Is Filtered Water from Refrigerator Safe?

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Nearly 300 million Americans get their water from community water systems, all of which are governed by EPA regulations. Even so, there’s always the possibility of being exposed to things that can make you or anyone else in your household sick due to contamination. In fact, more than 30 million Americans are affected by waterborne illnesses each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

You might feel that you are giving yourself an added layer of protection if you get your water directly from your refrigerator through a filtered device. While this is largely true if you have a top-quality refrigerator water filter, there are instances when filtered refrigerator water may not be as safe as it could be. If “Is filtered water from refrigerator safe?” is a question you’re looking for an answer to, here’s what you need to know.

 


Are you looking to buy a refrigerator water filter? See our top 10 list (and buyer’s guide)


 

What happens if you don’t change your water filter?

For starters, you’ll be consuming unwanted chemicals, particles, and bacteria every time you take a sip of water from refrigerator water system with an unchanged filter. Scaling and deposit build-up can also become a problem within the various components within your fridge if a water filter is neglected. Common waterborne bacteria and viruses found in drinking water that may not be sufficiently minimized with unchanged filters include:

  • E. coli and fecal coliform
  • Coliforms
  • Fecal indicators like enterococci or coliphage

These bacteria or microbes may cause short-term issues with cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and headaches. Water from a filter that hasn’t been changed may also have noticeable cloudiness (turbidity). Water like this is more likely to contain bacteria or viruses that could also result in stomach irritation, nausea, and/or headaches.

What do refrigerator water filters filter out?

Even the best refrigerator water filters aren’t going to be able to sift out every single thing that may be harmful to humans in water. Chlorine resistant cysts, for instance, sometimes show up in trace amounts in water that’s been filtered. However, things like chlorine taste and odor are often removed effectively. Top-quality filters are also typically capable of keeping out a fairly high percentage of harmful contaminants. NSF-certified filters normally use activated carbon filters to remove a high percentage of the following contaminants:

  • Pharmaceuticals and chemicals
  • Lead, mercury, and other heavy metals
  • Organic compounds that can produce an unpleasant taste

Many high-quality filters are able to keep out about 95 percent of these substances, according to some estimates. But water filters do allow beneficial minerals like fluoride, calcium, and magnesium to pass through.

 

How Long do Unused Water Filters Last?

You don’t have to worry about carbon water filters expiring. However, age-related wear may cause some slight deterioration if you leave filters unused for excessively long periods of time. Generally, if you opt for reliable filters, you should be able to safely stash them away for a few years without worrying about them not being able to function properly. At the same time, you’ll want to be mindful of where and how you store your extra water filters. Generally, filters remain in the best condition if they are stored in a cool, dry space like a pantry.


Are you looking to buy a refrigerator water filter? See our top 10 list (and buyer’s guide)



Refrigerator Filtered water vs Bottled Water

The whole fridge filtered water vs. bottled water debate is a fairly heated one in some circles. While you can purchase bottled water that’s very pure, there’s always the risk of chemicals getting into the water from the plastic of the bottle. Some studies have actually shown that refrigerator filtered is healthier than bottled water.

There are also no uniform federal regulations for bottled water quality. So, just because you read a label that claims water is gathered from a fresh spring somewhere in an untouched paradise high up in some remote mountain region doesn’t mean the water is going to be healthier than what you can get from refrigerator filtered water.

Also with refrigerator filters and systems, manufacturers usually get fairly detailed about what types of chemicals and contaminants can be kept out. Therefore, you’ll know exactly what to expect from your filtered water. This isn’t always the case with bottled water.

If cost is a concern, fridge water filters are a clear winner. Even if you buy bottled water in bulk, you can end up spending a lot of money each year if this is the type of water you drink most of the time. Yes, you’ll have to replace water filters in your fridge, but you’ll definitely spend a lot less money on replacement filters then you would on bottled water. Plus, refrigerator filtered water is good for the planet because you don’t have to worry about ditching plastic bottles.

 

Can Fridge Water Make You Sick?

It’s possible for any type of water to make you sick if you are susceptible to certain contaminants or if you have a compromised immune system. Fridge water can also make you sick if you are not actively changing your filter as per manufacturer’s guidelines. Typically, water filters last for about six months – although this time frame can vary based on use and the overall condition of the rest of your refrigerator’s water system. Also, be aware that not all refrigerators with water accessibility have an indicator light that will tell you when to change filters.


What About Bacteria in a Refrigerator Water Dispenser?

Surprisingly, the biggest problem with refrigerator water isn’t the filters – it’s actually the water dispenser! According to a National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) study, many refrigerator water dispensers pick up a bunch of kitchen contaminants, particularly things like mold and yeast. And don’t forget the airborne particles that may be coming from the food that’s in your fridge. So, how can you deal with this issue and increase your odds of enjoying safe, healthy filtered refrigerator water?

First of all, invest in a filter that removes most contaminants before they even enter your fridge.

Second, periodically clean your dispenser along with the rest of your fridge to ensure all surfaces and components are as clean as possible.

Lastly, regularly check your dispenser and related parts for signs of cracks or other types of damage that may allow more bacteria and other harmful stuff to get into your water.

So, is filtered water from refrigerator safe? Typically, high-quality refrigerator water filters do a good job of keeping harmful bacteria and contaminants out of the H2O you and your family drink. So, the answer is “yes” as long as you change your filter regularly and choose one that filters out the particular chemicals you want to avoid.

Just make sure you keep the dispenser itself clean as well. A good rule of thumb is to get into the habit of giving your dispenser a thorough cleaning when you change filters. Also, look for a filter that meets National Sanitation Foundation standards for added peace of mind.

Read next – 10 Best Fridge Filters Reviewed

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