What Happens if I Don’t Replace My Refrigerator Water Filter?

What Happens if I Don't Replace My Refrigerator Water Filter

Almost all new refrigerators come with a water filter to purify the water you drink and to make clean and clear ice. But what happens if you don’t replace the refrigerator filter when you’re supposed to?

A refrigerator filter removes chlorine and other compounds that can make your water taste and smell bad. If you don’t replace the filter when it’s spent, then your water will start to taste bad. You may also notice that the ice is cloudy, and the water flow slows to a trickle.

In this article, we discuss what your refrigerator filter does to purify your water and why it is important to replace it when it’s time. Keep reading to learn why you need to replace your fridge filter and a lot more.

Read my ultimate guide on refrigerator filters.

What Does Your Refrigerator Filter Do?

The filter in your refrigerator treats your water using two technologies:

  1. particle filter: removes solids and turbidity from the water
  2. activated carbon filter: removes chlorine and compounds that have a bad taste or smell

The water filter in your refrigerator does a great job of cleaning the water for you. It’s important to know that they don’t last forever, and eventually they reach their capacity and stop working.

Let’s take a look at how each of these two filter elements work and why you need to replace the filter.

1. Particle filter

The particle filter is made of a non-woven polymer fabric. This mesh-like material traps solids like rust and other small particles that are in your water.

This particle filter works a lot like a swimming pool net that is used to remove the debris in the water. Eventually, the net becomes full and it can’t remove any more of the particles.

Your refrigerator filter works pretty much the same.

It traps and removes solids from your water. Eventually, those solids plug the filter until the pressure loss is too high. At this point, the water flow through your refrigerator becomes very low, or even stops completely.

Before this happens, you have to replace the filter and put a fresh one in so you can restore the normal flow to your refrigerator.

If you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, you will replace the refrigerator filter about every 6 months. Some fridge filters can last a year, and others only last 3 months.

If you don’t replace the filter eventually the water can’t slow through the water dispenser or into the icemaker and you lose those functions in your refrigerator so sailing to replace the filter when the particle cells to respect results and no slow water.

2. The carbon filter

The carbon filter works by adsorbing contaminates onto the surface of the carbon particles. As compounds like chlorine pass through the filter, they are removed.

Carbon filters do a very good job of eliminating bad taste and funky odors from your water. Just like the particle filter, the carbon filter can only remove a limited quantity of impurities from your water. Once its capacity is used up, the carbon can’t remove any more pollutants.

At this point, impurities like chlorine pass right through the filter. The concentration of the contaminants exiting the filter is the same as the levels entering it.

If you want to enjoy clean and tasty water in your fridge, then you have to replace the filter when it’s spent. If you don’t do that, then the filter can’t improve the quality of your water and ice.

Watch this video about why you should replace your refrigerator water filter.

Other Problems If You Do Not Replace Your Fridge Filter

In addition to losing the ability to purify your water, if you let the carbon filter sit too long then eventually the contaminates saturate the carbon. Contaminants will then start to desorb from the carbon. This means that the impurities that were removed previously will be released back into the water. If this occurs, the dirty carbon will be adding more contaminants to the water, making a bad situation worse.

By replacing the carbon in your refrigerator filter, you restore its ability to treat and purify your water.


Refrigerator filters do a good job of improving the taste and quality of your water. They can remove suspended solids and chemicals that impart a bad taste and odor to your water. These filters have a limited life, and you have to put a new one in when the filter is spent. To keep your water tasting great, be sure to replace the filter on time. Moreover, without a clean filter in place you are at risk of releasing contaminated water back into your system – with potentially worse results than before.

So do yourself and your family a favor and keep up with the maintenance on your refrigerator filter by replacing it when it’s time to do it.

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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