How To Clean A Hepa Filter?

Not sure whether you should clean the filter of your vacuum cleaner? Need to learn how to clean the filtration unit to avoid damage to the HEPA filter?

Before attempting to clean the HEPA filter in your air purifier or vacuum cleaner, you should study the user handbook for that device. The manual will contain detailed information on the specifics of the appliance. It will tell you whether the HEPA filter is a washable type or a true HEPA filter. 

A true HEPA filter can’t be cleaned as excessive suction or wetting will damage the intricately woven fabric of the filter; however, you can gently dust it off the dirt. On the other hand, you can clean a washable HEPA filter under the running stream of water. 

Warning: Check the user handbook for detailed instructions to prevent any damage to your appliance before using our techniques for cleaning a HEPA filter.

What are HEPA filters made of?

material used in making hepa filter

Most filters are made up of interlaced fibers; what makes one a HEPA filter is the material used in making it. Polyester, polypropylene, or fiberglass fibers with a diameter of less than one micron are tightly woven to create HEPA filters.

The strands are twisted, turned, dispersed, and randomly arranged in various orientations to produce a mesh maze without a real straight path.

HEPA filters may capture particles as thin as 0.3 microns since the gaps between the fibers are less than half a millimeter wide. When examined under a microscope, the fibers of a HEPA filter display irregularity in the positioning of the fibers. 

Now, let’s talk about the frame of the filter. You can use various materials to construct the frame of a HEPA filter.

The frames for those filters, intended for industrial and manufacturing applications, are often constructed from hardy, sturdy, and long-lasting materials like carbon steel, aluminum, stainless steel, or galvanized steel.

Where are HEPA filters used?

Air filtration systems utilizing HEPA filters have become crucial to commercial and industrial building management.

HEPA filters are now essential in technical and craft sectors where air quality is crucial for worker safety to remove pollutants and properly maintain air purity.

Another use of HEPA filters is in clean room applications, where contamination might alter or harm a process.

HEPA filters are used most vitally in medical research facilities, nuclear facilities, and residents with contaminated patients. 

According to the quantity and size of airborne particles, which can be as tiny as 0.1 micrometers, clean rooms are categorized. HEPA filters must adhere to and perform beyond those standards.

Can You Clean a HEPA Filter?

You cannot clean a true HEPA filter, so the better option is to replace the filter. However, if there is some minor dust accumulation, you can deal with it by dusting. 

In no circumstances should you put a HEPA filter under running water? Senior scientist at Environmental Health & Engineering and HVAC filtration expert Myatt states, “Water destroys the sheets of fibers and stays stuck in the pleats.” “

Manufacturers frequently sell appliances with washable “HEPA-like” filters, which are not real and are likely to remove particles with somewhat lower efficiency.

As we discussed, the vote of experts is against cleaning the filter, so let’s recount why you shouldn’t clean a HEPA filter:

Cleaning destroys the filter

HEPA filters are built with exceptionally strong fiber that can capture 99.97% airborne particles. As a result, once the particles get entangled in that fibrous filter, they are stuck and cannot be removed by simply sucking them out of the tightly woven fabric. 

If you’ve ever held a HEPA filter, there is probably no vacuum cleaners on earth that can remove all of the dust from a HEPA filter. 

If you will stubbornly attempt to clean the filter, there is a good chance that you will end up destroying the filter.

Some caked-on dirt is OK

The mechanism behind the HEPA filters is being able to catch microscopic particles called diffusion.

Due to diffusion, small particles (size less than 0.3 microns) keep bouncing around inside the filter rather than escaping through the filter’s pores, which are larger than the diameter of the particle.

When the HEPA filter gets caked with dirt, the pore size of the filter is diminished further, leaving no chance for the micro-particles to fly straight out.

That’s why you will see the performance of your filter in catching pollutants and allergens increasing after usage.

So, even if your filter seems dirty to you as it has a layer of dust on it, it’s OK as it’s improving the quality of the filtration.

You can clean pre-filters

A pre-filter and an activated carbon filter are often fitted with permanent HEPA filters. These pre-filters and carbon filters capture most dust, soot and grime particles. They prevent your HEPA filter from getting excessively dirty; fortunately, these can be cleaned.

You may even use water to wash the pre-filter; place the filter under the faucet with a gentle stream until it is clear. Use a soft-bristled brush to carefully clean the grime stuck in the thin wires of the filter.

Another option is to clean the filter’s two sides using a moist sponge. Use the sponge in a horizontal motion to wipe both sides.

You can place the pre-filter in direct sunlight for one or two hours to let it dry and then fix it again on the HEPA filters.

My Proven 2 Ways to clean a HEPA filter

2 Ways to clean a HEPA filter

HEPA filters are not designed to be cleaned; they are used and replaced. A true HEPA filter can easily be damaged by washing, rendering it unable to function as a filter. Additionally, washing will only remove a small number of particles.

You can use methods to blow away the dirt surrounding the filter gently. 

Below, you will learn how to clean your HEPA filter and what to keep in mind.

Cleaning HEPA filters by Vacuuming

Vacuuming is a simple way to remove all the dust and debris a filter has captured. To vacuum the HEPA filter, remove the filter, and instead of installing a new one, use the vacuum to remove all the debris. 

You may use any vacuum for this; however, I recommend a handheld or portable one for convenience.

When cleaning the filter, use a nozzle or soft brush attachment. By doing this, the vacuum’s harm will be reduced to the minimum, if it happens at all.

To remove all dirt, debris, and accumulated dust mounds, vacuum in a horizontal motion. Don’t force the attachment into the filter as you vacuum; be gentle towards the filter.

If the debris is stuck, don’t attempt to scratch it through the brush; instead, adjust the vacuum’s suction so that it is strong enough to pull out dirt that is firmly lodged.

Cleaning HEPA filters by Washing With Water

Cleaning HEPA filters by Washing With Water

Here, we are talking about the washable HEPA filters; you may visit your product manual to find out whether your appliance has a washable or a non-washable HEPA filter.

For cleaning the filter, you may use a brush to remove dust and sludge or wash it with water delicately.

Smaller filters used in portable appliances may be washed in the kitchen or bathroom using the faucet.

Larger filters that don’t fit in a sink might need to be washed outside with a garden hose or inside the shower with a handheld shower head.

Avoid excessive pressure when you wash HEPA filters, as this might harm the filter’s fabric. Instead, use a low to moderate flow and gently wipe the area with your fingertips.

Some appliance companies advise using soapy water for washing HEPA filters, while others advise using lukewarm or cold water. You must check the user manual for detailed instructions to ensure all step is completed on time.

Final Thoughts

Most manufacturers advise replacing instead of cleaning the HEPA filter when it starts to look old or discolored. Other experts hold that the filter’s lifespan can be extended by routine cleaning. If your filter is neglected for an extended period, it will deteriorate fast in terms of performance and get worn out. 

For cleaning the HEPA filter, you can dust it off using a handheld vacuum. Take caution to be gentle and put the suction at a moderate level not to damage the fiber of the filter. It can be time for a replacement filter when you observe a drop in the appliance’s efficiency, and cleaning the filter isn’t helping.

Robbert Randy

Robbert is an expert in vacuums. He graduated from the University of Applied Science with a degree in Commercial Economics in 2019. He tests and provide troubleshooting tips to vacuum users on his website. He don’t do this for profit–he simply want to research the best models out there and share his findings.

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