Having a whole house water filter is great because it will provide you and your family with the much-enhanced household water that you like. That will only happen though if you properly maintain the system.
One of the most important steps of which is changing the filter elements in its canisters based on the manufacturer’s recommended replacement schedule.
Most of the time this process will go smoothly but every once in a while, you may run into a problem when changing a whole house water purification system’s filter element.
This includes not being able to twist off a filter housing in order to replace a filter cartridge.
What do you do when you have a stuck filter canister?
Fortunately, you have many options here and I am about to go over several of those with you.
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What To Do When Your Whole House Water Filter Housing Is Stuck and You Can’t Change It
Two main reasons will frustrate you when you go to install a replacement filter cartridge in your whole house water filtration system (also called point of entry or whole home water filters).
One is having a filter cartridge (filter element) that is nearly impossible to pull out and the other is not being able to thread off a filter canister’s housing.
I will start by dealing with the latter, a stuck filter canister housing. Here are the most common reasons why you may have trouble removing a filter canister housing:
- Debris deposits or other water contaminants have become lodged in the threads of the filter canister because it was not properly cleaned the last time it was taken apart.
- Forces present in the whole house filtration system may cause the plastic to expand, contract, or become slightly misshapen.
- Parts of the filter canister have not been kept properly lubricated.
- The filter housing was not lined up correctly when it was screwed back into the filter canister top (a condition which is known as cross-threading).
Here are the most common ways to free up a filter housing that you are having trouble removing:
1. Use the Included Filter Wrench
Your whole house filter system should have come with an included wrench that is specifically made to help loosen and tighten up your filter housing when changing your filter cartridges (see the left side of the photo below).
Additional leverage can be gained when using these by inserting the handle into a short metal or PVC piece of pipe.
If you were never given or have misplaced your filter wrench, you can also take a screwdriver and lightly tap it with the back of your hand into a raised edge on the filter canister.
Be sure to move the filter canister in a counter-clockwise direction while doing this.
Here is something that you can do to free up a stuck canister if some dirt or other debris has gotten stuck in its threads and is making it hard to unscrew.
You just tap the filter housing lightly all around to try and dislodge the debris and dirt that is causing your filter housing to become hard to take off. This is best done using a rubber mallet.
3. Apply Heat
Het may also be used to free up a stuck filter canister. This can be done by blowing the air from a hairdryer over the entire outside of a stuck filter canister.
Pouring hot tap water directly on the filter canister will have the same impact.
This may help because the expansion and contraction from heating the canister’s threads may create space where they have become wedged together tightly.
4. Wiggling the Canister Back and Forth
One time-tested method of breaking stuck threads loose like those found in filter canisters is to wiggle the filter canister back and forth slightly. This may allow you to break it free of any debris that’s stuck in the threads making the filter housing tough to remove.
Be very careful when wiggling the filter canister back and forth not to go too far in the tightening direction, this may further hinder your ability to get the filter canister to break loose.
How To Deal with A Stuck Filter Cartridge
It may be a situation where you have been easily able to unscrew your filter canister from the top without any problems but now you cannot get the filter element inside the canister to come out.
This usually happens for one of several reasons:
- Debris has become trapped in-between the filter element and inside of the filter canister and tightened its fit
- Over time filter cartridges can expand or become misshapen
- Some trapped contaminants have crystallized or changed into other forms where they almost act like glue
Don’t worry too much if you should find any of these conditions when going to change a filter cartridge because you are not without options here. These are some of them.
1. Move the Exposed Cartridge Top Slightly Back and Forth
Filter elements do not tend to get so stuck they are impossible to remove.
That’s why they can often be freed up and removed by moving the top of them back and forth to free them from any debris that has become wedged in-between them and the inside of the filter housing.
2. Again Try Heat
Just like you applied heat to help remove a filter housing that you were having trouble removing, this can also be done to help you with a stuck filter element.
This is best done by using a blow dryer to heat the outside of the filter housing or by pouring a little hot tap water over the top and down the sides of the filter element that you are having trouble removing.
3. As a Last Resort – Use Brute Force
When you are replacing a filter element there is no need to save it. Therefore, it’s ok to ruin the filter cartridge to help remove it after it has become wedged in the filter housing.
This is best done by cutting or drilling a hole into the top of the filter cartridge. Make a hole that is big enough to insert one end of a pair of adjustable pliers.
Then grab the filter element through the new hole with the pliers and wiggle it back and forth and pull on it until it comes out.
How To Prevent a Stuck Whole House Water Filter In the Future?
You can take steps to help prevent filter canisters and filter cartridges from ever getting stuck if you are repeatedly running into any of these problems.
Here are some of the ways that you can do that:
- Stick to the manufacturer’s recommended replacement schedule. Filter canisters and elements tend to become stuck when conditions inherent to these systems act upon them over a long period.
- You can add a little silicone lubricant (also called silicone grease) over the threads on your filter canisters before reinstalling them. This should make them much simpler to thread off the next time you go to change a filter element.
- You can also do this ‘very lightly’ around the top and bottom edges of a filter cartridge before inserting it (Be aware that you don’t want to glob on the silicone in excess as it may get into your water supply).
- Add a little silicone grease to the O-rings at the top of your filter canister too. This will add in your filter canisters ease of removal and extend the useful life of those O-rings.
- Be careful when reinstalling a filter canister to not overtighten it. This is probably the number one cause of having trouble removing filter canisters.
You have to learn to tighten your filter canisters just enough to prevent them from leaking. If your face is turning red from the pressure you exert while tightening them and you are grunting at the same time, then you are probably using too much force.
- Take care not to cross-thread a filter canister when screwing it back onto the top of the filter canister. This is a condition that will not only make your filter canisters very difficult to remove but may even ruin them and necessitate their replacement.
- Make sure that each time you replace a filter element that the filter housing and the threads in the filter top have been cleaned thoroughly before replacing the filter cartridge and reinstalling the filter housing.
Don’t Let a Stuck Filter Hurt Your POE Water Filter’s Efficiency
If you own a whole house water filter system long enough, chances are that you will at some time experience the frustration of having a filter housing that you are unable to twist off.
The last thing you want to do is let your frustration prevent you from changing that filter cartridge out. That’s because if you don’t change a filter element on the recommended schedule, you risk hurting the efficiency of your whole home water filtration system.
This means that you and your family may no longer be drinking and using water that has been purified to a much higher level than when it first entered into your home.
If the steps mentioned above do not help you loosen up and eventually get your filter cartridge changed out, then ask a friend who is more of a handyperson than you help you out. You can even seek out help from a professional such as a plumber.
If you are repeatedly having problems removing a stuck filter canister because your point of entry water system is showing its age, then consider purchasing a new one and this whole house filter guide will help.
You may even want to consider switching to a media-type whole home water filtration system such as a Springwell whole home water filtration system pictured above.
Media POE filters are much easier to maintain because there are no filter cartridges that require periodic replacement.