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How to clean a washable air filter

Learn how to properly clean your washable filter and help protect your furnace

Never run your furnace without an air filter. The primary purpose of this filter, besides cleaning the air you breathe, is to catch airborne debris and prevent it from settling on and potentially damaging the furnace. Air filters, whether washable or disposable, ensure the air in your home remains clean while protecting your furnace from potentially damaging particles.

How to clean a washable filter
  • What is the difference between a washable and a disposable filter?

  • Disposable furnace filters for the home are designed for one-time use. They are usually made of cardboard and easy to dispose of. Typically, disposable filters need to be replaced every 30-90 days depending on the MERV rating of the filter.

  • Washable furnace filters are made of metal or plastic and often statically charged to help them attract dust to clean indoor air more effectively. The ability to wash these filters makes them eco-friendly, though washable filters cost more upfront than disposable versions. Washing the filter, however also requires a little more work on your part. Built for long-term use, washable furnace filters maintain their performance even after multiple washes.

  • When to Clean a Washable Filter

  • The easiest way to check the condition of your washable filter is by holding it up to a bright light source. If you can see light coming through the filter that means it is still clean enough for continued use. If you can’t see through, it is time to clean it.

  • How to Clean a Washable Filter

  • Vacuum the Filter - Don’t remove the filter just yet. First, vacuum around the encasement area with the brush attachment to prevent stirring up dust when you take the filter out. Next, remove the filter and vacuum the front and back sides, removing as much dust and dirt as possible. Finally, vacuum inside and around the filter slot for a fresh start.

  • Rinse the Filter - Check the filter’s frame or packaging to see if there are any instructions about which side to rinse. Then carry the filter outside and gently rinse it with the garden hose. Avoid using a high-pressure hose to prevent damaging the filter. Let it dry completely before replacing it. Avoid running the furnace until the filter is back in place and completely dry.

  • Remove Grime from the Filter - If you wait too long to clean a washable filter, it may become heavily clogged with oily pet hair, cooking grease, and smoke residue. To remove this grime, mix one drop of dish soap in 2 cups of warm water. Dip a cloth in the soapy solution and wipe both sides of the filter. Rinse it thoroughly and let it dry completely before replacing it.


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