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How to clean an air purifier

Updated on November 21, 2023
Written by
Teddy Booth
Teddy joined HouseFresh in 2019 as a senior content producer, producing written content as well as product photography and YouTube videos. He supports Danny as a product tester and is our lead how-to writer.

Our verdict

Taking care of your air purifier by giving it a regular clean will ensure maximum efficiency from your unit.

Larger visible particles like dust and hair can become lodged onto the interior and exterior of your unit and the filters and fan. If these aren’t removed, your unit won’t work as well as it should. It’s easy to clean your air purifier if you follow our step-by-step guidelines.

Except for a minority of units (containing permanent/washable filters), HEPA and Activated Carbon filters need replacing periodically, but pre-filters can usually be cleaned. The manufacturer will state this. 

Always check your unit’s manual before opening your air purifier.

If you own an air purifier or have researched what they do, you’ll know their positive effects on your home’s air quality. Breathing clean air brings many benefits to your health, well-being and comfort in the place you spend most of your time (no…not work) your home.

An air purifier’s job is to clean the air and remove harmful contaminants that can cause adverse health symptoms like allergies, respiratory viruses and diseases, and nasal congestion

But did you know you have to clean your unit to keep it working effectively?

This guide will show you how to clean your air purifier to maximize its efficiency at removing those nasty pollutants from the air you breathe. Because if you look after your air purifier, it will look after you.

The HouseFresh 7-Step Process For Cleaning Your Air Purifier

As air purifiers pull in and trap particles like dust, pollen and pet dander from the air, you will start to see them build up on and around the unit. Air purifiers are at their best when their fans, inlets, outlets and especially filters are clean and clear of these particles that gather over time.

Your unit will continue to work efficiently by regularly cleaning your air purifier. It’s a painless task and doesn’t take long to do. Here’s our step-by-step guide on how to clean your air purifier to keep your air quality high and pollutant free.

😷 Pro Tip: Before you start to clean, always remember to protect yourself by wearing a face mask and gloves. As your air purifier has captured harmful pollutants from your air, cleaning it can disturb those contaminants, releasing them back into your environment.

Step 1: Unplug your air purifier

Remember to unplug your air purifier before doing anything that involves opening the unit up. This includes changing the filter, performing maintenance and, of course, cleaning your air purifier.

Step 2: Remove the grill/cover of your air purifier

You have to get right inside your air purifier to give it a thorough clean. By pulling/sliding/twisting/turning (each model is different), you can remove the grill/cover/top/bottom and clean it using a mixture of warm water and a little soap.

💡 Pro Tip: If you’re unsure of how to remove the grill/cover of your air purifier, always consult the unit’s manual before diving in.

Step 3: Remove interior parts and filters

There’s often a pull tab for quick removal of the filters, but as different air purifier models use various ways to remove the interior parts and filters, consult the unit’s manual first. 

If your unit is the same one we reviewed at HouseFresh, check out instructional videos on removing its filters.

With the interior of your unit exposed, you can clean it using a dry/slightly damp cloth making sure all visible dirt is removed.

Step 4: Clean the fan

Now you have removed the filters, you should be able to see the unit’s fan. If this gets blocked, no air will get sucked in through the filters rendering your air purifier useless. You can clear any dirt trapped on the fan grill using a dry, soft, bristled brush.

You should then use a dry/slightly damp cloth to clean up any remaining dust or dirt so nothing stands in the way of your clean air.

Step 5: Clean the filtered air outlet

Use the same method to clean the exterior outlet of your air purifier as the interior, as this often collects dust over time.

You can also use a vacuum cleaner to remove the dust from the outlet, but we recommend only doing this if your vacuum cleaner uses a HEPA filter. This way, the dust removed won’t get a chance to become airborne again.

Step 6: Wipe off the air purifier

That’s the inside of your air purifier clean; now you want to clean the exterior. Simply take a dry cloth and wipe down all the surfaces, including all the nooks and crannies that manufacturers love adding to units.

It would help if you exercise caution when doing this; remember, an air purifier is an electrical device, so the last thing you want to do is get it wet. 

Step 7: Reinstall the filters

That’s it; your unit should be all nice and clean, good as new. Make sure you reinstall the filters correctly, or the unit isn’t improving air quality as it should. If in doubt, check the manual.

How Often Should You Clean Your Air Purifier?

When you open up your unit to reveal its filters, you will notice that larger contaminants will have settled both on its filters and the inside surface. You must remove all of this dust and debris for your air purifier to work efficiently.

How often you clean your air purifier will be subject to the air quality in your home. A good guideline to start with is every two to four weeks and once you get into the routine, you can decide if it needs to be done more frequently.

We highly recommend you clean the pre-filters every two to four weeks, even if the rest of the unit looks clean. The pre-filter is the first defense against harmful pollutants by trapping these larger contaminants from the air. Cleaning the pre-filter will not only keep the efficiency of your unit high, but it will also extend the lifespan of your HEPA.

How Often Should You Replace Your Filters?

As well as cleaning the pollution you can see, don’t forget about the microscopic particles that your air purifier has trapped from the air in your home. This involves changing the HEPA filter periodically when it gets packed with these little menaces. 

The lifespan of a HEPA filter differs between units. It mainly relies on the air quality of your room, the unit’s CADR rating and what grade filter it uses and can last anywhere from three months to four years.
It’s not only the HEPA filter you need to replace. Often air purifiers come with an Activated Carbon filter and/or a medium filter. Some units require replacement pre-filters instead of being able to wash them separately.

Manufacturers are usually transparent regarding how long their filter will last and display it either on the box or in the unit’s manual. Some air purifiers even come with a filter replacement indicator that illuminates and/or bleeps when it’s time to change your filter.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular air purifiers we’ve reviewed at HouseFresh, showing the lifespan of their filters.

ModelFilter Life
Smart Air S
6 months
IQAir Healthpro Plus
4 years
TaoTronics AP003
3 – 6 months
Levoit Core 600
6 months

Can You Wash Air Purifier Filters?

The simple answer is you could, but we don’t recommend that you should.

Over the decades, HEPA filters have been highly engineered to efficiently remove harmful contaminants from the air. They achieve this with a complex maze of tightly woven fibers that trap microscopic particles when air passes through them.

By cleaning/washing/vacuuming them, you could damage the mesh of fibers by breaking and/or stretching them, creating holes in the filter, allowing pollutants to pass through with ease. This will compromise the efficiency of your air purifier and you’ll probably notice a drop in air quality.

This is why most air purifier manufacturers require you to buy replacement filters instead of cleaning them. 

If you want to try cleaning your HEPA filter, here are the main guidelines. But before you do anything, check out our full guide on How To Clean a HEPA Filter.

Step 1: Use a vacuum cleaner to remove any excess particles

Step 2: Wash the filter with cold water on a low pressure

Step 3: Let the filter completely dry before reinstalling

That being said, some air purifiers come with washable or permanent HEPA filters, which the manufacturer recommends washing. This is always stated in the manual for the unit, so make sure to double-check before you get the water ready.

Final Thoughts

It’s essential to clean your air purifier both inside and out regularly to keep it running efficiently. It’s easy to do and doesn’t take long. The time you spend clearing the dust, dirt and hair that has settled in and around the unit will positively affect the air quality in your home.

Remember to take care when cleaning your air purifier. It is an electrical device that can become dangerous if wet. Also, take care of your health by wearing protective gloves and masks, as those harmful pollutants you’re cleaning can become airborne again.

Finally, before you do anything, read the manual for your air purifier so that you know how to open the unit safely, how to change the filters and how to access the fan. 

Happy cleaning.

About the author

Teddy Booth

Teddy joined HouseFresh in 2019 as a senior content producer, producing written content as well as product photography and YouTube videos. He supports Danny as a product tester and is our lead how-to writer.