6 Signs That Your Fridge Water Filter Needs Changing

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The water filter in your fridge is an important part of the system. It ensures that only clean water is dispensed or used to make ice. The water filter is very effective at keeping fridge water clean, but filters have a limited lifespan. Your water filter will need to be replaced regularly, and more often if the fridge water is frequently used. Whether you’re drinking cold water or making ice, your fridge water filter is cleaning the water.

So it’s important to know when the water filter is ready to be changed. If you recently moved in or have no idea when the last filter wash changed, you may need to follow the signs.  

1) A Lot of Black Flecks

The occasional small black fleck is completely normal in most fridges. The filtering medium is carbon particles. This is a very clean black grit that water flows through. The carbon stops unwanted contents in your tap water. However, the carbon flecks sometimes escape the mesh that holds them in. This can result in the occasional fleck. But as your water filter ages, the mesh may start to fail.

If you start seeing an excess of black flecks, then your water filter is old and needs a change. Your water filter has decayed beyond function and your water won’t be filtered until a new filter is installed. 

2) Color or Murkiness

There are other visual cues as well. Properly filtered water should be crystal clear when held up to the light in a clean glass. Any sort of discoloration is a sign that your water filter is not filtering everything. Red can mean iron in the water, while gray could be dust. No matter what color your fridge water turns, the filter needs changing.

The murkiness is another bad sign. If there are swirls or your water is not completely clear, do not drink it. While many forms of coloration can be harmless, murkiness means a very high concentration of an unknown water contaminant.  Don’t drink your fridge water until the water filter has been changed. 

3) Unpleasant Taste

Even if the water is perfectly clear, the taste is often an indication of filter failure. Trust your taste-buds if they tell you there is something wrong with the water. At any point, if your water tastes funky or unpleasant, then put the glass down and look up how to change your water filter. Clean water has no color or flavor, beyond a small amount of sweetness or a very mild metallic flavor. Softened water may taste slightly salty, but you know how water usually tastes coming from your fridge. If that taste changes, then it’s time to change the water filter.

Watch specifically out for dangerous flavors that indicate unhealthy contaminants. A musty taste may be the result of algae blooms or bacteria. If the water tastes acrid or extremely bitter, this can be bleach. If the water tastes metallic and bitter, it is likely to be dissolved copper corrosion or rust in the water. 

4) Water that Smells

Your nose also knows when water is no longer safe to drink. If you’re wondering about your water filter age, take a sniff of your fridge drinking water before drinking. And listen to your nose when you take a sip. Smell plays a big part in taste and chemical detection. The most likely thing you will smell in unfiltered water is the rotten-eggs smell. This is the smell of sulfur or sulfites that can leech into the water in local underground water pipes. You may also smell something acrid, which can indicate bleach or smell metallic before you can taste metal corroded contaminants. If your nose detects anything at all in the water, think twice about drinking and replace the water filter. And if your nose sends warning signals to your brain, then put down the glass and warn your family to stay away from the fridge water until the filter is changed.  

5) More than a Year of Use

Of course, the easiest rule of thumb is the one-year rule. It’s true that water filters are only worn out when water is run through the medium. That’s why backup filters have a long shelf-life. But if your family regularly uses ice and/or water from the fridge then you can assume that the filter is getting a full workout. Many water filters advise that you change every 3-9 months of steady use.

So if your water filter has not been changed for over a year, it’s a good bet that it is filter-changing time. Any time you’re not sure whether to change the water filter, check the calendar. If it’s been longer than a year since the last filter change or since you moved in, change the filter. 

6) Water Filter Light Comes On

The last clear sign that it’s time to change your water filter is the water filter light. Not all fridges have this light. If your fridge is a newer model and it has a water and ice dispenser, that dispenser panel may include a water filter light. When this light comes on, it is indicating that it’s time to change the water filter.

The fridge itself calculates when it’s time to change the filter. Some are based on the gallons of water dispensed since the last filter-change, some are based on time passed. When that light turns on, locate your water filter and change it out. Then hold down the water filter light’s button to reset it. The light will then go out and it will be time to change the filter the next time it comes on.

—Changing your water filter is a normal part of fridge ownership. If your fridge dispenses ice or drinking water, then you’ll need to occasionally change the water filter to keep that ice and water clean. Find where your fridge stores its water filter and stock up on replacement filters. Each time that light comes on or the right amount of time has passed, switch out your water filter and enjoy clean water for another several months.

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