How to Clean a Hepa Vacuum Filter (A Complete Guide)

Many appliances use HEPA vacuum filters. Over time, they can become dirty, reducing their efficiency. The good news is, cleaning these filters is possible. But the question is this: how to clean a Hepa vacuum filter? Washing them is as simple as brushing and rinsing them with water. 

However, not all HEPA filters are washable. Without being careful, you may damage them. 

Below, I discussed the step-by-step procedure of cleaning HEPA vacuum filters. Just remember to check the filters’ manual beforehand. 

What is Hepa Vacuum Filter Used For?

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum filters are mechanical air filters. They work by forcing air through fine meshing, trapping particles like dust mites. Initially, HEPA filters were exclusive to research and industrial facilities. 

However, today, HEPA vacuum filters show up in different consumer products. These include:

  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems
  • Automobiles
  • Air purifiers

Can You Clean A Hepa Filter?

If your HEPA vacuum filter doesn’t have a ‘washable’ or ‘permanent’ label, then you can’t clean it. Although you can still rinse the filter in water or tap excess dust off of it, this can damage its mesh fibers. Even if the filter looks untouched, some of its fiber may have been broken or stretched. 

If the glass fibers of these filters get damaged, it will create gaps in the filter. These let particles that HEPA filters intended to block pass through. 

However, if the filter is washable or permanent, it’s possible to wash and clean it. Doing this won’t hinder its functions. 

How to Clean a Hepa Vacuum Filter

If you need to clean a HEPA vacuum filter, there are two ways to do it. There are no official standards and defined terms of cleanable HEPA filters. But, today, manufacturers have adopted different marketing terms: washable and permanent. 

You can clean a washable HEPA vacuum filter by rinsing it with cold water. These are incredibly fragile, so be careful not to touch the filter material. Make sure it only comes in contact with water.

Meanwhile, you can clean permanent HEPA filters with a vacuum cleaner. This method sucks away the dust and debris from the filter’s surface. Never use water with a permanent filter as it can damage its fibers.

Whether you have a washable or permanent HEPA vacuum filter, here are simple steps you can follow:

Step-by-Step Cleaning of a Permanent Hepa Vacuum Filter

Step 1: Remove the filters.

Permanent HEPA vacuum filters are primarily present in air purifiers. Never wash these filters as water can significantly damage them. 

HEPA and pre-filters can hold a considerable amount of dust and dirt. These particles may enter the air or fall to the ground, covering your home in dust. That’s why make sure to cover the floor in plastic or old clothing before removing the filters. You may also opt to clean outdoors. 

When you’ve prepared your cleaning area, begin by turning off the appliance. Make sure it’s unplugged for your safety. If you’re unsure how to remove the filters, refer to the product’s manual for directions. 

Most air purifiers come with back covers for easy access to the filters. 

Step 2: Clean the pre-filters and activated carbon filters.

Permanent HEPA vacuum filters usually come with pre-filters or activated carbon filters. It’s best to clean these as well. 

You can rinse pre-filters with water, and it’s best to do this under a running faucet. Continue until the water runs clear. To thoroughly clean them, you can use a soft-bristled brush or damp sponge. 

For the activated carbon filters, you can vacuum them gently to remove excess dust and dirt. It’s best to clean both sides following horizontal motions to clean them thoroughly. If they have absorbed a considerable amount of odor, leave them under direct sunlight for 1 to 2 hours. 

After cleaning both filters, towel-dry and leave them for 24 hours to ensure they’re thoroughly dry. 

Step 3: Vacuum the HEPA filter.

After cleaning and drying the pre-filters, it’s time to work on the permanent HEPA filter. For this step, you can use any vacuum cleaner. However, for your convenience, it’s best to use a handheld model. 

Before using the vacuum, use a nozzle or soft brush attachment to prevent damage. Doing this also helps you thoroughly clean the filters. 

Vacuum the filter following horizontal motions. Continue until all dirt and debris are gone. Be gentle when vacuuming and never push the attachment inside the filters. To get to hard-to-reach places, set the vacuum to a stronger suction to remove deeply embedded dirt.

Step 4: Reassemble the filters and appliances.

Once the pre-filters and permanent HEPA filter are clean, it’s time to reassemble. For a hassle-free process, reassemble in this order:

  1. HEPA filter
  2. Activated carbon filter
  3. Pre-filter. 

Again, if you’re unsure, check the appliance’s manual for in-depth instructions.

Step-by-step Cleaning of a Washable HEPA Vacuum Filter

Step 1: Read the manual.

Washable HEPA vacuum filters are present in air purifiers and vacuum cleaners. Before washing, read the appliance’s manual carefully. Check if its filters are washable.

Some also indicate how you need to wash them. For instance, some may instruct you to clean the filters with soapy water, while others with running water.

If you can’t find the manual or you don’t have one, you can search online for more details. Find the manufacturer’s website and search for the product’s model.

Step 2: Remove the filters. 

You may want to cover your floors or take the cleaning outside before opening the appliance. That’s because if the filters are large, they can hold a considerable amount of dirt and dust. These might spread into the air or ground. 

After preparing the area, start by turning the appliance off. Make sure to unplug it to prevent possible electrical shocks. 

Once turned off and unplugged, locate the filters and remove them. If you’re unsure how to remove the filters, refer to its manual for guidance. 

Step 3: Clean the pre-filters (if applicable). 

If the product comes with pre-filters, start with these first before the HEPA filter. You can either rinse them with water or gently clean them with a soft-bristled brush. 

Before you start cleaning the pre-filters, make sure they’re washable first. Refer to the manual for confirmation. But most appliances with washable HEPA vacuum filters usually have washable pre-filters too.

Once you’ve confirmed the pre-filters are washable, rinse them under running water. Continue until the water runs clear. Pre-filters usually hold the larger dust and dirt, so begin by brushing the debris off if it’s packed. Doing this makes it easier to rinse them. 

If the product doesn’t have pre-filters, skip this step. 

Step 4: Rinse the HEPA filter. 

After cleaning and drying the pre-filters, turn your attention to the HEPA filter. You can rinse smaller filters under a running faucet in your kitchen or bathroom. Meanwhile, for larger filters, you’ll need bigger tools, like a garden hose. 

When rinsing the HEPA filter, avoid using high pressure. That’s because it can significantly damage the filter. Use low to medium pressure and gently wipe your fingers across to loosen excess dust and dirt. 

Take note that some manufacturers have certain requirements. For instance, some may suggest using soapy water while others settle for plain water. Refer to the manual for specific instructions. 

Step 5: Dry the HEPA filter. 

It’s best to air dry washable HEPA vacuum filters entirely before reassembling. After washing the filters, shake them gently to remove excess water.

To help dry faster, set the filter outside against a wall or chair. You can also place it under direct sunlight for 1 to 2 hours. 

Step 6: Reassemble Everything. 

When the HEPA vacuum filter and pre-filters are completely dry, reassemble the product. It’s best to start with the HEPA filter and follow with its pre-filters. If you’re unsure, refer to the product’s manual. 

What to Do When Cleaning a Hepa Vacuum Filter

When cleaning HEPA filters, keep these pointers in mind for a streamlined process:

What To Do:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. To prolong your appliance and filters’ service, follow the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations. For instance, air purifiers with HEPA filters must be cleaned every 3 to 6 months. 
  • Wear safety gear. When cleaning HEPA filters, you might inhale pollutants, which can be harmful. Wear a respirator for your safety. 
  • Clean more often. Following manufacturer recommendations are great. However, don’t hesitate to clean the filters on your own accord. If it’s dirty, clean it. 
  • Replace filters when needed. Even permanent HEPA vacuum filters don’t last forever. They’ll eventually wear out and will need replacement. If you notice a reduced efficiency and cleaning isn’t helping, it’s time to change the filters. 
  • Set reminders. Most appliances with HEPA filters have an electronic reminder to clean these filters. If yours has this function, take advantage of it and set a reminder to help you stay up-to-date with your filters.

What Not To Do:

  • Don’t clean if unnecessary. Although regularly cleaning HEPA filters is ideal, never overdo it. If you don’t use the appliance often, you won’t need to clean its filters as much. When you wash them even when not required, this can lead to considerable damage. 
  • Don’t neglect it for extended periods. Ignoring your HEPA filters for a long time can lead to deterioration. Without cleaning and regular maintenance, these filters can wear out fast. 

Final Words

How to clean a Hepa vacuum filter? Cleaning HEPA filters is easy and only virtually involves washing, brushing, and drying. However, you still need to check if the filters are washable or permanent to avoid damages.