Sometimes, It’s Just a Dirty Filter.

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The importance of changing refrigerator water filters.  

‘Refrigerator water not flowing,’ ‘ice maker not working,’ ‘fridge water tastes funny,’ flecks in filtered fridge water,’ etc. are some of Repair Clinic’s most searched refrigerator symptoms and most-watched Troubleshooting videos.

Do I Really Need to Change My Water Filter?

If you read the EPA’s “FAQ Factsheet on Home Drinking Water,” the answer is, yes, you do. Changing your filter is critical to maintaining your refrigerator, but more importantly, it is critical to maintaining the cleanliness and integrity of your family’s drinking water. The water filter acts in the same way respirators work to keep out dust and viruses in hostile and dirty environments, as it prevents unwanted molecules from entering the water and keeps your drinking water fresh and safe.

Refrigerators with a water dispenser, a water supply line or an icemaker have filters to remove small particles or contaminants, such as lead and chlorine, and impurities that cause bad tastes or odors and could even be harmful to your family’s health.

Refrigerator filters are designed to remove bad tastes and odors using a combination of sediment and carbon filtration. Refrigerator filters contain a carbon block core wrapped in a material like polypropylene. Water flows mechanically through the outer material to remove debris and suspended solids. Other unwanted particles cling to the surface of the carbon block.

Contaminants in water adhere to the carbon in a refrigerator filter through a process called adsorption. They don’t soak into the carbon’s surface (absorption) but adhere to a spot within carbon’s enormous surface area (adsorption).  

An unchanged water filter can produce water with a foul odor or a strange taste. A dirty or clogged water filter can also affect your refrigerator’s mechanical actions, such as the ice dispenser. A fridge with a water dispensing function is a significant investment and really should be treated as such. Ensuring that you are changing your fridge water filter with a quality replacement will prevent unwanted particles in the water and increase your appliance’s lifespan. Refrigerator filters should be replaced periodically following the guidelines in your owner’s manual, often twice per year, so mark a calendar reminder for every six months.

Signs You Need to Change Your Water Filter

Visible and Regular Black Flecks
The occasional small black fleck is entirely normal in most fridges. The filter is composed of carbon particles, which are black and harmless in small amounts. The carbon stops unwanted contents in your water from flowing into your water glass or ice cubes. Sometimes the carbon escapes the mesh that holds the particles; 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 specks, your water filter is old and has decayed beyond function, and your water won’t be adequately filtered until a new filter is installed. 

Color or Murkiness
Properly filtered water should be crystal clear when held up to the light in a clean glass. Any 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.

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 is changed. 

Unpleasant Taste
Even if the water is perfectly clear, “off” or bad tasting water is a strong indication of filter failure. Trust your tastebuds; 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. Watch 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. 

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; 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: the smell of sulfur or sulfites that can leech into the water in local underground water pipes. You may also smell something acrid, indicating bleach, or smell metallic before you can taste metal corroded contaminants.

More than a Year of Use
Of course, the most straightforward rule of thumb is the one-year rule. Indeed, water filters are only worn out when water is run through the carbon medium. If your family regularly uses ice and/or water from the fridge, then you can assume that the filter is getting a full workout. 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 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 based on the gallons of water dispensed since the last filter-change, or time passed.

Replacing your refrigerator water filter is easy.

  1. Find your water filter model number
  2. Review Repair Clinic’s 50+ Help and How-To videos on refrigerator water filters
  3. Shop Repair Clinic’s inventory of genuine manufacture water filter parts

Often, seemingly complex appliance problems that might require expensive and laborious repairs aren’t anything more than a clogged or worn-out filter. Regular filter replacement is vital for your appliances’ maintenance and life expectancy and crucial to your family’s health. Shop water filtration system replacement parts today!

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