How To Clean A HEPA Filter

How to clean a HEPA filter

You must know how to clean a HEPA filter if you have a vacuum in your home. Leaving your filter dirty can result to mold growth and gradually release spores to re-contaminate the air. Therefore, HEPA filters must be cleaned when due.

A permanent filter is not washable; if you wash it, it will get damaged. On the other hand, reusable filters are easy to maintain.

So, to be on a safer side, check the product’s manual or manufacturer’s recommendation to know if your HEPA filter is washable or not.

What is HEPA Filter

HEPA filters known as Highly Effective Particulate Arrestance is an air filter designed to arrest fine particles.

They are used in applications that require contamination control, such as air purifiers, vacuum cleaners, and respiratory masks. They are manufactured as permanent, washable, or disposable.

A HEPA Vacuum is recommended in your home as it doesn’t allow pollutants into the air, thereby keeping the atmosphere clean. People suffering from allergies and asthma are safe if they have such vacuum.

That said, we’ve written a review on the best vacuum cleaner for your home. Do check it out and make your choice.

How To Clean A Washable HEPA Filter

Check Out The Manual

Washable filters are used in vacuums and air purifiers. Read the manual meticulously before attempting to wash the HEPA filter.

Check if the filter is washable, and how it should be washed- whether with water only or soapy water. Some manufacturers also recommend dishwashing soap to clean HEPA filters.

If you do not have the manual or you cannot find it by then, you can browse online. Search for the manufacturer’s site and input your HEPA filter’s model number so that you can get relevant information and instructions.

Do not follow any instruction that is not from the manufacturer’s website or manual. In some cases, the warranty can become void if you wash a non-washable filter. So, follow the manufacturer’s instructions meticulously.

Remove Filters

Removing the filter requires opening the appliance. Before you open the appliance, you have to take it outside or cover the floor.

Large filters hold a large amount of dust and dirt that can fall to the ground or be released into the air, so you have to take precautions by taking the filter outside or covering the floor.

Also, before removing the filter, turn off the appliance and unplug it. This is done to prevent any electric shock while attempting to remove the filter.

Proceed to find the filters and remove them. If you don’t know how to reach the filters, consult the manual for instructions.

Clean The Pre-Filters

If the appliance has any pre-filters, clean them. You can either carefully clean them with a brush or rinse them with water.

Check the manual to see if they are washable or not. Most appliances that have washable HEPA filters also have pre-filters that are washable.

After confirming that the pre-filters are washable, rinse them under running water in your sink until the pre-filter is clear.

It is recommended to start by brushing debris off first before rinsing the pre-filter because they usually hold most of the larger dirt and dust bunnies. Rinse the pre-filters until they are clean and clear.

Clean The HEPA Filter

After you have rinsed the pre-filters, move on to rinse the HEPA filter. For small filters, they can be rinsed under a tap in your bathroom or kitchen.

Larger filters might have to be rinsed in the shower using a portable shower head or outside using a garden hose.

While rinsing the HEPA filter, do not place the filter underwater that is moving with high pressure; the filter can get damaged that way.

Use medium or low flow of water to rinse the filter as you wipe your fingers gently across to loosen up the dirt.

Some manufacturers recommend the usage of either lukewarm or cold water, while some other manufacturers recommend the use of soapy water. Check your product’s manual for its particular requirements.

Flat HEPA filters should be washed on both sides so that all contaminants and dirt can be removed. For cylindrical filters, do not get the inside part of the cylinder wet; only the outer part should be rinsed.

HEPA filters have to be completely air-dried before you re-install them. Immediately after you wash the filter, give it a gentle shake to remove excess water.

Place the filter in an area where there is cross ventilation, preferably outside so that it can get fresh air for drying.

Do not speed up the drying process by using a cloth dryer or a blow dryer; the filter can get damaged and the warranty can become void. It is compulsory that your washable HEPA filter is air-dried.

Reassemble The Filters

Reinstall the filters when they are completely dry. Begin with the HEPA filter, followed by the pre-filters. Check out your manual if you are stuck at any stage.

How To Clean A Permanent HEPA Filter

Remove The Filters

Permanent HEPA filters are commonly found in air purifiers. They should not be washed as water can damage them.

Cover your floors with wooden sheets or plastic before you remove the filters. You can as well take the appliance outside.

You are doing this to protect your floor and room air from contamination; pre-filters and HEPA filters can store a large amount of dirt and dust that can fall to the ground or move to the air while you are removing the filters.

Before attempting to remove the filters, turn off the appliance and unplug it. If you find the filters difficult to remove, consult the manual for guidance.

Almost all air purifiers have a back cover that you can open to remove the filters without stress.

Clean Up The Pre-Filters

Generally, permanent HEPA filters usually come with an activated carbon filter and a pre-filter. All these filters should also be removed and cleaned.

The pre-filter can be rinsed under running water until the water runs clear. Gently use a soft-bristled brush to clean fine wire filters. You can also make use of a damp sponge to clean both sides of the filter.

Remove dirt and dust from the activated carbon filter by vacuuming it gently. Clean both sides of the filter by vacuuming it in a horizontal motion. If the carbon filter has any odor, place it under direct sunlight for about two hours.

If you wash foam or carbon pre-filters, wipe them with a towel and let them dry completely for 24 hours.

Vacuum The HEPA Filter

After cleaning the pre-filters, move on to the permanent HEPA filter. To clean the permanent HEPA filter, use any type of vacuum, preferably the handheld one for ease of use.

To prevent the damage of the filter by the vacuum, use a soft brush attachment or a nozzle when you are cleaning the filter.

Vacuum in a horizontal motion here too and keep vacuuming until all dust bunnies, dirt, and debris are removed. Don’t push the attachment into the filter; just set the vacuum to higher suction, so deeply embedded dirt can be easily removed from the filter.

Reassemble The Filter

Reassemble the filters when they are all clean. Start by placing the permanent HEPA filter in, and then the activated carbon filter and finally, the pre-filter. As I have always mentioned, consult the manual if you are stuck at any stage.

If the pre-filters are not yet dried, cover the permanent HEPA filter with plastic so that it will remain clean while the pre-filters are still drying out.

How To Maintain A HEPA Filter

When you maintain your HEPA filter, it will always work effectively. Cleaning a reusable filter regularly will prolong the lifespan of the filter.

Air purifiers that have permanent or washable filters are usually required to be cleaned every three months.

Although this general rule stands, you have to consider how frequent you use your HEPA filtered vacuum or air purifier, and how dirty or clean the room is before deciding how often you should clean the filter. So, check your filter often to see if it needs cleaning.

Read: How to clean a vacuum hose

It is safe to clean the filter more often than recommended by the manufacturer, provided you use the right techniques. However, if you don’t use the appliance as often, don’t bother cleaning it as often.

If you hardly use the appliance, cleaning it once in three months can be too often.

If you have air purifiers that are sophisticated, leverage on their ability to detect how dirty the filter is (by the use of sensors) and also to remind you to clean the filter periodically.

Finally, you can replace a HEPA filter if it is worn out or discolored. It is best to replace the filter when you discover a reduction in efficiency even after cleaning the filter.


At this stage, following the steps above should give you a clear insight into how to clean a HEPA filter. Using a disposable filter to run your appliance is not cost-friendly in the long run so knowing how to clean a HEPA filter is advantageous.

Cleaning washable or permanent filters is very easy. Remember, washable filters can be rinsed with water, while permanent filters should only be dry-cleaned.

Don’t forget to check your manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations. I look forward to reading your experience in the comments section below.

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