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How to Clean and Maintain Your HEPA Filter

hepa filter closeup

As the novel coronavirus continues to make its progress across the province, the nation and the world, life has taken on a surreal quality. Is this really happening? Are we really in the middle of a worldwide pandemic?

Aside from physical distancing and sanitizing everything (including ourselves), there is not a lot we can do to protect ourselves. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends two things that help limit risk: the use of ultraviolet air purification and HEPA filtration.

In this article, we teach you how to take care of your HEPA filter so it can take care of you. You will learn the correct way to clean and maintain your HEPA filter based on the kind of filter you have.

Start Here: Read Your HEPA Filter Manufacturer Instructions

HEPA filters can be made of any number of materials, which is one reason they work so well. Materials commonly used to construct these unusually dense filters may include synthetic (nylon, polyester, etc.) or bio-fibres (animal, vegetable, etc.), metal, wool, foam, plastic, glass, oil and similar materials.

The frame in which your HEPA filter is seated may be made of wood, plastic, metal or even cardboard.

The type of materials used to make and seat your HEPA filter impact how you clean and care for it.

For this reason, it is important to review these instructions and contact the manufacturer if you have care questions to avoid voiding your warranty (if you purchased your HEPA filtration system from us, we would be happy to help you with this).

HEPA Filter Cleaning Tips: Do’s and Don’ts

Cleaning a HEPA filter is always a risky task. The reason is that any type of contact with the dense filter fibres can damage them and cause tearing, separation or holes.

Even worse, using the wrong method for cleaning a HEPA filter can trap toxins and moisture inside the filter fibres and invite mould growth!

Of course, when you go to check your HEPA filter and see all that dust and debris clinging to the fibres, it is only natural to want to give it a good cleaning. But the wrong approach here can leave you with a squeaky clean HEPA filter that no longer functions.

This can be an expensive mistake!

Instead, what you want to do is look on the HEPA filter itself to see if it is labelled “washable,” “reusable” or “permanent” or something similar.

If you don’t see any label on the filter itself, check with the manufacturer for guidance. In lieu of specific guidance, the safest action is no action.

If you do see a label to this effect, this means you can take at least some type of action to clean your HEPA filter.

No-water HEPA filter cleaning

The next safest action is to lightly brush off any visible dust or dirt, taking care to avoid disturbing the delicate network of interior fibres.

If you have a vacuum tool that can be set to low, you can run this over the surface of the HEPA filter (close but not touching) to vacuum off the worst of the dust.

Washable HEPA filter cleaning

It is almost never a good idea to try to wet or wash a HEPA filter unless your filter is specifically labelled “washable.” This is when you get the danger of mould growing inside the dense fibres, which makes it very hard for the HEPA filter to dry out fully.

For HEPA filters that are washable, always use clean, cool water without anything added to it. Try to avoid touching the inner fibres and hold the HEPA filter by its frame. The best way to dry a HEPA filter is in natural sunlight.

Protect Yourself While Cleaning Your HEPA Filter

If you weren’t concerned about inhaling airborne toxic material, you probably would never have thought to invest in a HEPA filter in the first place.

But then when you go to clean your HEPA filter, you are guaranteed to come into direct contact with those very same toxins. Unfortunately, cleaning a HEPA filter is always going to be a bit (or a lot) grimy.

To protect yourself, always take these precautions before cleaning a HEPA filter:

  • wear a face mask (N95 or N100)

  • wear long non-permeable gloves

  • be sure you clean your HEPA filter with a filtered vacuum (ideally a HEPA vacuum)

  • if at all possible, clean your HEPA filter outside

  • if your HEPA filter is washable, allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before use

When to Replace Your HEPA Filter

The majority of HEPA filter-rated appliances and devices require replacement filters at regular intervals.

How long your HEPA filter will last depends on your lifestyle habits and use patterns. Your HEPA filter will only be filtering when you are using the device (i.e., it is powered on and running).

Sometimes HEPA filtration systems come with other filters, including a pre-filter and/or a carbon filter. The pre-filter may be washable or able to be cleaned, but this does not mean the HEPA filter and/or carbon filter itself can also be washed or cleaned.

Always follow the manufacturer instructions for when and how to replace your HEPA filter and what replacement filters will work with your unit.

HEPA Filtration Systems for Every Space

There are two types of HEPA filtration systems: portable and whole-home.

Portable HEPA filtration systems are perfect for use in smaller spaces and any space that is not equipped with ductwork for a central HVAC system.

Whole-home HEPA filtration systems are designed to work with any ducted HVAC system.

Get in Touch

Right now, like so many businesses here in Ontario, we are working remotely.

If you need us, reach out online or call 905-544-2470.

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