How to Clean AC Air Filter?

AC Air Filter

Does your indoor air smell like something old? Why does your home smell like a stuffy old storage room? Smelling something old is better than smelling a lingering burning odor.

When was the last time you checked on your air conditioner’s filter? A dirty air filter may be responsible for all those weird odors and noises.

If it has already thrown your HVAC system into a tail-spin, you need the help of a professional HVAC technician. However, odors and noises may only sometimes indicate the need for AC repair.

Sometimes, all your air conditioner filter really needs is a thorough cleaning.

Learn more about cleaning your air conditioner filter below.

Are Your Air Conditioner Filters Dirty?

Your air conditioning unit takes more time to indicate clogged air filters than it does for refrigerant leaks. Sometimes air conditioners continue running functions even with compromised air filters.

It may be harder for many homeowners to tell when their old filter needs changing or when their clogged filter needs cleaning. Your best bet against dirty filters and contaminated airflow is frequently inspecting your air conditioner filters.

You may not know it yet, but your AC filter has a key part in the entire HVAC system. Without routine filter inspection, your indoor air handler or ductwork might be already harboring hazardous growth.

Your air conditioner filters may already have built up dirt, dust, and debris over time, producing discoloration on its surface. It won’t be long before it dominos into worse HVAC problems.

Always dedicate some time to check on the condition of your air filters! It will save you from health hazards and costly repairs in the future.

Where Is the Air Filter?

You can locate your air conditioner’s filter behind the front panel of your indoor air handler. You may also access disposable air filters atop your air vents. 

If you have trouble locating them, you may also refer to your air conditioner’s instruction manual to determine their placement. As soon as you see your air filters, you will be able to tell how dirty it is.

Peer into your air conditioner to find out how much cleaning you need to do. Do it gently, but thoroughly. You will be glad you did.

Many of us do not know enough about air quality and how much your air filters can determine its impact on your health. Even disposable filters can have a lasting impact on your air conditioners and air quality.

Can You Clean an Air Conditioner Filter By Yourself?

You tell us…can you?

The answer to that question generally depends on your skills and the tools you have available. If you have a new air filter that fits your AC unit, you can install it on your own.

You can also clean it by yourself with a wet-dry vacuum, soft cleaning cloth, mild detergent, and warm water. You may also need a stepping stool or ladder to reach your air handler.

It’s important to remember that before handling your HVAC system, you should also keep rubber gloves, goggles, and a mask handy.

Should You Clean an Air Conditioner Filter Regularly?

Regular cleaning and immediate replacement are not necessary; they are critical. Even if you last used your air conditioner a while ago, it may still collect dirt, dust, and debris.

Air conditioner filters may lay dormant without airflow circulating through indoor and outdoor units. However, dust and other debris may settle into your AC filters without the air conditioner system moving and shaking as it typically does.

You can take simple steps to ensure your air conditioner stays clean, producing nothing but clean and quality air. Cleaning the air conditioner filter also promotes more energy efficiency.

All the dust building in air conditioner filters causes your air conditioner to use more electricity to facilitate airflow. HVAC systems have various coils to alter temperatures, blower fans, and motors to produce air circulation.

Cleaning your air conditioner filters makes your AC unit more energy-efficient while producing only high-quality air conditioning. You should get started on cleaning.

Unfiltered air builds up more than just dirt in your air conditioner. Don’t be surprised to find the presence of mold, mildew, and other hazardous growth in your AC systems.

How Can I Clean an Air Conditioner Filter?

Are the air conditioner filters you want to clean supplemental or primary? Are these air conditioner filters built into the AC system, or are they integrated into the outlet or return vent?

Various kinds of air filters aid in air conditioning. Only take your neighbor’s advice after knowing what kind of air conditioner filter they cleaned. Your AC unit may be different from theirs or anyone else’s.

They may have durable and reusable air filters. Your air conditioning unit may have integrated supplemental filters with a shorter shelf-life.

What kind of air filter do you have at home? Rather than cleaning, you might have to replace your air filter. Filter maintenance varies depending on their type and size.

The Proper Tools and Techniques

It would be best if you replaced pleated air filters every sixty days and spun fiberglass filters every thirty days. You may clean and reuse a disposable filter, but overusing it may render it useless for your air conditioners.

You may access air filters within their indoor air handlers if you have multi-split types at home. You can open your air conditioning unit to remove its filters for cleaning or repair.

Below you will find useful tips on cleaning your air conditioning system’s filters.

What you need

  • Vacuum cleaner (preferably one with a brush attachment to achieve a deeper clean)
  • Basin (if your sink is big enough, it may do)
  • Baking soda and white vinegar mixture (you can also dilute mild detergent with warm water)
  • Gentle hose (a power hose may be too strong and tear through the unit)
  • Rubber gloves (if you have more sensitive skin)
  • Goggles (you might wash the dust off the filter and into your eyes instead)
  • Mask (to avoid inhaling irritants)

Dry Cloth

A soft, gentle cloth will do if you don’t have a vacuum cleaner. You can always pick off clusters and dust bunnies from the filter and wipe off residues with a cloth.

However, soak your air filter in a vinegar mixture for about an hour or so before wiping off the residue. It helps kill harmful bacteria and breakdown stubborn sticky particles.

Wet-dry Vacuum Cleaner

You might need all the help you can get using a gentle cloth. However, a vacuum cleaner may allow for more thorough and efficient cleaning.

You can pick off large clusters of dust, but taking one end of that vacuum to scrape off debris on the surface of your air conditioner filter gives you more leverage against grime, dust, and debris.

Washing your air conditioner filter with a hose is great and gets the job done. However, if your vacuum has a brush attachment, you can soak it into the vinegar mixture and brush it onto the filter!

Still, it would help if you were careful using too much power. Your AC filter can succumb to all that pressure. Remember, cleaning your AC filter for better air conditioning is the goal.

Here’s what you need to do: Step-by-Step

Before you start anything in the cleaning process, remember to do these three things:

  1. Turn the air conditioner OFF.
  2. Unplug your air conditioner from its power source.
  3. Find a space with steady and open airflow.

Detach the Air Filter

Detach your air filter within the air conditioner. Gently lift the front panel of your multi-split air conditioner to locate its filters.

It should be immediately visible. Gently lift the bottom of the air filter until it unclasps from the bottom tracks.

Clean the Air Filter

Make sure you close the front panel before moving on to this step. Leaving the hatch open may expose your AC filters to pollution.

Remember, you are taking your air filters out, leaving the internal components to fend for themselves. Closing and securing the panel back into the air conditioner is an important step in the entire process.

You can start cleaning your AC filter by picking large particles off its surfaces. Start vacuuming with its mouth at least an inch away from direct contact with the unit.

You can dip the brush in a cleaning solution if it has a brush attachment. If your vacuum doesn’t have a brush attachment, you can soak the filter in a diluted mild detergent (1tsp per 1L of warm water) for one hour or so.

Wash the air filter, and make sure you give it a thorough rinse after soaking and lathering. You may also sprinkle baking soda on the unit and soak it in white vinegar. Please wait for the AC filter to dry completely before reinstalling it.

Reattach the Air Filter

Once the filter is completely dry, you may place them back in your AC unit. Remember, they must be completely dry, or you might dampen surrounding components resulting in internal damage.

Why Is Cleaning Your Air Conditioner Filter Beneficial?

What makes your house smell like an old cottage from your favorite fairytale needs to be addressed. Please get to the bottom of that old-fashioned smell before it starts smelling like rotten eggs or burning coal.

A dirty filter may also withhold a consistent flow of fresh air, which is problematic at best. At its worst, a dirty or clogged air conditioner filter indicates impending damages and health risks that need to be handled immediately.

The Risks of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Only some of us are informed about the importance of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)Some of us still struggle to figure it out, but those off-season allergies, asthma, and skin rashes aren’t coming from the great outdoors!

It’s coming from inside the house! Yikes!

Hire professional Air Conditioning Repair and diagnostics for expert HVAC inspection in Puyallup, Washington. They might also tell you a thing or two about your home’s air quality. We also serve the neighboring areas, including DuPont, Frederickson, Olympia, and Steilacoom.

Need the help of an expert in Washington?

Hesitant to call technicians for your HVAC systems? Did you hear about those less reliable “experts” who cut corners, resulting in total mechanical failure or fire hazards?

Don’t worry! Taylor Heating & AC has been providing reliable maintenance, Furnace & Air Handler Installation, and Replacement services all over Puyallup since 1984.

We are the guys for the job!

Leave Taylor Heating & AC a message at (253) 785-9194

Check out our list of Maintenance Membership Plans to choose one that’s right for your HVAC system.

In case of emergency HVAC Concerns, Call Taylor Heating & AC at (253) 208-5315

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