How To Clean Air Purifier Filter Media: A Detailed Guide

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An air purifier is a must-have if you want to maintain a healthy and safe level of indoor air quality.

That said, finding the right model is just the beginning. You also need to know how to clean air purifier filter media.

It is the air filter’s job to trap pet dander, dust mite allergens, gaseous pollutants, and other airborne particles.

Your job is to keep your air purifier in tip-top shape by periodically replacing or cleaning the dirty filter.

It is an easy enough task, granted you know how to do it. If you don’t, we’ve got you covered with this simple guide.

How To Clean Air Purifier Filter

Whether you should clean filters or not is still up for debate when it comes to portable air purifier products.

Some would tell you not to do it, and we will discuss why a bit later. Others would say that cleanable filters are safe to wash and vacuum.

As long as you use the correct cleaning method, you should be fine. Here’s how to clean air purifier filter media the right way.

Cleaning An Air Purifier With a Washable HEPA Filter

Some of today’s top brands offer air purifier models that come with washable filters.

They are designed to be reused after cleaning, reducing the strain on your device and the burden on your pocket.

The cleaning process is quite simple, too, and we have outlined each of the steps below:

Step 1

Power down your air purifier and unplug it from the wall socket. If it is close to a wall, move it somewhere you can access all sides.

Step 2

Look for the air outlet and clean the filter with a soft brush. For most brands, you will see this at the back side of the device, close to the top.

Step 3

Next, remove the grill at the front of your device and clean it with warm soapy water if needed.

Make sure you follow the instructions of the air purifier manufacturers to prevent causing damage to the parts.

Step 4

Once the grill is off, you can safely pull out the filter.

If the manufacturer says the filter is washable, wash it with warm water. However, if it is too dirty, you might need to soak it a bit to soften the dirt.

Step 5

Let the filter dry before reinstalling it into the device. Then, make sure you replace the grill cover and secure it properly.

Step 6

Finally, wipe down the exterior of the unit, preferably with a microfiber cloth.

tips on how to clean air purifier filter

Cleaning A Non-Washable, Permanent HEPA Filter

The steps we have outlined above apply to washable filters, but what if yours is not? There is no need to worry, as you can still clean it using a vacuum cleaner.

Start by removing the filter from the device, and then refer to the steps below:

Step 1

Follow the steps above to the point where you pull out the filter.

Step 2

Next, put the filter inside a trash bag, along with a damp cloth, and then shake it to loosen the dirt. Most of the dust will stick to the wet rag.

Step 3

Before you take out the filter, wear a mask or something to protect yourself from the dust.

Step 4

Finally, remove the remaining dust on the permanent filter using a vacuum cleaner.

Alternatively, you could blow compressed air on the filter. But if you choose this method, ensure you have ample protection against the dust.

Cleaning Pre-Filters

Pre-filters, also known as foam filters, trap larger particles like pet hair, dust mites, mold spores, and the like. You usually find them inside air purifiers and vacuum cleaners.

Tougher than HEPA filters, they are designed to take the brunt of indoor pollution. This way, you won’t have to replace or clean your purifier’s HEPA filter that often.

Another good thing about pre-filters is that they are washable. To do that, follow these steps to clean them properly without causing any damage:

Step 1: Remove the filter from the unit and wash it with warm water.

Step 2: Add a couple of drops of dish soap and lather the filter.

Step 3: Rinse the filter until the water is clear and there is no more soap residue left.

Step 4: Squeeze the filter gently to remove the excess water.

Step 5: Air dry the filter.

Cleaning Carbon Filters

HEPA filters remove 0.3-micron particles and are not equipped to deal with odors. That is why most manufacturers include carbon filters in their units.

The problem is that they get saturated much faster than mechanical filters, and you would have to replace them every three months or so.

You could, however, prolong its useful life a bit by placing it under the sun for two to three hours. Doing this will remove some of the gas particles trapped inside the filter.

Just make sure it does not come into contact with moisture. You should not vacuum it or blow compressed air on it, either.

Why Should You Not Clean HEPA-Type Filters?

HEPA filters are very effective and can remove up to 99.97 percent of particles in the air. This includes dust particles, pet dander, and other 0.3-micron particles.

However, for many of today’s brands, the HEPA filter inside the purifier is not washable.

Instead of washing it, you will need to buy filter replacements every six to 12 months, depending on your use. Here’s why:

It damages the filter.

HEPA filters are made from a mishmash of materials that include glass fiber, animal hair, vegetable fiber, and more.

They are compressed into a thin sheet and then pleated to maximize the surface area.

This mesh of fibers is then mounted onto a frame made of wood, plastic, metal, or cardboard.

As you can see, HEPA filter fibers are intricate and tend to be sensitive.

It would only take a small amount of pressure to damage the delicate mesh, especially if water is involved.

So, unless the manufacturer explicitly says the filter is washable, you should not wash it, whether with warm or cold water.

It will reduce the efficiency of the filter.

Indoor pollution can come from either inside or outside the house. That is because the air from the outside can still get in through open doors or windows and even cracks.

The purifier draws in air from the room and reduces the particle levels by trapping animal dander, cat allergens, and other airborne pollutants.

Once they accumulate, you will see them as caked-on dirt on the filter.

The interesting thing about HEPA filters is that they are actually more efficient if they have a thin layer of buildup.

If you remove that buildup, there is a chance you will lower the filter’s ability for particle capture.

The task is a bit risky.

Remember that the filter captures different types of airborne pollutants. So, if you clean it, you risk exposing yourself to these harmful particles.

How To Get the Most Out of Your Air Purifier

To a large extent, the quality of the air you and your family breathe inside the house depends on your purifier.

The better it works, the safer you are from impaired lung function and other health issues.

The good thing is that there are many things you can do to keep your air purifier in good running condition, such as:

Clean or replace the filter regularly.

As mentioned, one of the best things you can do for your air purifier is to replace or clean its filter regularly.

This part of the device does the heavy lifting when it comes to cleaning the air.

So, if it becomes less efficient or stops working, it defeats the whole purpose of having an air purifier.

What’s more, a dirty filter makes the device work harder than it has to. Over time, this could result in damage or premature failure.

Make sure you clean or replace the filter every six to 12 months, depending on the particle levels in your home. Replace carbon filters every three months or so.

Find the best spot for your purifier.

Another simple way to help your purifier do its job better is to put it in the right spot.

Generally, that is the part of the house where you and your family spend most of your time. For some, this could be the bedroom, while for others, it is the living room.

If possible, get an air purifier for each room so that you do not have to move the device around.

Also, make sure nothing disrupts its airflow, so do not place it close to curtains and other similar objects.

Find the optimal fan speed setting.

Aside from finding the best spot for your air purifier, you should also figure out what its optimum fan setting is.

Some units start to make noise when operated at high speed. If this is the case for your device, turn it up when you are not in the room and turn it down when you are nearby.

Alternatively, you could get one with high air purifier ratings so it can clean the room effectively, even at low speeds.

Take Control of Your Indoor Air Quality

If you want to play it safe, you should replace your air purifier’s filter instead of cleaning it. But if you feel you have to clean it, just follow the steps we have outlined above.

Doing it the right way will keep you from damaging your filter so you can keep breathing easily inside the house.

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