What can happen if you don’t change your water filter

Before and after, Drinking filter , Pollution, Single Object, Filtration

Whether we notice them or not, today water filters are all around us.  They come in our refrigerators, water treatment systems, and even built into some water jugs or containers.

The idea behind water filtration is simple – use a filter to make the water you drink (or otherwise use) cleaner, safer, and better-tasting.  Seems like a no brainer, right?

Keep in mind, though, that one requirement when using water filters is to ensure they are current.  That is, making sure the filter that you’re using is still working as it’s intended and isn’t past its shelf life or saturation point.

But do water filters really need to be replaced?  You may have wondered what would happen if you simply stopped replacing your water filter?  And how frequently should we really replace our filters, if at all?

This article is meant to help answer exactly those questions about what would occur if you stopped replacing your water filter, and how often you need to switch out your old filter for a new one.

Consequences of Using an Old Water Filter

In general, not changing your water filter when it is time means that your water filter will stop working at optimum capacity, and eventually might stop doing its job altogether.  In other words, it will stop your water treatment system from doing what it is designed to do.

For example, your basic activated carbon water purification filter is intended to filter out a large degree of chlorine or chloramine, which local authorities often put in the supply to ensure disinfection.  Additionally, carbon filters can remove floating sediment in the water, and can have a positive impact on how your water tastes and smells.

Because a carbon filter acts like a sponge, absorbing contaminants in the water, failing to replace a used-up filter can result in using a filter that has reached its maximal absorption threshold.  In other words, the filter is unable to absorb any further contaminants.  Let’s explore the unsavory consequences.

  • Unfiltered Water

    The water moving through the system will then be unfiltered, meaning you’ll be exposed to all the chlorine, sediment-laden, and bad tasting or smelling water that you wanted to purify in the first place.

  • Contaminant Build Up

    Moreover, using carbon filters past their usage ability means that sediment can build up past recommended levels, which can lead to a rotten and rank looking filter over a long period of time.

    And aside from sediment, a carbon water filter that is used beyond its days can collect a build-up of other materials and contaminants.  This build-up of contaminants often looks like ‘goop’ and can even leak into your supply of drinking water.  Not surprisingly, this ‘goop’ negatively affects the color, smell, and taste of the water.

  • Water Pressure Decline

    Lastly, since your old filter becomes increasingly gummed up over time, it becomes harder and harder for water to pass through the system.  This can be frustrating, as it means having to wait longer for the same amount of water, which means that daily household activities, like laundry, showering, or even filing up a water bottle take longer than usual.

How Often Should You Change Your Water Filter?

To some extent, how often you ought to change your water filter will depend on the kind of water treatment system that you use. For example, are we talking about not changing the filter on a reverse osmosis system, a charcoal filter, or a refrigerator filter?

Although many of these systems have overlapping tasks, not all are identical, and because of different tasks and sizes, the schedule to change filters can be slightly different.

The first place to go when figuring out how often you should change your filter is the owner’s manual. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, as doing so will protect your warranty coverage.

Nonetheless, if you notice a marked change in your water, such as a change in smell, taste, or appearance, it may be time to check the filter and see if it’s still performing up to normal standards.

If in doubt, take the water filter out of the system and examine it. Does it look overly used, does it have a foul smell, or d it maybe it feels a little slimy? If it does, you’ll know it’s time for a change.

As a more concrete answer, depending on size and usage, most manufacturers recommend changing their water filters every 3 to 6 months. Feel free to contact them if you’re unsure.

Keep Your Water Filter Updated

As you’ve probably gathered, the moral of the story here is that yes, you do have to change your system’s water filter in order to keep it in good working order. Although it may seem like a bit of a maintenance chore, you’ll be happy to always have clean and good tasting water.

Read next: Comparing the different types of water filter >