Whirlpool® stainless steel refrigerator

How do refrigerator water filters work?

A refrigerator water filter cleans tap water by trapping and neutralizing contaminants before it flows through the fridge dispenser and ice maker. The porous material of the activated carbon in the filter reduces impurities by absorbing contaminants.

Refrigerator water filters are one of the best, most cost-effective ways to ensure your family has access to clean water. Learn how your fridge filters tap water to provide clean, fresh water that can be beneficial to overall health.

Refrigerator water filter Refrigerator water filter

What is a refrigerator filter?

A refrigerator filter reduces contaminants in the water that flows from your faucet through your refrigerator dispenser and ice maker. The water filter, located inside your refrigerator, usually uses a coconut shell activated carbon filter to trap and absorb contaminants and pollutants in your tap water. This results in fresh-tasting water for drinking and cooking.

How does a filter clean water?

Most refrigerator water dispensers make it easy to access clean water using a three-part filtration process. Activated carbon in the filter traps larger sediments in the particle-filtration phase, capturing medium contaminants in the micro-filtration phase, and uses a chemical reaction to absorb microscopic pollutants in the adsorption-filtration phase.

Coconut shells are commonly used for the activated carbon in the filter as they are a non-toxic, renewable source derived from nature. Unlike a coal filter, coconut shell filters are a purer form of carbon with a higher surface volume of micropores ideal for removing impurities like chlorine and iron that can affect the taste and odor of drinking water.

Particle-filtration phase


During the particle-filtration phase, your refrigerator filter will physically trap sediments on the outside surface of the carbon filter. It helps block larger contaminants, like sand and silt, and improves the clarity of your drinking water.

Micro-filtration phase


The micro-filtration phase of your refrigerator water filter is the second stage of purification to ensure clean drinking water. As the water flows through the carbon filter, it captures medium-sized contaminants like sugars and cysts.

Absorption-filtration phase


In the final phase of your refrigerator’s filtration process, microscopic contaminants, such as traces of pharmaceuticals and pesticides, are absorbed by the carbon filter. The absorption-filtration phase removes contaminants to improve the taste and odor of your drinking water.

What do refrigerator water filters filter out?

The top contaminants that are typically removed by a refrigerator water filter are chlorine, lead, mercury, pesticides and pharmaceuticals. This is important because variables from public water sources to the pipes that take it to your home can affect water quality.

As a result, everyday tap water can carry contaminants that not only affect the taste and odor of water, ice, and food — but the overall health of your family. Using a fridge water filter helps reduce these contaminants.

Are refrigerator water filters effective?

As long as quality refrigerator water filters are maintained and replaced, they are effective at reducing contaminants in your tap water. What a filter is able to remove depends on the make and model, along with other factors such as the initial water quality. It’s recommended to replace your filter twice a year, every six months, to keep the fresh, clean water and ice flowing from your refrigerator dispenser. Learn more about how refrigerators work.

Whirlpool brand refrigerators work with Whirlpool® water filters and everydrop® water filters that use activated carbon from coconut shells to reduce up to 73 contaminants (depending on your refrigerator model) and capture 99.9% of lead1. This includes removing up to 99.9% of lead from both your water and ice.


Replace your filter every 6 months and only consider filters certified by NSF International2.

Can I use my refrigerator without the water filter?

If the filter is clogged and you’re not able to immediately replace it, leave the filter out so the water system is in bypass mode. The water system will continue to operate and won’t slow water dispensing. However, in order to have clean drinking water, you will need to install a new filter.

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Whirlpool® and everydrop® refrigerator water filters

Whirlpool® and everydrop® filters take roughly 5 minutes to install. Look for the colored number on your filter and consider purchasing a subscription through the Whirlpool® Water Filter Subscription Program to automatically ship a replacement filter every three or six months. Whirlpool can also help you change your filter.

More refrigerator maintenance tips

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1. Certified by NSF International to remove 99% of lead at pH level 6.5. Reduction may vary based on your water's pH level.

2. NSF International is an accredited, independent third-party certification body that tests and certifies products to verify they meet these public health and safety standards.