Pet Gear

How to Clean the HEPA Filter of Your Vacuum Cleaner

HEPA filters may not seem like it, but they were a turning point in cleaning technology back in the 1950s. Their reusability made them outstandingly more cost-effective than other filters. Since then, they have become indispensable for keeping good air quality in indoor-environments and can nowadays be found everywhere from air planes to air purifiers and of course – pet vacuum cleaners.

However, even to this day not everybody knows how to clean a HEPA filter. It’s obvious that a large build-up of debris inside a vacuum cleaner can significantly impair its function if not break it entirely. So it’s vital that people know how to clean and maintain their HEPA filters to ensure long lasting use for years to come.

If you want to learn how to properly clean such filters without damaging then, read on.

How to Clean HEPA Filter

Now there are two different types; the washable HEPA filters and the non-washable HEPA filters that require vacuuming to clean out. Yes, the latter involves vacuuming your vacuum’s filter (pretty circular, I know).

When in doubt, always refer to your manual as it is an important document that can tell you both how to maintain your HEPA filters, and whether you’re dealing with the washable or the non-washable kind. In the ideal case, this should also be labeled permanently on your cleaner. The manual will also tell you (most importantly) how to properly remove the washable HEPA filter from your vacuum for you to clean 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 that information cannot be found either in the manual nor online, then that means you have an entirely different HEPA filter model and you won’t be able to clean it. Or at least, you run the risk of permanently damaging the filter if you try.

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.

How to Clean a Washable HEPA Filter

As with any filter, before you clean a HEPA filter, always make sure that your cleaner is unplugged.

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 bin (but not too hard, HEPA filters are relatively delicate) and most of the debris should come off.

Then, simply clean your HEPA filter 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, but don’t use too much heat as it may damage the filter. The filter should be completely dry before you insert it back into the vacuum.

How to Clean a Non-washable HEPA Filter

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.

Next, 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 or washable labels.

How often you change your filter will depend heavily on the space you’re using your vacuum in. For example, if you’re living in a residential environment or area, then it’s recommended you change your HEPA filter once every 2-3 years.

If the setting is commercial, or in other words it is 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 you should definitely change it.
By the way, the HEPA filters of air purifiers should also be replaced checked rather frequently as they tend to be used for many hours at a time, of not 24/7.

Washable HEPA 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 several years. 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 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 filter and other vacuum filters with care. That means checking your regular vacuum cleaner (or robot vacuum cleaner which also come with HEPA filters, these days) on a regular basis, effectively cleaning them and replacing them when appropriate.

But if you’re going to just buy a new vacuum (or air purifier), 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 and will be able to enjoy better air quality in your rooms.

We hope this article was helpful to you and would appreciate any comments. Don’t hesitate to share your experiences, below.