HEPA filters may not seem it, but they were a turning point in cleaning technology back in the 1950s. Their reusability made them outstandingly more cost-effective.
However, not everybody back then and even to this day not everybody now knows how to clean and reuse HEPA filters. It’s obvious a large build up of debris inside a vacuum can significantly impair its function if not break the whole thing. So it’s vital that people know how to clean and maintain their HEPA filters to ensure long lasting use for years to come.
How to Clean a Hepa Vacuum Filter
Now there are two different types of HEPA filters, the washable kind and the nonwashable kind that requires vacuuming to clean out (yes that does mean you’re going to be vacuuming your vacuum’s filter which yes, is pretty circular).
When in doubt, always refer to your manual as this can tell you both how to maintain your HEPA filters and whether you’re dealing with the washable or the nonwashable kind (should be labeled as permanent on your cleaner). The manual will also tell you (most importantly) how to properly remove the HEPA filter from your vacuum cleaner for you to wash it.
If your manual doesn’t tell you how to remove the HEPA filter or what type of filter you have, a quick Google search of your model should provide all the information you’ll need. If neither label can be found both in the manual or online, then that means you have an entirely different HEPA filter model and you won’t be able to clean it or at least if you do you run the risk of permanently damaging the filter.
There may also be other filters other than the HEPA filters but these won’t be nearly as meticulous to clean and take out as the HEPA filters. The other filters can be easily cleaned by running them through water for two to three minutes and letting them dry for 24 hours.
Before cleaning your filter, always make sure that your cleaner is unplugged.
How to clean a washable HEPA filter
We’ll start with the washable kinds which are pretty easy to clean out. Simply remove the filter as the manual instructs. You will probably see a lot of dust and debris, most of which can be easily shaken off the filter into a garbage. Just hit the filter a couple times on the side of the garbage can (but not too hard, HEPA filters are relatively delicate) and most of the debris should come off.
Then, simply clean it using a running faucet with a moderate amount of water pressure (too much could damage the filter) and the water running through the filter should be enough to clean out all of the debris.
Finally, let the filter dry for at least 24 hours, although you should be okay using a hair dryer or heater, just be sure the filter is completely dry.
How to clean a non washable HEPA filter
Now when it comes to your nonwashable filters (or permanent HEPA filters) you’re going to have to be even more careful as permanent filters are fairly delicate.
Again unplug the device and remove as instructed by the manual. If it's a handheld HEPA filter then vacuuming the device should be relatively simple. If it’s a floor vacuum then it’s better to clean out the filter outside or in the garage.
Now, with another preferably handheld vacuum, simply vacuum up all the debris from the filter. Be extra cautious however as to not puncture through the filter.
Now all you have to do is to reinstall your filters and your vacuum should be ready to go.
How Often Should You Change Your HEPA Filter?
Although HEPA filters typically last a pretty long time, cleaning them over and over again can still damage them slightly over time. On top of that, if your HEPA filter isn’t labeled as washable or permanent, then replacing your HEPA filter is going to be inevitable as you won’t be able to clean it without damaging it. The following advice is for HEPA filters that have neither the permanent of washable labels.
How often you change your filter will depend heavily on the space you’re using your vacuum cleaner in. For example, if you’re living in a residential environment/area, then it’s recommended you change your HEPA filter once every 2-3 years.
If the setting is commercial, that is it’s used every single day, then it should be changed at least once a year. Although, it’s recommended you check it halfway through the year to see if it’s heavily soiled or not, in which case, definitely change it.
Washable filters are a bit different and don’t need to be checked as often. If cleaned often enough, you won’t have to replace them for years to come. It does vary from product to product however so just keep in mind that replacing them every 3 years or so would be playing it safe. Although, as long as you periodically clean them, they should last you for much longer than that.
Also, regardless of the type of filter, you’re using, if the filter is damaged in any way shape or form then replacement is definitely required. If you don’t have a properly functioning filter then you risk damaging the vacuum cleaner itself.
However, the best indicator of whether you should replace your filter or not is your sense of smell. If it smells musty or like burnt rubber, then a replacement is much needed.
It’s important that you treat your HEPA and other vacuum filters with care. That means checking your regular or robot vacuum cleaner on a regular basis, effectively cleaning them, and replacing them when appropriate.
But if you’re going to just buy a new vacuum, then make sure you get one that has a washable filter as not only do they last the longest but they are clearly the easiest the clean. As long as you treat your filters with care, you won't experience any trouble with your cleaning.