Can You Vacuum Air Cleaner Filters?

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Vacuuming air filters may prolong their operating life.
Vacuuming air filters may prolong their operating life. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Air cleaner filters commonly are found near the HVAC, or heating, ventilation and air conditioning, unit of your home. Over time, an air cleaner filter can become clogged and dirty, especially during high-pollen times of the year or if you have animals. If you do not inspect, clean and eventually replace air filters, you will experience a reduction in airflow because of dirt and dust buildup, which can lead to early system failure. It is possible to prolong the life of an air cleaner filter by carefully vacuuming the filter; however, if the filter is extremely soiled, you should replace it within the manufacturer’s suggested time frame.

Function

The primary function of air cleaner filters is to remove debris from the air while enhancing overall airflow throughout your home. While maintaining clean air is the obvious goal of an air filter, it is also responsible for keeping the motor of your HVAC unit in proper working condition by preventing particles such as dirt from clogging the system. Air cleaner filters also reduce the amount of outdoor debris that enters your home. If you have allergies or breathing problems, a high-quality air filter can keep the interior of your home free from pollen, dust and pet hair.

Vacuuming Filter

While manufacturers do not recommend vacuuming air cleaner filters, you could slightly prolong the life of your filter by regularly vacuuming it and its surrounding encasement. When vacuuming, use the handheld attachment. Do not place the filter on the ground and roll your vacuum over it, because this will damage the filter to the point of replacement. Lightly run the handheld attachment over the filter in a circular motion. When cleaning, do not stop moving the attachment because this could damage the filter fibers. Once visible debris is removed, gently replace the filter.

When to Replace

According to Energy Star, air filters should be checked at least once a month, especially during winter and summer, when the HVAC system is in high demand. While the time frame for replacing an air filter varies based on the dust and airborne debris level where you live, change your air cleaner filter every three months. This is a generalized suggestion provided by Energy Star, and your air filter might need to be changed sooner or later, depending on its soil level and whether vacuuming removed a good portion of stuck-on debris. Check with the manufacturer of the filter to determine its recommended replacement time frame. For example, a traditional fiberglass filter should be changed monthly, while a deep-pleated filter should be changed once every six months.

Cleaning Air Ducts

If you still experience a musty smell coming from your air vents or you notice a large accumulation of dust and debris within your home, you might need to clean your air ducts. While the Environment Protection Agency does not suggest regularly cleaning air ducts, occasionally the ducts should be thoroughly cleaned. It is possible to clean ducts yourself, but to ensure the entire duct system is cleaned the EPA suggests hiring a professional air duct cleaning service.

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