Cleaning Your Vacuum Filter: What You Need to Know

Why Should I Clean My Vacuum Filter?

Some vacuums come with reusable filters, and these need to be washed regularly to keep the vacuum operating efficiently.

If your vacuum filter is made out of any kind of paper material, it’s not reusable. You need to throw it away and buy a replacement filter whenever it gets saturated with dust. To extend the use of it, you can hit it against the garbage can to try and shake any loose dust out of it until it gets totally saturated.

Some vacuums will have two filters, and one of them might be reusable while the other one isn’t. Again: the general rule is that foam or plastic filters are reusable, and paper-ish looking HEPA media filters are not.

What Happens If I Don’t Clean My Vacuum filter?

If you fail to clean your vacuum filter it will seriously affect the vacuum suction level. Eventually, the dust build up would lower the suction so much that it would render the vacuum completely useless. If your vacuum doesn’t seem to be working as efficiently as when you first bought it, that’s a good sign that you need to wash your filter. Ideally, you’ll wash it before it gets to this point–usually every month or so when vacuuming the house regularly. Otherwise, prepare to be pretty grossed out when you finally clean it.

Panic level: 1

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How To Clean Your Vacuum Filter:


  • 1. Find the filter on your vacuum.
    • As mentioned above, many upright vacuums have two filters: one above the canister, and one in the bottom of the machine. The plastic one above the canister is usually the reuseable one, and is often made out of foam. This is the one you’ll want to remove from your vacuum.

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  • 2. Run water at full force and run the filter under cool water for an initial rinse.
    • It’s a good idea to do an initial rinse of the filter before you wash it with soap because your filter can get pretty saturated so some of the looser dust will just come right out just with the water rinse, making the actual soap cleaning more efficient. The pressure from the water coming out of the tap will help to blast out any dust in the filter.

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  • 3. Create a soap mixture with a drop of dish soap and water in a large bowl.
    • You don’t want to use too much dish soap or you’ll have trouble washing it all out of the filter.

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  • 4. Wash the filter in the mixture and rinse with water.
    • Make sure the soap and water permeates the filter, whether it’s foam or plastic. If it’s really dirty, the water might get dirty really quickly so you might have to do this twice. Once you’ve washed the whole thing with soap, go ahead and squeeze it out and then run it under cool water again until all the soap is cleared from the filter.

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  • 5. Lay filter on a towel to dry overnight.
    • This is the most important step of cleaning your filter. You cannot put a damp filter back in your vacuum or it will be a breeding ground for bacteria. Make sure the filter is totally dry before putting it back in.

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  • 6. Put filter back.
    • When the filter is dry, put it back in your vacuum in the same position you found it in and snap it shut. You should immediately notice a stronger suction on your vacuum and cleaner floors! And of course, don’t forget to also replace the HEPA media filter regularly if you have one, otherwise the suction will be affected by that clogged filter, and cleaning the reuseable one won’t do much good.

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