How Often Should I Change My Water Filter?

May 23, 2018 Allison Hess


Water filters help remove harmful contaminants found in tap water. If you don’t properly filter your water, you and your family could end up drinking unsafe bacteria and chemicals.

Below we’ll go through the importance of a water filter and how to change or clean your filter for optimal water purity.

What is a water filter?

There are different types of water filtration systems. Most modern homes will have water filters installed in the piping, especially if you have “city water” in your home. If you have “well water,” you might have water filtration directly in the well reservoir itself.

But even the most sophisticated water filtration systems can let contaminants and bacteria through. In fact, one study found that most of the bacteria found in drinking water is traced back to the filtration treatment process itself—not the body of water where it originated.

A recent study also found that tap water worldwide is contaminated with microplastics, which have harmful pathogens and health impacts. In fact, in the U.S., 94.4% of the tap water samples contained plastic fibers.

Even bottled water isn’t completely harmless and bacteria-free. Studies have shown that bottled water can also contain bacteria (unless carbonated or distilled water).

Thus, it’s recommended to filter all water separately in a pitcher. This removes contaminants for the purest and healthiest possible water.

The most common water filter is a Brita pitcher. The Spruce also lists the 7 best water filters to buy in 2018.

Most water filtration systems have a filter mesh, often with activated carbon granules. The carbon acts as a magnet to attract and pull out larger particles from the water.

Note that most standalone filters, like Brita pitcher filters, don’t actually “filter” water. They reduce metals and chemicals, but they don’t remove all the microbial elements. This makes tap water healthier and more palatable, but it’s still not 100% pure.

How Often Should I Change My Water Filter?

Why should I use a water filter?

Water is essential to life. Humans are composed of 70% water. The water you put into your body is transported to every cell and organ. You want your water to be as pure and healthy as possible.

But regular tap water can be filled with harmful contaminants that can actually damage your health. From bacteria like E. coli to minerals like mercury and lead, impure water can have long-term health consequences.

Most water filters will remove chlorine, copper, cadmium, zinc, mercury, and lead. The best filters are able to completely reduce these contaminants while maintaining a healthy level of fluoride, which promotes strong teeth and maintains water ph.

Plus, you likely use tap water for other uses in your home as well. From cooking to cleaning, water permeates every aspect of your home and health. You even use it to water your houseplants; if your plants don’t have healthy water, they won’t be able to release healthy and purifying oxygen back into your home. 

Water filters create healthier water. And healthy water makes for a healthier family.

Why do I need to change my water filter?

A water filter works like the lint tray in your laundry machine. These filters collect all of the extra gunk and particles that aren’t supposed to be there.

The laundry lint collector pulls out extra lint and debris to ensure your clothes get a thorough clean. In the same way, a water filter pulls out contaminants to leave behind healthy and unpolluted water.

But you need to empty or change your lint tray often because it can get clogged with lint and grime.

The same happens to your water filter. The substances removed from the water start to clog up the filter, making it less and less effective with each use.

You need to replace or clean your water filter regularly to keep it clean, clear, and functioning correctly.

How often should I clean my water filter?

The basic rule of thumb for cleaning or changing a water filter is every 40 gallons or two months.

However, how often you change your filter also depends on other factors like:

  • Water consumption of household
  • Brand/unit of filtration system
  • Amount of elements that need filtering
  • Hardness of water 

You should change your filter every 2-6 weeks if you have a large number of people in your house, you use the filtered water frequently, you have hard water, or you have medium to heavy sediments.

Most residential water filters will have a cling calendar or electronic indicator to help determine when it’s time to change or clean your filter.

You use the cling calendar to see when you last changed your filter, and it will show you when you should next change. You have to remember to look at the calendar, though.

The electronic indicator is able to measure the effectiveness of the filter. The indicator will blink or illuminate when the filter needs to be changed. This takes the guesswork out of changing your filter.

It’s easy to mindlessly pour water and ignore any indicators to change your filter, though. Thus, you might also want to set a reminder on your phone or calendar. After you change your filter, schedule another change in one or two months.

Follow the instructions in your filter’s user manual for more specific time ranges for cleaning and changing.

How Often Should I Change My Water Filter?

How do I clean my water filter?

  1. Remove the old filter from the pitcher. This is usually easier if the reservoir is dry, so don’t run water through before changing your filter. You might need to twist slightly to loosen the filter from its reservoir.
  1. If applicable, recycle the old filter. Most water filtration systems have their own recycling partners. For example, Brita partners with TerraCycle to create a free recycling program for Brita pitchers, dispensers, bottles, faucet systems, filters, and filter packaging.
  1. Wash your hands before handling the new filter.
  1. Remove the new filter from the package. Pre-soak in a bowl of cold water for 2-4 minutes. (Not all filters require a pre-soak. Check the user manual.)
  1. Flush out the filter by running it under cold water for 15 seconds.
  1. While soaking and flushing the filter, clean the pitcher and reservoir with warm, soapy water. Dry thoroughly to avoid the growth of bacteria. Be sure to use a non-abrasive cleanser that won’t damage the plastic or glass of the pitcher. We recommend using one teaspoon of vinegar in one cup of water for a natural, bacteria-killing solution.
  1. Insert the flushed filter into the reservoir by lining up the grooves. Press firmly to ensure a tight seal. Most filters will “click” into place.
  1. Add cold tap water to the pitcher. Discard or water your plants the first 2-3 pitchers of filter. This helps get rid of any carbon dust that comes loose in the initial uses of a filter. 

We recommend changing your water filter rather than cleaning it. You want fresh activated carbon to best pull out contaminants. Note that most pitchers and filters are not dishwasher safe.

Want another way to purify your water without expensive filters?

Try teabags!

You can purchase activated charcoal online or at a local pharmacy. Use a spoon to fill a clean, empty tea bag with charcoal. Tighten the bags to decrease the chance the charcoal will fall out.

Use two tea bags for a normal-sized water dispenser. These work like the filters above, so you should pre-soak them and flush them before drinking water. You will also want to replace these at the same rate of 40 gallons or 2 months.

Although this is a less-expensive and more eco-friendly method, it typically doesn’t work as effectively as store-bought filters.

Water filter tips and tricks

  1. Store your water pitcher in a cool, shady place. Sunlight can cause algae and bacteria to grow.
  1. Keep your water dispenser in the refrigerator for consistently cold water. If you don’t keep in the fridge, change water every two days.
  1. Don’t fill the water pitcher with water exceeding 80 degrees F.
  1. Purchase only BPA-free water pitchers.
  1. Don’t filter more than 2 gallons of water per day.

How Often Should I Change My Water Filter?


A water filter is the best way to have access to clean water for your health, home, and family. Changing your water filter frequently is necessary for an effective water filtration system.

What are your tips and tricks for filtering your water at home?

Let us know in the comments below. We look forward to hearing about how you keep your water clean.


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