If you are tired of sediment in your washing machine, then this article is for you. Washing machine filters vary in price, size and even where they have to be installed. Because of all these options, deciding what the best option is for your situation can be really confusing. So, if you’re considering buying a water filter for your washing machine, this guide will give you a ton of information to help clear things up.
There are four ways to filter water for your washing machine including a whole house filter system, whole house sediment filter, inline filter or a wall-mounted washing machine filter. Most people use inline or wall-mounted filters because they can install it themselves and it removes sediment just before entering the washing machine.
In this post, I’ll cover the pros and cons of each filter type and explain how to install an inline and wall-mounted washing machine filter yourself. I’ll also discuss what are the signs you may need to install a washing machine filter, what the inlet valve sediment filter does and briefly how to clean it.
Filtering water for washing machines
Washing machine water filters are classified as either Point Of Entry (POE) or Point Of Use (POU). The main difference between the two is where they are installed in relation to your washing machine.
- POE filters are installed on the mains water inlet (as it enters your house) – usually done by a professional.
- POU filters attach to the inlet water lines of your washing machine – you can easily do this yourself.
Which one is better?
Well in this case, BEST does not equal most expensive – YES!
Everyone will have their own opinion, but for washing machines I would recommend the POU filter types. These are either the inline or wall-mounted water filter types. They are just way cheaper to buy, easier to install yourself and they remove sediment immediately before it goes into your washing machine rather than when it comes into your house.
However, there are pros and cons for each option which I’ll go into more detail here.
Whole house water filter systems
Whole house water filter systems are Point Of Entry filter systems. These can be quite expensive but, as the name states, they do filter water for THE WHOLE HOUSE!
On the plus side, they don’t just work on filtering water for your washing machine and improve water for drinking, showering and even water used in your yard. They will also help protect things that can be damaged by sediments in the water including your:
- Washing machine
- Hot water heater
- Dish washer
- Even your toilet!
While the whole house filter systems and whole house sediment filters (below) can definitely work well, a lot of people say that by the time water reaches the washing machine there’s still sediment in it.
Don’t forget the pipes in your house can also be a sediment source including things like rust and chunks of scale.
Whole house sediment filters
Whole house sediment filters are also Point Of Entry filters. They won’t remove as many impurities from water as whole house systems, but they work well as an initial first stage. They help protect your washing machine by filtering out larger sediments including sand, rust, dirt and chunks of scale.
However, some people say that even with a whole house sediment filter they still get sediment in their washing machine and on their clothes.
In-line water filters
Inline water filters are Point Of Use filters (attach directly to your inlet water lines on your washing machine). They are relatively cheap compared to the whole house options.
You also don’t need any special tools to put them in – except maybe a wrench – and you can easily do this yourself.
Now, I’m not intending to put down inline water filters here, but I certainly have my reservations about cheap plastic ones for a few reasons that I’ll discuss in a bit more detail further below.
All I can say is that if you want to install an inline water filter for your washing machine, then it’s probably worth spending a few extra dollars to get a brass inline water filter to avoid it cracking and leaking everywhere.
I like the General Pump Brass Inline Water Filter because it is built solid, is really slimline (just looks like part of the tap fitting), has brass fittings and you can see when the sediment filter needs cleaning. They are probably one of the best inline water filters for a washing machine I’ve come across.
They cost about $25.00 each and work on both low-pressure (max 150 psi) hot and cold-water inlets – most homes will have an inlet water pressure of 60 psi or less so it’s plenty for general home use. If you’re interested in taking a closer look, you can find this General Pump inline water filter on Amazon.
If you use well-water or if you don’t have a pressure regulator fitted to your mains water inlet to your house then I would recommend the General Pump high-pressure inline water filter (Amazon link), which only cost about $15.00 each.
Plastic inline water filters are generally the cheapest option for filtering water for a washing machine.
AND… I’m sure they can work just fine for a lot of people.
However, I have considered these filters for myself, but I have also heard some real horror stories and many people say they regret their purchase. Here are some of the main reasons why people say the cheaper plastic filters are not very good:
1. They can crack easily!
- Plastic inline filters can more easily crack down the middle or along the threads causing them to leak (or stop working entirely). It may have nothing to do with the filter itself and could just be that they were over tightened during installation. However, you just don’t get this issue with brass fittings.
2. They stick out from the machine
- Some attach directly to the back of the machine causing them to stick out and can snap off easily – especially if your machine tends to move or bounce around a bit.
3. Not great at high pressure
- Water pressure can vary greatly depending on where you live. High or fluctuating water pressures can put “pressure” on the plastic. You’ve probably noticed when the water shuts off really quickly after the washing machine is filled. This can put a lot of pressure back on the filter, and if it’s plastic it can develop cracks over time.
4. Not great at higher temperatures
- Plastic filters fitted to the hot water intake on your washing machine can more easily expand, crack and then leak. If they are not made from heavy duty plastic they just tend not to last very long.
OK OK, I’ll stop there… But, I think you get the point.
Many plastic inline filters probably work just great.
Personally, I’ve never used one, but after doing some research I found a lot of people were disappointed with them. Plus, as they are similarly priced to ones with brass fittings, I just didn’t want to take the risk.
Wall-mounted (inline) washing machine water filters
Wall-mounted inline washing machine water filters are also Point Of Use filters. They are just bigger, which allows them to filter more sediment without losing water pressure and the filters tend to last longer.
They are very easy to fit yourself despite looking a more complicated than an inline filter and can filter finer particles than a regular sediment filter.
I recommend both the hot and cold-water filters by Pure Water Products.
These filters are really good at:
- Keeping clothes clean (especially your whites, thanks to the 5-micron filters)
- Removing heavy sediment loads from well water
- Stopping lime scale build up on washing machine valves
- Removing sand and fine sand from building up in your machine
- Use at high temperatures and pressures
The Pure Water hot water washing machine filter (Amazon link) is specifically designed to handle high temperatures, which means you can fit it to the hot water line without worrying about the filter or housing becoming damaged over time. They are about $80.00, and the replacement filters are cheap.
Some people choose to only filter the cold water feeding into a washing machine. They may do this for the following reasons:
- They don’t wash with hot water
- The washing machine can internally heat the water and therefore doesn’t need to be connected to the hot water tap
- No sediment builds up on the hot-water inlet valve filter (a basic sediment filter that comes with most washing machines – see bottom of the post for more details on these)
If you think you only need a cold-water filter, the Pure Water cold water washing machine filter is great and only costs about $50.00 on Amazon. If you want to take a closer look, I found Amazon had the Pure Water cold water washing machine filter for the cheapest price.
How to install water filters for a washing machine
In general, most people buy inline water filters or a wall-mounted water filter for their washing machines, so I’ll just cover how to install these and not the whole house types.
The installation of both types is almost the same, but with a few exceptions:
How to install a wall mounted washing machine filter
- First clean out the inlet valve filter on your washing machine as you would normally – if you’ve never done this before, check out the photo I took of my mom’s inlet valve filter at the bottom of this post.
- Drop in your filter cartridge to the filter casing and gently tighten – Use the housing wrench that comes included so you don’t over-tighten.
- Attach the cold and hot water filters to a wall that is easy to access. Make sure you screw into a wall stud. If you can’t do this and have to go into drywall then use these cheap self drilling drywall plastic anchors – you can find these on Amazon and will make filter changes MUCH easier by securing them properly to the drywall!
- Another option, if you have no wall space, is to just plonk the filters upright into a small empty bucket behind or next to the washing machine – they will still work just fine.
- On the top of the filter, there are the words IN and OUT clearly written next to the brass fittings on the Pure Water hot and cold water filters.
- Connect a braided stainless steel washing machine hose from your tap to the IN fitting – Remember to use plumbers thread tape.
- Connect a second hose from your washing machine to the OUT fitting – Use plumbers thread tape. You may need to buy two standard stainless steel braided washer hoses with female fittings (Amazon link) at both ends if you don’t have spares already.
- Make sure you connect the cold and hot water filters to the correct taps. Cold = Blue, Hot = Black
How to install an inline water filter for washing machine
The main differences between installing an inline water filter compared to a wall-mounted (inline) filter is:
- There will not be a different filter for the hot or cold water
- Some inline filters attach to your tap while others attach directly to the back of the washing machine.
Here’s how install them:
- Clean the inlet valve filter on your washing machine.
- Check you have the filter the right way around – look for IN and OUT or water flow directional arrows.
- FIRST attach the filter to either the tap or washing machine (depending on what type you bought) – use plumbers thread tape.
- Second, attach the braided washer hose to the filter – use plumbers thread tape.
- For plastic inline filters, make sure you don’t use too much tape and don’t over-tighten to avoid breaking it.
Signs a washing machine needs a water filter
You know it’s funny when I hear people say they rinse off beach sand from their clothes because they know it can damage their washing machine, but not many people consider using a water filter for all the sand-sized sediment that comes directly through their taps.
Sediments that enter your washing machine can scratch up the drum, and damage plastic parts. Over time the wear and tear on your washing machine can cause several issues including:
- Reducing the life expectancy of the machine
- Roughen the inside of the washing machine
- Cause tears or damage to your clothes and delicate fabrics
- Encourage rust, which can also stain clothes
- Encourage mold and mildew to grow on the roughened surfaces
Obviously you want to avoid this so here are the signs it might be time for a new filter:
- No water going into the washing machine at all
- Slow filling speed (especially noticeable in top loader washing machines)
- Inlet valve filter needs cleaning regularly
- Build up of sediments in the washing machine door seal
- If you run your hand on the inside of the drum and if it feels rough it means sand sized particles are making their way into your washing machine
- You use well water (well water often comes with high and varied sediment loads)
- There are no Point Of Entry (POE) sediment filters, such as whole house filters, fitted to your mains inlet water
- Chunks of rust, sand, scale or other sediments are appearing in your washing machine or on your cleaned clothes
- Clothes are coming out with rust or dirt stains
Do washing machines already have a filter?
Both top loader and front loader washing machines do have a BASIC sediment filter, but they really only catch the larger particles.
These small filters are typically called:
- “inlet valve filters” or
- “inlet filter screens”
I call them inlet valve filters because most sit on the washing machine water valves – funny how these things work out sometimes!
Both the hot and cold-water inlets will have these small filters. They are usually made of plastic, can easily become clogged and can sometimes break.
You can clean inlet valve filters by removing the water lines at the back of the washing machine and give them a good spray (jet) with soapy water from a spray bottle. Alternatively, use lineman pliers to grasp the plastic end and gently pull directly out (plus a little wiggling) – they don’t unscrew so don’t twist it otherwise it may break. Clean under a tap or you can use soapy water (or vinegar if you have scale) and a toothbrush to help remove the particles.
If you’ve never done this before, you may be surprised how much can come out.
Here’s the before and after photos I took at my mom’s place showing all the sediment that came out from her washing machine’s cold water inlet valve filter.