How to Clean Vacuum Filters

How to clean vacuum filters? This is a frequently asked question that is unsurprising when you consider how hard this appliance works when we clean our homes. We use our vacuum cleaner to capture dirt particles, dust, food crumbs, and other debris from our hard floors, carpets, rugs, baseboards, mattresses, and upholstery.

Removing vacuum filter for cleaningThe vacuum cleaner relies on powerful suction to operate efficiently, and this is compromised with the vacuum filter being clogged. Some models have a single filter and others have multiple filters to capture smaller particulates. When these particles are captured, they are prevented from reentering the home where they degrade the cleanliness and indoor air quality (IAQ). So, if your vacuum cleaner is under performing it’s probably time to clean the vacuum filter.

What Are the Three Different Types of Vacuum Filters

  1. Foam Filters: These are the most basic type of vacuum filters. They are usually round and can be cleaned with soap and warm water.
  2. Synthetic Cartridges and/or Pleated Paper: These are less expensive vacuum filters that cannot be washed. But they can be cleaned to a basic standard a few times before they are replaced with fresh filters.
  3. HEPA Filters: These improve the IAQ significantly, some can be cleaned, but others cannot. The lifespan of these filters can be improved if the dust is removed regularly.

Do You Need to Clean Vacuum Filters?

The next obvious question is “Do I need to clean vacuum filter models regularly?” and the answer is yes. When the vacuum cleaner is clean, it will operate more efficiently, and this includes the vacuum filter. Without regular cleaning and maintenance, you may notice that the appliance tends to move dust and debris around, but it isn’t cleaning. The machine may even overheat rapidly, and cleaning will become a time-consuming chore. If your vacuum was purchased to remove allergens or pet hair to improve the IAQ it’s extremely important to clean the filter.

How Often Should You Clean Vacuum Filters?

The frequency of vacuum filter cleaning will be determined by how often you use the appliance and the dirtiness of the areas that require cleaning. Dirty vacuum filters will create a distinctive stale odor when they are turned on and the suction will be reduced. In higher traffic areas, you may need to clean or replace the filter every month. As a rule of thumb, the filter should be cleaned every three months or more often if you have pets.

10 Steps on How to Clean a Foam Vacuum Filter

  1. Unplug the appliance to prevent electrical shocks and disassemble the vacuum cleaner.
  2. Dispose of the collection bag or empty the collection canisters.
  3. Find the vacuum filter(s) and remove them.
  4. Fill a bowl with hot water and a couple of drops of all-purpose cleaner or dishwasher liquid.
  5. Place the filter in the water and squeeze it gently and repeatedly to move the cleaning solution through the foam pores.
  6. If the water becomes very dirty, make a fresh cleaning solution, and continue the process.
  7. When the filter is clean, run it under clean water until it runs clear.
  8. Roll the filter in a microfiber towel to dry it thoroughly.
  9. Allow the vacuum filter to dry for at least 24 hours.
  10. Replace the filter when dry and reassemble the vacuum cleaner.

Can You Clean Disposable Filters?

Washing replaceable filters is not recommended because they are easy to damage, and damaged filters can create mold problems.

How to Clean Vacuum FiltersSteps On How to Clean A HEPA Filter

If your vacuum cleaner has a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter, it’s designed to trap up to 99.97% of particulates which are larger than 0.3 microns. The filter structure will be synthetic fibers that are finely woven together to create a larger surface area within the filter. The best way to clean these filters is to rinse out the dust under the cold-water tap. The filter should be fully dry before it’s replaced, and the full instructions are detailed in the owner’s manual. For a quick clean to extend the lifespan, you can simply tap out the trapped dust into a trashcan.

Frequently Asked Question’s on How to Clean Vacuum Filters

How long do vacuum filters last?

Most vacuum cleaner manufacturers recommend a filter change every 3-6 months. In homes where allergy sufferers reside or if pets are present, you may want to change the filters more frequently. Many modern vacuum cleaners have more than one filter and it’s a good idea to change them all at the same time.

How do I clean a smelly vacuum filter?  

This is a simple process, empty the vacuum filter, wash it with a hose and scrub the surface with mildew prevention solution. This solution should include a dish detergent that contains phosphoric acid or hydrogen peroxide, or white vinegar. Then rinse the filter clean and let it dry naturally before it’s returned to the vacuum cleaner.

Why should I change my vacuum filter?

A dirty vacuum filter will restrict the airflow which reduces the cleaning performance of the cleaner.

How do I know when to replace my vacuum filter? 

If you notice a loss of vacuum cleaner suction power and you can smell a musty odor it’s a great idea to check the filters. They can be quickly cleared by beating the filters into the trash and if they are still usable they can be returned to the appliance. Eventually, they will need to be cleaned or replaced with a fresh filter.

How does a vacuum cleaner filter work?  

The vacuum filter collects the dust particles that pass through the nozzle from the cleaned surface areas. The particles are trapped and prevented from spreading through the rooms. If the dust is not removed regularly it can cause overheating because it can enter the motor unit.

What does a foam filter do on a vacuum?

Foam vacuum filters force air through a layer that collects the small dust particulates and certain allergens.


We hope that this article has shown you how to clean vacuum filters to maintain the efficiency of your appliance. When you need to clean or maintain your cleaner, it’s important to check the owner’s manual to avoid damage. Certain filter models can be cleaned in warm water, but soap or detergent should be avoided. Many modern vacuum cleaners have more than one filter and they may need to be cleaned in different ways.