Under Sink Water Filters vs Refrigerator Water Filters – What’s Better?

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Many people are familiar with refrigerator water filters. Most mid and high-class fridge models on the market feature integrated water filtration by default nowadays.

On the other hand, under sink water filters have been steadily gaining popularity as well.

What factors should you look out for when choosing between the two?

Key Takeaways

  • Space – Do you have enough free space under your sink to accommodate a water filter?
  • Contaminants – If your water is heavily contaminated, a refrigerator water filter might not suffice. Tip: Have your water tested!
  • Installation – A fridge water filter is much easier to install than an under-the-sink system.
  • Costs – Fridge filters are less expensive upfront and in the long run.

Under Sink Water Filters

An under sink water filter is installed as an attachment to your plumbing, and usually goes in the cabinet under your sink. These models are designed to be very universal and can work in a wide range of households without any special conversions. They are also typically faster than refrigerator water filters.

Under Sink Water Filter

How an Under Sink Water Filter Works

Under sink water filters work by filtering water directly before it’s dispensed or for storing it in a tank for later use. There are both inline models and under sink filters using a separate dispenser.

Under sink water filters require some minimal installation work initially, but other than that are relatively low-maintenance in the long run. One main disadvantage of under sink water filters is that you need a separate one for each drinking water point in your home.


Better Filtration Capabilities

One of the best things about under sink water filters compared to refrigerator water filters is that they offer better filtration capabilities on average.

The larger size of most models makes them suitable for advanced filtration methods too, including multi-stage treatment, which isn’t really available for refrigerator filters.

Doesn’t Require Purchasing a Specific Refrigerator Model

You are free to use an under sink water filter almost anywhere. As long as you have a sink with enough space underneath it, that’s all you need to get started. You may need to do some minor tweaks to your existing plumbing, but other than that, those filters are very easy to install and use.


Many under sink water filters are affordable to purchase and maintain. Combined with their stronger filtration capabilities, this makes them a clear winner for those looking to purify their water on a budget.


Doesn’t Cover the Whole Household

Theoretically, each faucet in your home will need its own separate under sink filter. This can get quite expensive in a larger house with multiple faucets that you want to filter. You may also not be able to install it at every faucet, depending on the way your home is structured.


Some multi-stage under sink water filters like RO systems which even come with their own storage tank require at least some free space in your kitchen sink cabinet.

Refrigerator Water Filters

Refrigerator water filters are designed for specific refrigerator models that come with a built-in water dispenser or ice maker. Even then, they are limited to a range of models that have enough room to fit a filter. Make sure to check if your fridge supports filtration before investing in a filter.

man dispensing water from refrigerator

How a Refrigerator Water Filter Works

A refrigerator water filter is installed in a dedicated spot inside your fridge. This is usually close to the point where water is dispensed, making it easy to access for installation and maintenance purposes.

One major downside of refrigerator water filters is their more limited filtration capacity, and the fact that you may sometimes need to wait in order to get a sufficient amount of filtered water, depending on how your fridge works.


Doesn’t Take Up Any Additional Space

Fridges that support water filters already have a designated spot for their installation. This means that those filters take up no additional space at all.

Low Maintenance

Replacing the filter every once in a while is all you need to do to keep a refrigerator water filter running. They are designed to be very low-maintenance and easy to operate in the long term.

Combines Water Purification and Cooling

You don’t just get purified water, you also get it cooled down. This is perfect for hot weather and homes with cooling problems in general. Of course, this also applies to your refrigerator’s ice maker.


Limited Filtration Capabilities

Compared to under sink water filters, refrigerator units come with somewhat worse filtration capabilities.

Only Works in Specific Fridge Models

You can only install a filter if your refrigerator supports it. Otherwise, you’re out of luck. There might be some DIY hacks available for certain models that allow you to fit in a filter, but those are often complicated, risky, and may void the warranty.

Slower Operation

Refrigerator water filters need more time to do their job. You’ve probably noticed that your refrigerator’s water dispenser already works a bit more slowly than regular faucets, and this will only get worse once you’ve added a filter to the mix.

What Are the Similarities and Differences Between Under Sink and Refrigerator Water Filters?

The main similarity between under sink and refrigerator water filters is that they provide you with clean, filtered water directly at an exit point in your home. In both cases, you’re limited to installing them in places where you already have a faucet or fridge available.

However, refrigerator water filters are usually less powerful when it comes to their filtration capabilities. They are also more limited by design, as they can only be used in fridges that already support them. If you live in a home with limited space available, refrigerator filters come with the small advantage of taking up practically no room, as they are entirely concealed within your refrigerator.

Our Verdict: Which Should You Choose?

There is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to water filtration. You need to assess the individual circumstances in your household – mainly, how much space you have available, and where you want to dispense clean water from – and you must also be familiar with the overall level of contamination you’re dealing with.

If you have a more heavily contaminated water supply, investing in an under sink water filter can make more sense due to the oftentimes stronger filtration capabilities. These filters come in multi-stage variants that can cover most types of contaminants with no issues, whereas refrigerator water filters are generally more limited. They may also require more frequent cartridge replacements due to their smaller design, although this varies from model to model and should be verified individually.

If you have any questions about refrigerator vs under sink water filters please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

About the Author Gene Fitzgerald

Gene Fitzgerald is one of the founders of BOS and currently head of content creation. She has 8+ years of experience as a water treatment specialist under her belt making her our senior scientist. Outside of BOS, Gene loves reading books on philosophy & social issues, making music, and hiking.
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Leave a Comment:

Mark P Hill says August 6, 2023

If I have an under the sink filtration system that feeds into my refrigerator do I ever need to replace my refrigerator filter?

    Gene says August 7, 2023

    Hi Mark,
    I’d recommend you do, not necessarily because it’s clogging or anything, but to prevent germs from accumulating in there.

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