One of our readers wanted to know if refrigerator water filters were adequate or if they would be better off with an under counter water filter. It’s a question that many people struggle with.
Is your refrigerator water filter good enough to produce clean drinking water for you and your family?
Of course, there’s no simple answer because the answer depends on the following:
- the contaminants you want to remove
- the quality of the refrigerator water filter
Limitations of Refrigerator Water Filters
If you want to remove the most contaminants possible including Arsenic, Fluoride, Nitrate and Nitrite, Barium, Selenium, and Radium, even the best refrigerator filters aren’t able to remove these contaminants.
Because refrigerator filters use only a carbon filter and carbon filters have limitations on contaminant removal. So, if you want maximum contaminant removal, then you’ll need to opt for a carbon filter with a reverse osmosis filter or a carbon filter combined with another media. Although many carbon filters are highly effective, there’s a limit to the type of contaminants these filters can remove.
If you’re not worried about the contaminants listed above, then you might be fine with a refrigerator filter. But, you need to gather information about the filter. We recommend buying filters that are NSF certified. NSF certification means that a trusted third-party lab has verified the manufacturers’ claims.
Why are testing and certification important?
Many water filter manufacturers make claims of being the best, but not all take the next step to prove their filter’s performance. If a manufacturer really believes in their product, they get it tested and certified by NSF. And, they make those test results available on their website for your review.
If their product is not tested and performance results aren’t available, you’ve got to ask yourself why.
You Must Find & Read the Fine Print
For refrigerator water filters, the two relevant certifications are NSF 42-Aesthetic Effects and NSF 53-Health Effects. You’ll want to choose one that has both certifications. Here’s the catch, though. It’s not enough to just check for certifications, you need to read the results.
Yes, it’s a lot of fine print!
But even with NSF certification, the quality of the filters can vary widely. For instance, some filters may only be certified to remove 6 or 7 contaminants while others are certified to remove over 50. You’ll also want to pay attention to the level of contaminant reduction. Once again, there can be wide variations. Some may only reduce a contaminant by 50% and others may reduce it by 95%.
The Typical Water Filter Disclosure is Inadequate
Here’s a typical refrigerator water filter effectiveness disclosure:
- This filter is NSF-certified to reduce lead, asbestos, chlorine taste and odor, sediment and trace pharmaceuticals.*
- *Contaminant reduction certified by NSF.
- Reduces lead, asbestos, chlorine taste, and odor, sediment, and pharmaceuticals
- NSF Certified
It’s really not enough information, right?
Although, it’s good to know it reduces lead and chlorine, but it doesn’t say how much. And, you’d probably like to know if it’s going to reduce 50% of lead or 99%.
It’s great that it is NSF certified, but you don’t have the report outlining the results. Plus, there’s another issue here. If your water department uses chloramines as a water disinfectant instead of chlorine, then this filter won’t reduce the water disinfectant. And, about 20% of water departments use chloramines as a water disinfectant rather than chlorine.
What you really need is a copy of the third-party testing results. Here’s an example of a test report below from an Austin Springs’ filter.
With this report, you’ll know exactly what kind of filtration you are getting.
To summarize, a refrigerator water filter may work for you depending on the contaminants you want to remove as well as the quality of the filter. But, you’ve got some work to do!
Need help? Contact us.
Or, use our Water Filter Selector App to determine which water filter is best for you. You may also want to read How to Know if You’re Buying the Best Water Filter.