The Importance of Keeping Your HEPA Air Filter Clean

An air purifier can improve the quality of life for those in your home by filtering the air you breathe. But it's important to make sure you are using a clean filter that will do the job right.

A HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter can remove 99.97 percent of particles from the air, even those as small as 0.3 microns, through its tightly bound network of fibers within. This can improve indoor air quality, especially for those with allergies or compromised immune systems.

But if your filter is too dirty, it may not work properly. A dirty air filter can even promote worse air quality than when you began. Many recommendations indicate replacing your HEPA filter rather than cleaning it. Below are some common questions about air filters, specifically HEPA air filters, and how to clean them effectively. 

Common Questions About Air Filters

What are air filters used for?

Air filters are used for filtering particulate matter from the air. They can be found devices such as: 

  • Portable air purifiers
  • HVAC systems 
  • Cars
  • Vacuums

How do I check an air filter?

Your device's owner's manual will have information on this. Generally speaking, a visual check of the filter itself will let you know if it is in good shape or needs attention.

How do I know if my air filter needs changing?

Check the indicator light and the device manual. If your air purifier runs all the time, or if your environment is particularly smoky or contaminated with pollen or animal dander, you may need to change out it more often than recommended.

How often should you replace an air filter?

Some experts recommend changing your HEPA air filter as often as every 6-12 months, while others suggest somewhere between 12-18 months. If your device has an indicator light, you can also use that for reference. 

A carbon filter can be replaced every 3 months. You can clean a permanent filter every 3 months as well, and replace it when worn.

An air filter is made from a variety of materials, tangled together randomly, pressed into a papery sheet, pleated, and then fitted into a frame. They generally start out white in color. If yours is looking grey and dull, it's a good indication that you have some buildup that likely needs attention.

Information About HEPA Air Filters

Can you clean a HEPA air filter?

Some air filters can be cleaned if they are specifically labeled as such. 

If your HEPA air filter is specifically labeled "washable" or "permanent," you may be able to clean your air filter instead of replacing it. However, accomplishing this task without damaging the filter may be very difficult. In addition, there is no testing currently available to show that cleaning your air filter actually works. 

Attempting to clean a HEPA air filter could actually cause damage to it. In addition,

  • You could inhale some of the particles it had already filtered out of the air during the cleaning process
  • Cleaning an air filter is a very dirty job
  • If you vacuum your air filter, you will need a HEPA filter for the vacuum as well
  • If your filter is washable, it must be completely dry before it's reinserted into the device. This can take up to 24 hours, an entire day that the air is not being purified in your space. 

How long do HEPA filters last?

How long your air cleaner filter lasts depends on the environment in your space. If you share the space with smokers or animals, a HEPA air purifier filter may not last as long. There are some guidelines, however, and many agree that changing your filter every 12-18 months is a good idea. 

Information About Dirty Air Filters

What are the symptoms of a dirty air filter?

If you begin to notice visible buildup on the filter that's grey or dirty-looking, and/or you find that the air purifier is putting out reduced airflow, these are good signs that you have a dirty air filter that may not be working at its full capacity. Some air purifiers may also come with an indicator light to let you know when it's time to change out the filter.

What problems can a bad air filter cause?

When saturated with particles, HEPA filters can actually release those dirty particles back into the air circulation of your space. This is why it's so important to be conscientious about keeping your filter clean or like-new.
Some filters can also encourage mold growth inside that can be then introduced into the air.

Is no air filter better than a dirty one?

Because of the risk of reintroduction of toxins back into the air if it's dirty or if it hasn't been cleaned well, it might be better to turn off your air purifier until you can replace the filter.

Questions About Air Purifiers with Air Filters

Can you clean the filter in an air purifier?

If your air filter is washable then you can tap it out and then rinse it under cold water. If you have a permanent air filter, vacuum the dust from the surface. Be sure to use gloves and protective face masks and do it outside if you can! 

Washable Filters

  • For washable filters, rinse under cold water, being careful not to touch the fibers. Follow the instructions provided. Make certain that it's completely dry before reinstalling.

Permanent Filters

  • For a permanent filter, first tap off the excess dust. Use a vacuum but do not use water as these models are not designed to get wet.

Keep in mind that cleaning an air filter can damage the mesh of fibers that make it up. They can also look clean but still be hiding allergens deep within the weave.

And even though it can be done, there is no real standard for washing a HEPA air filter. This is why experts generally recommend replacing them once their performance is compromised.

How do you clean an air purifier?

The outer canister of an air purifier can be easily cleaned with a damp cloth. But if you're interested in cleaning the interior surfaces, be sure to consult with the instructions that came with the unit. 

Final Thoughts

Making an investment in an air purifier means making an investment in your health and well-being. It means valuing your loved ones and those who will spend time in the space. Everyone will benefit, especially those with sensitive immune systems. An air purifier dramatically reduces pollutants and allergens in the air, helping people to breathe easier and live healthier lives.

Do you have questions about HEPA air filters? Contact us today!

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