March 18, 2021

Your air conditioner filters do a great job of keeping dust, dirt, and other types of debris out of your home. As they filter out all these particles, your AC unit’s air filter gets clogged, affecting your cooling system’s overall performance. Other than impacting your AC’s performance, dirty air filters can cause a spike in utility bills and increased instances of respiratory infections for the members of your household. It can also result in system failures, which might lead to increased costs due to repairs.

It is advisable to check your filters regularly to assess their condition and whether they require cleaning or replacing. The interval for checking may vary depending on the prevailing circumstances and the level of your system’s usage. The general rule is to check the filters once a month. Cleaning your unit’s air filters is a simple process that you can manage without HVAC technical know-how. This article offers a step-by-step guide on cleaning and replacing your AC filters.

How to Clean an Air Conditioner Filter

1. Determine the Filter’s Location

Determining the location of your system’s air filters is the first step toward cleaning them. With most central air conditioning units, the filters are located near the cold air return duct right next to your unit’s air handler. The air handler is the metal box containing the fans. Typically, the unit is located in the basement, the attic, or somewhere behind a closet. Once you locate the unit, it should be easy to identify a removable slot where the air filter should fit. You may also find filters behind the return vents all over your house. After determining your system’s location, power it off. You do not want to let unfiltered air into your home.

2. Examine the Filter’s Condition

When the system is off and safe to open, use the release handle to access the filter. If your system does not have a release handle, unscrew the vent cover to find it. You will need to be very cautious when removing the air filter because some parts are extremely fragile. Gently slide it out and examine its condition. A gray shade or visible dust on the filter’s surface indicates that it is dirty and will require cleaning or replacement.

3. Vacuum the Filters

To remove the loose debris and dust trapped by your filters, vacuum it using a handheld vacuum cleaner or the hose attachment on your regular upright vacuum cleaner. Vacuuming will remove most of the visible dust and grime. However, avoid pressing the vacuum cleaner hard on the filters to avoid causing a dent or a tear.

4. Soak the Filters in Water

Not all filters are designed to get wet. Ensure you read the manufacturer’s manual to avoid damaging your filters. Once you establish that your filter is water-friendly, soak it in soapy water for about 10 to 15 minutes and ensure that it is submerged entirely. Once soaked, you can use a low-pressure hose to run clean water on one side. Rinse thoroughly until all the soap washes off, then turn it over on the other side and repeat the process.

5. Sanitize the Filters

After rinsing, the next step will be to sanitize your air filters. Clogged air filters can be a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and mildew. Regular washing with soap and water may not rid the filters of all these harmful microorganisms, but sanitizing them will help. To sanitize, you will need to use equal parts of vinegar and water to make the required solution. Put the mixture in a large basin and soak the filters to kill the harmful bacteria and microorganisms.

6. Drain the Air Filters

Remove the filters from the vinegar solution and allow it to drain off. It would help if you did not rinse it off at this point, as doing so will roll back all the sanitizing benefits.

7. Set Your Filters Out to Dry

Once the solution drains out, set the filters out to dry. Drying out the filters should not take long. To hasten the drying process, you can utilize a hair dryer set at a low temperature. It would be best to let the filters dry under a shade or indoors if the conditions outdoors are dusty. You do not want your filters to collect dust while they are still wet.

8. Reinstall the Filters

After cleaning and completely drying your filters, reinstalling them is straightforward. Nevertheless, it is critical to ensure that you install the filters facing the right direction. Most filters have an arrow indicating the direction they should face during installation. After the filter is in place, switch the power back on.


Knowing how to clean your cooling unit’s air filters is an integral part of a regular HVAC maintenance routine. Before cleaning your unit’s air filters, it is crucial to have explicit knowledge of the specific type of air filters installed in your system because not all filters are serviceable. If you have air filters with a cardboard frame or non-serviceable indicated on them, you will need to replace them outright. You can get replacement filters from any hardware store in your area.

Although cleaning your HVAC system filters is a straightforward activity, there are a few quick tips that could help you get the best results out of it.

  • Always consult the manufacturer’s manual for the right cleaning method.
  • Do it before when you need your filters the most.
  • Clean with care, as some filters can be made of fragile materials.
  • Clean regularly following your system’s manual guidelines.

Final Words

Filters are an essential component of your AC unit. They filter out the air that gets in your home and rids it of dust, dirt, pollen, and other allergens that may affect your family’s health. Besides ensuring you breathe clean and safe air, clean air filters allow your system to run at its best, giving you more value for your money. There is a need to have your AC system checked, replaced, or cleaned regularly to enjoy the comfort that comes with an efficient unit.

Cleaning your air conditioning system’s filters will also lower the cost of running your cooling system and reduce the expenses incurred during frequent repairs and maintenance. The frequency of cleaning your unit’s filter may depend on many factors, but the general practice is to have your filters cleaned once every month.

Are you having hiccups with your air conditioning unit, and you cannot pinpoint the exact problem? Do not panic. Our professionals from Polar Air & Heating, Inc. are here to help you regardless of the HVAC system brand or make installed in your home or office. These technicians have the technical know-how and years of experience and can troubleshoot any HVAC-related problem. We will also develop tailor-made solutions to suit your specific needs and to ensure your family is comfortable.

We also offer other services, including heating emergencies, AC repairs, insulation, light commercial refrigeration, and air quality assessment. If you live in Las Vegas, NV, and require any of the services mentioned above, we will be glad to assist you. Get in touch with us today to enjoy our timely and professional services.

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