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How To Clean A HEPA Filter

How To Clean A HEPA Filter

If your vacuum cleaner or air purifier has a HEPA filter on board, you might wonder if it’s safe to clean it or if you should replace it. Some units come with washable HEPA filters, but this is not always the case.

Shouldn’t HEPA filters just be replaced instead? Generally, HEPA filters need to be replaced when they’ve reached the end of their lifespan, but sometimes you can get away with cleaning them instead.

While there are no official regulations for how to clean a HEPA filter, there are easy ways in which you can keep yours clean and hygienic. Here’s what you need to know. 


What Does A HEPA Filter Do? 

What Does A HEPA Filter Do? 

A HEPA filter works effectively to capture particles of all sizes and it can remove approximately 99.97 percent of the ones which are around 0.3 microns in size.

These particles are not easy to capture and include pollutants such as smog and combustion smoke.

To keep your HEPA filter working effectively, you need to ensure it’s clean and ready to collect dust, allergens, and smoke so your home remains hygienic.  

How To Clean A Washable HEPA Filter 

How To Clean A Washable HEPA Filter 

If you have a washable HEPA filter, you can easily clean it by running it under the cold water tap. Be careful that you avoid touching the filter material as this could damage it.

How to wash a washable HEPA filter: 

  • Start by rinsing the filter under cool water to remove dust and dirt that’s accumulated on the filter. 
  • Pass a soft cloth over the filter while it’s still under the water so that you can remove stubborn dirt. 
  • Add a few drops of liquid dish soap to a bowl of warm water. Dip a clean, soft cloth into the bowl and use this to clean the surface of the filter. 
  • Wash the filter under running water so that you remove any soap residue. 
  • Leave the HEPA filter on a flat surface so it can air dry but never put it in direct sunlight which can be damaging. 

Note that some filters will have specific instructions that you need to follow, such as that you can only wash the exterior of the filter. Make sure you check these before trying to clean them. 

Can You Clean A Permanent HEPA Filter?

Can You Clean A Permanent HEPA Filter?

If you have a permanent HEPA filter, you can clean this by using a vacuum cleaner to remove dust and dirt from the filter’s surface. Note that you should never wash a permanent filter as the water can be damaging.

This type of filter is also known as a non-washable filter. It’s made out of thin paper fiber so it’s quite delicate. A washable filter, by comparison, is made out of thicker fibers that are resistant to damage when washed.

How to clean a permanent HEPA filter with a vacuum cleaner: 

  • Start by attaching your fabric attachment to your vacuum cleaner. 
  • Gently pass the vacuum cleaner over the HEPA filter. 
  • Take a clean, soft rag and dampen it with some cool water. Squeeze out excess water and then wipe away any extra buildup with the cloth. 
  • Place the filter on a flat surface where it can air dry. Never put it in direct sunlight as this can damage its paper.

Is Cleaning A HEPA Filter Risky? 

Is Cleaning A HEPA Filter Risky? 

Note that there’s always a risk that cleaning a HEPA filter can damage it, which can make it less effective at trapping and blocking allergens and other pollutants.

The best choice for you if you don’t feel comfortable cleaning the filter is to choose a HEPA replacement filter from the device manufacturer instead, so that you’re guaranteed of having the most effective filter in your device. 

How Often Should You Replace Your HEPA Filter? 

How Often Should You Replace Your HEPA Filter? 

Sometimes it’s better to replace, instead of clean, your HEPA filter. In vacuum cleaners, you should replace your HEPA filter every two years or so. As for air purifiers, you should aim to replace it every six to 12 months, depending on the quality of your indoor air.

Check the filter regularly so that you can gauge if it needs to be cleaned or replaced.

If you can see that it has lots of dirt on it or it’s not working optimally in your device, whether that’s your vacuum cleaner or air purifier, those are red flags that you should replace it.

What About The Pre-Filter? 

What About The Pre-Filter? 

A permanent HEPA filter doesn’t usually exist alone. It’s usually designed with a pre-filter. This should also be removed and cleaned. You can clean a pre-filter by running it under water until the water is clear.

If the filter is made of fine wire, this needs to be cleaned carefully with the use of a soft-bristled brush or a damp sponge on both sides of the filter.

By comparison, an activated carbon filter can be vacuumed so that dirt can be effectively removed from both of its sides.  

Related Questions 

Do HEPA vacuums remove pet hair?

Do HEPA vacuums remove pet hair?

A vacuum that has a HEPA filter on board is effective at removing pet hair, which is great for keeping your home clean and reducing allergies. 

Do HEPA filters help people with asthma?

When used in an air purifier, a HEPA filter can reduce particles that are in the air by between 25 and 50 percent, which can decrease asthma symptoms. 


If a device in your home contains a HEPA filter to trap pollutants such as dust, you might wonder if you can simply wash this filter to keep it in good condition.

In this article, we’ve looked at everything you need to know about HEPA filter maintenance and whether or not it’s safe to clean these filters.