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. 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 fridge. It’s easy to fix, so you’ll still get clean, unfiltered water 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 fridge’s filtration system. 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 more 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. This makes replacement an extremely difficult part of maintenance that may just not be worth the effort. If this is the case, then bypassing the 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 fridge to clean, maintain, and replace various filtration parts. If this is the case, it may be easier for you to just skip the whole process. Again, in most situations, the water you drink without the filter is usually pretty safe. Bypassing the filtration 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 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. This leads them to bypass their fridge’s water filtration system altogether. 

Where to Get a Refrigerator Water Filter Bypass Plug or Cartridge

So now you’ve made the decision to bypass your fridge’s water filtration system. The next step is finding a plug or cartridge that fits your fridge down to its make and model. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to find a bypass system that fits your fridge, and your options include choices like: 


Online retailers provide a wide selection of water filter bypass systems that you can apply to most filtration systems. The biggest danger with shopping online, however, comes from finding the exact fit for your water filtration system. You might not have time to visit a store in person, or you enjoy the convenience of shopping online.

If this sounds like you, take the time to note the exact make and model of your fridge. With this information, it should be far easier to find a bypass system that fits. You’ll know that the makers designed that bypass specifically with your refrigerator’s water filtration system in mind. 

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 able to help you find the perfect bypass system that will work best with your fridge. Moreover, they’ll be able to tell you the amount of time you’ll devote to cleaning and maintaining this new 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 before you start your shopping so that you know what you’re looking for. 

From the Manufacturer

Depending on your fridge, you may be able to purchase a water filtration bypass system from the source. Older appliances may not have the same level of adaptability. Newer fridges, however, will often offer the ability for users to opt-out of the filtration system. This will allow you to know that the product you’ve received is officially endorsed. The same company that provided you with your fridge in the first place will guarantee the bypass. Try contacting the original manufacturer to check! You may have to look elsewhere for a bypass system if your fridge is more than ten years old. Moreover, if you want a bypass system that’s more competitively priced, you may want to look online. 

How to Install a Water Bypass Plug or Cartridge

Before actually purchasing a water bypass plug or cartridge, check to make sure you actually need one. If your water filter is in the grille at the fridge 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 filter cartridge out and remove it without too much effort.

If your fridge still dispenses water after you’ve tried these two steps, then you’ve already bypassed the filtration system! If no water comes out, however, you’re probably going to have to buy a plug or cartridge. Once you’ve done that, follow these quick and easy steps: 

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 fridge or in the upper right corner in the back of your fridge. 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 water bypass cartridge or plug. 

2. Remove the filter cartridge

Before you remove the filter, 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 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 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 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. 

Place the filter to the side. Be sure to dispose of it once you’ve finished replacing the cartridge. Your water filtration system bypass device should now be in place. 

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

As a result, you should be able to insert the plug the same way you removed the water filter. If your water filter port is inside the fridge, then you should be able to snap the 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 fridge, it may be more difficult to access.

However, you should be able to secure it to the same valve. Attach it to the place 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 plug in that it doesn’t entirely replace the filtration system. Instead, it effectively “disarms” the water filter system by replacing the cartridge inside the filter housing. This filter cartridge 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 filter cartridge. 

Once you’ve switched the cartridges, return the water filtration housing to its place 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 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 fridge. 

(Note: in general, you shouldn’t need any tools to replace your water filtration system. Whether you use a plug or a cartridge, water filters are usually designed to be easily accessible and replaceable. Especially in recent years, ease has been a major design feature. You should be able to switch and bypass the filtration system without too much difficulty.)

5. Check your work

Once you’ve swapped out your water filter, check to make sure that your fridge still works. Water should still dispense through the fridge 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 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 bypass system 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 fridge for a few seconds. This will show any more leaks that need fixing. 

If you need further guidance. Check out the following video:


Ultimately, the choice of your fridge’s water 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 water filtration bypass cartridge or plug can be a quick, easy way of sidestepping the entire process while still retaining full use of your fridge.

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

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