How Long Does a Water Filter Last

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Your water filter cartridge is the cleaning agent in your water filter system. Replacing it helps maintain the quality of water produced. The best whole-house water filter to remove fluoride and chlorine allow you to remove chemicals and bacteria from your water. But how long does a water filter last? Aside from knowing how to change a whole-house water filter, it’s crucial to know when it’s time to replace it! 

How long does a water filter last?

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There are different kinds of filters and their cleaning effects, but the general answer is that a water filter lasts 3 to 6 months to replace it. Do not wait for bacteria build-up that can cause visible discoloration in your filter. Set up filter change reminders to prevent overusing your water filters.

Waiting too long to change filters can render your filtration system ineffective in purifying water due to all the muck built up. Portland Water District implied that carbon in water filters develops bacteria when not replaced for too long. It can also cause low water pressure due to the bacteria-filled cartridges. 

Different water filters and their lifespan

Some water filters last longer than others. Here’s a general guide on how longevity differs for each water filter.

These timespans still depend on other factors. A sink water filter, refrigerator filter, and shower filter are a few of the most frequent ones to change. Pitcher water filters, like from Brita, should be changed every two months or more frequently if you have hard water at home. On the other hand, carbon filters are also one of the most common filters because of their chemical-cleaning characteristics. 

But even with the general guide, it’s still best to know the other factors and brands that can affect your water filter’s longevity.

Factors That Influence How Long a Water Filter Lasts

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Water filters may have different lifespans, but other factors can also affect longevity.

  1. Type of Water Filter Different types of filters consist of either activated carbon, RO membranes, or sediment filters. Each lifespan differs as activated carbons are noted to last for 3 to 6 months, while a Reverse Osmosis system can last for a year.
  2. Water Usage How often you use your water system affects its lifespan. Filters used for high-flow applications or in households with high water consumption may need cartridge replacement more often than those used in low-flow situations.
  3. Water Quality Your source water quality plays a significant role in your water filter cartridge. Water containing higher levels of contaminants or sediment can clog the filter faster and call for frequent replacements.

Understanding the factors will help you determine when to replace your filters. It’s best to check on these factors by contacting your municipality’s water system to check the level of sediment and chemicals to understand your water’s overall quality and to see how much your water filter is putting in the effort to clean it. 

Signs that it’s time to replace your water filter

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But how would you know it’s time to replace your water filter before it gets ugly? Changing it as soon as possible is great, but you don’t want to waste a capable water filter by changing it too early. There are notable signs to identify when to replace your water filter.

Knowing when to replace your filter will help protect you from chemicals like volatile organic compounds, bacteria, and sediments.

Decreased in water pressure 

Noticing low water pressure from your faucet is one of the leading signs that your filter has clogged up. Areas that live in places that have hard water can cause your water to clog faster from all the minerals and sediment gathered into the filter. 


The presence of unpleasant smells like sulfur (rotten egg) and chlorine means that your water filter is struggling to purify your water. Ineffective filtering of odors implies it’s time to replace your water filter. Consult your plumber or manufacturer if it’s earlier than 3 months.

Hazardous water

Soft water can be a product of an overdue water filter, making your water feel slippery. If it remains this way to the touch after purification, it contains high amounts of potassium and sodium ions. 

Potassium and sodium ions are risky in wastewater and can damage the environment, such as bodies of water and other habitats that water may pass through.

Black Mold and floaty bits

Avoid using your water if there are floating particles like mold or flakes. Black mold means fungus may have infected your water filter. Schedule a heavy clean-out using disinfectants for your whole water system. 

Once you’ve cleaned the whole system, remove your old water filter cartridge, then wash your hands with soap and alkaline to prevent contaminating the new clean filter. 

Metallic taste and scale build-up 

Another sign of replacing your filter is hard water. Build-up from minerals such as magnesium and calcium can lead to scaling, creating a metallic taste in your water. It can also lead to clogging due in your water faucet from the scale build-up. 

Natural minerals come from source water in springs and wells. It means it’s time to replace your water filter cartridge when it is ineffective in removing these minerals.

Unpleasant taste

It’s common knowledge that clean drinking water is supposed to taste fresh or have no taste. Poor-tasting drinking water is a sign that it may be contaminated. These are one of the more extreme signs of an overdue water filter.

Immediately check your water system and replace the filter to ensure there are no underlying causes of the water’s unpleasant taste.

What’s involved with the costs to replace filters?

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The costs of replacing filters can vary depending on multiple factors. Here are a few things to consider when changing your water filter. 

Water Filter Type

The overall maintenance of your water filter will depend on what kind of system you have. Under-the-sink, over-counter, or fridge filters have sooner and cost less plumbing for maintenance, while whole-house water filter systems call for a professional plumber. 

Replacing cartridges for smaller water filtration systems, like a refrigerator water filter, is more frequent than whole-house water ones. An example is the Whirlpool refrigerator water filter, which is advised to be replaced every 6 months. But other factors affect this, like how much you use your water system.

Water Filter Cartridge

Buying water filter systems include filter cartridge. But you’ll need replacement cartridges or tanks for your next occasional maintenance. The range for cartridges can start from $150 to $700, depending on your filter system type.

There are also different types of water filters, such as an activated carbon filter, charcoal filter, UV filter, and sediment filter. Costs vary on this as well.


You can DIY replace water filters, but it’s helpful to have the assistance of a professional. You can contact the manufacturer for plumbing assistance or contact a certified plumbing company. Ensure that they are licensed plumbers to ensure safety and accountability.


You will also need to invest in quality tools for maintenance, especially if you are doing your filter replacements yourself. 

  • Replacement filters
  • Silicone O-ring grease
  • A plastic filter wrench
  • 1 large bucket

How to replace a water filter

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Water filters vary, so reading your owner’s manual for specific instructions or contacting the manufacturer is the best way to identify how to replace your filter.  However, there are also general guidelines you can follow:

  1. Switch off the “shut off valve” to turn off your water supply unit to prevent water from entering during maintenance.
  2. Prepare a large bucket under the water filtration system to catch dirty water inside when opening the housing unit.
  3. Press the red pressure-relief button to release any water or air pressure cooped inside if your filter has one. Hold down the button until all air and water run out.
  4. Use a filter or band-style wrench to remove the housing or sump from the unit. Do not use metallic materials or tools since this can damage the housing.
  5. Open the housing and remove the dirty filter cartridge. Pour out the remaining dirty water inside.
  6. Wipe down the housing with non-chemical paper towels.
  7. Lubricate the o-ring, do not use petroleum greases or sealants, only use a small amount. 
  8. Place the o-ring back into the housing.
  9. Disinfect your water filter system with a cap full of bleach. 
  10. Unwrap the new cartridge and dispose of the plastic wrapper.
  11. Add the new filter cartridge by connecting it to the center bottom of the housing with the cup at the bottom. 
  12. Cover the housing sump with the water filter cap once the bottom part of the cartridge and cup are connected. Make sure it is tightened with hand pressure only.
  13. Switch open the water supply.
  14. Turn on any faucet inside your house to relieve any air or water pressure remaining by draining the tap water.

Before proceeding to follow this, always ensure that these steps are compatible with your water filter’s model. For a clear tutorial, check out this video by Pentair


Understanding how long does a water filter last helps prevent diseases and infections by keeping your water fresh and clean. But you may still have additional questions to ensure you’re doing your water filter maintenance correctly. Luckily, here are some answered FAQs to help you!

How long should a house water filter last?

Whole-house water filters can live up to 6 to 12 months, but this will also depend on your source water’s quality and how often it is used. Your municipal or water system provides a monthly source water report you can check.

How many years does a water filter last?

No water filters can last for years. Sink water filters and refrigerator water filters need to be replaced within 3 to 6 months, while a whole-house water filter lasts 6 to 12 months. On the other hand, an RO membrane can last 2 to 4 years. 

How can you tell how old a water filter is?

You can detect how old a water filter is by how it looks. Closely monitor your water filter’s quality and set your water filter replacement maintenance depending on its usage life. You can identify how old your water filter is based on whether it’s high or low water pressure.

If a few months have passed and you’re experiencing low water pressure or unpleasant-smelling water, it’s a clear sign that you’ll need to change your water.

Unused water filter cartridges do not have an expiry date but must be stored correctly by not being exposed to moisture and strong chemicals like bleach etc.

How long do Brita water filters last?  

Change your Brita Elite™ filter cartridges every 6 months or around 120 gallons for the best quality drinking water. But replacing it more frequently is advised if you have hard source water. 

Consider how often you use your filters and your source water’s quality, which can also affect how frequently you change your water filters. 


Having healthy filtered water comes with staying on track with your house maintenance. Knowing how long does a water filter last will help you properly schedule your water filter replacement to maintain quality purified water at home!

Staying up-to-date with your water filter maintenance will keep you safe from harmful chemicals and bacteria leaching into your water, protecting your overall health and quality of life for you and your loved ones.