How to clean vacuum filter?

How to clean vacuum filter?

To ensure your vacuum maintains its powerful suction and effectively picks up all dirt and debris, regular cleaning of the filter is essential. A clean vacuum filter plays a crucial role in the proper functioning of your vacuum cleaner. Neglecting this maintenance task can lead to reduced performance and potential damage to your vacuum.

Certain vacuums come equipped with one or multiple filters designed to capture even the tiniest dust particles. By trapping the dust within the filter, it prevents them from reentering the air in your room and settling on surfaces. If you notice a decline in your vacuum’s performance, it’s a clear sign that it’s time to clean the filter.

Remember, an efficiently operating vacuum is a clean one. So, make sure to prevent clogging and dirt buildup in your vacuum. Apart from emptying the bag or canister, don’t forget to regularly check and clean the filter as well. Yes, vacuum filters can be cleaned too!

Why Clean Vacuum Filters?

Vacuum cleaners work by sucking up dirt particles. They rely on strong suction power and a good filtration system to keep your floors and other surfaces clean. To maintain your vacuum’s suction power, you’ll need to clean your vacuum frequently – including the filter.


Cleaning your vacuum filter is an essential household chore and a critical part of regular maintenance. By regularly cleaning or replacing the filter, you ensure that your vacuum can effectively pick up all the dirt and debris it is designed for. A dirty filter can significantly decrease suction power, resulting in the vacuum picking up less dirt and dust.

Furthermore, neglecting to clean the filter can lead to long-term damage to your vacuum, primarily due to the additional strain on the motor caused by a full and clogged filter. The heat generated by the trapped debris can also harm the vacuum and shorten its lifespan.

To ensure your vacuum cleaner lasts and performs optimally, it’s crucial to replace the filter regularly. If you’re unsure where to begin, there’s no need to worry. I’ll guide you through the process and help you establish a good routine to keep your vacuum running smoothly.

Types of Vacuum Filters

Not all vacuums are built the same – depending on the model, there are foam, HEPA, and cartridge filters. Each is made out of different materials, which will determine how to clean them.

1. Foam filters

A bagless vacuum will usually have a foam filter, which catches dust underneath the canister. This is where the air passes through.

2. Cartridge filters

These are usually made of paper or non-woven synthetic material plates. A paper cartridge filter is meant to be disposable, which makes it inexpensive.

3. HEPA filters

A HEPA filter (or High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter) is an interwoven fibre matrix that lets air pass through while filtering out even the smallest dust particles and other dirt. You can also find it in air filters.

How to clean vacuum filter

Unplug and Disassemble the Vacuum

Always unplug the vacuum before disassembling the component to prevent accidental shocks. Empty any collection canisters or dispose of the collection bag. Locate and remove the filter(s).

How to Clean Foam Vacuum Filters

  • In a sink or small bowl, mix a cleaning solution of two drops of dishwashing liquid or an all-purpose cleaner in two cups of hot water.
  • Submerge the filter and gently squeeze it to move the cleaning solution through the pores of the foam. If the water becomes black with excessive dust, mix a fresh solution and continue squeezing.
  • Rinse the filter until no more suds appear and the water runs clear.
  • Gently roll the filter in a microfiber towel to absorb the water.
  • Place the filter on a drying rack to air-dry. This may take up to 24 hours.
  • Replace the filter. Do not replace the filter in the vacuum if it is still damp.

How to Clean Pleated Paper or Synthetic Fibers

Most pleated filters have a replacement schedule and are considered disposable by manufacturers. Paper filters should never be soaked or rinsed in water. However, some filters are made from a non-woven synthetic material (similar to a dryer sheet) that can be rinsed with water a few times to remove dust.

  • To extend the life of a pleated paper filter: Remove it from the vacuum. Use a soft-bristled brush (an old toothbrush works well) to brush away any visible debris. Gently tap the filter on the side of a trashcan or an outside handrail to loosen dust. Replace the filter.
  • To extend the life of a synthetic fiber filter: Follow the same steps recommended for cleaning a paper filter. After tapping out the dust, hold the filter under a flowing stream of water to flush out even more dust. Wrap the filter in a microfiber towel to absorb as much moisture as possible. Do not crush the filter. Place the filter on a drying rack to air-dry for at least 24 hours. Replace the filter.

How to Clean a HEPA Filter

If your vacuum is equipped with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, it is going to trap 99.97 percent of particulates larger than .3 microns that flow into the vacuum. Made of finely-woven synthetic fibers, HEPA filters can often be rinsed with plain, cool water to flush out dust. Refer to your vacuum’s manufacturer’s recommendations for how often to replace the filter.

You can also extend the life of the HEPA filter by removing it from the vacuum, and tapping it against the side of a trashcan or outdoor handrail to remove some dust.

Tips to Keep Your Vacuum Filter Clean Longer

  • Empty the vacuum bag or dust canister often.
  • Clean the appliance vent covers after every use to remove clinging dust.
  • To freshen stale-smelling foam filters, spritz with a few drops of essential oil.

How to Clean Foam Filters

A bagless or canister vacuum is accompanied by a foam filter that catches dust beneath the easy-to-empty canister. When you remove the canister, you’re likely to see the foam layer that air passes through. The filter in my vacuum is pretty clean with minimal staining, but still helps to demonstrate how the dust moves through the appliance:

  • That’s a piece that gets congested with dirty air, capturing dust and debris that might otherwise make it back into your room.
  • To clean a foam filter, submerge it in water, squeeze it to allow the dirt to escape the foam, and allow it to air dry before putting it back in your vacuum. If you want the room to smell really nice next time you’re vacuuming, add a few drops of essential oil to the foam. Tea tree, lemongrass, peppermint and eucalyptus are just a few of the oils that also possess antibacterial qualities.
  • Much like a foam filter, if your vacuum is fitted with reusable disc filters, you should make it a point to wash them regularly to allow good airflow. These filters are similar to reusable coffee filters and attach using mounting hardware; we have them on a large workbench vacuum, but you aren’t likely to find them on ordinary household vacuums.

How to Clean a Vacuum Bag

If you own an upright vacuum with a bag, that bag can be either disposable or reusable. Ensuring proper maintenance of the bag is crucial for preserving the motor’s condition, as an overfilled bag can strain the motor’s operation. Disposable bags should be replaced before reaching full capacity, although they generally require minimal maintenance otherwise.

If you have a reusable bag, empty its contents into a large garbage can capable of containing the dust. Tap the sides of the bag to ensure all dust is dislodged, and for optimal results, use another vacuum to remove dust from both the outer and inner surfaces of the bag.


For cyclone or cartridge filters, a gentler approach is necessary. While some vacuum filters can handle more water and vigorous cleaning, the cyclone filter should only be wiped down with a damp cloth.

To achieve the best results, remove all dust from the filter before wiping it down to ensure a thorough cleaning. Take out the filter and gently tap it against a hard surface, such as a trash can or sink, to eliminate any loose debris. Afterward, wipe it down with a damp cloth, being mindful of the material your cartridge filter is made of.

If your filter is made of paper, avoid using water, as it may damage the filter. Before cleaning, make sure it is not a non-washable filter to avoid any potential harm. While most cartridge filters are designed for replacement, washing them can significantly extend their lifespan before you need to replace them. If you have a washable vacuum filter, take advantage of this feature instead of simply replacing it each time, as it will save you money in the long run!


A HEPA vacuum filter (also known as a high-efficiency particulate air filter) is a special type of filter designed to capture very small particles. It’s similar to the cartridge filter, but it has a much smaller pore size and can trap even smaller particles.

HEPA filters are interesting because true HEPA filters can’t be cleaned. They need to be replaced. If your filter isn’t 100% HEPA, then it might be washable, but most HEPA filters need to be replaced. You can try to use another vacuum to remove extra dirt, but you should not get it wet.Check the information on your HEPA filter and vacuum cleaner to ensure that is a washable vacuum filter before you try, otherwise, you might ruin it and need to replace it anyway.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you wash your vacuum filter?

Rinse the filter

Any fine dust remaining in the filter can usually be removed with a gentle rinse under a cold tap – hold the filter under the running water until the water runs clear. You shouldn’t need to use any detergent – just water.

What happens if vacuum filter is wet?

If you own a bagless vacuum, do not put a wet filter back in the machine. This will hurt the motor, but even worse, it can cause mold to grow. A warm, damp, dirty place is the perfect combination to grow mold. Then when you turn the vacuum on it blows the mold around your house.

How often should I wash my vacuum filter?

If you have dirty filters, you’ll notice a stale odor immediately when you turn on the vacuum and reduced suction as you work. For high traffic areas, the filter may need to be cleaned monthly. For most homes, vacuum filters should be cleaned at least every three months.[1]Here’s How Often You Need To Clean Your Vacuum Filters

How long do vacuum filters last?

Most manufacturers recommend you change your filter on average every 3-6 months. However, it is recommended to change your filter even earlier depending on usage and allergy care. Most newer vacuum models use more than one filter.[2]How often should I change my vacuum filter?

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