How do you clean a washable HEPA air filter – Are HEPA filters washable?

Generally found in air purifiers and vacuums, HEPA or high-efficiency particulate air filters force the air through the fine mesh to trap particles and thus help upkeep a safer, healthier habitat. Evidently, as their role is to trap these particles, the filters get dirty and action needs to be taken for their performance to not drop.

While their action is basically the same, there are three filter types you will encounter – disposable, permanent, and washable. Washable HEPA filters, as the name suggests, can be cleaned and reused, which means that you end up saving money as routine filter replacement is not needed. For that matter, permanent filters can be cleaned as well, but the procedure differs as washing actually ruins them.

How to Clean a Washable HEPA Filter

  1. Check the manufacturer guidelines – Some models are dishwasher safe, while others must be cleaned by simply rinsing them with soapy water or washing them. This is generally stated in the accompanying manual or you can go online to check the information.
  2. Get the filters out – Turn the appliance off, unplug it, and then you can proceed to locate the filters and remove them. If you haven’t disassembled the appliance yet, you can check the manual for guidance. Small tip – put a cover on the floor or take it outside when you clean it as the filters tend to hold quite a high amount of dirt, which will pour on the floor when you take the appliance apart.
  3. Rinse – If the filter is small-sized, you can rinse it under the faucet, but if it is larger in size and this isn’t possible, take it outside and rinse it with a garden hose or in the shower. When you do rinse it, use low to medium water pressure and wipe the surface of the filter with your hand to loosen the dirt.
  4. Air dry – After you wash the filter, shake it gently for the excess water to drip faster and let it air dry completely before you reassemble the unit using the filter.

How to Clean a Permanent HEPA Filter

Start by turning the appliance off and unplugging it, just like you do with washable filters. As permanent filters generally don’t come alone, you should first remove and clean the pre-filters through rinsing or the specific action recommended in the accompanying manual of the appliance.

After you finish cleaning the pre-filters, it’s time to move on to the permanent HEPA filter. To clean it, use any type of vacuum, set it to a low suction power to avoid damage, and go across the whole surface of the filter to eliminate the embedded dirt. Once you are done and the HEPA filter, as well as the pre-filters are clean, you can reassemble the whole structure according to manufacturing guidelines.

HEPA Filter Maintenance Tips

You cannot expect optimum level performance without proper upkeep, and even with the best washable air filter there is routine maintenance that you must undergo. With air purifiers that use HEPA filtration it’s all the more important to follow proper maintenance as, otherwise, the machines won’t be able to pick up health-threatening airborne particles, defeating the purpose for their use, to begin with.

How to upkeep and maintain your HEPA filter:

  • Regardless if the filter is permanent or washable, it should be cleaned once every three to six months. Generally, there are manufacturer recommendations provided in regards to how frequent the filter must be cleaned, so you can check the provided indications too if you choose so.
  • Take into consideration how intensely the filter is used as the more you use it, the quicker it gets dirty to the point where it needs to be cleaned so that it doesn’t underperform. Thus, it’s recommended that you periodically check the filter to see how much dirt it gathered and clean it on the spot if it is needed. This tip contradicts the first one to a degree, but if you want to upkeep the HEPA filter properly, you should proceed as advised.
  • When cleaning is due according to manufacturer recommendations, check to see if the procedure is actually needed. If it hasn’t gathered enough dirt by that point, don’t follow through with a thorough cleaning as described in the article but rather just quickly vacuum the surface.
  • At one point, you will have to replace the filter, even if it is washable and reusable. Materials degrade with the passing of time, and HEPA filters make no exception. When you notice a decrease in its efficiency even when it is clean, it’s your sign that replacement is due.


As you can see, cleaning and maintaining a washable HEPA filter, even a permanent filter for that matter, isn’t a complicated task. Washable filters require rinsing, while permanent filters require dry-cleaning, so in the end, you can upkeep their performance and avoid early replacement to save on costs. Heavy-duty household appliances like air purifiers and vacuums are the ones that generally rely on the HEPA filtration technology, so you cannot afford to skip on proper filter maintenance to obtain the best results from them, especially when it comes to air purifiers as their operation is specifically directed toward creating a healthier indoor environment for you.