How to Keep Your Air Filters Clean for a Healthy Home

With these simple maintenance tips, you can keep your HVAC system running smoothly. Cleaning an air conditioner or furnace filter is easier than you might think. Here’s how to replace them and when it’s time. 

Your HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system cleans the air in your home by trapping dust, pollen, germs, and other contaminants, but those particles must go somewhere.

Much of this buildup is collected by the system’s air filter, which can eventually obstruct the unit’s efficiency, raise utility bills, and even compromise your home’s air quality.

Cleaning an air conditioner or furnace filter is an essential part of routine maintenance that can help maintain your system running smoothly and prevent a costly breakdown. 

Cleaning your home’s air filters, on the other hand, will only get you so far. It’s time to renew your air filter if it’s filthy, torn, or otherwise damaged.

It’s also worth noting that disposable air filters (typically housed in a cardboard frame) aren’t designed to be cleaned and should be replaced as soon as they become dirty. Reusable filters, such as this washable electrostatic furnace and AC filter, are ideal for cleaning.

How to Clean an Air Filter in an HVAC System

Plan to clean your home’s air filters once a month and replace them every six months for best results. Check the manufacturer’s ways for the best way to clean your air conditioner or furnace filter. Still, most reusable filters can be cleaned using the steps below.

What You Need:

  • Screwdriver 
  • Vacuum with a soft brush attachment 
  • Large bucket or sink 
  • Hot water 
  • Distilled white vinegar 
  • Hose (optional)

Here are the steps you need to follow:

Turn off the power and look for the filter

Turn off your HVAC system before you begin cleaning to prevent unfiltered air from circulating throughout your home. Locate the vent and open it with a screwdriver. If your system has multiple vents, each with its filter, clean them all. Remove the filter and look for any signs of damage. If necessary, replace the filter; otherwise, vacuum as usual. 

Clean the air filter with a vacuum

If possible, take the filter outside to avoid bringing dust into your home. Use a vacuum attachment with a soft brush attachment to clean the filter. To gently loosen stuck-on buildup, run the brush across the filter. 

Apply vinegar and water to clean the filter

Fill your sink or a large pail with a solution of equal parts hot water and distilled white vinegar if your air filter needs to be cleaned more thoroughly. Allow one hour for the filter to soak before rinsing with clean water.

If the filter is too big to fit in a sink or bucket, wash it with a garden hose, allowing the water to flow in the opposite airflow direction. To avoid damaging the filter, use a low-pressure setting. 

Allow drying before replacing

Before replacing the filter, let it air dry completely—this aids in the prevention of mold growth in your HVAC system. Inside the unit, reload the filter and ensure it is facing the right way for proper airflow. Arrow markings indicate the correct placement of most filters; these arrows should typically point toward the furnace in the airflow direction. Replace the vents and re-start the unit.

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