Water coming straight out of the fridge has a habit of tasting funky when you need it the most. It’s usually caused by an expired filter or subpar built-in refrigerator filter that fails to remove all the nasty contaminants from drinking water.
These contaminants not only make water taste bad but can also cause serious diseases. Thankfully, there are in-line filters that mount externally behind or near the fridge that can take care of this problem.
I’ve researched and ranked the most effective in-line refrigerator water filter for clean and healthy drinking water. Let’s dive into it.
1. Epic Smart Shield External Refrigerator Filter (9.70/10)
- Best filtering ability
Epic Smart Shield Refrigerator Water Filter takes the lead on my list because it filters a large number of contaminants commonly found in tap and well water.
Epic Water Filters is an American brand that puts a major emphasis on quality, which I really like. Initially, I was skeptical of the performance, but my own tests also showed promising results.
The filter packs a combo of hollow-fiber membrane and carbon-block filter to target harmful contaminants. Hollow fiber traps viruses, bacteria, pathogens, PFOAs, and cysts from drinking water, which is rare in in-line refrigerator filters.
The next stage removes all the heavy metals, including arsenic, chromium, lead, and mercury. It also significantly removes chlorine and the unappealing smell that comes with it.
The brand claims to have all the products independently tested for NSF/ANSI 42, 53, 401, P231, & P473 standards. The results are authentic and performed by an authorized third-party lab, so you don’t have to worry about the quality.
The filtered water and ice taste delicious and won’t leave an aftertaste like in-line water filters of lesser quality.
The Epic refrigerator in-line filter lasts two years and can filter 365 gallons of water, which is pretty decent. It comes with a DIY installation kit and takes only five minutes to connect to the refrigerator. Plus, it has ¼” connections to fit all types of refrigerators. There is no need to flush the filter after installation. Just set it up and sip on clean water.
It has a flow rate of five gallons per minute (GPM), which surprisingly remains consistent throughout its life. When you do need to replace it, you’ll be pleased to know that the brand runs a recycling program that collects used Smart Shield filters and sends a brand new one as a gift.
Epic’s in-line filter is priced at $70, and you’ll get 20% off if you subscribe to the monthly subscription plan.
The company also offers a 100% lifetime money-back guarantee on all filters, so you won’t lose much if this filter doesn’t suit you. It also takes part in many eco-friendly programs, such as 1% for the Planet, so if you buy from them you can indirectly contribute to making Earth a better place.
The price of this filter may seem a little over the top, but considering its long life and exceptional filtration, I think it’s a real bargain.
Another downside is it will not remove fluoride in treated tap water. This is a little disappointing, but at least they’re honest.
Epic’s Smart Shield in-line refrigerator filter is worth the investment if you want a long-lasting, highly efficient filtration system for pure drinking water that hooks up to the water line in your fridge. It’s easy to install and requires zero maintenance.
Learn more about Epic Smart Shield in-line filters on the website.
2. Waterdrop In-line Water Filter (8.45/10)
- Best for chlorine odor but bulky design
The Waterdrop in-line water filter is a powerful filter made from coconut-shell carbon fiber that removes chlorine odor, sediment, rust, and heavy metals from water.
Waterdrop makes high-quality filters that trap many harmful contaminants present in drinking water. The activated carbon made from natural coconut shells works extremely well to remove chlorine odor, cadmium, arsenic, and lead. However, it’s less effective against bacteria and viruses despite Waterdrop’s claim. This isn’t much of a concern if you consume treated city supply water.
You’ll get a 0.75 GPM flow rate at roughly 60 PSI of water pressure, which is not as impressive as Epic’s Smart Shield in-line filter’s 5 GPM, but it’s okay for daily usage.
The filter lasts for two years and requires barely any maintenance. During my testing, I didn’t experience any leakages and the flow rate remained consistent.
The whole system costs $55.99, and the installation kit is $20.99, so overall you’ll pay $77. The replacement filter costs only $36.99, which is relatively inexpensive.
A few cons make Waterdrop “drop” to the second spot.
First of all, it’s BIG. With an over 1.3-foot-long cylindrical body, it gets hard to fit it behind the fridge or the ice maker, making installation a bit trickier than for other models.
Second, it only has a 30-day guarantee, which is a little disappointing at this price point.
The Waterdrop Inline water filter is a certified product that is effective against many contaminants and works best against chlorine odor. It’s a reliable second option for clean drinking water and ice, if a bit unwieldy. Learn more about the product here.
3. Brita Total 360 Inline Refrigerator Water Filter (7.6/10)
- Long-lasting but targets limited contaminants
Brita 360 is a long-lasting in-line filter that can universally fit the most popular brands of refrigerators.
Brita’s in-line water filter has a five-micron rating and is powerful enough to remove chlorine and sediment up to 97% from your water. My testing showed impressive results, and the filtered water turned out crystal clear and odor free. It also works well with an ice maker.
The filter has a flow rate of 0.5 GPM for water pressure between 30–80 PSI, which is decent for normal use. However, it’s certainly less than the top two of my recommendations. The Brita 360 has a compact design and can easily fit in tight spaces. It has a push-to-connect fitting, so the installation is hassle free.
If your refrigerator already has a built-in filter, then it’s best to replace it with a bypass plug. Otherwise, two filters may hinder the flow rate. You can contact your fridge manufacturer for more details.
The best thing about this filter is that it lasts for a whopping five years. That’s thousands of gallons of filtered water without any interruption.
All the products by Brita are NSF certified, so the quality of the product is top notch.
It’s economical at $56, including the filtration kit, and the replacement is priced the same. This doesn’t include the shipping cost, mind you, but since you only need one every five years, the cost is not a burden.
Brita’s in-line filter is capable of extraordinary filtering, but it targets only chlorine odor, sediment, and dirt.
Some water supplies have bacteria, viruses, and heavy metals like cadmium, lead, and arsenic, which can cause real harm. So, have your water supply tested before buying this filter.
To sum it up, Brita’s Total 360 filter is a premium-quality filter with the highest filtering capacity on my list.
But if you’re looking for an in-line filter that targets a larger spectrum of contaminants, then the Epic water filter is the better choice.
Learn more on Brita’s website here.
4. EcoPure EPINL30 In-Line Refrigerator Water Filter
The EcoPure EPINL30 has the same compact design as the Brita filter and is quick and easy to install. It has universal fittings, which works well for the most-popular refrigerator brands.
This filter mainly targets unappealing chlorine taste and odor. It also traps fine sediment, silt, and dirt particles in city tap water.
The EPINL30 is certified by NSF, and the filtration quality rivals the top recommendations in my list. For some reason, it works better for ice makers than refrigerators. The ice cubes tasted better and were crystal clear.
It has a compact design that can easily fit behind the fridge or even underneath the floorboard if your layout allows.
Like the Brita, it lasts for five years, which is great. However, after prolonged use, I noticed a slight leakage, and EcoPure’s customer service wasn’t very helpful.
EcoPure is only good for limited contaminants, so you must be careful when choosing this product. If your water supply has a high concentration of heavy metals, bacteria, and pathogens, then installing a whole-house filter is best.
This filter is pretty cheap and costs only $28.98. However, the brand offers no free returns or warranty on the product. It’s inexpensive, but in my experience, the Epic and Waterdrop in-line filters are the best bang for your buck because they filter many more contaminants at just a few more dollars.
5. PureLine GE GXRTQR Water Filter
PureLine is an American brand with a good reputation. The GE series of in-line filters are compatible with most refrigerators. It has a multi-stage filter comprising activated carbon and ion-exchange technology. This product has 0.5-micron filtering capability.
The brand claims to remove over 26 contaminants, but my test showed it removes chlorine, mercury, cadmium, trihalomethanes (THMs), sediment, and volatile organic compounds (VOC) only.
The PureLine GE has the “NSF” symbol printed on it, but after researching a bit, I found out that it’s independently tested by third-party laboratories “up to” the standards set by NSF, and it’s not actually certified.
It took me a few minutes to understand the installation guide for this product, but the connections were secure, and there was no leakage. Make sure to flush the filter for a few minutes and connect the pipes according to the flow direction marked on the filter body.
You’ll get one GPM of flow rate and a filter life of six to seven months, or 300 gallons. Six months isn’t a whole lot, and moving a heavy fridge to replace the cartridge frequently is a turnoff. The flow rate also diminishes at the end of the filter life.
Though the filter life isn’t impressive, replacements are affordable. You’ll get a pack of three filters for $39.99 ($13.33 per filter). PureLine offers free shipping and a 30-day warranty on this in-line filter.
6. Culligan RC 1 EZ-Change
Culligan has three in-line filter options with varying filtering capabilities. The company recommends EZ-1 type for fridges and ice makers. The quality wasn’t on par with the top filters on my list, but it can remove chlorine, bad taste and odor, particulates, lead, and mercury.
The Culligan EZ-Change is certified by IAPMO and NSF. These certifications are only for chlorine and nominal particles. The filter has a flow rate of 0.5 GPM only, which can pose a problem when the water pressure is low.
The design is pretty sleek and fits right at the back of the refrigerator. Replacing the cartridge is a breeze, requiring just a quick twist and turn. However, it took a little while to fix pipes into the inlet and outlet of the filter. The issue was with the adapter threads, but I figured it out with the help of Culligan’s customer representative.
Culligan EZ-1 basic is priced at $23.8, and the installation kit runs around $13.99. It can last up to one year and filter 3,000 gallons of water.
I noticed a decrease in flow rate close to the expiration, so you may need to replace the cartridge before the 12-month mark.
The brand offers no warranty on this product. For better performance, you can try out EZ-3 and EZ-4, but they come with a significant price hike.
7. Watts Inline Water Filter
The Watts in-line filter is compatible with most refrigerators, ice makers, and RVs. It removes chlorine, sediment, bad taste, and odor from the water, but that’s about it. I didn’t find any substantial decrease in heavy metals and microorganisms.
Watts’ water filter is certified by the WQA and NSF for limited contaminants.
The brand claims to filter 20,000 gallons of water, but it contradicts the official filter life mentioned in the guidelines, which is only six months. I don’t know if it’s clever branding or just a mistake.
After installation, I had to use hose clamps at both ends to stop the water leakage, but it worked fine afterward. Also, this filter needs to be mounted vertically, otherwise, some residue sneaks into the drinking water.
Watts’ in-line filter with the installation kit costs $44.03, which is expensive considering the average lifespan of only six months.
8. Vegebe Inline Water Filter
The Vegebe in-line filter uses granular activated carbon for filtering water. It can remove chlorine taste and odor and sediment. This filter is certified by WQA and is made from good-quality material.
The installation bit was inconvenient because, as per the instructions, you have to flush at least five gallons of water, which takes roughly 10 minutes with a 0.75 GPM flow rate, as well as being a waste of water.
Vegebe comes in a pack of two and costs $19.99, which is pretty inexpensive. The brand offers no warranty on the product. Vegebe claims the service life is up to 12 months or 1,800 gallons. However, it doesn’t last that long and needs a new filter after six to seven months.
Overall, it’s a reasonable product if you are okay with mediocre filtering. But I recommend going for higher-ranked options on my list for better filtration.
9. Filtered In-line Refrigerator Water Filter
This brand calls itself just “filtered.,” lowercase, with the full stop and all. Absurd punctuation aside, the Filtered in-line water filter uses a four-stage reverse-osmosis system to filter water. RO systems are most efficient when it comes to filtering drinking water. However, they are pretty expensive. The whole system costs $130, which is too much for an in-line filter, in my opinion.
It lasts for six months, or 1,500 gallons, and the replacements cost roughly the same as the original system.
The Filtered in-line filter is easy to install and comes with a handy installation kit. I would’ve ranked this filter higher if the cost was somewhat reasonable. There is no point in splurging money when you can get better performance with a filter like Epic Smart Shield at half the price.
The Bottom Line
Choosing the best out of tons of different water filters isn’t child’s play. It took quite some effort to review and evaluate each product.
The Epic water filter is a certified filter that can target almost all the common contaminants lurking in your drinking water. From bacteria and viruses to heavy metals, it covers it all.
It has the highest flow rate among the popular in-line water filters available on the market. The installation is easy, and maintenance is hassle free, since it can last up to two years.
Another cool thing about this brand is that it partners with 1% for the Planet and invests in many other eco-friendly and sustainability projects.
Overall, it has everything you would want from an in-line filter. If you’re interested in this product, visit the website here.
For those of you who went through the whole article and are wondering about my research process, here is a little treat for you.
The complete seven-step research methodology helped me rank the best in-line water filter.
Step 1: A list of in-line refrigerator filters
As a user of in-line filters, I know how difficult it is to choose the right product among so many claiming to be the ONE.
So, I browsed the internet and visited local stores to make an initial list of in-line refrigerator filters based on popularity and sales.
Step 2: Product analysis
After the first step, I had a list of 12 products ready for evaluation. But I was confused about how to start analyzing the products.
So, I researched contaminants present in city tap water and private wells. The most common contaminants to look out for in drinking water are lead and other heavy metals, chlorine, chloramine, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, nitrates, VOCs, pharmaceuticals, bacteria, herbicides, pesticides, and cysts.
Next I sorted the in-line filter based on the following characteristics:
- Targeted contaminants
- NSF/ANSI or WQA certification
- Water quality
- Filter life and flow rate
- Ease of installation
- Costs of filter and replacements
Step 3: Online reviews
Analyzing the product specification is one thing, but experiencing it is another story. So, I went through hundreds of verified reviews on reputable sites like Trustpilot, Google, Amazon, Angie’s List, and TestFreaks.
Step 4: Interviews with real customers
Online reviews gave me great insights regarding in-line filters, but there is a chance the reviews are either paid or bogus.
So, to keep things authentic, I contacted real-life customers and chatted with them. To my surprise, people complained about products that had great reviews online. I included all this data in my scoring system.
Step 5: Interviews with brands
To keep things fair, I contacted the brands and asked about common complaints people had with their products. People usually have issues with installation, leakage, and poor filtration of in-line filters.
Some of the brands, like Epic and Waterdrop were quite open about their policies and had excellent customer service, while others didn’t even bother to reply. It helped me rank the brands better.
Step 6: Test drives
Once I had all the data about the in-line filters, I moved on to my own testing. For this purpose, I managed to build a simple testing rig.
After fixed intervals, I collected the purified water and had them tested through reputable labs. I also made notes of the installation process and how it was to connect to the standard ¼ in. refrigerator pipes.
It took me three days to run the entire life cycle of most filters. The results came after one week. Now, I had all the information to evaluate the best product.
Step 7: Ratings
The last step was fairly easy. I plugged all the details into a spreadsheet and started ranking the products. Here are the major criteria for my scoring system:
- Authentic certifications
- Targeted contaminants
- Filter life
- Customer reviews
- My own testing
- Warranties and guarantees
In-line refrigerator water filters that scored higher in the above criteria ranked higher in my list. The process was tedious, but it was worth the effort.
Best In-line Refrigerator Filter For Pure Water
Epic Smart Shield in-line refrigerator filter scored the highest points during my research and took the first spot. It had the highest lead in terms of filtration quality. Here’s a summary of its salient features:
- Independently NSF certified
- Targets 20+ harmful contaminants
- Extremely high flow rate
- Two years of life span
- Easy installation
- Sleek design
- Lifetime warranty
- Eco-friendly initiative
If you want a high-quality inline water filter for clean drinking water, which is also extremely low maintenance, then order the Epic Smart Shield in-line filter today.