How to Clean Your Air Conditioner Filter

  • August 24, 2023
  • By MR COOL

Did you know a dirty air conditioner filter can impact how well your AC system works? AC filter cleaning is crucial to keep your AC system working its best and keeping you cool. Use our step-by-step guide below to learn about the different types of AC filters, how to clean AC filters and how often you should clean your filters. 

Types of AC Filters

Before you can clean your AC filter, you need to know which type of filter your AC system uses — disposable or reusable. Check out the differences between these two filter types below.


Disposable filters are typically made of cardboard or paper, meaning they can not be cleaned. Instead, when the filter gets dirty, you simply throw it away and replace it with a new disposable filter. You’ll want to always have a few replacement filters on hand for when your filter becomes dirty.


Reusable filters may also be called washable or permanent filters. These filters cost more upfront, but as they can be cleaned and reused, you’ll likely save money in the long run. To get the most out of your reusable filter, proper maintenance and cleaning is recommended. Routine cleaning will keep your AC filter in top shape for years to come.

Can You Clean Your AC Filter Yourself?

Cleaning your AC filter by yourself is completely doable. In fact, the cleaning process is pretty simple, and it is actually recommended that homeowners develop a routine cleaning schedule for AC filters. Set a reminder or mark a designated time on your calendar to inspect and clean your AC filter. While professional AC system maintenance is available, a quick filter clean is something you can perform on your own. 

6 Easy Steps to Clean Your AC Filter

As a homeowner, it’s important to know how to clean reusable air filters. This allows you to enjoy clean air and keep your AC system working optimally. As with any appliance, some maintenance and cleaning are required here and there. Luckily, cleaning an AC filter is relatively quick and easy. Use the steps below to learn how to remove an AC filter as well as how to properly clean and reinstall it. 

1. Turn Off the AC Unit

Unless you’re OK with dirty air circulating through your home, you’ll want to turn off your AC unit before you begin cleaning your AC filter. 

2. Remove the Filter

Once your AC unit is turned off, it’s safe to go ahead and remove the filter. Use a screwdriver to remove the vent cover and access the filter. While removing the unit’s filter, be cautious and gentle to avoid any damage. 

The exact location of AC filters can vary by system. Typically, the filter is right behind the return vent. Some AC units may have multiple vents, so make sure to double-check that all filters are removed. 

3. Vacuum the Filter

Buildup, dust, debris, grime and discoloration are all signs your AC filter is in need of a clean. But how do you clear an air conditioner filter? It’s actually quite simple. Before you get started with the cleaning process, double check the filter is reusable. If it is not reusable, it will need to be replaced with a new disposable filter. 

Disposable filter users can jump to step number six to complete the cleaning process. Meanwhile, if you have a reusable AC filter, grab a vacuum — handheld or hose attachment — and get started suctioning away any debris.

4. Wash the Filter

If vacuuming still leaves behind grime, dust or debris, you’ll need to give the filter a deeper clean. Use a bathtub or sink faucet to run warm water through the filter. Make sure to hold the filter in the opposite direction of airflow. In other words, make sure the side with the most visible dust is facing downwards. This allows the water to push the dust and debris out of the filter instead of causing the dirt to go deeper into the filter.

For an extra deep clean, allow your filter to soak in a mixture of one part water and one part vinegar. Place your filter in a bucket or sink where it is completely submerged in the solution, and leave the filter to soak for one hour, then rinse off the filter with clean water. You can use a garden hose to rinse your filter but do not use a pressurized setting or else you may damage your filter. 

5. Allow the Filter to Dry

After thoroughly cleaning your filter, allow it to dry completely before returning it to the AC system. Lay your filter out to dry, remembering to flip it halfway through the drying process. This process may take a few hours. Keep in mind hot temperatures may damage your AC filter, so avoid using hot air tools like a hairdryer to try to speed things up.

6. Reinstall the Filter

Before reinstalling your filter, take a good look at it to ensure there are no damages, such as holes, rips or stubborn grime that remain even after the cleaning process. If you notice any of these damages, it may be time for a reusable filter replacement for your system.

Once your reusable AC filter is clean and dry or you’re ready to install your new disposable filter, simply slide the filter back into place. Feel free to turn your AC system back on and enjoy your clean, cool air. 

How Often Should You Clean Your Air Conditioner Filter?

Ideally, you should clean your AC filter about every month or every other month. If you frequently use your AC system, have furry friends in your home or your AC system is exposed to dusty conditions, you may want to clean your filter more frequently. Dirty AC filters reduce your AC system’s efficiency and airflow. A clean filter can reduce your energy consumption by 5%-15%, so having a clean filter will save you money and ensure you have the best air quality.

Proper maintenance of your AC filter helps the overall performance of your AC system. Through a good maintenance routine, your reusable AC filter can even last the entire duration of your AC system’s life span. Even though it is easy to forget or ignore, cleaning your AC filter is a crucial and valuable step in any home maintenance or cleaning routine.

2 thoughts on “How to Clean Your Air Conditioner Filter”

  1. Why would my Mr cool condenser be leaking a lot of water from underneath? Anything I can do to fix this? Unit is still working

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