How to Use a Refrigerator Water Filter Bypass Plug or Cartridge

If you’ve purchased a refrigerator in the last 20 years, it probably comes with a water filtration system that provides you with, at the minimum, purified ice in your ice maker, but also, most likely fresh drinking water.

But if you’re having trouble finding replacement filters or if your water is already filtered, you may want to consider bypassing the system. A refrigerator water filter bypass plug or cartridge can help you skip the headache of dealing with your refrigerator. It’s easy to fix, so you’ll still get clean, unfiltered water from the dispenser, or ice in your ice maker, in no time at all.

Why Use a Refrigerator Water Filter Bypass Plug or Cartridge?

There are a lot of reasons why you may want to opt out of using your refrigerator filtration system and use a refrigerator water filter bypass plug. However, the main reasons really come down to convenience or redundancy. This includes reasons like: 

Your Water is Already Filtered

If you live in a city or area that already filters its water, an in-fridge filtration system may seem redundant. Suburban houses usually have pretty heavily filtered water systems. The work required to maintain a filtration system can be extra work that you don’t really have time for. More rural areas that run on well water can have a similar effect. The water from a well isn’t usually contaminated by the pollutants you see in busier areas. These pollutants are far more common in urban or suburban centers. Filtering your water will only strain out some of the healthy minerals that give well water its distinctive sharp taste. 

Your Fridge is Older

For older fridges, it can be a hassle to find replacement parts – or which part number you’re looking for – even if you have a model from a well-known brand name such as Whirlpool. This makes finding the correct replacement an extremely difficult part of maintenance that may just not be worth the effort today. If this is the case, then bypassing the water filtration system entirely can be a precious time saver. It’ll also take some of the headaches out of making sure your home is still running smoothly. 

The System is Too Complicated

This reasoning builds off the previous entry. You may not be comfortable disassembling and reassembling your refrigerator to clean, maintain, and replace various water filter parts. If this is the case, it may be easier for you to just skip the whole process with a water filter bypass plug. Again, in most situations, the water you drink or the ice you grab from your ice maker without the filter is usually pretty safe. Using a refrigerator water filter bypass plug or system to bypass the water filter system won’t have any health impacts beyond giving you extra time to spend on other tasks. 

It’s Not Making Enough of a Difference

The way water filters work today is by absorbing any chemicals that produce an odd odor or color in water. However, heavier contaminants like lead and arsenic are able to pass through most standard water filters. Meanwhile, the same filters strain out relatively harmless compounds like benzene or trace mineral deposits. Because of this discrepancy in their usefulness, some may see filters as mostly unnecessary – but you should review information from additional reliable sources to make your own decision. This leads them to bypass their refrigerator water filter system altogether. 

Where to Get a Refrigerator Water Filter Bypass Plug or Cartridge

So now you’ve made the decision to bypass your refrigerator water filtration system and you feel like a bypass plug is the right fit for your household. The next step is finding a compatible water filter bypass plug or cartridge that fits your fridge down to its make and model so you can place the order. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to find parts for a bypass system that fits your refrigerator water filter, and your options include choices like: 


Online retailers provide a wide stock and selection of systems, including a compatible refrigerator water filter bypass plug that you can apply to most filtration systems. The biggest danger with shopping online, however, comes from finding the correct or compatible fit for your refrigerator water filter system. You might not have time to visit a store in person, or you enjoy the convenience of shopping online and placing an order today.

If this sounds like you, take the time to note and enter the correct make and model number of your refrigerator (you can also check your owner’s manual). With this information, it should be far easier to find an in-stock filter bypass plug system that fits. You’ll know that the makers designed that bypass plug or cartridge specifically with your specific refrigerator water filter system in mind. In addition, because you’re shopping online, you can compare pricing and ensure that the compatible part number or product you’re looking for is in stock.

In a Store

If you have the time to visit a store, you’ll be able to benefit from the advice of experts. Sales associates will be a wealth of information and should be able to help you find the perfect and correct refrigerator water filter bypass plug, cartridge, system, or other parts that will work best with your refrigerator model number. Moreover, they’ll be able to tell you the amount of time you’ll devote to cleaning and maintaining this new refrigerator-compatible system. As with online shopping, having a solid plan of attack can be a huge advantage even before you start. Take the time to do some research and gather information on the product line before you enter the store and start your shopping so that you know what you’re looking for and can order when you find the correct refrigerator water filter bypass plug model in stock. 

From the Manufacturer

Depending on your fridge, you may be able to purchase a compatible refrigerator water filter bypass plug from the source. Older refrigerators may not have the same level of adaptability that the ones being made today have. Newer fridges, however, will often provide the ability for users to opt out of the filtration system. This will allow you to know that the water filter bypass plug or another system you’ve received is officially endorsed. The same company (such as Whirlpool or Maytag), that provided you with your fridge in the first place will guarantee the compatible bypass plug or system.

Begin by checking your owner’s manual for the correct model or part number, then try contacting the original manufacturer to see if it’s in stock! You may have to look elsewhere for a refrigerator water filter bypass plug if your refrigerator is more than ten years old. Moreover, if you want a refrigerator water filter bypass plug, cartridge, or system that’s more competitively priced, you may want to look online before you place an order. 

How to Install a Water Bypass Plug or Cartridge

Before purchasing a refrigerator water filter bypass plug or cartridge, check to make sure you actually need one. If your water filter is in the grille at the refrigerator base, turn the filter handle counterclockwise and pull. If the filter is inside the fridge, there should be a release button. This button will allow you to lift the cartridge out and remove it without too much effort. Consult your owner’s manual if you need assistance with this area. Even if you’ve thrown it away, you should be able to find an electronic version online.

If your refrigerator still dispenses water through the line after you’ve tried these two steps, then you’ve already bypassed the filtration system, and you don’t need to go through the hassle of buying and installing a filter bypass plug! If no water comes out, however, you’re probably going to have to buy a filter bypass plug or cartridge. Once you’ve done that, follow these quick and easy steps for installing your water filter bypass plug: 

1. Find the water filter housing

As a general rule, your water filter is going to be in either one of two places, as described above. Look in the bottom grille of your refrigerator or in the upper right corner of the back of your refrigerator. In either location, you should see a knob, button, or some sort of push-and-pull mechanism. These should allow you to remove the filter and slot in your refrigerator water filter bypass plug or cartridge. 

2. Remove the filter cartridge

Before you remove the refrigerator water filter, and go through the process of installing your new water filter bypass plug, you may want to put a cloth or rag beneath the filter housing. This will catch any water that may spill when you’re changing out, bypassing, or replacing the water filter. Move any groceries out of the way and cover the space beneath the filter. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to get this refrigerator water filter removed and replaced! 

Press the button or knob beside the filter that locks the housing into place. At the same time, rotate the bottom of the housing counterclockwise. You should hear or feel a click once the housing has come unfastened. If not, you should feel it slot out of place once it releases from its holding mechanism. Your refrigerator water filter may seem stuck or jammed due to air that’s still trapped inside the filter. If this is the case, tap it a few times to disrupt any air pockets. Once the air escapes, you should be able to finish your removal. 

Put the water filter to the side. Be sure to dispose of it once you’ve finished replacing the cartridge. Your refrigerator water filter bypass plug, cartridge, or system should now be set. 

Read the How to Recycle Water Filters article to learn the options for old water filters.

Recycle Reuse Reduce

Check Your Options for Recycling Your Old Water Filter

3. If you’re using a plug

The model of your refrigerator should match the model of the refrigerator water filter bypass plug that you purchased. Now it’s time to make the switch! The filter bypass plug should fit into the same spot as the refrigerator water filter system. In most cases, it looks pretty similar to the preexisting system. 

As a result, you should be able to insert the water filter bypass plug the same way you removed the refrigerator water filter. If your water filter port is inside the refrigerator, then you should be able to snap the bypass plug in. Twist it clockwise until you hear a click to indicate that it’s locked in. If the filter port is in the base grille of the refrigerator, it may be more difficult to access.

However, you should be able to secure it to the same valve. Attach it to the same spot where you removed the water filter and twist until it locks into position. 

4. If you’re using a cartridge

A water bypass cartridge works differently from a water filter bypass plug in that it doesn’t entirely replace the water filter system. Instead, it effectively “disarms” the water filter system by replacing the cartridge inside the filter housing. This water filter cartridge is used to absorb trace minerals and relatively harmless compounds. A cartridge bypass system won’t filter the water at all. This can be easier than bypassing the system altogether and also allows for easy re-installment of the proper cartridge. 

If you’re using a cartridge to bypass your water filter, follow the same first few steps. This time, however, don’t dispose of your water filter after removing it. Instead, snap the blank cartridge into the place inside the housing system that usually holds the main water filter cartridge. 

Once you’ve switched the cartridges, return the water filtration housing to its spot inside your fridge. Tighten the filter by turning it clockwise until you hear or feel it snap back into place. 

Some cartridges work like plugs in that they do replace the entire filtration system. Usually, they use a blank filter that still allows water to dispense. If this is the case, treat the cartridge like a plug. Remove the refrigerator water filtration system, set it aside, and use your hands to slot the cartridge into place. Turn it clockwise until you feel it click or lock into its place inside your refrigerator. 

5. Check your work

Once you’ve swapped out your refrigerator water filter, check to make sure that your refrigerator water dispenser still works. Water should still dispense through the refrigerator door. Check your work by trying to fill a glass of water from the new, filter-less system. If water doesn’t flow, or if it doesn’t flow as smoothly as before, there may be an issue. Make sure your bypass plug is properly secured in place. Check also to be sure it’s fully inserted into the slot that the water filter would have filled. 

Finally, check the valves around your new water filter bypass plug for any leaks or drips. You may see some water from the time between removing the old system and inserting the new bypass. Clean those stray drops and try running the water through your refrigerator for a few seconds. This will show any more leaks that need fixing. 


Ultimately, the choice of your refrigerator water and what you use to filter rests with you. Consider whether filters are necessary and whether they’re worth the time and effort of maintenance. Consider whether they really do all that much to make water safer. If you decide that your water filtration system is more trouble than it’s worth, a refrigerator water filter bypass plug or cartridge can be a quick, easy way of sidestepping the entire process while still retaining full use of your refrigerator.

With the purchasing information, guidelines, suggestions, and installation steps outlined above, you should have no problem replacing your old water filter system and installing a water filter bypass plug today. Instead, you’ll have a refrigerator water filter bypass system that you can trust to still dispense dependable water whenever you need it.

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