How To Clean Your Permanent HVAC Filter

September 1, 2023

A lot of folks have opted for a permanent HVAC filter these days, either an electronic filter or an electrostatic filter. It’s a great way to save money over the long term (no buying replacements!) while keeping the air inside your home clean. 

To make sure it functions as well as it can, you just need to do one thing: clean your HVAC filter regularly. In fact, the more frequently you clean your filter, the more efficient it will be.

Experts recommend cleaning it once a month or at least once every 60 days. 

As with disposable filters, your permanent HVAC filters will eventually become clogged with debris, like dust and pet dander, which causes your system to work harder and limits your filter’s ability to filter the air.

So, how do you clean an HVAC filter? First, turn your system off (so it’s not running without a filter) and remove your filter. Then, use one of these methods (or all three) to get the job done.

Vacuum it

If you have light residue buildup, you can vacuum it using either a handheld vacuum or an attachment on your household vacuum fitted with a brush

Be sure to vacuum the side of the filter where dust and debris collects so you’re pulling dirt out of the filter, not pushing it further in. Filters are typically labeled with an arrow that indicates the direction of the airflow. You should vacuum the side at the back of the arrow (not the tip) since this is the side that collects dust, pet dander, and other dirt.

Spray it down

For heavier buildup, take your filter outside and spray it down with a hose. 

The direction you spray matters: you want to spray the stuff that’s stuck out of the filter (not deeper into it), so spray in the opposite direction of the airflow. If you can’t see an arrow indicating the direction of airflow on your filter, find the side of the filter with the most dirt buildup, face that side down, and spray from the other side.

Add a cleaning solution

If it’s been a long time or if your system is exposed to pet fur, smoke, or other contaminants, even a heavy rinse won’t get your filter completely clean. 

If this is the case, first spray the dirty side of the filter with a mild detergent or a household cleaner, such as Simple Green. Allow it to rest for a few minutes and then spray out the dirt from the other side. 

If the buildup is really, really stuck, you can first soak your filter in equal parts vinegar and water for an hour before taking it outside and spraying out the dirt.

What’s next?

If you only vacuumed your filter, you can replace it in your system right away and turn it back on. If you used water to clean it, it’s important to let it dry completely before reinstalling it to prevent mold from forming in your HVAC system. 

Once the filter is completely dry, replace it in your system, making sure the arrow is pointing the right direction, and turn your HVAC system back on.

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