How to Clean a HEPA Filter. This is the Right (and Only) Way

by Mary Evans

Hepa Filters should be replaced not cleaned, as they will most probably get damaged. But there are some ways you can try and declutter it from all the dust and debris! Use cold water for washable filters and a gentle vacuum for permanent filters.


HEPA filter aren’t cheap. You probably know that already.

And you probably got worried when your HEPA filter started to loose its effectiveness. Have you done something wrong? Is it broken or damaged? Well, it can be. But most probably you’re HEPA filter is just clogged with dust and debris.

That is, if you use it on a regular basis.

HEPA filters, as regular filters, once saturated they will start to malfunction, throwing some o the particels trapped on the filter into the air again.

Dirty HEPA Filter

If this is the case, you have two options:

- Replace it with a new HEPA filter

- Try to clean the HEPA filter

The first option, valid as it is, may be too expensive and a tedious process to go through (finding the right one is not that easy!). That leaves us with option number 2.

But can you really clean a HEPA filter? Well, let’s see!

What is a HEPA Filter?

For you to understand if HEPA filters can be cleaned you first need to know what a HEPA filter is, what they’re made of and the different types of HEPA filters that exist.

Because the answer is not as straightforward as you may think.

HEPA stands for high efficiency particulate air.

HEPA filters are made in a way that makes it possible for them to trap particles as small as 0.3 micrometers with a precision of 99.97%. Therefore, it makes them the best to absorb such small particles as mold spores and dust mites.

They’re are used for vacuum cleaners, HVAC systems, air purifiers and cars.


Not all have the same filtration efficiency as there are different graduations. HEPA filters are rated on how they filter particles.


What is a HEPA filter made of?

HEPA filters are made of a variety of material tangled all together and compressed in little paper-like sheets. These mateerial can be vegetal and synthetic fibers, animal hair, coarse glass, synthetic foams, etc. The sheets are pleated to increase the surface area. And manufactureres may add pre-filters ton trap larger particles and avoid the HEPA filter to get clogged and remove bad odors.

When particles try to go through this “web”, they are trapped in multiple ways:

Direct impaction: large particles collide with a fiber and get stuck to it.

Sieving: large particles get stuck between two fibers.

Interception and difusion:

thanks to the air flow, particles move throw and get stuck if they touch the fibers.

Direct Impactation Sieving Interception difusion

Some particles may not be caught in the HEPA fibers but don’t worry, such a small amount of particles are harmless.

Can you clean Hepa Filters?

Now we’re getting into the messy part!

Can you clean a HEPA filter or will it get damage and loose efficacy?

To know if you can clean your HEPA filter look for the manufacturer label and see if it says one of the following:

- Washable: you can try and clean you HEPA filter if this your the case but there hasn’t been studies on whether these HEPA filters remain as efficient as before being cleaned. So you can try cleaning it but you’ll be taking some risks.

- Not Washable or “permanent”: if this is your case, then you can’t clean your HEPA filter. If you do, then you can damage the fibers even if it looks like you haven’t damaged it. The fibers will break and stretch out and it won’t do the job properly, as the consistency of the fibers is what allows it to trap such small particles.

In the end, trying to clean a HEPA filter may not be the best idea if you want it to work as well as it does now. You will most certainly damage the fibers.

Other facts to take into account are the following:

- By cleaning it you put yourself at risk. Remember that a HEPA filter absorbs all types of dust, dirt and mold particles. And if you try to clean it you’ll be exposed to all those allergen particles. If you end up cleaning it, please use a respiratory mask to protect yourself and perform the job outside.

- You’ll have to wait until it’s dry to use it again. Don’t ever use a wet HEPA filter to vacuum your carpets. it will be the best place for mold to grow and your HEPA filter will get 100% ruined. If you end up cleaning it, remember they can take at lest 24 hours to dry completely!

How to Clean HEPA Filters

If you’re here is because you may be brave enough to try and clean you HEPA filter.

Well, if that’s the case you have to learn how to do it properly to ensure that the filter won’t get damaged and will do its job correctly.

As you’ve already read, HEPA filters should be replaced not cleaned. But if yo’re desperate to try, there are only two ways we recommend you for cleaning HEPA filters.

1. If your filter is marked as washable then you can try to rinse it under a stron pressure of cold water without using any detergents or cleaner solutions. Don’t touch the fibers with your hands. Only allow water throw it. Once its clean, let it dry completely before using it. Sometimes this type of HEPA filters come with special cleaning instructions. If that’s the case, follow them.

Whasable HEPA Filter


In canister type vacuums, the filter should only be washed on the outside.The water should never get into the central part of it.

2. If your filter is marked as permanent, the only way you have to clean it is to gently use a vacuum cleaner to suck all the dust and debris way from the surface. Don’t use water under any circumstance or you’ll ruin the filter. This option is a bit useless as all the importat particles will stay trapped into the HEPA fibers or all over your home again. It be better if you replace it with a new one.

How often should you replace HEPA filters?

There are many different types of HEPA filters and systems, and each one of them has its own recommendations about how often should you replace the filter.

However, as a general rule, HEPA filters should be chaged at least each year if used on a reagular basis (3 hours per week). But if it contains carbon, then every 6 months would be the right thing to do.

If you don’t use it as much, then filters can go up to 2 years being completely fine and useful.

For example, situations that decrease the air quality of your home, such as smoking or having pets, will affect negatively to your HEPA filter and reduce it’s useful life.

Signs to change your HEPA filter

If you’re not sure whether you should replace your filter or not, watch out for any of these signs. If you notice one, then start looking for a replacement!

Dirty HEPA Filter

- If the filter looks all gray and dirty, full of visible dust and debris.

- When talking about air conditioners and heating, if they take too long to turn on or you hear a “whirring” sound while it takes time to start sending some fresh air, then you’ll probably have to replace the filters.

- If you start noticing more allergic reactions among the people living at your house.

Yeah, they might be expensive, but what’s worse?

Having to spend money on something that will end up being beneficial for everyone who lives at home, or having to deal with all the health issues that come with having a dirty house, full of allergen particles?


We all want to have our homes all cleaned and beautiful. But let’s face it, it takes time and money.

Vacuum Cleaner

But if we sometimes spend money on things that aren’t even beneficial for us, why not spend money on something that will improve the air we breathe and the place we live?

It’s your call!


Mary Evans Picture

By Mary Evans

Vacuums, Steam Cleaners, Robot Cleaners, etc.

My name is Mary and I'm a mother of 3! I worked for a big company for 10 years until I decided to stay at home to take care of my family. Every since cleaning has become sort of my hobby and profession at the same time. I write about vacuum cleaners, steam cleaners, etc. I just find it a lot of fun!

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Mary Evans Picture

Mary Evans

My name is Mary and I'm a mother of 3! I worked for a big company for 10 years until I decided to stay at home to take care of my family. Every since cleaning has become sort of my hobby and profession at the same time. I write about vacuum cleaners, steam cleaners, etc. I just find it a lot of fun!

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