Skip to main content

How to clean a vacuum filter

How to clean a vacuum filter
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Knowing how to clean a vacuum filter will help a vacuum maintain its suction power, so you can keep carpets, floors, and upholstery free of dust and dirt. 

What the expert says…

Pablo Montero, CEO of Lupe Technology (opens in new tab), says, "Each manufacturer will have their own guidance for cleaning filters; the majority will involve washing and the use of water and agitation. Do not cut corners on drying, as a damp filter with more dust added will create a strong smell that will be difficult to rectify."

Many vacuum cleaners feature single or multiple filters which capture dust particles when vacuuming, preventing this dust from entering the air. Cleaning a vacuum filter will help ensure that this hardworking appliance can stay on top of household chores. Plus, it's a quick 10-minute task that doesn’t require any specialist tools.

If you have cleaned the filter and your vacuum still helping you clean carpets (opens in new tab) in your home, take a look at the best vacuum cleaners (opens in new tab) for a round-up of recommended products. Meanwhile, if you've got a bagless vacuum, you'll also need to know how to replace a vacuum cleaner filter (opens in new tab)

Vacuum filters should be cleaned every three months. The first signs that a vacuum filter needs cleaning are a stale odor and reduced suction.

Before you clean a vacuum filter

Unplug and disassemble the vacuum cleaner before removing the filter. How to clean a vacuum filter depends on the type of filter: 

  • Foam filters: Can be cleaned with soap and water.
  • Pleated paper or synthetic filters: Not washable but can be cleaned.
  • HEPA filters: Some cannot be cleaned but dust can be removed.

How to clean foam vacuum filters 

  1. Mix two drops of dishwashing liquid with two cups of hot water in a bowl or sink.
  2. Place the filter into the cleaning solution, gently squeezing the foam to remove any dirt.
  3. Rinse the filter until the water runs clear of suds.
  4. Roll the filter in a microfiber cloth to absorb any water, before air drying for up to 24 hours.

How to clean paper or synthetic filters

  1. Pleated paper filters are designed to be disposable and should not be soaked or rinsed. 
  2. Some pleated filters are made from a synthetic material which can be rinsed to remove dust.
  3. To clean a pleated paper filter, use a soft-bristled brush to remove any visible debris. 
  4. Gently tap the filter to loosen any dust.
  5. To clean a synthetic filter, follow the steps above before holding the filter under a faucet to remove additional dust. 
  6. Wrap in a microfiber towel to absorb any moisture then air dry for at least 24 hours before replacing.

How to clean a HEPA filter

  1. Tap the filter against the side of a trashcan to remove some of the dust.
  2. To flush out additional dust, rinse the filter under cool running water, then air dry.

Discover more guides for the home…

Best steam mops (opens in new tab)
Best robot vacuums (opens in new tab)
Best handheld vacuums (opens in new tab)
Best carpet cleaners (opens in new tab)

Hayley Francis is a freelance writer based in the UK with an interest in travel, culture, and the great outdoors. When not busy writing for a variety of clients, she can be found planning her next trip or hiking a new trail.

With contributions from