How to clean vacuum filter?

How to clean vacuum filter?

If you want your vacuum to maintain its strong suction and pick up all the dirt and debris it’s supposed to, then you need to clean the filter regularly. A clean vacuum filter is crucial to the effective operation of your vacuum cleaner. A clogged filter will decrease performance and could even damage your vacuum!

Some vacuums have one or multiple filters that capture the smallest dust particles. By capturing the dust in the filter, it is less likely to reenter the air in your room and eventually settle on surfaces. If your vacuum isn’t performing as well as it once did, it’s time to clean the vacuum filter.

A clean vacuum is an efficient one, so don’t let your vac become clogged and dirty! Besides emptying the bag or canister, you should also check if the filter is dirty, because yes – you can clean vacuum filters too!

Why Clean Vacuum Filters?

Vacuum cleaners work by sucking up dirt particles. They rely on strong suction power and a good filtration system to keep your floors and other surfaces clean. To maintain your vacuum’s suction power, you’ll need to clean your vacuum frequently – including the filter.


Cleaning your vacuum filter is a necessary house chore and a big part of regular maintenance. Regularly cleaning or replacing the filter will ensure that your vacuum is able to pick up all the dirt and debris it’s meant to. A dirty filter will decrease suction, meaning the vacuum picks less dirt and dust.

In addition, a full filter can cause damage to your vacuum over time due to the extra strain on the motor. The heat generated by the clogged filter can damage your vacuum and reduce its lifespan.

So if you want your vacuum cleaner to last and to properly do its job, make sure you are replacing your filter often! If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. I’ll walk you through the process and help you get into a good routine to keep your vacuum running smoothly.

Types of Vacuum Filters

Not all vacuums are built the same – depending on the model, there are foam, HEPA, and cartridge filters. Each is made out of different materials, which will determine how to clean them.

1. Foam filters

A bagless vacuum will usually have a foam filter, which catches dust underneath the canister. This is where the air passes through.

2. Cartridge filters

These are usually made of paper or non-woven synthetic material plates. A paper cartridge filter is meant to be disposable, which makes it inexpensive.

3. HEPA filters

A HEPA filter (or High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter) is an interwoven fibre matrix that lets air pass through while filtering out even the smallest dust particles and other dirt. You can also find it in air filters.

How to clean vacuum filter

Unplug and Disassemble the Vacuum

Always unplug the vacuum before disassembling the component to prevent accidental shocks. Empty any collection canisters or dispose of the collection bag. Locate and remove the filter(s).

How to Clean Foam Vacuum Filters

  • In a sink or small bowl, mix a cleaning solution of two drops of dishwashing liquid or an all-purpose cleaner in two cups of hot water.
  • Submerge the filter and gently squeeze it to move the cleaning solution through the pores of the foam. If the water becomes black with excessive dust, mix a fresh solution and continue squeezing.
  • Rinse the filter until no more suds appear and the water runs clear.
  • Gently roll the filter in a microfiber towel to absorb the water.
  • Place the filter on a drying rack to air-dry. This may take up to 24 hours.
  • Replace the filter. Do not replace the filter in the vacuum if it is still damp.

How to Clean Pleated Paper or Synthetic Fibers

Most pleated filters have a replacement schedule and are considered disposable by manufacturers. Paper filters should never be soaked or rinsed in water. However, some filters are made from a non-woven synthetic material (similar to a dryer sheet) that can be rinsed with water a few times to remove dust.

  • To extend the life of a pleated paper filter: Remove it from the vacuum. Use a soft-bristled brush (an old toothbrush works well) to brush away any visible debris. Gently tap the filter on the side of a trashcan or an outside handrail to loosen dust. Replace the filter.
  • To extend the life of a synthetic fiber filter: Follow the same steps recommended for cleaning a paper filter. After tapping out the dust, hold the filter under a flowing stream of water to flush out even more dust. Wrap the filter in a microfiber towel to absorb as much moisture as possible. Do not crush the filter. Place the filter on a drying rack to air-dry for at least 24 hours. Replace the filter.

How to Clean a HEPA Filter

If your vacuum is equipped with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, it is going to trap 99.97 percent of particulates larger than .3 microns that flow into the vacuum. Made of finely-woven synthetic fibers, HEPA filters can often be rinsed with plain, cool water to flush out dust. Refer to your vacuum’s manufacturer’s recommendations for how often to replace the filter.

You can also extend the life of the HEPA filter by removing it from the vacuum, and tapping it against the side of a trashcan or outdoor handrail to remove some dust.

Tips to Keep Your Vacuum Filter Clean Longer

  • Empty the vacuum bag or dust canister often.
  • Clean the appliance vent covers after every use to remove clinging dust.
  • To freshen stale-smelling foam filters, spritz with a few drops of essential oil.

How to Clean Foam Filters

A bagless or canister vacuum is accompanied by a foam filter that catches dust beneath the easy-to-empty canister. When you remove the canister, you’re likely to see the foam layer that air passes through. The filter in my vacuum is pretty clean with minimal staining, but still helps to demonstrate how the dust moves through the appliance:

  • That’s a piece that gets congested with dirty air, capturing dust and debris that might otherwise make it back into your room.
  • To clean a foam filter, submerge it in water, squeeze it to allow the dirt to escape the foam, and allow it to air dry before putting it back in your vacuum. If you want the room to smell really nice next time you’re vacuuming, add a few drops of essential oil to the foam. Tea tree, lemongrass, peppermint and eucalyptus are just a few of the oils that also possess antibacterial qualities.
  • Much like a foam filter, if your vacuum is fitted with reusable disc filters, you should make it a point to wash them regularly to allow good airflow. These filters are similar to reusable coffee filters and attach using mounting hardware; we have them on a large workbench vacuum, but you aren’t likely to find them on ordinary household vacuums.

How to Clean a Vacuum Bag

If you have an upright vacuum with a bag, that bag is either disposable or reusable. Replacing or cleaning the bag on a vacuum is important for preserving the condition of the motor; when overfilled, the motor has to work harder to operate the appliance. Disposable bags should be replaced before they’re entirely full, but they’re otherwise relatively maintenance-free.

If a bag is reusable, you should empty it out into a large garbage can that can contain the dust. Tap the sides of the reusable bag to ensure that all of the dust has been removed, and for the best results, use a second vacuum to remove dust on both the outer and inner surfaces of the bag.


For cyclone or cartridge filters, you need to be a bit gentler. Some vacuum filters can handle more water and vigorous cleaning, but the cyclone filter should just be wiped down with a damp cloth.

For best results, you should remove all dust from the filter before wiping it down to ensure that it gets as clean as possible. Remove the filter and gently tap the filter against a hard surface like your trash can or sink to get out any loose debris. Then wipe it down with a damp cloth depending on the material of your cartridge filter.

Some of them are made of paper, and in that case, you don’t want to use water. Make sure it’s not a non-washable filter before you clean it!Most cartridge filters are meant to be replaced, but washing them can really extend their life before you need to replace them. If you have a washable vacuum filter, make sure you take advantage of that rather than just replacing it each time. This will save you money!


A HEPA vacuum filter (also known as a high-efficiency particulate air filter) is a special type of filter designed to capture very small particles. It’s similar to the cartridge filter, but it has a much smaller pore size and can trap even smaller particles.

HEPA filters are interesting because true HEPA filters can’t be cleaned. They need to be replaced. If your filter isn’t 100% HEPA, then it might be washable, but most HEPA filters need to be replaced. You can try to use another vacuum to remove extra dirt, but you should not get it wet.Check the information on your HEPA filter and vacuum cleaner to ensure that is a washable vacuum filter before you try, otherwise, you might ruin it and need to replace it anyway.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you wash your vacuum filter?

Rinse the filter

Any fine dust remaining in the filter can usually be removed with a gentle rinse under a cold tap – hold the filter under the running water until the water runs clear. You shouldn’t need to use any detergent – just water.

What happens if vacuum filter is wet?

If you own a bagless vacuum, do not put a wet filter back in the machine. This will hurt the motor, but even worse, it can cause mold to grow. A warm, damp, dirty place is the perfect combination to grow mold. Then when you turn the vacuum on it blows the mold around your house.

How often should I wash my vacuum filter?

If you have dirty filters, you’ll notice a stale odor immediately when you turn on the vacuum and reduced suction as you work. For high traffic areas, the filter may need to be cleaned monthly. For most homes, vacuum filters should be cleaned at least every three months.[1]Here’s How Often You Need To Clean Your Vacuum Filters

How long do vacuum filters last?

Most manufacturers recommend you change your filter on average every 3-6 months. However, it is recommended to change your filter even earlier depending on usage and allergy care. Most newer vacuum models use more than one filter.[2]How often should I change my vacuum filter?

About De Hua

Lindsay Boyers is a former New Yorker who now lives at the beach. She received a double B.A. in International Relations and Marketing from The College of William & Mary and an M.A. in Interactive Journalism from American University. Lindsay Boyers has been published in The Washington Post, New York Daily News, Cosmopolitan, Women's Health, The Bump, and Yahoo, among others.How We Tested and Reviewed

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