How to Clean the Filter on My Home Air Conditioner

How to Clean the Filter on My Home Air Conditioner

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air pollutants are among the top five environmental hazards to public health today. Fortunately, property owners can avoid these indoor air quality problems by cleaning or replacing the air filters in their properties regularly.

Types of Air Filters

When it comes to air filters, not all options in the market are created equal. Each filter you see is designed to do a distinct kind of job. Just make sure that you are picking a filter that is constructed from quality materials, effective in filtering out toxins, and has a useful life span among other factors

There are four main types of air filters – with numerous smaller variations in between them.

HEPA Air Filter

HEPA, also known High-Efficiency Particulate Air, is an air purification technology that was initially developed during the World War II to trap radioactive dust particles. Today, the air filter is recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the ultimate product for trapping airborne particles. 

HEPA filters are commonly used to filter household air as they have the ability to catch 99.97% of particles. These products filter air at a very fine level, trapping airborne elements that are 0.3 microns or larger. The majority of doctors and allergists recommend the HEPA air filters due to their ability to block many air particles down to the microscopic levels.

While HEPA air filters are the best filters for your HVAC unit, they come with several drawbacks. First, these filters cannot be cleaned to get rid of dust loading; therefore, they must be completely replaced. Second, they are fragile and can easily be damaged during installation, cleaning or even removal. Finally, HEPA filters are loud and some even sound like a window air conditioner.

Washable Air Filters

As their names suggest, these types of filters designed to be
removed, cleaned, dried and then reinstalled. Although more expensive, you won’t have to buy as many as you would for the disposable.

Fiberglass Air Filters

Fiberglass is the most common type of household air filter. The filter is also known as “throw away” filter since it is less expensive and has a shorter life cycle compared to pleated air filters. These air filters are made of thin, flat panel surfaces. The surfaces have a thick fabric of glass fibers that run perpendicular to the airflow. The fiberglass is laid over each other to
create a filter media. The filter is strengthened with a metal grating to prevent failure and collapse of the fiberglass.

While fiberglass filters do an excellent job in trapping large dust particles, they are not the best choice for people with allergies. This is because they do not trap particulate matter like pollen, soot, and dust among others.

Pleated Air Filters (Polyester)

Pleated air filters have a sizable surface area compared to fiberglass filters. They can last much longer without being cleaned. The pleats in this filter
increase surface area making it able to capture finer airborne particles.

These types of filters come in basic widths of about 1-2 inches or larger widths of about 4-5 inches. A wider pleated filter is advantageous since it can capture more pollutants without restricting the airflow to your air conditioner.

Advantages and Disadvantages between Washable Filters vs. Disposable Filters?


Washable filters have a MERV rating of 1 to 4. This means that they can effectively catch larger particles such as dust and other particulates. However, if you have a pet at home, its dander, skin flakes, saliva, and urine may not be caught in this type of filter. Also, bacteria, viruses, and smoke can’t be effectively filtered out.

Disposable filters have a MERV rating of as high 16. This means that they are effective in capturing small particles including dust, allergens, pet dander, bacteria, smoke, and viruses.


Washable air filters require regular maintenance (after every 1-3 months). After washing off all the particulates, you must dry it well before refitting it in the unit. This is particularly important as a damp filter will only invite bacteria or fungus.

Disposable filters require you to remove the old one, toss it in the garbage and replace it with a new one. This air filter requires less time and effort when it comes to maintenance.


Washable filters are costly since they are meant to last for many years.

Disposable filters are not that expensive compared to washable filters, but the costs do add up over time as you continuously buy and throw away these types which often end up in the landfill.

How to Clean the Filter Of Your Air Conditioner

It is important to maintain clean filters since clogged or dirty filters can reduce air flow by up to 50%. This significantly reduces the efficiency of your air conditioning system as well as the quality of the air you receive.

Here’s the procedure of cleaning the filter of your air conditioner.

  1. Switch off the power running to the air conditioning unit.
  2. Use a screwdriver to dislodge the components of the air conditioner.
  3. Remove the filter and inspect it for any signs of wear and tear. If you notice any rips, it is best to replace the filter than continuing to use it.
  4. If the filter is in good condition, vacuum off any accumulated grime or dirt thoroughly. Be careful not to tear the filter since this will make it inefficient.
  5. The next step is to sanitize the filter. Mix equal parts of water and vinegar in a container large enough to entirely submerge the filter in the solution. Immerse the filter in the solution for about an hour (if you clean the filter regularly). If the filter is extremely dirty, let it soak for several hours. The vinegar will remove allergens and kill harmful bacteria that may have accumulated in the filter.
  6. Remove the air filter from the solution and allow the solution to drain off. Remember not to rinse the filter since this will reverse the effects of the sanitizing process. Let the filter dry. Then return it to the air conditioning system and place the cover back on.

In contrast to using an air filter cleaner like CEF that you merely spray on the filters, rinse, let dry and reinstall.

Final Word

With many consumers reaching for high-quality filtration systems today, most of them fall victims to expensive filters that do not offer them what they need. What filter are you using today? Let’s take a moment and look at why a washable filter may be the best fit for you.

A reusable air filter saves you time, money and environmental resources. This is because a permanent air filter is made from durable filtration materials; therefore, can be hosted down, cleaned and reused. Additionally, these air filters come in custom sizes, whether you need a 20×20, 20×30, or 16×16 filter, you will get it.

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