-shell carbon and carbon block remove lead better than conventional activated carbon. However, not every filter removes lead, even those with carbon, so it’s important to understand how they work and what to look for.

Filters with NSF 53 certification have been independently tested to confirm that they can remove lead. The WQA Gold Seal product indicates that the filter is made from lead-free materials and confirms the manufacturer’s lead reduction claims through test data.

We evaluate all of the major refrigerator filter brands and some of the OEM filters. We let you know what the manufacturer’s claims about lead removal are. We also summarize which filters have NSF and WGA certifications so you know which filter to use for lead treatment.

Continue reading to learn more about refrigerator filters and lead removal.

Read my ultimate guide on refrigerator filters.

Do Refrigerator Filters Remove Lead?

The answer to this question is not as simple as a yes or no. Some refrigerator filters are able to remove lead from your water, but not all of them do. The type of filter and the manufacturer play a role in whether or not the filter will be effective in removing lead.

If you have a refrigerator with a water and ice dispenser, it’s likely that the filter is located in the freezer. The filter is usually a small cartridge that slides into a slot on the inside of the freezer compartment. Some filters are also installed in the refrigerator section.

Refrigerator filters usually include two types of filtration: activated carbon filters and mechanical filters. Many filters use both, but some only include one or the other.

Activated carbon

Activated carbon is a porous material that is able to trap contaminants like lead. When water passes through the carbon, it grabs onto the lead and other impurities and removes them from the water.

Activated carbon filters are found in most refrigerator filters. However, not all activated carbon filters are effective in removing lead.

Some types of activated carbon, such as coconut-shell carbon, are effective at removing lead. It is, therefore, very important that your filter include this type of carbon to ensure it can remove lead from your drinking water.

It is also important that the filter have sufficient quantity of activated carbon. Carbon has a finite service life and will eventually become saturated and ineffective at removing contaminants.

Particle filters

Particle filters, also known as mechanical filters, remove suspended particles and other solids from water. They do not remove lead that is dissolved in the water.

Particle filters are usually made of paper, fiberglass, or a synthetic material. They are effective at removing bacteria, cysts, and parasites from water but will not reduce levels of lead.

Some refrigerator filters include both activated carbon and particle filters while others only have one or the other.

Limitations of refrigerator filters

Refrigerator filters are designed to remove chlorine and compounds that cause bad taste and odors. That’s about it. They aren’t really meant to provide reliable protection from dangerous chemicals like lead. If you are worried about the safety of your drinking water – consult a professional.

Even if your filter comes with NSF certification for lead, you should be aware that they are only tested at a concentration of 150 ppb. If the lead concentration in your water is higher, the filter may not be able to remove all of the lead. In this case, you might want to consider using another treatment method such as reverse osmosis. Read our article on lead removal using reverse osmosis.

Maintenance Is Critical to Lead Removal

Refrigerator filters require routine maintenance to keep them operating at peak performance. It is important to follow all of the manufacturer’s requirements to ensure your drinking water is clean and safe for your family.

Replace filter routinely

Most refrigerator water filters must be replaced every 6 months. Some have shorter service lives. A few can remain in use for as long as a year.

Check your filter’s replacement schedule to be certain you change it out when required.

If you do not replace your filter when required, it will eventually become ineffective at removing contaminants and could actually increase lead levels in your drinking water.

Look for damage and leaks

You should periodically check the condition of your refrigerator filter. Look for damage such as tears, cracks, or leaks. If you find any damage, replace the filter immediately.

Check to be sure your filter is installed correctly. It should be straight and parallel with the refrigerator walls. If it looks out of line, it may have been installed incorrectly. This could lead to partial or incomplete treatment of your water.

Testing Your Water for Lead

If you are concerned about the lead levels in your drinking water, you should have it tested. There are several options when it comes to lead testing.

Laboratory testing for lead

The gold standard for lead testing is certified laboratory analysis. Laboratories use high quality instruments and test methods to measure the lead levels in your water. This is the most accurate way to determine the lead concentration in your water.

Laboratory testing is also the most expensive method. A typical lab charges $50 for a single lead test. You also have to pay for shipping the glassware to your home and the return shipping to send the sample to the lab.

I use Tap Score for my water testing because they are a high-quality lab with reasonable pricing. Check their testing services here.

Home test kits for lead

If you don’t want or need the more comprehensive lab analysis, you can use a home test kit. These kits are available at most hardware stores and some pharmacies.

Test kits range from very simple colorimetric tests that can be performed with a few drops of water to more sophisticated tests that use electronic meters.

The advantage of using a home test kit is the low cost. Most kits cost between $15 and $25. The disadvantage is that they are not as accurate as laboratory testing.

Certification Is Important for Lead Removal

Manufacturers often make vague claims about how well their filters perform. In some cases, the claims are inflated and not accurate. The best way to verify the performance of a filter is to look for third party testing and certification.

These agencies are impartial and use industry approved standards to measure the performance of filters. These organizations provide transparency and clear explanations of how well a filter performed.

NSF certification

The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) is a public health and safety organization that tests and certifies products to ensure they meet strict standards.

To earn NSF certification, a filter must meet certain performance requirements and be built to minimum standards. Here are the most common NSF certifications you should look for when purchasing a refrigerator filter:

  • NSF 42: Verifies that the filter reduces aesthetic properties such as taste and color. It addresses chlorine, chloramine, taste, odor, iron, manganese, zinc, and TDS.
  • NSF 53: Certifies that the filter can reduce the concentration of lead to levels claimed by the manufacturer. It also covers 50 other contaminants such as cryptosporidium parasites, VOC’s and chromium.
  • NSF 401: Verifies that the filter reduces the concentration of 15 specific contaminants including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbicides, pesticides and chemical compounds.
  • NSF 372 and 61: Certifies that the water filter is constructed of materials that do not contain lead.

Water Quality Association – Gold Seal Product Certification

The Water Quality Association (WQA) is an international not-for-profit organization that specializes in water treatment.

Products that earn the WQA Gold Seal Product Certification have been independently tested and certified to meet specific performance standards.

Look for this certification if you want to be certain a filter meets or exceeds industry performance requirements.

Proper Installation Method

It is important that you properly install your refrigerator water filter. Improper installation can result in water leaks, poor performance, and even flooding.

Most refrigerator filters have specific instructions that must be followed to ensure proper installation. These instructions are usually available on the manufacturer’s website or in the owner’s manual.

In general, here are the proper steps to install your refrigerator water filter

Step 1: Remove the old water filter.

Step 2: Verify you have the correct filter number and colored cap for your fridge.

Step 3: Remove the cap from the new filter.

Step 4: Screw the new filter into the socket. Some filters snap into position.

Step 5: Dispense water from the door to activate the filter. You may hear air escaping as the filter fills with water. This is normal.

How Do Brands Perform

Before you purchase a refrigerator filter, check to be certain the filter can remove lead. We checked the NSF and WQA certification of the major brands below.

Do LG refrigerator filters remove lead

LG refrigerator filters are NSF tested and certified to remove lead. The LG websites indicates that their filters reduce the concentration of lead, mercury, pesticides, and asbestos to create “fresh, safe and great tasting water and ice”.

They also note that their refrigerator filters remove taste and odor. LG recommends replacing their refrigerator filter every 6 months.

LG LT1000P Refrigerator Filter

This refrigerator filter lasts up to 6 months and can treat 200 gallons of water. It is NSF certified and removes 99.99% of cysts, 99% of asbestos and almost all mercury, lead, and benzene

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Do Whirlpool refrigerator filters remove lead

Whirlpool refrigerator filters remove lead from water. They claim that their Everydrop filters remove 99.9% of the lead from water. The Whirlpool refrigerator filters are certified by NSF for lead and taste/odor.

They recommend changing the filter every six months.

Whirlpool everydrop Ice and Water Refrigerator Filter

This filter works with Whirlpool refrigerators. It is certified to reduce 99% of 28 contaminants including lead, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and waterborne parasites. Includes NSF 401, 53 and 42 certification.

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Do GE refrigerator filters remove lead

GE fridge filters with the “MWF” or “GXRTDR” model number are NSF certified to reduce lead as well as other contaminants such as chlorine, VOCs and mercury.

The GE website recommends replacing the filter every six months or 300 gallons.

GE Refrigerator Filter

This filter is able to treat 300 gallons of water and has a service life of 6 months. It is certified to reduce chlorine-resistant cysts, lead, select pharmaceuticals and 50 other contaminants. It can reduce PFOA and PFOS concentrations by 99%.

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Do Maytag refrigerator filters remove lead

Yes, Maytag refrigerator filters are certified to remove lead from water. The Maytag website claims their filters will “remove 99% of contaminants” including lead.

They recommend replacing the filter every six months.

Maytag Waterdrop Plus Refrigerator Filter

This filter comes with certification from WQA, IAPMO, and NSF 401, 53, 42 and 372. It significantly reduces levels of ibuprofen, phenytoin, naproxen, estrone, bisphenol A, and nonylphenol. The filter is also certified to remove mercury, benzene, and lead from water.

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Do Kitchenaid refrigerator filters remove lead

Kitchenaid’s NSF certified refrigerator filters reduce lead as well as other contaminants such as chlorine, VOCs and mercury.

The Kitchenaid website recommends replacing the filter every six months.

Kitchenaid PureSpring Refrigerator Filter

This PureSpring filter is built to NSF/ANSI 42 and NSF/ANSI 372 standards for lead-free compliance. It is certified for the reduction of chlorine, lead, taste and odor. 

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Do Frigidaire refrigerator filters remove lead

Frigidaire’s NSF certified refrigerator filters reduce lead as well as other contaminants such as chlorine, VOCs and mercury.

The Frigidaire website recommends replacing the filter every six months.

Frigidaire Refrigerator Filter

This Frigidaire filter is NSF 42, 53 and 401 certified to reduce the concentration of chlorine and lead.  

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Do Samsung refrigerator filters remove lead

Samsung’s NSF certified refrigerator filters reduce lead as well as other contaminants such as chlorine, VOCs and mercury.

The Samsung website recommends replacing the filter every six months.

Samsung HAF-CIN Refrigerator Water Filter

This filter is for Samsung refrigerators. It removes more than 99% of contaminants, including lead, using a high-grade carbon block.

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Final Take

So, do refrigerator filters remove lead? The answer is yes, but there are a few things you need to know in order to ensure that your filter is doing its job.

We’ve outlined the basics of fridge filters and how they work to remove lead from your water supply. It’s important to remember that activated carbon is not 100% effective at removing all toxins and contaminants from water, so it’s critical that you maintain your filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you have any concerns about whether or not your filter is working properly, we recommend having your water tested for lead content.

Boch Richard

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.

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