How to Clean an Air Conditioner Filter

You count on your air conditioning to keep your living space comfortable during the warmer months of the year. And if you’ve ever spent a summer in a city or the surrounding suburbs, you know first-hand just how warm it can get! Depending on where you live, you may have a landlord or property management company that’s responsible for maintaining your HVAC system. If so, then you shouldn’t have to worry about cleaning your air conditioning filter, as this and other maintenance should be covered in your rental agreement.

On the other hand, if you’re in a lease that requires you to provide or maintain your own air conditioning equipment, then you may need to put a little more time, energy and money into keeping your space cool and comfortable during the sweltering summer months. Specifically, you may need to start setting aside time to clean your air conditioning filter.

The Importance of a Clean Air Conditioning Filter

No matter what type of air conditioning system you have (forced central air, window unit, ductless air conditioning, etc.), the equipment has a filter that is responsible for removing impurities and debris (such as dust and even mold spores) from the air. This results in cleaner indoor air—and also cuts down on the number of stray particles and debris that end up in your air conditioning unit.

Having a clean air filter is a must because a dirty filter cannot effectively trap dirt and debris. As a result, your indoor air quality will suffer and the air conditioning unit itself may end up with premature wear and tear (which could lead to costly repairs or the need for total replacement down the road). Dirt and debris getting into your air conditioning’s system could also reduce efficiency, which could run up your electricity bills.

The good news is that air conditioning filters can often be cleaned—and even when they cannot be cleaned, you can typically find a replacement filter that’s inexpensive and takes just a few seconds of your time to install.

Can Your Air Conditioning Filter Be Cleaned?

Before you commit your time to removing and cleaning your air conditioning filter, it’s important to determine whether or not you actually have one that’s able to be cleaned. Some filters are designed to be used for a couple of months and then replaced, whereas others are designed to be cleaned and re-used several times before needing replacement.

The best way to find out what kind of filter you have is to check the manual that came with your air conditioning unit (if you still have it). If not, research your manufacturer and model number online to pull up a digital copy of the manual; from there, you should be able to find out what kind of filter the unit takes and whether it’s able to be cleaned or needs complete replacement. Typically, electrostatic air filters can be washed/cleaned, but other types will need to simply be replaced. The manual should also give you a better idea of how often the filter needs repaired or replaced.

How to Clean an Air Conditioning Filter

Unplug Electric Connection

Before you clean any type of air conditioning filter, it’s important to turn the air conditioner off. If you have a central air conditioning unit, the best way to do this is to shut off the breaker that controls the unit itself. If you have a ductless or window unit, you should simply be able to unplug it from the wall and/or flip the power switch. Having the AC shut off is important not just for your safety, but to prevent additional debris from making its way into the system as you clean.

Remove Air Filter

Next, remove the air filter. The process for removing a filter can vary depending on the style of air conditioner you have. Some filters slide out of a storage compartment with ease, whereas others may be held in by screws or bolts. Check your air conditioning manual to find out how to properly remove your filter for cleaning.

Cleaning Your Air Filter

Generally, the best way to begin cleaning an air conditioning filter is to take a vacuum with a hose extension and use it remove any loose debris from the filter itself. This won’t clean the filter completely, but it should help to make the next steps easier.

Most filters will need to be washed in order to remove the bulk of the debris. There are many ways to wash an air conditioning filter, but one of the most effective and easiest ways is to create your own cleaning mixture out of one part white vinegar and one part warm water. Fill a large bucket with this mixture and then place your AC filter inside the bucket to soak for at least one hour. It’s important that you have a container/bucket that is large enough to fit the entire filter so that it is completely submerged.

Once the filter has soaked and the cleaning solution has worked its magic, rinse the filter clean with water to remove any leftover debris. You can do this in your kitchen sink using a spray-nozzle faucet extension for best results. If you don’t have a spray option on your faucet or if the water pressure isn’t enough to really remove that debris film, you can also take your filter outside and use a garden hose on it if possible.

Wrapping Up

Before you place your air filter back in the AC unit, be sure that it has had a chance to dry completely. You may choose to expedite the drying process using a blow dryer or set your filter out in the sun for a couple of hours. Air filters usually don’t have long to dry, so you should be back in business (and cool air) relatively quickly.

Cut Down on Time Spent Cleaning

Cleaning your air conditioning filter (or replacing it at the recommended intervals) is one of the best ways to keep your air conditioning running properly and efficiently. And while cleaning an AC air filter may not be the most exciting of tasks, it shouldn’t take you long to check it off your “to-do” list.

Feeling overwhelmed by your household chore list? Let the professional cleaners at Maid Sailors tackle some of those jobs for you. From dusting and mopping to vacuuming and sanitizing hard surfaces, we can do it all at reasonable rates. Your satisfaction is always guaranteed! Reach out to the Maid Sailors team today to explore our service options or to schedule your first cleaning appointment; we proudly serve New York City and the surrounding areas.

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