How to Change a Whole House Water Filter That’s Stuck?

Author: Jason Hollow - Published: 2021/09/15 - Updated: 2023/01/05

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When you buy a whole house water filter, you expect it to keep your water sparkling clean and your family healthy. And so it does, until the day you find the housing is stuck and you cannot replace the filter cartridge.

Unsurprisingly, the most common problem associated with whole house water filters arises when replacing the cartridge. You twist the housing, and lo and behold; it just won’t move. Are you doing something wrong? Do you need a technician to troubleshoot the glitch?

No, all you need is a few tips and tricks, so you never have to spend hours sweating over a stuck filter.

So, here is our guide on how to fix a stuck whole house water filter easily!


  • Do not open the filter if it is still pressurized. First close the feed valve or open the bypass valve, then press the pressure release button. Keep pressing until the hissing sounds of water and air gushing out stops. Drain the water inside the line as much as you can.
  • To open the housing, use your hands or one or more filter wrenches. Be cautious to prevent any damages.
  • The housing thread can be tapped with a rubber mallet. Doing so may remove dirt or mineral buildup.
  • Try heating the plastic casing with a blow dryer in order to expand it.

Help, My Whole House Water Filter Housing is Stuck!

Whole House Water Filter Stuck thumbnail

There are two main types of whole house water filters: cartridge-style and tank-based. While a tank-based system needs no replacements, a cartridge-style system requires you to replace the filter elements at the prescribed time.

Many times, your filter replacements will be a tool-free and painless procedure. But of course, there are exceptions when the filter sump gets stuck to the cap. No matter how hard you try, it just won’t twist out. We’ve all been there!

Here are a few time-tested and approved tips for easily removing a stuck housing – without breaking it up.

Releasing Pressure

Removing a whole house water filter housing while it’s still pressurized is the most common mistake homeowners make. The pressure of water and air inside the cartridge make the housing hard to move. If, by any chance you are able to remove the housing, a flood of water will inevitably be waiting for you.

Here is how you can depressurize your water filter:

  1. Turn on the bypass valve if your unit has one installed in it. If you don’t have it, turn off the main water supply.
  2. Turn on a nearby faucet to let the remaining water and air run out of the system.
  3. Press and hold the pressure release button, usually red in color, on top of the filter housing. Leave it once you hear a hissing sound.

Manual Work

Use your trusty old hands and give the housing a nudge to the left side. If you haven’t waited too long between cartridge replacements and your whole house water filtration system is properly depressurized, you can easily remove the housing.

Make sure your hands are dry, and you twist towards the left to loosen it.

The Most Important Tool: Housing Wrench

Remember the plastic wrench that was included in the whole house water filter package? It’s time to put that large housing wrench to use. The grooves on the inside of the wrench and the long handle should allow you enough leverage to move the filter.

Here is how to use it:

  1. First, slide the wrench over the housing, going up as high as you can.
  2. With the other hand, hold on to something sturdy so you can balance yourself as you twist the housing.
  3. Don’t apply too much pressure, or you’ll either break the wrench or the canister.

If the filter housing is still stuck, try using the following tricks that have helped many homeowners.

2 Wrenches

What’s better than one wrench? Two of them!

Okay, not always! But when dealing with a stuck filter sump, using two plastic wrenches is a good idea. The handles should be on either side of the housing. Rotate them both simultaneously to loosen the canister.

Get Leverage

This trick is a really interesting one that has helped many people. All you need is a hollow metal pipe and two housing wrenches.

First, slide two wrenches together over the filter housing. Then, take a 2 ft long pipe and slide it onto the wrench handles. Finally, move the pipe towards the left to loosen the housing.

The additional length gives you even more leverage to apply more pressure on the housing.

Metal Wrench

Many homeowners absolutely dislike plastic wrenches because they are incredibly flimsy. Besides breaking down quickly, a plastic wrench doesn’t do an excellent job at twisting stuck filter housings.

If you are tired of repeatedly buying new wrenches, switch to a metal one. It’s inexpensive and readily available at all hardware stores.

A metal wrench is sturdier and has a longer handle compared to its plastic equivalent. You can also add a small pipe to the handle to allow you additional ease.

(Rubber) Strap Wrench

adjustable rubber strap wrench

Some people swear by using an efficient strap wrench that makes it convenient to loosen or tighten filters.

The strap fits most filter housings easily. Once you wrap it around the canister, fix the attachment, and then use a socket wrench for added leverage. You can purchase it online or from any hardware shop.

A rubber strap wrench is another versatile tool that has multiple uses around the house. Readily available and easy to use, the rubber strap wrench makes filter replacements a breeze.

Rubber Mallet

Use a rubber mallet to strike against the canister with quick light blows. This action will help dislodge any debris stuck on the sides or threads of the container – another common reason for a stuck filter housing.

Don’t have a rubber mallet? No worries! Cut open a slit in a tennis ball and attach it to the head of the hammer.

Applying Heat

Heating the housing works in two ways:

  • Heat expands the plastic housing making it easy to remove from the cap.
  • Similarly, it will help dissolve hard debris[1] that makes it impossible to move the filter.

All you need is a hairdryer or a warm compress. But here’s the thing. You need to heat the top part of the housing, not the cap. So, focus the heat on the housing threads.

Once it’s warm enough, use your hands or a wrench to twist the filter swiftly.

Some people also mentioned that pouring warm water on the housing helped them remove the filter easily. However, we don’t generally recommend this because it can damage the plastic if the water is too hot. Moreover, it’s messy and unsafe.


Is there anything the trusty old can of WD-40 can’t do? We have yet to find out!

WD-40 is a fast-acting penetrant that penetrates deep into crevices, threads, and seams to break off the rust that holds stuck parts together. Spray it generously on the housing and watch the debris or rust melt away.

Twist Left and Right

You may not believe it at first, but some stuck filters magically loosen up when you move them into both directions, left and right, simultaneously.

The key is to loosen the deposits by pushing the housing from underneath and simultaneously rotating the canister.

Be careful not to put too much pressure, though, or you’ll end up breaking something.

How to Change a Stuck Whole House Filter Cartridge

So you managed to remove the housing only to find out the filter is badly stuck and won’t budge.

Don’t worry! While it’s more complicated to remove stuck cartridges compared to housings, it’s not impossible.

Let’s go through a few simple ways to help you dislodge the stuck filter cartridge.

Manual Force

You’ve tried using your hands, haven’t you? Well, it may sound obvious, but some people only turn the housing upside down to let the filter slide out.

If you are one of those, it’s perfectly okay to use your fingers and slide them down the sides to wiggle the cartridge. It should easily pop out.

Needle-Nose Pliers

This versatile tool is a godsend to remove stuck filter cartridges. Grab a pair of your pliers and tug on the cartridge multiple times. Give the canister a little shake, and the filter should slide out smoothly.


Heating the bottom of the canister will help dissolve hard buildup on the filter cartridge. Don’t focus on one area for too long, though. Use your blow dryer or a hot towel to warm up the casing. Once it’s hot, use the rubber mallet on the sides and bottom.

Remember, don’t overheat the plastic casing, or it can get disfigured or damaged.

collection of whole house water filters

Prevention Tips: Never Deal with a Stuck Whole House Water Filter Ever Again

If you find yourself dreading whole house filter changes because the housing or the filter is almost usually stuck, you need to make some changes.

Replacing cartridges shouldn’t be difficult. Here are a few tips that will help you avoid a stressful situation.

Don’t Overtighten

Perhaps the most common reason for a stuck whole house water filter is over-tightening it in the first place.

When you replace the canister, use your hands to tighten it. Then using the housing wrench, give it one or two nudges. That’s it!

Replace O-Rings

O-rings inside the filter housings help form a watertight seal between the cap and the sump itself. Without a functioning O-ring, you are bound to overtighten the filter to prevent it from leaking.

We advise checking the O-ring and its channel every time you replace the filter. Remove any debris from the channel and replace the O-ring if it’s damaged or broken.

Use Silicone Grease

O-rings need to be well lubricated to perform efficiently. Use silicon grease, not vaseline, to properly lubricate the gasket before putting it back.

Filter Housing Interior

Every time you remove the filter cartridge, peek inside the housing and remove old O-rings that may be stuck to the bottom.

If you let the O-rings sit at the bottom, the new filter won’t fit in properly. Eventually, you’ll apply more pressure to tighten the housing.


In conclusion, a stuck whole house water filter can mean a stuck filter housing or a stuck filter cartridge.

If the filter housing is stuck try to remove it by releasing pressure from inside.

If removal by hand doesn’t work, using a filter or strap wrench might do the trick. Tapping with a rubber mallet or applying heat are other options.

In order to unstuck a whole house water filter cartridge, you can use needle-nose pliers or heat the filter sump.

Preventing a stuck whole house water filter in future can be achieved by not overtightening the filter housing in the first place, replacing worn-out O-rings and using silicone grease.

Further Reading


Meet Jason Hollow

Jason Hollow Jason is the founder of Water Masterz and head of content creation. After six years in the industry, he has tremendous knowledge and first-hand experience on all things related to water treatment.

His credo: Not a single American should have to drink unhealthy water at home.

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