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Can I Use My Refrigerator Without The Water Filter?

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Tim Rhodes

Home refrigerators (also known as fridges or iceboxes) are meant to preserve limited quantities of several specific products and liquids at colder temperatures, as would be seen in every home, but can you use your refrigerator without the water filter?

Your fridge is undoubtedly one of the most essential devices in your house.

Moreover, it preserves your food from spoiling, sparing you from countless visits to the grocery.

Contemporary fridges make it convenient to always get safe, potable water.

And if you want to find out if you can use your refrigerator without the water filter, then keep on reading.


Water Dispensers

Almost all refrigerators nowadays have water dispensers and ice makers installed, which implies they have a water filter integrated, too.

A fridge water filter is a suitable, cheaper option for bottled water.

The cash expenditures for replacement filters could be a hassle although refrigerator water filters assure clean, potable water and clean ice.

If you attempt to find a lower-priced substitute filter, you might risk ending up with a fake that introduces impurities to your water.

When the dispenser is utilized frequently, Researchers and fridge manufacturing companies recommend you change the filters at least every 6 months.

Replacement filters are often bought from the fridge manufacturer or in many local hardware stores.

So what if the filter isn’t needed? 

Can your refrigerator function without some kind of filter?

When Does a Fridge Operate Without The Need For a Water Filter?

In certain cases, a refrigerator will operate without an integrated water filter, and thus the water jumps the filtration process and goes directly to the ice maker.

However many fridges need an auxiliary input to bypass the filtration process, termed bypass plug.

The bypass plug prevents water from flowing where the filter would’ve been.

A refrigerator filtration system by-pass is a tiny plastic cover that “drives” a refrigerator into believing that it has a normal filter.

This is a tube, a filter-shaped adapter, or perhaps even a filter that filters larger particles only (such as Bosch fridge filter by-pass).

Depends On Design

How your fridge operates without a filter depends on its design and if it has a bypass plug or not.

If a water filter is not required or wished to be used, a bypass plug should be used instead of the filter.

When you are uncertain of your water’s purity or microbial composition, a filter is advised, irrespective of whether the fridge delivers water and ice without it.

Scaling and depositing can also be an issue in the different units of your refrigerator when a water filter is ignored.

Many landlords prefer to design a water purification system in their residence instead of just their refrigerator.

Here using a fridge without a filter is a convenient option.

Price should also be evaluated when determining whether or not to use a refrigerator filter.

Filters need to be replaced regularly.

If costs are a concern and you live in a place with high-quality potable water, there may be no need for a filter.

When Does a Refrigerator Work Without a Water Filter?

If there is no bypass plug in the fridge and the filter casing through the filter lid can be shut, no filter is required.

If the fridge does have a bypass plug, this should be assembled correctly if water and ice dispensers are to operate without the need for a filter.

How Does The Water Filter In a Refrigerator Work?

Water usually passes kilometers of pipelines before actually entering your house.

Along the way, it can accumulate impurities such as air contaminants, water-flowing pharmaceuticals, or processing plant waste.

Most refrigerator filters utilize activated carbon as a filter medium.

These filters operate through a mechanism called adsorption, that binds pollutants to the filtration media surface.

Activated carbon provides a large adsorption surface.

And when it comes to refrigerator water filter’s operating principle, they eliminate pollutants in the water by pushing the fluids via the activated carbon block medium within the filter.

Eliminating Most Pollutants

Research has shown that the refrigerator water filter can help eliminate most pollutants including heavy metals and chlorine.

Carbon filters are efficient as water can pass through the filter while carbon adsorbs all impurities, such as agrochemicals as well as petrochemicals.

The danger is that filters of poorer quality won’t prevent as many pollutants, while the production process could also directly introduce contaminants into the filters.

When the carbon block within the filter is filled with pollutants, the water passing through the filter would be untreated, supplying you with unclean water.

This is why the refrigerator water filter needs to be replaced at least every 6 months.


Thus, fridge filters work perfectly fine as long as they are regularly maintained and replaced.

Once we forget to change or clean water filters, they get blocked up with bacteria which often present unseen dangers.

Unfortunately, fine particles can sometimes be missed with carbon filters.

Reverse osmosis is a more sophisticated filtration method incorporating several carbon filters together with a semi-permeable membrane.

The pressure is applied to the flowing water, which travels through a semi-permeable membrane that filters impurities and cleanses the water.

The membrane provides another filtration layer to remove impurities that the carbon filters alone can’t.

Types Of Refrigerator Water Filters

Two primary types of fridge filters are available: inline filters and push-in filters.

Inline Filters

The design of these filter media is fairly simple.

One end is attached to the house’s municipal water line, whereas the other end is attached to the rear of the refrigerator.

These are common in older model fridges that often don’t come with an integrated-in filtration system.

Inline filters can also be used for underwater filtration.

Push-in Filters

Push-in fridge filters are integrated into many of the modern fridge brands.

These are inserted into the chamber within the fridge and thus are easier to set up.

Just push in, spin, and change the cap on the chamber.

What To Look For When Buying Replacement Water Filters

Before you buy a new replacement filter for your refrigerator, there are some factors you need to consider aside from cost.

Optimizing the buying process will go a long way in ensuring you get the best out of your water filter.

Filtration Capacity

A water filter’s filtration capacity indicates how much water it will filter before actually replacing the filter.

It’s generally estimated in liters, and efficiency can differ significantly across various brands.

Many products’ capacity will fall between 400-2000 liters.

Usually, the greater the filter efficiency, the better.

Pollutants Removed And Performance

There are several common pollutants in drinking water, such as chlorine, microscopic cysts, and several heavy metals and contaminants.

Not every refrigerator water filter screens out any form of pollutant, so it would be essential to confirm the water filter’s quality requirements to ensure it screens out the pollutants you’re particularly interested in before you purchase it.

Effective fridge filters often include either activated carbon, ceramic filter media, or both variants.

Normally, refrigerator filters utilizing a combination of the two filter media forms are more efficient in screening out a wide range of contaminants.

Everything relies heavily on what you have to remove from the water.

When chlorine and smell are your only considerations, it will probably be sufficient to have an activated carbon refrigerator filter.

Once your water supply also includes other pollutants, activated carbon as well as active ceramic filters will yield better results in eliminating these pollutants.

Useful Life Of Filter

Every refrigerator filter does have a useful life.

Almost all of them would need to be replaced at least once a year typically every six months, but it still varies depending on the model.

Nevertheless, there are also refrigerator filters that would have to be changed less frequently.

The change of taste or odor of water or ice is one indication (and the simplest one to identify) that it is time to change the fridge filter.

Most new model refrigerators now have indicator light as an index as to when to replace your filter.

Almost all producers explicitly state the duration or volume in gallons before having to replace the filter.

Bear this in mind.

Micron Rating

Micron is one μm in diameter wide or one-millionth of the meter long.

The size of microparticles in water is measured using microns.

A filter micron rating would specify the particle sizes it can block, therefore when purchasing, this is useful to consider.

Consider your water supply and the pollutants you want to screen out and ensure that you select a filter with an appropriate filter micron rating.


Certifications for water filters are probably the most important factor to consider.

Nice, safe drinking water filters are endorsed by industrial standards.

Filter Compatibility With Refrigerator

A strong indication of which filter you can buy is the model of your fridge.

This doesn’t mean you must only buy refrigerator filters made by the same company as your refrigerator but choose a refrigerator filter suited with it.

Almost all inline filters have a uniform design that suits almost every waterline, but it’s always worthwhile cross-checking.

Branded filters can often be too costly or will not provide the performance you want from a refrigerator water filter.

Ease Of Installation

The ease of installation of the filter is also important.

Many filters are engineered to make installation easier by characteristics like fast connecting accessories.


Usually, top quality-level filters are more costly than regular filters, and they can also achieve better screening performance.

Certainly, after their useful life, fridge filters need to be changed completely.

When deciding amongst various filter models, consider the long-term expenses, and balance the costs with their filter capacities and longevity.

Refrigerators With Bypass Plugs

Fridges that have a water filter often have an integrated bypass plug, so that if necessary the refrigerator can be used without a filter.

The bypass plug is typically placed in the refrigerator in these types.

Move the filter anticlockwise till the filter flips out to use the bypass connector.

You can now attach the bypass filter plug in the filter element, turning it in a clockwise direction to stabilize it.

After successfully incorporating the bypass plug, water and ice would then dispense without purification.

Refrigerators Without Bypass Plugs

Many fridges enable its water system to run without filters or bypass plugs.

In such designs, the filter is normally in the base grille.

In any case, most fridges have a water filter.

After this filter has been removed, raise the lid from its end and mount it in the base grille on the filter opening.

Shift it anti-clockwise to fasten it.

Water and ice are usually released through but not filtered.

How Can I Change My Refrigerator Water Filter?

Replacing the water filter in the refrigerator is simple and can be done without asking for support, as almost every manufacturer on the market has made their water filter system user-friendly.

Generally speaking, the water filter could be replaced by unplugging or bringing out the existing water filter and screwing or pressing in the substitute; it’s that easy.

The water filter position in the fridge varies between models.

Don’t bother if you don’t fully understand how to change water filters in the fridge.

The positioning and how it’s fitted varies based on the manufacturer and design, however, the fundamentals are still the same:

  • Identify the water filter assembly as shown in the instruction manual
  • Shift the filter in the anti-clockwise direction for a quarter-turn and detach it (several other versions have a filter eject button)
  • Insert the new filter by a quarter turn from right to left

How To Bypass a Refrigerator Water Filter

To use a fridge bypass, just remove your current water filter and add the bypass filter like you would install a regular water filter.

You usually wouldn’t have to shut off the water flowing into your fridge, however, if you try to circumvent an integrated water filter at the rear of your refrigerator, you certainly have to shut off your water.

Can Refrigerator Water Filters Be Recycled?

Fridge water filters may be recycled for polymer, carbon, and perhaps even metal.

Water filters can’t be easily recycled as either part of your recycling program or at home recycling facilities.

Bear in mind that even though your water filters cannot readily be recycled, you still have a substantially lower waste option than purchasing plastic water bottles.

Not every fridge manufacturer provides recycling facilities for their water filters, and even those who do can have many jumping hurdles.

However, in such cases, third-party systems may be used to ensure that the water filter is safely disposed of.

Finally, the filter is sent to a joint manufacturer, who uses it for generating energy and further integrates all other components to concrete.

Fridge-Filtered Water Compared To Bottled Water

A relatively lively debate is in some circles about the whole refrigerator-filtered water versus the bottled water.

When you do buy high purity bottled water, you still run the risk that contaminants can come from the plastics in the bottle into the drink.

Indeed, several research works have already shown that fridge-filtered water is safer than bottled water.

Manufacturing companies often get relatively precise on what kinds of chemicals and pollutants could be filtered with fridge filters and units.

Now you’ll know what to get from your purified water.

Bottled Water

That may not be the situation for bottled water.

Unfortunately, certain manufacturers load their bottled water with nothing but water from the tap.

There are still no federal standards regarding bottled water quality, and most big corporations remain unmonitored.

When expenditure is a consideration, refrigerator water filters are a sure option.

Even when you buy bottled water in large quantities, you could still end up spending so much money every year if this is the source of water you’re mostly drinking.

Yes, in your refrigerator you’ll have to change water filters, but then you’ll surely spend much less on replacement filters than on bottled water.

Bottled water is always so costly due to plastic packaging, transporting, and advertising.

Fridge water filter units do not contend with huge advertising campaigns or labeling, and therefore they can bill the customer less.

Moreover, fridge-filtered water is eco-friendly since you wouldn’t have to bother about getting rid of plastic bottles.

Through the use of refrigerator filters, waste is reduced significantly.

Effect Of Impurities On Ice Dispensed By The Refrigerator

A fridge’s ice maker and water dispenser are connected to a common water supply, thus both would be impacted by water supply.

The unclean ice maker won’t operate at maximum capacity.

Just about every contaminant, like minerals that manage to get through the water filtration system, can accumulate on ice maker areas.

All such contaminants will disintegrate ice mold covering, contributing to ice production problems.

Besides actually damaging the pieces, a dirty ice maker often makes dirty ice, and nobody really would want unclean ice in his/her glass.

Keeping one’s refrigerator neat and tidy also encourages clear clean-tasting ice.

When something is left in your fridge with a strong aroma, the ice can absorb that smell which causes it to taste different.

Keep the ice maker free-from foods and beverages you stack into your refrigerator.

When the ice-maker load arm is blocked, the ice-maker may never produce any ice, or it can keep making ice, even though the container is full.

Furthermore, ensure you don’t obstruct the airflow of the evaporator fan or obstruct the door from shutting completely when stocking your refrigerator; this would cause the temperature inside the freezer and fridge to increase, preventing ice making.

A few signs the ice maker requires attention are low ice output, abnormally small ice, weak ice, fizzy ice, and bad-smelling ice.

The very first method of safety in maintaining the unit is replacing the water filter once or two times a year, based on how often the ice maker and water dispenser are being used.

Other Types Of Filter Systems

The filters most commonly used in homes and retail outlets include tap-integrated filters, water filter jugs, sub-sink filters, tap-mounted filters, and entire-house water filtration.

Tap-Integrated Filters

Tap-integrated water filters are spigots constructed with integrated-in filters (as opposed to a connected filter, like that of a tap-mounted filter system) and would need setup.

  • Advantage: Could change between processed and unprocessed water.
  • Disadvantage: Almost always costly to set up.

Water Filter Pitchers

Water filter pitchers are large jugs loaded from the upper side and also have incorporated screens through which water must travel before it is poured out for consumption or other purposes.

  • Advantages: Extremely affordable, no setup, easy and convenient to use.
  • Disadvantages: Differs by the brand as well as the porosity, screens must also be changed frequently, slow screening.

Sub-Sink Filters

Sub-sink filter systems are connected underneath a sink and transport water to the filter’s own uniquely engineered water tap via a pipe.

  • Advantages: Clean large volumes of water, wouldn’t need a countertop area.
  • Disadvantages: Often costly, changes to the piping may be needed.

Tap-Mounted Filters

Tap-mounted filtration devices are connected to a typical spigot and can be adjusted between screened and unfiltered flowing water.

  • Advantage: Can quickly turn between purified and unfiltered water, very cheap.
  • Disadvantage: Do not work for all taps, it might delay the flow of water.

Entire-House Water Filtration

Entire-house water filtration systems handle every water flowing into the building, not only the drinking water.

  • Advantage: Filtration can be applied to every water that enters your house, which is essential for hard water as well as volatile organic compounds.
  • Disadvantage: Always costly, may require adjustments to piping, may require skilled maintenance, chlorine-removing filtering can enhance the growth of microorganisms all pipelines of your home.

Exposure To Microbes

The dangers associated with refrigerator-filtered potable water usually involve exposure to microbes such as Escherichia coli and salmonella that negatively affect your health and water quality.

When your water filter starts to wear off, removing out the different compounds, particles, and microorganisms which could be present in the water become less efficient.

This can quickly become evident in terms of differences in the smell or taste of water running through your fridge.

Moreover, if you live in a place in which hard water is more common, fridge filters would keep the water dispensing unit clean as well as minimize the volume of scale build-up.

Some Disadvantages

Notwithstanding, water filters are quite expensive.

Also, considering the recommended frequency of replacement, it may not be cost-friendly to continually replace these filters.

In some cases, the refrigerator can be used without the need for a filter, and in such situations, the water jumps the filtration process and goes directly into ice making.

Final Thoughts

Modern refrigerators are used for water-dispensing as well as for ice-making and a water filter is installed to filter out impurities that may be present in the water, there is the answer to the question “can I use my refrigerator without the water filter?”.

If the water filter has an in-built or external bypass plug and the consumer is sure of the quality of his/her water source, a filter is not needed.

If the refrigerator has no bypass plug but the filter compartment can be shut using the filter lid, a filter is also not needed as long as the consumer is sure of the quality of his/her water source.

The sad reality is that fridges may not be as clean as possible and for this reason, some people prefer to drink bottled water.

Bottled water vs fridge water filters is indeed a serious debate but the choice is clear for health-conscious, expenditure-savvy, and eco-friendly buyers.

Refrigerator water filters work using adsorption and/or reverse osmosis to block out contaminants from going through the filter.

However, these water filters need to be replaced at least once every six months and when they are not replaced, it can be dangerous to those who drink the water from such refrigerators.

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