How Often Should I Change My Pitcher Water Filter Cartridge?

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If you want your water filter pitcher to continue to produce clean, filtered drinking water for your family, you need to replace the filter regularly. 

Here, we’ve shared how often you should replace the filter in your water filter pitcher

📌 Key Takeaways: 

  • You should replace the filter in your water filter pitcher every 2-3 months. 
  • Water filter pitchers need replacing because they eventually become clogged with contaminants and can no longer properly filter water. 
  • Factors affecting the lifespan of a filter in a water filter pitcher include the water quality, your filtered water demand, the filter size and surface area, and the filter pore size. 

📉 Water Filter Pitcher Lifespan

The average lifespan of a water filter pitcher is 2-3 months. 

That means you’ll need to replace the filter in your pitcher between four and six times a year on average. 

The longest-lasting water filter in a pitcher that we’ve come across is the Brita Elite (formerly LongLast) filter, which lasts around 6 months. 

The pitcher itself should last much longer; years with proper care. 

You can find out how often you should replace the filter in your water filter pitcher by checking the product information for your pitcher online or consulting the user manual. 

Water filter pitcher lifespan

🤔 Why Do Water Filter Pitchers Need Replacing?

The main reason why filters in water pitchers need replacing is that they have a limited surface area, and this surface space will eventually become clogged by contaminants. 

The role of the filter in your pitcher is to remove impurities from your tap water. As water flows through the filter media, contaminants like chlorine, chemicals, and heavy metals are trapped in the filter’s pores

Eventually, the surface of the filter media becomes saturated with contaminants. These contaminants create a barrier in the filter, preventing water molecules from being able to pass through.

If you continue to use your pitcher filter without replacing it, the filter will eventually become so clogged with contaminants that the flow of water through the filter slows to drips, and you’ll have to wait a long time to get access to clean water from the filter spout. 

Plus, an old filter’s surface may become degraded and worn. This may cause holes to form in the media, allowing trapped contaminants to re-enter your water supply, which will reduce your filtered water quality. 

There’s also the concern of bacteria. The filter in your pitcher is damp and moist, offering the perfect environment for bacteria to breed. If you leave your filter too long without replacing it, you’re more at risk of getting sick from drinking bacteria in your water.

📋 Factors Affecting How Often A Filter In A Water Filter Pitcher Needs Replacing 

Here are the key factors that affect how often you should replace the filter in your water filter pitcher: 

Water Quality

The quality of your water determines how many contaminants your water contains, and therefore how many contaminants will become clogged in the filter media. 

The poorer your water quality, the faster the filter media will become clogged with contaminants, and the more frequently you’ll need to replace it. 

Contaminants that are known for clogging water filters include water hardness minerals, chlorine, sediment, and iron. 

Water quality

Filtered Water Demand

The amount of filtered water you use will also affect how often you need to replace your water pitcher’s filter. 

The bigger your family and the more water you filter per day, the faster contaminants will accumulate in the filter due to the filter’s increased exposure to these contaminants. 

Manufacturers predict their filter lifespans based on the average volume of water that they expect consumers to use per day. If you use more water than anticipated, your filter may not last as long as expected and you may need to replace it more frequently. 

Filter Size & Surface Area

Most water filter pitchers have filters that are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. But size and surface area still varies somewhat from one filter to the next, and this can determine the filter’s contaminant reduction capacity – and, in turn, its lifespan. 

The bigger the filter and the larger its surface area, the greater number of contaminants can be trapped in the media before the filter becomes too clogged to perform properly. 

That means larger filters in a pitcher are likely to last longer than smaller filters. 

Water filter pitcher filter size and surface area

Pore Size

Your water pitcher’s filter will have a specific pore size, and this will determine the contaminants it can remove. 

The smaller the filter pore size, the shorter its average lifespan. Why? Because a smaller pore size allows a filter to trap a greater range of contaminants, and these contaminants will clog the filter surface faster. 

Let’s say your water filter pitcher has a 5-micron filter. Any contaminants smaller than 5 microns will be able to slip through the filter’s pores, while any contaminants that are 5 microns or larger will be trapped in the media. 

Compare this with a pitcher that has a 1-micron filter. This filter will trap all contaminants larger than 5 microns, plus all contaminants in the 1-5 micron range, so a higher concentration of contaminants will be trapped in the media. As a result, the 1-micron filter will probably need to be replaced more frequently. 

🔎 Why Doesn’t A Filter In A Water Filter Pitcher Last Long?

If you’ve been doing your research, you’ll know that most other water filters, like under-sink filters and countertop filtration systems, have longer lifespans than water filter pitcher filters. 

The reason why pitcher filters don’t last long is that they’re significantly smaller than other filter types, which means they have a reduced surface area and will become clogged with contaminants faster. 

Filters in a pitcher also use gravity filtration, rather than being powered by water pressure (as most other systems are). So, when the filter becomes clogged, it becomes unusable much faster because the force of gravity isn’t powerful enough to send the water through the filter’s blocked pores. 

Scale build up inside water filter pitcher cartridge

📖 How To Know When The Filter In Your Water Filter Pitcher Needs Replacing

There are a few signs to look out for that suggest your water filter pitcher needs replacing: 

  • Slow flow rate – Water filter pitchers have slow flow rates because they use gravity filtration. But if the filtration time more than doubles or you notice that water is leaving the filter in drips, it suggests you need a new filter. 
  • Poor water taste – A bad taste in your water is a sign that your filter is no longer removing contaminants as it should, and you’ll need to replace it with a new one. 
  • Change in water color – If your water becomes murky or you can see floating particles, it’s a sure sign that you need a new filter ASAP. Murky water or debris in water suggests that your filter is starting to release contaminants back into your water. 
  • Discolored filter – If all else fails, remove the filter from the holder and examine its color. If the filter is gray, brown, or yellow (rather than bright white), it’s a sign that you need to replace it. 

📤 How To Extend Your Pitcher Filter’s Lifespan 

There are a few ways to extend the lifespan of the filter in your water filter pitcher: 

Use The Pitcher Less Frequently

The more frequently you use your water filter pitcher, the faster the filter will become clogged with contaminants. 

So, if you want to reduce how often you replace the filter, reduce your use frequency. 

Only use the pitcher to filter the water you plan to drink. For all other purposes, use the water straight from your tap. 

Pre-Treat Your Water 

A good way to reduce the rate at which your pitcher filter clogs is to install a point-of-entry pre-treatment system in your home. This will improve your water quality and remove some of the contaminants that may clog the filter’s pores, helping to extend the filter lifespan. 

For instance, if you have hard water, installing a water softener in your home means that you can fill the pitcher with soft water, and the filter’s pores won’t get blocked by limescale deposits. 

We especially recommend this if you’re using a well water pitcher to filter a groundwater supply, which is more prone to contaminants like iron, manganese, sediment, and tannins – all of which will quickly block the pores of a filter in a water pitcher.  

Water pre-treatment system installation

Store The Pitcher In A Cool, Dry Place

You want to do everything you can to prevent bacteria, algae, or even mold from forming on your pitcher filter. 

A big part of this is location of use. Make sure to place the pitcher on a surface that’s away from humidity or direct sunlight, and keep the lid on the jug at all times to prevent contamination from airborne particles. 

Keep The Pitcher Jug Clean

Keeping the water storage environment clean may also help to extend the lifespan of the filter in your pitcher. 

Make sure to wash the pitcher jug to avoid buildup and scale formation on the pitcher surfaces. 

Keeping the pitcher jug clean

📑 Final Word

Water filter pitchers require regular maintenance to continue to provide clean, safe drinking water. 

You should replace the filters in your pitcher as often as once every two months, or when you notice a difference in flow rate, water taste or appearance, or water quality. 

Even if you don’t notice these changes, you should still replace your pitcher filter as often as the manufacturer recommends. Failing to replace the filter on time could result in very slow water flow, reduced bacteria in the filter media, or recontamination of your water supply. 

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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