Under 2 hours
Without regular cleanings and maintenance, the air filter in your air conditioning unit becomes less effective. Dirty air filters often require more energy to run, leading to increased electricity bills. If your central air conditioner filter isn’t regularly cleaned, it can collect dust, grime, bacteria, mildew and mold. This can enter your home and compromise the overall air quality. This guide will explain how to clean an air conditioner filter.
Turn Off the AC Unit
The first thing to do as you figure out how to clean an AC filter is to turn your air conditioner off. Leaving it on while removing and cleaning the filter can cause unfiltered air to circulate through your home.
- Turn off your air conditioner.
- Use a screwdriver to open the unit and remove the filter.
- Some units will have multiples vents, so make sure you inspect inside the unit to be sure you removed all filters.
- Now inspect the filter.
- If you have trouble finding where the filter is in your air conditioner, check your owner’s manual for help. If you don’t have the manual handy, you can look online for tips from the manufacturer of your AC unit.
- The owner’s manual will also let you know if your AC filters can be cleaned. Some filters are meant to be cleaned, while other air conditioner filters should be replaced each time.
Vacuum the Filter
- If you see any build up or dust on the air conditioner filter, it's time to clean it.
- If your central air filter shows no signs of grime buildup, you can use the hose attachment from your vacuum cleaner or use a handheld vacuum to remove any debris.
- If the vacuum hose doesn’t remove the buildup, you will need to wash it.
Wash the Filter
- For a deeper cleaning, fill a sink with one part water and one part white vinegar, and then allow your HVAC filter to soak in the solution for one hour.
- Rinse it off with fresh water and let it fully dry before returning it to your AC unit.
- If the filter is too large to fit in your sink, you can also wash it with a garden hose outside. Do not use a pressurized setting on your hose because you might accidentally damage the filter.
Replace the Filter
- Air conditioner filters become worn or damaged over time and need to be replaced.
- To check for signs of damage, turn your unit off and remove the central AC filter while wearing your rubber gloves.
- If your air filter shows signs of damage, like tears, holes or excessive grime, it’s time to replace it.
- When you replace an AC filter, read the packaging carefully to see how long the manufacturer guarantees its effectiveness. Make a note on your calendar to change the filter again according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Air Conditioner Filter Cleaning Tips
There are a few things to keep in mind when cleaning air conditioner filters. Here are a few easy tips to follow when learning how to clean air conditioner filters:
- Clean your AC filter monthly for optimal efficiency. Be sure not to do this before 100 degree summer days or below freezing winter days, if you can.
- If taking an air filter out to be washed, be sure to let it air dry for about 20 to 30 minutes before replacing. This will help you avoid any mold issues.
- The method you choose for cleaning the filter depends on the type of filter you have. For instance, a wall air conditioner may have different filter needs than a standard HVAC unit. Review the manufacturer instructions to confirm the best technique.
- Check to see if you have an electrostatic air filter and make sure it’s washable. If not, you will need to replace it when it wears out.
- Many disposable air conditioner filters should be replaced rather than cleaned, as cleaning with water can lead to possible mold issues.
- Clean the coils and fan of the AC regularly, using a canister of condensed air to blow away dust and buildup.
Learning how to clean an AC filter can help you save on energy as well as help manage your air conditioner's workload. Whether cleaning air conditioner filters with a vacuum or with water, we have the tools to help.
The Home Depot offers a subscription service for replacement air filters. Check to see if your air conditioner uses subscription-eligible air filters.
Don’t wait until the middle of summer to clean an air conditioner filter. Get the supplies for cleaning an air conditioner filter and have them on hand to use anytime. The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.